10 Question Interview With Richard Heket

Richard Heket
Book In Question:  
Bella Gioconda

Author Biography:
Richard Heket is a published writer of poetry and short fiction in a variety of periodicals.

He is also a competent artist in oil, acrylic, ceramics and freelance graphic design. He has completed several novels of historic fiction of which, Bella Gioconda, is the first to be published.

Richard was raised in Los Angeles, California and attended Brigham Young University on a writing scholarship. After a full career in manufacturing quality management, working in the U.S. and twenty-one other countries in North America, Western Europe and Asia, Richard is now fully devoted to writing novels, poetry and children’s illustrated stories.
Five hundred years can confuse identity. An old chalk drawing of a girl, Maria, the daughter of a Chianti vintner leaves a Swiss art collector, Claude Beauvin entangled in a Renaissance love story from the past. The drawing is currently owned by a reclusive young widow, Andrea Garibaldi-Chase, who puts the drawing up for auction. With smoldering rumors that Leonardo da Vinci is the artist of the portrait, history is set on fire by a New York art dealer, an art history professor, and an intellectual property crimes investigator from INTERPOL who are all caught up in the drawings history. It’s not until after the auction that Beauvin learns who the girl really was, what influence she had over da Vinci and the centuries since, and how his growing feelings for Andrea transcends time and identity.

Questions have been modified from the original

1. Hi, Richard, are you able to tell us a little more about yourself?

I have always loved words. I am fascinated by language and have made an extended study of the ability to acquire language and how words can evoke emotion while providing clarity of thought. Thought is, after all, refined by words, whose intent is to be communicated to others to understand not only the rational sense of words — or their irrationality! — but also a translation into emotion, which is almost always irrational..

I am a visual learner and have developed a love of artistic expression that allows me to translate words into graphic images, and back again.
I am fluently bi-lingual (French) and lived in France for two years at nineteen. I have also studied Greek and ancient Egyptian (hieroglyphs).  I have traveled for business to twenty-two other countries in North America, Western Europe and Asia. These travels have provided the seeds for many stories that can be told from the perspective of these cultures. I appreciate the creativity of the human condition to proliferate in countless directions of language, food, dwelling, clothing and behaviors.
I am retired from business and can devote my full time to my preferred occupation.

    2.    Why is art such a huge hobby in your life?

I consider art as another language that transcends the languages of words, which are, unfortunately, restrictive and separative. Art is ubiquitous; a completely shared human experience without borders.

   3.    Other than art, what other interests do you have?

I love cooking. I love creating recipes, or modifying someone else’s recipe. I love flavors and enjoy blending unusual flavors. With my experiences in so many countries, their culinary influence is unavoidable. I cook over 90 percent of the family meals. I love reading. With a book at hand (and I am rarely without one) I am never alone. I love listening to music and often write to music. I love vegetable and fruit gardening. I am fascinated by planting seeds and harvesting the bounty of the work of my hands, all while recognizing and appreciating that these bounties are the gifts of God from whom I take a personal responsibility of stewardship.

    4.    Were you a reader as a child?

Are there trees in a forest? Absolutely, I read as a child. My favorite gifts for birthdays and Christmas were books, beginning with Golden Books, but I read Melville’s Moby Dick as a pre-adolescent and was hooked on novels. I was also a writer as a young child. My first effort of memory was writing a story when I was six or seven about being a seed.

   5.    Can you tell us your list of must-read books?

In no particular order, Moby Dick must be on the list. I also include Shakespeare; tragedies in particular. Umberto Eco is my favorite author, whose Foucault’s Pendulum is my preferred novel. He supplanted Aldous Huxley as an adolescent favorite, preferring Ape and Essence above others. Sun Tsu’s Art of War is on the list. Clive Barker’s Galilee is my kind of fantasy, and his Thief of Alwayscontains the best first line I have ever encountered. Plato’s Republic is a must. It was my oldest brother’s favorite (Bella Gioconda is dedicated to him). Finally, I must include Jesus the Christ, by James E. Talmage; the ultimate and most spiritual read on that subject.

