The Book Pixie: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Barbara Quick: If you met me, Briana, face to face, you'd know a whole lot about me right off the bat. It's so much harder to communicate the essence of one's identity without the smiles and friendly body language that tell so much of the story without words!
That said, let's see.... I'm overall a happy, optimistic, and friendly person, very grateful for this chance to be alive. I'm a novelist but I started out writing poetry. And so I love language in the way that poets love language--I like to roll words around in my mouth, to savor them, to hear and enjoy the music they make when they're strung together.
I also love learning other languages. It's sort of a hobby of mine. I learn by listening.
I'm a Californian by birth, of Russian-Romanian-Jewish extraction. I'm very spiritual but I'm not affiliated with any organized religion. I'm literally a tree-hugger. When I'm out walking, I sometimes tell my secrets to old and wise-looking oak trees. I love beauty. I love looking at things closely--examining them from all angles. Watching the sun shine through them. Figuring out what makes people do what they do and say what they say--and trying to look at everyone, myself included, with compassion.
I've been writing, with serious intent, since I was nine--which is kind of funny, when you think about it. I've had artistic ambitions for as long as I can remember. I live in Sonoma County, in the Wine Country of Northern California.
I had a huge amount of theater training when I was growing up--and I've trained and performed as a dancer during my adult life. That's been a lucky thing for me, in terms of being able to enjoy myself when I give a public presentation or do an interview.
My son Julian is a huge and important part of my life. I've loved every minute of being a mom--well, maybe with the exception of a minute or two when Julian was around 14. He's 17 now, a passionate and dedicated musician (he plays the guitar), and about to start college at Humboldt State University in the fall.
It took me ages and a lot of adventures before I found my own Mr. Right. But I'm as happy as can be now, engaged to be married to Wayne Roden, who is a violist with the San Francisco Symphony, a vigneron, a writer, and my best friend.
TBP: Give us a brief description of A Golden Web.
BQ: The novel tells the story of Alessandra Giliani, a brilliant, brave, and ambitious girl in 14th century Italy who manages, against all odds, to pursue her dreams of doing medical research at the University of Bologna. It's a story of triumph and true love set in an absolutely fascinating time and place.
TBP: What made you decide to write a historical novel for young adults and how was it different from writing for adults?
BQ: It was while I was pitching a children's picture book to an editor in New York that the idea for writing a young adult novel--specifically a young adult historical novel--was planted in my head. How A GOLDEN WEB came about is actually a rather interesting story, which I tell at length in an essay on my HarperCollins microsite
I wrote A GOLDEN WEB in the exact same way I wrote VIVALDI'S VIRGINS.
Both novels are cross-over novels, which can be read and enjoyed by readers of all ages. Both books have inspiring and, I hope, endearing heroines: I love Anna Maria dal Violin and Alessandra Giliani just as if they were my own daughters.
I love the idea that I was given the privilege of rescuing these extraordinary young women from the dust-bin of history. I've had letters from all over the world from girls and women (and some men!) who've read, loved, and been encouraged by Anna Maria's story in VIVALDI'S VIRGINS. I'm hoping with all my heart that Alessandra and A GOLDEN WEB will inspire a whole generation of girls to say yes when society says no--to pursue their dreams with courage and passion.
TBP: What was it like researching Alessandra's life/story for the book?
BQ: Oh, I had a wonderful time researching and writing A GOLDEN WEB. Before the ink on my book contract was even dry, I'd flown off to Bologna to dig around in libraries and archives there, soak up the local atmosphere, and see if I could find any traces of Alessandra's world.
Bologna was very good to me! I found kind and helpful friends everywhere--especially in the libraries and archives. I made some friends I hope to keep forever!
But what I hadn't bargained on was how very long ago the 14th century was. You see, I'd had a rather easy time of it, with VIVALDI'S VIRGINS, in that Venice today looks very much like it did in the 18th century. Libraries and archives in Venice were much harder to penetrate than they were in Bologna (where it seemed like all doors were open to me).
But the 14th century has been covered over by 700 years of history and architecture. Even in Bologna's historical center, which I made my home base, I had to go underground--to creep around in crypts--to find traces of Alessandra's world.
