Into the world of #art – #interview with Drema Drudge, author of “Victorine”

Drema Drudge’s deep interest in art led her back to college and it brought her debut historical novel, Victorine, soon to be released on March 17, 2020.

In this interview, Drema provides insights into the life of a female artist in 19th century Paris.

To begin, who is Victorine? 

Victorine Meurent was Édouard  Manet’s self-professed favorite model. In all she sat for about 11 paintings for him. She also posed for artists Alfred Stevens, Edgar Degas, and more.

She came from a poor family, and not much is known about her beyond that she was born in 1844 and died in 1927. She lived with a woman named Marie DuFour for around the last twenty years of her life, presumably as her partner.

Indeed, she did go to art school. Her work was accepted by the Paris Salon on multiple occasions.

Much that history “remembers” of her is lies: that she supposedly died a young, financially ruined alcoholic prostitute. None of that is true. The few things we do know about her show that to be untrue.

An encounter with Olympia painted by Édouard Manet inspired you to write this book. Tell us a bit about this journey to finally writing Victorine

I was primed before encountering Olympia to see the story in paintings by a previous literature class I had taken called The Painted Word. I wrote a short story of Olga Meerson (who modeled for Henri Matisse) which was published by the Louisville Review. Then when I took yet another literature class with the same professor, he put up a slide of Olympia and I sensed that the painting, that is, the model in it, had more to say. I wanted to know what. A novel was born.

Do you paint? Do you have an education in art? 

I do paint a little, but a very little. I am finally allowing myself to learn a bit of technique. Previous to that I didn’t want to learn; I wanted to feel free to play and dabble without judging myself the way I judge my writing.

The only “formal” education I have in art is visiting art museums and reading about it. I get “hungry” for art if I’ve been away from the real deal for too long. But I’ve often wished I had an art history masters. I might get one, eventually.

What was it about Victorine Meurent that caught your fancy and kept your interest until you completed the book (and possibly beyond)? 

In my research on Olga Meerson, I discovered that Olga was a painter, and yet here all anyone remembered her for was her modeling. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that yet another painting was calling to me, and the model in it, Victorine,  was also a forgotten painter. I had to write about her.

The more I researched her, the more I realized there wasn’t much to go on. I couldn’t see how anyone could weave a tale with so little thread, and yet, as a novelist, I had that very thread at hand. If not me, who?

Can I presume that you undertook significant research to write Victorine? How much? Where did it take you? 

My research took me to Paris, first and foremost, its streets, museums, and cemeteries, I tried to imagine Victorine in the City of Lights.

But much of my research was necessarily completed via books, from following in the footsteps of those who had attempted to study her before. There was much rumor, little fact available. I knew that by the records of those who had attempted to find her before.

How long did this book take from the first encounter of Olympia to its publication? What challenges did you encounter? 

I encountered Victorine as Olympia in 2011, and my novel is just now being published in 2020. The first rough draft only took six months to write, but then it underwent some revisions, which slowed it down. When I found an agent, she shopped it for quite a while. In 2019 I was informed that it was finally going to be published, and I was more than ready.

What is the sociopolitical context of this story? Is it critical to this story you tell?

Oh my, yes. Women, and particularly poor woman, of the mid 1800’s in Paris weren’t considered much. And to aspire to be a painter in those circumstances? Almost impossible to achieve. That’s why I quickly realized Meurent must have had an indominable spirit, to have achieved what she did.

Then there was the birth of Impressionism and Modernism hand in hand. Both of these movements fought against the art establishment of their day. Enter Victorine as a stand-in for the art critics as Manet found his voice as a painter (and, most say, the Father of Modernism) as well. I wanted to explore the overlooked influence a model has on a work. As muse, yes, but the additions she makes that the artist cannot exclude, try as (in this case he) might.

How would you describe the relationship between Manet and Victorine Meurent? What attracted her to him, and vice versa? What was she to him, and vice versa?

Many believe they were lovers. I do not. I think they respected one another, eventually, professionally, although their artistic differences are thought to be what drove them apart in the end.

