06 January 2013

Guest Blog: Mirella Patzer

This week, we’re welcoming author Mirella Patzer whose title ORPHAN OF THE OLIVE TREE is a tale of love, jealousy, betrayal and forgiveness in medieval Italy. Mirella is here to talk about the novel and offer an ebook copy to a lucky winner. This giveaway is open internationally. Here's the blurb:

Two families bound by a blood oath. A dreadful curse and the casting of the evil eye that will shatter lives, and the dark family secret one woman will risk everything to keep buried. An absorbing novel about wicked intentions, medieval superstitions, a curse uttered in envy, undisclosed secrets, unstoppable destinies, and two generations of women and the extraordinary event that will vindicate or destroy them.

From two neighboring villas in the heart of the Tuscan countryside to the elegance of Siena; from a world steeped in ancient superstitions to a culture where family honor is paramount comes, this multi-layered novel of the lives, loves, secrets and strivings of two women and their families in the 13th century. Felicia Ventura dreams of a happy future raising a family, but her hopes are shattered because of a curse and the casting of the evil eye by her envious neighbor, a dark Sicilian beauty named Prudenza. Prudenza’s envy of Felicia turns into a dangerous, frenzied obsession and she revives an ancient superstition, spreading the rumor that Felicia’s twins were fathered by different men. The scandal destroys Felicia’s marriage. But when Prudenza gives birth to twin daughters of her own, she is desperate to save face and rids herself of one infant, keeping the child’s existence secret. As the years go by, the truth has a way of making itself known. Soon Prudenza’s deception will lead to the unraveling of everything she values in life.

**Q&A with Mirella Patzer**

What is the essence of the story you’ve penned and what inspired it?

Orphan of the Olive Tree is a family saga set in 13th century Tuscany. Two neighboring families are bound by a blood oath to wed their eldest children to forever bind their families together. Prudenza, the matriarch of one family, and the villain of the novel, casts the evil eye against her nemesis, Felicia, and shatters her happy life. But when the tables are turned, Prudenza finds herself in trouble and desperate to guard her own dark family secret. It is a story steeped in ancient superstition about twins, curses, and the evil eye, and the power of love and destiny to overcome adversity. It is a story about wicked intentions, medieval superstitions, a curse uttered in envy, undisclosed secrets, unstoppable destinies, and two generations of women and the extraordinary event that will either vindicate or destroy them.

My own Italian family inspired these stories. As a child I lived with many Italian traditions, superstitions, and wives tales. It was great fun putting some of these old beliefs into a story. For instance, you will never find a peacock feather in an Italian home because the peacock feather appears to have the evil eye at its center. And once, when I wasn’t feeling well and acting out as a child, my mother and aunts actually did the water and oil incantation to cast out any evil that may have overtaken me.

At the same time I released Orphan of the Olive Tree, I also released The Contessa’s Vendetta. This novel is a thriller about a woman who is believed dead and buried because of the plague. When she returns home to her family, she learns her husband and best friend have betrayed her. She launches a diabolical plan of vendetta with shocking consequences.
What makes these books special to you?

Of all the books I’ve written, Orphan of the Olive Tree is definitely a favourite because it was the most fun to write. I permitted myself to let my characters run wild, showing us their best and their worst. I sought to shock and awe the readers by adding unusual circumstances and oodles of old superstitions while adhering closely to my research to keep the story true to the times. I love the medieval period. For many authors, research is ongoing and never ending. I have been researching the medieval period for more than ten years since most of novels or current works in progress are set anywhere from the 10th century to the 17th century, and I have a vast collection of books to prove it.

The Contessa’s Vendetta was also a delightfully fun story to work with because it is on the dark side. I set the story in the Veneto region of Italy where I have extensively travelled and have family and friends there. All the places in the novel were locations I personally visited and spent time at, thus evoking many, many fond memories.
Do you think some of the superstitions you came across in your research could be harmful?

Absolutely. Many common old time superstitions or practices that were once wide-spread are now known to be harmful today. To this day, many Italian people, including my relatives frown, and immediately make the anti-evil eye gesture by sticking their thumbs between their index and middle finger if someone compliments a baby. Or many Italians believe that a cool breeze of air or wind can be harmful to one’s health so they often wear scarves, undershirts, and keep their windows tightly closed.

To this day, my mother believes that serving a pregnant woman plenty of red wine is good for the baby. Research today proves it is harmful to the fetus with long lasting effects thereafter. My mother also still believes that a pregnant woman must immediately receive all her cravings or taste everything in her sight to prevent the child being born malformed or marked. With those kinds of beliefs, it’s pretty hard keeping to a safe weight gain during pregnancy and that is definitely harmful.

If you could go back to a period and place in history, where would you go and why?

I would love to visit 10th century Europe, but as a member of the nobility, not as part of the common class. That would be too hard and too full of peril. I have been researching and writing the biography of Queen Mechtild, mother of Otto the Great, for many years now. She was kind and charitable, and later was canonized a saint. In my heart, I have grown to love and admire her. She is buried in Quedlinburg Germany along with her husband, Heinrich, and I would love to have known her.

Please share 3 things about yourself that most people don’t know about you.

My family’s vineyards south of Ortona, Italy on the Adriatic coast  were the sight of the Battle of the Moro River where many Canadian soldiers lost their lives trying to liberate my mother’s village from the grasp of the Germans. That was the battle that led to the infamous Battle of Ortona. My mother’s home was bombed and they lived in caves for 8 months while the war raged around them.

I am a descendant of Giacomo Sichirollo, the famous Italian Cardinal, scientist, author, and scholar from 18th century Rovigo, Italy. His books are classics and can still be purchased from Italian bookstores.

Fifteen years ago, I dreamed the lottery numbers. The excitement of the dream woke me up and by the time I could gather my wits to write the numbers down, I had forgotten two of the six numbers. Not believing in prophetic dreams, I played the four numbers, but didn’t spend the extra money to play the other possible combinations. The jackpot was $10 million dollars. The numbers I dreamed were the winning numbers that night. Always believe in your dreams and act!

What is you currently working on?

Sometime during 2013 or early 2014, I hope to release two more novels. The first is The Prophetic Queen, a biographical novel of Queen Mechtild of Germany in the 10th century. She was the wife of King Heinrich the Fowler and the mother of Otto the Great.

The other novel I am working on is Lady of Destiny, another medieval novel with strong romantic elements about a very strong woman who finds herself fleeing from a massacre in her convent and must find her own way in a perilous world.

Can you tell us where to find more information about you and your books and how readers can reach you?

The best place to learn more about me and/or contact me is by visiting me on my website and blogs:


Thank you Mirella, and best of luck with Orphan of the Olive Tree!