Friday, February 25, 2011

Sixteenth Century Quote of the Week

"La cour est un théâtre où on voit à la fin
Le pauvre venir riche et le riche coquin."

Court is a theater where you see, in the end,
The poor man become rich and the rich man a scoundrel.

Claude de Trellon (died 1611), French poet
Le portrait de la cour

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Sixteenth-century Linen Closet

Go here to view a stunning piece of sixteenth-century furniture, a carved walnut dressoir, or sideboard, used for storing linen and displaying gold and silver plate. Far too beautiful for such a menial function, it looks as though it could be a portal back in time, à la Narnia. Dusting must have been a daunting task!

Monday, February 21, 2011


I apologize for missing the promised posting date for the winner of the giveaway of Karen Harper's THE IRISH PRINCESS. I went away for the weekend, and believe it or not, endured both a flat tire AND a dead battery, which kept me from home an additional day.

So now, let me put an end to the suspense.....The winner of Karen's latest novel is

Carol N. Wong

Congratulations, Carol, and thanks to all who entered! Be sure to look for Karen's book at your neighborhood or online bookseller. Come back after you've read it and tell us what you think!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Luck o' the Irish

Sixteenth-century artifacts seem to be popping up in random places rather often lately.
A painting bought at a garage sale in South Bend, Indiana turns out to be a sixteenth-century portrait by François Quesnel (1542-1619), court painter to Catherine de Medici and her son Henri III. I'd love to know the history of this painting--especially since the frame bears a brass plate that reads "Gift of Ruskin"--quite possibly the nineteenth century art critic and poet who is considered the father of the pre-Raphaelite movement. Talk about a bargain purchase! Read the article here.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Sixteenth Century Quote of the Week

"One must above all praise the wisdom of our King Francis I and his spirit of farsightedness, worthy of a great prince, to do specially with regard to men what others do for dogs and horses, in ordaining that, on one side as on the other, those who decide to unite under the holy ties of matrimony take into consideration the race from which they issue, in order that from good parents are born children who will later prove useful to king and country."

Jacopo Sadoleto (1477-1547), Cardinal and Bishop of Carpentras
De liberis recte instituendis (1530; trans. P. Charpenne, 1855)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Guest Post by Author Michelle Moran

Author Michelle Moran shares some thoughts about the subject of her new novel, MADAME TUSSAUD.



by Michelle Moran

When most people hear the name Madame Tussaud, the first thing that comes to mind are the eerily lifelike waxworks which crowd her museums throughout the world. But who was the woman behind the name, and what was she like in the flesh?

Madame Tussaud’s story actually began in 18th century Paris. While most people know her from her famous museum in London, it was in France, on the humble Boulevard du Temple, where Marie first got her start as an apprentice in her uncle’s wax museum, the Salon de Cire. At the time, the Boulevard du Temple was crowded with exhibits of every kind. For just a few sous a passerby might attend the opera, watch a puppet show, or visit Henri Charles’ mystifying exhibition The Invisible Girl. The Boulevard was a difficult place to distinguish yourself as an artist, but as Marie’s talent grew for both sculpting and public relations, the Salon de Cire became one of the most popular attractions around. Suddenly, no one could compete with Marie or her uncle for ingenious publicity stunts, and when the royal family supposedly visited their museum, this only solidified what most showmen in Paris already knew — the Salon was an exhibition to watch out for.

But as the Salon’s popularity grew, so did the unusual requests. Noblemen came asking for wax sculptures of their mistresses, women wanted models of their newborn infants, and – most importantly – the king’s sister herself wanted Marie to come to Versailles to be her wax tutor. While this was, in many ways, a dream come true for Marie, it was also a dangerous time to be associated with the royal family. Men like Robespierre, Marat, and Desmoulins were meeting at Marie’s house to discuss the future of the monarchy, and when the Revolution began, Marie found herself in a precarious position. Ultimately, she was given a choice by France’s new leaders: to preserve the famous victims of Madame Guillotine in wax, or be guillotined herself.

Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution is the story of Marie’s life during one of the most tumultuous times in human history. Her survival was nothing less than astonishing, and how she survived makes for what I hope is a compelling read.

Check out Michelle's blog at

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Jen K. Blom is an Internet writing buddy of mine, and I'm so happy to be able to participate in the blog tour for her debut middle-grade novel, POSSUM SUMMER, which will be published by Holiday House in March. Jen has designed a really creative format for her tour, so I'll let her and her main character, Princess, do the talking!


Welcome to the POSSUMS ARE AWESOME world blog tour for the middle-grade book, POSSUM SUMMER, coming out in March! (Have you preordered yet?)

I'm here with Julianne today talking about my lovely book, and living in Germany, and lots of other things as well! But P had to come along too...which you'll see later.

First off, about the book:

a lonely kid.

an orphaned baby possum.

a dad that says no way.

how do you keep that kind of secret?

and what happens when you’re found out?

Here we go! Wheee!!!

JD: Living in Germany, you probably speak German, or at least you hear it all day. How does the constant switching between languages affect your writing? Do you find your style affected by the German in which you are immersed?

JKB: OOOH. Good question! I can definitely tell a difference in my writing now vs. some years ago. German has the layout of their sentences all wrong (heh heh) and sometimes I'll get comments back from crit buds that it 'sounds too German'. The nice thing is that my editor says the same thing, diplomatically, which allows me to try and remember it for the next time.

I do think that even my normal writing (such as in this little interview! *cries*) is affected. I try not to, by reading tons of books, but I'm afraid I fail quite a bit ...

JD: How did you come to be a writer? Did you choose to write Middle Grade because you are drawn to that demographic or because the story you had in mind fit best into that category?

JKB: Well it seems I was always one? At least I thought I was - I was terribly stuck-up about it when I was ten or so. I can remember it always, alongside my books. I was a reader and since we didn't have much and lived on a farm, I was a re-re-re-rereader. I loved Middle Grade stories when I was that age, and I think I never really passed that time fully in my head. (I love most books, but MG books are definitely where my heart is at!)

JD: In the “long, convoluted biography” on your website, you claim you had a possum as a childhood pet. How much does Possum Summer draw on own your personal experience with this animal? Can you share an experience with your pet that didn’t figure in the book?

JKB: Many of my experiences with my possum made their way into the book. I had to do a lot of trial and error before I figured out how exactly to feed the possum to his advantage. He was an impatient thing and would continuously hiss in disgust as I prepared his milk.

And I always loved his slight cinnamon-coloured outer hair as he matured, although it went away once I learned the proper diet for a possum. (They need a wide range of foods in order to avert bone and digestion problems.)

Princess: Good morning good morning, Miss Julianne!

JKB: Right on cue.

P: Jen tells me you write historical stuff and it's really good, 'cause she's read it. Which is nice, but you know I always wondered: were lark's tongues in butter always really lark's tongues? Those are birds, right? Who's crazy enough to sit there and cut a whole bunch of songbird tongues out, huh? What's your favrite food?

JD: Filet mignon with mushroom wine sauce, scalloped potatoes, green beans and something deliciously chocolate for dessert.

P: *pauses* You know? I'm glad I'm doing this. I have never ate a mushroom in my whole life, and there you go, sticking them in wine! It sounds good. *pauses* I think. But what about your favorite activity? (See? I finally got favorite spelled right!)

JD: Reading.

P: Reading, huh? What's your favorite book then? Mine's "SUMMER OF THE MONKEYS." It's a great book! What's you finding really neat about yourself, huh? (I like the blond color of my hair. I know it's just because of the sun, but I like it anyways.)

JD: I have long brown hair, past my shoulders.

