Tuesday, May 24, 2016
Interview: Diane Haeger -- Anne Girard, Author of MADAME PICASSO
Today, I welcome author Diane Haeger, who also writes as Anne Girard, to the blog! I'd like to thank Diane for graciously reading my novel A Perfumer's Secret and sharing her thoughts about the book. Diane has written many beautiful books, often set in France...
Diane, France has been a setting for some of your books, due to the subject matter—for example Madame Picasso and Courtesan. What do you like most about creating the French setting, especially in the historical context?
I have found France completely intriguing since I was very young. I remain fascinated by the country, the history and the lyrical beauty of the French language. When I factor in some of the fabulous true stories from history that have taken place there, it all ignites my imagination like no other.
What are the challenges of recreating a France of the past? Does your research include trips to France, and what do you do while in France to prepare yourself to write?
Because I primarily tell true stories from history, I feel the enormous pressure, out of respect, to get the details right. The greatest compliment I can get from readers is hearing that they not only learned something from history they didn’t know, but that they felt transported in time and felt they were really there. To do that to the best of my abilities I always travel to the country I am writing about. Many years ago when I first began writing, the iconic author Irving Stone, who also told true stories from history, gave me a wonderful piece of advice: Go where you characters lived, walk the same streets, see the things they saw, as much as you can. Only then can you truly hope to make them live again for your readers. I have been following that advice for the 25 years of my career.
How did you start writing historical fiction? How much fiction do you allow yourself to add to the true story?
It was a true story from history that drew me forward and began my career for me. On my honeymoon in France decades ago I came upon the epic love story between Diane de Poitiers and Henri II. I visited their homes at Chenonceau and Fontainebleau and I was mesmerized. When I began the research and realized that, at the time, it was a relatively unknown story here, It hooked me and I became driven to bring it to an American readership. A fun detail that helped inspire me as I wrote was that my name is also Diane and my initials, DH, form the emblem Henri had fashioned to represent his commitment to his lady love, Diane.
I try to deviate from truth as little as possible with my stories. Naturally, that is the framework and my mindset when I begin, and I do a great deal of initial research to that end before I write. That said, inevitably there are also historical incidents that occur without explanation so that sometimes motivation and details must be supposed and creatively drawn. When those occur I work very hard to make them as believable as possible.
You’ve written so many books. Do you have a favorite, one that you feel closest to? And if so, why?
I usually say that my favorite book is the one I am currently writing, and there is an element of truth to that because I am so deeply involved with my characters during the process. That said, of my 16 novels, Courtesan the book of Diane de Poitiers and Henri II, which was my first, will always be most dear to my heart. The process of research and writing was a four year complete labor of love, one that took me to France for the first time, and many times since.
Can you tell us about your next book or give us a general idea of what you’ve got going on next?
I can’t wait to talk about it but for now it is still “top secret”. What I can say is that it is about another fabulous character from history and I’m thrilled that it will be bringing me back to France in the next few weeks!
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