19 January 2014

Author Interview: V. Knox

This week, we're pleased to welcome author V. Knox with her latest novel, SECOND LISA, book one of a trilogy. The author will offer a free copy of Second Lisa to a lucky blog visitor.  Be sure to answer the question below and leave your email address in the comments of today's author interview for a chance to win. Here's the blurb.
Art History with a Twist of the Paranormal

A story of lost identities, missing paintings, and love carried over five centuries. A biography of Leonardo da Vinci, his forgotten sister, Lisabetta, and her lover Sandro Botticelli, brought to life through the mysteries of reincarnation and the powers of creativity. 

The rebirths of art and love, and the challenges and advantages of autism: the autistic and the artistic. Reincarnation or insanity? What if Veronica Lyons isn’t crazy, but madly inspired?

If your name were to be irretrievably lost, cut apart from your time and permanently
erased from the world, overshadowed by the lies of silence... were you ever truly here? 


I wrote ‘Second Lisa’ as a direct result of studying art history during my Fine Arts Degree at the University of Alberta. Mention of lost paintings into cold trails meant they could still exist unrecognized. Also, the artist’s themselves often corroborated with their students and masters to produce group works, and since paintings were not traditionally signed, the ‘authorship’ of works becomes speculation based on obscure techniques of style and the provenance of many renaissance paintings becomes a mystery. That sort of mystery worried my brain and from time to time I would form a theory. After researching the archives for details of Leonardo da Vinci’s times, I came across a reference to one of his half sisters whose name was Lisa (Lisabetta). alarm bells rang. I had a list of credible facts:

1. Some believed the ‘Mona Lisa’ was a self-portrait, and if she was a sibling, wouldn’t that explain a family resemblance of brother and sister?

2. Leonardo was too attached to the ‘Mona Lisa’ to be parted from it.

3. There was an overlooked workforce of female assistants in the great art studios who were anonymous and often the sisters, wives, and daughters of the male artists.

4. Leonardo was born out of wedlock and lived with his mother, Catarina, who had been reduced into circumstances where she was married off to a peasant.


What ifs began to collect around these thoughts:

What if they Leonardo and Lisabetta were emotionally alike and especially bonded through their similar passions about art?

Since Caterina lived near her lover, Ser Piero da Vinci, was it not possible that she also conceived a ‘second’ love child sired by him? What if Lisabetta was Leonardo’s full biological sister? Wouldn’t they look more alike than the other siblings?

What if Leonardo taught his sister to become his assistant? What if Leonardo’s eccentricities were overcome by his sister’s more grounded approach to the business of art?

What if Leonardo painted two ‘Lisas?’ What happened to the other version?

What if the Louvre’s ‘Mona Lisa’ is the second portrait painted of Lisabetta – the ‘second Lisa?’

And finally, in a state of fantasy: what if the ‘Mona Lisa’ was trapped in her painting upset from being unidentified and overlooked by history? Isn’t it metaphorically accepted that a master artist can ‘capture a soul’ in a portrait?

What would it take to release Lisa? Who could release her and why?

In the healthiest form of creative channelling, Lisa (the sister) began to tell me her story.

Character’s names often tell the theme of a story, and so I used the name, Veronica, for the woman who is able to connect with the spirit of Lisabetta. Unfortunately, it is also my first name, but I was compelled to use it because it is the Latin Anagram for ‘true face’ and the misidentified icon ‘The Mona Lisa’ is arguably, the most famous face in the world. Veritas = truth, and icon = image: thus the name Veronica translates to ‘truthful image.’ One has to use the truest name possible, and no other resonated as well.

**Author Interview with V. Knox** 

You write about ghosts a great deal, so do you believe in them?  

So far, my answer is no. I keep an open mind. What I do believe, is that they’re the perfect characters for narrating an historical fantasy. The best way to tell a story about people long dead, is to directly interact with one of them. The information and perspective they’re able to provide is invaluable, so they are a great literary device to explain and give closure to a mystery.   

Another of your themes is humans directly interacting with art. How did that come about?

I am a painter and can empathize with artist’s moods, right-brain muses, art materials, and the interaction with a painting that emerges almost the way a story does. Shapes and colors appear and disappear until they feel right. The links between hand and eye is similar. One hand wields a brush to tell a story, and the other paints a story with words. Art is all about subjective interaction with each viewer. It makes a person look and think as much as admire a technique.

