Guest post: Louise Cusack on da Vinci, strangers, and writing

LouiseCusackToday my blog features Louise Cusack, author of the Time Trilogy and many other books, with a fascinating post that delves into her interest in ‘strangers in a strange land’–and the amazing Leonardo da Vinci!

Charming, talented and unfortunately dead

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated obsessed with the life and work of Leonardo Da Vinci – an Italian who died 500 years ago. Not only was he the painter of iconic works like the Mona Lisa, he made landmark medical discoveries in skeletal structure and the functioning of heart valves. He came up with the idea of tanks, submarines and winged flight devices, and was renowned for cartography, hydrodynamics and botany. But wait, there’s more: he was handsome, charming, intelligent, musically talented, and a vegetarian who abhorred cruelty to animals.
I mean, really, has there ever been a more perfect man?
So many accomplishments, such an eye for details, which he recorded meticulously in his notebooks, many of which are still around today as codices – one owned by Bill Gates in fact.
Yes, there were quirks. Leonardo used mirror-writing to ensure others would have difficulty copying his work. He often didn’t finish his commissions, and apparently left more than half his paintings incomplete. He wasn’t great with money and took on a talentless but handsome young thief as an apprentice which didn’t help stifle rumours of homosexuality. So Leonardo’s life was often fraught with difficulties, which doesn’t seem fair to me. If he was alive today, I like to imagine some wealthy patron – a latter-day Medici – would be cosseting him with whatever he needed so he could simply create, unimpeded.
To say that Leonardo Da Vinci was a once-in-a-millennium-talent isn’t hyperbole, but I have to admit, it wasn’t the breadth of his creativity that impressed me the most. It was his unbelievable visual acuity. He could see the individual movement of bird’s wings in flight, and he recorded those movements in his notebooks. I didn’t really “get” how impressive that feat was until I saw those wing movements for myself on a slow-motion film. And in fact, it was only when slow motion film was invented a hundred years ago that scientists could confirm the accuracy of Leonardo’s sketches.
No wonder people speculate that he was either an alien or a time traveller!
I rather think he was a very rare human who looked at his world through completely fresh eyes. It was almost as if he was a Stranger in a Strange Land, inspecting people, plants, animals, landscapes, stars and light as if he knew nothing about those subjects and had to understand it all without relying on previous assumptions (many of which turned out to be wrong). I’m constantly inspired by his example, and in my own craft of writing I’ve tried to look at the world around me with fresh eyes, and to create that experience of wonder and excitement for readers by having a character travel from one world to another.
In my first fantasy trilogy, Shadow Through Time, characters travel back and forth from our world to the brown kingdom of Ennae, and you can’t imagine how weird our world looks to them! The series begins, however, with an Australian girl, Catherine, leaving our world and travelling through a watery portal to Ennae to find her missing twin brother. In that opening novel Destiny of the Light, Catherine (who turns out to be Princess Khatrene) will be helped through the dangerous terrain by Talis, her appointed Guardian, who will sacrifice everything to ensure her safety in a land where magic prevails and nothing is as it seems. At each turn are real and imagined enemies who will do everything in their power to prevent her from fulfilling a prophecy, including the ethereal and erotic shadow woman, the enigmatic tattooed man, even her beloved brother Mihale.
The opening novel Destiny of the Light is currently free as an ebook and I encourage you to give it a try. As one book blogger said: “If you love your fantasy to be slightly gritty but with plenty of swoony romance, Destiny of the Light is for you!”


 Louise Cusack lives in Australia, in a tiny fishing village on the southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef. She’s a long-time vegetarian and caffeine addict who mentors other writers when she isn’t writing herself. A Trekkie from way back, she loves all thing science fiction and fantasy, especially if it has a good love story. Her website is at

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