The Qwillery | category: Touchstone


The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Interview with Signe Pike, author of The Lost Queen

Please welcome Signe Pike to The Qwillery as part of the 2018 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Lost Queen is published on September 4th by Touchstone.

Please join all of us at The Qwillery in wishing Signe a very Happy Publication Day!

Interview with Signe Pike, author of The Lost Queen

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. What is the first piece you remember writing?

Signe:  I got my first diary in second grade. When I think back on my earliest writing, this is what comes to mind, because it contains the purest seed of my relationship with writing. "Dear Diary..." I wrote to my diary as if it were my truest friend. My relationship with writing has become more complex as I've aged because of the various forms in which I work with writing -- memoir, poetry, fiction. But at the heart of it, has anything really changed at all? Writing is still my truest friend. I turn to it, I confide in it, I create with it. Every day it saves me.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Signe:  Hybrid! In historical fiction the timeline, historical people and historical events create the foundation of the plot. The pantser part comes in having to reimagine the motivations and details.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Signe:  Two things - Drowning out the voice of my inner critic and keeping my mind focused on the task at hand.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Signe:  Ancient Celtic culture, a reverence for the natural world, other writers of all genres who have a deftness to their craft, the desire to know.

TQDescribe The Lost Queen using only 5 words.

Signe:  Family, love, belief, war, destiny.

TQTell us something about The Lost Queen that is not found in the book description.

Signe:  In this book you will read about delicious early medieval food and adorable white cows.

TQWhat inspired you to write The Lost Queen? What appeals to you about writing a historical fiction?

Signe:  I was inspired to write The Lost Queen when I learned who Languoreth was and the truly epic events in history she lived through. Historical fiction is a powerful way to resurrect people from our past who deserve to be remembered.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Lost Queen?

Signe:  What sort of research... tons, and never-ending! I looked at -- and continue to look at, being that this is the first in a trilogy -- hagiographies of saints, ancient Welsh triads, scholarly papers on everything from the Arthurian legends to archeological studies of pollen in early medieval Ireland and Britain, books on ancient Celtic society, on gender roles and early medieval women in the Celtic world, ancient poetry, ancient law. When I visit Scotland, I travel to hillforts and explore with Ordinance Survey maps to try and find possible ruin locations, I visit museums, lots of libraries, and talk to local people in an effort to uncover folk memory of various locations. It's like being a really geeky detective, but with sturdy hiking boots and lots of bug spray.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for The Lost Queen.

Signe:  The cover contains symbolism central to the book in both the animal depicted and the brooch.

TQIn The Lost Queen who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Signe:  Languoreth was the easiest character to write - her voice just seemed to come very effortlessly. The hardest character to write was Mungo. He is the patron saint of Glasgow, but it's difficult to reconcile the tone of his hagiography (i.e. that of miracle worker and persecuted, saintly saint!) with the actions detailed within that very same account. When you begin to consider how Mungo's historical actions would have effected those he directly impacted, those on the other side of the story, it becomes nearly impossible to see him as a saint.

TQWhich question about The Lost Queen do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

Signe:  Question: What percentage of your day do you spend wishing you could dress in tailor-made early medieval dresses and ride white horses?

Answer: 100%

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from The Lost Queen.


“War is not about victory. War is about survival.”

"This was the time before we were seen, when none knew of our presence save the spirits of the wood in their sunset kingdom."

“In times such as these, when the people need a hero, so are such heroes

TQIf you could go back in time and visit one of the 6 Celtic nations (Brittany, Scotland, Ireland, Isle of Man, Cornwall or Wales) where would you go and when?

Signe:  Yes, please. Oh, just one? OK, fine. I would visit Scotland, of course. I would give anything to be able to step inside Languoreth and Lailoken's real childhood home, the timber hall I believe lies buried or lost beneath the ruins of a much later medieval castle in Chatelherault Country Park in Hamilton.

TQWhat's next?

