Maria Ellena Alonso Sierra – best-selling author of The Coin Duology
I’m a medievalist.
I think I have been since I was six years old, when my sister and I rummaged through our parents’ library to study and read the illustrated books gracing most of the bookshelves. You see, my mother and father were ballet dancers and choreographers. For inspiration, they not only based their works on classical music, but they also based costumes, ballet poses, and story inspirations on the classics—Greek myths, Shakespeare’s works, medieval manuscript illustrations. One award-winning ballet, choreographed by my father, was Orfeo, based on the Greek myth of Orpheus, where my mother danced as Eurydice, Orpheus’ wife. My mother choreographed another award-winning ballet, based on Shakespeare, but with medieval costumes and some poses. My Masters’ thesis is on 12th century French romances and the interconnectivity between their plot and the law, the latter which was burgeoning as universities were being established throughout all of Europe during the mid-to-high Middle Ages.
So, how could I resist not making my main character, Gabriela Martinez, into an artist, an illustrator to be exact, whose main goal had always been to reproduce the illustrations of medieval manuscripts?
In my first suspense novel, The Coin, my other main character, Richard Harrison, learns Gabriela is a painter/illustrator. Intrigued, not only about her skills, but also about the woman he is now falling for, Richard spends some time with Gabriela in her studio office, watching how she works. In my original draft, I had a scene where she spoke to Richard about several illustrations she had on her desk that had to do with the topic of the follow-up novel, The Book of Hours. But, after a couple of edits, I had to take the scene out because it did not advance the plot/suspense. I did keep, however, the suspense point where Gabriela gets into trouble because of her love of manuscripts, as well as her desire to reproduce them.
And that appears in chapter seventeen of The Coin, where the reader really understands what her goals are for the future:
Albert smiled and guided her through the rose garden. “Glad to hear it, especially after the news I received this morning.”
“There are two properties near Dublin which I’m interested in acquiring—for investment purposes, of course—and I’ll be traveling there at the end of month.”
Gabriela’s forehead crinkled in confusion. Why on earth was he bringing this up? Unless this was his way of telling her he’d no longer be able to promote her works. “Hey, don’t apologize on my account. You have a profitable business to run, and I’ve already usurped enough of your precious time. And with the quantity of work I have now, I’ll be busy for the next year and a half.”
Albert shook his head. “As I was saying, I’ll be leaving for Dublin at month’s end, and I was planning for you to accompany me.”
Gabriela stopped. With hands on hips, she turned to stare at Albert. “What do you mean, you want me to accompany you?”
Albert ignored her suspicious query. “Through a titled friend of Saint-Jore, I have been able to get an introduction to the curator of the library at Trinity College. We have been corresponding back and forth now for about three months. A week ago, I sent him a fax and advised him of my plans to visit the area. I also requested a small favor. He gave his answer today, and it was affirmative.”
Gabriela was mystified, her mind trying to put the pieces together. Trinity College Library? What on earth did that have to do with her? “You’re not going to give me any more hints?” she asked.
“What does that library have that interests you?”
Her eyes widened in shocked incredulity. “The Book of Kells?” she breathed softly, afraid the rising hope and excitement in her would evaporate in the air.
Albert smiled in triumph. “I knew you’d come up with the answer.”
“But, Albert, the Book of Kells? Are you sure they’ll let me see it?”
“Not only see it, but study it. Of course, you’ll have to be accompanied at all times, wear protective gloves and I don’t know what else, but that shouldn’t pose any problems for you.”
Gabriela closed her eyes, wondering what she had done to deserve such a magnificent friend. The Book of Kells was the most beautiful manuscript ever created and to study it personally was a chance in a lifetime, especially since she wanted to create one of her own, using all the ancient techniques. It was a personal dream come true.
“It will require that you leave for several days, of course. That’s why I was worried you’d allow Roberto to get in the way.”
“He wouldn’t dare, not after what I’m sacrificing for his damn contract.”
Albert eyed her with curiosity. Her tone had been almost vicious. “What sacrifices?”
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