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Karen Essex biography

Author Biography  | Interview  | Books by this Author  | Read-Alikes

Karen Essex

Karen Essex

Karen Essex Biography

Karen Essex is an award-winning novelist and journalist and a screenwriter. She is the author of the national and international best-selling novel, Leonardo’s 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 Rice’s 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.

Essex’s 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. She’s appeared on The Today Show and A Word on Words hosted by John Seigenthaler, as well as other PBS and NPR programs. She’s 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 women’s studies.

Leonardo’s 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).

Essex’s novels are published in 25 languages. She lives in Los Angeles.

Karen Essex's website

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Interview

Karen Essex discusses the true drama behind some of Leonardo da Vinci's most famous paintings, which form the background to Leonardo's Swans, the story of the Este sisters, two women of enormous influence in the Renaissance courts of Europe.

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 with–and in the stead of–their 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 figure–and a controversial one–that I wanted the portrait of him to be drawn from ...

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Books by this Author

Books by Karen Essex at BookBrowse
Dracula in Love jacket Stealing Athena jacket Leonardo's Swans jacket
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Read-Alikes

All the books below are recommended as read-alikes for Karen Essex but some maybe more relevant to you than others depending on which books by the author you have read and enjoyed. So look for the suggested read-alikes by title linked on the right.
How we choose read-alikes

  • Vanora Bennett

    Vanora Bennett

    Vanora Bennett became a journalist almost by accident. Having learned Russian and been hired after university by Reuters, she was catapulted out of the classical-music life of her family and straight into the adrenaline-... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    Leonardo's Swans

    Try:
    Portrait of an Unknown Woman
    by Vanora Bennett

  • Tracy Chevalier

    Tracy Chevalier

    Tracy Chevalier was born in Washington, DC but has lived in England all her adult life. She now has dual citizenship. She has a BA in English from Oberlin College, Ohio and an MA in creative writing from the University of ... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    Leonardo's Swans

    Try:
    The Lady and the Unicorn
    by Tracy Chevalier

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