On Inspiration: Interview and Giveaway with Mirella Sichirollo Patzer
The wonderful Mirella Sichirollo Patzer has just released her new novel, The Novice and has embarked on a blog tour with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours. I’m delighted that Mirella has agreed to be interviewed on Triclinium on her sources of inspiration. Leave a comment and go into the draw to win a digital copy of The Novice!
A true blue Taurean in every way, Mirella grew up in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, a city famous for the Calgary Stampede, oil companies, and the wild west. Historical fiction books are one of her obsessions, especially those that pertain to medieval eras and with Italy as a backdrop. Her fascination for women of history and Italy is often reflected in her work, her various blogs, and website. She lives in Cochrane, Alberta, Canada with her husband and family. Her house is brimming with books and toys. For her, life couldn’t get any better.
What or who inspired you to first write?
The inspiration to write a book first came to me when I discovered my mother’s experience in World War II. I learned that her vineyards in Italy was the scene of the Battle of the Moro River that led to the Battle of Ortona – huge victories for the Canadians. My mother’s family survived by fleeing their village and living in caves for 8 months while war raged around them. At the age of 8, my mother was shot at by German soldiers and witnessed horrors you and I cannot even imagine in our worst nightmares. I would love to write a story one day about some of those experiences.
What is the inspiration for your current book?
During my career as an administrative manager for a large police service, I worked with court orders and restraining orders, processing these documents with urgency due to domestic violence risks. I have an understanding of the domestic abuse cycle that women often find themselves trapped within. I wanted to write a story about a strong woman who had the strength and courage to break away despite society’s norms and expectations. If my heroine could escape the violence amid the severe restrictions of the medieval era, than all women have the power to do the same today!
Is there a particular theme you wish to explore in this book?
In The Novice, the heroine, Sara, keeps a small truth from the man who rescues her from death. She is a novice who has not yet taken her vows to become a nun and lets him believe she is a nun to help protect herself until she knows she can trust him. When she knows he is beyond reproach, she mistakenly continues with her little white lie, hoping to tell him when the time is special enough for her to reveal her love for him. Her hesitation unleashes a chain of events that divide the two lovers and brings incredible trouble her way. So, the underlying theme is for women to be honest with themselves and those they love. Independence is also a theme as my heroine flees to escape her abuser and gain her freedom to make her own choices in life.
What period of history particularly inspires or interests you? Why?
That’s difficult to answer because I love all eras of history. The medieval period, though, is my favourite and the era where I’ve set most of my novels. Having said that, one day I dream of writing a western or something set in the Victorian era. When it comes to history, like the cliché says, I’m like a kid in a candy shop.
What resources do you use to research your book?
I have amassed a great number of reference books pertaining to the medieval era and the 10th century in particular. For quick look-ups for questions that arise while I’m writing, I love the Internet. I have also made contact with a forensic doctor to help me come up with a way to poison a character and describe the symptoms accurately. I also collect biographical books and even historical fiction novels written by others to help me study a particular era.
Which authors have influenced you?
There are so very many authors I’ve met and almost all are willing to lend a hand or share their experience with me. Some of the authors who have mentored me along the way are Lisa Yarde, Jeanne Kalogridis, Colin Falconer, Mary Lou Locke, and Gemini Sasson. All of them are so very talented that I am always in awe of their work! Another author who has been helpful and to whom I owe a great deal of respect and gratitude is Richard Warren Field who sadly passed away several months ago. The world is a much emptier place because of his loss.
What do you do if stuck for a word or a phrase?
When I’m stuck, it usually means I’m getting fatigued. The creative writing process can be mentally draining at times. That’s when I take a break and do something more physical. My favourite thing to do is head for the pool where I water jog with weights on my arms and legs for about 90 minutes. That always invigorates and allows me to ponder my writing and where I’m at in a particular tale. I often come up with new plot twists during that time and helps me overcome any blocks.
Is there a particular photo or piece of art that strikes a chord with you? Why?
For nearly a decade, I have been working on a biographical novel called The Prophetic Queen. It is biographical novel about the life of Queen Matilda of Saxony who lived during the 10th century. There is a photograph of a stone bench next to two grates over a hole in a stone floor in the Church of Saint Servatius in Quedlinburg. Inside, Queen Matilda is buried next to her husband, Heinrich the Fowler. He died before she did, and Matilda often sat on that very same bench to pray or seek solace for her grief. I wrote a poignant scene about that very circumstance in my the novel, The Prophetic Queen, which will be released sometime in 2015.
What advice would you give an aspiring author?
The best advice I could give is to never work in isolation. Find other writers, especially in your genre, to share experiences with, ask questions, and to learn from. Give as well as receive! Groups can be found everywhere – libraries, online, and even in your own neighbourhood. Keep an open mind and learn all that you can to hone your own talent. And once you succeed, lend a helping hand to aspiring or fledgling authors. Someone helped me, so I feel it is important to pay it forward as much as possible.
