My secondary heroine from “The Serpent and the Pearl” is usually very tough to track down–as a working girl (cook to the Borgia Pope!) she’s always on the move and on the job. But now she’s at loose ends, and consented to be interviewed!
Carmelina: Ask as many questions as you want. As long as we’re held captive here, I haven’t got anything to cook.
Me: You know how many readers accused you of ruining their diets?
Carmelina: Diet? What’s that?
Me: It’s when people swear off butter or cream or pasta.
Carmelina: Why would anybody ever do that? Swear off pasta? Pasta is delicious!
Me: Well, it’s fattening. People stop eating it so they can be thinner.
Her: Who wants to be thin? My mistress Giulia Farnese is the most renowned beauty in Rome, and she’s a solid size 14 in your sizing charts.
Me: Jesus, I wish I lived in the Renaissance.
Her: No, you don’t. I’m the best cook in Rome, and I don’t even get paid for it because I’m a woman.
Me: Fair point. So, how are you faring in captivity?
Her: Madonna Giulia has managed to keep the French from raping us all, God bless her. If she can hold them off a few more days, the Pope should have us all ransomed and home. Can’t be soon enough for me.
Me: Leonello said that you . . .
Her: That little bastard talked about me?
Me: A little. He said he knows things about you . . .
Carmelina: How dare he!
Me: Look, I’m your creator. Believe me, I already know all your secrets. What people really want to know is this–are you really planning to poison Leonello before he outs you? Because you were looking pretty determined . . .
Ok, Carmelina just stomped out. Looks like you’ll have to wait till tomorrow to see if she put hemlock in our hero’s wine or not!
My “Lion and the Rose” hero is still flat on his back on a stretcher, but he consented to an interview. 😀
Leonello: Consented, hah. You cornered me, woman. It’s not exactly like I can run away when I’m full of broken bones.
Me: Yes, I’m sorry about that.
Leonello: Nothing to do with you. I’m a bodyguard and I defended my charge, simple as that. My own decision, I assure you.
Me: Well, I am your creator.
Leonello: As if you ever made me do anything I didn’t want to do.
Me: Fair point. How are you feeling?
Leonello: Like a French army stamped all over me. Which it did. I’m probably dying.
Me: Surely not . . .
Leonello: If the blood loss doesn’t kill me, the cook probably will. She hates me.
Me: What did you do to her?
Leonello: Carmelina? I know a few things about her that could make life very uncomfortable. I may have rubbed it in, when I pointed that out.
Me: Was that entirely necessary?
Leonello: Just because I am small does not mean I am cute, kind, or cuddly.
Me: No, it certainly doesn’t. Not only do you have a tongue like a razor, you kick a surprising amount of butt for a person of reduced height
Leonello: Dwarf. Call it what it is.
Me: We’re more politically correct in this century.
Leonello: Dio, I don’t even want to know what that is. Am I done now?
“The Lion and the Rose: a novel of the Borgias” releases in just three days! Usually I’m nervous for my release days, but this time around I just can’t wait. Because this book is sequel to “The Serpent and the Pearl,” which came out last August and ended on just a leetle bit of a cliffhanger, and I’m delighted that this time around, I didn’t have to leave my readers hanging for too long. (I really am sorry, “Empress of the Seven Hills” fans.)
And my three main characters of “The Serpent and the Pearl” were all in a very tight spot on the last page–captured by the French army, with their lives very literally on the line! 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, mistress to the Borgia Pope and currently a French captive when she got waylaid by an invading army on her way home from a family visit . . .
Giulia: Do you have any of that stuff called chocolate which you introduced me to at our last interview? You left me in a very bad place, sticking me with the French between books, and frankly if a girl ever earned an out-of-her-century treat, it’s me.
Me: Yes, of course. Try a Snicker’s bar, you’ll love it.
Giulia: Thank you. I always eat when I’m being held hostage.
Me: I truly am sorry about leaving you in enemy hands for five months . . .
Giulia: Oh, that’s all right. It’s not as long as five months in my world. Snickers, why is it called that? Nothing to snicker about, being a French captive. They’re pigs.
Me: Are they really?
Giulia: Well, they’ve been relatively nice once they realized what Rodrigo–
Me: Can you tell the readers who that is, for the ones who didn’t read the first book?
Giulia: Rodrigo Borgia. His Holiness, Pope Alexander VI. I’m his mistress.
Me: Wow. Our current pope, um–well, he’s a little different. I don’t really know what would happen if he came out and told the world “Hi, I have a twenty-two year old girlfriend with floor-length hair.”
Giulia: Maybe he’d be more relaxed. It’s a very tiring job, being Pope.
Me: Well, anyway. The French?
Giulia: They’ve been relatively nice to me once they realized what the Holy Father would pay to get me back.
Me: So you’re going home?
Giulia: On page 1. God knows if it’ll be in time to save my bodyguard, though. Leonello, his name is, and he nearly killed himself protecting me–the French beat him so badly. I’m making them pay for it.
Giulia: I’ve acted like an utter haughty bitch ever since they captured me. I’m normally quite an easy-going sort of person, but I’ve been complaining and pitching fits for that French general ever since he laid hands on me. He’ll be quite glad to see the back of me, I assure you.
Me: Sounds like you have things well in hand, then. Good luck, Giulia!
Giulia: Can you do me a favor? Pray for my bodyguard. I’m going to be all right–I just want to get home to Rodrigo, who isn’t nearly as frightening as people seem to think all the Borgias are. But I really don’t know if Leonello’s going to live or not.
Me: I could tell you, but that would spoil the surprise. Thanks for dropping by!
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!
My her from The Serpent and the Pearl is a reclusive sort, but I dragged him to my blog today for an interview. 😀
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.
Leonello: Dio. Am I done now?
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.