October 2, 2012

Katherine Marsh on Strange History

Jepp, Who Defied the Stars Today Katherine Marsh, author of the upcoming JEPP, WHO DEFIED THE STARS, is guesting on the blog.  She even provided a few interesting facts about herself that serve as a terrific introduction.

"A few interesting tidbits about me: I used to write for Rolling Stone magazine, I’m a Scorpio, and I’m really claustrophobic so if you meet me in an elevator, for god sakes, give me space!"

Now here's Katherine!



One of the cool things about my new book, Jepp, Who Defied the Stars, is that both the title character and many other characters in the book are based on real historical figures. In Bed With Books has asked me to share some of the weird bits I uncovered doing the research for the book so the logical place to start is with one of these characters—a Danish nobleman named Tycho Brahe. Brahe was a 16th century astronomer. Before you start to yawn, consider this weird historical tidbit: Brahe had no nose. And that’s just the beginning of his very strange story.

But first, a little about my story: My book is not called Tycho Brahe, Who Defied the Stars. It’s called Jepp, Who Defied the Stars. So who the heck is Jepp? Jepp was also a real person. He served in Brahe’s court as his dwarf jester. Beyond that, not much is known about him. He’s a footnote of history—he literally sat at his famous master’s feet—which is why I set out to tell his story. Who was he and he did he end up with Tycho? What happened to him there? Jepp became my vehicle for an adventure story/ mystery about fate and free will, parents and destiny.

Central to Jepp’s own story is the eccentric figure of Tycho Brahe. The more I learned about Brahe through biographies and histories, the more intrigued I became. Back to the nose: Brahe lost it in a drunken duel when he was a student (Mother’s Against Drunk Swordplay was apparently not yet incorporated) and afterwards he wore a prosthetic nose—made of copper though some say he also had a gold one he broke out for special occasions. He attached it to his face with paste. In my book, Jepp is forced to do a particularly strange job—pick up Tycho’s nose when the paste loosens and the nose falls off.

Brahe was one part Steve Jobs, one part Michael Jackson, and one part Willy Wonka. He built his own futuristic castle and observatory on the island of Hven (a gift to Brahe from his patron, the King of Denmark). The castle even had running water, which no one else did at the time, and an indoor fountain. Brahe personally designed many of his own astronomical instruments and employed scholars from across Europe, creating one of the first modern-day international research facilities. He was paranoid about other astronomers stealing his ideas though and so, centuries before this became common practice, made his employees sign written contracts. Despite being a noble, he wasn’t a snob: he married a non-noble woman even though such a marriage was technically against the laws of the time and employed and nurtured scholars from more humble backgrounds.

Brahe was a serious astronomer—the data he compiled was so comprehensive and accurate that the astronomer Johannes Kepler would later use it to prove his groundbreaking laws of planetary motion--but he also knew how to have a good time. He kept a collection of automata, or mechanized statues, with which he liked to frighten guests. And, my favorite detail of all, he had a beer-drinking moose as a pet.

The moose ultimately didn’t fare much better than Brahe’s nose but you’ll have to read Jepp, Who Defied the Stars to find out exactly what happened to it--as well as more strange but true historical tales.

For more, check out katherinemarsh.com or follow me on twitter @MarshKatherine or on facebook/katherinemarshauthor.

Bio: I’m the author of the upcoming historical YA novel Jepp, Who Defied the Stars (out October 9th!), the Edgar-award winning The Night Tourist, and a sequel, The Twilight Prisoner (read if you like ghosts, urban exploration and Greek myths).


  1. I loved this short dive into real history - it's so interesting that those are REAL facts! Truth is stranger than fiction, I suppose. Thank you for sharing; I'm now looking forward to Jepp.

    1. Yep, it was crazy to learn what the actual facts behind the book were.

  2. Oh how interesting. No nose huh? That is crazy. This post does make me very much curious to check out the novel, so well done. :)


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