Tuesday, December 15, 2015

An Interview With Jacopo della Quercia

A few weeks ago I gave a brief review of License to Quill, by Jacopo della Quercia. No, not the 15th c sculptor ; Jacopo is the pen name of a respected academic who is also a novelist and writes for Cracked.com.

Jacopo's previous book was The Great Abraham Lincoln Pocket Watch Conspiracy, a steampunk/alternate history/humorous adventure. License to Quill was a fun read following after reading Year of Lear: Shakespeare in 1606 by James Shapiro which explored how political events (like the Gunpowder Plot) impacted the Bard's plays King Lear, Macbeth, and Antony and Cleopatra.

I was contacted by Jacopo and was able to interview him.

Interviewer: How did you choose your pen name?
Jacopo: Since I was doing political work around the time I started writing for the comedy website, I had no choice but to publish under a pen name. 'Jacopo della Quercia' is one many nicknames I've been called my entire adult life due to my real name, Giacomo, being a bit of a novelty to most people. I love my real name, but I've lived my whole life with people having a hard time pronouncing it, never mind spelling it. 'Jacopo' is my name's Latin equivalent, and I love writing under it if only because it serves as a standard to what my writing is frequently about: history, with a sense of humor to it.

[I sure understand the problem of people not knowing how to pronounce your name; I grew up a Gochenour after all!]

Interviewer: What was the inspiration behind License to Quill?
Jacopo: I was still writing my previous novel The Great Abraham Lincoln Pocket Watch Conspiracy when Skyfall hit theaters and bombarded me with videos and articles celebrating the 50th anniversary of the James Bond franchise. This evidently rubbed off on my as I decided what book to write next! Once I learned that Shakespeare wrote Macbeth around the same time that the Gunpowder Plot took place, I realized that I had all the characters and components I needed to write a James Bond-esque spy-thriller starring the most famous Englishman who ever lived!

Interviewer: Your writing is an unusual blend of genres. I would like to know more about your choice of style.
Jacopo: I try to keep  my novels faithful to their respective eras in history, no matter how outlandish it sounds. If there are science fiction aspects to my story, I consult experts, historians, and research everything I can on science from that particular moment in history. When writing dialogue I read contemporaneous works, including letters and diaries, and use an etymological dictionary to avoid anachronisms and make the language sound real. When creating my characters, I search for real figures from history to cast in my story, even if just for a cameo.

It's a wonderful experience because it lets you leap across genres, which I find somewhat amusing since, in my view of it, this is what history has always been like. World War II was an action movie, a science fiction movies, a comedy, a drama, a full-blown horror, and even a love story for tens of millions of people at the same time. Most writers choose to focus on only one aspect of history in their stories: the adventure, the drama, etc. I find it all fantastic, so I try to include all of it.

Interviewer: What writers influenced you? What writers do you enjoy now?
Jacopo: I think it all depends on whatever I'm writing at the moment. Alexandre Dumas, H. G. Wells, and Edgar Allan Poe influenced The Great Abraham Lincoln Pocket Watch Conspiracy a lot more than License to Quill, which was ultimately more influenced by the life and works of William Shakespeare than by Ian Fleming's James Bond novels. I imagine I'll go on a Jane Austen binge at some point and write a book starring her. The same could go for Charles Dickens or Mark Twain, or maybe Dante, whom I am probably most indebted to as a writer.

[Austen? Dickens? Twain? I'm all for that! But imagine what he could do with Dante!]

Interviewer: What would you like readers to know about your book?
Jacopo: The first thing I would like my readers to know is "thank you." Thank you for taking this moment to give my novel a chance. It's because of readers like you that I can write books designed to make people of all interests and backgrounds more excited about history. License to Quill is a James Bond-esque spy thriller starring William Shakespeare and Guy Fawkes during the Gunpowder Plot. It is the product of years of research and a lifetime of love for William Shakespeare and the Renaissance. It is a thriller, an adventure, a mystery, and much more. I like my stories filled with surprises and License to Quill is no exception! I hope you like it!
Jacopo della Quercia
I thank Jacopo for taking the time to talk to us!

Read my review of License to Quill here. It is available from St. Martin's Griffin.