Today we continue our celebration of National Poetry Month and welcome poet Regina O’Melveny to Author Exposure. Her award-winning poetry has appeared in anthologies and literary magazines. This month she is celebrating the release of her first novel, The Book of Madness and Cures. Regina was kind enough to answer a few questions for us. If you have a question for Ms. O’Melveny, please feel free to post it in the comment section. This month the author is offering a hardback copy of her new book to one lucky winner. You don’t want to miss this great opportunity!
The Book of Madness and Cures is about a doctor in 16th century Venice who is searching for her father. Can you introduce us to your main character, Gabriella Mondini, and tell us more about her dilemmas?
Gabriella Silvana Mondini is a rarity in the late Renaissance: a woman who practices
medicine. Her father, a renowned physician, has mentored and inspired her to a shared mission to understand the secrets of the human body, its maladies and cures, the balance of the humors. Together they are working on a great encyclopedia, The Book of Diseases. When her father disappears after undertaking a journey of several years to further their research, Gabriella faces a crisis. She is no longer permitted to treat her patients, women who need her desperately, without her father’s patronage. She sets out across Europe to find where—and why—he has gone. Following clues from his enigmatic letters, Gabriella crosses Switzerland, Germany and the Netherlands entering strange and forbidding cities. She travels to Scotland, France and finally to Morocco. In each new land she probes the mystery of her father’s passage and opens new mysteries of her own, with regards to ailments and treatments. She must also face the dilemma of whether or not to abandon the quest and begin her own vocation and life in earnest, to accept the love and counsel that is offered by a friend.
The Book of Madness and Cures is your first novel. As an accomplished poet, what challenges did you face in writing a novel? What did you learn about yourself as a writer?
The task of completing a full novel has been both exhilarating and daunting. I like to circle an image, the way my dog goes round and round her space before she lies down, but the novel was more like a wide open romp through the countryside and a keen tracking of characters. I had to learn momentum, pacing, and meaning as a kind of scent. I loved exploring the broader field, but I also had to tame my tangents and distractions. Thankfully I had help from my characters, who demanded movement, challenge and change. I learned long distance endurance with subject matter and a real appreciation of the devotion and time it takes for such work.
Your book takes place in Renaissance Italy. What sources did you use to better understand the time period? What was one of the most surprising things you learned in your research?
One of my first and primary sources was memory, the afternoon hours of my childhood spent in my mother’s painting studio that was filled with Renaissance and Medieval art books, and in particular gorgeous copies of Vesalius’s De Humani Corporis Fabrica and Dante’s La Divina Commedia. Naturally I was transfixed by Inferno and my mother often read to me from Dante, in Italian. I also returned to the memory of my father who mentored my studies in literature and natural history until he disappeared. I didn’t know what had happened to him for many years. But he had given me a great gift of scientific curiosity and observation that has served me well.
I found that along with memory to tap the undercurrents of the story, immersion in the arts of the Renaissance proved a great source for me. I read poems by the Venetian poet Veronica Franco, letters and essays of the time, pored over Mercator maps and paintings by Tiziano, Giorgione, Giotto, Durer and Brueghel. I listened to early music recordings of Monteverdi, Gesualdo, Morley, Gabrieli, and Holborne. My travels over a period of years, took me to nearly every place on Gabriella’s journey, where I had the wonderful opportunity to observe the architecture of the old cities, walking the streets she walked, visiting the anatomy theaters in Padua and Leiden she frequented. Present day scholarship on specific subjects such as women’s roles in the Renaissance were also invaluable, among them Nancy G. Sirasi’s Medieval and Early Renaissance Medicine, Carlo Ginzberg’s The Night Battles, Elizabeth Brooke’s Women Healers, Portraits of Herbalists, Physicians and Midwives, and Robin Briggs’s Witches and Neighbors. One of the most surprising things I discovered was the great variance in attitudes towards women doctors and healers, throughout Europe, especially between urban centers and the countryside.
The Book of Madness and Cures is on the Indie Next Great Read list for the month of April. How does it feel to have independent booksellers and reviewers alike all abuzz about your book? How would you describe your journey as a writer up until this point?
Ever since my Italian grandmother sent me a small cloth journal with a golden lock, when I was a girl of ten, I’ve loved to write. I could step through words into other worlds, and be startled, challenged, amazed and changed. That holds true today. Story draws me into the unknown, where strangely I also recognize what I know and then go further. Characters call out to me, the muses of beauty and terror call, and small details such as vials of herbs or the arrangement of ligaments in the hand call to me. And I’m grateful (even if fearful sometimes) to listen, take up the task and the journey.
What are your specific marketing plans for? Will you be participating in online blog tours, book signings, or book tours?
Little, Brown and Company has been really wonderful in implementing the marketing plans for the novel, including a five city pre-sell book tour, west coast author events and book signings as well as publicity including features, reviews, book video, interactive reading group guide, downloadable excerpts and a national media campaign with print, radio and online interviews. There is online advertising on Goodreads, Shelf Awareness and PW Daily. I have a website with excerpts and inspirations for The Book of Madness and Cures at www.reginaomelveny.com. I’ll also be available for book club call-ins, visits in my area, and e-mail responses to book club questions. I look forward to hearing from my readers!
Thanks for joining us today! Regina would like to offer a copy of The Book of Madness and Cures to ONE lucky winner. Interested in entering this giveaway? Please read the following rules:
1. You must be a fan, follower, or subscriber to Author Exposure (thanks for your support!)
2. You must be a resident of US or Canada
3. Comment on this post and don’t forget to include your email address–that’s your ticket to this giveaway…no email address, no entry
GIVEAWAY ENDS AT MIDNIGHT ON APRIL 20th. THE WINNER WILL BE CONTACTED VIA EMAIL.
Check out our Book Addict Inspiration on http://www.pinterest.com/authorexposure/book-decor/