Meurent decided Manet was being too risky while seeking the approval of the Salon.  He refused to stay the expected course but also refused to totally embrace himself. He wouldn’t give up his need for acceptance, which he didn’t receive until just before he died and, of course, after. Meurent literally couldn’t afford to follow her fancy, painting more traditionally than Manet so she could sell her art.

As to what attracted him to her, she dared tell him the truth about his art. Other than the critics, no one dared. Manet was not a man who could handle criticism, and yet art cannot grow without it. I believe Meurent, as his model, managed to be that bridge for him: she was socially beneath him enough that he could disregard her criticism if he liked, and yet the honest artist part of him was able to embrace it. Or that’s my story. I have no way of knowing if that was true.

Meurent and Manet were fond of one another, essential to one another in ways they couldn’t articulate to themselves or others, I believe. You don’t have to see someone every day or every year to know how important you are to their purpose on the planet. I believe they were just that crucial to one another. It wasn’t love. It was something else, something I spent a large part of the novel trying to define.

What is, in your view, Meurent’s inner life?

Meurent’s narrative is a bit performative, so I’m not surprised by the question, and yet if she had been more inner directed aloud, the novel would have been in danger of tilting toward the maudlin. Neither she nor I wanted that!

She lived her inner life on the canvas and in her musings as she painted or was painted. Her life was a work of art, first by others, then by herself.

It wasn’t as if she hid her desires or her vulnerability from the reader. By pointing some things out, she was admitting, gingerly, what she wanted and needed. The main goal of the story, and her goal as narrator, was to bring herself back to history as a painter. It was to show that art can serve as lover.

She could receive and understand art and humanity with a generosity and intelligence that few have.

More than that, I think she’d prefer to keep to herself.

What degree of artistic license did you take with Victorine and the events in the book? 

I did what the book required. I strove to tell the truth, although often the factual truth wasn’t available, so I had to fabricate pieces of the story from the bits I had at hand.

You have chosen to begin the book with Manet and Meurent’s first meeting in 1862, and have tied her to Manet throughout the book until her acceptance into the Salon de Paris. Why? And why this period? 

I quickly realized in my research that Manet played an extremely important part in Meurent’s life. I first conceived her story not as a novel, but more as a series of linked stories (that being the trend at the time) with each story centering on a painting. Since Manet was the artist whose paintings of her were most known, that seemed the place to begin.

One of the many themes in this novel is breaking away from Bloom’s anxiety of influence; that is, learning who you are versus your mentors. Her formation as an artist sprang directly from being able to detach herself from Manet’s studio.

As I read Victorine, it seems Meurent is explaining herself or justifying her actions and motives in relation to Manet and on occasions, Alfred Stevens, instead of the reader (like myself) gaining access to her independent inner world of what drives her. Was there a particular reason for this? 

I don’t know that it was conscious on my part, but it makes sense. Meurent was the object of the male gaze from a child on, with first her father painting her. Part of her cycle of growth was breaking away from being the object. It was a process; she protected herself from them and from us as readers as she went along. I’ll allow it.

It was fascinating to see the maturing process of Victorine, young muse and aspiring artist, to Meurent, accomplished and confident.  I enjoy the triangulation of relationships. Did you decide to do this? Why? 

In some cases I was very aware of the triangulation, such as between her, Manet, and Berthe Morisot, and in other places, not as much. I supposed I am innately aware of the delicious tension inherent in triangulation.

If Meurent is unfair to anyone in the novel, if she has a blind spot, it’s that she underestimates Suzanne Manet. That’s her (professional) jealousy talking. Suzanne’s retribution is my way of showing the reader the truth.

If there is one thing you want the reader to take away from the book, what would it be?

My goal, first and foremost, is to return Victorine Meurent and her contributions to art herstory. If the reader thinks of Victorine not as just a nude on a canvas, but as a living, growing human being who did, in reality, go to art school and make contributions even to the prestigious Paris Salon, I will have done my job. If she lingers with the reader, that’s a bonus for which I surely hope.

Are you working on a new writing project now? And if so, what is it and does it involve art as well?

