I was kindly tagged by the fine historical fiction author, Kim Rendfeld, to participate in the ‘Meet My Main Character (of a work in progress or soon to be published novel)’ blog tour. I highly recommend Kim’s published novel, The Cross and the Dragon (my review), and encourage you to read about her soon-to-be-released second novel, The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar.
I can report that the sequel to my literary historical fiction, A House Near Luccoli, is nearly finished. The story continues for its fictional protagonist with her arrival in England. Before long, she encounters the residents of Wroxton Abbey, both active in the Court of Charles II: Lord Francis North, Keeper of the Great Seal, and his younger brother, Roger, who is a member of the King’s Council. Roger North is a major player in the novel, a fascinating young man who left a wealth of written material on a wide range of subjects and offered great insight into the intellectual, cultural and political changes taking place in the England of his time. Donatella finds a quiet but not uneventful life in the pastoral setting of Wroxton. Of course, she is haunted by past possibilities (and impossibilities), the lure of music and its masters not done with her yet. The divine Henry Purcell and a few other composers and musicians of the time make appearances, including one (or two) Donatella first encountered in the house near Luccoli.
Here are my answers to the questions that are a part of this blog tour:
1) What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or a historic person?
The central character of the novel I’m currently working on is the fictional Donatella, who first appeared in A House Near Luccoli, published by All Things That Matter Press, which imagined her friendship and collaboration with the brilliant but ill-fated 17th century Italian composer, Alessandro Stradella.
2) When and where is the story set?
The timing of the novel is late Restoration England, May 1682 – June 1683. It’s predominantly set in Wroxton, a small village in Oxfordshire near Banbury (of “Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross …” nursery rhyme fame) that is rich in history:
Mentioned in the Domesday Book, the village probably takes its name from “Wroces Stan” meaning buzzards’ stone. In ancient times the village was crossed by various trackways, including the Saltway, the route from the Worcester salt works to London.
It was in the Middle Ages and the establishment of Wroxton Abbey, however, that the village began to flourish.
In 1537 the lease was obtained by Sir Thomas Pope who held various positions at the court of Henry VIII including that of Guardian to the Princess Elizabeth. Sir Thomas, who founded Trinity College Oxford, bestowed the estates to Trinity, although he reserved the rights for the Pope family and their descendants to remain tenants of the estate. During the reign of James I the original Priory was razed by fire. In 1618 Sir William Pope, Earl of Downe, built the main part of the present “Abbey”. In 1668 upon the death of the Fourth Earl the estate was inherited by his sister, Lady Frances, who married Sir Francis North (later Lord Keeper of the Great Seal). Sir Francis purchased the outstanding shares of the leases and was subsequently created the 1st Baron Guilford in 1683. The Abbey remained the residence of the Norths for the next 270 years. Perhaps the most famous Lord North was the 2nd Earl of Guilford who was Prime Minister during the loss of the American Colonies.
The novel also ‘visits’ a few other locations, including nearby Broughton Castle, a medieval manor house that was and still is home to the Fiennes family (yes—actors Ralph and Joseph Fiennes are part of that clan) and Oxford, which is about 30 miles south of Wroxton. I might add that I lived in Wroxton from 1974 until 1990, including in the Abbey itself.
3) What should we know about Donatella?
She’s a reserved spinster but at the same time imaginative and curious: a quiet rebel with covert passions and artistic sensibilities, all of which stir her to write and paint. She was born and bred in Genoa where she lived with her maternal and musical side of the family until her mid-thirties. Part of the back story to A House Near Luccoli is that Donatella’s mother had left Genoa with her father when he returned to his native England after retiring as a merchant seaman. Donatella decided to stay behind to care for her beloved grandmother who was once a fairly successful singer and, even while slowly dying, expressed her unconventionality and love of life’s intrigues and intimacies. Donatella is much more controlled and cautious than her nonna, but, through one novel and then the next, her story is shaped by similar longings and motivations.
In reviews of A House Near Luccoli, others have described Donatella as: “restless”; “a nerdy cat lady”; “a sweet woman with the soul of an artist”; a lovely, loving woman”; “her longings war with her own simple reality”; “a timid woman with an artist’s fiery spirit inside, who has somehow managed to lose her life to her own daydreams.”
4) What is Donatella’s main conflict?
It would seem her main struggle is with the 17th century constraints on a woman pursuing intellectual and creative interests, and the stigma of one who has never married. My sense in developing her character and storyline was that such external societal limitations and judgments only accentuated the internal struggles she would have had in any period of history, even present times; caught, as she was, between the practical and artistic, compliant and willful, reclusive and receptive, fearful and intrepid sides of herself.
5) What is Donatella’s personal goal?
Initially, she feels that she wants to disappear again, not so much to heal from grief but to be companioned by it, not to regret the past but be defined by it. Eventually, she discovers that her passions have not died with what encouraged and excited them; and that she isn’t haunted by what might have been because she should discard her hopes for the future, but to reinvent them.
6) Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?
The title of the novel is To A Strange Somewhere Fled, taken from the poem/song, The Despair, by Abraham Cowley, first published in 1683:
No comfort to my wounded sight,
In the Suns busie and imperti’nent light,
Then down I lay my head;
Down on cold earth; and for a while was dead,
And my freed soul to a strange somewhere fled.
You can read more about To A Strange Somewhere Fled and keep updated on its progress towards publication on my blog, bardessdmdenton, website, dmdenton-author-artist.com and, also, on my Facebook pages, DM Denton and A House Near Luccoli.
7) When can we expect the book to be published?
My hope is for it to be published later in the year or by early 2015.
So, if you haven’t yet read Donatella’s adventures with the inimitable Alessandro Stradella in A House Near Luccoli, there’s plenty of time to do so before the follow-up tale of how she moves on is available.
I’ve tagged five other wonderful authors. In breaking a little with the rules of this particular blog tour, they come from a variety of genres and one will be posting about their very recently released novel. They will be making their main character posts in about a week.
*Marina Julia-Neary: author of the recently released Never Be at Peace
Marie Laval: author of The Lion’s Embrace
Maggie Tideswell: author of Dark Moon
Ina Schroder-Zeeders: author of poetry anthologies (Veritas and Amore), and many novels in Dutch. She is currently writing her first one in English.
Mary Clark: author of Tally: An Intuitive Life
*Marina Julia-Neary’s post will appear in about a week right here on my blog.
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