Talking with Mary Sharratt: How Aemilia Lanier Influenced Writing and Shakespeare

Today, I had the wonderful opportunity to speak with Mary Sharratt, author of The Dark Lady’s Mask, a novel which I reviewed yesterday with high marks. This is an in-depth interview packed full of answers you will want to know. I hope you’ll join us by reading. And now, without further ado….

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Hi, Mary! I’m so happy to have you back here on Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I’ve enjoyed enormously having you on previously to speak of strong women like Hildegard von Bingen, the 12th Century Abbess, and featuring your book about her called Illuminations. The book that got away from me that I haven’t had the pleasure of reading yet is Daughters of the Witching Hill, which is about the 1612 Pendle witches. I’ve got my eye on that one. However, what you are releasing this year, and why we are here, is to talk about The Dark Lady’s Mask (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2016), which is based on the life of the first female professional poet of the Renaissance, Aemilia Bassano Lanier. It seems she also had an affair with the beloved William Shakespeare, inspiring his work featuring the Dark Lady.

Welcome, how exciting is it to yet again publish a novel after all the hard work that goes into it?

Mary: I’m very excited about The Dark Lady’s Mask. I think it must be my most ambitious novel yet. I worked very hard on the research, but I had a lot of fun with it, as well. It’s full of comedy, tragedy, passion, magic, and romance. And, of course, at its center is a very strong woman who triumphs to find her own voice as a poet.

Erin: Won’t you come in and have a seat in my library. It’s still chilly here in my part of the States, but sunny, and the light will stream through the window, which means it’s still the right temperature for us to enjoy our English Tea. Which do you prefer? Earl Grey or English Breakfast Tea perhaps? And how do you take it?

Mary: Ooh, I adore Earl Grey tea!

Erin: Wonderful! I’ve pulled blueberry scones from the oven and brought them in and poured us a spot of tea. Please feel free to let me know when you need a little more and let’s begin! I have The Dark Lady’s Mask here on the end table of my comfy chair, and it has such a lovely cover!

Mary: Mmmm, scones. I’m so happy you love the cover as much as I do. Martha Kennedy at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt did such a beautiful job designing it for me. I love the aura of mystery it evokes.

Erin: I’ve been very excited to read it and speak to you. I read that your publisher has released it in conjunction with the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare death. I also know April is National Poetry Month, one of my favorite modes of writing to read and also to write. That you’ve written about Aemilia is quite enthralling to me. I’ve come across a little about her, but I bet some people aren’t aware of her. Would you mind talking about who she is and how you came across her to tell her story?

Mary: I came across Aemilia Bassano Lanier (also spelled Lanyer) when researching the lives of Renaissance women. Born in 1569, Aemilia Bassano was the daughter of an Italian court musician—a man thought to have been a Marrano, a secret Jew living under the guise of a Christian convert.

After her father’s death, young Aemilia was fostered by Susan Bertie, the Dowager Countess of Kent, who gave her the kind of humanist education generally reserved for boys in that era. Aemilia learned Latin and Greek, rhetoric and philosophy. Some years after her school days ended, Aemilia became the mistress of Henry Carey, Lord Chamberlain to Queen Elizabeth. She was probably a teenager at the beginning of their affair and Carey was in his sixties. You might be thinking, “Gross!”, but Carey was the Queen’s cousin and one of the most powerful men in England. As Carey’s paramour, Aemilia enjoyed a few years of glory in the royal court—an idyll which came to an abrupt and inglorious end when she found herself pregnant with Carey’s child. She was then shunted off into an unhappy arranged marriage with Alfonso Lanier, a court musician and scheming adventurer who wasted her money. So began her long decline into obscurity and genteel poverty, yet she triumphed to become a ground-breaking woman of letters. 

All that I’ve discussed up until now are the documented facts about Aemilia’s life. The theory that she may also have been the mysterious, musical Dark Lady of Shakespeare’s sonnets only adds to her mystique. As a novelist I couldn’t resist exploring the notion that she was Shakespeare’s lover as well as his literary peer.

My intention was to write a novel that married the playful comedy of Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard’s Shakespeare in Love to the unflinching feminism of Virginia Woolf’s meditations on Shakespeare’s sister in A Room of One’s Own. How many more obstacles would an educated and gifted Renaissance woman poet face compared with her ambitious male counterpart? 

