Robert Masello Talks About Genre Crossing With His New Novel The Medusa Amulet

Author Robert Masello's fast-paced thriller takes Scholar David Franco on a quest for a Renaissance mirror that may carry the secret of eternal life. The story combines elements of mystery, magic and history to stunning effect. Today the author chats with us about what inspired him to create this story that crosses genres with such panache.

This morning, I got the e-mail I have always been waiting for. It came from Morgan Doremus, the editor of this website, and it invited me to contribute to this blog.

I feel like a man dying of thirst who’s suddenly been offered a tall, frosty beer.

For years, I have been writing books like The Medusa Amulet, which has just come out, and begged my publisher to reach out to the romance reading audience. My books have traditionally been billed as thrillers, or paranormal adventures, and because they do have plenty of action and scares, they are often marketed to a male audience. And trust me, I’m happy to have any audience at all.

But the recent books are, at heart, big, sprawling historical romances, the kind of books my mother read voraciously, and I am convinced that even though she is no longer with us, I am still trying to write the kind of tale my mother might have enjoyed. I am still trying to make her proud.

She raised me right -- on books and movies like Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre, and yes, A Tale of Two Cities. (Sydney Carton’s unrequited love for Lucie Darnay still touches my heart, and his journey to the guillotine is one of the most moving scenes in literature -- or film.)(Of course I refer to the Ronald Colman movie performance.)

I am certainly not claiming that The Medusa Amulet merits such illustrious company, but it is a story of tortured love, an unquenchable passion that spans centuries and continents. It begins in Renaissance Italy, and revolves around the love affair between the renowned sculptor and goldsmith Benvenuto Cellini (whose statue of Perseus and the Medusa still stands in the central square of Florence) and his favorite model, Caterina.  When fate (in the form of a corrupt Pope) separates them, only the power of a mysterious amulet Cellini himself created can bring them back together. The story jumps from the sixteenth-century palazzos of Rome to the court of Versailles under Louis XVI, and from there to the invasion of Paris in the Second World War, and back again. My books are hard to describe; they cover a lot of ground, they're packed with period detail and history, but as one astute movie executive observed of the last one, “It’s a supernatural Victorian love story.” I could have kissed her on the spot -- but she’d have called security.

That book -- Blood and Ice -- stretches from 1850s London and the battlefields of the Crimean War to an Antarctic research station today. It is the story of a young nurse recruited by Florence Nightingale (one of my personal heroines) and the dashing, if enigmatic, young aristocrat she loves . . . a man whom she follows, quite literally at one point, to the bottom of a frozen sea. In a mirror romance, the present-day protagonist -- a magazine photographer with a haunted past -- must come to grips with a tragedy he believes he caused, but that he fears he can never rectify.

Forgive me for running on like this -- I could go all day -- but I’m just so happy to be speaking to readers who might like the same sort of things I do -- emotional stories deeply grounded in historical fact and even fantasy. Stories that don’t know what they’re not supposed to do, so instead just go ahead and do it, anyway. I’m not saying I’m such a great success at it -- that’s entirely for readers, not me, to decide -- but with books like The Medusa Amulet and Blood and Ice I’m trying my best to write exciting, often scary, love stories that break the traditional genre boundaries.

And yes, I guess I’m still trying to write another book my mother might have enjoyed.

- Robert Masello

To check out this category-defying thriller, you can pick up your own copy of The Medusa Amulet now!