Karen Essex is an award-winning novelist and journalist and a screenwriter.
She is the author of the national and international best-selling novel,
Leonardos Swans (Doubleday 2006), about the rivalries among the powerful
women painted by the great master when he was employed by the Duke of Milan. She
has also written two acclaimed biographical novels about the queen of Egypt,
Kleopatra and Pharaoh, published in 2001 and 2002, which she
adapted into a screenplay for Warner Bros. Essex also adapted Anne Rices novel
The Mummy or Ramses the Damned into a screenplay for Titanic
director James Cameron and 20th Century Fox, and has written a screenplay about
Kamehameha, the first king of Hawaii, for Columbia/Tristar.
Essexs articles, essays and profiles have been published in Vogue, Playboy, The L. A. Weekly, L. A. Style, and many other periodicals. After being awarded highest honors from the Los Angeles Press Club for her thought-provoking cover story about the missing 1950s pinup icon Bettie Page, Essex co-authored the biography, Bettie Page: Life of a Pinup Legend. Essex is the first and only journalist with whom the reclusive Ms. Page has ever agreed to meet and cooperate.
Essex was born and raised in New Orleans. She graduated from Tulane University, attended graduate school at Vanderbilt University, and received an MFA in Writing from Goddard College in Vermont. Shes appeared on The Today Show and A Word on Words hosted by John Seigenthaler, as well as other PBS and NPR programs. Shes lectured at the Chicago Museum of Art, and extensively at universities. Her books are taught in many college courses from creative writing to history to womens studies.
Leonardos Swans, a runaway bestseller in Italy, won the prestigious 2007 Premio Roma for foreign fiction. Her forthcoming novel, Stealing Athena, about the controversial Elgin Marbles, was published by Doubleday in June 2008. She is also the author of Dracula in Love: A Novel (2010).
Essexs novels are published in 25 languages. She lives in Los Angeles.
This biography was last updated on 08/14/2011.
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A Conversation with Karen Essex about Leonardo's Swans
Leonardo's Swans reveals the drama behind some of Leonardo da
Vinci's most famous paintings, but the story is told through the points of view
of the rivaling Este sisters. Why did you choose to tell it this way?
Beatrice and Isabella d'Este, princesses of Ferrara, were women of enormous influence in the Renaissance courts. They ruled withand in the stead oftheir husbands, acted as diplomats and ambassadors, patronized great artists, and influenced fashion. Isabella's patronage enabled titans of art like Titian, Mantegna, and Raphael to flourish. Yet the history books fail to mention these fascinating woman unless in a perfunctory way as wives of powerful men. I thought that their stories deserved to be brought to modern readers.
Most chapters of Leonardo's Swans begin with notebook entries attributed to Leonardo. Did you invent these sections?
These excerpts are from Leonardo's notebooks and letters. Some have been paraphrased or rewritten to be more palatable to the contemporary reader, and occasionally, I invented a sentence to give context. Leonardo is such a towering figureand a ...
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