August 30, 2013
It was a case of the blonde leading the blonde when I sat down with my friend and fellow author Marci Jefferson for a Q&A: not only do the two of us belong to the fair-haired demographic, but so do our book heroines! My Giulia Farnese had gold hair down to the floor, and Marci's Frances Stewart is the girl with the golden hair in the golden dress on the golden coin in Marci's forthcoming debut novel. So in between all the other Q&A talk on self-editing and Borgia gossip, we traded a Renaissance recipe for lightening hair - straight from Caterina Sforza, yet another famous blonde!
Me: Some of the Renaissance cosmetics recipes I found are absolutely vile, like a face mask that calls for dove entrails. Others, like a rinse for blondifying hair which was made out of saffron, cinnabar, and sulphur, sound a bit nicer. Renaissance ladies were all mad for fair hair, so a favorite girls-day-out back then was to head up to the rooftop and put on big-brimmed crownless sun hats so you could spread your hair out under the sun to bleach it, but still keep your skin white!
To read the rest, click here!
August 23, 2013
I had a bit of a fan-girl moment when I met Sarah Bower (well, virtually met through email). Her "Sins of the House of Borgia" was one of the first Borgia novels I read, a lush and gorgeous evocation of the Renaissance with a twist ending that sucker-punched me right in the gut. I was more than delighted to do a Q&A with Sarah for the Historical Novel Society website. I have to say, any resolve we may have had to keep this interview solemn and professional swiftly crumpled in the assault of our mutual enthusiasm!
Sarah: I never imagined the Borgia Pope as much of a reader – too busy talking!
Me: Definitely. A blogger on my blog tour asked me a fun question – if the Borgias could have used social media, what would they use? And I immediately saw Rodrigo Borgia on Twitter, thumb-tapping away on his iPhone between papal meetings: “College of Cardinals has no idea what just hit them” at his @IamPope handle!
Sarah: That’s fabulous! And I can imagine Lucrezia posting photos of her kids on Facebook, and really wishing those selfies she took at Borgia orgies weren’t still doing the rounds elsewhere on the net . . .
Me: What an image. “Me at the Banquet of Chestnuts – lolz!”
To read the rest, click here!
And remember - I'm down at The Ivy Bookshop in Baltimore tomorrow evening, talking Borgia rumors and more fun stuff. Come join me for champagne and chocolate!
August 20, 2013
Pretty much all the reviews for "Serpent and Pearl" agree on one thing: this book will make you hungry. I aim to make you hungrier, and I'm enlisting a slew of food bloggers to help me. Sara over at Cupcake Muffin is first on board to make a recipe straight from the book: a spit-roasted capon with lime which my chef heroine recommends for the papal conclave. ("The cavities of birds are excellent for passing bribe offers back and forth.")
I cooked this myself, adapting the recipe from a Renaissance-era cookbook before passing it on to Sara, and I assure you it's delicious! Get the recipe here,
and enter the giveaway too.
August 16, 2013
Mark your calendars! I've got an author event coming up in one week in Baltimore, and I'd love to see you there if you're in the area.
The Borgias Unmasked: come join me next Saturday for champagne, chocolate, and the truth about history's most notorious family. I'll be speaking (not too long) about the good, the bad, and the scandalous about history's most infamous family - and did I mention the champagne and chocolate?
Saturday August 24th, 6pm
The Ivy Bookshop
6080 Falls Road
Baltimore, MD 21209
Hope I see you there!
August 15, 2013
Romantic Times Book Reviews had a doozy of a question for me: name the worst AND the best things about the Borgia papacy. A question I found fascinating, because even after you discard the rumors that aren't strictly provable (incest! poison!) you're still left with a puzzling conundrum: one of the most worldly popes who ever sat the throne of St. Peter's, who scandalized his flock yet still did some very good things for them.
Just imagine the media blowback if our new Pope Francis announced, "Hey, I've got a girlfriend. And she's 18." Well, Pope Alexander VI made no bones about it - here's a (non-poisoned) taste from my guest post at RT Book Reviews:
"Sexually insatiable as a younger man (he hosted famous debauches known as `garden parties'), Rodrigo Borgia didn't slow down once he became Pope. He openly kept a mistress 40 years his junior, who was nicknamed `The Bride of Christ.'
To read the rest, click here!
August 14, 2013
A fun Q&A this time around, and with one of my dear friends Donna Russo Morin. Not only does Donna have more fabulous leopard-print stilettos than Angelina Jolie, but she writes fun and fast-paced Renaissance romps - she was number 1 on the list as a reader when I went to the Renaissance to write, too!
