Location and Inspiration: Writing at the Cloisters

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011 | The Queen's Pawn, The Writing Life

This post was originally written for the lovely blog Peeking Between the Pages http://www.peekingbetweenthepages.com/. Tune in May 31 for a second guest post from me on that site reflecting on the joy of writing TO BE QUEEN and the inspiration I find in the places where I sit and write.

The Cloisters is an extension of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, a separate branch that holds much of the museum’s medieval collection. It is a place of beautiful art, flowering trees, and square colonnades, or cloisters, where water runs in fountains all through the spring and summer, giving the visitor an oasis of peace in the midst of Manhattan’s constant motion.

The Cloisters is where I first wrote the outline for THE QUEEN’S PAWN. In one of the museum’s three outdoor cloisters, Alais and I settled down to work out the details of the novel. Writing a synopsis can be as much work for me as writing the novel itself, but the soothing, tranquil atmosphere of the museum relaxed me and gave me a feeling for the kind of religious devotion that sustained Alais throughout her childhood and for much of her life.

This statue of the Holy Mother and the Christ child, while from a later period, gives you a good idea of the kind of art Alais loved. The character as she developed on the pages of my novel has a deep devotion to the Church. She is especially drawn to the Virgin Mary, who serves as an aid and comfort to her during the dark, lonely days of her childhood, and later, after the events of THE QUEEN’S PAWN have drawn to a close.

 The Cloisters is full of such beauty, objects of devotion and shaded colonnades of tranquility. As I wrote, I felt as if I was given a window into Alais’ time in her own cloister, when she was able to escape the political tumult of her life, and spend her time in contemplation and prayer. I would have written the book without the Cloisters to shelter me, but the experience would not have been nearly as rewarding. I am grateful to the museum for creating such a place of serenity where, as with THE QUEEN’S PAWN, we can seek a window into the past.

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6 Comments to Location and Inspiration: Writing at the Cloisters

Kimberly Eve
May 11, 2011

As a New Yorker, The Cloisters is one of my favorite places to go when I need a bit of an escape from
‘city life’! I always end up finding a favorite nook and writing as well! Lovely post Christy!

Christy
May 11, 2011

I know, Kimberly…isn’t it a magical place? I’ll bet the Cloisters is a touchstone for a lot of writers and artists. It is just so lovely there…I’m glad you love it, too…:)

Kimberly
May 11, 2011

Christy,
I just wanted to let you know how much I have enjoyed your work – you are a talented writer and I could not put down your work! Just by happenstance I started reading historical fiction and have become obsessed with it over the last 6 months or so. I have mostly started with the popular Tudor era, but since I have found your books I would definitely like more diversity.

First and foremost – when will you be publishing another book? Can you share whom you might write about?

Who are some of your favorite authors/books?

Thanks so much for your time,
Kimberly

Christy
May 12, 2011

Kimberly, thank you so much…I am so happy to hear that you have enjoyed my novels. I am completely addicted to Eleanor, as you know doubt can tell, and I am planning another book about her based on the years of her second marriage to King Henry II of England. I am not sure when that one is coming out (I haven’t written it yet…) but as soon as I know, I will tell you on this site.

There are so many talented writers working in historical fiction right now. I have always enjoyed Sharon Kay Penman and Margaret George, and in the last few years I have discovered the work of Laurel Corona (PENELOPE’S DAUGHTER), Susanne Dunlap (IN THE SHADOW OF THE LAMP), Michelle Moran (CLEOPATRA’S DAUGHTER), Mitchell James Kaplan (BY FIRE, BY WATER), Anne Easter Smith (QUEEN BY RIGHT), CW Gortner (THE CONFESSIONS OF CATHERINE DE MEDICI), Stephanie Cowell (CLAUDE AND CAMILLE), and in the Tudor period you’re reading now, Sandra Worth (PALE ROSE OF ENGLAND). And then there are the Brits: Elizabeth Chadwick and Helen Hollick, just to name two.

My favorite author of all time is Mary Renault. I have written about her work and its influence on me a few times on this site. My favorites of her work are THE KING MUST DIE, A BULL FROM THE SEA, THE PERSIAN BOY, and THE MASK OF APOLLO.

It is exciting that you’ve started reading in this genre. There are so many amazing novels to choose from…:) And with all these incredible choices laid out in front of you, thank you so much for reading my version of Eleanor’s life.

Kimberly
May 12, 2011

Thank so very much for the info, I will search for Renault tonight!

I cannot wait for your next book!

Christy
May 13, 2011

I just love Mary Renault…I hope you enjoy her work, too. Thank you so much for the sweet words about the next one…I need to get it written…:)

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