Humber alumna becomes internationally published author
Humber EtCetera – Nov 2011

Marthese Fenech is an internationally published author, and she credits two Humber programs with giving her the skills she needed to hone her craft.

Fenech, whose first novel Eight Pointed Cross was published earlier this year, is a former journalism student and a 2004 alumna of the School for Writers.

Her book is historical fiction, retelling of the Ottoman Empire’s first siege on the island of Malta in the 16th century.

“The story has been told in history books, but not in an entertaining sort of way,” said Fenech, who is of Maltese descent.

Fenech said attending the School for Writers was one of the best decisions she made while writing the book, as she was paired with an established author as a mentor.

She said “the mentors are critical, which is good,” Fenech said. “They don’t sugar-coat anything, so you learn very early on what your weaknesses are…so you’re able to work and improve them.”

Fenech said that the journalism program also taught her skills that helped her in the writing process.

“It gave me the confidence to contact people and interview them, like historians,” said Fenech, adding the program also helped her establish connections with successful writers at the school.

One such connection was Antanas Sileika, now the director of the School for Writers, who Fenech kept in contact with and periodically showed her progress with the novel.

“She showed me pieces of the book…I thought it was great and sweeping,” Sileika said. “It was interesting and fast and fun.”

Another person privy to early drafts of the book was Carol Rassmussen, who assisted with editing.

“When I first got the manuscript it was 1,100 pages long,” Rassmussen said. “She could have easily gone on and turned it into a trilogy.”

“Part of the whole process has been trying to figure out what to do with this fabulous amount of writing,” she said.

Eventually, the book was cut down to 640 pages, with Fenech planning to produce a sequel.



“Crystal-clear descriptive language … Ms. Fenech has recreated the compelling world of the Montesa family of Malta and the Knights of St. John as though she time-travelled back to the sixteenth century to do her research. An impressive debut!”

— Karen Connelly, author of The
Lizard Cage

"I believed every minute of it."

— Carol Rasmussen, former book review editor at Library Journal

"Eight Pointed Cross has all the ingredients that I consider importan in a novel: a gripping plot, engaging, believable characters, stunning description, violence, love, sex, remarkable psychological insight, historical detail… The first English literary critic, Sir Phillip Sidney, wrote that the purpose of literature was to teach and to delight. I learned much from Eight Pointed Cross. And the internal struggles of characters such as Augustine and Franco lend depth and substance to the characterization. A more recent literary giant, William Faulkner, in his speech upon receiving the Nobel Prize for literature in 1950, opined that the only thing worth writing about is the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself. You, Ms. Fenech, have passed both of these tests with flying colours."

— John Heighton, reader for the Porcupine's Quill