Signe:  Book Two of The Lost Queen Trilogy! The book opens right where The Lost Queen leaves off, right in the middle of the action. It's exhilarating and has been incredible so far to write. The world of The Lost Queen feels to me as if it just explodes in Book Two into this new and even fuller experience of Languoreth's story, told from a few carefully chosen view points. I'm following characters I love as each of them embarks on their own transformative "hero's" journey. I've got people running all over various parts of Scotland (the site research has been nuts for Book Two), and there's this over-arching pressure pressing down upon all these people due to the historical events that were taking place. The voices are coming through so strongly. I can't wait to get home from book tour and get back to it!

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Signe:  It's been a pleasure. I hope to hear from readers who take on the challenge and have a chance to read the book!

The Lost Queen
The Lost Queen 1
Touchstone, September 4, 2018
Hardcover and eBook, 544 pages

Interview with Signe Pike, author of The Lost Queen
Compared to Outlander and The Mists of Avalon, this thrilling first novel of a debut trilogy reveals the untold story of Languoreth—a forgotten queen of sixth-century Scotland—twin sister of the man who inspired the legend of Merlin.

I write because I have seen the darkness that will come. Already there are those who seek to tell a new history...

In a land of mountains and mist, tradition and superstition, Languoreth and her brother Lailoken are raised in the Old Way of their ancestors. But in Scotland, a new religion is rising, one that brings disruption, bloodshed, and riot. And even as her family faces the burgeoning forces of Christianity, the Anglo-Saxons, bent on colonization, are encroaching from the east. When conflict brings the hero Emrys Pendragon to her father’s door, Languoreth finds love with one of his warriors. Her deep connection to Maelgwn is forged by enchantment, but she is promised in marriage to Rhydderch, son of a Christian king. As Languoreth is catapulted into a world of violence and political intrigue, she must learn to adapt. Together with her brother—a warrior and druid known to history as Myrddin—Languoreth must assume her duty to fight for the preservation of the Old Way and the survival of her kingdom, or risk the loss of them both forever.

Based on new scholarship, this tale of bravery and conflicted love brings a lost queen back to life—rescuing her from obscurity, and reaffirming her place at the center of one of the most enduring legends of all time.

About Signe

Interview with Signe Pike, author of The Lost Queen
Photo by Tiffany Mizzell Photography ©
Signe Pike is the author of the travel memoir Faery Tale and has researched and written about Celtic history and folklore for more than a decade. A former book editor, she lives in Charleston, South Carolina where she writes full time. Visit her at

Twitter @ SignePike  ~  Facebook

Interview with Thea Lim, author of An Ocean of Minutes

Please welcome Thea Lim to The Qwillery as part of the 2018 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. An Ocean of Minutes is published on July 10th by Touchstone.

Please join The Qwillery in wishing Thea a Happy Publication Day!

Interview with Thea Lim, author of An Ocean of Minutes

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. What is the first piece you remember writing?

Thea:  I once wrote a whole novel on my mother's Word Perfect program about an underground motorcycle club in 1993.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Thea:  A hybrid. I make a very skeletal outline, because I need to have some sense of where I'm going, but the only thing that will really let me know whether or not my plot is going to work is test-driving it -- by writing it. So I don't spend too much time drawing up a plan, because it's never long before I have to make a new one.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Thea:  The writing part. I once heard ZZ Packer say that writing is like being in marriage counselling, except with a total stranger. That sounds about right.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Thea:  Cityscapes, and trying to write about my life, and process the things that have happened -- but without it looking like I'm writing about myself in the slightest.

TQDescribe An Ocean of Minutes using only 5 words.

Thea:  LDR but 1991 to 1998. (I used an acronym and cheated.)

TQTell us something about An Ocean of Minutes that is not found in the book description.

Thea:  The whole thing is an analogy for immigration. It's been described as a dystopic novel -- and I'll take it! -- but I actually think of it as allegorical fiction. I wanted to offer a different view of our own world, rather than a future, more dire world. This world is already dire enough.

