Writers In Isolation: Katherine Mezzacappa #Isolation #Writers #Authors#Historical #Fiction

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How do writers, creatives, artists and bookish souls cope with isolation? Is their capacity to cope different from the rest of the population? It’s an interesting question and one that fascinates me.

How is Katherine Mezzacappa coping with this enforced isolation?


At time of writing, lockdown here in Italy is easing, but I am still wary of emerging into the sunlight. To begin with, it wasn’t isolation per se that was difficult to cope with from a creative point of view, but the fear of all the unknowns around the pandemic – I’ve got a little better at living with them. I had the advantage of having worked from home for years so I was used to not having the routines of a commute and a shared office. However, my job is paused at the moment until later in the year, which meant I had to think about how best to use that time. Time is what writers often complain they don’t have enough of, but when you’re suddenly faced with lots of it, the prospect is daunting, and you feel guilty if you don’t take advantage. I know from my writing network that I’m far from alone in feeling that. I had final edits to do on two books, The Gypsy Bride (Katie Hutton) and The Casanova Papers(Kate Zarrelli) so having the space for them was a boon, though revisiting a book set in Venice when I could see that city on webcams, silent and shuttered, was also heart-breaking. Writing did pick up though, as well as other ‘writery’ activities. I’ve co-presented at a virtual litfest with an old friend from MA days, though we’re thousands of miles apart. I am now an assessor for a writing consultancy and a proofreader for a new Italian publisher. Writing predominantly historical fiction is an advantage in lockdown, as the writer must perforce go in her head into a vanished world, and the less interference from the modern one there is, the better (provided that for research purposes, Google works, and ABEbooks still deliver!). Frustration as a writer lies in not being able to do field visits for future projects – a first world problem, and those places will be waiting for me afterwards. The virtual company of other writers has become more important than ever before. There have been some stellar online opportunities, like the Society of Authors workshops, and the Arvon at Home readings. I hope these persist alongside conventional offerings once the pandemic has passed, as they represent real accessibility and democratisation of the business of writing.

Katherine Mezzacappa is an Irish writer of mainly historical fiction now living in Italy. She also writes as Katie Hutton and as Kate Zarrelli.


Her début historical novel as Katie Hutton, The Gypsy Bride, was published May 2020 on Kindle and Audible by Zaffre Books, with the paperback to follow in June.

A sequel, The Gypsy’s Daughter, is in preparation for June 2021. As Kate Zarrelli, writing for eXtasy Books, she is the author of Tuscan Enchantment (2019) and The Casanova Papers (June 2020). Her short fiction (as Katherine Mezzacappa) has appeared in Ireland’s Own, Erotic Review Magazine, The Copperfield Review, Turnpike, Asymmetry and in anthologies with the Bedford International Writing Competition, Henshaw Press and Severance Publications. She’s a member of the Irish Writers Centre, the Irish Writers Union, the Society of Authors, the Historical Novel Society, the Historical Writers’ Association and the Romantic Novelists Association. She was awarded a Cill Rialaig residency by the Irish Writers Centre in 2019 for the writing of a Renaissance novel, Giulia of the Albizzi. Katherine regularly reviews for the Historical Novel Society. She holds a Masters in Creative Writing from Canterbury Christ Church University in addition to an MLitt in Eng Lit from Durham and a first degree in History of Art from UEA.


You are never alone with a book; that’s as true now as it was when I was a lonely teenager. Historical fiction allows us to escape into a different world, and without being preachy about it, can help us realise that we’ve been through terrible times before without the advances in healthcare and communication that aid us now. I do not believe that writers of historical fiction should offer nostalgia to their readers – more perhaps a realisation that human beings are often more resilient than they realise.

Author Links:


https://www.amazon.co.uk/Gypsy-Bride-Katie-Hutton/dp/1838770259/
https://www.facebook.com/katherinemezzacappafiction/
https://www.facebook.com/katezarrellibooks/
 @katmezzacappa
 @KatieHuttonAut1

Thank you so much to Katherine for being my guest. It is interesting to hear her thoughts from a historical fiction perspective.

It’s been wonderful featuring such a variety of authors and bloggers in this series. All have shared such interesting and perceptive thoughts on lockdown and isolation for writers.

