Mirella Sichirollo Patzer, author of "Orphan of the Olive Tree", "The Contessa's Vendetta", "The Betrothal", "The Pendant", and "The Novice" (available September 2014) answers 10 questions about her favorite time period in history, her favorite figures from history, and the age old question of coffee or tea.
1. If you could go back in time and be any figure from history, who would it be?
If I could go back in time, I would love to meet Matilda of Ringelheim who lived in the 10th century. She was the mother of Otto the Great, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, and I have been working on recreating the fact of her life for the past ten years. The novel is scheduled to be released sometime in 2015 and will be titled, "The Prophetic Queen".
What I love most about Matilda is that she saw the future through her dreams, and most of the time what she saw was the death of her loved ones. She was a loving mother, a generous charitable queen who cared for orphans, widows, and women in general. She was canonized a Catholic Saint. After having spent so many years piecing together her life, it would be my dream to sit down over tea and discuss her family and her life.
2. What year in history would you have liked to live in?
I would love to have lived during the Italian Renaissance, about the 15th century. To be in Florence or Siena during that time would have been wonderful alive because of all the fine art and books that were being written during that time. Architecture, paintings, literature, and fashion were all wonderfully rich and colorful. And of course, having Italian roots, I’m naturally drawn to all things Italian.
3. You're having a dinner party and you can invite 5 people from history, who would they be?
- Princess Diana: She is my age and when she was alive, I was so very impressed with her beauty, wisdom, and charitable heart when she was alive.
- Matilda of Ringelheim: She was the Princess Diana of the 10th century.
- Adelaide of Burgundy: She was the second wife of Otto the Great and Matilda’s daughter-in-law. She was brave, beloved, and reined as an Empress along with her husband.
- Lisa Gherardini: Most of us know her as Mona Lisa. I would love to meet her, not only to find out what Leonardo da Vinci was like, but also to learn what the secret behind her mystifying smile was.
- Catherine Benincasa of Sienna: Catherine of Sienna was a nun who lived in 14th century Siena Italy. She was very outspoken and did not hesitate to chastise kings, queens, and even the pope for their wickedness or mistakes. Many of her letters survive to this day. My best friend is a descendent of Catherine. I would love to meet this courageous, virtuous woman.
4. What castle from the past or present would you like to live in?
I would love to live in Castle Miramare in Trieste Italy. It is a 19th century castle built in 1860 for Austrian Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian and his wife, Charlotte of Belgium. I had the pleasure of visiting this castle when I was in my late teens. The castle is so beautiful and the story of Charlotte and Ferdinand is so loving but tragic. I dream of going back there one day.
5. Two fellow historical fiction authors you'd like to go on a history themed tour of the world with?
I have to good cyber author friends who I greatly admire. The first is Lisa Yarde, a historical fiction author from Brooklyn NY who I met online almost ten years ago. She is the author of the "Sultana" series of books. From the very first, we developed a mutual respect for each other and our work. Over the years, we have become great friends, helping each other out with research, writing, and publishing. We chat regularly via Skype, but have never met.
My second cyber author friends is Anita Davison from the U.K. We too have chatted and worked together before, but have never met. She is a talented writer with a wonderful sense of humor and an unfailing work ethic.
Together, we make a great trio and it would be fun to explore the world with these two wonderful authors.
6. Who was more dashing and interesting, King Henry VIII of England or King Louis XIV of France?
This is an interesting question, because I think King Henry would be more dashing and interesting, however I don’t like him for having had his wives killed and for abandoning Catherine of Aragon. I think King Louis was the better man, and much kinder.
7. Which of the six wives of King Henry VIII is your favorite?
Of all the wives, I admire Catherine of Aragon the most. With a loving heart, she held her head up high and refused to compromise her values or morals, despite the poor treatment she suffered at her husband’s hands. She never bore him any malice or hatred because her heart was so pure, so good.
8. English monarchy or French monarchy?
If I had a preference, it would be the French monarchy for their more decadent culture, their love of food, and the constant turmoil. Of course, being Canadian, our history is linked to both English and French culture, so both are equally interesting.
9. What three novels could you read over and over?
My ultimate favourite novel of all time has to be "Gone with the Wind" by Margaret Mitchell. I first read it when I was twelve and have read it several times since.
My next favourite is "Outlander" by Diana Gabaldon. I’ve also read that one several times.
And for my third choice, that is tied between two books. First there is "The Bells" by Richard Harvell. And my other choice is "House of Scorta" by Laurent Gaudé which won France’s most prestigious literary award. Both of these books were so poignant and well written that they will stay with me forever.
10. Tea or coffee when writing?
I start off with one cup of coffee in the morning and I write for two to three hours. Then it’s off to the pool where I water jog for two hours. After that, I often return to get a bit of blogging or writing done.
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