P: I wish I could see it! I like brown hair! I had to sit and think about that picture in my head, of long brown hair in the wind! Whipping it around, and stuff, so I thought you'd be this:

P: Did you know Great Heron's have long pretty feathers on their head, almost like hair? And I think that anybody eating mushrooms and wine in a sauce would probably like turtles too, right? Hey - can I try some? I mean, I never had any mushrooms before --

JKB: -- *cough* I'm sure this kid has homework. Let me be on my way! :-D Thanks, Julianne!

Jen K. Blom writes about animals, the land, and kids, not necessarily in that order. Her debut, POSSUM SUMMER, is available March 2011.

Just the thing to give to a kid to start their summer of reading off right! (Available from your local indie, Amazon,Barnes & Noble, Borders, or Book Depository!)

Check out the book trailer here !

Want to read more POSSUMS ARE AWESOME blog tour entries? Go here and knock yourself out!


Thanks, Jen, what fun! Can't say I'd like to eat turtles, though. I'll leave those for Princess, or maybe the possum. Best of luck to you at this exciting time! I have a niece for whom POSSUM SUMMER would be perfect reading.

Monday, February 14, 2011

MADAME TUSSAUD by Michelle Moran

Tomorrow is the big day for my friend, author Michelle Moran--her newest novel, MADAME TUSSAUD, hits the shelves! I am thrilled that Michelle has shifted her focus from Egypt to France and can't wait to dive into her novel.

"When Marie Tussaud learns the exciting news that the royal family will be visiting her famed wax museum, the Salon de Cire, she never dreams that the king's sister will request her presence at Versailles as a royal tutor in wax sculpting. As Marie familiarizes herself with Princess Elisabeth and becomes acquainted with both Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI, she witnesses the glamorous life of the court. It's a much different world than her home on the Boulevard du Temple in Paris, where bread can only be had on the black market and men sell their teeth to put food on their tables.

The year is 1788, and men like Desmoulins, Marat, and Robespierre are meeting in the salons of Paris, speaking against the monarchy; there's whispered talk of revolution.

Spanning five years from budding revolution to the Reign of Terror, MADAME TUSSAUD brings us into the world of an incredible heroine whose talent for wax modeling saved her life and preserved the faces of a vanished kingdom."

Be sure to come back this Thursday when I will feature a guest post written by Michelle. In the meantime, you can watch the book trailer or visit Michelle's website for a Q & A and fascinating background information for the novel. I'll post a review in a few weeks.

Congratulations, Michelle! I hope this book is only the first of many that will be set in la douce France.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Vincenzo Campi, The Fruit Seller (c. 1580)

"[A]ll fruites generally are noyfull [hurtful] to manne and do ingendur yll humours."

Sir Thomas Elyot (1490-1546),
English courtier and humanist
The Castel of Helth (1541)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Interview and Giveaway: Karen Harper, THE IRISH PRINCESS

Author Karen Harper has just released her new historical novel, THE IRISH PRINCESS. Yesterday, I presented the book; today, Ms. Harper answers some questions about her research, her writing process, and her heroine.

Q: You are known for your Tudor era historicals, and THE IRISH PRINCESS fits that category, but has a different “feel.” Why an Irish heroine during the reigns of Henry VIII through Elizabeth I?

Karen Harper: While I was reading about Queen Elizabeth’s friends and confidants, I found one of them was an Irish woman Elizabeth (nicknamed Gera) Fitzgerald, a woman renowned for her beauty. What gives? I thought. The Tudors had trouble with the Irish, and Elizabeth was often jealous of beautiful women. So I started researching Gera, who I learned, would have been an Irish princess, except for the Tudors’ persecution of her people. Yet despite the ruination of her family, the Fitzgeralds of County Kildare, near Dublin, this Irishwoman remained the queen’s friend for years and married the dashing Lord High Admiral of England. It was a heroine I had to know and a book I had to write.

Q: Was the research of Gera easy to come by or more challenging, since her early years were lived in Ireland?

