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

 

#Interviewsintranslation Estrella Cardona Gamio (@EstrellaCG ) and LETTER TO CHARO. Small is beautiful

Hi all:

I’d been promising you more interviews and here is a very special one for me. I loved the novel Carta a Charo when I first read it in Spanish and I was lucky enough to be asked to translate it. Today, I have the pleasure of introducing you to a Spanish writer, Estrella Cardona Gamio, and her novel Letter to Charo.

First, the author tells us a bit about herself.

Author Estrella Cardona Gamio
Author Estrella Cardona Gamio

I have a BA in Fine Arts and I’m an author of novels, stories and children’s tales, I have also been a member of the Spanish Association of Journalists and Correspondents, and I’ve contributed editorials and short tales to different publications. I have also collaborated in radio with my own featured programmes. My first novel was self-published in paper years back, El otro jardín (The Other Garden). In March 2006, I published a book of short stories, La dependienta (The Shop Girl), with a publishing company in Madrid, hybrid publishing. In 1999, my sister, María Concepción, registered the publishing company C. CARDONA GAMIO EDICIONES (that started as an online publishing company that same year). From 2006 we started publishing books in paperback format and from the 28th April 2012 we are on Amazon, in Kindle format, broadening our horizons.

Letter to Charo by Estrella Cardona Gamio. Translated by Olga Núñez Miret
Letter to Charo by Estrella Cardona Gamio. Translated by Olga Núñez Miret

Here are the questions:

  • When and how did you start writing? I started writing novels when I was eight years old, instinctively copying others. I was an avid reader and wanted to imitate the writers I read. It was a game to start with but with time it stopped being one.
  • Describe for us your experience as an independent (self-published) writer: Very satisfying. Like many first-time writers, I went through the litany of sending inquiries to publishing companies and finally when Amazon reached Spain, I found what I was looking for, a serious and honest company. My official baptism of fire in the indie world couldn’t have been better.
  • Is there a moment that you remember with particular affection from your career as a writer, up to now? For me, the experience of writing is already the best of all moments.
  • What made you decide to translate your novel Carta a Charo (now available in English as Letter to Charo)? The fact that the action of this novel, now Letter to Charo, develops through the exchange of letters, between London and Barcelona, and I thought it would be very appropriate to translate it, and as you are an excellent translator (her words, not mine) I approached you with the project.
  • Tell us a bit more about your novel. It’s a novel written with plenty of love and I enjoyed the possibilities the interaction between the protagonists all immersed in the same novel, but so different between them, gave me, as they progressively share with us their thoughts and their personality. Charo’s character is a jewel, a true finding, as without her there would be no novel.
  • Do you have any advice for your writer colleagues (and especially for new writers)? Not to feel disappointed if they are not successful from the very beginning. Writing is a beautiful but thankless profession. We shouldn’t look for millions of sales, or for becoming one of the top ten writers, we should try to write well and not lose our patience in the process. All the writers who persevered triumphed in the end and that’s the important thing.

Here a review, written by a publisher, Marlene Moleon:

“Epistolary novels allow us to get close and personal with the intimacy of a character in a way not possible through any other narrative form. It is like entering the world of a person as she is, without embellishments or interpretations on behalf of the narrator. Estrella Cardona Gamio shows us her mastery of the genre with LETTER TO CHARO.

A short novel where rich human feelings and passions fit perfectly in the short number of pages given.”

Link to Letter to Charo:

http://relinks.me/B01LY90NED

 

Follow Estrella Cardona Gamio:

http://www.ccgediciones.com

http://www.estrellacardonagamio.com/blog

https://www.facebook.com/estrellacardonagamioautora/

https://twitter.com/EstrellaCG/

 

Thanks so much to Estrella for her interview and on my behalf for her words and to her and her sister Concha for the opportunity to translate this great novel, thanks to all of you for reading and don’t forget to like, share, comment and CLICK!

The Right Way to Write

One of the most important lessons that I’ve learned as an aspiring writer is that it’s a major headache. Sometimes, I feel like finding a new hobby. I don’t know about other genres, but mysteries (my preferred field) can be such a pain. You have to hide evidence in plain sight and weave the story together in this perfect little web so that in the end it makes sense. And the catch is you don’t want your readers to say “yeah, duh. Saw that coming.” You want them to say “wow! I should have seen that coming!”

Because I try to come up with that twist to shock my readers, I hit many roadblocks. When I write, my mind tends to go one way, and then I’m like “well, that’s stupid. It doesn’t make a bit of sense.” I also try to be original. In this day and age, with all the unoriginal ideas, I think people would enjoy something fresh. Sometimes my attempts at originality turn dull, or plain dumb.

A headache. Actually, a migraine now that I think about it.

