Today I have a guest post from author Linda Urbach. Her novel, Madame Bovary's Daughter, is receiving rave reviews and I wanted to have her tell us about her process.
The research and writing process of writing Madame Bovary’s Daughter.
When I encountered the novel Madame Bovary for the first time in my early twenties thought: how sad, how tragic. Poor, poor Emma Bovary. Her husband was a bore, she was desperately in love with another man (make that two men), and she
craved another life, one that she could never afford (I perhaps saw a parallel to my own life here). Finally, tragically, she committed suicide. It took her almost a week of agony to die from the arsenic she’d ingested.
But twenty- five years later and as the mother of a very cherished daughter, I reread Madame Bovary. And now I had a different take altogether: What was this woman thinking? What kind of wife would repeatedly cheat on her hardworking husband
and spend all her family’s money on a lavish wardrobe for herself and gifts for her man of the moment; most important of all, what kind of mother was she?
It was almost as if she (Berthe Bovary) came to me in the middle of the night and said, “please tell my story.” This is the first historical fiction I’ve ever written so research played a big part. My first two novels were al all about me but my life had gotten very boring which is why I turned to historical fiction. I used the Internet almost extensively. I found sites where I could walk through Parisian mansions of the times. Sites that not only showed what women wore but also gave instructions on how to create the gowns that were popular. I bought this great book, Mrs. Beeton’s Household Management which gives you details of absolutely everything you need to know about the running of a house in the 1850’s. You want to serve a 12-course dinner, she’ll tell you how. She’ll also tell you how many servants you need and how many pounds of paté you need to order.
The thing about research is you have to be careful not to let research get in the way of the writing. I tended to get so interested and involved in reading about the Victorian times and France in the 1850’s I would find the whole day had gone by and I hadn’t written a word. So the important thing for me is making sure I’ve got the story going forward. That’s the work part. The fun part is then filling in the historic details. It’s like I have to finish my dinner before I’ve earned my dessert. The other thing about research is that I learned to keep room open for a character I hadn’t thought about before. For example, I suddenly came across the famous couturier Charles Frederick Worth, an Englishman who went to Paris and revolutionized the fashion business. He jumped off the page at me and insisted on being part of my novel. So my advice is always keep a place at the table of your book for an unexpected guest.
An intriguing tale, I encourage you to check out Linda's book and see for yourselves.
...Brilliantly integrating one of classic literature’s fictional creations with real historical figures, Madame Bovary’s Daughter is an uncommon coming-of-age tale, a splendid excursion through the rags and the riches of French fashion, and a sweeping novel of poverty and wealth, passion and revenge. -- Booklist