Book Title: Waking Isabella: Because beauty can't sleep forever by Melissa Muldoon
Category: Adult Fiction, 250 pages
Genre: General Fiction
Publisher: Matta Press
Release date: December 2017
Tour dates: Feb 19 to March 23, 2018
Content Rating: PG-13 + M (The story begins with violent rape and murder scene, touches on themes of miscarriage, murder, Nazi violence during war, adultery)
Waking Isabella is a story about uncovering hidden beauty that, over time, has been lost, erased, or suppressed. It also weaves together several love stories as well as a few mysteries. Nora, an assistant researcher, is a catalyst for resolving the puzzle of a painting that has been missing for decades. Set in Arezzo, a small Tuscan town, the plot unfolds against the backdrop of the city’s antique trade and the fanfare and pageantry of its medieval jousting festival. While filming a documentary about Isabella de’ Medici—the Renaissance princess who was murdered by her husband—Nora begins to connect with the lives of two remarkable women from the past. Unraveling the stories of Isabella, the daughter of a fifteenth-century Tuscan duke, and Margherita, a young girl trying to survive the war in Nazi-occupied Italy, Nora begins to question the choices that have shaped her own life up to this point. As she does, hidden beauty is awakened deep inside of her, and she discovers the keys to her creativity and happiness. It is a story of love and deceit, forgeries and masterpieces—all held together by the allure and intrigue of a beautiful Tuscan ghost.
To read reviews, please visit Melissa Muldoon's page on Italy Bok Tours.
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Meet the Author:
Melissa Muldoon is the Studentessa Matta—the crazy linguist! In Italian, “matta” means “crazy” or “impassioned.” Melissa has a B.A. in fine arts, art history and European history from Knox College, a liberal arts college in Galesburg, Illinois, as well as a master’s degree in art history from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. She has also studied painting and art history in Florence.
Melissa promotes the study of Italian language and culture through her dual-language blog, Studentessa Matta (studentessamatta.com). Melissa began the Matta blog to improve her command of the language and to connect with other language learners. It has since grown to include a podcast, “Tutti Matti per l’Italiano,” and the Studentessa Matta YouTube channel. Melissa also created Matta Italian Language Immersion Tours, which she co-leads with Italian partners in Italy.
Waking Isabella is Melissa’s second novel and follows Dreaming Sophia, published in 2016. In this new novel about Italy, the reader is taken on another art history adventure, inspired by Melissa’s experiences living and traveling in Italy, specifically Arezzo, as well as her familiarity with the language and art. For more information about Waking Isabella and links to Melissa’s blogs and social media sites, visit www.MelissaMuldoon.com.
As a student, Melissa lived in Florence with an Italian family. She studied art history and painting and took beginner Italian classes. When she returned home, she threw away her Italian dictionary, assuming she’d never need it again, but after launching a successful design career and starting a family, she realized something was missing in her life. That “thing” was the connection she had made with Italy and the friends who live there. Living in Florence was indeed a life-changing event. Wanting to reconnect with Italy, she decided to start learning the language again from scratch. As if indeed possessed by an Italian muse, she bought a new Italian dictionary and began her journey to fluency—a path that has led her back to Italy many times and enriched her life in countless ways. Now, many dictionaries and grammar books later, she dedicates her time to promoting Italian language studies, further travels in Italy, and sharing her stories and insights about Italy with others. When Melissa is not traveling in Italy, she lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Melissa designed and illustrated the cover art for Waking Isabella and Dreaming Sophia. She also curates the Dreaming Sophia blog and Pinterest site: The Art of Loving Italy. Please visit the Pinterest page for pictures of Arezzo, the Giostra del Saracino, and all the places we go in Italy in both books. Visit MelissaMuldoon.com for more information about immersion trips to learn the language with Melissa in Italy, as well as the Studentessa Matta blog for practice and tips to learn the Italian language.
Connect with Melissa: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Pinterest ~ Instagram ~ Youtube
Interview with Melissa Muldoon
Melissa Muldoon is an artist, graphic designer and award winning author of the Studentessa Matta Website, a dual language blog, where she promotes the Italian language and culture. Through the Matta Website, she organizes small group language immersion programs in Italy twice a year in collaboration with Italian schools as well as private Italian language homestay vacations with teachers all over Italy.
Waking Isabella is Melissa's follows her debut novel Dreaming Sophia, published in 2016. In this new book set in Arezzo, Italy, readers are taken on another art history adventure. Waking Isabella weaves together several loves stories as well as a few mysteries, as Nora the protagonist, begins to resolve the puzzle of a painting, which has been missing for decades of Isabella de' Medici — the Renaissance princess who was murdered by her husband.