TQWhat inspired you to write An Ocean of Minutes? What appeals to you about writing a time-travel novel?

Thea:  If, for example, vampire movies are always about sex, and zombie movies are always about the economy, time travel stories are usually about fate -- trying to undo it, but failing. But my favourite time travel narratives are about time itself -- the human instinct to try to dig in our heels and make it stop, kill change, even though we know it's hopeless. (The 1998 film After Life, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind -- which is totally a time travel movie if you think about it -- are good examples.) It's hard these days to write something totally new, so my strategy was to try and combine two well-worn genres into something else. I wanted to write a work of migration lit (inspired by writers like Jhumpa Lahiri and Maxine Hong Kingston), combined with time travel. In what way does the past feel like another country? In what way is returning to an old home like travelling through time?

TQWhat sort of research did you do for An Ocean of Minutes?

Thea:  I visited Galveston and Buffalo, two cities I love, that are like spiritual twins, on either ends of the country. Both are cities trying to outrun time (Galveston dealing with natural disaster, and Buffalo dealing with economic disaster), and both have a sense of faded history that echoes through each day. I interviewed an upholsterer (She owns Maple Leaf Furnishings in Toronto if you are looking to get a chair recovered) so that I could properly write about Polly's time working at the Hotel Galvez. And I read many first-person accounts of migrant work, many of them wrenching and sad, like El Contrato, a documentary about tomato farmers in Ontario, or this comic strip about Almaz, a domestic worker from Ethiopia who sought work in Saudi Arabia, or the book Underground America, about migrant workers to the US.

TQPlease tell us about the cover for An Ocean of Minutes.

Thea:  The cover was designed by Scott Richardson, who is a really well-known Canadian designer (who happens to be a novelist himself!), so I was very lucky to have him. I loved how he worked in the Texas horizon, and the subtle touches to indicate that the book tells the story of our world, but a slightly off-kilter variant -- the slant of the skyline, and the two mirrored shores, side by side but forever apart, like parallel timelines.

TQIn An Ocean of Minutes who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Thea:  Norberto was the easiest to write, even though he makes some terrible choices. I knew that I wanted him to offer a kind of inverted version of Polly's suffering, so I had a clear model to follow, and just his overall personality -- so gloomy and vulnerable and hopeful still -- spoke to my heart. Frank was the hardest to write. He was mysterious to the end. It wasn't until I wrote the sections where he retrieves Polly's lost furniture, and where his mother throws an anniversary party -- they were late-stage additions! -- that I really figured out who he was.

TQWhich question about An Ocean of Minutes do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!


Q: What's your favourite part of the book?

A: The second last chapter, when (very mild spoiler) Polly sees her childhood home for the first time since 1980.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from An Ocean of Minutes.


"They will have a September wedding, so their anniversary doesn't change. Their guests will blow bubbles instead of throwing rice, rice is bad for birds. They will have something of her mother's there --her bicycle or her rocking chair. In another universe, this timeline becomes actual. In their universe, the vial breaks, the virus spreads, the borders are closed. Frank gets sick."

"But what could she do? She kept laughing in the evening light, which is what people do when monstrous epiphanies surface in their minds. You cannot put life on hold to have a moment of grief, so every second, half the people in the world are split in two. This is what they mean by life goes on, and the worst is that you go along too."

TQWhat's next?

Thea:  I'll be appearing this Friday at Brazos Bookstore in Houston, with the writer Jessica Wilbanks, to celebrate the US launch of An Ocean of Minutes!

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

An Ocean of Minutes
Touchstone, July 10, 2018
Hardcover and eBook, 320 pages

Interview with Thea Lim, author of An Ocean of Minutes
In the vein of The Time Traveler’s Wife and Station Eleven, a sweeping literary love story about two people who are at once mere weeks and many years apart.

