“Sorry!” she said, backing up.
“Signorina, watch where you’re going!”
The young man in black frowned and didn’t apologize. With his long, dark hair and white sleeves rolled up on muscular forearms, he looked like an art restorer. A black jacket was draped over his shoulders. He held a long wooden measuring rod, the kind used by architects centuries ago. Maybe he was rehearsing for some sort of pageant.
“Ladies are not allowed here while I’m working,” he said stiffly. He aimed the rod at the nearest column and sighted up along it.
“I know you!” she exclaimed. She knew him well.
He straightened his jacket and bowed. “Everyone in Rome knows Cavaliere Bernini. But you may not be here. I need silence. I have a very big work to complete.”
His finger pointed up at the four twisted bronze columns, where May was astonished to see no bronze canopy on top. Tons of bronze had simply vanished. She looked back at him. Bernini lifted the instrument and peered up at the nearest column. Her living, breathing idol moved to one side to get a better angle. Lean and strong, he was even more handsome than in his self-portrait.
Now he was so intent on his investigation that he seemed unaware of her and the fact that her pulse was pounding. How had she come here, and where exactly was she?
He lowered the measuring rod, framed the air with his hands, and used his fingers to make rapid computations. He stared at her so intensely that she shivered. She remembered that searing gaze in his self-portrait.
“You’re disturbing me, signorina.” He turned away, clearly expecting her to leave.
How could she possibly move? Here was her genius, his hair curled with wiry energy, materializing the restless mind under it. His prominent cheekbones gave him the Neapolitan look that had embarrassed him and made him fabricate a Florentine heritage. He made a few quick calculations and looked at her again, eyes narrowed.
“I won’t say a word,” she promised.
He was obviously contemplating how to throw her out. Bernini wasn’t much taller than she was, but he made every inch of the difference count. May stared back, as defiantly as she could, while stunned and unable to forget the many times she had imagined his powerful arms pulling her close. She stared back, asserting herself silently as his historian. Historians didn’t blink. Though most never met their subjects face-to-face.
Blurbs about THE RENAISSANCE CLUB
Enchanting, rich and romantic…a poetic journey through the folds of time. In THE RENAISSANCE CLUB, passion, art, and history come together in this captivating tale of one woman’s quest to discover her true self and the life she’s meant to lead. Rachel Dacus deftly crafts a unique and spellbinding twist to the time-traveling adventure that’s perfect for fans of Susanna Kearsley and Diana Gabaldon. — Kerry Lonsdale, Wall Street Journal Bestselling Author
The Renaissance Club is a beautifully written story about a woman torn between two worlds—the present and the distant past. This time-travel adventure kept me guessing until the end about which world May would choose, and if that choice would be the right one. Highly recommended for lovers of time travel fiction or anyone looking for a compelling story about a woman trying to find happiness. — Annabelle Costa, Author of The Time Traveler’s Boyfriend.
About Rachel Dacus
Rachel Dacus is the author of Gods of Water and Air, a collection of poetry, prose, and drama, and the poetry collections Earth Lessons and Femme au Chapeau. Her poetry and prose have appeared in Atlanta Review, Boulevard, Prairie Schooner, The Pedestal, and Valparaiso Poetry Review. The Renaissance Club, her time travel novel involving the great Italian sculptor Gianlorenzo Bernini, is forthcoming in January 2018 from Fiery Seas Publishing. Her fourth poetry collection, Arabesque, is forthcoming in August 2018 from FutureCycle Press.
An Interview with Rachel Dacus
Rachel Dacus is the author of THE RENAISSANCE CLUB. The novel was published on January 23rd, 2018 by Fiery Seas Publishing. The novel – a time travel novel with romantic elements – is Rachel’s debut novel. Since the publication of the novel, I was able to interview Rachel about the novel and her writing process.
Question - Please describe what the book is about.
Rachel Dacus - The Renaissance Club is the story of May Gold, a young art historian who falls through a fold in time during a tour of Italy. May’s luck accident brings her face to face with the artist hero she’s specialized in, and dreamed about, 17th century genius sculptor Gianlorenzo Bernini. The meeting turns her life in the present upside down and forces her to decide if her adventure in time will ruin her life, or lead to a magical new one.
Q - Give us a short pitch of your novel.
RD - When young art historian May Gold slips through a fold in time while touring northern Italy, and comes face to face with her artist hero, 17th century sculptor Gianlorenzo Bernini, it ignites a powerful attraction that takes her on a romantic and creative journey. This adventure will challenge her to decide what she would give up to be with her soul mate and live a creative life—perhaps even the time in which she lives.
Q - Where did you get the idea?
RD - An art history tour of northern Italy, much like the one depicted in my story, kindled a wish to meet some of the great artistic geniuses behind the Renaissance. Though I know in real life, time-travel isn’t possible, I found a way to meet one of the most spectacular artistic geniuses who ever lived—by recreating him as my hero!
Q - What’s the story behind the title?
RD - No one has ever suggested I change the title since the first query I sent out or the last editor at my publishing house. The title comes from the touring group, who named themselves The Renaissance Club.
