by Danielle Trussoni, March 26, 2010 10:21 AM
People often ask how, as a writer, one comes up with the concept for a book. It is different for every writer, and I know just how different. My husband is a writer too, and there is nothing similar at all in the ways we work or in the books that we write or our style of writing. (Check out his website
). He's the author of a very funny memoir called Turtle Feet
, about his time as a Buddhist monk in India.
I think that I mentioned in an earlier blog that I was inspired to write Angelology during a visit I made to a convent, while sitting in the chapel, but there were other moments of inspiration which helped form the initial concept, most of which happened while I was traveling to do research. I went to Paris to find locations for the book but it was only toward the end of writing Angelology that I discovered a new interest in the grand old museums of art in Europe. The Louvre in Paris, for example, is one of my favorite places.
I also love to walk through the 1re arrondissement in Paris — I like to walk through the 'Jardin des Tuileries' (btw the Orangerie Museum has been renovated and is fabulous) — have a coffee near the 'Palais Royal' — and then spend an afternoon in the museum. Also, this restaurant was delicious, and the setting is amazing and right next to the museum.
Anyway, over the course of writing Angelology, I have come to love the angel paintings of Fra Angelico, Botticelli, and Leonardo Da Vinci. Check out this site for images of the paintings which I found useful.
The Annunciation pictures and panels are amazing. That made me think about the encounter (in the Bible) between Archangel Gabriel and Mary. The enormous frightening power of the flapping wings of the angel, the glowing light — completely frightening. I would have turned around and ran. Probably to the Louvre.
What's your favorite museum? Favorite paintings? Please post below.
It's been a great week. If you'd like to hear more of my carrying on, add me as a friend on Facebook
by Danielle Trussoni, March 25, 2010 10:16 AM
While doing a reading at Vromer's Books in Pasadena recently, someone asked me about the good and evil characters, the battle between good and bad, between Nephilim and Human, in my book. Although this isn't anything new, I thought I'd ramble on a bit about it here, especially because it is at the heart of Angelology
Angelology is a theological study which has existed for hundreds of years. I've taken this idea and, in the world of my novel, posited that famous thinkers, philosophers, and religions have dedicated their lives to the study of angels with the purpose of fighting evil angels called Nephilim. In the library archives at www.angelologist.com, you can consult pages of a directory of some famous angelologists from my novel. Reading about these people made me want to write about them and their fight with the Nephilim — from ancient times to the present.
As I wrote Angelology, I found myself less interested in the classic ‘good vs. evil' concept and was drawn more and more to the ambiguity, the shades of gray between the two extremes. I wanted to show that the Nephilim have a variety of qualities: are more or less human and have more or less angelic qualities, and that nothing is as straightforward as pure good or pure evil. From a writer's point of view, it is nearly impossible to draw believable characters that are at either extreme. For example, my character Percival Grigori is desperately attracted to human women, despite himself. Meanwhile, the angelologists who hope to track the Nephilim down and rid them of their powers are faced with ambiguous feelings, difficult decisions, moral dilemmas. So maybe this book is not so much about good and evil, but all the nuances between.
What are some of your favorite Good vs. Evil stories? Please post
by Danielle Trussoni, March 24, 2010 10:40 AM
I used to lead a more or less nomadic sort of life, moving around the States, but also Europe and Asia. If I want to analyze myself, which I suppose is what one does while blogging, this inability to settle in one spot might be reflected in my novel. For Angelology
, I spent quite a lot of time researching each one. For me, research means more than reading a book or checking out information on the internet, it means walking the streets, climbing the hills, visiting a convent... and being there long enough to really get a feel for the place.
I was fortunate in being able to spend some time at a convent here in the States, which was where — during a late night's contemplation in the chapel — I suddenly knew what I wanted to write in this book. But I have also lived in Bulgaria and would love for more people to be aware of its history and its beauty. (This site gives you a quick overall picture of the country.)
Now that I live in the south of France, and Paris is close by, I spend quite a bit of time exploring historical sites. I have always loved France, and couldn't resist setting part of Angelology here. It was challenging to even begin imagining the effect of the Nazi occupation — to get an idea, check this out — but to imagine how people felt and feared... well. Of course, where I live now, life is more about visiting markets and wine-tasting when I'm not working!
The photograph album on the site www.angelologist.com has several pictures of the locations and settings of the book. There are maps too, showing where the story took place.
