Sunday Salon

It’s finally SUNDAY!  I think a lot of us bloggers have a BBAW hangover this weekend.  So many posts to read, so many giveaways, so many awards and so much excitement!  It was a great week, put on by the tireless My Friend Amy, who did a phenomenal job putting it all together and keeping track of everything.  A round of applause for AMY!  (clap, clap, clap)

My BBAW giveaways will be ending this week too;  this one on Monday, and this one on Tuesday.  Hurry and enter if you haven’t already!

Fall has arrived here in Southern California. I used to love this time of year growing up in Michigan- back to school, sweater weather, fall colors, apple picking.  The change of seasons is more subtle in So. Cal. but when you’ve lived her awhile you start to notice small things.  We go from hot to warm, green to brown, and dry to not quite as dry, over the course of several months.  It’s still blazing hot right now, but it cools off in the evenings, and it’s chilly in the early morning.  The kids are back in school (and already have tons of homework), and by next weekend we’ll start to see pumpkins and scarecrows on porches to remind us that it’s fall, since the weather doesn’t offer much of a clue.

I’ve got so much reading lined up but it’s a challenge to find time.  My husband is in China on business, so I’ve been a “single mom” for the past week.  Things I’ve had to do without him include:

* going to Back to School night alone

* taking the girls on an overnight campout at their school (I  made the kids put the tent up, so it wasn’t that bad- it was just the carting things back and forth and the sleeping on the ground that sucked!)

* dealing with the emotions (“I miss daddy” sniff sniff)

* hauling the garbage cans to the curb and back (his job)

* feeding the dog and picking up poop (also his job)

* taking my youngest to her golf lesson (always a daddy/daughter thing)  

On the plus side, I’ve only cooked dinner once all week.  A couple nights we had leftovers, a couple nights we went out, and one night we had “breakfast for dinner”.  Oh, and I haven’t shaved my legs.  Ha!

Right now I’m reading Peony in Love by Lisa See.  I’ve wanted to read this since it came out, but was waiting for my book club to vote it in.  So far I LOVE it.  I was already a big fan after reading Snow Flower, now I’m a bigger fan.  Her writing is so lush and evocative- you get such a sense of the surroundings, you can almost smell the jasmine on the breeze.  Lisa is going to join our book club meeting in October by speaker phone and we could not be more excited!  

Next on the TBR pile is Immortal by Traci Slatton for Jennifer’s online book club at Literate Housewives (not to be confused with her regular blog, Literate Housewife). This one is somehow a cross between historical fiction and time travel.  It’s set in Florence in the 14th century, and the back cover says something about a golden boy having to make a choice between immortality and his only chance to find his true love (I’m paraphrasing wildly).  

After that, it’s on to The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff for a TLC Book Tour stop here on October 30th.  It’s about Ann Eliza Young, 19th wife of Brigham Young, prophet and leader of the Mormon church.  There’s also a parallel story about a present day murder in a polygamist family.  I can’t wait to start it.  

And last, but hopefully not least, I’ll be reading Run by Ann Patchett.  The only Patchett I’ve read is Bel Canto, which I intensely disliked, but because my friend Jill at Fizzy Thoughts liked Run so much, and then offered to send me her copy, I’m going to give it a try.  I’m also interested in Patchett’s Truth and Beauty, about her friendship with Lucy Grealy (Autobiography of a Face), so I’m going to give her a second chance, and then possibly a third.  

I’m curious- If you’ve read a book that you didn’t like at all, do you give an author another chance and read more of their work?  Or do you “fire them” forever?  

Happy Sunday!

Giveaway and Q & A: Immortal by Traci Slatton

Jennifer at The Literate Housewife is starting an online book club in September, and the first reading selection is Immortal by Traci Slatton!  I have 2 copies of Immortal to give away (I received 3, but selfishly, I’m keeping one!).  I ask that you only enter the contest if you’re interested in participating in Jennifer’s online book club.  All you need to do is leave a comment here by Friday, August 15th.  

**edited to add:  If you sign up for Jennifer’s book club, she’ll send you a fancy handmade bookmark.  She rocks!

The publisher sent me a Q & A with the author to use along with the giveaway, so here goes:

About the Book

Q&A for Traci Slatton
Author of Immortal
Tracilslatton.com

Tell us about your book, Immortal.

Immortal is a rags-to-riches-to-burnt-at-the-stake story. It’s a journey of spirit and an education of the heart. That said, it’s the story of a mysteriously gifted street urchin who undergoes the darkest moments possible and still goes on to find true love, deep friendship, hope, faith, and ultimately the deepest secrets of his origins.

