Five things Donna Russo Morin Didn’t Know She’d Need to Know Before Writing THE KING’S AGENT
Today’s guest post is by Donna Russo Morin. Her novel, THE KING’S AGENT, is set in Italy during the early 16th Century.
Read on to learn more about Donna’s fascinating research and thoughts behind the story of Battista della Paglia, a man who appears to be an avid art collector but is actually a professional thief. As he procures the greatest masterpieces of the day by any means necessary, he becomes embroiled in a power struggle between Francois, the King of France, and Charles the V, the King of Spain.
THE KING’S AGENT is my fourth historical novel and the second set in Italy, but never before has my research, and my story, been so thoroughly entrenched in the Renaissance and the art produced in this period. I never expected to find the combustion of forces at work to create such magnificent works.
(Click on the question to reveal the answer.)
When I decided to mirror the art quest of THE KING’S AGENT to Dante’s Divine Comedy, I knew I’d need a really concise English translation of the complex work. And although it was translated into French, Greek, and other European languages far sooner than it was into English, there are by far more English translations than any other. In fact, between 1782, when the first appeared, and last year, the work has been translated over one hundred and twenty times. For me, the quintessential translation, and the one I turned to more than any other, is that of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, done in 1867.[/expand]
[expand title=”2. How did Michelangelo truly feel about his work on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel?”]
Considered one of the greatest works of art of all time, it is natural to make the assumption that the artist would be consumed with pleasure and pride at what he had accomplished. Not so with Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel. According to his own letters (many to Battista della Paglia, the main character of THE KING’S AGENT), Michelangelo considered himself a sculptor far more than a painter. One particular quote from the artist sums up his feelings of the work concisely, he said, “It was an ascension that felled me.” He referred, of course, to the constant heights he ascended during the whole of the work as well as the fact that it consumed years of his life, keeping him from the sculpture work he loved, and reduced his health to such a point, he would never fully recover.[/expand]
[expand title=”3. Were there really unexplained, “other-worldly” images in Renaissance artwork?”]
When beginning formulation of THE KING’S AGENT, I knew I wanted a slightly paranormal edge to the work as it related to the quest itself. I had been watching a program on JFK on the History Channel and the show directly following it was one called Ancient Aliens. This particular episode happened to be about UFO imagery in Renaissance painting. It was a moment of destiny; I felt it quite distinctly. I was astounded by the vast amounts of such imagery and pieces that include it. One can’t help but wonder, in an era where there was no mass media, no Facebook, Twitter, or National Inquirer to spread forged images like wild fire, how and why artists from all over Europe depicted the same types of objects in their work.[/expand]
A quest book means travel and though I was thoroughly prepared to create such roads, I found I didn’t need to. The Via Francigena is an ancient road between Rome and Canterbury passing through England, France, Switzerland, and Italy. It was one of the most important roads throughout the Medieval and Renaissance periods as the path for pilgrims. Its rocky, barely discernible path is still there today.
The Via Aurelia, known as the Roman Empire’s Lost Highway, was constructed around the year 241 BC by the Roman censor C. Aurelius Cotta, the Via Aurelia was to serve Roman Expansion, swift military movements, and quick communication between Roman settlements. It resulted in a vast increase in trade among Italian cities and Rome. The road was quickly expanded to allow two chariots to pass and distances were marked with milestones. The modern Strada Statale 1 occupies the same route, and colloquially is still referred to as, La Via Aurelia.[/expand]
[expand title=”5. Where did the name of Florence emanate and how was it prophetic?”]
Julius Caesar named the city Florentina (meaning “flourishing”) when founded in 59 BC as a military retirement haven, though there is evidence of occupation dating back to prehistoric times. Caesar developed the city with the assistance of the great Roman general and statesman Lucius Cornelius Sulla, from a military state of mind.[/expand]
Donna Russo Morin’s passion for the written word began when
she was a child, took on a feminist edge as she grew through the sixties, and
blossomed into a distinctive style of action-filled historical fiction at a
defining moment in her life. With two degrees from the University of Rhode
Island, the state in which she was born and raised, Donna’s first book, The
Courtier’s Secret (2009) won RWI-RWA’s Best First Book Award and was a
finalist in the National Readers’ Choice Award. The Secret of the Glass (2010),
her second book, received a Single Titles Reviewer’s Choice Award and was a
finalist in the USA Best Books of the Year Contest. Also a recipient of a
Single Titles Reviewers’ Choice Award and a finalist in the USA Best Books of
the Year Contest, Donna’s third Book, To Serve a King (2011), was a
finalist in Foreword Magazine’s Book of the Year Award as well. The
King’s Agent (2012), Donna’s latest release, received a coveted starred
review in Publishers Weekly. Firmly obsessed with her own Italian roots, Donna
is currently at work on a major trilogy about the clandestine birth of the
female Renaissance artist set in turbulent Medici ruled Florence. Donna is a
proud, single mother of two sons, Devon and Dylan, a future opera singer and a
future chef, her greatest works in progress.