S.J. Parris Interview

March 19, 2010

HistoricalNovels.info interviews
the author of Heresy

author SJ ParrisHistoricalNovels.info talked with author S.J. Parris on March 19, 2010, about her new mystery novel, Heresy, which features as sleuth the Renaissance philosopher-scientist Giordano Bruno. Bruno escaped from his monastery in 1576 when he was discovered reading Erasmus in the toilet, a scene memorably portrayed in Heresy.

What first sparked your interest in Giordano Bruno?

I first read about Bruno when I was at university and studying Elizabethan literature. He seemed such a fascinating character - a radical thinker ahead of his time, unafraid to challenge received ideas - and he was clearly a charmer, as he lived by his wits for years while he travelled around Europe in exile. I thought immediately how brilliantly his life would lend itself to fiction and I couldn't believe no one had written a novel about him.

Then I forgot about him for a while and wrote contemporary novels, but when I decided I wanted to try and write a murder mystery, it seemed easier to set it in the past - modern-day detective novels require a detailed technical knowledge of forensics and police procedure and I didn't have time! As soon as I thought about looking back into the past, I remembered the appeal of Bruno.

It's astonishing that a man in 1583 would dare to say "we can become equal to God." Did Bruno really believe this?

Bruno's beliefs were a strange mixture of progressive scientific ideas and ancient mysticism. He believed in the Copernican cosmos, with the planets orbiting the sun, and he also believed that the universe was infinite. But his religious views drew on a blend of magic and occult philosophies. His beliefs might best be described as pantheistic - he believed that the Divinity was in nature and in humankind rather than the God represented by the Christian church, and he believed that with the right knowledge and practices, an adept could tap into these spiritual powers and eventually enter the Divine Mind.

Of course, there are widely differing interpretations of the real Bruno's beliefs and writings, but I was very attracted to the idea of him dabbling in magic. Not least because it adds a frisson to the story, but also because it adds to the complexities of his character. And because the more dangerous his ideas were, the greater the threat was from the Inquisition.

With Bruno still in the pay of Queen Elizabeth's spymaster at the close of Heresy, more assignments seem possible. Are you working on a sequel?

There certainly will be a sequel next year! Bruno will be in London for the next book, and I intend for him to have many more adventures yet.

Review of Heresy by S.J. Parris

See listing for Heresy at Powell's Books

See listing for Heresy at Amazon.com

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