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Laura Morelli | 20 Questions: THE NIGHT PORTRAIT


The Night Portrait
Laura Morelli

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A Novel of World War II and da Vinci's Italy


September 2020
On Sale: September 8, 2020
480 pages
ISBN: 0062993577
EAN: 9780062993571
Kindle: B08292YZ6Z
Paperback / e-Book
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Also by Laura Morelli:
The Night Portrait, September 2020
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The Gondola Maker, March 2014

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1--What’s the name of your latest release? 

THE NIGHT PORTRAIT: A Novel of WWII & da Vinci’s Italy

2--What is it about? 

THE NIGHT PORTRAIT is a dual-timeline historical novel about the creation of one of Leonardo da Vinci's most famous paintings, Portrait of a Lady with an Ermine, and the woman who fought to save it from Nazi destruction during World War II. It’s a story of two women of art, two men of war, one painting, and one obsession. 

3--What word best describes your main character(s)? 

Determined. Brave!

4--What makes your story relatable? 

I wanted THE NIGHT PORTRAIT pinned squarely on the historical record, but my goal was also to bring these two very different eras to life. I want readers to ask themselves what they might do in similar situations. The four different narrators deal with challenges that sometimes seem insurmountable. I believe historical fiction allows us to relate emotionally to the larger human experience. Following a protagonist’s story makes us ask what we would do, facing such challenges. An immersive historical tale allows us to understand how we are connected to the long threads of history.

5--Who are the people your main characters turn to when they need help? 

In the fifteenth-century timeline, Cecilia Gallerani becomes the mistress of the de facto Duke of Milan. She must fight for her place in the palace--and against those who want her out. Soon, she finds herself sitting before Leonardo da Vinci, who wants to ensure his own place in the ducal palace by painting his most ambitious portrait to date. Leonardo--a fellow Florentine more experienced with court intrigues--provides Cecilia with a few tools to navigate a dangerous situation.

In the twentieth-century story, a modest conservator unwittingly places a priceless Italian Renaissance portrait into the hands of a high-ranking Nazi leader. Then, she risks her life to recover it. She and an American soldier, part of the famed Monuments Men team, work together to get it back. 

Two women, separated by 500 years, are swept up in the tide of history as one painting stands at the center of their quests for their own destinies.

6--What do you love about the setting of your book? 

I have long been obsessed with Renaissance Italy. But in this book, it was fun to sweep virtually across the European continent, from Milan to Munich and back.

7--Are you a plotter (follow an outline) or a pantster (write by the seat of your pants)?

I am a hardcore plotter. I spend a huge amount of time building the spine of my story before I begin writing. I always change things along the way--sometimes significantly--but starting with a basic structure allows me to be more efficient as I go. 

8--What is an ideal writing day for you? 

My best writing happens in the dark, wee hours of the morning while my family is sleeping. I relish the time with my story, my snoring dog, and my coffee. If it could be 5:00am all day long, I would get so much done!

9--Do you listen to music while you write, need total silence, or do you have the TV on?

Complete silence--and for long, uninterrupted periods. Some of my writer friends work with music or white noise, but I find it distracting. I can't even imagine turning on the TV.

10-- How do you approach research? 

Historical research is my passion and joy! I always start with primary sources--things written at the time. 

For the Italian Renaissance, there are so many great primary sources. My personal favorites are legal accounts. Sometimes the laws are so weird! And consider that laws are only made when someone does something considered egregious at the time; it really helps you understand what a culture valued and what they condemned. Of course, the World War II-era is full of fantastic sources, everything from the transcripts of the Nuremberg Trials to personal war diaries.

When reading primary sources, it’s interesting to consider what people choose to focus on--and what they omit. I also find the cadence and tone of the language important for framing the book’s setting and the characters’ mindsets.

For me, the fun of historical fiction is taking the facts as far as they go, then realizing there’s a whole lot of stuff we don’t know. It’s like putting together a complex jigsaw puzzle with a bunch of missing pieces. You make up the rest.

11--What is your publishing journey story? 