And she's got fun questions here, taken from the famous "Inside the Actors' Studio" series. Purpose? "To expose aspects of a personality with short but intrinsically revealing questions." (You can find all kinds of actors doing this on YouTube--Daniel Radcliffe's answers are a hoot!) Not sure I'm as funny as Harry Potter, but here's a taste with the first two questions . . .
"What is your favorite word?"
Can I have two? “Check enclosed,” to borrow a bon mot from Dorothy Parker.
"What is your least
`Mew.' I read a book where a character mewed with passion, and it scarred me for life.
For more, click here!
August 13, 2013
I'm guest blogging over at one of my favorite book blogs today - Passages to the Past. And the topic? The dilemma of how to write around age differences in historical fiction, or rather, how my teenage crush on Sean Connery helped me understand how a teenage Giulia Farnese could hop into bed with the 40 years older Rodrigo Borgia:
"For idle fantasy, men have it all over boys. When Sean Connery from “First Knight” picks you up for the evening, you know he won't show up driving his mother's mini-van littered with fast-food wrappers. When Colin Firth from “Pride and Prejudice” invites you out to eat, you know he doesn't mean a 99 cent Frosty and a small fries at Wendy's. If Liam Neeson from from “Rob Roy” gives you a present, it wouldn't be a mixed-tape of grunge bands you've never heard of. There's no awkward pauses in the conversation because Jeremy Irons from “The Man in the Iron Mask” knows how to carry on intelligent discussions and not just stare at your chest, and there's no fumbling on the doorstep because Sean Bean from the Richard Sharpe series most assuredly knows how to kiss you goodnight without getting saliva on your chin."
To read the rest, click here
- and don't forget to enter the giveaway!
August 8, 2013
I'm chatting with Debbie over at The Reading Frenzy today, and she had some great questions! Including my favorite: "If the Borgias could use social media, would they prefer Facebook or Twitter." My answer:
"Lucrezia Borgia is just a teenage girl during “The Serpent and the Pearl,” so she'd be a Facebook junkie: `OMG, just saw portrait of Prince of Aragon; he's like Henry Cavill gorge!!! Fingers crossed this betrothal goes through!!!` And my heroine Giulia Farnese, papal mistress and the most fashionable woman of the Renaissance, would be a Pintarest girl: `Here's the hairstyle I wore to Mass last Sunday; you need six strands of pearls and five feet of hair.' 300,000 women have repinned this!”
To read the rest, click here.
And don't forget - I'm showing up at the Writerspace Reader's Chat Room
at 9pm ET tonight for the Berkley Jove Author Chat, so drop by to say hi or ask a question if you feel so inclined!
August 7, 2013
I'm joining the Berkley Jove author chat tomorrow night! Drop by the Writerspace Reader's Chat Room
at 9pm ET if you've got a question for me, or would just like to say hello.
I'm also over on the Queen Anne Boleyn site today, talking about the three fates for Renaissance women: wife, nun, and whore. How much do you know about how each variety of woman led her life? A snippet . . .
"Women born to the respectable but not ruling classes, like my heroine Giulia Farnese, simply didn’t go anywhere. Unmarried girls were kept firmly sequestered in the house to guard their virtue; the only place they might go to see and be seen was church. Even after marriage, Renaissance matrons were expected to keep to their own households, their lives a round of domestic duties, the occasional family party, and of course, more church. And that’s if you were lucky enough to get married in the first place—if you weren’t, your life was nothing but
To read the rest, click here!
August 6, 2013
For the fourth time in my life, I can type the words “I have a book coming out today!”
You'd think it would get easier. But no, I'm a mass of nerves. For over a year, you see, my book baby has led a sheltered existence: much like a real baby, it was tended by a doting mother, sheltered and cosseted in a loving environment, shown off only to a few close friends and family who could be relied upon to croon praise. But books grow up faster than real babies, and I'm once again standing in the doorway watching that book head out into the world like a kid heading off to college. My job is done, and I did the best I could—and I'm still nervous that it wasn't enough.
I'm also thrilled, because I have the best job on earth, and I know how lucky I am. And hey, it's my fourth rodeo, so at least I know how to combat the Release Day Jitters by now. All you need to do to survive your release day is follow these six simple guidelines.
1. Drink champagne. Drink lots and lots of champagne.
2. Enlist friends. Ideally writer friends who have suffered release day jitters of their own. Go out for lunch, get pedicures, do anything you like—but these friends must be given carte blanche to use any force up to and including handcuffs to keep you from obsessively clicking Refresh on your Amazon Sales Ranking. Stephanie Dray and Sophie Perinot are my
pals today, bless you both.