Having just spent the last few weeks traveling around the States on a book tour, I am looking forward to getting back to France. A good friend of mine has just assured me that spring has come and the local asparagus and strawberries are ripening. Maybe it's time to stay in one spot for awhile so that I can write another
by Danielle Trussoni, March 23, 2010 9:36 AM
While I have been touring for my book Angelology
, I have been asked some interesting, thought-provoking questions, and this seems like the ideal place to mull over them. One person came over and asked me about the role of women characters in my book... not just the grandmother/mother/daughter relationship, but the nuns, art collector, and others who play important roles, too. Abigail Rockefeller, for example, features in the book because I came across her life story and found it fascinating. You can check out information on her here
I was already looking at the period of history from the Gilded Age to the Depression, and here was this amazing woman who dedicated her life to supporting the arts and to supporting women. She left us with rich collections of art and artifacts, and of course helped to found MoMA. I love this museum and visit it regularly when I am in New York. So I wanted the book to contain some great women characters, and I wanted them to be sensual, feminine, beautiful — but also strong, courageous, and fighters, too.
I think that it is interesting to follow family sagas across the generations (not just the women — Percival Gregori and his relationship with his father is there, too), and I liked the idea of constructing a storyline that would carry us from one generation to another — creating a history or memory for the characters in the present. I find the period of history from the end of the 19th century to the end of WWII in the mid-20th century particularly interesting for the effect it has on our contemporary lives. I wanted the characters of the book to play out a similar dependence. The passing of the Angelology diary from one generation to the next and the passing of the Nephilim Book of Generations from one to the next echoed this. You can see pages and read more about these books at www.angelologist.com.
In a certain respect, this is one of the themes of my first book, a memoir called Falling Through the Earth. (Check out www.fallingthroughtheearth.com.) I think that each generation shapes the next and so, of course, I wonder how my own generation will shape the future. What do you think? How will the next generations remember us? Post ideas
by Danielle Trussoni, March 22, 2010 10:13 AM
I'm Danielle Trussoni and I will be writing this week's blog.
I blogged at Powell's when my first book was published four years ago and it is great to be invited back. In fact, I also wrote an original essay for Powell's about my reading habits right around that time as well.
The essay is about my book collecting habit, something that has changed just slightly in recent years as I've moved a lot ? I finally ended up stopping in a medieval village in the south of France ? and have had nowhere to put my books.
I will probably be spending a large part of this blog talking about my new novel Angelology, or things Angelology-related, as I'm out on tour now as you read this, visiting bookstores and signing copies of this book. Part of me would like to apologize for the sheer amount of self-absorbed discussion about myself and my work that will inevitably take place over the course of this week, but that is the whole nature of what we're supposed to do on a blog, so hopefully I'll get used to it sooner or later. But in case this blog isn't enough of me, and you feel you need just a little more, please visit my website at www.danielletrussoni.com and add me as a friend on Facebook.
Oh, and one more thing: Some people have a hard time pronouncing the title of my book. I really like this take (from the West of Mars blog) on how Angelology sounds on the tongue.
If you don't feel like visiting this blog, it essentially advises you to say the name of my novel a few times to get used to it. It claims that Angelology has a "nice mouth feel." What a fantastic idea, rating book titles on "mouth feel." What are some books that you think have great "mouth feel"? Please post a few and let me know.
by Danielle Trussoni, March 24, 2006 10:19 AM
It is fitting that my final days as a guest blogger on Powells.com were spent in Portland. Yesterday, I met Dave
, the man behind the scenes at Powells.com, for a snack at the new conveyor belt sushi place
a few blocks from the Powell's Burnside store. As I kept my eye on the sushi whisking past, I had a chance to chat with Dave about the authors he meets, his MFA in fiction writing, and the strange and wonderful world of books. How fun and amazing Dave's job is, I thought, as we talked about all of the writers he meets every week.
After sushi, we walked down 10th Avenue to a café. Dave pointed out the new condos and restaurants that have been going up and gave me a good sense of what it's like to live in Portland. We sat down with our coffee and talked music. Then, I pulled out my book and made him pose. Here he is, all smiles!
He's such a happy guy!
Then, it was on to Powell's, where I had to pry myself away from the books and go upstairs to the Pearl Room so that I could read. I have to admit, I really wanted to get lost for a few hours.
But then I saw the audience and I knew that it was going to be a fun reading. There's a sort of excitement that certain readings have, and these people were exuding it. I pulled out my camera and snapped a picture of them. Aren't they GREAT?
