This Forgotten Chapter Of History

Mariana Vernieri Author Interview

The Two Castles is a captivating historical novel that tells the journey of a young woman fighting for love and equality in 13th century Catalonia. What was the inspiration for the setup of your story?

The inspiration for the setup of “The Two Castles” is deeply personal and rooted in my own family history. When I learned about the Cathars and their history, I felt a strong connection to them that I couldn’t explain. As I delved deeper into my genealogy, I discovered that my ancestors, the Counts of Foix, had supported and protected the Cathars in times of religious persecution. This realization, coupled with my discovery that I was related to historical figures like Ermessenda de Castellbó and Esclarmonde de Foix, gave me a profound sense of connection to this forgotten chapter of history.

As a direct descendant of Ermessenda, who was a major supporter of the Cathars and a protagonist in an incredible love story, I felt a responsibility to share her story with the world. This sense of responsibility, coupled with my own personal connection to the Cathars and the Counts of Foix, inspired me to write “The Two Castles”. My travels to Europe, where I visited the castles of Foix and many Cathar sites, deepened my connection to this history and helped me realize that I was meant to tell this story. Through this story, I hope to bring the history of the Cathars and the Foix family to life for readers and share the incredible story of my direct ancestor, Ermessenda de Castellbó.

Ermessenda is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind her character’s development?

As a direct descendant of Ermessenda de Castellbó, I felt a responsibility to bring her character to life in a way that was as accurate and true to history as possible. Through extensive research, I gained an understanding of her beliefs, values, and experiences, which informed her character development in the novel, based on the known facts about her life. 

I wanted to give voice to a female historical figure who has been largely overlooked by history. Ermessenda was a powerful and influential figure in her own right, and she used that position of power to help those who needed her the most, even when that meant risking her own life. I wanted to show her courage, intelligence, and resourcefulness through the pages of the novel.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

There were several themes that were important for me to explore in “The Two Castles”.

First and foremost, I wanted to explore the theme of love and its transformative power. Ermessenda’s journey is driven by her love for a forbidden man, and her determination to fight for their love despite the challenges and obstacles they face. Their love inspires them to take risks and make sacrifices, and ultimately helps them to overcome the difficulties they encounter.

In addition to her romantic love, Ermessenda’s love for the Cathars as a spiritual community is an important aspect of her motivation for spiritual growth and character development. Her commitment to protecting the Cathars reflects her strong values and beliefs, and underscores the theme of justice and equality that is another important theme present throughout the novel.

Ermessenda is a powerful and influential figure, but she must navigate a world that is dominated by men who often seek to undermine her authority. Through her struggles, the novel highlights the challenges faced by women throughout history who have fought for equality and justice.

Another important theme in the novel is the concept of “Paratge,” which is deeply ingrained in the culture of Occitania, where the story takes place. While the term has a complex and multifaceted meaning, it is essentially a set of virtues that any person can aspire to. It encompasses the ideas of honor, nobility of spirit, and equal dignity for all human beings. Through the character of Ermessenda and others, the novel explores the importance of these virtues and how they contrast with the prevailing societal views of the time. The association of Paratge with the Cathar movement is also examined, as it represented a spiritual community of good Christians who needed protection against oppression, and whose members were often exemplars of the Paratge code.

Finally, “The Two Castles” explores the theme of legacy and transcendence, the power of memory and the importance of preserving history. By bringing back to life the forgotten history of Ermessenda and the Cathars, the novel highlights the different ways in which we can survive death, oblivion, and the passage of the centuries: through our deeds, through the little and big good things that we give to others during our lives, through what we write, through our example and inspiration and through our descendants. 

Overall, these themes are interconnected and weave together to create a multi-layered story that explores the human experience in all its beauty and complexity.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I’m happy to include that information. As for my next book, it’s titled “The Exile of the Good Men” and it’s the second installment of the Ermessenda trilogy. In this book, Ermessenda’s happiness with her new husband is short-lived as war separates them. After the brutal sacking of Béziers, the ruthless Simon de Montfort and his troops turn their sights on the lands of the Viscount Trencavel. Ermessenda is determined not to let her friends and allies suffer the same fate as the people of Béziers. While her husband prepares for war, she risks her life to save as many Cathars as possible. If Montfort’s men intercept them, the cruelties they’ll face are unimaginable. As the northern enemy threatens to exterminate them, a personal threat looms over Ermessenda’s relationship. In the forced separation, both she and her husband will forge new alliances and be exposed to temptations that will test their love, awakening passions that could be as deadly as the war itself. The expected release date for this book is in 2024. 

Author Links: GoodReads | Facebook | Website

La apasionante historia real de Ermessenda de Castellbó: una mujer dispuesta a todo en nombre del amor y de la libertad.

¿Podrá sobrevivir a una despiadada purga religiosa?

Cataluña, 1202.

Única heredera de dos poderosas familias, Ermessenda se prepara para gobernar su vizcondado con justicia e igualdad. Sin embargo, su sueño se hace trizas cuando su padre le impone un matrimonio arreglado en una tierra lejana.

En su destierro, halla consuelo y pertenencia gracias a su floreciente amistad con la acogedora comunidad espiritual de los cátaros. Cuando finalmente encuentra el amor verdadero, la violenta oposición de la Iglesia amenaza de muerte tanto a su relación como a los miles de cátaros de la región, poniendo en riesgo todo lo que ama.

¿Hasta dónde será capaz de llegar Ermessenda en su ferviente lucha contra la opresión?

Inspirada por la extraordinaria vida de una mujer que dejó su huella en el mundo medieval, su descendiente directa, Mariana Vernieri, evoca el intenso peligro, intriga y trascendencia de una lucha que pervive hasta hoy.

Desde un romance prohibido hasta la atroz persecución de almas pacíficas que sólo buscaban la libertad religiosa, esta historia épica de amor y valentía te atrapará de principio a fin.

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Posted on March 12, 2023, in Interviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.


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