A: As usual, when researching most Tudor-era noble women, I had to glean information about Gera from the “more important” lives of those she touched. That meant the Tudors, of course, but for her Irish roots, it meant reading books about her father, “the uncrowned king of Ireland,” and her rebel brother who got the family in trouble. Also, the poet Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, wrote a poem of admiration to “The Fair Geraldine.” (The Fitgeralds were descended from the Geraldines, which is where she got her nickname.)

Q: Were you able to travel to the sites used in the book?

A: I’ve been to English Tudor sites many times, so that part of the novel was easy for me to envision. My trip to Ireland was wonderful, and I spent time in Dublin and the Kildare area, but this was before I found Gera and decided to do a novel about her. So, since I could not get back to Ireland then, I was really helped by some on-site Irish researchers. For example, the caretakers of Maynooth Castle where Gera grew up corresponded and sent me their information as well as a list of sources to get through Interlibrary Loan.

Q: As in many of your novels, King Henry VIII comes off as quite a villain.

A: I usually sum up Henry with the quote, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” The older he got, the more paranoid he became about ruining any family that could threaten his power. I’ve just completed a book with his parents as the focus, so I see where he got this obsession, but for a supposedly religious leader and protector of his people, his tactics are horrible and inexcusable. THE IRISH PRINCESS begins with Gera’s lines, “I was going to kill the king. He was dying but I was going to kill him anyway.” With all that her family and Ireland went through, I could easily empathize with her desire for revenge. The book, however, is not just a revenge story, for, although she wants to hate all the Tudors, she finds that she has much in common with Elizabeth and even Mary Tudor.

Q: What are your work habits? I know you also write in another genre, contemporary suspense.

A: Yes, for the last ten years, I’ve had a split personality as a writer, doing a historical and then a suspense novel and so, working with two different publishers. I must admit, it has been a challenge. I need to be careful that I take a break between each genre, because I need an entirely different voice for each as well as vocabulary, culture, even sentence structure. However, both “voices” seem to come easily to me, once I immerse myself in the characters and settings. Settings are very important to me. One of my author talks is “Setting As Character." As for my work habits, a lot of my ideas obviously come from my research, whether I’m writing about the Irish or the modern day Amish. (My website, starts out, “from the Amish to the Irish…”). In short, I’m a plan ahead author. I’m an early riser, so I get a lot done in the mornings and fade mid-PM, when it’s time to answer e-mail or just get away from the laptop for a while. At least my days are varied, sometimes 5 – 6 hours of writing, sometimes editing, research, promotion… I write, then revise about 6 -7 times, then print out my chapters, then revise again from there.

Q: Do both of the genres in which you write sell about the same?

A: Alas, no. Any book that has a contemporary setting (and in my books, mystery/suspense) has a broader audience than historicals. Some of my suspense novels have been New York Times and USA TODAY bestsellers, but not the historicals (yet!). The readers of the historicals are actually a niche audience, often well-traveled, well-educated and, in my case, usually afflicted with what I call Tudormania. However, as a former college and high school English teacher, I’ve been really pleased to have quite a few readers say that they used to think history was dry, but after reading a Karen Harper book, now they love it—it has come alive for them.

Q: All of your books seem to have a heroine who rises above terrible circumstances. Is that intentional?

A: Yes, because that’s what not only makes a rousing good story but inspires the reader—at least I hope so. I do look for several things in a historic heroine before I spend months and years researching and writing about her. First of all, her life must impact some well-known figures. Also, I’m looking for a good love story in her life—and Gera Fitzgerald definitely has that. Her love for sailing and her forbidden love for sea captain Edward Clinton give the novel a swashbuckling feeling ala Johnny Depp and Liam Neeson—even Errol Flynn—movies. I also need some sort of resolution or triumph, in short a happy ending. And I do tend to say with English, Irish or Scottish heroines, since those countries and their pasts are my passion.


Thank you, Karen, for this peek into your book and your life as a writer! Give it time -- your historicals are bound to become bestsellers, too.

