How I Became Interested In The French Renaissance

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

This post was originally published on Mary Anne Bernal’s blog Let Your Words Shine.

Many people ask me how I became interested in the French renaissance. It’s a long story. The year I was five, I lived with my grandparents to go to grade one. It was the most formative of my life. Escaping from the position as a middle child of three, I became a pampered only child. My grandmother introduced me to the world of medieval and Renaissance English knights, ladies, kings, and especially queens; to Robin Hood and Maid Marion and the evil Sheriff of Nottingham, and I developed a passion for the era and reading about it.

When I came home every afternoon after school, my grandfather, the doctor in the community, did my homework with me. He was a wonderfully slow student who allowed me to believe I was teaching him to read. From this experience, I attribute my love of reading and a penchant for teaching that led to a satisfying career in education and training.  

My grandmother, an expert at dinners, desserts, and preserves, introduced me to another lifelong pleasure: the delight of cooking and baking. She encouraged me to “help,” cheerfully enduring the mess I made. This skill has stood me in good stead. My mother, a career woman, enjoyed nothing about the kitchen. As I grew older, I became the provider of the treats — the birthday cakes, the cookies, the Christmas puddings, and mince pies. And because of my pleasure in trying new things, I’ve mastered Indian cooking and Mexican cooking among others along my journey.

Moving and Miniatures

That year also gave birth to my fascination with all things miniature. My grandfather had built a doll’s house for my mother when she was young. When I lived with my grandparents, I adopted it. As a family treasure, it stayed with the house, so I started collecting and making miniature furniture, dolls’ clothes, and decorated shadow boxes. Finally, I got my hands on the original doll’s house. Then I repainted and re-roofed it, rewired its electricity and re-papered the walls. I even installed all new light fixtures. When I moved to Prince Edward Island, it came with me. There I made a friend who was a gifted expert at all things tiny and detailed. She rapidly became a soulmate. One of the wrenches, when I moved to Mexico, was giving up that doll’s house and all its contents.

Variety is the spice of my life, and I will try most things once. It has taken me down many winding paths and career directions. I am not known as a sporting enthusiast, so the job that most surprised those who know me was Director of Recreational Cycling with the Canadian Cycling Association. The work itself involved tasks like editing a newsletter, writing funding proposals, organizing and chairing meetings, and so on — duties unrelated to cycling itself — but the organization and the people in it were competitive athletic types caught up in the politics of sport. I learned a lot.

A Family of ‘Renaissance’ Women

I come from generations of strong-willed, intelligent, energetic women who continue to influence my life and fill me with admiration. Both my grandmothers ran things. My mother’s mother was a physical education teacher before she married. When she and my unilingual, doctor grandfather moved to a small Quebec village, she, as the bilingual one, ran his office and became his nurse, and translator for over forty years. My great-aunt, her sister, was Superintendent of Nurses at one of Montreal’s largest hospitals. When she retired, she trained as a lawyer to act as counsel for nursing organizations. My father’s suddenly widowed mother took a secretarial job at a professional institute, rose quickly to office manager, and basically ran the place for over thirty years. My mother started as a teacher, became a guidance counselor, then a principal, and moved on to directorships in various Quebec government and educational institutions. After she retired, she researched and wrote three historical novels. She is still going strong, running the family as she always has.

These sterling examples have moulded my sister and me. After her retirement from a successful career as a teacher, my sister did not slow down. She leads several community organizations and is active in provincial politics. Her style is quieter than mine, but she is as persistent as a bulldog.

When I retired as an Assistant Director in Training, I moved to Mexico. Here, I learned Spanish and married. Now, I’m fulfilling my lifelong dream of publishing novels set in the French renaissance.

So, there you have it—an assortment of semi-related tidbits about me. They give you an inkling of who I am. I delight in learning about others, so contact me on one of my websites or on Facebook or Twitter.

My Next Renaissance Book

When I finished The Importance of Pawns, it left me, its author, with questions. What caused the deep enmity between Anne and Louise? If Louise’s son was next in line to the throne, why was her husband so poor? My second novel, The Importance of Sons, answered some of these questions.

I am eager to learn the questions my readers want answered in the next book after they finish The Importance of Pawns. I invite them to visit my website  [] to ask!

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