YOU ARE HAVING TEA WITH ONE OF YOUR FAVORITE AUTHORS. WHO IS IT, AND WHAT WOULD YOU ASK HIM OR HER IF YOU COULD ONLY ASK ONE QUESTION?
The author would be F. Scott Fitzgerald. I’ve loved him since I read THE GREAT GATSBY years and years ago. I would ask him to tell me stories about the roaring twenties, the Jazz Age and life as an ex-pat in Paris.
WHAT’S THE MOST SURPRISING THING YOU’VE DISCOVERED ABOUT HAVING A BOOK PUBLISHED?
The most surprising thing was learning first hand that making a career as an author is one of the hardest, but most enjoyable, things I’ve ever done. It’s a constant juggling act: conceiving new ideas; writing proposals; writing the books; and promoting the books. Then the cycle starts all over again (and each “ball” has its own subset of demands, which must be met). If I’m not careful, it’s easy to drop the balls. Then life to gets out of balance. Still, I can’t imagine doing anything else. I will never retire.
WHAT’S YOUR TYPICAL WRITING DAY LIKE?
My husband and I are recent empty nesters, and it’s taken some adjusting to get used to our new life. When our daughter was at home, I would write at night ( sometimes into the wee hours of the morning) because that was when my loves were safe and sound under one roof, the house was quiet, the phone wasn’t ringing and most sane people weren’t sending emails. However, since last fall, I’ve tried to adjust my schedule so that I get to bed at a decent hour and don’t work weekends. (Please click on the tab “Extra Fun,” and see the post “A Day in the Life” for a detailed look at one of my typical writing days. In that section, also stop in for “A Tour of My Office.” Be sure to actually click on the “Extra Fun” link. If your mouse “hovers” over it, you’ll see a drop-down menu with other options. A Day in the Life” and “A Tour of My Office” aren’t in that list. You have to actually click on the “Extra Fun” link. Then, of course, please go back and explore the items in the drop-down menu).
WHAT WAS THE FIRST BOOK YOU READ THAT INSPIRED YOU IN SOME SPECIAL WAY? WHY?
When I was a very young, I fell in love with Maurice Sendak’s WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE (and, I’m STILL crazy about it). It’s the first book I remember loving. It seemed so exciting to my young mind. Even without the fabulous illustrations, the story evoked such vivid images and a feeling that I was along for the adventure with Max. I read it over and over. Later, of course, I graduated to other books – NANCY DREW and LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE, but WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE still holds a special place in my heart.
WHICH DO YOU COME UP WITH FIRST: THE CHARACTERS, OR THE STORYLINE?
I’ve had both happen first. Usually, the characters introduce themselves to me first and they tell me their stories, but I have had occasions when I see or read about a situation and think, WOW! That would make a great story. My best advice is to be open to both avenues, but in both cases remember to develop your characters. Well-crafted characters who are sympathetic and relatable are the heart of every good story.
IF WE ASKED YOUR BEST FRIENDS TO DESCRIBE YOU IN 3 WORDS WHAT WOULD THEY SAY? WHAT IF WE ASKED YOU?
It was a little awkward asking for three words. Fishing for compliments, anyone? Still, I’m blessed with wonderful friends and the most common words they used to describe me were compassionate; caring; and creative. Although, I must admit, one of my favorite from the survey results was mischievous. Tee-hee-hee! If I had to describe me in three…family-oriented, determined and passionate.
HOW LONG DID IT TAKE YOU TO GET PUBLISHED?
I started writing seriously (with being published in mind) in 1997. Five years and four completed manuscripts later, I got THE CALL!
HOW MANY BOOKS HAVE YOU WRITTEN?
Thirty! Twenty-five are currently available. Twenty-six is MY FAIR FORTUNE (book five in the on-going Fortunes of Texas series – May 2015); twenty-seven the first book in Tule’s Amalfi Nights series (June 2015); twenty-eight is HOW TO MARRY A DOCTOR (July 2015); twenty-nine is HIS TEXAS CHRISTMAS BRIDE (November 2015); and thirty is book five in the on-going Fortunes of Texas series (May 2016) .
WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR SPARE TIME?