America is in the grip of a deadly flu pandemic. When Frank catches the virus, his girlfriend Polly will do whatever it takes to save him, even if it means risking everything. She agrees to a radical plan—time travel has been invented in the future to thwart the virus. If she signs up for a one-way-trip into the future to work as a bonded laborer, the company will pay for the life-saving treatment Frank needs. Polly promises to meet Frank again in Galveston, Texas, where she will arrive in twelve years.

But when Polly is re-routed an extra five years into the future, Frank is nowhere to be found. Alone in a changed and divided America, with no status and no money, Polly must navigate a new life and find a way to locate Frank, to discover if he is alive, and if their love has endured.

An Ocean of Minutes is a gorgeous and heartbreaking story about the endurance and complexity of human relationships and the cost of holding onto the past—and the price of letting it go.

About Thea

Interview with Thea Lim, author of An Ocean of Minutes
Photo by Elisha Lim, © Thea Lim
Thea Lim’s writing has appeared in publications including the Southampton Review, the Guardian, The Millions, Salon, and others. She has an MFA from the University of Houston, and she has received multiple awards and fellowships for her work, including artists’ grants from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council.  She grew up in Singapore and now lives in Toronto with her family.

Website  ~  Twitter @thea_lim

Interview with Melodie Winawer and Review of The Scribe of Siena

Please welcome Melodie Winawer to The Qwillery as part of the 2017 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Scribe of Siena is published on May 16th by Touchstone.

Interview with Melodie Winawer and Review of The Scribe of Siena

TQWelcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?

Melodie:  I’ve written all my life—since I was a kid. I wrote then for the same reason I write now—because I love to.

TQAre you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?

Melodie:  Full disclosure: I had to look up the word pantser! I’d say… I fly blind much more than I structure everything out before writing. I have some structure, but it isn’t until I sit down and actually write that the story emerges.

TQWhat is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Melodie:  I don’t have enough time. In addition to being a novelist, I have a beyond-full-time job (I’m a neurologist, neuroscientist, and run neuroscience courses at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons), have three kids, and I commute three hours a day. Actually, the commute helps, since I write (if I can get a seat!) when I’m on the subway…in fact, I wrote much of The Scribe of Siena on my endless commute between deep Brooklyn and northern Manhattan (Columbia University Medical Center) where I work.

TQWhat has influenced / influences your writing?

Melodie:  Everything! What my mother’s first boss once said to her 50 years ago. The look of the sky when I’m walking home from the subway on a windy fall day. The way I tear up when I hear my youngest daughter singing in the morning--everything.

TQDescribe The Scribe of Siena in 140 characters or less.

Melodie:  Time-travelling surgeon Beatrice takes on her late brother’s discovery of an anti-Siena conspiracy, while falling for a 14th century painter and medieval life.

TQTell us something about The Scribe of Siena that is not found in the book description.

Melodie:  It’s a meditation on the choice between two parallel lives, two ways of being, two possible selves. We all have moments when we realize another life is right next to us, an alternative path that for a moment is close enough to step right onto, just a little jump sideways and there--you’re on a new road. That common experience--a tough, poignant, powerful common experience --is at the heart of this book.

TQWhat inspired you to write The Scribe of Siena? What appeals to you about writing historical fiction? Why did you primarily set your novel in Siena?

Melodie:  I’m a neuroscientist and neurologist as well as a novelist. When I find an unanswered question in science, I create a research project to answer it systematically, carefully adhering to facts. When I find an unanswered question in fiction—I get to make up the answer! I learned that Siena had fared particularly badly in the great Plague of the 1340s—worse than many Tuscan cities, including Florence, Siena’s medieval arch-enemy. And a single clear answer didn’t exist to explain Siena’s decline during and after the Plague, a decline that eventually led to Siena’s loss of independence and subservience to Florentine rule under the Medici regime decades later. That unanswered question became the historical focus of the story.