    6.    Tell us about your novel, Bella Gioconda.

Bella Gioconda is a historic fiction in the Italian Renaissance era at the end of the fifteenth century. It also involves modern characters who become embroiled in the confusion of five hundred year-old indentities. There is an old chalk and ink drawing of a girl, Maria, the daughter of a Chianti vintner. The drawing is sought by a modern Swiss art collector, Claude Beauvin, who becomes entangle in a Renaissance love story. The drawing is currently owned by a reclusive young widow, Andrea Garibadli-Chase, who auctions the drawing in New York City. With smoldering rumors that Leonardo da Vinci is the artist, history is set on fire by an art dealer, an art history professor, and an Interpol intellectual property crimes investigator. All are caught up in the drawing’s history. Only after the auction, Beauvin learns who the girl was, what influence she had over da Vinci, and the centuries since, and how his growing feelings for Andrea transcend time and identity.

    7.    How did you come up with the idea for it?

It was pure serendipity. In 2009, the Bella Principessa, the drawing that is the subject of my novel, was offered in auction in New York, purchased by a Swiss art collector for $14,000. He proceeded to prove it was a lost da Vinci portrait and its value increased virtually overnight to over $100,000,000. I was already trying to find a subject for a historic fiction in a Renaissance setting when the above story flashed across my Internet search. Much like modifying a chef’s recipe, I added characters and a complete Renaissance-era plot to weave into the real story, made the art collector a fictitious character and added a romantic intrigue with a fictitious current owner of the drawing, who just happens to have a Renaissance genealogy with a twist. Voilà, a fiction that may have happened just as written.

    8.    Leonardo da Vinci plays a role in your novel. Can you tell us what inspired you to write about him? Also, which artists have inspired you in your life?

As I mentioned earlier, I dedicated Bella Gioconda to my brother’s memory, who died in 2008. And as I mention in the dedication, I can say with pride that he was the only polymath I ever knew. Once I knew that I wanted to write a story featuring the Bella Principessa drawing, Leonardo became the obvious central character as its creator. However, as I began to develop Andrea’s fictitious character, to whom the Bella character is linked, it became obvious that these women were the tandem primary characters while Leonardo took a supporting role. I chose Leonardo because of his historic stature as a true polymath who was one of my brother’s favorite historic figures.
Michelangelo heads the list of artists who have made an impression. Picasso follows. My favorite piece of his is Guernica,the gigantic 8×5 meter monochrome painting. It hangs in the Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid, Spain. A few years ago, I had an opportunity to travel to Madrid on business, and purposefully chose a hotel close to the museum in order to see my favorite painting. On arrival, instead of witnessing Picasso’s masterpiece, there was a small yellow post card on the wall announcing that the painting was on tour in the United States. ****!!!

    9.    If you were given a choice to live in one of your novels, would you? Why?

There is no doubt that as I write a historic novel, I have to be a resident, though I have not yet ever become a first-person character. I came away from the scenes in Bella Principessa with regret that I was not alive in that period.
In a current project I am completing as we speak, a sequel to Bella, I have inserted my present reality so far into the Renaissance, and back, that I have prepared two separate dishes dating from that era; roasted pork loin and an ice cream. Both feature clove as a flavoring ingredient. I discovered in my research that clove was frequently used as a substitute for salt. At that time, salt was heavily taxed and seldom used just for seasoning due to its excessive cost.

     10. Are you planning anymore novels? Can you give us a little bit of a hint?

Just mentioned above is the sequel, Seek & Find,another historic fiction set in the Renaissance era. It begins 10 years later, in 1503, and features Leonardo da Vinci as he is completing Mona Lisa while Michelangelo is concurrently completing the David. Here is my current commentary for the book:
History paints Leonardo and Michelangelo as sacred and profane rivals. In 1503 Florence, Leonardo da Vinci, fifty-two, was painting his iconic image, the Mona Lisa. Michelangelo, half his age, was creating his watershed sculpture, the David. Enter one of history’s most politically manipulative men of any age, Machiavelli, whose politics turned to art to successfully negotiate a contract for the two rivals to meet, face-to-face, to paint battle frescoes on two opposing walls in a single chamber. It is the most majestic, competitive artwork never to exist. But what if history was completely wrong about the rivalry and the art? What and where are the clues held by Renaissance art collectors, Claude and Andrea Beauvin, by virtue of her family ancestry? Why was the contest never waged; or was it, but not in a manner anyone expected? How did Leonardo and Michelangelo’s proof of a lie scandalize history with a secret held to this day? Enter the fresco by the artist-historian, Vasari, whose work contains a clue to a secret urging to be found. History gave the clue, an obscure, green battle banner with white lettering, “CERCA TROVA” (seek and find). Fiction offers the clue’s solution, but where does history end and fiction begin? Or did history end at all? 


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