Tag Archives: Augstine of Hippo

Why I wrote The Saint’s Mistress (part one)

Why I wrote The Saint’s Mistress (part one)

I came to write The Saint’s Mistress via a trail of books.

At the library one April night in 2006, a book called The Well-Educated Mind caught my eye.  The Well-Educated Mind recommended Saint Augustine’s Confessions as the first example of a modern autobiography.  I was intrigued by that, but a little daunted by the prospect of a book written in the 5th century by an early Father of the Church.

A few months later, again at the library, I happened to notice a short biography of Augustine by Garry Wills.¬† I remembered my interest in the Confessions and thought this short, modern book might be a way to ease myself into Augustine.¬† It was in the Wills book that I discovered Leona ‚Äď or, more accurately, the faint, ancient scent of her.

Wills wrote a little of Augustine’s beloved, whom he mentions briefly, but never names, in his Confessions.  I learned that this unnamed woman had been Augustine’s mistress of many years, and that they had had a child together who died as a young man.  Wow, I thought, what must her life have been like?  Then:  Hmmmm, what WOULD it have been like?  And so a flame was lit.

The wonderful thing about Leona is that nothing was known of her, other than what little I learned from Wills.  She was Augustine’s mistress.  They are believed to have met in Carthage.  They had a son.  The son died.  After that, history is absolutely silent.  I could make up anything I wanted, including her name.  My only constraints were the historically established facts of Augustine’s life and 4th-5th century Christianity.

I was an amateur, sporadically published, writer of short stories, travel articles and essays.¬† I had finished one novel that I wasn‚Äôt quite satisfied with and had no idea how to submit for publication anyway.¬† I had no experience with historical research.¬† My life also included a demanding full-time job, a husband, a son in college, and a daughter and baby grandson who had just moved back in with us.¬† So, of course, I had to write this book….TO BE CONTINUED