In the current manuscript I’m working on, I’ve written a hundred pages already, almost 40,000 words of my 80,000-word count goal. Since I had no clue as to where I really wanted to go, I hit a major roadblock. It’s like my characters are all running amuck doing completely different things than they should.

Then I began to stress. I’m a stresser, so it comes on naturally, especially when I want to do well in something I love. After trial and error, I found a few tips to help me iron it out a little bit: I’ve listened to the computer read the pages each morning, which not only helped me to add a few more scenes, but I’ve come to realize that the ending I had in mind wasn’t going to work for where the story was actually heading. In a book I started reading, if I remember correctly, I believe it was Stephen King’s On Writing, he said that he once read  Ernest Hemingway would read his work every morning from beginning to end before he wrote another word. I thought that was a great idea. So I started doing just that. I’ve found that it helped me a great deal. I was able to untangle some of the messes I created by not paying attention, or details I forgot. It takes me longer to finish my writing, but I’ve come to appreciate that in order to do it just right, you have to take your time. Especially if you’re an “organic writer,” like I am.

During a brief stressing out period, I was recently reminded by a fellow writer friend that this is the “fun” time. It’s the time when I’m building new worlds, creating new characters. I was struck by the realization that I’ve forgotten this was supposed to be a hobby. I was stressing myself out by trying to have my sequel (and other manuscripts-to-be) written in a certain time period (30 days).

Stressing causes me to have writer’s block, which in turn, causes depression, which results in my having a hard time getting my writing mojo back on. It is supposed to be fun. Starting a new story is always enjoyable, but I’ve realized setting unreachable goals, such as 30 days for an 80,000-word manuscript, fun will be replaced by a hair-pulling me. I’m not saying that it isn’t possible to reach 80,000 words in 30 days. I’m sure plenty of authors are capable, and I’m sure even I will manage it…some day. But to me, writing can be like losing weight. If you set unrealistic goals, you may fail. It’s better to have a long-term goal, giving you a little leeway. At least when you’re starting out.

Being a writer is a very peculiar sort of a job: it’s always you versus a blank sheet of paper (or a blank screen) and quite often the blank piece of paper wins. ~Neil Gaiman

So instead of moving forward, I began to re-read my story to clean it up. Now that I’ve been able to take a deep breath and stop hyperventilating, I was able to see where it was supposed to go. Sadly I’ve removed a lot of scenes that I’ve spent time writing. It just doesn’t fit…for this particular story, anyway. I have a lot floating around in my head right now. I just might be able to find a home for those scenes somewhere. However, even if I don’t, I don’t feel like I’ve wasted a lot of time and energy writing those scenes. I was able to replace those scenes with an equal amount of wording because somehow it gave me the inspiration.

And because I have a friend that is a writer, I’ve been able to brainstorm new ideas for this story. Whether I use it or not, it helps me overcome those pesky blocks. I suppose that there is no right way to write. I suppose it’s all up to you, as an author, to find out what works for you. For me, it’s a lot of trial and error. I tend to be clumsy and stumble around, but I’m slowly finding my footing in this world. What are some ways that help you to move forward?

There are three rules to writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are. ~W. Somerset Maugham

by: Angela Kay

It’s a Long Road

To me, it’s exciting to know you have a talent for the arts. A lot of people don’t. Some lie in mathematics. Some in science. While I wish I had the talent in science, I don’t in either subject. My forte is writing. I have a passion for creating a whole new world. Honestly, it could be a made-up world that takes place in a Star Trek-type universe, or it’s right in my hometown with my lead investigator solving a grisly murder.

In 2009, I was taking a Creative Writing course in my final semester of college. In that course, I wrote a two-chapter excerpt from a book I had in mind to write. My professor and my classmates loved the first two chapters when they critiqued it. It’s pretty ironic because when I finished those chapters, the person I had “killed” was someone everyone in the story knew and hated—even the three children that found the body! But for whatever reason, my class enjoyed it.

After I finished that class, I continued working on my first draft, including a few more characters that were hateful. Yes, it’s safe to say that there was a lot of hate going on in my first draft. Curious, I must say! My mom read the entire book, said it was great. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. She’s not one to say she liked it if she didn’t, although I wasn’t too pleased. However, I think it’s safe to say she liked the style of writing rather than the story itself.

When I re-read the story in order to change the spelling, punctuation, blah blah blah, I started in on major changes. The thought I had in mind was this: the dead guy was someone everybody hated. Um, yay, he’s dead? I didn’t care that he was dead. So, if I didn’t care, then why should potential readers? I wanted this thing to get published! If I didn’t care that the dead guy was dead, and I knew readers wouldn’t care, then why should publishers? They’d probably give me a phone call just to laugh at me even thinking I had a chance in the hard-to-get-an-agent world. But, you know…I was learning. When you’re starting out, even when you’ve been in the business for a while, there’s a lot to learn in this trade.