Erin: I’ve read several versions of how they possibly met, one being of course that they both ran in the circles of Elizabeth I. I know also that information on Shakespeare is oft times hard to find or pinpoint. How much research did you need to do, how did you do it, and how much of your story comes from theories based on fact as opposed to being a story for entertainment value? Also, if you traveled for research, tell us about that as well please.

Mary: I researched this book extensively and that included traveling to Bassano del Grappa, the birthplace of Aemilia’s father; Venice; the New Globe Theatre in London; and, of course, Stratford upon Avon.

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Caption: Wiki photo / Piazza Liberta in Bassano Del Grappa

Having said that, there’s no way of actually proving that Aemilia was Shakespeare’s Dark Lady or even that there was a Dark Lady. We can’t prove that his sonnets were autobiographical. But if they were autobiographical, of course we want to find out who this mystery woman was!

Shakespeare’s Dark Lady Sonnet Sequence (sonnets 127-152) describes a woman with an “exotic” dark beauty that sets her apart from the pale English roses. Musically gifted, she plays the virginals like a virtuosa, winning the poet’s heart. She is also of tarnished reputation—a woman of bastard birth and a married woman who lures the likewise married Shakespeare into a shameful, doubly-adulterous affair.

Aemilia seems to fit the bill. A woman of Italian-Jewish heritage, it’s plausible that she had raven-black hair and an olive complexion. Her parents’ common-law marriage meant that she was officially classed as a bastard. The illegitimate son she had with the Lord Chamberlain did nothing to shore up her reputation. As a court musician’s daughter and later another court musician’s unwilling wife, it’s likely that she was musically accomplished and a deft hand at the virginals. After being jilted by the Lord Chamberlain and shunted off into a forced marriage with a man she detested, she may well have been tempted to look for love elsewhere. The Lord Chamberlain, interestingly enough, was also Shakespeare’s patron, the money behind his theatre company, Lord Chamberlain’s Men.

Erin: How did they collaborate together and on what did they collaborate? Do you feel Shakespeare was an advocate for working and creating with women, or was he just smitten by her talent? I’ve even heard claims she ghost wrote some of his plays (or she wrote the plays but as a woman at the time could do nothing with them)? What are the latest theories and discussions on their relationship?

Mary: I can’t prove that Aemilia was Shakespeare’s lover or his collaborator. But in my fiction, I play with these possibilities.

If Aemilia and Shakespeare were, in fact, lovers, would this explain how Shakespeare made the leap from his history plays to his Italian comedies and romances—the turning point of his career? Aemilia, after all, was an Anglo-Italian trapped in a miserable arranged marriage. The names Aemilia, Emilia, Emelia, and Bassanio all appear in Shakespeare’s plays. His Italian comedies are set in Veneto, Aemilia’s ancestral homeland. What if Shakespeare’s early comedies were the fruit of an active collaboration between him and Aemilia? Mainstream Stratfordian scholars do acknowledge that Shakespeare sometimes worked with collaborators on his plays, so maybe my fictional explorations aren’t that far-fetched.

John Hudson, author of Shakespeare’s Dark Lady, goes so far to state that Aemilia Bassano Lanier ghostwrote all of Shakespeare’s plays and that Shakespeare served only as her mask and her play broker, as she would not have been allowed to write for the stage under her own name. I don’t share Mr. Hudson’s viewpoint, but I admire him for working so hard to bring Lanier out of obscurity.

Erin: Possibly, they had a falling out and as Shakespeare does, he likes to point fun with his writing, mocking her. Your synopsis states she was the brunt of his joke which incited her to pick up the pen and compose poems in defense of women. Can you explain this a little more and explain her work as a poet to us?

Mary: I find it fascinating how the strong, outspoken women of Shakespeare’s early Italian comedies, such as the crossdressing Rosalind in As You Like It and the spirited Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing, gave way to much weaker heroines and misogynistic portraits of women in Shakespeare’s great tragedies, such as frail, mad Ophelia in Hamlet. This change in tack leads me to wonder if the historical Shakespeare actually did have a bittersweet affair with a mysterious, unknown woman that cast a shadow over his later life and work.

Shakespeare’s sonnets were published without his permission in 1609 and the Dark Lady sequence just oozes with disgust for a capricious, faithless mistress. The bitter end of their affair leaves her poet-lover roiling with contempt. Shakespeare describes her as “a woman colored ill,” and “as black as hell, as dark as night.”

