Friday, December 30, 2011

Weight of a Flame - Truth and Fiction (part 3)

I am continuing the explanation of what is truth and what is fiction in my book, Weight of a Flame - the Passion of Olympia Morata.

Chapters 7-8
What is true - once again, the events are true. Olympia returned home, sometimes she met Andreas Grunthler, her father got better then worse, John Sinapius took care of him at first and then left for Germany. Finally, Fulvio died, Olympia returned to court and was rejected.
What's fiction - We don't know how any of those events really developed. I was especially trying to find how Andreas and Olympia met. In one of her later letters (after their wedding) she said, "I still love you. If I didn't, I would tell you, just like I used to tell you that I couldn't stand you." That gave me a clue. I imagined that during their first meeting she couldn't stand him for some reason.

Chapter 9
What's true - Again, the events are true. At some point, Olympia realized that she had lost sight of what is really important - the knowledge of God.
What's fiction - No one knows how that realization came to her. The letter she finds in a drawer is really a letter her father wrote to Curio, but there is no indication that she found it at this point. It's just a tool I used to develop the story.

Chapter 10
What's true - The main events and what is told about Fanini. The description of the prison is fairly accurate since I have visited the place, but of course I had to imagine how the same prison looked in the 16th century.
What's fiction - How the events developed and how the characters interacted. I also had to invent a way for Andreas to propose. A friend of mine who is a medieval history major told me that in those days men often proposed in writing, usually to the girls' father. Since Olympia's father had died, I imagined that the letter was addressed to her but Andreas asked for her mother's permission.

Chapter 11
What's true - The poem was really written by Olympia. The traveling plans are true, and Renée really gave some money and a wedding dress.
What's fiction - How the plans were formulated and presented to Olympia.

Chapters 12-13
What's true - It's true that Andreas went to Germany first, and then returned to take Olympia and Emilio with him. It's also true that Olympia missed him desperately. All letters are from her. The news Andreas gives are also true. The rendition of Psalm 23 is really Olympia's. It's also true that they stayed with Georg Hormann and visited the Fuggers (and the main description of the Fuggers and their financial empire is true).
What's fiction - I had to imagine Olympia's loneliness, Andreas' return, and then their trip. I actually used mapquest for parts of it! I had to also contact a Museum in Trento, a city on the border between Italy and Germany, to find how the roads had changed since then (I thank Dr. Giovanni Kezich, director at Museo degli Usi e Costumi della Gente Trentina for his kindness in answering my numerous questions). He was actually the one who suggested Olympia might have met a flock of sheep in transhumance, since it was summer (see photo). I also read Goethe's Italian Journey, where he talks about his experience crossing the Alps (he went from Germany to Italy and Olympia went from Italy to Germany, but more or less the experience was similar). About Olympia's meeting with the Fuggers, I don't know what really happened. I know that she had always wanted to give them her poems, but there is no mention of it after her visit. So I imagined what may have happened...

Photos: 1. Prison cell in the castle of Ferrara, by Massimo Baraldi, wikimedia
2. Sheep transhumance (seasonal migration), by Falken, Wikimedia

Weight of a Flame - Truth and Fiction (part 2)

Weight of a Flame - the Passion of Olympia Morata
Truth and Fiction (part 2)
Chapter 2 -
What's true - the description of the castle of Ferrara and the background information about Renée, Ercole, and the Duchy of Este.
Fun fact - some people asked me how to pronounce Ercole. Italians don't have a separate "er" sound, so you just pronounce the initial "e" as a short English "e". The accent goes on that "e". And of course you pronounce the last "e". Don't worry about rolling the "r". If you are totally frustrated, you can call him Hercules, because that's what the name means in Italian. But then, don't be offended if I translate your name into Italian next time I see you. All the names of Ercole's children and tutors are real.
What's fiction - the whole scene. I don't know how Olympia spent the first few hours at the castle.

Chapter 3 -
What's true - Everything the teachers said about Olympia and her talents. The poem is true. It's also true that some women were saying she needed to forget the pen and pick up some bed sheets.
Fulvio's suggestions on speech are from a letter to Olympia, including the Tite Tute Tati tongue-twister. By the way, my father taught me the same tongue-twister when I was a child, so I felt a strong connection there.
Olympia's speech on Cicero's Paradoxes is recorded and what I have quoted is taken from her actual words.
What's fiction - Again, the scene and her feelings. We do know that she was sick just before giving the speech, so possibly the tension was there.

Chapter four
What's true - The background story and the quote of the letter from Calvin to Renée.
What's fiction - How the events progressed. We have no indication of a conversation between Renée and Ercole that was overheard by Olympia, of a discussion between Olympia and Anne, nor of one between Olympia and Renée on the Mass.

