Read The Tsar's Dwarf (Hawthorne Books)

Read The Tsar's Dwarf (Hawthorne Books)
"A curious and wonderful work of great human value by a Danish master." Sebastian Barry, Man Booker finalist (Click on the picture to go to the book's Amazon page)

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Downloading a Doge - Fiction, Imagination or Visions? (As If There Was Any Difference)

The great thing about writing is that sometimes you download an Italian Doge and he ends up being a character in your novel.

That's what happened to me when I wrote DET EGYPTISKE HJERTE (The Egyptian Heart) that's coming out in Denmark October 27, 2015. Pietro Polani was the ruler of Venice from 1130-1148 and he fought the Pope at a time when the Church became more dominant on the Italian peninsula. I started dreaming about Polani a year and a half ago, even though I'd never heard of him before. Actually, I was never interested in the Middle Ages (I'm a baroque kind of guy), but now I think it's a fascinating time period, especially in gorgeous Serenissima, the Serene Republic, that became a force to reckon with in the 12th century.

I've done a lot of research on Pietro Polani in Archivio di Stato in Venice, but the historians don't know much about him. The most "reliable" sources are from two hundred years after Polani's death. However, I got a lot of important information through dreams that helped me immensely.

Yes, that's right, this spiritual airhead claims he tapped into the collective unconsciousness where all stories  and events are available to us if we're sensitive enough to pick them up.  Artists, dreamers, clairvoyants, and other crackpots, who may or may not belong in insane asylums, have done that for centuries. We're all seers, if we can put our rational minds to rest. I have no problem with letting go of "sanity" since I believe that the universe is multi layered - a patchwork of stories, vibrations, and worlds that are accessible if we have the courage to reach out for them.  But as you know, history supposedly deals with FACTS... and silly little me got some of my facts meditating in a float tank, or while snoring in bed.

Needless to say, I don't claim to be a scholar. I'm just a writer who can get closer to the truth by listening to the waters flowing through the Venetian canals than by copying other peoples' PhDs. Why? Because no matter how much research we do, we all have an agenda and an ego. Egos don't vanish because of a degree or because the deceased are breathing down our necks feeding us information. No matter what label we put on ourselves, we see the world through our personal history, our prejudices, and our subconscious. That's why history isn't a science but a fascinating study where historians write as much about themselves and the time they live in as novelists do.

So if you ever read my Danish novel about an unknown Doge by the name of Pietro Polani, you'll read about MY Pietro Polani who strangely enough have some of my strengths and weaknesses. There are probably many reasons for that.  Could it be the usual author narcissism at work?  Or maybe we have known each other in the past?  I did feel the story was handed to me on a celestial platter. Or perhaps there is no separation between Pietro and Peter?  I'm not sure I have the answer to any of these lofty questions but my writing process was the most fascinating I've ever experienced, and I haven't even told you the best parts because I'm afraid you'll lock me up in the basement of the Doge palace if I did ...

DET EGYPTISKE HJERTE (The Egyptian Heart) is a novel about the stories we tell ourselves to make sense of our existence - and perhaps it's about reincarnation as well? It takes place in 18th century Egypt, 12th century Venice, and contemporary Copenhagen.

Foreign Rights: Louise Langhoff Koch, PeoplesPress will be at the Frankfurt Book Fair in October. Email:

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