Why did you write this book?

I love to tell stories! I was working on a non-fiction book about science and spirituality. (Piercing Time & Space, ARE Press, Virginia Beach, VA: 2005.) It was fascinating research, but I found myself longing to write fiction, to create characters and wrap myself around adventure, conflict, and obstacle. Story lust drove me.

The book takes place in Florence during the Renaissance: What inspired you to choose this setting?

This goes back to the previous question. Renaissance Florence is a character in this novel–it’s inextricably interwoven into the story. It’s why I wrote THIS book. More explicitly, I am married to Sabin Howard, who is one of the foremost classical figurative sculptors working today. (www.sabinhoward.com) Think Michelangelo’s work: that’s what my husband’s work resembles. Moreover, Sabin is half-Italian; his mother is from Torino and he is completely fluent in the language. So, for him, Renaissance Italy is alive and well. It’s a part of our everyday discourse. I was always interested in Renaissance art but it’s become a passion because of living with Sabin.

Also, Florence between 1300 and 1500 was an intense and extraordinary place, almost unequalled in history. Art, philosophy, learning, commerce, banking, and government were all burgeoning and concentrated into this small city, making it the center of Europe. Out of Florence radiated invention and innovation. One of the popes called it “The fifth element of the universe.” Only Paris between the two world wars comes close to the fervor of creativity that was taking place in Florence during the Renaissance. It’s a powerful time to write about.

How did you come up with a protagonist like Luca?

I wanted a character who would meet and make an impression on my two great Renaissance heroes: Giotto and Leonardo. This character had to be the kind of man who could inspire love, lust, envy, admiration, and riveting hatred in other people. And he was going to face terrible challenges, so he had to have personal resources to help him through. And his suffering would make him humble and give him a hunger to love and be loved.

Lucas plays many different roles – orphan, companion, healer – throughout the story, which do you personally relate best to?

Perhaps to the healer and the companion. I was a hands-on or spiritual healer for many years, and Luca gets to do what I always longed to do: lay hands on and cure someone completely, even bring a dying man back to life.

I have four daughters, and in the best moments of parenting, there is a companionable aspect to it. There are moments when all the little stuff falls away, all the blah-blah-blah about messy bedrooms and parties and grades and allowances and health concerns, and my children and I are friends, laughing together. Even my little one, who is 3, sometimes sits and chats with me as if we were two good buddies. I treasure those moments.

Luca meets da Vinci, Botticelli…“immortals” whose impact on society is still apparent. Can you talk to us about some of those figures, and the way they still shape modern society?

They have left a legacy of art and ideas which is the foundation of western civilization. Petrarch, who is a friend of Luca’s in Immortal, articulated the notion of the individual self (see Ascent of Mount Ventoux) on which we built the United States: “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.” This is a radical change from the earlier systems of society, and it came out of the Renaissance. The great Cosimo de Medici who led Florence from 1434 to 1464 established the Platonic Academy, which formulated the ideals of humanism which are now axiomatic in our worldview. Even our pop philosophy, eg The Secret, has its roots in Pico della Mirandella’s Oration on the Dignity of Man: “O highest and most admirable felicity of man to whom it is granted to have whatever he chooses, to be whatever he wills!”

The great artists like Leonardo and Botticelli left us ideals of beauty that are still unparalleled. Leonardo left behind a prototype of a polymath genius as the highest aspiration.

Part of what makes Luca’s story so beautiful is the time period it is set in and the people he encounters. Do you think it would have had the same significance had it been placed at another time, such as the present?

Renaissance Florence is such an integral part of the story that it’s hard to say. I am, however, considering bringing Luca back in a future book that is set in Paris between the two world wars. Readers who love Luca can stay tuned…

Luca witnesses many important historical events throughout his life. What kind of research did you conduct for these?

I read a million books (okay, maybe a hundred), searched on-line, spoke with friends and relatives with extensive historical knowledge (my husband is a Renaissance sculptor and my father-in-law is a history teacher with a PhD), and I corresponded with, or spoke to, a couple of professors. I also like the History channel for shows on history! And we visited Italy several times, spending much time in the Medici chapel in Florence and the Pinacoteca Vaticano in Rome.

No one but me is to blame for inaccuracies, distortions, and out right fallacies.

What are your future writing plans in writing?

I am working on the sequel to Immortal right now.

Any advice you could give to beginning novelists out there?

Persist! And know who to trust with your work.