Intriguingly, Aemilia’s own proto-feminist Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum was published in the wake of Shakespeare’s sonnets. If she and Shakespeare were estranged lovers, was this her spirited riposte to his defamation of her character? Did the woman Shakespeare maligned as his “female evil,” pick up her quill in her own defense and in defense of all women? 

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Caption: Wiki/ Title page of Aemilia’s Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum

Erin: She’s noted as being the first woman to publish an original book of poetry. Is her poetry still available today? What drive did she have in her to strive to be so successful with her talents? As a woman during that time period, how was she able to accomplish?

Mary:Her poetry is available in print and online. I am very fond of Susanne Woods’s edition of The Poems of Aemilia Lanyer: Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum, published by Oxford Press. Dr. Woods has also written the best academic biography of our poet, Lanyer: A Renaissance Woman Poet. I highly recommend these two books to anyone who wants to research Aemilia’s life and work.

Aemilia is so significant because she was the first English woman to aspire to a career as a professional poet by actively seeking a circle of eminent female patrons to support her. She praises these women in the dedicatory verses to her epic poem, Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum. Her elegiac poem “The Description of Cookham” might be the first country house poem in the English language. Committed to women’s advancement and education, she served as tutor to the young Lady Anne Clifford, and she went on to found her own school for girls in 1617, a very progressive innovation in an era when girls were barred from most formal education. Her greatest patron and friend was Lady Anne’ mother, Margaret Clifford, and Aemilia’s love and gratitude to Margaret shines in her every line of poetry.

She desperately needed patronage and to succeed commercially as a professional writer because her husband saddled her with over five thousand pounds of debt, a fortune at that time.

Aemilia succeeded in being able to publish her poetry and establish a literary reputation. She gained a glittering circle of female patrons. However her audience of literate women who could afford to buy books was small and she could never get the same kind of mass audiences Shakespeare did for his plays which could be enjoyed even by the illiterate. Within her own lifetime, it seemed Aemilia fell into obscurity.

Erin: You may have touched on this, but as Aemilia was Jewish, born to an Italian Jew, how did religion impact her and/or her writing since she was living and writing among Protestants in England? Why did she write her poetic book featuring Jesus Christ (the passion of Christ from a female perspective) when she was Jewish?

Mary: As a woman writer, Aemilia faced a very major roadblock. In countries like Italy women wrote freely in all different genres—there were professional women playwrights and lyric poets. However in England at that time, the only genre considered acceptable for women was Protestant religious verse. Aemilia’s female literary predecessors like Mary Sidney wrote poetic meditations on the Psalms.

But Aemilia turned the tradition of women’s devotional writing on its head. Her epic poem, Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum (Hail God, King of the Jews), published in 1611, is nothing less than a vindication of the rights of women couched in religious verse. Dedicated and addressed exclusively to women, Salve Deus lays claim to women’s God-given call to rise up against male arrogance, just as the strong women in the Old Testament rose up against their oppressors.

But why did she write about Christ when she could have kept her focus on the Old Testament? She was doing something very radical here, deliberately compared the suffering and injustice faced by women in male-dominated culture to the sufferings of Christ. Then she goes on to portray virtuous women as Christ’s true imitators. Historically, the roots of anti-Semitism are based on the Christian presumption that Jews killed Christ. Aemilia turns this on its head, as well, arguing that men killed Christ and that this was far worse a sin than the sin of Eve. Therefore men have no divine justification to claim superiority over women. These are the lines in Salve Deus,when Pontius Pilate’s wife delivers her feminist tirade against her husband:

Let us have our Liberty again,

And challenge to yourselves no Sovereignty,

You came not into the world without our pain,

Make that a bar against your cruelty;

Your fault being greater, why should you disdain

Our being your equals, free from tyranny?

Aemilia’s interpretation of the Gospel of Matthew is 17th century liberation theology. 

Erin:  Obviously, The Merchant of Venice had some Jewish stereotypes, do you think their relationship had an influence on this or was it just a faction of the time period?

Mary: When The Merchant of Venice was first registered for publication, it was described as “a book of the Merchant of Venice or otherwise called The Jew of Venice.” It was and is a deeply anti-Semitic piece of work. Shylock, the Jewish usurer, is the most pivotal character—a cold and pitiless caricature of a Jew, created in an era when no Jews were legally allowed to live in England. Sympathetic interpretations of Shylock’s character did not appear on stage until the 18th century. The anti-Semitism of this play, which remains enshrined in the theatre canon, sits uncomfortably with the very real rising tide of anti-Semitism in the United Kingdom and across Europe. Can you believe that activists once tried to physically prevent me from entering Marks & Spencer, a Jewish-owned department store, in Manchester city center? This is happening in 21st century Britain!

