Medieval Monday – Interview with Jannine Corti-Petska

Today for Medieval Monday I am pleased to welcome fellow medieval historical romance novelist Jannine Corti-Petska.  Aside from being a truly fabulous writer, one of the things that draws me to Jannine is that she writes about medieval Italy.  With all of my scholarship I don’t actually know much about medieval Italy, so I asked Jannine to fill me in….

Merry posed two questions to me. The first was, “What makes medieval Italy unique?” To be honest, I don’t know if I can answer that. What came out of medieval Italy was a wide-range of appeal from art, architecture, literary works, people, culture and lifestyle, and the many foods and drinks we enjoy today. But the most unique has nothing to do with the medieval period. And that’s Italy’s shape: a boot kicking an odd-shaped soccer ball (okay, maybe a deflated soccer ball).

Italy’s medieval period blossomed with brilliant minds and artistry from people such as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, the latter responsible for the incredible Sistene Chapel ceiling. However, da Vinci was nothing short of a genius. He was a painter, sculptor, architect, and scientist. His interests were vast: athletics, music, town planning, perspective, optics, astronomy, aviation, hydraulics, nautical, military, structural and mechanical engineering, anatomy, biology, zoology, botany, geology, geography, mathematics and much more. Because of his wide variety of talents, we have the term “Renaissance Man,” which today refers to someone (man or woman) who has many accomplishments. He may not be an expert in any one field, but he knows a little about everything.

Medieval Italy’s uniqueness stems from its people and what they created. Sculptors and artists such as Donatello forged memorable works known the world over. He was considered the greatest sculptor of the early Italian Renaissance. His statue of David, commissioned by Florence’s powerful Medici family, was the first life-size nude statue of the time.

Poets and authors such as Machiavelli (The Prince) and Dante (My hero is named after him in DANTE’S FLAME, book 3 of my Italian medieval romance series, and my latest release.), gave the world works that have long been studied in our schools. We can’t exclude mathematician and astronomer Galileo Galilei and, of course, Christopher Columbus.

The one defining piece of medieval architecture is the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Begun in 1173, it took 177 years to build. With the construction of the second floor in 1178, the tower began to sink. The tower is recognized immediately, whether by a student of architecture or a sightseer. Or the curious. After all, the Tower of Pisa has been leaning for over 800 years!

Proud in all of its accomplishments from the medieval period, Italy cannot be considered unique without the mention of the mafia, which dug it’s roots into the Sicilian soil in the 15th century. (To read more on how and why the mafia came to be, you can find an article about it on my website…   In my opinion, all of the above are unique to medieval Italy, some maybe more than others. However, each had an important role in carving the future of Italy as well as influencing fashion, art and literary works in other countries.

Merry’s second question: Why did I choose to write in Italy’s medieval time period? In the early 90s, I had contemplated writing a medieval. I loved reading medieval romances, but I was afraid to tackle an entire book devoted to knights and castles. At this point, I had written historical western romances only. I had wanted my story to take place in a different setting from the norm: England. The market was flooded. Being Italian, I figured what better place to set a romance than in Italy?

I chose Florence for the first book in the series, THE LILY AND THE FALCON, because my father’s family originated from that city. As I researched, I became fascinated with the Medici, in particular, Cosimo de` Medici. Neither noble nor royal, he was treated as if he was born of noble bloodlines. His unofficial power intrigued me. His exile in 1433 and his return to power a year later was ripe for a plot filled with conflict and mystery. The Albizzi family was the biggest opposition to the Medici. The idea to make the hero a Medici and the heroine an Albizzi brought to mind an instant plot.

The second book in the series, SURRENDER TO HONOR, takes the reader to Palermo, Sicily, and traces the mafia’s birth. (The mafia aside, this book is dedicated to my Sicilian mother.) So I’ve incorporated many of medieval Italy’s unique qualities into my stories. At present, I’m writing book four, TEMPT NOT MY HEART, which centers around the Palio, the famed horse races held twice every summer in Siena.

You don’t have to look far to find medieval influences in Italy. I cannot chose one specific thing that came out of the time that is the most unique. To me, everything about Italy is unique, including their language of amore.

Thanks so much, Jannine!

I also asked Jannine to include a little bit about her latest release DANTE’S FLAME, book 3 of her Italian medieval series (release date July 11, 2012).

Alessandra Podesta writes illicit tales unsuitable for a young lady. Exasperated, her father sends her to visit relatives in Naples to curb her wild imagination. But in her undying need for adventure, she toys with the affections of her tutor and is forced to marry him. When she unknowingly falls into a dangerous game of supremacy between two countries, she trusts the wrong people and endangers her life.

French tutor Dante Santangelo is secretly aiding the French in maintaining their rule over Naples. When he is manipulated into marrying the visiting cousin of the Valente Family, he seizes upon the perfect opportunity to infiltrate the family, who are under suspicion of helping the Spanish. When Alessandra’s life is in jeopardy Dante must choose between love and duty. Will he offer up his life to save Alessandra? Or remain duty-bound to the French?

Here’s a teaser for you….

Alessandra (Alessa) Podesta’s parents sent her to Naples to live with her cousins Fabroni, Amalia and Benito, because they couldn’t control her adventurous nature or stop her from writing illicit tales. In this scene, she had just learned that she was to be married, and she’s running through the streets to nowhere. Eventually, she finds herself in an alley with her French tutor, Dante Santangelo, close behind.