Karen has offered a complimentary copy of THE IRISH PRINCESS to be given away here at Writing the Renaissance. If you are interested in the book, please leave a comment below with an email contact. Entrants must have domestic US mailing addresses. Contest closes at 10 pm PST Saturday, February 19. Winner's name will be posted Monday, February 21. Good luck to all! Look for THE IRISH PRINCESS online or at your neighborhood bookstore.

Monday, February 7, 2011


Author Karen Harper writes historical fiction as well as bestselling contemporary suspense. I enjoyed her MISTRESS SHAKESPEARE, as well as THE QUEEN'S GOVERNESS, which I reviewed here. Karen's newest historical novel, THE IRISH PRINCESS (released February 1 from NAL), is the story of a would-be Irish princess who is forced from her homeland and thrust into King Henry VIII's treacherous Tudor court. From the back cover:

"Born into a first family of Ireland, with royal ties on both sides, Elizabeth Fitzgerald--known as Gera--finds her loving, carefree world overturned when tyrant Henry VIII imprisons her father, the Earl of Kildare, and brutally destroys her family.

Torn from the home she loves, and with her remaining family scattered, Gera dares not deny the refuge offered her in England's glittering royal court. There she must navigate ever-shifting alliances even as she nurtures her secret desire for revenge. Beautiful, bold, and rebellious, Gera eludes dangerous suitors, encourages others, and holds close to her heart a private attachment to Edward Clinton, a handsome, ambitious courtier who understands her strong-willed spirit. And even as Gera works to undermine King Henry and win support for her family, she seeks to protect his young daughter Princess Elizabeth, a kindred spirit fighting to survive, whose future is linked to Gera's own.

From County Kildare's lush green fields to London's rough-and-tumble streets and the royal court's luxurious pageantry, THE IRISH PRINCESS follows the journey of a daring woman whose will cannot be tamed, and who won't be satisfied until she restores her family to its rightful place in Ireland."

I will review THE IRISH PRINCESS in the coming weeks. In tomorrow's post, Karen discusses, among other things, what she looks for in a historical heroine and the different audiences for which she writes. Plus, you'll be able to enter a drawing for a copy of THE IRISH PRINCESS! Be sure to come back and help celebrate the publication of a novel which promises to deliver an intriguing new take on the Tudor court.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Sixteenth Century Quote of the Week

"Cats of a good breed mouse better when they are fat than starving; and likewise honest men who possess some talent, exercise it to far nobler purport when they have the wherewithal to live abundantly; wherefore princes who provide such folk with competences . . . are watering the roots of genius; for genius and talent, at their birth, come into this world lean and scabby."

Benvenuto Cellini (1500-1571), Italian artist
Autobiography, I:56
translated by John Addington Symonds

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


February 2011 is an exciting month for new historical fiction releases from established authors. First up is C.W. Gortner's THE TUDOR SECRET, released today from St. Martin's Griffin. THE TUDOR SECRET is the first in a series about the rise of Brendan Prescott as secret spymaster for Elizabeth I. From the back cover:
Summer 1553: a time of danger and deceit. Brendan Prescott, an orphan, is reared in the household of the powerful Dudley family. Brought to court, Prescott finds himself sent on an illicit mission to the king's brilliant but enigmatic sister, Princess Elizabeth. But Brendan is soon compelled to work as a double agent by Elizabeth's protector, William Cecil, who promises in exchange to help him unravel the secret of his own mysterious past.

A dark plot swirls around Elizabeth's quest to unravel the truth about the ominous disappearance of her seriously ill brother, King Edward VI. With only a bold stable boy and an audacious lady-in-waiting at his side, Brendan plunges into a ruthless gambit of half-truths, lies and murder.

Mr. Gortner sent me a copy of THE TUDOR SECRET, which I have just begun reading. It promises to be as exciting and engaging as THE LAST QUEEN and THE CONFESSIONS OF CATHERINE DE MEDICI. I will post a review as soon as I have finished. In the meantime, here is a guest post by the author.


