Here's a taste from the article:
"For example, Brother Giovanni’s Little Reward: How the Pretzel Was Born -- my new book for Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, written by Anna Egan Smucker — takes place in medieval Europe, most likely in Italy (I thought — with a name like Giovanni!). I already had a wonderful store of memories from visiting Italy as a child. These impressions added to my imaginative mix: fabulous old churches, clanking bells, the smell of warm Cyprus trees, wonderful food, a particular memory of having the top of my six-year-old head kissed by a kind adult, just because I was a ‘bambina.’
I started to hunt out art from medieval Italy. I have always loved pre-Renaissance Italian paintings, with their early sense of perspective, decorative plants, and buildings with the front walls opened up like dolls’ houses so that you can see right in. Having enjoyed playing with scale when I worked on The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau, I responded to the fantastical sizes of things in these early Italian paintings too. I was particularly drawn to the paintings of Fra Angelico for many reasons — their clarity and detail and their joyful coloration as well as the architectural structures the artist conjured. The scenes Angelico painted were often intimate in scale, even when he was dealing with epic subject matter. Like other painters of that era, he also worked on illuminated manuscripts. I thought I could have fun using those kinds of visual devices for Brother Giovanni."
Check out the whole article here.