In my novel, I portray The Merchant of Venice as one of Shakespeare’s revenge plays aimed at Aemilia after the bitter end of their affair. It’s interesting that one of the Christian characters that’s so horrible to Shylock is named Bassanio.

Erin: Were there other women writer contemporaries of hers then or shortly after? Who were they, what did they write, and how did they succeed at it?

Mary: Mary Sidney, the Countess of Pembroke, was the most famous poet of Aemilia’s era, but being aristocratic, she didn’t publish her work for fear of the “stigma of print.” Her 1592 closet drama Antonius, a translation from the French of Robert Garnier’s play Marc Antoine, was a major influence on Shakespeare’s play Antony and Cleopatra. Sidney was one of Aemilia Bassano Lanier’s aristocratic patrons. Aemilia praised Mary Sidney in her poetry as an enthroned goddess attended by the Muses.

An Italian contemporary of Aemilia’s is the playwright, Isabella Andreini, whose pastoral comedy, La Mirtilla, can be read alongside Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, it’s that funny and good.

Erin: Your book takes on the romance and the compelling story of Aemilia being Shakespeare muse, as the Dark Lady in his sonnets. Possibly some might not know that her Jewish family, the Bassanos, were of Moroccan descent, and therefore, darker skinned with dark hair. Removing the Jewish designation how was the reception to this in Elizabethan England? I’m assuming this is where the “dark” lady designation comes into play?

Mary: Aemilia’sJewish father and his brothers couldn’t live openly as Jews. Elizabethan England was effectively a Protestant police state. Aemilia, regardless of whatever private beliefs she held, would have been obliged to live under this mask. We don’t actually know what she looked like. The one portrait we have that might be of her hasn’t been verified. But it’s highly probable that she possessed the kind of dark Mediterranean beauty that would have made her stand out. If she was the Dark Lady of the sonnets, it’s interesting to note that when the sonnets turn bitter, they mock and deride the lady’s dark hair and complexion as ugly and hideous: “her breasts are dun” and “black wires grow on her head.”

Erin: Why do you feel she is a woman worth bring to light so that future generations don’t forget her?

Mary: She was a true literary pioneer who succeeded in becoming a groundbreaking poet against incredible odds. Her poetry is startlingly original and deserves a much bigger audience. Bottom line: whether or not Aemilia Bassano Lanier was Shakespeare’s lover or collaborator, she was certainly his literary peer.

Erin: You often write of women of strength. In fact, the top of your website has the phrase “Writing Women Back Into History!” Of course I’m with you on this, but can you explain your thoughts further?

Mary: To a large extent women have been written out of history. Even though strong, intelligent, courageous, and accomplished women have existed in every era, their lives and legacies are too easily erased. Aemilia Bassano Lanier’s life and work were lost in obscurity and only rediscovered in the late 20th century. Even someone like Hildegard of Bingen isn’t safe. For centuries scholars were claiming the work attributed to her was written by a man, an anonymous monk! It took the painstaking scholarship of the Benedictine sisters at Saint Hildegard’s Abbey in Eibingen to prove she wrote the work attributed to her. It’s my chosen vocation as a novelist to keep the memory of these women alive and show modern readers how relevant they are for us today.

Erin: Overall, how do you choose the women you do? For instance, do you happen upon them or do they call to you?

Mary: They call to me. I look for a historical woman whose life reveals a great plot arc, but also enough gaps of mystery to fire my imagination.

Erin: I know that you used to live in the United States, but you’ve also lived in Germany and now England. Do you move to research your books or do your books come after you’ve moved? How do you like England? I was born in Suffolk area, though have been in the States since I was young. What is one thing you’ve fallen in love with there?

Mary: I ended up in Northern England more or less by accident when my husband got transferred to Manchester for his job in 2002. We ended up living out in the country because we both found Manchester to be a bit too intensely urban for us. We bought a house that looks out on Pendle Hill, famous for its legends of the Pendle Witches and also the place where George Fox received his vision that moved him to found the Quaker religious movement. I fell in love with the place at once. My 2010 novel, Daughters of the Witching Hill arose directly out of my love and connection to this region. I love the sense of lingering ancestral memory embedded in the landscape that keeps the ancient stories alive. The remnants of the old Roman Road cut directly across my horse’s pasture and I have to cross it each day when I go to catch her.

