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!
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
Muse is set in medieval Avignon during the period when the popes resided there, rather than in Rome. Writers such as Francesco Petrarch flocked to the city to seek patronage from the Pope and cardinals. The city was bursting with craftsmen, merchants, goldsmiths, and money lenders as well as the architects, master masons, and artists who worked on the Pope’s immense palace. Under Clement VI, who appears in Muse, the palais des papes became the most celebrated court in Europe, a salon for the artists, musicians, and intellectuals who were the avant-garde of the Renaissance. At the beginning of the 14th century, Avignon was a city of 5,000 people. It grew by a thousand a year as men came to the papal city to seek their fortune and curry favour with the Pope, who was centralizing religious power in himself. The Pope behaved more like a monarch than a spiritual leader. The main symbol of his opulence was the palace itself . . .
. . . continue reading at Mary Novik’s website
My novel Muse arrived, imaginatively speaking, when I was teaching a literature course in which we were exploring Joseph Campbell’s concept of the hero’s journey. We were riffing on that, looking at ways of describing a woman hero’s journey, when a student told me about Veronica Franco, an “intellectual courtesan” of 16th-century Venice. This discovery was one of the triggering ideas for Muse. From the poet Veronica Franco, who had unfortunately been written about, I made the leap to the walled city of Avignon, which I had recently visited, guessing that courtesans, as well as popes, had lived there in the 14th century.
. . .continue reading at Mary Novik’s website