Every author has a different path to publication. Starting as a nonfiction author shopping my first book proposal more than twenty years ago, I was lucky enough to sign with a prestigious New York publisher. Then, while I slowly tinkered with my first fiction manuscript between 2007 and 2013, I watched the landscape for independent publishing transform. I have always been a “solo-preneur” at heart, and the opportunity to control all aspects of the publishing process was so appealing. Currently, I publish both traditionally and independently. This hybrid model works well for me and allows me to enjoy the best of both worlds.

12--Do you have critique partners/writing groups you want to give a shout-out to? 

I do not belong to a critique group but I do rely on a wonderful team of partners who support me with everything from developmental editing to graphic design and technical support. There is no such thing as self-publishing! A book seems like the simplest thing in the world, but the truth is that no one person can do everything that’s needed to bring a successful book to market--at least not very well.

13--What’re the most frustrating things about being an author? 

Things move more slowly than you imagine they will. A historical novel can be complex and unwieldy. Sometimes it refuses to take the form you originally intended. I am constantly re-assessing. At the same time, there are more opportunities than ever before for authors. I can’t think of a better time in history to be publishing books.

14--What’s your favorite scent?

 Rosemary.

15--What movie will you watch no matter what if it’s on TV? 

Anything made by Roberto Benigni. He’s brilliant and hilarious!

16--Do you like breakfast, lunch, or dinner best? 

Some days I have stir-fry for breakfast and pancakes for dinner! Ah, the joys of working from home. . . 

17--What’s one thing you wish you knew more about? 

I love to learn languages. Someday, I would like to learn a language based on a totally different system--perhaps Arabic or Japanese. Learning another language is so helpful for mastering English.

18--What’s the silliest thing you’ve recently done?

Being quarantined for most of this year has provided more opportunities for silly things than I can remember. I did dress up my pug as a bumblebee. Does that count?

19--What can readers expect from you next? 

Look for more historical fiction based on the history of art. That’s my love!

20--How can readers reach you?

Come on over to my web site at https://lauramorelli.com.

THE NIGHT PORTRAIT by Laura Morelli

The Night Portrait

A Novel of World War II and da Vinci's Italy

An exciting, dual-timeline historical novel about the creation of one of Leonardo da Vinci's most famous paintings, Portrait of a Lady with an Ermine, and the woman who fought to save it from Nazi destruction during World War II.

Milan, 1492: When a 16-year old beauty becomes the mistress of the Duke of Milan, she must fight for her place in the palace—and against those who want her out. Soon, she finds herself sitting before Leonardo da Vinci, who wants to ensure his own place in the ducal palace by painting his most ambitious portrait to date.

Munich, World War II: After a modest conservator unwittingly places a priceless Italian Renaissance portrait into the hands of a high-ranking Nazi leader, she risks her life to recover it, working with an American soldier, part of the famed Monuments Men team, to get it back. 

Two women, separated by 500 years, are swept up in the tide of history as one painting stands at the center of their quests for their own destinies.

Women's Fiction Time Slip | Mystery Historical | Thriller Historical [Willliam Morrow, On Sale: September 8, 2020, Paperback / e-Book, ISBN: 9780062993571 / eISBN: 9780062993588]

About Laura Morelli

Laura Morelli

Laura Morelli holds a Ph.D. in art history from Yale University, where she was a Bass Writing Fellow and Mellon Doctoral Fellow. She authored a column for National Geographic Traveler called "The Genuine Article" and contributes pieces about authentic travel to national magazines and newspapers. Laura has been featured on CNN Radio, Travel Today with Peter Greenberg, The Frommers Travel Show, and in USA TODAY, Departures, House & Garden Magazine, Traditional Home, the Denver Post, Miami Herald, The Chicago Tribune, and other media. Recently her art history lesson, "What's the difference between art and craft?" was produced and distributed by TED-Ed. Laura has taught college-level art history at Trinity College in Rome, as well as at Northeastern University, Merrimack College, St. Joseph College, and the College of Coastal Georgia. Laura has lived in five countries, including four years in Italy and four years in France.

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