There are days that I love what I do. At the top of the list of the many and varied moments of awesome are invitations that allow me to meet some of my favourite authors, and to chat with them in an informal setting. Recently Random House of Canada hosted a beautiful lunch at their head office to welcome authors Lois Leveen (Juliet’s Nurse) and Marie Phillips (The Table of Less Valued Knights) to Canada.
With a delicious lunch in front of us, we were able to talk with the authors as they rotated positions around the table. I was seated near Marie at the start the meal, and she engaged us immediately with her tales of her recent move to Amsterdam and some of the quirks she’s encountered in the process. During her speech to the table, she talked about how she was always an imaginative child, and how certain books influenced her as a writer (Asterix and The Sword in the Stone are only but a few). When she researched armour for her most recent book, she recounted how she attempted to gain information from the Wallace Collection in London, but that the curator was less than impressed when she admitted that her period of research encompassed over 300 years! As a fan of the Princess Bride, she enjoys playing with conventional roles and finding the humour in the story, and that translates beautifully in her novel. Ultimately, she advised aspiring historical fiction writers to just “have fun” with what they were writing. Interested in more of what Marie has to say? Check out her blog on her website – you never know what you might find there!.
Midpoint through the meal the authors switched it up, and the lovely Lois Leveen joined our end of the table. After letting us know she lived in Portland, there was an involved and frankly pretty hilarious discussion on just how ‘true’ the show “Portlandia” really was compared to the real Portland (verdict: absurdly close to reality). She entertained us with stories about her hometown, and shared the beautifully textured cover art for the novel before telling us a bit about her research. When she sat down to re-read Romeo and Juliet, she was struck by a number of details about the Nurse, not the least of which was that the Nurse has the third highest number of lines in the play, and that she has a unique (and erroneous) perspective on events. I for one was impressed that she picked up on the Nurse’s name – Angelica – as it’s only mentioned once and I’ve never recalled reading or hearing it! One of the other interesting facts for me was that Lois was able to create a whole new character for her novel in the Nurse’s husband. She was able to use her research to figure out a new backstory, and to figure out his occupation based on what would be logical for the time period: a beekeeper. As a symbol of this, Lois brought tiny jars of delicious organic honey, made by urban beekeepers, to share with everyone!
It was a great afternoon, with wonderful conversations and fabulous author guests. Many thanks to Random House of Canada for the opportunity, and for the meet and greet with two such gracious authors.
Now … to share the wealth! Random House of Canada graciously provided copies of both The Table of Less Valued Knights and Juliet’s Nurse for a giveaway! Both authors signed their books, and I am happy to give them away to a lucky blog reader. To enter, all I ask is that you comment below. Tell me your favourite Shakespearian play, your favourite Monty Python sketch or the best scene from the Princess Bride. This contest is open internationally, as I want everyone to have the chance to enjoy these books.
The Table of Less Valued Knights by Marie Phillips is out now and is available for purchase from all fine booksellers. ISBN: 9780307359940, 320 pages.
Juliet’s Nurse by Lois Leveen will be released on September 23rd, and can be pre-order by your favourite fine bookseller. ISBN: 9780345813992, 384 pages.