Q: Tell us about Christine and what you’re trying to convey here.
JW: I was drawn to write about Christine de Pizan because of her courage and determination. She wrote more than 20 volumes of work across a wide range of disciplines and was the first to argue for the political and social equality of women during the time. Today, there are thousands of professors and students who study her as a seminal voice of the Middle Ages. I was particularly compelled, though, by the desire to dramatize the struggle of a pioneer. It’s particularly important to me as we write stories of women of the past that we don’t fall into the trap of thinking them to be one-dimensional super-heroes. I teach writing historical fiction and I tell my students that despite our bumper stickers that say ‘Well-Behaved Women Rarely Make History’ we seem to create female characters that are unblemished. In fact, many of our pioneers are really dreadfully broken people. Anyone who faces down the status quo is fueled by desire, but plagued by self-doubt as well. It’s impossible to not internalize some of the teaching of the status quo that things can’t be done or shouldn’t be done. It’s also true that ambition is a desire that can become an obsession, a hunger that, like any drug, can never really be satisfied. I also wanted to look at the flip side of ambition -- disillusionment – and look at the pain that arrives when one realizes that all ambition is a chimera. I think everyone hits a point, especially in mid-life, and I think it holds true in the Middle Ages as well as now, where one wakes up to the brass in the gold ring, so to speak. It’s a difficult time in life and I hope I’ve added something to the conversation on this with my rendering of Gilles.