I had a chance to chat with some of these fine people after the reading. I wish I lived in Portland!
On the way out, I picked out a Powell's t-shirt, a little something to remember my great day in Portland.
Then, I walked back to my hotel, swinging a bag of books I'd bought (and now have to somehow get into my suitcase!). I can't wait to get home, to read
by Danielle Trussoni, March 23, 2006 11:59 AM
Yesterday I found myself in Berkeley for the day. I had to be out of my hotel in San Francisco at noon, so I took a cab to Telegraph Avenue and hung out in a café called Le Bateau Ivre
. I spent way too much time attempting to recall the Rimbaud
poem of the same name. I haven't read it for ten years (at least), and this made me feel a great wave of nostalgia for that teenager I used to be, who had all the time in the world to simply sit and write in a journal and think about poems.
Here are a few stanzas from Rimbaud's "Le Bateau Ivre" (The Drunken Boat) translated by Holly Tannen:
I know the sky split wide by lightning, tides,
And surf, and waterspouts; I know the night,
And dawn exalted like a flock of doves
And sometimes I have seen what man has thought he's seen!
I've seen the setting sun light up the shiv'ring purple waves
Like actors in some ancient tragedy...
I've dreamed the evening green with dazzled snow and singing phosphor
And kisses rising slowly on the eyelids of the sea...
I've touched the shores of Floridas where flowers mingle
With the eyes of panthers in the skins of men
And monstrous serpents eaten up with lice
Drop down from trees entwined with black perfume...
I've seen sidereal archipelagoes and islands
Ecstatic skies thrown open to the traveller on the wave
Is it in these endless nights you sleep in exile
O million golden birds, o future strength?
Rimbaud should be read when you're sixteen and feeling that nobody in the world understands you.
But now I'm thirty-two ? twice that age! ? and am traveling to bookstores, reading from my first book. I wonder how much I've changed since then. If my sixteen-year-old self met my thirty-two-year-old self, would they like each other?
I also found a painting of Le Bateau Ivre, but I prefer Rimbaud to Turner. I guess that is why I'm a writer and not a painter.
After hours of waiting, I headed over to Cody's at 7:00. There, I had a chance to speak to a really nice bookseller, who showed me his first official rejection letter for a short story he sent to a magazine. He asked me if I had gotten rejection letters, and although I didn't say it, I wanted to tell him that the road to being published is 90% rejection. Rejection hurts, but the really hard thing is to balance tenacity with a capacity to correct your work, revise it, and improve. Here's the bookseller I met, with his letter:
Tonight I will be reading at everybody's favorite bookstore, Powell's! I am sure that this is going to be the highlight of my tour, and I cannot wait! If you're in Portland, please stop by at Powell's Burnside at 7:30!
by Danielle Trussoni, March 22, 2006 10:34 AM
My day in San Francisco was filled with sunshine. I walked down Market, had lunch at a café, and went shopping for a few hours. Then, back to my room (at the Argent Hotel
on Third Street), where I looked out over the city.
When I'm away from home, I spend an inordinate amount of time on the Internet, and so I checked my email. Erica, Holt's superwoman publicist, had sent me an email that said:
"Maureen Corrigan reviewed the book on Fresh Air today!! You can listen here."
Needless to say, I put on my headphones and listened! Fresh Air! Who knew?
About five o'clock, I called a friend who lives in Santa Cruz. He asked how I was going to get to my reading that evening (scheduled at the Capitola Book Café at 7:30), and I told him I'd take a taxi. He laughed and told me that Capitola is an hour and a half south of San Francisco, a little geographical fact that had escaped my attention. So I scrambled to call Erica and we arranged transportation. I jumped into a car and zoomed south, past San Jose.
The reading was packed, standing room only. I was about five minutes late, which may have made me look fashionably disorganized but was actually really disruptive. I'm one of those annoying people who are obsessively on time. In college, I wrote my papers a week before they were due; I can't stand to miss the opening of a film. So I was a bit flustered as I stood up to read.
I shouldn't have been, I guess: The reading went very well. The people of Capitola had lots of questions for me, which I always love. And my step-father's sisters Jyll and Julie had come to see me read and brought flowers. All in all, a lovely evening!
by Danielle Trussoni, March 21, 2006 10:00 AM
What a busy day I had today! I woke up and was rushed off to KMPS-FM
where I spoke with Don Riggs of "Introspect Northwest" about my book, Falling Through the Earth
. Then, later in the day, I was on my first talk show at KOMO-TV
(ABC), "Northwest Afternoon" with Kent Phillips and Elisa Jaffe.