Interweaving Fact with Fiction: On Writing THE TUDOR SECRET

by C.W. Gortner

In my latest novel, THE TUDOR SECRET, Book One in the Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles, I set myself to a challenge that proved more daunting than I originally thought. Despite its shorter length, compared to my other novels THE LAST QUEEN and THE CONFESSIONS OF CATHERINE DE MEDICI, THE TUDOR SECRET is deceptively complex, interweaving three storylines—a factual one; a “What if?” one; and a fictionalized one. This was also the first time I decided to work with fictional characters interacting with historical ones, and these interactions were both unexpected and exciting.

My first storyline is factual, based on the tumultuous events surrounding John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, and his familial conspiracy to replace Princess Mary Tudor in the succession following the untimely death of Mary’s brother, Edward VI. Though this event, known as the Succession Crisis of 1553, has often gotten short thrift in both biographical accounts of the lead players and in other Tudor-themed novels, I’ve always found it fascinating— a dramatic coup d’état staged by a powerful courtier, aimed at the Catholic heir to the throne, who was herself an embattled survivor of her father’s rupture with Rome. Northumberland had risen through the ranks to the pinnacle of success. In control of the realm after the execution of Edward’s uncle, he was resolved to protect his interests at any cost. Northumberland’s frantic race against time to secure the throne offers riveting contrast to Mary’s emergence from the shadows as the stalwart granddaughter of the famed warrior-queen, Isabella of Castile. Though many initially thought her cause hopeless, history proved differently.

My second storyline focuses on: “What if?” Though it’s established that Mary did in fact visit court to see her ailing brother several months before his demise, less is known about their sister, Elizabeth. Many believe Northumberland refused Elizabeth the same privilege, thus relegating her to her country manor, isolated from the events about to unfold. But my imagination was stirred by the idea of what if she’d ignored Northumberland’s refusal. Hindsight is everything when reconstructing historical events; we now know what Northumberland planned, yet what if Elizabeth, unaware of the extent of the duke’s plot, arrived unannounced in London, determined to see her brother? Rumors of Edward’s demise ran rampant and Elizabeth was known for being both headstrong and fiercely protective of Edward. The possibilities that opened before me as I envisioned this bold nineteen year-old princess descending upon Northumberland and his clan proved irresistible.

The last storyline is fictional. The idea for this series was to explore the birth of the grand era of Elizabethan espionage. I also wanted to envision this world through the eyes of an ordinary man, a foundling (as many were) who is brought to court to act as a squire. My lead character, Brendan, only seeks to persevere in his new post, perhaps even gain his freedom from servitude. Disdained by the noble family with whom he has spent his life, still mourning the death of the woman who cared for him, but also keen and observant, if ignorant of the treachery of the court, Brendan is the perfect vehicle for my story: a seemingly every-day youth who, unbeknownst to him, carries a secret that could overturn everything he believes in. His fateful meeting with Elizabeth as she seeks an answer to her brother’s disappearance throws these two characters into a labyrinth of deceit that will test their mettle and forge a lifelong alliance.

Lastly, THE TUDOR SECRET pays humble homage to my lifelong admiration of the spirited historical adventures of Alexander Dumas, Rafael Sabatini, Lawrence Schnoover, and the swashbuckling films of the 1950s. I hope you enjoy this foray into the underworld of the Tudors— a place where dukes battle princesses, betrayal is rife, and one man fights to save a future queen from destruction while unraveling the secret of his own mysterious past.

Thank you so much for spending this time with me. To learn more about me and my books, as well as access special features, please visit me at: Happy reading!

Best wishes to Christopher as he launches this third book, which is sure to be one of the year's top reads! THE TUDOR SECRET can be purchased at your neighborhood bookseller as well as online. Be sure to check back soon for my review.