Q - No spoiler, but tell us something we won’t find out just by reading the book jacket.
RD - An older woman, a member of The Renaissance Club, also has an adventure in time on the tour. It changes her life and her view of her employee, our main character.
Q - Tell us about your favorite character.
RD - Though May and Bernini are my main characters, the story couldn’t exist without time travel guide George St. James. Based—amazingly—on a real person (and I won’t say whether he could go time traveling or not), George has his own complicated backstory and reason for helping others to realize their full potentials. The time traveling quirk he developed as a child was something he had to learn to tame, and like the person he’s based on, George became a master at turning unusual ways of looking at life into a way to serve others.
Q - If you could spend a day with one of your characters, who would it be and what would you do?
RD - I’d certainly spend a day with Bernini. Like May, I’d just watch him work. They said Bernini could chisel marble for eight hours straight without stopping. He himself reported that while working on a sculpture, he was in a state of bliss. I’d like to observe that, though I would need a lunch break! But who knows what would get started by simply observing a charismatic genius. As May discovered, all kinds of delicious complications might arise.
Q - Are your character based on real people, or do they come from your imaginations?
RD - Bernini and George St. James are based on real people. Bernini, of course, on himself, the real 17th century artist who evolved the Baroque style to its height of expressiveness. George is a composite of teachers and tour guides I’ve known.
Q - How long did you take to write this book?
RD - I began with the concept seven years before I sold it to a publisher. That’s a long, long journey, and a nearly gave up toward the end, but because I had such fantastic help from top editors and beta readers, I just couldn’t. I’m really hoping my next book will be a shorter journey!
Q - What kind of research did you do for this book?
RD - I read everything that can be found on Bernini, attended a year-long art history course on The Italian Renaissance, and completed that course with a three-week tour of the art in Italy made by Renaissance geniuses.
Q - What did you remove from this book during the editing process?
RD - I removed one character arcs and demoted a point-of-view character to a much smaller role.
Q - Are you a plotter or a pantser?
RD - I’m a definite pantser, though I try to hide the fact by constructing careful outlines, spreadsheets, plot graphs, and timelines after the novel is finished.
Q - What is your favorite part of your writing process, and why?
RD - My favorite part is drafting. The thrill of delving into my subterranean imagination, moving into that not-quite-conscious realm intrigues and amazes me, every time I do it.
Q - What is the most challenging part of your writing process, and why?
RD - Revising is definitely the challenging part, because it engages both the analytical and creative sides of the mind, a balancing act that reminds me of juggling on a bongo board—which I once was taught by circus performers in exchange for giving them a few ballet lessons.
Q - Can you share your writing routine?
RD - I write for one to two hours every morning, first thing if possible. Longer if possible. My longest writing stint is probably about six hours.
Q - Have you ever gotten writer’s block? If yes, how do you overcome it?
RD - The way I overcome it is by juggling multiple projects. If I can’t write on one, I switch to another and find my flow.
Q - If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
RD - Don’t give up!
Q - How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
RD - Too many to count.
Q - Do you have any writing quirks?
RD - Probably the overuse of the word “awhile” which spell-check keeps telling me should be two words.
Q - Tell us about yourself.
RD - I’m a grant writer and fundraising consultant for my day job, the proud pal of a Silky Terrier, who bosses me and my husband around, and a volunteer for several local nonprofit organizations. They work on a local level to move impoverished people back into the mainstream, and provide day excursions to delight children who are living in poverty. Doing all these things keeps me far too active. I’d like to retire and write all day, but I’d never trade away seeing the perfect smile on a child’s face!
Q - How did you get into writing?
RD - I blame my mother and a wonderful bookstore in Long Beach, California called Acre of Books, which introduced me to the idea that I could own such books as the Oz books, Nancy Drew, and the rainbow fairytale books. I took the owning one step further and started writing books for myself to read.
Q - What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
RD - I like to feed and watch animals and birds, grow orchids, sew, shop, and hang out in cafes, preferably writing.
Q - Apart from novel writing, do you do any other kind(s) of writing?
RD - I write grants and mailings for my nonprofit clients, and have authored four poetry collections, one of which is forthcoming in 2018. I also write plays and have the fun of seeing them occasionally produced.
Q - Share something about you most people probably don’t know.
RD - Because my father was a rocket scientist, my name is on a floating piece of space junk.
Q - Which book influenced you the most?
RD - Probably Emma by Jane Austen for its witty treatment of an entire village and the best unreliable narrator ever.
Q - What are you working on right now?
RD - I’m working on The Romantics, the story of two half-sisters who clash over their inheritance, a cottage in northern Italy, with its resident ghost, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley.
Q - What’s your favorite writing advice?
RD - Never give up!
Q – What book are you currently reading?
RD - Currently I’m reading The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown.
Q - Why do you think fiction can change the world?
RD - Because stories touch the heart deeply and become part of the reality of our lives, when we move fully into them. Every story has a purpose, and is about human growth, and that’s the force that can change everything.
Links to Rachel Dacus