I got a great deal of the texture and detail I needed for the story by looking at paintings and illuminated manuscripts of the 1300s. It also helped me a great deal to pay attention to the things that don't change very much over time: to listen to the birds and look at the plants and hike out over the landscape itself. Seven hundred years is a blink of the eye to Mother Nature.
TBP: Are there any other specific women from history that you would love/plan to write about in the future?
BQ: There are--but I don't want to give that information away. I was the first novelist to write about Vivaldi and the Ospedale della Pieta in Venice. And there followed an avalanche of books and films on the same subject, in short order! The highest literary prize in Italy was awarded last year to a novel that an Italian newspaper columnist said was a complete rip-off of the story I told in VIVALDI'S VIRGINS.
Now, I do think that good ideas seem to occur in waves. But I'm trying to be just a little bit cautious (which is completely against my nature!). (Wow, I'd have been a bit ticked and totally don't blame you for not wanting to specify who you plan to write about in future after something like that.)
TBP: Please tell me you are planning or, are already working on, another historical fiction novel for young adults.
BQ: I am... although I haven't decided yet whether the book will specifically be for young adults--or will, like VIVALDI'S VIRGINS, be an adult novel that will cross over to the young adult audience. You'll still want to read my books, won't you, even if they're not packaged as YA titles? Anyway, all of my YA readers will be two or three years older by the time my next book is published!
Seriously, I don't want to pigeonhole myself as any kind of genre writer. I'm trying to write the best books I can, for readers of all ages. A good book is a good book for everyone--don't you think? (I never thought about it that way but now that you mention it, I couldn't agree more. And of course I'll still want to read your books silly! :D )
TBP: What do you hope that readers will take away from A Golden Web?
BQ: I hope readers will laugh, cry, and feel inspired by Alessandra's story. I can't tell you how much I loved writing it--and what good company I found in the book's characters to be during the year I wrote it. I hope A GOLDEN WEB will serve as a magic portal for readers, transporting them to the exotic and colorful world of 14th century Italy.
TBP: Of all the places you've been, which would you say is your favorite and why?
BQ: Hmm...that's a very difficult question! I've been to a lot of places in the world that have just seemed magic to me.
One was a hill overlooking a lake in the wilds of Montana, on lands belonging to the Flathead Indians...
There was another very magical place--in Italy--called San Fruttuoso del Mare, near Portofino. I swam in the Mediterranean there--and it seemed as if the water was filled with little sparkling pieces of gold or fairy-dust. I felt so happy swimming there...
There's a State Park, not far away from where I live in Sonoma County, called Sugar Loaf. The forest there is enchanted. The trees are wise and beautiful. I'd like to be a tree in Sugar Loaf State Park, when I grow up...
There's a particular apartment in Montmartre, in Paris, owned by my friends Veronica and Olivier. I love sticking my head out the sky-light and looking at the Eiffel Tower...
There's a beach in Salvador, Bahia, in Northeastern Brazil... and a shack on the North Shore of Oahu... and a flat on Giudecca Island in Venice, that looks out across the water at the church of Santa Maria della Salute, which changes depending on the time of day and the light... There's the magic well of dirt at the sanctuary of Chimayo in New Mexico...
Maybe it's best to say that my favorite place (so far!) is Planet Earth.
TBP: Anything else you'd like to add before you go?
BQ: I'd just like to say what an incredible thing the blogosphere is! I'm so impressed with the passion for reading so evident among young adult book bloggers. It fills me with hope for the future of books--which is, after all, in your hands.
I think those are some of the most well thought out answers I've ever received when doing an interview. Wouldn't you agree? Of all the author interviews I've done, this is definitely one of my favorites.
I know both Barbara and I would LOVE to hear your thoughts on the interview. I got a feeling she may be checking in later to see what you all have to say. If you would like to read my review of A Golden Web, you can by going HERE.
Also, I thought you might all be interested in knowing that I will be holding a giveaway for a copy of A Golden Web tomorrow so you may want to stop back by and check that out. :D