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Caption: Wiki / A panoramic of Pendle Hill in 2012 showing the northeast slopes

Erin: I know you love your horses very much and they wonderful animals to soothe stress and for therapy. How are your horses? Do they help you to focus on your writing?

Mary: My Welsh mare, Boushka, is doing very well indeed, enjoying the spring grass and flirting with her gentlemen friends over the wall in the next field. She appears in all her glory as Aemilia’s horse Bathsheba in The Dark Lady’s Mask!Boushka never fails to calm me down after a stressful day. She helps me stay mindful and rooted in the present moment. She is a very loving and spirited horse and there’s never a dull moment with her. All royalties from my books shall go toward keeping Boushka in the style to which she has become accustomed!

Erin: What book are you working on now? Tell us about what’s next for you.

Mary: My new work-in-progress, Ecstasy: A Novel of Alma Mahler, is about another accomplished, creative woman who was overshadowed by the men in her life. Once an aspiring young composer, Alma Schindler was celebrated as the most beautiful girl in Vienna. The great Gustav Mahler fell in love with her at first sight, but it was Mahler’s demand that Alma give up composing as a condition of their marriage that gave rise to her shocking and radical transformation. From the ashes of her own self-abnegation arose a woman who refused to choose between freedom and love, and who insisted on living life on her own terms. Fueled by her ecstatic, hypnotic power, she brought the most eminent men of an era to their knees—the goddess they yearned for but could never ultimately possess. This is probably the sexiest novel I’ve ever written!

Erin: Thank you SO much for coming by and for putting up with my barrage of questions! I wish you all the luck with this book and everything in your life. It’s a always a pleasure to speak to you. Let me bag up some scones for your flight home after we enjoy another cup of tea.

Mary: Thank you, Erin! It’s such a joy to chat with a wonderful Book Goddess like you! And you scones are divine!

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The Dark Lady’s Mask: A Novel of Shakespeare’s Muse
by Mary Sharratt

Publication Date: April 19, 2016
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Hardcover, eBook, Audio Book; 416 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction

READ AN EXCERPT.

Shakespeare in Love meets Shakespeare’s Sister in this novel of England’s first professional woman poet and her collaboration and love affair with William Shakespeare.

London, 1593. Aemilia Bassano Lanier is beautiful and accomplished, but her societal conformity ends there. She frequently cross-dresses to escape her loveless marriage and to gain freedoms only men enjoy, but a chance encounter with a ragged, little-known poet named Shakespeare changes everything.

Aemilia grabs at the chance to pursue her long-held dream of writing and the two outsiders strike up a literary bargain. They leave plague-ridden London for Italy, where they begin secretly writing comedies together and where Will falls in love with the beautiful country — and with Aemilia, his Dark Lady. Their Italian idyll, though, cannot last and their collaborative affair comes to a devastating end. Will gains fame and fortune for their plays back in London and years later publishes the sonnets mocking his former muse. Not one to stand by in humiliation, Aemilia takes up her own pen in her defense and in defense of all women.

The Dark Lady’s Mask gives voice to a real Renaissance woman in every sense of the word.

Amazon (Kindle) | Amazon (Hardcover) | Amazon UK | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | Indiebound | Powell’s

Advanced Praise

“An exquisite portrait of a Renaissance woman pursuing her artistic destiny in England and Italy, who may — or may not — be Shakespeare’s Dark Lady.”
— MARGARET GEORGE, internationally bestselling author of Elizabeth I

“Perfectly chosen details and masterful characterization bring to life this swiftly moving, elegant story. As atmospheric and compelling as it is wise, The Dark Lady’s Mask is a gem not to be missed.”
— LYNN CULLEN, bestselling author of Mrs. Poe and Twain’s End

“Mary Sharratt’s enchanting new novel, The Dark Lady’s Mask, is a richly imagined, intensely romantic and meticulously researched homage to lauded poet, Aemilia Bassano Lanyer, an accomplished woman of letters who many believe to be Shakespeare’s Eternal Muse. Sharratt unfolds a captivating tale, a compelling ‘what if ’ scenario, of a secret union that fed the creative fires of England’s greatest poet and playwright.”
— KATHLEEN KENT, bestselling author of The Heretic’s Daughter