We truly are living in history at the moment. No doubt future generations will reflect on this time period in their studies to come.

I have to agree with Katherine, the human race will find a solution. It will take time but we will get there.

For now, this is the last in this series. Thank you to all that have taken part. I am currently working on my COVID19 diaries, flash fiction and poetry collection which I hope to release soon. And I will also be finalising my YA fantasy The Curse of Time #2 Golden Healer.

More about that soon.

Please comment below, I’m sure Katherine would love to hear from you.

In the meantime, stay safe, stay well.

#NeverlandBlogTours – The Land Girl by Allie Burns – #HistoricalFiction – 18th July 2018

I am thrilled to be welcoming Allie Burns to my blog via Jenny Marston of  Neverland Blog Tours: https://jennyinneverland.com/tag/neverland-blog-tours/

I am one of the blog stops on the tour which runs from the 16th to the 22nd of July. Do visit Allie Burn’s other blog tour hosts  to see all the reviews, q and a’s, excerpts, etc.

 

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Today I am sharing this excerpt from Allie Burn’s novel:

 

Excerpt 1

The beginning of The Land Girl
March 1915

Emily held her breath as she stood at the top of the stairs. When she was sure it was safe she tiptoed down, which was not that easy in her brother John’s work boots, even with the gap in the toes stuffed with balled-up newspaper.
The muffled chatter from her mother’s knitting party flooded the hallway. She quickened her pace to reach the safety of the door that led through to the kitchen, only to narrowly avoid colliding with Daisy – the housemaid – and a platter of crustless sandwiches. They greeted one another and before Emily could remind her, Daisy nodded and said, ‘Don’t worry, I haven’t seen you.’
Emily opened the back door and the dazzling sunlight caressed her skin. She would have to make it up to Mother later because she couldn’t sit in that stifling sitting room, knitting socks for the soldiers at the Front when the sun shone.
‘By the way,’ Emily called back to Daisy who was straightening out the sandwiches again. ‘Did you leave this on my pillow?’ She waved a newspaper cutting that she’d found on her bed in an envelope addressed to her.
Daisy shook her head. ‘I found it on the doormat, hand delivered.’
Emily shrugged. She would thank whoever the sender was when they made themselves known.
Outside, she leant back against the scullery door, and admired the plump, carefree clouds, shifting their shapes and rushing onwards against the backdrop of the heavenly blue sky.
She held up the notice cut from the Standard, reading it slower this time to take it in. Her heart began to thump.

Women on the Land

Highly trained women of good birth and some country-bred women, hitherto working in service, or in trade, will make themselves useful in any way on a farm to gain experience.

May we make known that we wish to hear from farmers, market gardeners and others wanting the services of women for work on the land.

The notice went on to say that educated girls would act as a shining example to village and city girls – encourage them out in their numbers to do their bit for the war effort.
But whoever posted this through the door must know that she wasn’t ‘highly trained’ in anything other than English literature, and that wasn’t an easy situation to fix. She did spend far more time on the farm and outdoors than was usual for a girl like her, as Mother was always reminding her, but that didn’t mean she could turn her hand to farming so easily; she’d need to be trained and the notice in the Standard said that took six weeks.
She couldn’t in all good conscience leave her Mother to attend a course. Mother hardly slept and was afraid to be left alone since Father had died two years ago, and it was even worse now Emily’s older brother, John, had received his officer commission, turning Mother a ghastly pale whenever the delivery boy came up the path.

 

Blurb: War changes everything…

Emily has always lived a life of privilege. That is until the drums of World War One came beating. Her family may be dramatically affected but it also offers her the freedom that she craves. Away from the tight control of her mother she grabs every opportunity that the war is giving to women like her, including love.

Working as a land girl Emily finds a new lease of life but when the war is over, and life returns to normal, she has to learn what to give up and what she must fight for.

Will life ever be the same again?

 

Author Photo

About the author:

Allie lives in Kent with her family and two tortoises. When she is not writing for business or penning her women’s historical fiction. She has an MA in Professional Writing from Falmouth University and The Lido Girls is her debut novel. She is currently working on a second interwar years novel, which is due for publication in the summer of 2018.