So, I completely rewrote the first few chapters. I made my dead guy loved by those who knew him. Boom! I wanted to find this killer that killed this wonderful man whose only crime was making a few mistakes in his life! Another character I created was someone who was also hateful, gruff, borderline abusive. I changed him into a nice guy, but stubborn and not always telling the whole truth. I felt much better with those characters. They were more believable.

As I went through the rewrite of my second draft, I found myself in the midst of a major, major mess.  It was a messy story that I wrote on a whim. It took me a year to write the first draft. Starting out, I think a year’s not bad. But it was the rewrite that set me back. I rewrote my manuscript, finished it, my mom read it, liked it. I still didn’t like it.

So comes the third rewrite. I wanted to strangle whoever said, “writing is all about rewriting.” My mom, and eventually when my stepfather

entered the picture, loves to tell me that I need to stop the rewriting. I always stuck to my guns, though. My response was always this: “the story is not over until there’s no more work to be done.” And, yes. My manuscript-in-progress had a LOT of work to be done.

Because it was such a mess, I felt it kind of held me back from writing. I spent years off and on going back to my manuscript. Every time I hit a wall, I’d get depressed and stop writing. I’d also begin two or three other stories on the side, but I would feel guilty that I haven’t finished my first “baby.”

Well, God kept me consistent. I may have been consistently writing off and on, but quite often, I’d hear the last name of one of my characters, which isn’t even a very common name. I would also hear my preacher in church often talk about “if you were meant to be a writer.” Or, I’d turn on Hallmark and a movie about a struggling writer would pop on. Maybe you think I’m crazy. But I think it’s God’s way of saying “get up, child! Finish the book!” Well, as of March 10, 2016, I finished my third, and yes, final draft of my story. The best part of it was that when I finished, I found myself an editor almost immediately. He’s editing as we speak. After re-reading the first seven chapters of my newly edited manuscript, I was like, “wow!” Honestly, after re-reading and rewriting so many times, I wanted to have it edited and not ever read it again. Now, I can’t wait for more!

Oh, and since I’ve finished my manuscript, I haven’t heard the preacher talk about writing, nor have I seen a movie about writing pop on unexpectedly, and I haven’t heard the name of that particular character. Amazing, huh? Well, to me it is…maybe you have to be there!

I’m thrilled that it’s in the hands of my editor. It’s one step closer to being published. And I’m also in the process of the sequel, as well as another manuscript. My fear is that I’ll stumble onto my old roadblocks. I really hope I don’t. However, if finishing this first book taught me anything, it’s this: no matter what happens, whether I’m published, or if it sits on my desktop collecting dust, I can rest assured knowing that it has been completed. It’s been a long road. But I’m taking the wheel, and am pretty satisfied.


Angela Kay, Author imageBy

Angela Kay

@AngelaKaysBooks

 

Nearly NaNoWriMo Time Again

Did you know that Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, Wool by Hugh Howey, and Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, were all begun for one of the annual NaNoWriMo challenges? Anyone who says that NaNo is just a bit of silliness for wannabe writers might want to ponder that a while, and anyone who is finding their writing stuck or slow going right now might want to consider taking up that challenge this year. You can take it as seriously or not seriously as you like. It’s only thirty days, so the world won’t end if you don’t make your word count or if you absolutely hate what you wrote, but if you’re having trouble getting nice chunks of words down towards your WIP, this little challenge should get you going. I see that there is also a twenty percent discount to purchase Scrivener for this year’s players, so if you’ve been thinking about getting that, here’s your chance.

You can write anything you want to. It doesn’t have to be a brand new book. You can continue to write something you’ve already started, as long as you only add the newly typed sections for each day to your official word count. Only you know what you’ve typed, because NaNoWriMo don’t save your work when you go to add your daily count on the site, so it’s not possible for anyone to ever read it unless you publish it, so typos and gremlins mean absolutely nothing. In fact, the last thing you want to be doing is looking back every day over what you wrote the day before. Just zoom straight on through to the end before editing anything. Another fine lesson to learn for those of us who over edit as we write. NaNoWriMo cured me of that.

The whole premise of the NaNo is to write fifty thousand words of a novel in thirty days, which works out to roughly one thousand, six hundred and sixty seven words written per day. This is your rough draft, so it doesn’t matter if there are plot holes in there. You write around them, and then fix them later if you decide to publish the book. If you win the challenge, you get the badge for this year, and also whatever swag they have going as prizes, which can come in really handy too – like getting free CreateSpace copies if you publish your NaNo novel.

If you’re competing this year, remember to stock your freezers now with food that can just be defrosted for some November meals, and get lists done of chores that your family and friends can do to help you out for that time too. The site launches on the fifth of October. Zoom over to the NaNoWriMo site to sign up, and then create your NaNo novel project by going to My Novels under the NaNoWriMo tab from that date.

NaNoWriMo