San Miguel Writers’ Conference
February is shaping up to be an enjoyable month. Éditions Hurtubise is hosting a Valentine’s Day promotion for the French e-book/pdf of Muse for the very attractive price of $9.00. As they say, «Pour la Saint-Valentin, offrez-vous une histoire d’amour!»
Guess where I’m going to be spending Valentine’s Day? In Mexico!
In a few days, I’ll escape rainy Vancouver on a jet to León, then board a shuttle to San Miguel de Allende, a town with a fantastic reputation. I’ve been hearing good things about it from friends and fellow writers for years. Yes, it’s full of expats, but I’ve read that whereas Canadians and Americans move to Florida to retire, they re-locate in San Miguel to re-invent themselves. It’s bursting with talented people—writers, artists, musicians, weavers, craftsmen—as well as interesting architecture, restaurants, coffee shops, and natural sights. But best of all, every February brings the San Miguel International Writers’ Conference. With about 350 conference-goers, the festival is small enough to be very friendly, yet large enough to attract international authors, who mingle with the readers and eager emerging writers. I’ve been invited to participate in several events this year and I’m really looking forward to it. Since I’ve never been to Mexico and don’t speak Spanish, I’m counting on Duolingo!
If you live in Vancouver, you know about The Book Warehouse, which has been going strong at Broadway and Ash since 1980. In 2012, they were rescued from looming closure by Cathy and Mel Jesson of Black Bond Books, and I had the pleasure of appearing there, with Roberta Rich, in 2013 (see photo). A year ago, Book Warehouse on Main opened at 4118 Main Street (and King Edward) and has been buzzing with author events ever since. This is no surprise given the enthusiastic in-house talent, Mary-Ann Yazedijian and James Tyler Irvine, who are well known about town as amazingly supportive of Vancouver writers. Their new brain-child is Novel Nights, a series of readings that features books by local authors. So far they’ve had Steven Galloway, Janie Chang, Caroline Adderson, and Timothy Taylor. Given those luminaries, you can guess how pleased I am to be the featured author on March 18, from 7 to 8:15 pm. Everybody is welcome! Come and chat me up, ask questions about my novel Muse, and meet the energetic James and Mary-Ann.
Merry Christmas to all! How exciting to get my first glimpse of the cover for the French translation of Muse! Also titled Muse, it will be published by Éditions Hurtubise February 26 and distributed in France by Librairie du Québec. The award-winning translators, Lori Saint-Martin and Paul Gagné, have done a wonderful job and I feel very fortunate that Hurtubise has put so much care and effort into this edition. What a lovely Christmas gift. Merci beaucoup, Hurtubise!
Today, I’m participating in a blog tour at the invitation of writer Karen Dodd, who also lives on what Vancouverites call the North Shore. This usually means that we have to drive over to Vancouver to visit friends, who are reluctant to travel to our side of town. Karen lives even further west than I do, in Lions Bay, where she often sees dolphins frolicking in Howe Sound. Maybe that’s why she’s written such a thrilling debut novel, Deadly Switch. Karen has passed on four questions for me to answer.
What am I working on?
I’m fascinated by walled cities like London and Avignon. Although London’s wall has been destroyed, except for a few traces, Avignon’s still encircles the historic city. After I finished writing Muse, I started thinking about London again. I picked up after the Great Fire of 1666, where Conceit ended, and began reading into the next century . . . read more
Here’s a new YouTube video that takes you on a tour of the Pope’s palace in Avignon. We begin outside the west façade of the palace, where a busker is entertaining for coins, enter through the double portcullis, take a look around the courtyards, peer out of the Pope’s indulgence window. Then we join the secret palace tour to see inside a room with a decorated wooden ceiling and go up the corkscrew staircase, the only one that goes from top to bottom. We emerge on the roof, where the wind is blowing. From here, we see a 360 degree video of the city below. I had fun putting this together from my own photos and videos of the palace. I hope you enjoy it.
I’m really pleased that Anchor Canada is publishing a new edition of my novel, Muse, on May 27, 2014, only nine months after the original. Thanks, Random House, for the vote of confidence in my novel! The new edition is a smaller paperback, so will cost less, and they’ve given the book an attractive new look with a redesigned cover. I’ve been busy adding support material to my website and now have nine illustrated backstory essays for Muse. I’ve also created a new YouTube video about the Pope’s palace in Avignon. I’m happy to announce that the group Imprinted Lives on Goodreads has chosen Muse for their June 2014 discussion and welcomes new members who would like to join in. More information about the various Random House/Doubleday editions, including the e-book, can be found here. There’s also an Italian edition L’amante del Papa (with a sexy trailer) and a French edition is on the way from Éditions Hurtubise, with publication estimated for February 2015.
Getting into the mind of a literary character is a gradual process, just as it is with real people. My biggest wow moment in my understanding of Solange Le Blanc in Muse came when I was on the secret tour of the popes’ palace in Avignon. I stared at the bare walls of a basement chamber trying to imagine the décor of the Pope’s bathing room as the guide was describing it . . . read more
Late-medieval Avignon was a city of men. A vast number of clerics were employed by the Pope and cardinals, and foreign merchants, craftsmen, and artisans swelled the ranks of local people providing services to the church. The city was a cultural and economic magnet, an attractive place to set up shop. It was also notoriously corrupt . . . read more
Seven hundred years after the popes lived in Avignon, we can read reports about their banquets and gain insight into their luxurious life style. The type of food people ate depended on their rank. Although there was a vast difference between the diet of a pope and a peasant, the poor did not starve, because the Pope gave out 6,000 loaves of bread daily. The staples of a peasant’s diet were grains, legumes, onions, garlic, vegetables, coarse dark bread, eggs, and milk products, with a little fish, meat, or poultry . . . read more