1. What made you write a book about Arezzo and a portrait of Isabella de’ Medici?
Recently, I have spent a lot of time in Arezzo. It is a small Tuscan town about an hour south of Florence that isn’t quite as popular as Florence, Siena or for that matter Cortona. But it is a gem of a town, believe me. From the moment I stepped off the train I fell love with the city and feel quite at home there, so it seemed a natural decision to set my book there. Through my novel I wanted to introduce others to this magical town, its culture and especially its jousting festival.
One day when I was Giorgio Vasari's house in Arezzo quite by accident I came upon a painting of Isabella de' Medici and I was immediately drawn to the Renaissance princesses' image. Looking at the portrait of Isabella, I wanted to learn more about her, and I felt there was a story behind the painting. Thoughts of Isabella stayed with me, and after returning home, I began to read more about her and was fascinated by the things I discovered. She was brought up by the Grand Duke Cosimo I - her father - to be quite independent. But her waywardness also contributed to the plot to having her killed in a Medici Hunting lodge outside of Florence. After her Isabella's father died, she had no one to protect her. At that point the men in her life, her brother the new Duke of Tuscany and her husband, tried to control her and cut off her inheritance. After she died horribly, hung in her bedroom…it is said that her ghost remained caught in the villa and people to this day say they have seen Isabella. They call her La Dama Bianca - the white lady.
Of course, my imagination was immediately piqued, and the idea for Waking Isabella came to life soon after that.
2. Do you have another profession besides writing?
I am an artist and art historian and own my own graphic design business. In fact I designed and illustrated the artwork for the cover designs of both my novels "Dreaming Sophia" and "Waking Isabella." I am also the "Studentessa Matta" (which means crazy language student). I write a dual language blog in Italian and English to promote the study of the Italian language and culture. For the past five years, I co-lead, with my Italian partners, small group language immersion programs in Italy. I also help students of the language with personalized Italian Homestay Language vacations, in which a student lives for a week or two with an Italian teacher in their home, learns the language with them and immerse in language and culture. I also write and curate the "DreamingSophiaBook.com" website where I blog about art history topics.
- What do you like or dislike about writing a novel?
As I was working on my first book "Dreaming Sophia," I discovered that I really enjoy the process of fiction writing and creating new worlds filled with interesting characters. Inventing a story and weaving in historical details is a bit of a departure from the kind of writing I do on the Studentessa Matta blog – where I blog about language learning and Italian cultural anecdotes. So about mid-way through the first book I was already casting around for concepts for my second.
But as much as I like the writing process, it is also an all-consuming experience for me. Once I get started, I tend to disappear into a "black-hole" and don't come out for days and weeks on end. I become so immersed in the process that I'm up at dawn and writing until 3 am in the morning some days. I am constantly writing and re-writing and refining. It is a never ending process. Enjoyable but all consuming.
- What is your writing process?
After thoroughly researching my topic and story, I start with a 20-30-page outline and a whole bunch of loose ideas. I then begin to flush out my story and then after a while — perhaps several weeks — I dive in and start writing. I have to steel myself a bit, and warn my family, because as I mentioned previously, once I pen my first paragraph I give in to the story and lose myself in the story completely.
Once I’m off and running I write for several hours each day sometimes until 3am in the morning. When the first draft is done, I begin the revisions and filling in more detail, more layers and layers of dialogue and colorful imagery. It is like painting in a way. I create a rough sketch and then continue going back over the story adding more and more layers and colors.
During my draft writing, which can take several months, I stop periodically to review my work with an informal editor. With her I read chapters out loud. She gives me feedback as well as a few reality checks. We have a wonderful collaborative work flow and it is very helpful to me to have someone who is keyed into my story at an very early stage with whom I can bounce ideas off and talk about the characters.
When I feel the manuscript is ready, I send it to my "official" editor and then to the final proofreader. The tricky part is to know when you are done writing. I can still read sentences and want to make a change here or there, in word choice or stylistic phrases.
- What advice would you give to budding writers?
When I was writing my first book ”Dreaming Sophia,” I had the extreme pleasure of meeting Miss Sophia Loren in person. It was in Las Vegas after her one woman show at the Venetian. There were two things she said that resonated with me that evening. The first: “Believe in your dreams, dreams become reality.” The second: “Be brave. Just do it.” I would say this is also my advice to anyone who wants to write a book. You can second guess yourself all you want, but it really just comes down to hard work (lots and lots and lots of draft variations), believing in yourself and just doing it!
On the Studentessa Matta language learning site you can find lots of free ways to practice Italian. Melissa writes both in Italian and English so you can flex and improve your communication skills - for free. Each week she posts about Italian language learning as well as fun and interesting stories about Italian culture.
For those of you who want to dive in a little deeper into Italian language studies in Italy, Melissa also organize small group language immersion programs. This year the programs will be held in Montepulciano and Arezzo. Please visit the Studentessa Matta site for more details: www.StudentessaMatta.com
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