Since I’m a doctor, I was also inspired by my firsthand experience of a physician’s empathy— experiencing a patient’s fear of illness, anguish, and in the best situations, relief. I know empathy can be a power for healing, but my work tests the boundaries between myself and those whose suffering I experience. I need to keep enough distance to do my job well, without losing myself in the process. I wondered how far it could go--that ability to feel what someone else is feeling. Could it extend to the written word, or even to words written hundreds of years ago? Could it, for example, blur the boundaries not only between self and other, but between two times? My experience of a physician’s empathy, and its dangers, led me to create my protagonist Beatrice. For Beatrice, a neurosurgeon who enjoys the great privilege of working inside patients’ brains with her hands, empathy—and its consequences—come unbidden, and unravel her orderly life.

I set the book in Siena because it is simultaneously modern and medieval, a city where the past and present coexist. So it became the perfect place for me to set this story of a woman who, at first against her will, and then by desire, loses her place in time.

I write historical fiction because I like to recreate the past in such a vivid and intimate way that I (and my readers!) can not only imagine, but walk right into it, as if it existed right now, with the door always open, next to our modern world. The book itself becomes a vehicle for time travel.

TQWhat sort of research did you do for The Scribe of Siena?

Melodie:  I visited Siena twice: once before writing, and once after I’d written the whole manuscsript. I talked to two experts—Jane Tylus at NYU and Neslihan Senocak at Columbia University. Experts on medieval Italy are few and far between, and wildly enthusiastic when they find people with common interests; Jane and Nesli certainly were, and were generous with their advice. I read. I read more. I wrote down pages of questions. I asked my experts again, they answered, they recommended sources. I read those. I read articles, textbooks, museum guides, history monographs, guide books, maps. Anthropology, sociology, history. I read trial records, letters, books about 14th century merchants from Padova. I read historic cookbooks. I stared at paintings for details, and read descriptions of paintings to learn more. I tried to fill my head with the sounds and smells and sights of the time, then, when I’d read, I put my notes down to write. If I’d tried to learn everything I needed to know before starting to write, the book probably still wouldn’t be written now. As soon as I knew enough to put something on paper, I’d start writing again. If I found, as I did more research, that I’d made a mistake, I went back and fixed it. If I was missing a key piece of information—did a medieval child drink milk?—I’d look it up. Because my characters aren’t real people (or at least I think they aren’t—sometimes I’m not sure!), I had the liberty to invent their lives. But I used the structure of real historical events, and sources on medieval Italian life, to make a home for them.

TQPlease tell us about The Scribe of Siena's cover.

Melodie:  There’s a bit of a story here. The painting is by Giacomo Pacchiarotti, and is called A YOUNG LADY WRITING IN A HYMNAL. Pacchiarotti was from Siena, which is terrific, given where the book is set. But…Pacchiarotti lived from 1474 to 1539/40…he was born more than 100 years after the time period I was writing about. I was looking for an image of a woman writing (the title of the book alone will give you an idea why, without spoilers), and I can tell you this is nearly impossible in art from the medieval period. The other difficult problem I had looking for cover art was that medieval art is not generally appealing to the modern eye—it’s kind of flat, often stylized, and it doesn’t have the realism and warmth and emotional accessibility that comes with later periods, e.g. the Renaissance. I found this painting and got very excited, and forwarded it to my editor without thinking. She loved it right away and then… I panicked because it was from the WRONG CENTURY. For heaven’s sake I am a HISTORICAL NOVELIST trying to be ACCURATE. I’m writing a book that focuses on MEDIEVAL ART and the painting on the cover isn’t even going to be from the RIGHT PERIOD!??!?!? Eventually I talked myself off the ledge, and decided (with a lot of help from colleagues in publishing, friends, and family) that it was the right image anyway, because it captured something so essential to the book. I love the way the art department at Touchstone figured out how to superimpose the image of Siena’s Duomo (the dome of the cathedral) over the image of the woman in the painting—it was a beautiful idea beautifully executed. I love it now, and even more so having been through the agonizing process of thinking about it so much. I have a tendency to do that…

TQIn The Scribe of Siena who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Melodie:  Oh Beatrice was easiest, because, er…well…she was the most like me, in more ways than one. I’ll just leave it at that. Hardest…Iacopo. I had a lot of trouble figuring out the balance of good and bad in him. How sympathetic to make his story, how to fill out the complexity of his character. At first he was really one-sided, whiny, pitiful and annoying—even to me. He is supposed to be, to some extent, but that’s a balance too. Maybe he still annoys some readers, but I hope less so!