All of my books are likely to contain art, though I have a loosely connected concept for them: I want to eventually write about all of the arts. Next up, music. I juxtapose the worlds of country music and…Virginia Woolf!

How fascinating! I will be looking out for its release.  Finally, where and when can readers get their hands on Victorine

Victorine’s release is scheduled for March 17, 2020. It’s available for preorder on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Once out, it will also be available on the Fleur-de-Lis website.

~ FlorenceT

@FTThum
MeaningsAndMusings

© 2020 LitWorldInterviews

 

Q&A Lisa Mason of The Garden of Abracadabra, Volume 1 of the Abracadabra Series @lisaSmason

the_garden_of_abracadabra

 The Garden of Abracadabra

Lisa Mason

 “This is a very entertaining novel- sort of a down-to-earth Harry Potter with a modern adult woman in the lead. Even as Abby has to deal with mundane concerns like college and running the apartment complex she works at, she is surrounded by supernatural elements and mysteries that she is more than capable of taking on. Although this book is just the first in a series, it ties up the first “episode” while still leaving some story threads for upcoming books. I’m looking forward to finding out more. “-D. Pflaster about The Garden of Abracadabra

Author of numerous books spanning over a surprising amount of time, I was very excited to have our guest today. She accepted with such sincerity and kindness I was encouraged about the literary world. Meet . . .

Lisa Mason

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RW: Where are you from?

LISA: The heart of the Midwest. But I’ve been living in the San Francisco Bay Area for so long, and love where I live so much, I consider myself a California native.

 

RW: Who are your favorite authors?

LISA: That has evolved over the years as my taste in fiction has evolved and broadened. While I was writing book reviews for Goodreads and skimming through works I’d previously read, I was struck at how some books and authors stand the test of time, while others aren’t as great as I’d remembered them.

E.B. White and P.L. Travers from my childhood reading remain fresh and delightful. Classical writers like Edith Wharton (domestic dramas), Margaret Mitchell (historical romance), and Raymond Chandler (hard-boiled 1940s detective mysteries) are always good for relaxation. In science fiction, Frank Herbert’s Dune still reads well, but Dan Simmons’ Hyperion isn’t quite as amazing as when I first read it.

In contemporary urban fantasy, I enjoy Jim Butcher and Charlaine Harris. In detective mysteries, I like the early Sue Graftons, not so much the later ones. In high fantasy, George R.R. Martin is of course the king, but I just don’t have time for 1,000 page books.

So there you have it. I like to read and write in different genres.

RW: What is your favorite beverage to drink, any kind?

LISA: Oh, like every red-blooded writer, coffee is essential in the morning. Later in the day, I enjoy chilled chardonnay. Throughout the day, I sip lots of cold spring water. I love water.

RW: What is your favorite word?

LISA: I like “murmur.” The word sounds just exactly like what it means. I like the symmetry of the spelling. “Susurrus” is a good one too, but not quite as usable as “murmur.”

RW: What is your background in writing, what makes you a writer?

LISA: My mother bought me lots of great books when I was a child. I loved reading and decided I wanted to be a writer. Stories and fantasies would pop into my head. I wrote my first book at age five. I’ve got it on my desk right now. It is 1¼ inches by 2 inches, hand-sewn, with two chapters lavishly illustrated by the author, and entitled, “Millie the Caterpillar.” Millie is despondent at being “a fat, green, hairy, little caterpillar.” Then spring comes, she breaks out of her cocoon, and “to her surprize, she found two beautiful red and black wings on her shoulders.” Happiness! The End.

I’ve thought ever since that surprise should be spelled with a z.

So you could say I got bit by the writing bug early on.

RW: What is the title of your book and why did you choose that name?

LISA: My latest novel-length work is The Garden of Abracadabra, Volume 1 of the Abracadabra Series.

The title is a take on a classic memoir, The Garden of Allah, by Sheilah Graham, about a wild and crazy apartment complex in 1940s Hollywood (that no longer exists) where many famous actors lived before they hit big in the movies, as well as the “Round Table” New Yorker crowd of famous writers, who had come to Hollywood to write screenplays.