Spare time? What’s that? Haha! I am trying be better at making time for the things I love outside of writing… After all, it’s a way of refilling the creative well. When I’m not writing, you’ll find me cooking (I love to bake and try new savory recipes); taking photographs (I used to have a photography fellowship at an art school); working in my art journal; reading; spending time with my friends and family (and animals); and wasting way too much time on Pinterest!
COFFEE OR TEA? Tea
DIAMONDS OR PEARLS? Both, but mostly pearls
CHOCOLATE OR VANILLA? Chocolate, definitely!
DOGS OR CATS? Both
DO YOU PREFER READERS TO CONTACT YOU THROUGH EMAIL OR YOUR BLOG? I love to hear from readers! They are welcome to contact me either way: through my website (please see the contact page) or through email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition to contemporary women’s fiction and romance, I also write historical women’s fiction (under the name Elizabeth Robards). Here’s the story of how I started my double life…
When my husband and I set off for Paris in May 1999, little did I know the trip would change my life. I’d lived in France for a short time when I was young and longed to return to Paris; it was my husband’s first trip to this magnificent country. Our main focus (besides food) was art. From the Louvre to the Musée d’Orsay, to the Musée National de l’Orangerie, we immersed ourselves in the works of the great masters.
Of course, since I was particularly interested in the French Impressionists, we had planned a daytrip to Giverny, Claude Monet’s home and famous gardens. Before we boarded a train at the Gare Saint-Lazare that would take us to Giverny, we paid a visit to Musée Marmottan to see Monet’s infamous ‘Impression, Sunrise,’ the image that launched the French Impressionist movement.
It was on the second floor of the Musée Marmottan, I met Berthe Morisot for the first time. Not literally, of course, but her essence permeated her paintings, which were on display.
They were breathtakingly gorgeous confections bursting with color and passion. I was so moved, I almost couldn’t drag myself away from the small exhibit. Even though I’d admired the Impressionists and studied art in college, I wasn’t familiar with Morisot’s work.
I was particularly drawn to a photograph of Berthe and her family. Something about the photo haunted me and urged me to research her life.
I spent the next four years doing so. During that time, I discovered the tale of a deeply complex, richly talented woman who bucked nineteenth century convention to become one of the founders of the Impressionist movement and one of the world’s greatest artists. Usually Renoir and Monet get credit for fostering Impressionism, but Berthe Morisot was instrumental. She worked tirelessly to ensure each and every exhibit went forward. She showed work in seven of the eight Impressionist exhibits, which took place between 1874 and 1886. The only reason she didn’t hang work in the 1879 show was because she had just given birth to her daughter Julie. My research also made it exceedingly clear Berthe was likely very much in love with the great painter Édouard Manet, the brother of the man who would become her husband. These preliminary findings served as fodder for my first historical novel, written as Elizabeth Robards. Very little is documented about the depth of Édouard and Berthe’s affinity for each other. Biographers recognize their intense friendship and acknowledge hints of romantic fancy in her correspondence. Also telling are reports of Berthe’s extreme jealousy of Manet’s wife, Suzanne, and his pupil, Eva Gonzalés. Most revealing, though, are the portraits Édouard painted of Berthe between 1872 -74. In the span of his career, Manet did not paint anyone as often, nor as passionately as he portrayed her.
It’s well documented that the Manet brothers doted on Berthe. Some biographers have implied a bit of sibling rivalry ensued over her attention. Alas, Édouard was a married man. Eugène was not. For all intents and purposes, Eugène won when Berthe became his bride on December 22, 1874.
Upon the announcement of her engagement to his brother, Édouard painted Berthe one last time. The portrait prominently showed off her engagement/wedding ring. Once she married Eugène, Édouard never painted her again. According to documentation, Berthe took her marriage vows seriously, and settled into a close platonic relationship with Édouard, but it’s unclear to whom Berthe’s heart really belonged.
In WITH VIOLETS, I portrayed the documented facts of Berthe Morisot and Édouard Manet’s lives as accurately as possible. I drew on her correspondence – several letters are reproduced within the pages of this book, while some of the “letters” are strictly fictional. As a whole, the book is most definitely a work of fiction where I “painted in” the missing peaces of Berthe and Édouard’s relationship, exploring what might have happened between them during the years prior to Berthe’s marriage to Eugène. It is with great awe and respect for Berthe and Édouard and their nonconforming, artistic spirits that I have asked the question “what if” and sketched a love story of what might have been….