TQWhy have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in The Scribe of Siena?

Melodie:  I did, but in an underhanded sort of way, not a hit-you-over-the-head sort of way. I think it is inevitable, and desirable, for a story where a modern protagonist finds herself in the past, to include some reflection on the nature of modern life, and the differences and similarities between modern and medieval existence. Any historical fiction does that, more or less explicitly, by virtue of the genre itself. Some of those “issues” included capital punishment, the fairness of legal proceedings, stereotypes about the past and other things we don’t know well, and whether those stereotypes are true, how we are inevitably biased by our assumptions. Historical fiction, at its best, can help shrink differences and foster connections not only across the centuries, but also across the modern walls that divide us.

TQWhich question about The Scribe of Siena do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

MelodieThe Scribe of Siena is full of fantastic medieval food descriptions. Where did you get the recipes? Have you cooked the dishes in your book?

The recipes come from The Medieval Kitchen: Recipes from France and Italy by Françoise Sabban, Odile Redon, and Silvano Serventi, and many of those historically accurate recipes found their way into my book. I’ve made almost all of them, plus plenty of others I didn’t write about. Poratta bianca, a leek soup dusted with cardamom and nutmeg, is the first dish that welcomes my protagonist to medieval life. I’ve made pumpkin and farmer cheese tart in a flaky pate brisée crust, and an incredibly unusual lasagne fermentatam, springy hand rolled strips or squares of fresh pasta made from a yeasted dough layered with parmesan, cinnamon, long pepper, cloves, and ginger. I learned the recipes well enough to make their flavors and execution convincing in the pages I was writing. But more than that, cooking and eating medieval Italian cuisine gave me a connection to the past--an emotional, visceral connection that transcended what I read and went straight to the heart, soul, and belly of the era I not only tried to portray in writing, but actually longed to inhabit. Just like Beatrice.

TQGive us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from The Scribe of Siena.


“I had often imagined that at some point in my life I would lose someone I loved, and I had. But I had never considered the possibility that I would lose my place in time.”

“On the distant riverbank, a small crowd of anxious travelers stood, and among them was a woman in a green dress with black hair braided in the shape of a crown. The painting was more than 650 years old. But the woman’s face was mine.”

TQWhat's next?

Melodie:  I’m working on a novel set in late Byzantine Greece. It centers in the now-abandoned city of Mystras, in the southern Peloponnese. The city is mostly in ruins, but many buildings are still standing. I have walked through its streets, into the churches and crumbling houses, and it’s even more magical than it sounds. It has a mysterious, tumultuous history as the center of the late Byzantine Empire after the fall of Constantinople, with moments of great triumph and also great despair. The new book, like the Scribe of Siena, connects the past and the present too, but I won’t give away how!

TQThank you for joining us at The Qwillery!

The Scribe of Siena
Touchstone, May 16, 2017
Hardcover and eBook, 464 pages

Interview with Melodie Winawer and Review of The Scribe of Siena
“Will remind historical fiction readers of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander and Tracy Chevalier’s Girl with a Pearl Earring…Lovers of meticulously researched historical fiction and time-travel narratives will be swept away by the spell of medieval Siena” (Library Journal, starred review).

“Winawer’s debut is a detailed historical novel, a multifaceted mystery, and a moving tale of improbable love…Winawer has created a prodigious, vibrant tale of past and present that transports readers and fills in the historical gaps. This is a marvelous work of research and invention” (Publishers Weekly, starred review)

Equal parts transporting love story and gripping historical conspiracy, debut author Melodie Winawer takes readers deep into medieval Italy, where the past and present blur and a twenty-first century woman will discover a plot to destroy Siena.