Website: http://www.allie-burns.com

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/allieburns1

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/allieburnsauthor

Goodreads: Goodreads The Land Girl

Amazon UK: The Land Girl

Blurb: War changes everything…

Emily has always lived a life of privilege. That is until the drums of World War One came beating. Her family may be dramatically affected but it also offers her the freedom that she craves. Away from the tight control of her mother she grabs every opportunity that the war is giving to women like her, including love.

Working as a land girl Emily finds a new lease of life but when the war is over, and life returns to normal, she has to learn what to give up and what she must fight for.

Will life ever be the same again?

 

Website: http://www.allie-burns.com
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/allieburns1
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/allieburnsauthor

 

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Buy Book: myBook.to/TheCurseofTime

Social Media Links:
Authors Website: https://mjmallon.com
Collaborative Blog: https://sistersofthefey.wordpress.com
Twitter: @Marjorie_Mallon and @curseof_time
#ABRSC: Authors Bloggers Rainbow Support Club on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1829166787333493/

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Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17064826.M_J_Mallon
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mjmallonauthor/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mjmallonauthor/
Tumblr: http://mjmallonauthor.tumblr.com/

My Kyrosmagica Review of The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

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Goodreads Synopsis:

A tale of gods, kings, immortal fame, and the human heart, The Song of Achilles is a dazzling literary feat that brilliantly re-imagines Homer’s enduring masterwork, The Iliad. An action-packed adventure, an epic love story, Miller’s debut novel has already earned resounding acclaim from some of contemporary fiction’s brightest lights. Fans of Mary Renault, Bernard Cornwell, Steven Pressfield, and Colleen McCullough’s Masters of Rome series will delight in this unforgettable journey back to ancient Greece in the Age of Heroes.  

Awards:

Orange Prize for Fiction (2012), Gaylactic Spectrum Award for Best Novel (2013), Chautauqua Prize Nominee (2013)

My review:

I loved The Song of Achilles, which didn’t surprise me because I love Greek mythology and I adore a well crafted love story.  In fact I enjoyed reading it so much that my copy was stuffed choc a block full of my tiny post it notes. I use a system of post-its to mark passages that I want to return to later, maybe to quote, or in this case just to re-read. So when this happens it is a sure sign that the novel I am reading is a 4 star or a 5 star read.

It is astonishing to me that The Song of Achilles is Madeline Miller’s debut novel. Miller writes with such effortless style, she grabs the reader by the you know whats and mades you purr. Given her background, maybe this is what I should have expected, she has a BA and MA from Brown University in Classics and is an accomplished student from the Yale School of Drama, specialising in adapting classical tales for a modern audience.

One of the novel’s great strengths is its ability to make Greek legends accessible to all readers even those with little or no knowledge of classical history.  Miller chooses Patroclus  as a first person narrator rather than the more obvious choice: Achilles, giving the story a powerful human touch. The reader is so blinded by Patroclus’s love for Achilles, that he or she is unable to see Achilles faults, right up until the end.

This tale of love and betrayal is set against the backdrop of the agonisingly long Trojan War. The developing love story between Patroclus and Achilles is crafted wonderfully, you sense the gentle tread of their initial attraction, from their first kiss when Patroclus calls upon the gods:

Dear gods, I think, let him not hate me. I should have known better than to call upon the gods.”

Followed by the full on progression to them becoming lovers. The sexual act between the two is not graphically described, and in my opinion it is better that way.  In so doing Madeline Miller ensures that this is a sensual delight, rather than blatant titillation. Some might argue that she is treading sensitively with this portrayal but anything else would have in my opinion jarred with her style of writing.

Achilles must avoid killing Hector, Patroclus sums up the dreadful prophecy with these words:

“And Hector must live, always, he must never die, not even when he is old, not even when he is so withered that his bones slide beneath his skin like loose rocks in a stream.”

Madeline Miller attributes Achilles with God-like characteristics, his beauty is without question, yet it is his  lack of awareness that makes him all the more appealing to the reader and to Patroclus:

“Perhaps most remarkable was his un-self-consciousness. He did not preen or pout as other handsome children did. Indeed he seemed utterly unaware of his effect on the boys around him.”