Paintings tell stories on several levels. Studying art history, means being introduced to many mysteries because artworks tend to be lost over time, along with the names of the people who posed, and the hands who created them. The relevance of the subordinate workforce of women who were artists in the great studios, have been lost, entirely So much of art history is guesswork. Their stories are even more elusive.  Over time, the names of many artists and almost all of their subjects, become lost, and since many paintings were group efforts, it is curious to play amateur detective and unpick the iconographic clues within the formal study of art history. It is an inexact science. We have to speculate, and so I tune in and let the ghosts of the artists tell their stories. So many documents and paintings are ‘now lost’ and it intrigues me how they turn up out of the blue. Also, some paintings just naturally ‘haunt’ me. They compel me to fill in the blanks. Especially portraits that ‘capture’ a soul. Knowing these artists and subjects existed in real time, I wonder how they lived, what drove them to survive, and who they loved.

How much of your historical fantasy is also historical fiction?

I have used well-documented academically accepted dates for all the historical event and anecdotes, and artworks, as well as the names of real people for the major fifteenth-century characters. No historical fiction is without imagined dialog.

Why did you turn one volume of ‘Second Lisa’ into a trilogy?

We all learn on variations of a curve. One volume turned out to be a formidable size of nearly eight-hundred dense pages which was difficult to market as a first novel, and yet there were two long interwoven stories to tell from two very different centuries. I also happen to love lengthy novels.

As a lifelong graphic designer, the narrow margins bothered my sense of layout, and to be practical, I was persuaded to re-release three books with roomier margins. This also allowed me the opportunity of adding several pages of illustrations to support the renaissance characters, and to rewrite the opening.

I have varied the color of the three front covers and added the corresponding number: book one is golden yellow, book two is sepia, and book three is black and white.

What other books have you written?

I wrote Woo Woo the Posthumous Love Story of Miss Emily Carr – a paranormal love story about the iconic Canadian artist, Emily Carr, as an homage to her after I moved to her hometown of Victoria, British Columbia. She was an eccentric woman who had a pet monkey named, Woo, and she worked with the shamanistic culture of the first nations. On the personal side, she had a great love that she spurned, and I have written how she resolves this in the afterlife.

So, the word ‘woo’ represents three things: Woo, the monkey, the term woo woo equals unexplained supernatural events, and wooing is also the ‘art’ of seducing a lover.

My first foray into writing for preteens, is ‘T WINTER – the first portal’ – a time-slip fantasy for ten-year-olds interested in science and... of course, ghosts. It is a novel that will expand into several sequels as the adventures of a pair of twins takes supernatural twists and turns to save the planet from a natural disaster.

Why is ‘T Winter’ set in England when you’re a Canadian author?

I was born in England, and the grand estate of Bede Hall (in the story) called for an old village and a long history of an eccentric family. There were no examples of this I could find near my home in Canada, and I am not familiar with the old family estates elsewhere. To some extent a story tells me the names of its characters and where it wants to take place, but I gave all the locations fictional names. I was able to recall many places I knew from my childhood, but mostly from my teenage years when I returned to the county of Surrey to attend art college.  

In some cases, I have used North American words and phrases which transcend both countries language anomalies. I believe these differences are becoming less important to isolate.   

What is your next book about?

My latest book is ‘The Day I Met Botticelli – a paranormal romance... a love story for seniors who think young. I think of it as a cross between ‘The Portrait of Dorian Grey’ and a modern day ‘Pygmalion.’

It will be self-published in February or March, 2014. Again, a woman reacts with a painting, this time one by Sandro Botticelli, and strange events begin to happen.

Linton Ross-Howard is a retired art history professor, who wonders what she will do with her time. Elements from ‘The Thorn Birds’ by Colleen McCullough that long-ago triggered a response of resisting love, and a bizarre incident in Linton’s past, return to haunt her.
Vicarious love is all that’s left after the magic wand of old-age waves over a less than stellar love-life – the spontaneous REM sort and the ‘Movies R Us’ sort, and the daydreams that hover after witnessing a young couple holding hands across the table. Failing eyesight can rarely meet across a crowded room anymore, and even if they could, no ‘sights for sore eyes’ beam back those old hellos pregnant with intimate possibilities.

Sixty-four year-old Art history Professor, Linton Ross-Howard’s, retirement, allows her time to mull over her romantic past – the loves that failed to show and the ones that got away without leaving footprints, but one suppressed memory returns to offer a surprising new leash on romance and age she could never have imagined.

Learn more about author V. Knox

Your chance to win starts now, by answering this question from the author: What portrait have you seen that looked back at you and seemed to speak? What did the figure say?

*all entries are eligible to win