Chapter five
What's true - It's true that Calvin mediated in the marriage between Francoise and John Sinapius. All the facts about Lavinia and Paolo, and about Renée's earlier marriage proposals are true. Olympia's poem about nuns is by her hand. It's true that she translated (probably with Anne) two tales from the Decameron. The whole story Curio tells here is true (according to his account of it). Her questions about prayer at the end are also true. We know she discussed these doubts with Lavinia but didn't work hard to find an answer.
What's fiction - again, the various scenes. For example, Curio's tale is true, but we don't know if Olympia asked him to repeat it for her and her friends.

Chapter 6
What's true - The whole papal visit is true, to the smallest details. Her letter at the end, praising the duke, is also true. This type of letters led me to infer some form of denial about any negative aspects at court.
What's fiction - We don't know what the pope said to Olympia (if anything). We also don't know if Olympia saw her mother and brother in the crowd.

1. View of Ferrara from the top of the castle tower.
2. My kids on the drawing bridge in front of the castle.
3. My kids on a cannon behind the castle. I wonder if kids were allowed to do this back then.
4. A photo of a print in the kitchen of the castle. I think it's a floor plan.
5. My daughter pretending to be Renée of France in her chapel. The lighting is bad. The marble is white and black.
6. The Castle of Ferrara, by Massimo Baraldi, Wikimedia (all the photos above are mine)

Weight of a Flame - Truth and Fiction

As promised, I am beginning to write a list of what is historically true and what is a fruit of my imagination in every chapter of my book, Weight of a Flame, the Passion of Olympia Morata. I will start with the first chapter. Your comments are welcome!

1. Cover - Olympia's looks on the cover are the fruit of the artist's imagination of Robert Papp. There is only one portrait available that depicts Olympia Morata. There she is much older, and we don't know for sure if it's an accurate portrait, so our artist has taken the liberty to take those basic features and come up with a younger Olympia.

2. Map - the map is quite accurate, between my knowledge of Italy and my map artist's (Tom Carroll) knowledge of Germany. Fun fact - we used mapquest for much of the route, including an approximate time of their trip (I chose "on foot" because the wagon probably traveled quite slowly). BTW, Tom Carroll did not get credit for the map, which was a sad oversight. We will remedy in the next edition. For the time being, please know that he has been very accurate and patient. It's not easy to find 16th century maps and retrace someone's steps.

3. Chapter One -
What's true - In 1539, Olympia went to live at the court of Duke Ercole and Duchess/Princess Renée of France. It's true that her parents were Fulvio Pellegrino Morato and Lucrezia Morata. The tailor's conversation about the duchess is based on reported facts. It's also true that Fulvio had to leave Ferrara for a while and had just returned. He was a teacher at the University and a tutor at the ducal court. And it's true that he wrote a book on colors and flowers (the quote is from the book) and taught Calvin's Institutes to his students on some occasions.
What's imagined - We don't know any of their personalities. We know nothing about Lucrezia. I deduced something of Fulvio's personality by his writings (letters and his treatise on colors and flowers). He seemed a little extravagant and pedantic, but in a letter to Celio Curione he manifested a great excitement for the Gospel. Did I capture who he was? Who knows? The tailor and his wife are a product of my imagination.
One note about clothes. Oddly, in Olympia's letter there is a recurrent interest in clothes. When she had to leave the ducal court, she was particularly upset that she was not allowed to take one of her dresses. In Germany, she describes a dress she received as a gift, even guessing its value. Even when she escaped the city, she took care to describe the ragged clothes she was wearing. I thought it was interesting, so clothes are mentioned here and there at key times in my book. You will find them here at the start and again at the close of the book.

Photo1 - Statue of Olympia Morata at Schweinfurt, by
Photo2 - Portait of Olympia Morata, Wikipedia

Saturday, December 3, 2011

New Book Blog Tour!

Weight of a Flame
on blog tour

December 2011 - January 2012

Olympia Morata, arguably the most prolific woman writer of the Reformation, struggles to use her talents for God's glory despite rejection, religious persecution, and the hardship of illness, poverty, and war.

YA Biographical Historical Fiction

Click here for the publisher's description and read the first chapter and table of contents.

Tentative schedule.

Tuesday, December 13

Interview and giveaway

Thursday, December 15
Guest post

Thursday, December 29
Guest post

Friday, January 13
Review and giveaway

Tuesday, January 17

Wednesday, January 25

Monday, January 30

Tuesday, January 31
Guest post and giveaway

Sunday, February 5

Monday, February 13

Saturday, February 18

Monday, March 5

Review Giveaway

Wednesday, March 14


Thursday, June 29