In conjunction with the Author Takeover at The Historical Fiction Club, I’d like to welcome to the blog today, Elizabeth St. John, the author of the fabulous Lydiard Chronicles.
If you would like to join the author takeover on May 10th, please visit The Historical Fiction Club, join the group and the discussion!! Also, you might get the chance to win some prizes!!
Elizabeth St. John spends her time between California, England, and the past. An acclaimed author, historian, and genealogist, she has tracked down family papers and residences from Lydiard Park and Nottingham Castle to Richmond Palace and the Tower of London to inspire her novels. Although the family sold a few country homes along the way (it’s hard to keep a good castle going these days), Elizabeth’s family still occupy them– in the form of portraits, memoirs, and gardens that carry their legacy. And the occasional ghost. But that’s a different story.
Having spent a significant part of her life with her seventeenth-century family while writing The Lydiard Chronicles trilogy and Counterpoint series, Elizabeth St. John is now discovering new family stories with her fifteenth-century namesake Elysabeth St.John Scrope, and her half-sister, Margaret Beaufort.
In connection with The Historical Fiction Club’s Author Takeover, I am happy to welcome to my blog and podcast today, Drema Drudge, author of Victorine. To follow the author takeover on Monday, March 15th, you can go to this link: The Historical Fiction Club and join.
Drēma Drudge suffers from Stendhal’s Syndrome, the condition in which one becomes overwhelmed in the presence of great art.
As an interesting aside, I had to look up this rare disorder and was amazed in reading about this occurence.
I was in a sort of ecstasy, from the idea of being in Florence, close to the great men whose tombs I had seen. Absorbed in the contemplation of sublime beauty … I reached the point where one encounters celestial sensations … Everything spoke so vividly to my soul. Ah, if I could only forget. I had palpitations of the heart, what in Berlin they call ‘nerves’. Life was drained from me. I walked with the fear of falling.
Although psychologists have long debated whether Stendhal syndrome exists, the apparent effects on some individuals are severe enough to warrant medical attention. The staff at Florence’s Santa Maria Nuova hospital are accustomed to tourists suffering from dizzy spells or disorientation after viewing the statue of David, the artworks of the Uffizi Gallery, and other historic relics of the Tuscan city.
Though there are numerous accounts of people fainting while taking in Florentine art, dating from the early 19th century, the syndrome was only named in 1979, when it was described by Italian psychiatrist Graziella Magherini, who observed over a hundred similar cases among tourists in Florence. There exists no scientific evidence to define Stendhal syndrome as a specific psychiatric disorder; however, there is evidence that the same cerebral areas involved in emotional responses are activated during exposure to art. The syndrome is not listed as a recognised condition in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
The knowledge of this affliction, if you can call it an affliction, I sort of think of it as a spellbinding intoxication with the beauty of art. I can understand this since I feel that same overwhelming feeling whenever I am near anything relating to Shakespeare.
Back to our guest, Drema, she attended Spalding University’s MFA in Creative Writing Program where she learned to transform that intensity into fiction.
Drēma has been writing in one capacity or another since she was nine, starting with terrible poems and graduating to melodramatic stories in junior high that her classmates passed around literature class.
She and her husband, musician and writer Barry Drudge, live in Indiana where they record their biweekly podcast, Writing All the Things, when not traveling. Her first novel, Victorine, was literally written in six countries while she and her husband wandered the globe. The pair has two grown children.
In addition to writing fiction, Drēma has served as a writing coach, freelance writer, and educator.
For more about her writing, art, and travels, please visit her website, www.dremadrudge.com, and sign up for her newsletter. When you do, you’ll get a free historical fiction story about artists Olga Meerson and Henri Matisse and their alleged affair.
Drema’s always happy to connect with readers in her Facebook group, The Painted Word Salon, or on Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Victorine Meurent is a forgotten, accomplished painter who posed nude for Edouard Manet’s most famous, controversial paintings such as Olympia and The Picnic in Paris, paintings heralded as the beginning of modern art. History has forgotten (until now) her paintings, despite the fact that she showed her work at the prestigious Paris Salon multiple times, even one year when her mentor, Manet’s, work was refused.
Her persistent desire in the novel is not to be a model anymore but to be a painter herself, despite being taken advantage of by those in the art world, something which causes her to turn, for a time, to every vice in the Paris underworld, leading her even into the catacombs.
In order to live authentically, she eventually finds the strength to flout the expectations of her parents, bourgeois society, and the dominant male artists (whom she knows personally) while never losing her capacity for affection, kindness, and loyalty. Possessing both the incisive mind of a critic and the intuitive and unconventional impulses of an artist, Victorine and her survival instincts are tested in 1870, when the Prussian army lays siege to Paris and rat becomes a culinary delicacy, and further tested when she inches towards art school while financial setbacks push her away from it. The same can be said when it comes to her and love, which becomes substituted, eventually, by art.
By Pirate Patty Reviews – “Victorine Meurent. You may not know the name, but you know her. Take a look at Manet’s Olympia or Picnic on the Grass. Victorine models for many artists. She is living in Paris, posing nude or clothes. But her secret desire is to be the painter, not the model. In 1863, a woman artist is laughable. It is not a career that is encouraged by parents or society. But Victorine is no ordinary woman. No. She is a force of nature, steamrolling her way to her dreams. She doesn’t want someone else’s life, she wants to live her life. And she does.”