3. This one is for the spouses of writers in question: flowers are nice. Also, repeated spontaneous reassurances that the book is not in fact complete crapola destined for the remainder table. My spouse excels at this.
4. Read somebody ELSE'S book. Nothing like a fascinating trip to somebody else's fictional world to keep your mind off your own. I was lucky enough last year to share a release day with Elizabeth Loupas—her “Flower Reader” saved my sanity. Elizabeth let me down this year (I'm counting days till her “Red Lily Crown” releases) so perhaps a Harry Dresden reread is in order. Like all fourteen books.
5. Don't check Amazon. I'm serious. Friends and spouses may want to consider disconnecting the internet for the day.
6. Did I mention champagne? Drink more.
So I guess that's really only four rules, but you get my point. In any case, “The Serpent and the Pearl” is off to the hands of its readers—for a teaser promo, watch here
. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to pop a cork.
August 5, 2013
Night gathers, and so my blog tour begins. It shall not end until my death.
Okay, maybe it only FEELS that way when you're trying to make sure you're prepared. :D
Publication day for my new book "The Serpent and the Pearl" isn't until tomorrow, but my blog tour has already begun. I'm very excited to be visiting some new blogs as well as returning to some favorites. I'll be updating here, so check in if you want to follow me around the blogosphere.
Today I'm over on Flicks and Food today, talking about Renaissance food, my fiery heroine who would totally win Top Chef if she wasn't six hundred years too early, and the aphrodisiac menu she creates which gets a certain Borgia bad boy's heart racing.
To read, click here!
August 3, 2013
My secondary heroine from “The Serpent and the Pearl” proved to be a bit hard to track down . . . in fact, I had to run her to earth in her kitchens, where she's up to her elbows in a bowl of flour.
Her: Look, I don't know about this interview business. I have a dinner for twenty to get on the table.
Me: Just a few lines for the readers? Your name, what it is that you do—
Her: My name is Carmelina Mangano, and I'm the best cook in Rome.
Me: You are?
Carmelina: Yes. They say a woman can't be maestro di cucina
, not professionally, but I was hired to cook for the household of Giulia Farnese, the Pope's mistress. I've fed the Pope Himself, and half the illustrious people of Rome—I've carved my own place in the world with nothing more than the skill in my hands, and I'm proud of it. Hand me that bowl, will you?
Me: What are you making?
Carmelina: Elderflower fritters. Giulia Farnese eats them by the basketful; she's a cook's dream to feed. Loves food, eats everything, pays on time.
Me: Any bad parts about working for the Borgias?
Carmelina: That little bodyguard Cesare Borgia hired for Madonna Giulia. Leonello. He's a devil.
Me: Because he's a dwarf?
Carmelina: No, because he's dangerous. And because he asks too many questions.
Me: Questions about what?
Carmelina (glowers): Hand me the butter, will you? These fritters need to go into the frying pan.
Me: Of course. Now, I have to ask—maybe it's one of those things you don't want to talk about, but what is that horrible shriveled up thing on the spice rack?
Carmelina: It's a holy relic—the hand of my patron saint, the most blessed Santa Marta.
Me: You keep a mummified hand in your kitchen?
Carmelina: Of course. Santa Marta is the patron saint of all cooks. She prepared a meal for Our Lord while Mary and all the apostles were busy sitting at the feet of Christ.
Me: And for that she got made the patron saint of cooks?
Carmelina: Why not? Maybe Our Lord was happy to get a home-cooked meal for once, rather than everybody just looking at Him to provide all the food by transforming loaves and fishes. Besides, somebody
had to get dinner going while everybody else sat around worshipping at His feet. I'll bet not one of those apostles helped Santa Marta with the dishes, either.
Me: You know, I think you're probably right.
Carmelina: Of course I'm right, I'm the best cook in Rome. Now, not to throw you out of my kitchen, but I've got to pay attention while these fritters fry. And if I burn them up because I'm answering questions, I'll fry up your gizzard in white wine and coriander, and serve that to Madonna Giulia instead.
Me: I'm going, I'm going!
August 2, 2013
My “Serpent and the Pearl” hero is a reclusive sort, but I dragged him to my blog today for an interview. :D
Me: Why don't you introduce yourself for the readers?
Him: My name is Leonello. (Props his boots up on my desk unasked)
Me: Leonello what?
Leonello: I'm distinctive enough that I don't need a last name.
Me: You are distinctive, I must say. Dark hair, hazel eyes, about thirty years old, a sarcastic expression—
Leonello: Are we going to ignore the elephant in the room? I'm a dwarf.
Me: True, you are. How has your stature affected your life?
Leonello: I've managed so far not to get stomped to death by drunks, or have to take a job as a jester for layabout Renaissance lords. I count myself a success.