RW: What genre does your book fall into?

LISA: Urban fantasy.

RW: Why do you write in the genre that you do?

LISA: Urban fantasy is one of several genres I write in, and I like it for all the reasons I like to read and write in different genres.

I like the rich blend of fantasy tropes (magic and magicians, witches, wizards, vampires, shapeshifters, and demons) in a contemporary setting, often a city but not necessarily, and mystery tropes (detective work, murder and crime, police procedural), spiced up with dicey romance, troublesome relationship issues, and wit and whimsy interspersed with murder and mayhem.

RW: Tell us a little about your book.

LISA: At her mother’s urgent deathbed plea, Abby Teller enrolls at the Berkeley College of Magical Arts and Crafts to learn Real Magic. To support herself through school, she signs on as the superintendent of the Garden of Abracadabra, a mysterious, magical apartment building on campus.

She discovers that her tenants are witches, shapeshifters, vampires, and wizards and that each apartment is a fairyland or hell.

On her first day in Berkeley, she stumbles upon a supernatural multiple murder scene. One of the victims is a man she picked up hitchhiking the day before.

Compelled into a dangerous murder investigation, Abby will discover the first secrets of an ancient and ongoing war between humanity and demonic realms, uncover mysteries of her own troubled past, and learn that the lessons of Real Magic may spell the difference between her own life or death.

 RW: What inspired the book?

LISA: Often inspiration springs from something quotidian. You’re in the shower. Or shopping for groceries. Or, in this instance, searching for a parking place in Berkeley.

Berkeley is a small historic university town across the Bay from San Francisco. The town is so crowded these days, searching for a parking place on the street is something of a quixotic quest.

As my husband and I were cruising through unfamiliar neighborhoods looking for that elusive space, we passed by a spectacular 1920s Mediterranean apartment building and were both instantly struck by its beauty.

But more than that, the place had a powerful vibe. It was spooky!

The idea sprang instantly to my mind: what if you were the superintendent of a building and discovered that every tenant was some stripe of supernatural being and every apartment was a portal to a fantasy world? To a fairyland or a hell?

Setting the book and the Berkeley College of Magical Arts and Crafts in Berkeley itself was a natural fit. Berkeley is not only home to the University of California, but several other eminent colleges as well.

RW: Tell us about your main character(s) and what you think will them connect to readers.

LISA: Abby is an everywoman, but she’s got magical power, so she’s special. She’s chosen. She’s still discovering herself and her power as an adult. She’s still exploring with whom she wants to share her life and her love.

RW: Who would play your main character(s) in a movie?

LISA: That’s up to the casting director!

RW: What message do you think your book delivers to the reader?

LISA: That Magic exists all around us. The study of Real Magic is a powerful tool to help you in real life. And above all, Know Thyself! Think for yourself! We are bombarded from all sides by the media. It’s vital to keep your eyes, ears, and mind open to the truth.

RW: What did you learn about yourself from writing this book?

LISA: Life is an onward process of learning about yourself and the world. Never stop learning!

Describe your book in one word.

Magic!

RW: Where can we get your book now?

LISA: The Garden of Abracadabra, Volume 1 of the Abracadabra Series, is on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords.
The Garden of Abracadabra, Volume 1 of the Abracadabra Series,
is also on Amazon.com in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.

The Labyrinth of Illusions, Volume 2 of the Abracadabra Series, is forthcoming. With the publication of the second book, my publisher may produce print editions.

 

RW: What other books do you have to share with us and can you tell us a little about them?

LISA: My perennial bestseller is Summer of Love, originally published by Bantam, a Philip K. Dick Award Finalist and San Francisco Chronicle Recommended Book. This is my Great American (Science Fiction) Novel, about a significant turning point in American history with both wonderful and terrible consequences. The book is also about a harrowing coming of age for a teenager, a friendship that ends in tragedy, and a love spanning centuries.

Summer Of Love on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, and Kobo. Summer of Love is also on Amazon.com in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.

