Hello Elizabeth, it's a pleasure welcoming you to Passages to the Past! I greatly enjoyed THE RED LILY CROWN and thank you for stopping by my blog today!
First, can you please tell us a little about yourself.
Thank you for inviting me! I’m not very good at talking about myself—I’m an introvert down to the bone, and one of my favorite things is curling up in my little back office with my bookcases full of books, my grandmother’s solid cedar hope chest, and a couple of beagles. Oh, and of course, my computer, so I can make up stories and pretend I’m living in different times and places. At dinnertime I’ll venture out and cook dinner for my long-suffering husband, the Broadcasting Legend.
What inspired you to write THE RED LILY CROWN?
When I wrote The Second Duchess, I had originally imagined a scene in which Duchess Barbara’s younger sister Joanna (in Italy called Giovanna) came to visit Ferrara with her husband Francesco de’ Medici. Unfortunately the history didn’t work—Giovanna and Francesco didn’t go to Ferrara in the time period of the novel, and in fact, never went at all. So I had to delete the scene, but I was intrigued by Giovanna and Francesco and spent more time researching them. When I discovered Francesco’s obsession with alchemy and his passion for Bianca Cappello (the Anne Boleyn, one might say, of Florence), the story pretty much burst into existence all by itself.
What do you want readers to take away from your book?
Underneath it all, the book is about families, how they love each other and how they damage each other. We do see some terrible things that brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers and children do to each other, but we also see blood ties—Chiara and her Nonna, for instance—that are deep and full of love.
What historical time period or setting do you gravitate towards the most with your personal reading?
I will read just about anything, from pre-history up to the end of the nineteenth century. The twentieth century doesn’t seem historical to me.
As far as writing goes, I seem to be drawn to the sixteenth century. I think the attraction is that it’s the background for such enormous conflicts—the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation, the rise of the Renaissance with its new humanism and the clash between magic and science, the exploration of the New World.
What do you like to do when you aren't writing?
I love to read—not only historical fiction but mysteries, women’s fiction, some fantasy and science fiction, big mainstream blockbusters, biographies, historical non-fiction, pretty much anything I can get my hands on. I like to cook, and particularly to bake—I collect old recipes and love to recreate them as best I can with modern ingredients. Then there are the beagles, of course—I try to have a nice long walk with them every day. And I love to garden. Right now I’m working on a container herb garden and a collection of African Violets.
Who are your writing inspirations?
I’m very much inspired by Mary Stewart, who recently passed away, God bless her—I love her romantic-suspense-adventure style even though I set my stories against historical backgrounds. I also read a lot of Phyllis Whitney and Victoria Holt as a teenager, and I think they left their mark. I always like threads of adventure and suspense and romance woven in with my historical stories, which is why I create fictional characters to live in the same world as my historical personages. With the historical characters I stick to history as best I can discover it, but with the fictional characters I can do anything I want to make stories.
What was the first historical novel you read?
I started in reading my parents’ books when I was eight or ten—I didn’t know some of the words but I figured them out by their context and sounded them out in my head. (I spent years thinking that one pronounced both the “w” and the “h” in “whore,” like one does in “which” or “when.”) The titles I remember are The Saracen Blade and The Golden Hawk by Frank Yerby, The Silver Chalice by Thomas B. Costain, Prince of Foxes by Samuel Shellabarger, and The Velvet Doublet by James Street. In those days historical fiction seemed to be mostly written by men—what was up with that, I wonder?
Later I dove headfirst into the Angelique series by Sergeanne Golon, and even later the Lymond series by Dorothy Dunnett, who is my absolute writing heroine.
What is the last historical novel you read?
An ARC of The Tiger Queens by Stephanie Thornton. A truly fascinating setting and unexpectedly powerful women characters.
Can you tell us a little about your next project?
It’s very fluid right now—I keep changing things, so it’s hard to say something now that might be different next week. One constant in the story is chocolate—the discovery of cacao in the New World, and its eventual availability in European countries. The Spanish kept it a secret for almost a hundred years—and I can relate because sometimes I don’t want to share my chocolate with anybody else, either!
Thank you so much for having me as a guest on Passages to the Past!
Pub Date: April 1, 2014 | Penguin/NAL | eBook, Paperback
Elizabeth Loupas returns with her most ambitious historical novel yet, a story of intrigue, passion, and murder in the Medici Court...
April, 1574, Florence, Italy. Grand Duke Cosimo de’ Medici lies dying. The city is paralyzed with dread, for the next man to wear the red lily crown will be Prince Francesco: despotic, dangerous, and obsessed with alchemy.
Chiara Nerini, the troubled daughter of an anti-Medici bookseller, sets out to save her starving family by selling her dead father’s rare alchemical equipment to the prince. Instead she is trapped in his household—imprisoned and forcibly initiated as a virgin acolyte in Francesco’s quest for power and immortality. Undaunted, she seizes her chance to pursue undreamed-of power of her own.
Witness to sensuous intrigues and brutal murder plots, Chiara seeks a safe path through the labyrinth of Medici tyranny and deception. Beside her walks the prince’s mysterious English alchemist Ruanno, her friend and teacher, driven by his own dark goals. Can Chiara trust him to keep her secrets…even to love her…or will he prove to be her most treacherous enemy of all?
About the AuthorElizabeth Loupas held various positions in radio and television, and worked as an editor, writer, and marketing consultant. She holds degrees in literary studies and library/information science. She lives with her husband and two beagles. She is the author of The Second Duchess and The Flower Reader.