On Author Chats today, I’m thrilled to welcome Drema Drudge to talk about her brilliant new novel, Victorine. Thanks for coming, Drema. First of all, a word about your book:
In 1863, Civil War is raging in the United States. Victorine Meurent is posing nude, in Paris, for paintings that will be heralded as the beginning of modern art: Manet’s Olympia and Picnic on the Grass. However, Victorine’s persistent desire is not to be a model but to be a painter herself. In order to live authentically, she 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.
Drema Drudge’s powerful first novel Victorine not only gives this determined and gifted artist back to us but also recreates an era of important transition into the modern world.
What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
I’ve been privileged to travel to many places in pursuit of authors and the like. One of my favorite trips was to Thomas Hardy country in Dorset, England, where I saw the author’s birthplace, a charming, tiny cob and thatch home containing his early writing desk. (I think I could happily live and write there!) My tour of Max Gate, the home he later built, included a visit to his family’s pet cemetery. While I already adored Hardy, my admiration and appreciation for his writing increased by having seen where he wrote, and he remains one of my favorite writers.
What music do you listen to when you write (or don’t you)
If I listen to music when I write, I only listen to classical, usually Mozart. I can’t write to lyrics, and sometimes the classical music inspires me. Oddly enough, if I’m revising, I can even watch TV, but I put it on pause when I need to dive deeper.
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you building a body of work with connections or themes between each book?
It’s hard to leave a book I’ve invested so much time, energy, and heart into, and yet there’s the thrill of what’s next. So while I do have an overarching idea for my novels that amounts to something of a tie-in, it’s a loose connection that others might not even notice if I didn’t mention it: to write about each area of art, starting with painting. My next novel, for example, explores music.
Tell us more about Victorine, your new novel. When you did your research, did it change your plot or your characters significantly?
Because my main character, Victorine Meurent, remains someone who we know more about by the paintings done of her than through her history, my circuitous research did indeed change my plot. At first I thought I’d have to merely write about the eleven (known) paintings Edouard Manet did of her, and I imagined writing a book of linked stories. However, Victorine had other ideas, I’m happy to say. While actual facts of her remain scant due to her status as a woman of her time and as someone from the lower class, my digging revealed that she wasn’t just the model for Manet’s (and others’) paintings. She went to art school and became a painter who work was worthy of inclusion in the prestigious Paris Salon!
Did you hide any secrets in this book that only a few people will find?
I certainly did! One has already been found by a beta reader. She put “Ha!” in her margin notes to me. I was thrilled she knew I meant her. I look forward to seeing if other Easter eggs are discovered by those who know me. Then the intertextual connections between my novel and others! Endless.
What’s the best thing a reader has said about or written to you?
“Your writing saved my life.” This young woman had been drinking wine at the time, so I can’t say that didn’t have something to do with her declaration, but if there’s any truth to that, wow.
Quick Q & A
Tea or Coffee: Tea
Dark or Milk Chocolate: Milk Chocolate
When were you the happiest? It’s not a time, but a location: writing outdoors.
Favourite Children’s Book: Five Little Peppers and How they Grew by Margaret Sidney.
Favourite Adult Novel: Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham.
A final word:
Drēma suffers from Stendhal’s Syndrome, the condition in which one becomes overwhelmed in the presence of great art. 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 five countries while she and her husband wandered the globe. The pair has two grown children.
In addition to writing fiction, Drema has served as a writing coach, freelance writer, and educator. She’s represented by literary agent Lisa Gallagher of Defiore and Company.
Connect with Drema:
The Painted Word Salon (Facebook): https://www.facebook.com/groups/485639358698462/members/