“She endures the horror of the occupation of Paris. She makes do with nothing. But she is always kind and loving. Victorine is one of the most interesting women I have had the pleasure to read about. She is smart, curious, and determined. Her personality is so strong and the author portrays her so well, you can feel her emotions. This is not something I come across every day. I wanted it to last longer. I honestly don’t have words for the energy this work of art is. Victorine came to life with the language the author used. I have a feeling we shall see more!”
*Author of Victorine, a novel about the iconic model of Manet’s Olympia turned painter, virtually forgotten by history, until now. Sign up to my newsletter, Artful Fiction, at: www.dremadrudge.com. Podcast: Writing All the Things
A special welcome from The Hist Fic Chickie today’s guest: Juliane Weber. I must admit, just reading her bio piqued my interest immensely since I also am a huge fan of Diana Gabaldon. While I cannot claim the lofty degrees of a science major, I respect the field after doing research for my next time travel novel in which many aspects of physics and time paradoxes are a part. I have added her new book, Under the Emerald Sky, to my to-read list and can’t wait. Keep an eye out for my review!
While science is just a hobby for me in relation to my writing, Juliane is actually a scientist. She holds degrees in physiology and zoology, including a PhD in physiology. During her studies she realised, however, that her passion lay not in conducting scientific research herself, but in writing about it. Thus began her career as a medical writer, where she took on all manner of writing and editing tasks, in the process honing her writing skills, until she finally plucked up the courage to write her first historical novel, Under the Emerald Sky. The book is the first in The Irish Fortune Series, which is set in 19th century Ireland around the time of the Great Famine. Juliane is inspired by Diana Gabaldon, author of the Outlander Series of books, who also happens to be a scientist turned novelist. Juliane lives with her husband and two sons in Hamelin, Germany, the town made famous by the story of the Pied Piper.
A few more interesting things from Juliane: “Hi, I was born in Germany but lived in South Africa for most of my life, where I met my husband and had our children. And just to make things a little more interesting: my husband is Serbian and has lived in Serbia, Libya, Russia and South Africa. He now lives in Germany with us, of course, but works for a company that’s based in the Czech Republic. Needless to say, we have plenty to talk about with people we’ve just met!”
Synopsis of Under the Emerald Sky
He’s come to Ireland to escape his past. She’s trying to run from her future. It’s 1843 and the English nobleman Quinton Williams has come to Ireland to oversee the running of his father’s ailing estate and escape his painful past. Here he meets the alluring Alannah O’Neill, whose Irish family is one of few to have retained ownership of their land, the rest having been supplanted by the English over the course of the country’s bloody history. Finding herself drawn to the handsome Englishman, Alannah offers to help Quin communicate with the estate’s Gaelic-speaking tenants, as much to assist him as to counter her own ennui. Aware of her controlling brother’s hostility towards the English, she keeps her growing relationship with Quin a secret – a secret that cannot, however, be kept for long from those who dream of ridding Ireland of her English oppressors. Among the stark contrasts that separate the rich few from the plentiful poor, Under the Emerald Sky is a tale of love and betrayal in a land teetering on the brink of disaster – the Great Famine that would forever change the course of Ireland’s history.
Alannah O’Neill is an Irishwoman who lives with her brother on their family estate. The O’Neills are one of few Irish families to have retained ownership of their land, the rest having been supplanted by their English conquerors over the course of Ireland’s bloody history.
Kieran O’Neill is Alannah’s brother, who keeps her firmly under his thumb, planning on marrying her off to someone of his dubious choosing. Kieran hates the English and has become entangled with those who seek to rid Ireland of her English oppressors.
Quinton Williams is an English nobleman who has come to Ireland to oversee the running of his father’s ailing estate. Here he meets Alannah O’Neill, but can she and Quin find happiness?
He led me along the path, which ambled away from the manor house and grounds, down into a small valley of luscious green countryside that bordered the small river. The grasses and delicate flowers of the hills gave way to reeds and lilies at the edge of the gently flowing water, which we traversed over a small wooden bridge. Orange-breasted robins flew around us while wrens whirred from bush to bush, breaking into surprisingly loud but sweetly melodious song. I closed my eyes, enjoying the sunshine on my face and relishing in the beauty of a sky that was bright and blue, with not a cloud in sight.
“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” Quin’s voice was soft and filled with wonder.
I opened my eyes and found that both horses had come to a stop on the other side of the stream, my mare nibbling contentedly on the succulent grass, nose to nose with Quin’s brown gelding. “It is,” I said. “It’s wonderful. It’s…home.”
He smiled at me and looked around him, shielding his eyes from the sun. “It’s rather unlike my own home,” he said after a moment, turning back to me.
“Do you miss London?” I asked.
“Yes…and no,” he answered, and laughed. “I do miss the comforts and familiarity of my own house, of course. Not to mention the pleasure of being able to speak to everyone in English! But…right now…I wouldn’t trade places with anyone,” he said softly, holding my gaze.
I swallowed and looked down onto my hands. When I looked back up, he was still looking at me, but with a good-natured smile on his lips. “Mind you, I would trade my best pair of boots for a good old-fashioned traditional English meal, one that doesn’t involve potatoes!”
Facts and fiction, history and romance, light and darkness – all in one novel!
A beautifully written novel. The historical facts are well researched, indicating the onset to a dark era in Irish history. The tale of two people with high hopes to make a better life for the less fortunate as well as for themselves give the story an amorous touch – a passionate love story for the ages! I look forward to reading the next installment!
Thank you to Juliane for stopping by The Hist Fic Chickie today! And for more on her and her book, come by The Historical Fiction Book Club and type her name in the ‘Search’ box to find her postings during her author takeover on February 15, 2021. And don’t forget to go to Amazon to purchase her book today!!