Virtual Book Tour: Stephanie Storey, Raphael, Painter in Rome
“The world of Raphael is one I wanted to linger in forever.” –Crystal King, author of The Chef’s Secret and Feast of Sorrow
What is your book about?
Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling is one of the most iconic masterpieces of the Renaissance. Raphael, Painter in Rome (Arcade) tells of its creation as never before: through the eyes of Michelangelo’s fiercest rival—the young, beautiful, brilliant painter of perfection, Raphael. Orphaned at age eleven, Raphael is determined to keep the deathbed promise he made to his father to become the greatest artist in history, not by painting images of war or death, but by painting pictures of beauty. But to be the best, he must beat the best: the legendary sculptor of David, Michelangelo. When Pope Julius II calls both artists down to Rome, he pits them against each other: Michelangelo paints the Sistine Ceiling, while Raphael decorates the pope’s private rooms. Raphael, Painter in Rome tells the story of the rivalry between these two Renaissance masters, as Raphael aspires to create art that can—even in the face of dark and difficult times—bend the world toward beauty.
Can you tell us about your path to publication?
I’ve wanted to be an author since I was seven years old, when I wrote and illustrated my first little book, Horty the Hog Goes to School. I’ve written every day since then. While producing five-nights-a-week of television out in Hollywood, I would write in the early mornings, at nights, and on weekends, until I finally landed a publishing deal when I was forty years old, with Arcade Publishing for my debut, Oil and Marble: A Novel of Leonardo and Michelangelo. The New York Times called it ‘tremendously entertaining,’ it was published into six languages, and now Pioneer Pictures is developing it as a feature film. I guess it means I did something right with my first novel because, now, I get to have second one! My follow-up took me about four years to write. I happily returned to my same editor and publishing house, and the novel was published in conjunction with the 500th anniversary of the artist’s death (he died on April 6, 1520; my novel launched on April 7, 2020).
Where were you when you heard your book tour and/or launch party was cancelled and what did you do?
I first heard about public events being canceled on Twitter, while I was doing some promo for my novel. At first, I dismissed the news; I guess you might call it denial. Then, I received an “I’m so sorry this is happening to you and Raphael” email from my editor and realized my book tour was no doubt coming to a crashing halt. My first reaction was determination and optimism: “This is no big deal. I’ll move everything online, it will be fine…” But then came the day when I had to physically cancel my launch in New York City, and events in DC, Nashville, Los Angeles, and beyond, and then the literary fests all cancelled… That night, while my husband and I were eating dinner, I suddenly burst into tears. I know people are facing much harder situations than I am (people are sick and dying), but in that moment it was crushing. I’ve worked hard for years to make this book a reality, and I was so disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to celebrate this moment with friends, family, and fans all over the country.
Are you and your publisher doing anything special/ different instead of a book tour to promote your novel?
I’ve hosted live streaming events on Facebook and Instagram so my friends, family, and fans could raise a glass with me, even if only virtually. Oil and Marble was a big hit with book clubs, so I’m also working out a plan to offer a “digital book club” option. I’m also coordinating a porch delivery in my small hometown in Arkansas, so friends, family, and neighbors can receive gloved-hand-delivered signed copies to their front porch (while staying six feet away at all times; like grocery-delivery, only for books!)
On a lighter note, do you have any quirky writing rituals?
You know those online personality quizzes? I sit down, as my character, and take those tests all the time; it’s good to know what kind of Disney princess Michelangelo would be, don’t you think?
What was the hardest thing you had to cut from your book, your favorite Dead Darling?
In the hall where Raphael painted one of his most famous works, The Triumph of Galatea (which is the cover art for my novel!), legend has it that Michelangelo, while grumpily waiting for a tardy Raphael to arrive, painted a head of a young man on one of the walls. It’s a brilliant legend, and I was desperate to include it. I kept re-writing the scene, over and over again, trying to make it fit, but it never worked with the story; it only slowed down the narrative, so I had to cut it. Which made me very sad! But the cut was best for the story, and in the end, that’s all that matters.
Where can we buy your book?
Anywhere you buy books!