Category Archives: Backstory for Muse

Valentine’s Day and the San Miguel Writers’ Conference

San Miguel Writers' Conference

February is shaping up to be an enjoyable month. Éditions Hurtubise is hosting a Valentine’s Day promotion for the French e-book/pdf of Muse for the very attractive price of $9.00. As they say, «Pour la Saint-Valentin, offrez-vous une histoire d’amour!» Guess where I’m going to be spending Valentine’s Day? In Mexico! In a few days, I’ll escape rainy Vancouver on… Read More

36 Hours in Arles and Avignon

Avignon's Carousel

The New York Times has just featured Arles and Avignon in its spectacular “36 Hours” series, which I have been following for several years. How exciting to see Avignon, the setting for my novel Muse, featured! “Just 20 minutes apart by train, the Roman-era town of Arles and the medieval walled city of Avignon enfold a dense mix of architectural beauty, world-class… Read More

Valentine’s Day Greeting Cards

Love Poem of a Teenager

Today is Valentine’s Day. How many men will lose their heads over women (and vice versa)? When we write gushy sentiments on Valentine’s cards about our beloved’s power over us, we owe a debt to the 14th century poet Francesco Petrarch, who wrote 366 love poems to the woman he adored. They were more about his own feelings than Laura, a… Read More

YouTube Video of Pope’s Palace in Avignon

This YouTube video will take you on a tour of the Pope’s palace in Avignon. We begin outside the west façade of the palace, where a busker is entertaining for coins, enter through the double portcullis, take a look around the courtyards, peer out of the Pope’s indulgence window. Then we join the secret palace tour to see inside a… Read More

Social Status & Food People Ate in 14th-century Avignon

Nobles Dining

Seven hundred years after the popes lived in Avignon, we can read reports about their banquets and gain insight into their luxurious life style. The type of food people ate depended on their rank. Although there was a vast difference between the diet of a pope and a peasant, the poor did not starve, because the Pope gave out 6,000 loaves of bread daily. The staples of a peasant’s diet were grains, legumes, onions, garlic, vegetables, coarse dark bread, eggs, and milk products, with a little fish, meat, or poultry . . . read more Read more

Secrets of the Avignon Popes

Pope Clement VI

Muse is set in medieval Avignon during the period when the popes resided there, rather than in Rome. Writers such as Francesco Petrarch flocked to the city to seek patronage from the Pope and cardinals. The city was bursting with craftsmen, merchants, goldsmiths, and money lenders as well as the architects, master masons, and artists who worked on the Pope’s immense palace. Under Clement VI, who appears in Muse, the palais des papes became the most celebrated court in Europe, a salon for the artists, musicians, and intellectuals who were the avant-garde of the Renaissance . . . read more Read more

Muse & Woman Hero’s Journey

Mary with bust of Laura

My novel Muse arrived, imaginatively speaking, when I was teaching a literature course in which we were exploring Joseph Campbell’s concept of the hero’s journey. We were riffing on that, looking at ways of describing a woman hero’s journey, when a student told me about Veronica Franco, an “intellectual courtesan” of 16th-century Venice. This discovery was one of the triggering ideas for Muse. From the poet Veronica Franco, who had unfortunately been written about, I made the leap to the walled city of Avignon, which I had recently visited, guessing that courtesans, as well as popes, had lived there in the 14th century . . . read more Read more