Wow! FINDING EMILIE has been out only three days and already more than ten reviews–all of them extremely positive!–have gone up on historical fiction websites and elsewhere. Everyone seems to love Lili (my fictional daughter) and her mother Emilie, as well as Lili’s own fictional creation, Meadowlark. Eventually I’ll post these as live links on a reviews page, but if you are interested in taking a peek now, just paste the link. Very very rewarding. I guess I can relax now!
The official publication date for FINDING EMILIE is tomorrow, although the book has already been released by Amazon and people are starting to receive their copies. This morning I got my first review from one of the big historical fiction blogs, The Burton Review. “Finding Emilie goes easily on my favorites of 2011 list,” the review says. Here it is in its entirety:
I’ve been busy preparing guest posts for some of the many historical fiction blogs, and the first two are already posted:
Two weeks until pub date for FINDING EMILIE! No, I’m not going crazy counting the hours. I am much too busy for that.
Here’s what has already happened: I received two boxes of author’s copies of the book about ten days ago, and it is always a thrill to see finished copies staring up in multiple as I lift the flaps. I’m busy giving copies away to people who can help place the book in libraries and independent bookstores, or get it in the hands of people who run conferences, book fairs, book-related philanthropic events, and the like. If you fall into any of those categories, let me know!
I’ve been busy in the last month or so setting up a “blog tour,” which has taken the place of actual touring for all but the most famous authors. Publishers don’t support real tours much any more–there isn’t a lot of bang for the buck in it–and that’s fine with me, because I’d rather sleep at home and put my energy into writing. I have more than a dozen guest blog posts written already, waiting to be published after the book is out.
My publicist has gotten FINDING EMILIE in the hands of a number of bloggers who will be doing reviews and giveaways. She’s also looking for possible author appearances and speaking gigs.
As for such appearances, I have a whirlwind of them, which I won’t list here, because all the information can be found in the calendar on the home page. In addition, I have about a dozen book clubs and private events between now and Memorial Day, some of which are for EMILIE, but others are for my other books. People seem to be still discovering THE FOUR SEASONS and UNTIL OUR LAST BREATH, and of course PENELOPE’S DAUGHTER has only been out since October 2010 and is still a “new” book.
I’m also busy with my full load of classes at San Diego City College, as well as a four-part lecture series on the Convivencia, the centuries of coexistence of Jews, Muslims, and Christians in Iberia during the medieval era. I offered this course once already at SDSU extension, and am repeating it at San Diego CIty College. Check the calendar page for more information if you are interested. The course is the result of my sabbatical research in Fall 2010.
And then there’s the launch of FINDING EMILIE, which looks to be a lot of fun. Rather than doing a separate launch party for friends, family, and supporters, I am bringing bubbly and treats to my first two bookstore appearances, at Warwick’s in La Jolla, and Bay Books in Coronado. Also on the calendar page. Come on down and share a toast to the fabulous Emilie du Châtelet!
Oops! Just looked at the clock! I have a job to get to. What a fortunate person I am to have so many wonderful things to do!
It doesn’t happen very often in life, even for the most prolific writers, to find a box of one’s new book waiting on the doorstep. Yesterday I had one of those “blessed events,” the arrival of finished copies of FINDING EMILIE.
Just when I’ve managed to catch my breath from the release of PENELOPE’S DAUGHTER last October, here I am a month away from the publication date for FINDING EMILIE, my third historical novel and fourth book since 2008!
I started writing books for mainstream audiences in 2004, with my first draft of UNTIL OUR LAST BREATH. I recently sent off novel number four to my agent for marketing, so doing the math, that’s seven years I’ve been writing, with five books to show for it. I don’t know why I have been so prolific, other than that I really, truly love to write, and once I get an idea burning in me, I am a goner. I’d rather work on my novel-in-progress than just about anything else, and the challenge becomes not the writing but fitting in everything else, whether business or pleasure.
Lest you think the six months between pub dates means it took me six months to write FINDING EMILIE, decidedly not so. PENELOPE’S DAUGHTER was a little slow from finishing the manuscript, to sale, to publication, and EMILIE had a quick sale and took the usual year-and-change from that point to bookstore shelves.
I have a lot of appearances set for FINDING EMILIE, and if you look in the scrolling calendar in the left column of the home page of this website, you can see them all, or go to the Events page for the same information. I love book clubs too, so please bear any of my books in mind as your group makes future choices. I can talk by phone or Skype if you aren’t in the San Diego area
Look for FINDING EMILIE on the front tables of Barnes and Noble stores for a few weeks after publication, and of course it will be available at most chains and many indie bookstores, and online. Right now it’s deeply discounted at Amazon and Barnes and Noble online–a little over half the cover price!
For more information on the book, and on the inspirational Emilie du Chatelet, look under the books tab on this site. I hope you like “finding” Emilie as much as I did.
It’s now been almost two weeks since I returned from France, and I’ve been too busy launching back into my novel in progress, THE LAWS OF MOTION, and recovering from lingering jet lag to be able until now to add a new entry to this site.
I wrote during the trip about points in between but not about the delightful beginning and end to my stay in Paris and eastern France, so I’ll focus only on those two things here. I began my stay in Paris with dinner on the Left Bank with Jacques Guiod, the French translator of THE FOUR SEASONS. Here we are, taking a look at the newly released LES QUATRE SAISONS. By the end of the trip, I’d checked in six bookstores, large and small, in cities and in small towns, and found copies of it everywhere. Thanks, Jacques! If it’s a hit in France, take a big bow!