“Mary Sharratt is a magician. This novel transports the reader to Elizabethan England with a tale of the bard and his love that is nothing short of amazing. Absorbing, emotional, historically fascinating. A work of marvelous ingenuity!”
— M.J. ROSE, New York Times bestselling author of The Witch of Painted Sorrows

“I enjoyed this exciting fantasy of Shakespeare’s ‘dark lady.’ There was adventure, betrayal, resilience, and above all, the fun notion that Shakespeare might have had far more than a muse to help him create his wonderful plays.”
—KARLEEN KOEN, bestselling author of Dark Angels and Before Versailles

“Through the story of Aemilia Bassano, a talented musician and poet, Mary Sharratt deftly tackles issues of religious and gender inequality in a time of brutal conformity. The Dark Lady’s Mask beautifully depicts the exhilaration and pitfalls of subterfuge, a gifted woman’s precarious reliance on the desires of powerful men, and the toll paid by unrecognized artistic collaborators. Resonant and moving.”
—MITCHELL JAMES KAPLAN, author of By Fire, By Water

“In The Dark Lady’s Mask, Mary Sharratt seduces us with a most tantalizing scenario —that the bold, cross-dressing poet and feminist writer Aemilia Bassano is Shakespeare’s mysterious muse, the Dark Lady. Romantic, heart-breaking, and rich in vivid historical detail and teeming Elizabethan life, the novel forms an elegant tapestry of the complexities, joys, and sorrows of being both a female and an artist.”
—KAREN ESSEX, author of Leonardo’s Swans and Dracula in Love

“Mary Sharratt has created an enchanting Elizabethan heroine, a musician, the orphaned daughter of a Jewish Italian refugee who must hide her heritage for her safety. Taken up by powerful men for her beauty, Amelia has wit and daring and poetry inside her that will make her a match for young Will Shakespeare himself and yet she must hide behind many masks to survive in a world where women have as much talent as men but little power.”
— STEPHANIE COWELL, author of Claude & Camille: A Novel of Monet

“Prepare to be swept away by Mary Sharratt’s latest foray into historical fiction. Inspired by the true story of poet, Aemilia Bassano, THE DARK LADY’S MASK explores her relationship with William Shakespeare. Richly detailed and well researched, this lush tale brings Aemilia out of the shadows of history and let’s her emerge as one of the founding mothers of literature. Drama, intrigue, and romance will have readers racing through this brilliant celebration of the muse.”
— PAMELA KLINGER-HORN, Sales & Outreach Coordinator, Excelsior Bay Books

Mary Sharratt, Biography

03_Mary SharrattMary Sharratt’s explorations into the hidden histories of Renaissance women compelled her to write her most recent work, THE DARK LADY’S MASK (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2016), based on the dramatic life of the ground-breaking poet, Aemilia Bassano Lanier.

Born in Minnesota, Mary now lives with her Belgian husband in the Pendle region of Lancashire, England, the setting for her acclaimed novel, DAUGHTERS OF THE WITCHING HILL, which recasts the Pendle Witches of 1612 in their historical context as cunning folk and healers.

Previously she lived for twelve years in Germany. This, along with her interest in sacred music and herbal medicine, inspired her to write her award-winning ILLUMINATIONS: A NOVEL OF HILDEGARD VON BINGEN, which explores the dramatic life of the 12th century Benedictine abbess, composer, polymath, and powerfrau.

Winner of the 2013 Nautilus Gold Award, the 2005 WILLA Literary Award, and a Minnesota Book Award Finalist, Mary has also written the novels SUMMIT AVENUETHE REAL MINERVATHE VANISHING POINT, and co-edited the subversive fiction anthology BITCH LIT, which celebrates female anti-heroes–strong women who break all the rules. Her short fiction has been published in Twin Cities Noir and elsewhere.

She is currently at work on ECSTASY: A NOVEL OF ALMA MAHLER, exploring the life of one of the most intriguing women of turn-of-the-century Vienna.

Mary’s articles and essays have appeared in The Wall Street JournalThe Huffington PostPublisher’s WeeklyMinnesota Magazine, andHistorical Novels Review. When she isn’t writing, she’s usually riding her spirited Welsh mare through the Lancashire countryside.

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2 Comments

Filed under Q and A with Authors, Uncategorized

2 responses to “Talking with Mary Sharratt: How Aemilia Lanier Influenced Writing and Shakespeare

  1. A fascinating story and a great interview!

    Liked by 1 person

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