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Two Nuns, Saverio della Gatta (1799)


JR: "The nun, Suor Amadea della Valle, is a fictional character. I wanted Eleonora to write a diary from inside the Vicaria prison. But later, after she was executed, we needed to find it. So I had to devise a way for the work to appear, to show the reader that indeed she had written it. Someone had to take it out of prison."

CB: "Then, did Eleonora actually write a diary? I ask because the way you write about it is so magical, so well-done, you really can't tell the fiction from the fact."

JR: "The diary is totally my invention."






The Destruction of the Tree of Liberty in the Square of the Palace, by Saviero della Gatta (1800)  


"In 'Eleonora and Joseph,' I went back in time to a world I once knew. We-Catholic school girls-had to conform to the daily Catholic rituals. We went to confession on a weekly basis. And, to whom did we confess our sins? A priest, who happened to be a man. I recall being six or seven years old, and while kneeling down in the confessionary, I revealed my thoughts and deeds to an old priest, someone over the age of sixty. If this wasn't the ultimate form of patriarchy in the twentieth century, what is?"






Historical Novel Society, New York City Chapter



"The more conflicting accounts on a biography, the better. This way we, historical novelists,

try to catch the essence of a character and use our imagination to fill in the historical gap." 







Lady Hamilton (as a Bacchante), by George Romney (c. 1785)


"This is a great question (events omitted in 'Eleonora and Joseph' for reasons of the novel's flow or structure). I was fascinated by the love affair between Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton. Here is a former prostitute by the name of Emma Hart...

After being wounded in battle, Nelson recovers in Villa Sesso, the ambassador's residence, under the assiduous vigilance of the now married Lady Emma Hamilton. Great passion ensues, their actions and letters the living proof. Since these two are vile creatures, it was fascinating to me to feel their palpable love and devotion." 


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Thomas Jefferson letter to Joseph Correia da Serra on June 14, 1817


"My time in New York was invaluable, for I was able to explore Joseph Correia da Serra's long-term friendship and correspondence with Thomas 􏰃Jefferson. 

B􏰅y the time I finished writing the book, the figure I enjoyed most was Thomas J􏰃efferson, his complexities and genius. He was flawed, like any human being, but he was also a remarkable man. I loved the way he mastered his own silences. He struck me as a man full of contradictions—someone called him a sphinx—with a brilliant, visionary mind."