Whilst recently chatting over a glass or three of wine, I and fellow-Crooked Cat author Sue Barnard realised that our male lead characters (Lorenzo in The Ghostly Father and Iamo in Alchemy and its sequel Shaman’s Drum) have a great deal in common. They come from similar backgrounds, they’re both monks, and they’re both somewhat unorthodox in their outlook on life. So we decided to get the two of them together and ask them a few questions.
Let’s start at the beginning – what made you enter a monastery in the first place?
LORENZO – I had no choice. I was told by my father that this was what I must do, and he threatened to disown me if I did not obey him. To say that this was a shock does not even come close to describing how I felt; he was a kind and just man, and for him to behave thus was completely out of character. I did not find out the real reason for his actions until almost twenty years later.
IAMO – I had felt a sense of vocation from my early years and studied with the Temple while I was at university. It was a natural progression for me to take my vows as soon as I finished my studies.
Did you have a happy childhood? Had it always been your ambition/vocation?
LORENZO – My childhood was privileged. My father was a Venetian count and we lived in a palazzo. All our needs were taken care of by our servants. I had one brother, three years my senior. Sadly I never knew my mother, who had died at my birth.
It was never my ambition or vocation to enter Holy Orders. My one desire was to become a physician.
IAMO – Not particularly. Like Lorenzo I was born into an aristocratic family but I found myself unable to take an interest in the things expected of me and I became interested in the Path very early on. I had almost no contact with my parents but adored my Nanny. It was probably through her that I found my vocation.
Were you not bothered about the vows of chastity etc that you had to take? Did you give those a lot of consideration before making your decision?
LORENZO – Having lost the love of my life before I entered the order, the vows of chastity did not cause me any problems. I knew that I could never replace her.
IAMO – in my Order we were only required to take celibacy vows after a certain time and by then I was so set on my career as a priest that I gave it very little thought. I had never been in love and felt that the pro outweighed the con inestimably.
Once in the order, were you happy?
LORENZO – To my great surprise, yes. I am sure this is due in no small part to the influence of Fra’ Roberto, the Father Superior who became my own “ghostly father.” He displayed a level of kindness, sympathy, compassion and good sense which I had never anticipated of a monastic.
IAMO – Probably less so than Lorenzo. I became the assistant to the High Priestess of our Order and my responsibilities were onerous. I failed in my duties several times. Although Scribe has never said so, I think she has hinted that I was itching for adventure.
Did you ever envisage leaving the order?
LORENZO – Never. Indeed, I did not imagine that it would even be possible. I had always understood that the vows were for life.
IAMO – As far as my past life was concerned, I had burned my bridges. All contact with my family had been cut and they were furious that I was not going to return to give them the heir they wanted. Not having considered any other way of life, I never imagined anything else.
Did you have much of a life on the outside “in the world” before taking your vows?
LORENZO –- I was eighteen when I first entered the friary as a postulant, but for the year before that I was apprentice to an apothecary. This is where I learned the skills which prepared me for my later tasks as herbalist and infirmarian.
IAMO – Yes. Like all privileged little boys of my class I went to prep and public school. My studies were then pursued at university because I wanted to study under Professor Oliver, so I had the life of a student with all the attendant excesses. Also, in an effort to marry me off and dissuade me from the monastic life, my mother had shoved various prospective brides at me. Yes, I think it’s fair to say I had my share of “real life”.
How did you decide on your monastic name?
LORENZO –- My real name is Sebastiano Lorenzo Matteo Giovanni Battista Da Porto. I was always known as Sebastiano, but when I came to take my vows I was asked to choose another name because there was already a Fra’ Sebastiano in the friary. I chose Lorenzo because it is my second given name.
IAMO – I would rather not reveal that as I have been Iamo for so long now and will stay that way. Perhaps if I just say that it is composed of my initials.
When you entered the order, what did you miss most of your earlier life? How did you cope without it?
LORENZO – It was all so different from what I had previously known that for a long time I was not comparing like with like, so the question did not arise. Once I had accustomed myself to the new way of life, the biggest difference was being a servant rather than a master. But that was the way of the Franciscans – their task was to serve.
IAMO – Nothing. Oh yes, the occasional cigarette. Mostly I was very happy in the Temple.
Was there anything you were glad to leave behind when you entered the order?
LORENZO – Unhappiness. I had just had to bid farewell to the love of my life. And also (I am ashamed to say this), following my father’s inexplicable change of demeanour, I was glad that I should not have to have any further contact with him.
IAMO – Yes, killing. My father belongs to the “hunting, shooting, fishing” brigade and such things leave me cold. I cannot bear the taking of sentient life for no reason. I’m vegetarian and the only things I kill willingly are demons, but that is a moot point. Are they in fact “living” in the first place? I was glad to get out of a world I didn’t fit into.
From what we can gather, neither of you seemed to have had much difficulty about bending the rules when it suited you. Do you feel guilty about that?
LORENZO – I had to (as you describe it) “bend the rules” on one particular occasion – which was to help a desperate person out of a desperate situation. I have no feelings of guilt about that – but I cannot even begin to imagine how I would feel if the outcome of my actions had been different.
IAMO – I have to agree with my brother monk here. I didn’t just bend the rules, I broke them, threw them on the ground and jumped up and down on them. I had to pay for that but no, I do not regret it for a moment because I did it for the finest of motives – love.
Thank you both, gentlemen – this has been a fasinating discussion
This post is also available on Sue’s blog here