1. What am I currently working on?
At present, I am putting the finishing touches on agent-suggested revisions to my historical novel set at the opulent court of François I in the winter of 1539. As François's arch-enemy Charles V of Spain arrives for a crucial state visit, three women--a painter, the king's mistress, and an artist's model--become embroiled in a web of rivalries that threatens the very peace of France. Narrated from the alternating perspectives of painter, patron and painted, the novel plumbs the world of the court artist and exposes the forces that transform the worthiest of ambitions into the most vicious of rivalries.
2) How does my work differ from others in the genre?
With a Ph.D in sixteenth-century French, I hope to offer a depth of research and a sensibility that will bring the early modern world fully alive. I present a broader, continental perspective on the ever-popular Tudor era by focusing on the court of François I, Henry VIII's personal and political rival, a man as equally fascinating and ambitious as the English king. François dreamt of transforming France into a New Rome of art and culture, and my novel centers on his efforts to build at Fontainebleau a palace to rival the glories of Italy. My work will appeal to readers with a penchant for France as well as readers of Tudor fiction who are looking for something different.
A life-long lover of France and French culture, I want to share the fascinating things I've learned in the course of my academic studies with a general audience. As a reader, I am always eager to find historical fiction set in early modern France, and am usually disappointed in my search--this rich period has hardly been plumbed! As a writer, therefore, I am following the advice writers so often hear--to write the books I myself would love to read. (Of course, I hope others will love to read them, too!)
I've written two complete manuscripts, and the approach was slightly different for each. In my first manuscript, every character, with one exception, was a fictional creation. Wanting to explore the challenges that faced a woman with literary aspirations in the sixteenth century, but having no interest in writing a fictionalized biography, I took a historical situation and setting and, using the poet Louise Labé as a model, created my own cast of characters and plot. (Note--Not the best of strategies in a historical fiction market that thrives on books about "marquee" figures.) With my current manuscript, I changed tactics--nearly every character is historical, as well as the dramatic events I recount. I was lucky to discover during my research a happy coincidence of character, situation, and conflict that provided the framework of a plot whose gaps and motivations were just begging for elaboration.
As for my day-to-day writing process, it's pretty consistent and definitely far from glamorous. Once I drop my son off at school each morning, I sit in front of my computer writing and revising until it's time to pick him up in the afternoon. I work again in the evening after he's in bed. I write linearly, working from a loose outline, and am a slow, perfect-it-as I go kind of writer. No pantsing or go-with-the-flow first drafts for me! My outlines are fluid, however, as I often discover new ideas and possibilities as the story progresses and the characters develop. I am lucky to have the support of several dedicated writer friends, with whom I often check in during the day via email or Facebook as we work towards our separate goals. They help keep me on track, as does my husband, who has read every word in every draft of both novels and provides invaluable input on what does and does not work. I am sure he's as eager as I am to begin the submission process!
5) Nominate two authors to continue the Blog Tour.
I nominate Arabella Stokes, writer of sassy romance fiction with a Southern flair, and Laura Bradbury, a fellow francophile who has written a memoir about leaving a prestigious legal career to renovate a decrepit, revolutionary-era ruin in Burgundy. Their installments will appear on their blogs on Monday, April 14. You can read LJ Cohen's tour contribution here. Thanks again for the opportunity to participate and share a glimpse of my writerly world.