Today I am the number one stop for Dee White's blog tour. Her novel, Letters to Leonardo, is available in book stores for your eager eyes.
Dee's here to discuss how her life paralleled that of her protagonist, Matt. The more she learnt about Leonardo Da Vinci, the more obsessed she became with him.
When I first came up with the idea of using Leonardo da Vinci as Matt’s mentor, I didn’t really know much about him except that he was a great painter, and I had a vague idea that I would like to use some of his paintings to symbolise things that were going on in Matt’s life.
I ventured onto the internet with the idea of buying a book that could give me insight into Leonardo and his works.
I’d never bought anything on the internet before so this was a very brave move for me. I found the perfect book ‘LEONARDO DA VINCI, The Complete Paintings’ by Pietro C Marani – for $70. ‘$70, I’d never spent that much on a book in my life. Still, it looked like a really good book. I told myself this would give me even greater incentive to get Letters to Leonardo published because that would justify having spent so much on a single book.
The book was everything I dreamed it would be. It went into so much detail about Leo’s works – was exactly what I needed. What I didn’t need was the bill – which turned out to be $120 because the price I’d been quoted was in American dollars. Now I was even more determined that I had to at least write my novel! And somehow, attempt to pay for my rash purchase.
Once I’d read all about Leonardo’s works, and decided how I could use his paintings in my story, I decided I needed to know more about him as a man.
That’s when I bought ‘Discovering The Life of Leonardo Da Vinci’ by Serge Bramly. The more I read about Leonardo’s life and works, the more similarities I could see between him and my main character, Matt. Leonardo had been separated from his mother at a very young age, and didn’t see her again for a number of years. He was raised by his father, and doesn’t appear to have had a close ‘mother figure’ in his life for many of his formative years.
As I was seeking to find out more about Leonardo da Vinci, so too was Matt – and by now, it wasn’t just for his school assignment – just as my research wasn’t all about writing my YA novel. I’d become fascinated with Leonardo da Vinci, and so had Matt.
Matt surfed the internet for information about Leonardo da Vinci – and I surfed the internet for books about the painter.
Knowing about his works and life wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to know how his mind worked and how the early events of Leonardo’s life (being taken from his mother) had affected his later years. I was fascinated by the fact that he painted so many women, and wondered if this related back to the loss of his mother.
To give me greater insight into how Leonardo da Vinci thought and what motivated him, I bought Leonardo da Vinci and a Memory of His Childhood by Sigmund Freud.
By now, I was just as obsessed with Leonardo da Vinci as my main character Matt.
But whereas Matt’s obsession ended with the last page of Letters to Leonardo, mine has kept going. I even have a statuette of Leonardo Da Vinci on my desk, and am fascinated by the fact that Leonardo da Vinci’s eyebrows are shaped like the tilde on a computer keyboard.
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Dee also allowed me the time to ask some questions -
What inspired you to incorporate Leonardo D into the plot of Letters to Leonardo?
I needed somebody dead for my main character, Matt to 'talk' to. Everyone he knows has lied to him for the last ten years, so how could you trust anyone living? Matt Hudson is talented, introspective, artistic sensitive - could have been Leonardo da Vinci's twin if he'd lived at least five hundred years earlier. (Without the beard of course).
If you were given a task to write to a historical figure, which one would you choose?
I think I'd write to Marie Antoinette - only I'd have to learn how to speak French properly first.
How long from initial concept to last edit did Letters to Leonardo take to write?
A very long time - over ten years - and over 1 million words.
What are you working on at the moment?
I'm always working on lots of things all at once. I've been tweaking a YA novel, Cleopatra's Cat that I started writing a couple of years after I started Letters to Leonardo. I'm also working on a YA thriller trilogy - but I can't tell you much about that because most of it is still in my head. In addition to that, I'm rewriting a book about a boy with Selective Mutism because I realised it is really a book for adults not kids - even though there's a cute rabbit in it.
Thanks for having me over to visit Adele. Your place is always full of inspiration.