Introduced to the character of Juan Bautista Chapa by a cousin from Monterrey, Mexico, I became intrigued with the man, an Italian emigrant who became one of the defining figures in the history of Northeastern Mexico. After reading a translation of his Historia del Reino del Nuevo León, I became fascinated with the arc of Chapa’s life and the way it illuminated the development of Nuevo León and Mexico during the 17th century.
Diving into the scholarly works and archives that outline the known course of Chapa’s life, I was inspired to take those threads and weave them into a richer tapestry – a novel that could bring the man and his world to life in a more vivid way. To that end, everything I could learn about his life and the era he lived in was employed to try and create a living, breathing person.
As my interest in the project deepened, it sent me off on a fascinating journey of exploration, one that ultimately connected me with scholars and historians in Italy, Mexico, the U.S. and Canada. I travelled in his footsteps, with visits to Albisola, Veracruz, Cádiz, Cadereyta and Monterrey.
These visits, conversations, and the historical research that sprung from them, all drove me to create a world that is as faithful to truth and history as possible. At the heart of the book is the Historia itself, excerpts of which make up the foundation of the narrative. All but two of the major characters are real people with whom he lived and worked, and the narrative of his life is stitched together from historical documents from Italy, Spain and Mexico.
While the journey started as a solitary quest, it ultimately became a truly collaborative effort, written with the assistance of my wife and a young writer/historian, Nathan Williams.