Accomplished neurosurgeon Beatrice Trovato knows that her deep empathy for her patients is starting to impede her work. So when her beloved brother passes away, she welcomes the unexpected trip to the Tuscan city of Siena to resolve his estate, even as she wrestles with grief. But as she delves deeper into her brother’s affairs, she discovers intrigue she never imagined—a 700-year-old conspiracy to decimate the city.

After uncovering the journal and paintings of Gabriele Accorsi, the fourteenth-century artist at the heart of the plot, Beatrice finds a startling image of her own face and is suddenly transported to the year 1347. She awakens in a Siena unfamiliar to her, one that will soon be hit by the Plague.

Yet when Beatrice meets Accorsi, something unexpected happens: she falls in love—not only with Gabriele, but also with the beauty and cadence of medieval life. As the Plague and the ruthless hands behind its trajectory threaten not only her survival but also Siena’s very existence, Beatrice must decide in which century she belongs.

The Scribe of Siena is the captivating story of a brilliant woman’s passionate affair with a time and a place that captures her in an impossibly romantic and dangerous trap—testing the strength of fate and the bonds of love.

Qwill's Thoughts

The Scribe of Siena is the story of Beatrice Trovato, an empathic and brilliant neurosurgeon living in New York City. Her brother Ben is a historian who has moved to Siena to research its medieval past. When Ben suddenly passes away a devastated Beatrice heads to Siena for a much needed break from her work and to settle his affairs. Ben had been doing research on why the plague in the 14th century hit Siena much worse than other cities in Tuscany. Beatrice decides to continue Ben's research while holding off other historians who want his work and are trying to make things difficult for her. Because of this research and in particular a journal she finds written by the artist Gabriele Accorsi, Beatrice travels in time to medieval Siena.

The Scribe of Siena is a gorgeous novel. Beatrice is a strong assured woman thrown into remarkable circumstances who manages not only to survive but start to make a life in the past. It does not hurt that she is highly educated. She has the skills to cope with what has happened to her. But it is not all smooth sailing for her in this unfamiliar time and she worries about how to get back to the present before the Plague comes to Siena. She knows the history, knows when it will hit and how it will come to the shores of Italy. She is absolutely helpless to do anything about it. On top of all of this there is a huge mystery to solve. Beatrice is trying to figure out why the Plague hit Siena much harder than elsewhere. She must uncover, if possible, the plotting by those who would control Siena.

Winawer surrounds Beatrice with caring friends both in the present and also in medieval Siena. In medieval Siena she begins to make a life and finds employment. She meets Gabriele Accorsi and his family and falls in love with him while she becomes part of the fabric of her new home. Winawer's historical research is exceptional. The Scribe of Siena brings you the sights, sounds, flavors, and colors of Siena (modern and medieval) and you feel as if you are there with Beatrice. The novel has a lovely cadence punctuated by quite a bit of action. The story of Beatrice and Gabriele is heartwarming and deeply moving.

Winawer has written a lush and spellbinding historical time-travel novel with an intriguing mystery, wonderful characters, and a stirring love story. The Scribe of Siena is a fabulous debut.

About Melodie

Interview with Melodie Winawer and Review of The Scribe of Siena
Photograph © Dana Maxon
Melodie Winawer is a physician-scientist and Associate Professor of Neurology at Columbia University. A graduate of Yale University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Columbia University with degrees in biological psychology, medicine, and epidemiology, she has published over fifty nonfiction articles and book chapters. She is fluent in Spanish and French, literate in Latin, and has a passable knowledge of Italian. Dr. Winawer lives with her spouse and their three young children in Brooklyn, New York. The Scribe of Siena is her first novel.

Website  ~  Facebook

Twitter @melodiewinawer

Interview with Signe Pike, author of The Lost QueenInterview with Thea Lim, author of An Ocean of MinutesInterview with Melodie Winawer and Review of The Scribe of Siena

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