Posted on February 1, 2023 at 8:00 AM by Sadye Scott-Hainchek
Today we're interviewing Ken Tentarelli, who writes historical mysteries.
Tentarelli is the award-winning author of the Nico Argenti historical mystery series set during the Italian Renaissance.
He has traveled throughout Italy, and at home he has taught courses in Italian history ranging from the Etruscans to the Renaissance.
When not traveling, he and his wife live in New Hampshire.
SADYE: How did you come to see yourself as a writer, and what inspired you to seek publication?
KEN: My wife and I first traveled to Italy as part of a tour. We became so fascinated with the country and its people that thereafter we traveled to Italy annually on our own.
We visited nearly every province of the country and studied Italian language and culture in Rome and Perugia.
Italy has a rich history and one period which fascinated me was the exciting and vibrant Renaissance.
As a reader, I enjoy the novels of Lindsey Davis, Steven Saylor, and other authors set in ancient Roman, but I found the Renaissance received little attention by writers.
Using knowledge gained during my travels to Florence, Venice, and Bologna, I wrote my first book, The Laureate.
The receipt of a starred review from Publishers Weekly for my debut novel encouraged me to continue writing and ultimately create the Nico Argenti series.
SADYE: Tell us something about your writing process that’s unusual or that you haven’t revealed before.
KEN: I try my best to make my books historically accurate, and I rely on the Internet to help me to achieve that goal. It is a great information source, but it does have voids.
In my second book, The Advisor, Nico had to cross a river to reach a town. The Internet held no clue to whether people crossed the river by bridge or by ferry boat in the mid-1400s.
It was a minor detail that few if any readers would have noticed, but I wanted the book to be authentic if possible.
To find the answer, I wrote to the chairman of the historic commission in the town — it helped that I can read and write Italian — who kindly responded that there was indeed a bridge in the fifteenth century.
SADYE: What have been the most surprising, rewarding, and challenging parts of your writing career?
KEN: Time moves quickly in modern-day mystery and suspense novels where characters communicate with each other instantly using cellphones and the jet around the world in hours.
The challenge for me, and other historical fiction writers, is to adapt to the slow pace of the fifteenth century.
As an example, today, a tourist in Tuscany can drive from Florence to Siena in an hour. In contrast, in my first book, The Laureate, Nico spent an entire day on horseback traveling from Florence to Siena to intercept an assassin.
It can be tricky to give readers page-turning excitement while fitting the historic timeframe.
SADYE: Which historical figure would you most like to meet, and why?
KEN: Countess Matilda of Canossa, who lived in the eleventh century.
She is little known today despite being one of the most amazing and powerful women of the Middle Ages who inherited and ruled the territory now called Tuscany.
As a champion of Pope Gregory, she led her forces against Emperor Henry IV, and for that she was the first woman honored with a monument in Saint Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.
Significant to my historical novels, Matilda founded the University of Bologna (my protagonist, Nico Argenti, is a graduate of U. Bologna law school), and she gave the right of self-determination to the city of Florence which set it on a path of becoming the wealthiest and most influential republic during the Renaissance.
SADYE: What has been the most touching or memorable piece of reader feedback you’ve received?
KEN: The main character in my novel is a young lawyer faced with the challenge of applying the ideals he learned at the university to real world situations.
Unlike the protagonists in some modern-day mysteries/thrillers, Nico is not a superhero.
He’s a man with strong moral principles who believes in justice and who cares for others. He’s vulnerable and consequently he sometimes manages to get himself injured.
It’s always gratifying to hear readers say they find Nico and the other characters in my books to be life-like. I was especially delighted to hear one reader say that she wished she had a friend like Nico Argenti.
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Categories: Author Interview