Mastodon The Writing Desk: Special Guest Interview with Angela M Sims, Author of The Rose of Florence

8 February 2023

Special Guest Interview with Angela M Sims, Author of The Rose of Florence

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1478: Gianetta and Matteo have a happy life, working in service to the wealthy Rosini family. They are used to entertaining rich and powerful members of Florentine society in Palazzo Rosini, where Lorenzo and Giuliano de Medici, and Botticelli are regular visitors. Even when the Medici brothers narrowly escape the Palazzo with their lives (an accident, surely?), Gianetta and Matteo can’t imagine that the growing unrest in the streets of Florence would ever
spoil their happiness.

I'm pleased to welcome author Angela M Sims to The Writing Desk:

Tell us about your latest book.

My latest book. I like the sound of that. My latest book is actually my first book, but perhaps it’s the first of many. I hope so! The Rose of Florence is an historical fiction based in Renaissance Florence in 1478, the time of the Medici, of Botticelli, of da Vinci and other great names. 

To have such rich pickings in the same small city is a story-teller’s dream. Many have been there before me, and I’m sure many more will after, but any book is driven by its characters, and I hope my characters will remain with my readers for a long time. One of my reviewers described the book as “young love meets power politics”, which sums it up very well. We have a love story, murder, intrigue and betrayal – all my favourite ingredients for a story.

Talking of ingredients, I have presented the story in the form of a meal, the prologue being the antipasti, designed to whet the appetite, and the final chapters, the dolce, something sweet and satisfying to end the story. (Of course, I’ve included some of my favourite recipes too!)

What is your preferred writing routine?

My preferred writing routine…do I have a writing routine? I’m not sure that I do, really. As I am still juggling my writing with my day job as a University lecturer, I write when I get chance and when inspiration hits.

If I were able to have a preference, however, I know how it would work. Many plot knots tend to work themselves out at night, either as I’m dropping off to sleep or at the most inconvenient time in the middle of the night. Given the chance, I would then be up early to get that writing done. I work much better in the morning and can lose myself for a good few hours. The tough part is coming out of that little bubble and remembering how to converse with real people.

What advice do you have for new writers?

I can only speak for what has worked for me at this early stage of my writing career.

Read! Read as much as you can in your chosen genre. Even the books that you don’t enjoy so much can teach you a lot about what you want to write.

Write! Yes, obvious, I know, but just start writing. I am a procrastinator extraordinaire and will plan to the nth degree, but magical things happen when you just start to write. My characters told me what they wanted to say. I even had a character introduce himself to me out of the blue. Now he’s one of my favourites.

Chat! Get involved in writers’ groups – Facebook, Twitter, whatever suits you. Join a relevant association. For me, the Romantic Novelists’ Association was a great help. Whatever anyone tells you, writing is not a solitary business.

What have you found to be the best way to raise awareness of your books?

Well, I’m still working on that. The writers’ groups that I have just mentioned are very supportive and will publicise your books on their own platforms. The writing world is a very generous world, and other authors are on your side.

Don’t be afraid to contact people to ask for help. That big author whose books you’ve always admired? Ask them to share your work. Most of them are more than willing to help. I’m always looking for new ideas though!

Tell us something unexpected you discovered during your research.

Oh, so many things! I’ll just mention two.

Florence in 1478 was a small city, not at all as big or busy as it is today, but you could wander the streets and bump into Lorenzo de’ Medici, Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, Michelangelo, Niccolò Machiavelli among many others. What a fascinating time and place it must have been!

On a more mundane topic – kitchens. Having been brought up on programmes such as Upstairs, Downstairs and Downton Abbey, I was surprised to learn that the kitchens in rich houses, such as the Palazzo in my story, were situated upstairs. On reflection, it made a lot of sense to do that. A kitchen, especially in a hot, dry environment like Florence, is a great fire risk. Should a fire break out, then the flames will travel upwards and not affect the main rooms of the house. Similarly, cooking smells will drift upwards and not disturb the families below. Obvious really, isn’t it?

What was the hardest scene you remember writing?

The hardest scene had to be the murder in the cathedral. This isn’t a spoiler. The Pazzi Conspiracy is a well-known historical fact and was what started the story of The Rose of Florence in the first place. It was essentially an assassination attempt on the lives of the ruling Medici brothers, during Mass in the cathedral. 

I couldn’t play with any of the facts (apart from the precise date – I did change that!), but I also had to capture the terror of the day, the bloodiness, the shock. I had to make sure that my fictional characters were a part of it, that they felt every bit as confused and frightened as anyone there that day. It took me a few attempts, and I revisited it more than once, but I was happy with how it turned out.

What are you planning to write next?

I’ve mentioned that I have an affection for some of The Rose’s characters, and I’m not ready to leave them yet. So, I plan to revisit them a few years later, to see how things have changed. However, there is another episode in Florence’s history that has captured my imagination, and that is one of the many floods that they have had. The biggest of these occurred in 1966. There are some obvious links with the time of The Rose, so I am planning a dual timeline story.

I’ve plotted and planned, but now, to follow my own advice, I must write and see where it takes me!

Angela M Sims

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About the Author

Angela’s background is in healthcare, working in the NHS for many years, and she has been a University lecturer since 2010. Her writing experience was limited to a Masters dissertation, purely academic, but the research skills learned during that process were soon put to use in researching her favourite topic, the Italian Renaissance. It didn’t take long before the seeds of a story began to germinate, and The Rose of Florence blossomed. She joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) and the New Writers’ Scheme (NWS) in 2020 and found the encouragement and resources available taught her so much about the process and skills needed to write fiction. She is also a member of the Historical Writers’ Association (HWA) and the Society of Authors (SoA). Her debut novel, The Rose of Florence, was published in January 2023 by Romaunce Books Ltd  On a personal level, Angela lives in Cardiff, South Wales, with her husband and two cats. She has two grown-up daughters and a gorgeous granddaughter. When not working, reading or writing, she loves to cook, spend time in the garden, and at every opportunity, travel to Italy to eat, drink and absorb the wonderful atmosphere. She likes to call that research! Find out more at Angela's website and find her on Facebook and Twitter @AngelaMSims1

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