I love reading short stories and have published two dozen in magazines and anthologies worldwide. In September 2014, I sold another story, “Tearsdrop” to the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. I’ll announce the publication date when I have it on my website.

I’ve long wanted a story collection and got one in 2013, Strange Ladies: 7 Stories, which has won five-star reviews from the San Francisco Review of Books, the Book Brothers Blog, and Amazon readers. As I mulled over my previously published short fiction, I found seven wildly different stories with one thing in common–a heroine totally unlike me. I’m the girl next door. I have no idea where these strange ladies came from.

Strange Ladies: 7 Stories is on Nook, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, and Kobo, and Sony. Strange Ladies: 7 Stories is also on Amazon.com in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.

RW: What are you working on right now?

LISA: Although I love urban fantasy—and authors who are fifteen books into their series are still selling well—my sense is that some readers, and certainly the publishers, are searching for fresh ground. Dystopian fiction, which interests me less, seems to have run its course, as well.

I’m continuing my urban fantasy, The Abracadabra Series, for at least two more books and will consider more after I’ve wrapped up that trilogy arc.

I’ve got several YA ideas in development, as well as a children’s series. Forthcoming also is an adaptation of my early cyberpunk novels, Arachne and Cyberweb, as a Young Adult or New Adult piece, The Quester Trilogy. I’ve got another backlist series published by Bantam, Pangaea I and II, on the slate sometime down the road.

My main focus now is on a science fantasy with—I hope!—a new fresh exciting concept. I can’t say more about it!

RW: What book are you reading at this time?

LISA: I’ve got a To-Read List a mile long, but since I’m really, really busy (see above!), I don’t know when I’ll get to it. I’d like to read Deborah Harkness’ All Souls Trilogy, The Night Circus, maybe Gone Girl (though I’m not sure after reading the mixed reviews). I love reading short stories, so any of the Year’s Best in F&SF are always a good bet.

RW: What is your biggest tip for someone to getting published?

LISA: Read works you admire, write constantly (even notes and random ideas that you’ll never develop), study the craft of writing, and persevere.

Figure out your entry point into the marketplace—and make no mistake, it’s a marketplace. If, for example, you want to write another Gone With The Wind, but you’re more likely to break in with a simple romance, start with a simple romance.

If you’re writing science fiction and fantasy, selling short stories is a terrific (and time-honored) way to break in. No other genre offers as many opportunities to publish short fiction as F&SF. Even writers who now publish mostly mainstream works (Jonathan Lethem, Karen Joy Fowler), started out with stories in F&SF magazines.

That said, if you’re prepared to devote ten years to a masterpiece as your first book, be all means give it your best shot!

RW: What is your escape from writing when you are at that about to explode point?

LISA: I power-walk three-and-a-half miles a day, usually seven days a week unless I need to travel out of town. That keeps me on track on a daily basis.

I also enjoy reading, watching movies, researching on the Internet, (usually the book business and what other writers are publishing), cooking for my family, a bit of gardening, and local field trips (usually research for a piece I’m working on).

I think it was Voltaire who said (I’m paraphrasing), “Live a quiet, ordinary life so you can be outrageous in your writing.”

Unless you’re writing a tell-all memoir about your road trip with Miley Cyrus, that’s sound advice!

RW: List links to all websites you have and social networks such as Twitter.

LISA: Visit me at Lisa Mason’s Official Website for books, ebooks, stories, screenplays, reviews, interviews, and blogs, adorable pet pictures, forthcoming projects, fine art and bespoke jewelry by my husband Tom Robinson and the galleries where he’s presently showing work, worldwide Amazon.com links for Brazil, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, and Spain, and more!

And on Lisa Mason’s Blog, on my Facebook Author Page, on my Facebook Profile Page, on Amazon, on Goodreads, on LinkedIn, on Twitter at @lisaSmason, at Smashwords, at Apple, at Kobo, and at Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

 

Now you know a few things about Lisa you may not have. I want to thank her again for this chance to learn more and for her allowing us to take up some of her time to answer our questions. Buy the books and follow her on her various sites. I am still excited she said yes.

 

 

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MuchRespect

Ronovan

 

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