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Interview with Catherine Delors, Author of Mistress of the Revolution

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To promote the release of her first book, Mistress of the Revolution, historical novelist Catherine Delors is touring the blogosphere this month. She was kind enough to give me some of her time and answer my questions. It's a pleasure to have her here on Blogcritics today.

When did you decide you wanted to become an author? Do you have another job besides writing?

I didn’t really “decide” to become an author. That would have been too intimidating. But, after much hesitation, I tried my hand at a few chapters. I had friends read them to see if my English was good enough. They said it was, so I began stitching those chapters into a narrative.

Were you an avid reader as a child? What type of books did you enjoy reading?

I was a voracious reader. I remember going to the library as a kid and panicking at the idea that soon I would have read everything in there, and would be left with nothing to do!

There were books I used to read many, many times as a child. The Odyssey, Don Quixote, the Arabian Nights, Perrault’s fairy tales, Balzac’s Eugenie Grandet. The wonderful thing about these books is that they can be read by adults and children alike. They delve so deep into the human soul that their appeal is universal.

Tell us a bit about your latest book, and what inspired you to write such a story.

The idea came from a conversation I had with my late father about the name of a street in Vic, the little mountain town where I had spent all of my summers as a child. It was named, my father said, after Pierre-André Coffinhal, Vice President of the Revolutionary Tribunal. I knew nothing of that character, though the street itself had always been familiar to me.

So I began to look into Coffinhal’s life, and I found a perfect novel character.

How would you describe your creative process while writing this book? Was it stream-of-consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline?

I am not an outline type of person. For Mistress of the Revolution, I didn’t even know what the story would be like when I started. I knew that Coffinhal would appear in the novel. I also knew that the narrator would be a noblewoman and she would write from exile in England. That was it. The rest came along the way. So I guess I fall into the “stream of consciousness” category.

From the moment you conceived the idea for the story, to the published book, how long did it take?

The idea for Mistress of the Revolution came in late 2004. I was mostly done writing by the summer of 2005, but events in my personal life overtook me. I completely quit writing for six months and did not resume work on the novel until early 2006. I completed the first draft of my manuscript by the spring of 2006, edited it until July, found my agent in August, edited again at her request until November. The deal was done by Thanksgiving of 2006.

So let’s say that it took me about two years from first idea to finding a publisher, minus a six month hiatus.

Describe your working environment.

As a writer? That’s easy. Picture my bed, me sitting up in it with a laptop.

Are you a disciplined writer?

Discipline sounds scary. Fortunately I don’t need discipline to write. It comes to me, and I don’t have much of a choice.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? What seems to work for unleashing your creativity?

No, I have never experienced writer’s block. As I was telling you, I quit writing for six months, simply because for a while I had lost any sense of hope or purpose. It all came back by itself as soon as I regained control. Living, watching other people live is enough to prompt me to write.

Technically speaking, what do you have to struggle the most when writing? How do you tackle it?

Sometimes dialog doesn’t sound right. I write it anyway and let it sit until the next day. Then I take a fresh look at it and edit it. And it repeat a few times until it flows naturally.

How was your experience in looking for a publisher? What words of advice would you offer those novice authors who are in search of one?

The tough part was finding an agent. I faced a lot of rejection at that stage. Once I began working with Stephanie Cabot, my agent, everything became very fast and easy. She managed to get competing bids from three major publishers in a matter of days after submitting. She is great, and I am lucky.

What type of book promotion seems to work the best for you?

It is still too early to tell what works best, but I am a firm believer in the power of the Internet. Much of my book promotion is focused on blogs and social networks geared towards book lovers.

Who are your favorite authors? Why?

In addition to the authors I loved as a child, and still love today, I am a great admirer of Jane Austen, and also the Victorians: Emily Bronte, George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell, Trollope. And the great Americans: Poe, Edith Wharton, Henry James, Styron.
On the French side, my favorite authors are Flaubert, Maupassant (especially Bel Ami), Balzac. On the Russian side, I favor Dostoevsky, Pasternak, and Solzhenitsyn.
What attracts me to these writers? They make me laugh, cry, think. I am heartbroken when I finish one of their books, because I would want it to go on forever.

What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

I didn’t receive any advice while I was writing. I didn’t know anyone in the publishing business, and didn’t visit websites for writers until after the book was completed. I was such an innocent that I didn’t even know that there were any such places.

Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?

I would love your readers to visit my website and my blog.

Do you have another book on the works? Would you like to tell readers about your current or future projects?

I just completed my second novel, also a historical set in Paris. It is now in the capable hands of Julie Doughty, my editor at Dutton.

I have plans for a third novel, of course, but they are so ambitious that I am a bit too shy to talk about them yet. And I also have a prequel to Mistress of the Revolution in mind.

Anything else you’d like to say about yourself or your work?

I was able to complete something I love, something that has brought me great joys, and now I am going to share it with others! It is almost too good to be true.

Thanks for stopping by! It was a pleasure to have you here!

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About Mayra Calvani

Mayra Calvani writes fiction and nonfiction for children and adults and has authored over a dozen books, some of which have won awards. Her stories, reviews, interviews and articles have appeared on numerous publications such as The Writer, Writer’s Journal, Multicultural Review, and Bloomsbury Review, among many others. Represented by Serendipity Literary.
  • http://www.campbelleditorial.com/sunsinger.html Malcolm R. Campbell

    I enjoyed this interview: it’s always fascinating hearing how other writers find their ideas and then work through them until they have a completed novel.

    Malcolm