On the last day of the trip, I visted Ferney, the town near the Swiss border where Voltaire lived until shortly before his death. I’d gone to France with much of THE LAWS OF MOTION drafted, but the scenes set at Ferney are from the climactic pages of the book, which are still ahead of me. It might sound odd to some people, but I’ve found it immensely helpful to do my on-site research after I’ve written a draft of a book. Basic information about settings is usually pretty easy to get at home. It’s the little facts and the small details that aren’t mentioned that I need to go find out for myself–what kinds of trees are in a garden, the floor plan of a house, the view from a particular window. Traveling afterwards, I can go with a better idea of exactly what I need to know, and I don’t end up regretting what I didn’t notice or didn’t think to do while was there. Of course if this writing thing ever starts paying the bills, I’d move to a place and write the book there, but I imagine that’s every writer’s dream!
It was, therefore, different and rather exhilarating to be at Ferney and imagine what might happen in the last chapter of my book rather than just fine-tuning the details. I’ll see how this new approach to research goes when I get to that point in the book, but right now, I’m going to sign off and get back to work. I’m rooting for my heroine, Lili, and I can’t wait to see what she’s going to do next!
I’m now in Strasbourg, France. My brain is on overload, and my stomach is on overeat at this point, and it’s nice to have a day of both mental and gastronomical fasting!
The day before yesterday I visited the chateau where I set the epilogue of my novel-in-progress. I walked around saying to myself, “this is Delphine’s house,” and “this is Lili’s room,” even though the two main characters in THE LAWS OF MOTION are fictional creations. To me, the fact that a very real and very frightened Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette stopped at Etoges on their failed attempt to flee Versailles has less resonance than Lili and Delphine’s footsteps in the worn depressions of the marble stairs and the echoes of their voices in the salon.
From there, I went on to Cirey-sur-Blaise, in many respects the ground zero of this trip. This is the ancestral home of the Marquis du Chatelet, Emilie du Chatelet’s husband, and it is here that Emilie lived with Voltaire for fifteen years, first as lovers then as friends (with her husband’s full support–a complicated arrangement, but workable in those times). I saw their library and study, their dining room, and the theatre they constructed in an attic space, where they and their guests performed Voltaire’s plays and Emilie sang the lead role in operas. Apparent her memory and her voice were two more astonishing things about her, in addition to her brilliance as a mathematician and physicist. So great was the couple’s renown that some of the most important people in France braved the four-day journey from Paris to this incredibly remote location in Champagne just to be in their company.
I had arranged a private tour of the chateau, since high tourist season doesn’t start until July 1. I was aware that the owner-occupant of Cirey did not speak English, so I’d been dusting off my French to make the tour work. Although she spoke in rapid fire, I understood almost everything she said, and when I asked questions or made comments (in complete sentences no less!) I was pleased she understood me every time. Of course later that evening, I was so tired I couldn’t have found my own head if I’d had to ask for it in French, but no matter! Because it isn’t clear at this
point which interior shots I am permitted to post, I’ll show only a shot of myself outside with Madame. She’s holding a copy of LES QUATRE SAISONS, the French translation of THE FOUR SEASONS.
As I expected, people who visit Cirey are primarily interested in it as the home of Voltaire. If they have heard of Emilie at all, she is usually a footnote in the great writer’s life–his companion, his supporter, his muse. For me, of course, it’s the opposite. My novel, The Laws of Motion, is not directly about her, but about the daughter she died after giving birth to at age forty-three, right at the point her work had catapulted her into the top echelon of scientists in Europe. Her translation of and commentary on Newton’s Principia is still the standard edition in France today. There’s more about her on the pages for The Laws of Motion on this site.
On the way to Strasbourg I made a brief stop at the palace at Luneville, where Emilie du Chatelet died. She is buried under the floor of the parish church there, and it was deeply moving to come to pay my respects. And now, it’s on to Ferney, where Voltaire lived after her death. Located right outside Geneva, it was in a good spot for him, since he lived more or less continually under threat of arrest for his caustic commentaries on French society. From Ferney, he could make a quick dash across the border, as I too will have to do in about a week’s time to catch the plane for home.
The authors I met at the recent conference of the Historical Novel Society were in agreement that there’s an obligation to both the subject and the reader to get the facts right in situations where the facts are there to be discovered, whether through research or direct experience. We write fiction, and of course the imagination rules supreme, but the stories need to be grounded firmly in
their particular environment. I have been fortunate enough to be able to travel to the places where all my books have been set–Venice, Greece, and now France, in addition to Lithuania for my narrative non-fiction book Until Our Last Breath.
Some of the most emotionally dramatic scenes in my new novel-in-progress, The Laws of Motion, are set at Vaux-le-Vicomte, a chateau about an hour by car from Paris. Since Fontainebleau and Versailles are more famous, I expected to see only a few tourists, but it turned out the day I had chosen for the visit was the annual celebration of the courtly era at the chateau, and thousands of French people had shown up costumed for the event. It was a lot of fun to turn around and see Voltaire, or a woman in a dress I could imagine my characters wearing as they strolled the same grounds.
And, as usual, I discovered I had a lot of the details wrong. One scene simply could not have happened the way I described, despite having pored over photos of the location before writing it. Another whose accuracy I doubted
turned out to be plausible just the way I had it. But best of all was the moment when I saw the game room inside the chateau and discovered, to my astonishment and delight, a table and two chairs set up for the popular game of trictrac–just like a scene in the book where my protagonist, Lili, gets the better of a young man she dislikes. Sometimes it’s all so real it stops you dead in your tracks!
Today, Versailles. Always deeply conflicting to witness that kind of grandeur. I’ll be glad to move on from it.
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