Me: What is it you do for a living?
Leonello: I used to be a card-sharp. Sit down at a game of primiera with me, and I will be very happy to relieve you of your money. But I don't have to play cards for a living anymore.
Me: What is it you do now?
Leonello: The Pope's son Cesare Borgia hired me. I'm to be a bodyguard for his father's mistress.
Me: Aren't you—wait, the Pope has a mistress?
Leonello: Why, doesn't your current pope have one?
Me: Definitely not. Um, aren't you a little atypical, as a choice for a bodyguard?
Leonello: Because I'm short? You can go ahead and say it.
Me: Ok, because you're short.
Leonello: I may be short, but I'm dangerous. I throw knives.
Me: How well can you throw knives?
Leonello: I could put a blade through each of your eyes at ten paces, before you could blink your lids shut.
Me: Don't demonstrate, please.
Leonello: Wouldn't dream of it. I love being underestimated. Everybody underestimates a dwarf.
Me: I think Tyrion Lannister said something very similar on “Game of Thrones.”
Leonello: Now you're being lazy. Just because we're both dwarves doesn't mean I have anything else in common with Tyrion Lannister.
Me: What's the principal difference between the two of you, then?
Leonello: He wants to be liked, and he tries to make people laugh. That's fine; it works for him. I don't care if I'm liked, and I'm nobody's jester, and that works for me.
Me: Are you always this sarcastic?
Leonello: You know I am. You invented me.
Me: Yes, but you're not allowed to be sarcastic to me. I created you; you're supposed to be nice to me.
Am I done now?
August 1, 2013
“The Serpent and the Pearl: a novel of the Borgias” releases in just five days! (I'd bite my fingernails, but I don't have any left.) I've been lucky enough to get some wonderful early reviews—the Historical Novel Society reviewers had this to say about my narrators: “Three compelling characters weave a tangled trajectory through the life and politics of 15th-century Rome. Carmelina’s sharp tongue, Leonello’s caustic wit, and Giulia’s unconditional good humor in the face of danger play off each other beautifully to create another riveting novel from Kate Quinn.”
Want to meet these three very-compelling but very-different folks? Over the next few days I'll be interviewing each of my characters here on my blog as a promo. Today let's welcome Giulia Farnese, who was more than happy to drop by and tell you a little about herself!
Me: Lovely to have you here, Giulia.
Giulia: Thank you for inviting me. Do you have anything to nibble? I've never been interviewed before and it's making me nervous, and I always eat when I'm nervous.
Me: You don't know about chocolate, do you? That's a little after your time. Here, try this.
Giulia: “Reese's Pieces” what's that? Holy Virgin, they taste heavenly. Can I have the recipe for my cook? Her name's Carmelina, and she's an absolute gem.
Me: She's not going to be able to do much if chocolate isn't invented yet. Let's have your full name, for the readers.
Giulia: Right, sorry. I'm Giulia Farnese, but nobody calls me that anymore. I'm either “Giulia La Bella,” which is very nice; or “the Venus of the Vatican,” which is sort of nice; or “The Bride of Christ” which isn't nice at all. I have a sneaking suspicion my bodyguard Leonello came up with that one, since he finds it so side-splittingly funny.
Me: Why do they call you that?
Giulia: Well, Giulia la Bella comes from the fact that I have floor-length hair. I don't really think I'm much prettier than anybody else, but I do have this hair that comes down to the floor, and everybody seems to think it's terribly romantic. I don't know why; it takes forever to wash and even longer to dry, and it's always getting tangled around everything. I don't know about you, but I don't call that very romantic.
Me: What I meant was, readers might like to know why you're called the Bride of Christ.
Giulia: It might be a reference to the Holy Father.
Me: You mean the Pope? The former Cardinal Borgia? Who is he to you?
Giulia: (demurely) He's my mother-in-law's cousin.
Me: So you're married?
Giulia: It's complicated.
Me: How complicated?
Giulia: How long do you have? We'll be here all day before I've even finished telling you how strange the wedding night was.
Me: Just tell me about the Pope then. People say he's paying court to you . . .
Giulia: Do you have any more of those Piece of Reese things?
Me: Reeses Pieces. Now, about the Pope—
Giulia: You know, you have hair the same color as mine. And two feet of hair is much more sensible than five feet. I'll bet yours doesn't choke you when you sleep.
Me: All right, keep your secrets!
Giulia: All will be revealed August 6. Are you sure chocolate hasn't been invented yet in my time?
Me: Sorry. I wrote about you, but I can't change history for you.
Giulia: That's too bad. Do come visit again. And bring more chocolate! I always eat when I'm visiting.