I was sorting through my unpublished drafts the other day and came across this lovely guest post by Lauren Willig which unfortunately didn't auto-publish correctly so many months ago! Lauren Willing is the author of the scrumptious and enchanting Pink Carnation Series, and I am honored to have her as a guest on The Muse in the Fog Book Review. And now without any further delay, I give you Lauren's thoughts on the art of writing historical fiction:
"Writing historical fiction is a bit like piecing together a quilt. Even though the final pattern is something individual and unique, if you look closely, you’ll find that most novels employ a lot of repurposed materials.
While my characters are my own inventions and take on a life of their own in my head, I often base them closely on real people, or, at least, borrow bits of peoples’ lives which I then piece into the characters I’ve created. Truth is, indeed, stranger than fiction, which means I’m always coming across stories I can’t resist using—like the rebellion in Dublin in 1803 which formed the basis for my third book, The Deception of the Emerald Ring, in which the conspirators were betrayed when a member of their group accidentally blew up their secret hideaway, sending rockets spiraling into the air like teenagers setting off fireworks on the 4th of July. Ooops.
I’ve been feeling this connection to the fabric of history particularly strongly in my most recent book, The Orchid Affair, in which my fictional characters are involved in a complicated plot to unseat Napoleon that took place in the winter and spring of 1804. The plot, while somewhat simplified for the purposes of my story, was real enough. Most of the fictional bits, though, were also based on real people and events.
In The Orchid Affair, my hero, Andre Jaouen, the assistant Prefect of Paris, is locked in a deadly struggle with his colleague and rival, Gaston Delaroche, who works at the Ministry of Police. Although both my Andre and the rather insane Delaroche are entirely fictional, their rivalry was inspired by the actual grudge match between the Prefect of Paris, Louis-Nicolas Dubois, and Napoleon’s sinister Minister of Police, Joseph Fouche. In early 1804, when this book takes place, Napoleon had dissolved the Ministry of Police, making the Prefecture the official center of surveillance. He had, however, made Fouche a gift of the remains of the Ministry of Police funds, over one million francs, money which Fouche used to build a bigger and better network of informers, with which he challenged the authority of the Prefecture and Dubois. The Royalist plot which Andre and Delaroche are shouldering each other out of the way to investigate was, in fact, the catalyst that Fouche used to bring about the reinstatement of the Ministry of Police, relegating Dubois and the Prefecture to the sidelines.
Andre is a widower. (And a good thing, too, or else how would he be able to flirt with his children’s governess?) His wife was a painter, and a famous one, a friend of David and the other luminaries of the revolutionary art world. I based Andre’s artist wife, Julie Beniet, off a combination of Elizabeth Vigee-Lebrun, Marguerite Gerard, and Adélaïde Labille-Guiard. Although Julie Beniet’s politics and career are closest to Labille-Guiard, it was a sketch by Marguerite Gerard of a provincial gentleman in a brown coat provided the visual inspiration for my hero, Andre.
On the flip side, we can look at the “real” parts of the story, such as the interrogation of one of the conspirators, Jean-Pierre Querrelle, or the discovery of the hiding place of the prime conspirator, Georges Cadoudal. Even though both those events actually happened, when and where described, they were, of necessity, doctored to allow my characters to have a role, rendering the factual bits somewhat less factual even while the fictional bits aren’t always entirely fictional.
In the end, maybe that’s the trick to writing historical fiction: sewing a seamless enough seam that we can’t tell where fact and fiction divide."
Copyright © 2011 Svea Love. All Rights Reserved.
Thank you, Lauren, for this delightful guest post and for giving us a look at the making of The Orchid Affair!
The next upcoming Pink Carnation novel is only 2 months away!
Publish Date: February 16th 2012
Format: Hardcover 400pp
Synopsis (From the Publisher):
"In the ninth installment of Lauren Willig's bestselling Pink Carnation series, an atrocious poet teams up with an American widow to prevent Napoleon's invasion of England.
Secret agent Augustus Whittlesby has spent a decade undercover in France, posing as an insufferably bad poet. The French surveillance officers can't bear to read his work closely enough to recognize the information drowned in a sea of verbiage.
New York-born Emma Morris Delagardie is a thorn in Augustus's side. An old school friend of Napoleon's stepdaughter, she came to France with her uncle, the American envoy; eloped with a Frenchman; and has been rattling around the salons of Paris ever since. Widowed for four years, she entertains herself by drinking too much champagne, holding a weekly salon, and loudly critiquing Augustus's poetry.
As Napoleon pursues his plans for the invasion of England, Whittlesby hears of a top-secret device to be demonstrated at a house party at Malmaison. The catch? The only way in is with Emma, who has been asked to write a masque for the weekend's entertainment.
Emma is at a crossroads: Should she return to the States or remain in France? She'll do anything to postpone the decision-even if it means teaming up with that silly poet Whittlesby to write a masque for Bonaparte's house party. But each soon learns that surface appearances are misleading. In this complicated masque within a masque, nothing goes quite as scripted- especially Augustus's feelings for Emma."
Copyright © 2011 Svea Love. All Rights Reserved.