Today I have with me the author of The Book of Blood and Shadow Robin Wasserman!
Your book primarily takes place in Prague. Did you visit it? If not what kind of research did you have to do to write about the palaces mentioned in the book?
Yes, I spent a couple weeks prowling around Prague with my notebook in hand (feeling like kind of a fool every time I stopped in the middle of the street and whipped out my trusty moleskine to write down a passing thought). I had never been there before, and It turned out to be really crucial for both the writing and the plotting of the book. Seeing the city in person gave me a much richer sense of its flavor—not just how it looked, but how it sounded and smelled and felt. (You can see some of the pictures I took along the way on my new website, www.thebookofbloodandshadow.com.) But I hadn’t expected how much the trip would also inform the plot. The Book of Blood and Shadow is part mystery and part scavenger hunt, which meant I had to spend a lot of time traipsing across the city trying to figure out where my characters might find their clues. A lot of pivotal scenes—including the climax—got entirely new locations once I saw the city for myself.
The main character is fluent in Latin and some of the other characters are fluent in different languages as well. Are you fluent in any language besides English? Is there any language that you wish you were?
I wish I were fluent in any language besides English, but sadly, I’m nowhere close. I took years and years of French in high school and college, and I’m pretty decent at reading it and, let’s say, passable at writing it. But my speaking skills are abhorrent and my listening comprehension is nonexistent. I suspect to ever approach fluency I’d have to move to Paris. Which isn’t a bad idea, come to think of it. If I could magically snap my fingers and be fluent in anything, though, it would be French (the better to move to Paris with) and then probably German. I took a couple years of conversational German in grad school, but all I really took from it are the words for overhead projector and dishwasher.
Where did you first hear of Elizabeth’s letters? And what drew you to her story?
Once I’d decided to set my story in Prague, I started researching all of the well known people who spent time in the city around the end of the sixteenth century, and I pretty quickly honed in on Edward Kelley, who was one of the most flamboyant figures (and, conveniently, is famously associated with the Voynich Manuscript). Once I discovered that he had a teenage daughter at that time—and that the daughter grew up to be this remarkable woman and famous writer—I knew I had my historical protagonist. It was all too perfect, and too tempting for me not to write the story: The adopted daughter of a shady alchemist, forced to live at the foot of his prison and then, after his death, fend for herself on the streets of Renaissance Prague and insinuate herself with the court enough to regain her property and her former life, all the while scribbling Latin poetry? It deserves a novel in itself!
The characters in your book go for a wild and unbelievable journey to find the truth. What is something you would like to go to the “ends of the earth” to discover/find the truth of?
Well, proving or disproving the existence of God would be a pretty irresistible one, I suppose, if I ever got the chance. Any of those Indiana Jones adventures also seem worthwhile quests. And the power to bring people back from the dead? I’d go for that, if I got the suggestion there was such a thing. Although I’m pretty much a lazy coward, so the idea of me traveling to the ends of the earth for anything—especially if it would involve murderous secret societies chasing me—are low.
Oh! Also: Alien life. I’d actually do anything to find the truth of that, if it seemed like the truth was out there…
If someone only gets one thing out of The Book of Blood and Shadow what do you hope it is?
That’s a hard question to answer, because all I really hope for my books is that readers find something to get out of them. It doesn’t really matter what—everyone grabs something different from the books that matter to them. It’s the idea of writing a book that matters, for whatever reason, that really drives me. But if there’s one thing I got out of the story, in the process of telling it, it’s the idea that we all have to somehow choose what we believe in, and more importantly, who.
Thank you so much for coming on the blog Robin!
Now go make sure you check out my review! And then be sure to check out The Book of Blood and Shadow in stores today!