Achilles has a tender side to him, it appears that his human side is stronger than his goddess mother Thesis would like, after witnessing the sacrificial death of a young woman he is distressed:

“I was close enough. I could have saved her.”

When Patrolus watches him sleeping he reflects : “His face is innocent, sleep-smoothed and sweetly boyish. I love to see it. This is his truest self, earnest and guileless, full of mischief, but without malice. He is lost in Agamemnon and Odysseus’ wily double meanings, their lies and games of power.”

Miller engages the reader’s interest by showing Achille’s human side, his ability to love another human being. She demonstrates that being the son of a Goddess  isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, what with all the prophecies, and the potential crises of angering the Gods.

It is clear that Achilles could have had any young man, so why indeed did he choose gawky Patroclus to be his lover? Achilles is so near perfect as it is possible to be, so why would he want a mirror image of himself?Patroclus cannot compare in looks, or courage, or ability to Achilles, but I think the answer lies in Patroclus’s human characteristics. Patroclus is kind, and caring. It is Patroclus’s human weaknesses that attract Achilles. Patroclus is flawed. In the beginning, young Patrolus is exiled to the kingdom of Phthia because he killed a boy.

“In exchange for my weight in gold, they would rear me to manhood.”

There, his is fostered by King Peleus, who happens to be the father of Achilles, a youth the same age as Patroclus.  Patroclus could have pretended that the boy’s death was an accident, yet he did not.

If I had lied, I would still be a prince. It was not murder that had exiled me, it was my lack of cunning.”

He cares deeply for the welfare of others, and ends up attending to the battlefield victims. He feels such pity for Deidameia, the mother of Achille’s son:

“She did not know that I almost asked him, to be a little kinder to her.”

Patroclus is especially fond of Breisis, Achille’s war prize, claimed under Patroclus’s influence to save and protect her from the lecherous clutches of Agamemnon.  In fact it is clear that Patroclus loves Breisis, albeit in a platonic way. Breisis pays a very pivotal part in the story and Agamemnon’s actions towards her in the latter part of the book have dire consequences.

The character of Thesis, Achille’s sea goddess mother scares the pants off of Patroclus and no wonder:

“She leaned closer still, looming over me. Her mouth was a gash of red, like the torn-open stomach of a sacrifice, bloody and oracular. Behind it her teeth shone sharp and white as bone.”

Patroclus and Achilles spend some time in an idyll with the centaur Chinon, before they have to grow up, become men and fight in what seems like a never ending war:

“There was something in Chiron’s face, firm and calm and imbued with authority, that made us children again, with no world beyond this moment’s play and this night’s dinner.”

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***** Spoiler Alert Below in Italics******

The tender aspect of Patroclus’s character leads to the story’s final tragic outcome, he wishes to protect Achille’s reputation. Breisis is taken forcibly by Agamemnon. Patroclus wishes to protect her from Agamemnon’s carnal desires, Achille’s resents Patroclus’s caring so much for Breisis, but more than anything he resents Agamemnon’s actions, the insult to his honour, he has become vain. Can a God be conflicted? Can a God feel pain and jealousy? In the end it is Patroclus who leaves in Achille’s armour, adopting his persona, promising that he will not fight. In donning Achille’s armour he becomes a God-like warrior for a brief moment of exquisite triumph, but ultimately he can’t sustain this as he is not Achilles, he is a human, not a God. When he realises what impact his well meaning actions will have upon Achilles he knows that he has made yet another terrible decision. This time the outcome will be tragic for all those he loves, his first thought is Achilles, but by the time he realises this, it is too late.

 

Highly recommended for Fantasy, Historical, Mythology, Romance, GLBT, and War readers.

Well, it’s got to be a definite 5 stars, and it’s most certainly one to grace my favourites shelf.

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Authors Website: http://www.madelinemiller.com/

Excellent interview with Madeline Miller: http://blog.booktopia.com.au/2011/07/20/madeline-miller-author-of-the-song-of-achilles-answers-ten-terrifying-questions/#comment-187225

Have you read The Song of Achilles? Do leave a comment below I’d love to hear from you.

Bye for now,

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Marje @ Kyrosmagica xx