Tell us a little more about your book and where readers can obtain it.
Here is the summary of my novel as it appears on the back cover:
A young woman on the verge of taking her vows to become a nun.
A desperate flight from a murderous massacre.
One honorable man comes to her rescue.
Another becomes her nemesis and captor.
And a life and death search to reunite with her one true love.
In 10th century Naples, Saracens run rampant, annihilating villages, murdering women and children. Death and despair is everywhere. Alone in the world, Sara is a young novice plagued with doubts about taking her final vows to become a nun. When her convent is attacked, she flees for her life straight into the arms of a group of Saracens who leave her to die alone in the woods. An honorable cavaliere named Nicolo comes to her rescue and offers to take her to the safety of Naples. As they journey together, they are irresistibly drawn to each other. Believing Sara to be a nun, the honorable Nicolo is torn between love and duty to respect her vows. Heartbroken, he does what honor demands and sets her free before she can tell him the truth that she is not a nun. In her search to reunite with Nicolo, she encounters Umberto, a dark and dangerous man who will stop at nothing in his obsession to possess her. With her sharp intellect, and her heart, Sara must rely on her own courage and strength to escape her abuser and find the only man she will ever love. A story that burns with intensity, intrigue, and passion from the author of Orphan of the Olive Tree.
The Novice is available in both ebook and paperback format on Amazon.
Mirella is offering a free digital copy of The Novice. To enter the draw, please read the interview and leave a comment. The winner will be announced on 27 October. The giveaway is open internationally.
Why not spread the news about the giveaway. Here’s a tweet for you to use:
#Giveaway of The Novice by @mirellapatzer Learn her sources of #inspiration on Triclinium http://ow.ly/C6Blp #HFVBT @histnovsoc #histfic
Here’s an excerpt from The Novice.
Village of Gaeta
North of Naples
THE MASSACRE CAUGHT the villagers of Gaeta by surprise. In the convent of Santa Maria delle Vergine, the first shrieks of the Saracen raiders as they raced down the hills and then into the outskirts of the village had forced the small group of nuns from their beds. Some rushed to the chapel to face the enemy. The others fled terrorized into the summer night. They were the lucky ones; that desperate flight would save their lives.
Protected by the hood of her mantle, Sara, a novice, the convent’s only inhabitant who had not yet taken her vows, stood among the sisters clustering together on the crest of a hill next to a grove of trees. She shivered against the fading night’s breeze. A full moon and the first rays of dawn combined to shed a scarce light over the valley below. She gazed down at the village of Gaeta, a sprawling mass of land surrounded on three sides the sea, that consisted of a handful of buildings and homes, a church, and their convent. An eerie mist hung above it.
The desolate tolling of the church bell suddenly rose up on the wind.
Sara watched in horror as Muslim warriors galloped through the village bellowing their war cries. A knot of terror jammed in her chest when she saw them enter the convent. She held up a hand, a plea for the women to listen. The church bell suddenly ceased ringing. Screams, shrieks, and moans leapt out of the silence like sparks from a fire. Stunned, Sara could not tear her gaze away from the Saracen marauders who attacked homes, broke down doors and windows, and dragged villagers and nuns outside to meet their demise. The world was truly desolate, without redemption. The villagers were people she knew, whom she had toiled with, and served. There had been no time to warn or save anyone. To each his own. The Saracens were bent at slaughter.
A group of villagers had barricaded themselves inside the church. The attackers set fire to the building and waited for them to flee the smoke and flames. Then the bloodthirsty murderers, wielding axes and swords, struck them down. For years, these Muslim enemies had burned towns, hamlets, churches, orchards, pastures, and vineyards. The hatred the Saracens bore for the people of the Italian peninsula had resulted in battles that had raged for decades. The reason for the hatred, however, had long faded from everyone’s minds.
Sara had never experienced anything like this before – the massacre of an entire village. Cold stark horror gripped her.
Gaeta’s rude houses were scattered over a wide area. Even if most of the villagers had not been surprised in their beds, they had little chance to help one another. The Saracens slew without mercy, torching structures at random. Known for their merciless brutality, Sara had heard stories of captives being impaled, of fingernails pulled out and limbs hacked off, even decapitations or being roasted alive at the stake.
All she and the nuns could do was watch in horror. The women were unable to tear their gazes from the death striking those who had not been fortunate enough to escape. Some of the sisters fell to their knees to pray and weep. One fainted and lay huddled against a tree trunk.
The Novice Blog Tour Schedule
Friday, October 3
Spotlight & Giveaway at Historical Fiction Connection
Monday, October 6
Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective
Tuesday, October 7
Review at Unshelfish
Wednesday, October 8
Guest Post & Giveaway at Historical Tapestry
Thursday, October 9
Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews
Friday, October 10
Review at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book
Guest Post at Keely Brooke Keith