Then, it was back to my hotel (The Alexis, on First Avenue), where me and my partner in crime hung out for an hour or two on some comfy chairs.
Later, my guide Diane took me to Elliot Bay, where I met a very nice bookseller and signed a big stack of books.
Then, I met fellow memoirist Maria Dahvana Headley (authoress of The Year of Yes) for a glass of wine in the lobby of and then dinner at a sushi place around the corner from my hotel. Maria was wearing the nicest white suede boots and (of course) looked stunning. She drove me to the reading, where I grabbed some coffee and read chapter ten of Falling Through the Earth, the girlfriends chapter. It was the strangest thing: a man who went to high school with my father was in the audience. We talked quite a bit about my dad after the reading.
Then, after a quick gin gimlet, back to my hotel room to write a blog for Powell's. The gin gimlet must have affected my abilities, because I found myself looking out the window of my hotel room at the antique store across the street.
So I decided to ask my husband, Nikolai Grozni, to step in as my interviewer. When I met Nikolai, he'd recently come back from India, where he had been a monk in the Dalai Lama's compound in Dharmsala, India. Here are his questions:
What do you wear when you write?
Pajamas and whatever jewelry I can find. And my big fuzzy slippers.
Who are your literary heroes?
Politicians. I think they are the best fiction writers we've got right now.
What do you hope to achieve in your book, Falling Through the Earth?
Communication, empathy, humor, and understanding.
Why did you marry me?
Is there one answer?
Okay, what is one reason you had for marrying me?
I liked your stories from India. I believed that, because you had been a Buddhist monk, you might have some insight as to how I might come back in my next life as something other than an insect. How wrong I was!
Here's Nikolai when he was a monk:
Oh, and because your writing is amazing. Nikolai is working on a book called Turtle Feet, about the years he lived in India as a monk. It is (in my opinion) his best book yet. And because you make great espresso. I guess there were lots of reasons!
Have you been drinking?
What did you drink?
A glass of white wine and a gin gimlet.
What were you doing before I started this interview?
I was working! My life is all work and no play. Toil! Toil! Toil!
Goodbye Seattle! Tomorrow I'm off to San Francisco to read at the Capitola Book Café (1475 41st Avenue, Capitola, CA). Please stop by and say hello!
by Danielle Trussoni, March 20, 2006 9:47 AM
One thing about me: I am a creature of habit.
When I was in my mid-twenties, I taught English in a small rural high school in Yoshii-machi, Japan. Part of the program was that I had to go into all of my classes at the beginning of the year and introduce myself. I would stand before thirty very quiet, very well-behaved fifteen year olds and say (slowly, so they could understand every word), "Hello, my name is Danielle. I come from the United States." My students, who I came to love over the course of the year, would try to repeat my name and it would invariably come out something like: Da Ni Ey Ru Senei.
Well, because this is my first day as a guest blogger on Powells.com, and because I am something of a creature of habit, I really would like to stand up and just introduce myself, give you all the relevant information, and then go from there. So here goes:
I'm Danielle Trussoni. I was born in Wisconsin, grew up there, went to college at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, lived in Japan, England, and Bulgaria. I'm married to the writer Nikolai Grozni (who will be making an appearance on this blog tomorrow, so stay tuned). My first book, Falling through the Earth, was published earlier this month by Henry Holt (please check out their website). I keep a regular blog, so if you'd like to read my past blogs or check out my profile, you can certainly take a walk over to myspace and become my virtual friend. And, needless to say, I would love to chat with you about my book, so if you'd like to contact me, just send me a message and I'll be sure to respond. If you'd like to know a bit more about my book, I can tell you about it myself. Check out my radio interview.
I should also tell you that I am going to be a peripatetic blogger this week. I'm at home as I write this, but I am (in a matter of hours) catching a flight to Seattle, where I will be reading at the University Bookstore (4326 University Way NE in Seattle) at 7:00 PM. Here's a picture of me at home, getting ready to leave:
I may not look excited here, but believe me, I'm excited. Especially because I have such big fuzzy slippers.
As you might imagine, my book tour had been really fun for me and I'll share all the details of the events, radio interviews, and TV appearances with you. One thing more about me: I tend to get myself into trouble. I am too curious for my own good, and can't resist diving into things. Here is a picture my dad took of me when I was little:
Some things never change.
Until tomorrow, xo