Q&A With May Author Melodie Winawer

We couldn’t be more excited to send out our May boxes, for one simple reason—this month’s book, The Scribe of Siena by Melodie Winawer. Before now, Winawer was widely known for her medical publications, but she’s making a name for herself in fiction with this much-anticipated historical drama, set to release May 16.

The Scribe of Siena is a must-read for fans of Tracy Chevalier’s Girl With A Pearl Earring and Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. While investigating her late brother’s affairs, Beatrice Trovato is magically transported to 14th-century Siena, where she uncovers an ancient plot to destroy the city. She meets a handsome artist named Gabriele Accorsi and falls in love, but not only with him, medieval Siena. Winawer masterfully entangles mystery, love, and fate in her debut novel.


In an interview on her website, Winawer discusses her inspiration for the novel:

The Scribe of Siena has been compared to Outlander and The Time Traveler’s Wife. Were those works inspirational to you? Were there other books that inspired you? Can you tell us about them?

Inspirational is an understatement! It is absolutely mind-boggling to be compared to Diana Gabaldon and Audrey Niffenegger, both of whom I (and I am certainly not alone in this) think of as luminaries of fiction, particularly in the absorbing, believable, and emotionally gripping portrayal of love across centuries, transcending the traditional shape of time. I stayed up all night reading both Outlander and The Time Traveller’s Wife, and I would be honored if The Scribe of Siena affects readers even a fraction as much as those books affected me.

One of the most inspiring things about Outlander wasn’t the story itself, it was Gabaldon’s trajectory—the way she started writing, the way she continues to write, the way her life has evolved into that of a celebrated novelist. She was a scientific writer who knew she wanted to write a novel. She wrote without asking anyone how, because she had a story she wanted to tell. She had a bunch of kids, no time, and another job. She didn’t get an MFA, join a writer’s group, write essays about point of view or narrative structure. She had no extra time but she used the time she had. When I read why she chose historical fiction it was so like what I had said that I laughed out loud. I knew how to do research already so that’s what I did. If Gabaldon can do it, I can do it too, I thought—with my scientific career, my medical life, my three kids. And I did. I wrote on the subway during my ridiculously long commute. I wrote after the kids were asleep, in the passenger seat of our minivan on the way home from a trip upstate. I wrote whenever I could, hungry for every moment I had. And when I couldn’t write, the story hummed in my head.

What would you like your readers who are interested in medieval Italy to take away from The Scribe of Siena?

I like historical fiction because I want to bring the past to life. I don’t just want to write about history, to record what happened. I want to give readers (and myself!) a way to sink into history—to be time travelers, like Beatrice. I want my book to help people go to medieval Siena, not just read about medieval Siena. I want my readers to feel transported, to believe that it is possible to move from one time and place to another, and even for just a moment, to believe that these invented people are real, the way I did while writing it, and in some ways still do. I want to provide a bridge into a living, breathing past—a past that might even coexist simultaneously with the present.

Winawer’s full interview can be read on her website.

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