What inspired you to write this novel?
For starters, I’m an art enthusiast and a big fan of everything Italian like Rose, my main character. Like many people, I wish I could travel to Florence, Italy right now!
The central plot came to me as I was standing in the Sistine Chapel in Rome. I stared at Michelangelo’s rendering of the Creation of Adam and that’s the moment when a spark of inspiration hit me. I wondered what if he had drawn the hands clasped instead of the fingers touching? Would art historians have viewed this iconic image any differently? What do those hands touching God say about faith?
Did this novel require a lot of research? What did that look like and where did you focus your research?
I did a great deal of research on the Renaissance and Michelangelo. We are so fortunate to have a wonderful research library at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) here in Richmond, Virginia. I’ve also read Irving Stone’s The Agony and Ecstasy numerous times. Giorgio Vasari was considered one of the great historians of that time period and I studied his accounts of the Master’s and Florentine life.
What role does art history play in your novel? Did you study art history?
I was a history major at Mount Holyoke College, yet always interested in art history. To this end, I served as a docent for the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts for years and that’s how I learned to research and understand a work of art. Also, I currently serve on the Canvas Advisory Committee for the VMFA and write their newsletter which is a privilege. I absolutely love interviewing artists, curators, librarians, and educational staff members. It’s a fun job.
Did you consider having Rose travel and house hunt in a different city? Why did you ultimately decide Florence would be the best backdrop for Rose’s story?
Rose is a schoolteacher passionate about the great Michelangelo, so I was very clear that the story needed to take place in the birthplace of the Renaissance. I love Florence and felt confident that I could have my character live there. That being said, I have never actually lived in Florence so I worked hard to make her journey believable.
Why is Sunrise in Florence a great choice for a book club?
Sunrise in Florence explores many themes that are universal. It raises questions about family dynamics, dreams and an individual’s right to choose their own destiny.
There are a number of questions about the character of the men in Rose’s life. This independent young woman is torn between family expectations and forging her own new path. It’s both exciting and challenging.
Can you think of two to three questions that would spark great discussion about Sunrise in Florence?
How much influence has a parent had on your life choices? Is there something that you’ve always wanted to do?
Are you a risk taker?
Do you and your partner have different views about money and its role in your relationship?
How would you fill in this statement? If you liked ______________, you would love Sunrise in Florence.
Under the Tuscan Sun or Letters to Juliette
What books are currently on your nightstand?
The Winter House (Elin Hilderbrand), The Giver of Stars (Jo Jo Moyes) and The Dutch House (Anne Patchett). A friend just told me about The $12 Million Dollar Stuffed Shark (Don Thompson) which I plan to read next.
You can check out the trailer for Sunrise in Florence here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBkSt33FOmo.