She’d not be able to talk her way out of this dilemma. No amount of discussion would sway Fabroni to change his mind. She was doomed to an unhappy life, unless her mother and father arrived swiftly to stop her cousin’s lunacy.

Eventually her lungs tightened, painfully hampering her breathing. Yet Alessa could not slow down. She feared if she stopped, Amalia’s disclosure would bear some truth. Running was her only means of releasing her anxieties into the wind.

Her name echoed off the tall buildings. The voice all too familiar, she chose not to cease her frantic pace and face the tutor. He’d not understand her situation. In fact, he might wholeheartedly agree with Fabroni. After all, she was chasing the other side of marriageable age. She should be grateful a man wanted her for his wife at all.

“No!” she shouted in denial. She couldn’t, absolutely wouldn’t, marry just any man.

“Alessandra!” The tutor’s long, urgent strides overtook her in little time. He  locked his arm around her waist and hauled her off her feet. Alessa kicked out and clawed his arm.

“Let me go!”

“Cease, Alessandra.” His chest heaved at her back, and his rapid breaths pelted her ear. “I will not release you until you promise you will stop this madness.”

That was the answer! If she feigned madness, she’d not have to marry. Then Fabroni would have no choice but to send her home. In reality, he’d not bargain a marriage for a woman out of her mind. Alas, she could not pretend insanity. Her pride prevented her from carrying out such a lame scheme.

“All right. You have your wish. Now unhand me before you break my ribs.”

Gaining on her heaving chest, she almost wished the tutor did not let her go. She  missed the feel of him at her back, his strong arm holding her protectively. Perhaps if she ran again, he’d capture her to his solid form once more. The idea almost came to fruition, but then he turned her around and her plan suddenly was absurd.

Three even worry lines stretched across his forehead, giving Alessa pause. Surely he  wasn’t that concerned  over her well being. She straightened her clothing, smoothing the waist and skirt, then tugged at the bodice where it had twisted when he seized her off the ground. Her eyes caught on a slim shoe in his solid grasp. She gathered her skirt up a few inches to find her left shoe missing.

“I will take back my shoe, if you please.”

He scanned the alley. “Sit there.” He nodded at the old barrel. It didn’t appear strong enough to hold a child.

Wary, Alessa lowered carefully, listening for a creak, waiting for the wood to break apart. The tutor went down on one knee and took her foot in his hand. When she saw the sorry state of her stocking, she attempted to pull her foot out of his grasp. The tutor held fast to it.

He inspected the underside, shaking his head as he softly brushed away the dirt. “You are fortunate you did not suffer cuts.”

Mesmerized by the gentleness of his hands, she didn’t respond to his observation. She stared at the top of his head, forcing her hand to her side before it caressed his disheveled hair. Oh, to feel the strands, to run her fingers through them.

Snapping out of the dangerous path her mind wandered, she leaned forward to have a peek at her foot. Her face a mere breath away from the tutor’s, her concentration waned. She focused on his lips, and when he turned his head, she inhaled the ale-tainted scent of his breaths.

Suddenly aware of how vulnerable she was, alone with the tutor in a long, shadowed alley, she prayed her cousins did not happen by and find them. It would not bode well for her or the tutor. Fabroni was certain to stop her lessons and marry her off before she could say no.

However, naught dashed the excitement of the tutor’s closeness. She braced for his kiss. If it didn’t come soon, she’d boldly wrap her hand behind his head and hasten his lips to hers before her heavily beating heart tore out of her chest. The wait was unbearable. She feared she’d faint away. Or do something that would surely set Benito off on another tirade about her purity. Benito be damned. She had to know the taste of the tutor’s lips.

You can purchase DANTE’S FLAME  (and other works by Jannine Corti-Petska) at The Wild Rose Press and Amazon.

6 thoughts on “Medieval Monday – Interview with Jannine Corti-Petska

  1. Alessandra = my favorite name and my mother in law’s and daughters, but we favor Como. Can’t wait to go back for another visit. Best of luck with your novel.

  2. This reminds me of the Borgias on Showtime. What a great series (not historically accurate, but at least we’re getting somewhere with TV content!) I write Regencies. My characters live in homes influenced by the Italian renaissance and hire artistst and sculptors from Italy (like Canova) to recreate the beauty that is Italy in England. Wonderful post!

  3. Jannine, I love stories of Italy. When I was a freshman and sophomore in college, I chose the Medicis as topics for research and loved Cosimo, just as you do, but also Leonardo–often described as a ‘Renaissance Man’–although his poetry wasn’t all that great (nice, though). One of my favorite “old-time” historical novels I found at my home town library was PRINCE OF FOXES by Samuel Shellabarger. It was all about the early Renaissance in Italy. Cesare and Lucretia Borgia were subsidiary characters. Loved the hero and the semi-villain-turned-sidekick was terrific

    Your new book sounds great, and I can’t wait to read it. Best of luck

  4. Angelyn, thank you so much for reading my article.

    I have never seen the Borgias as I don’t have Showtime. I’ve heard a lot about it not being historically accurate. And it’s so nice that the Regency period appreciated the beauty of Italy and its artists.

  5. Hi Barbara:
    I’m so happy to meet another who has an interest in the Medici will more than likely get into Lorenzo’s period when I–and this is just in the rolling around in my head stage–write romance for the children of my hero and heroines in the series. We’ll see. I’ve got to finish the series first!!!

    I’ve heard of the Prince of Foxes. I’ll have to look into it. The problem is, I have absolutely no time to read.

    Thanks for stopping by and sharing.

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