“Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.” – Seneca
There’s no better way to start 2017 than with words of wisdom from more than two thousand years ago. Because I have been fortunate to travel to 108 countries, I must agree with Seneca, the Roman philosopher. Every time I’ve traveled abroad, my mind has been bombarded with a kaleidoscope of details for future novels. In 2013, I returned to the Loire Valley to revisit places where I had lived as a college student. While visiting the château at Blois, I saw a small oil painting of what at a distance looked like a whimsical cat, standing upright and dressed in a pink embroidered dress with a white lace collar. Except this was not a cat. She was Antonietta Gonzalez, a sixteenth-century girl who suffered from what is now known as “hypertrichosis universalis,” a condition in which the whole body is covered with hair. Once I returned to California, I read all I could find on Antonietta and her entire family. This led me to research about other girls from the Hispanic world who had been displayed publicly for their unique physical traits. Their physical conditions had brought them fame—along with shame, disappointment, and tragedy. I will introduce you to each of these unique girls in the near future. In the meantime, I am finalizing Lucia Zárate, the odyssey of the world’s smallest woman.