David Blixt Interview

March 9, 2009

HistoricalNovels.info interviews
the author of The Master of Verona

It was a delight to welcome author and Shakespearean actor David Blixt to the blog on March 9, 2009, for an interview about his novel The Master of Verona, about Pietro Alighieri, the eldest son of the renowned fourteenth century Italian poet Dante Alighieri.

The heart of the The Master of Verona is Pietro's admiration for Francesco "Cangrande" della Scala, such a larger-than-life figure it seems strange I'd never heard of him before. Are many of Cangrande's exploits historical?

All of them. Unbelievable as it is, in 1314, he did ride with only a handful of companions to Vicenza and rout the invaders with less than one hundred men. Three years later, a disguised Cangrande cheered the Paduans on until they were deep in the city. He is one of those historical figures made for fiction. If he had but lived a little longer, I feel sure everyone would know his name.

Your plot turns on an astrological prediction. How did you research the astrology?

For a story inspired by Shakespeare's ill-fated lovers, astrology was vital. In fact, my conceptual title for the whole series was "Star-Cross'd," which is an apt description of young Cesco's existence.

Growing up, I was often the family test balloon for New Age practitioners, and had the good fortune of knowing one of the foremost debunkers in the country. So I have a vast library of resources. But mostly I let Dante be my guide. To understand the Commedia, especially Paradiso, one needs a grounding in the stars. My best understanding came from Bob Hollander's footnotes to the Commedia, and from Alison Cornish's Reading Dante's Stars. And I used an online chart-builder to create all the relevant star charts, including all of Cesco's variations.

It was fun finding so many Shakespeare references in the story. How many different Shakespeare characters are in the novel?

Off the top of my head, I count seventeen. There are more referenced, and some of those who appear are characters mentioned but never seen in the plays. I also refer to Macbeth and Julius Caesar, since I can't do a crossover there. But the majority come from the Italian Comedies (of which Romeo and Juliet is one, despite the ending). There are characters from Much Ado About Nothing, Taming of the Shrew, and Two Gentlemen of Verona, with hints at Merchant of Venice and Measure For Measure.

I'm dying to know what happens to Cesco as he grows up. Are you working on a sequel?

Plural. The next novel, Voice of the Falconer, is complete and sitting on my editor's desk. It picks up eight years after The Master of Verona, when Cesco is eleven and able to have a say in his own fortunes. I am halfway through the two after that, writing them in tandem. As Cesco grows, he will step more into the spotlight, though for the next three books, he shares the lead with his foster-father, Pietro. After that the series will be wholly his.

Review of The Master of Verona by David Blixt

See listing for The Master of Verona at Powell's Books

See listing for The Master of Verona at Amazon.com

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