I was born in Toulouse, France, in 1967.
One evening, when I was 45 years old, I was watching a movie on television with my husband. An American hero saving the world alone, leaving around him death and destruction. Classic.
A quarter of an hour after the beginning of the film, suddenly, without saying anything, I got up and sat down in front of the computer, with the sound of the TV in my ears. I opened a page, and I started to write the story I had been telling myself since... forever!
The fact is that I've been telling myself stories for as long as I can remember. But I thought that on the one hand, everyone did it and on the other hand, it didn't matter. Besides, I didn't allow myself to tell myself stories for years, thinking it was ridiculous!
Anyway, here I am, sitting at my computer, typing at breakneck speed, struggling to follow my characters dialogues running in my head, which I see as if I were at the movies. Before dawn, I decide to go to bed, because I have a job to feed my family!
Finally happy, the next evening, I keep writing my story again and so on every night. Alone, in my head, with my characters, I felt good.
Finally, after a few months I say to myself: I have to shape all this. I cut into chapters, I work on my idea, feverish, fulfilled. In the meantime, I realize that I'm missing some historical details. I search, I read tons of books written at the time of my story, some known authors, but most of them unknown: testimonies of places, thoughts, ways of life of the time.
A few months later, I write the word END and, astonished, I say to myself: I think I have just written a novel! I am happy to have had fun writing it, happy to have worked like crazy: Louise 1 La Muse was born!
There, a question arose that I hadn't seen coming: what to do with it?
I give my novel to my mom who reads it and says:
'Ah, that's it? I thought you would have written something more intellectual!'
'Well, … thanks, Mum ?'
Then I don't bother anyone else until my godmother calls me:
'I heard you've written a book? Can I read it?'
She loves it. She tells me that I have to send her to publishers, that I'm a great novelist, that I remind her of Alexandre Dumas!
Then one of my sisters also gives me her verdict:
'Well, it's a good story and you don't want to stop when you start, but read this! Here are contemporary authors much better than you. Learn from them!'
Bam! Some people make you come back down to earth very quickly!
Anyway, my husband said to me:
'Send it to publishers!'
I have a few manuscripts printed and bound, Louise is a big novel, it's expensive. I send with a return envelope: 19€/shipment. For us, it's a big deal. But I do it...
In the meantime, I feel so sad to have left Louise! With a big void in my heart, with a terrible feeling of idleness, I open a new blank page on my computer, convinced that Louise 1 La Muse was all I had as a story in the stock of my imagination.
I was wrong! As easily as I had written Louise 1 Mistress Mine, I wrote, to my astonishment, Louise 2, Where are you roaming? More work, new bibliographical readings, a year later, I had finished.
In the meantime, manuscript mailings continued their incessant back and forth, my pile of rejection letters was growing, implacable. Anyway, I loved working on telling my stories. Once again, I thought I had given everything I had.
But then I wrote Elfie. I was off on new adventures, and I was having a great time!
My manuscripts came back with, or without, letters of refusal, all on the same model... except for two: two editors, who had really read my novels and wrote me a manuscript letter explaining their refusal: they appreciated the qualities of my novels: writing, plot, subject, but did not have the courage to take a risk with an unknown author and a long novel or serial format, although they are real page-turners. That made me feel good: my novels don't fit in the boxes, but they have value.
Physically exhausted: I work during the day and write at night. Morally exhausted by the refusals, I must admit, it hurts. Financially exhausted by the mailings, I stop offering my manuscripts. And there, what a relief!
Without pressure, I write, always in French, Calixte: a great novel in two parts: Calixte 1, The Sound of the Sun, and Calixte 2, The Smell of the Snow. This one requires a lot of rewriting and even more concentration than usual: on the one hand because of the bad character that I don't like... because he's mean! I find it hard to deal with a bad guy living in my head every day. And on the other hand because of the construction of the book which was a real puzzle to make the story easy to read.
In short, I finish Calixte and I see that this novel is even longer than the others! I don't even bother to send it to publishers who are more than a little reluctant to go into this kind of format with a stranger who is no longer twenty years old!
Because it has to be said: age matters.
But then, why did I start writing so late?
My life has not been a long quiet river! Which life is? When I was young, I was lost without knowing it. When I was thirty-three, my two children were one and two, I understood on the one hand that I was, and on the other hand, why.
I started suffocating at night, my heart was racing and beating too fast, I woke up in pain thinking I was having a heart attack. But my physical heart was fine and my body was fine.
So one day I pushed the door of a psychologist:
'Why are you here?' she asked.
'I don't want what happened to me to happen to my children,' I replied. 'When I was 11 years old, I was assaulted by four young men in a pedestrian tunnel under a railway line.'
Of course, it's a summary. It takes weeks and weeks of crying and handkerchiefs to get this kind of thing out of you.
Then I burn both my arms. Hospital. I go back to the psychologist who tells me: - Well, that's done!
'What's done?' I ask.
'When you can't go after the people who hurt you,' she explains, 'you go after yourself.'
Damn, she would have told me before, I would have knocked down a wall with an iron bar! It would have saved me from spending six months with my arms skinless and bandaged while having to take care of my two small children still in diapers.
But finally, I was happy: I had laid down on the side of the road the burden that was suffocating me, that was preventing me from being me. Then, it took me a few more years to regain possession of this "me". I had misunderstood myself for more than two decades, it takes a little time!
You know what happened next: I started writing the stories I liked. No, not right away... I started by listening again to the music I like: classical music, Beethoven, Rossini, Verdi... It was with Beethoven in mind that I wrote Louise.
Moving forward in my own reflection, I realized that if I had had more confidence as a girl and as a woman, first of all, I would have been able to say earlier what had happened, and secondly, I would not have downplayed the importance of an assault that paralyzed my life for so many years.
It was then that one evening, with my daughter, we were watching a TedX and we came across Naomi McDougall Jones, an American actress and filmmaker who was denouncing male supremacy in Hollywood. She explained that if we women and girls only see male heroes, only actresses playing only secondary roles behind the man, we would never feel in life as having the right to be the main characters in our own lives, to be the decision-makers in our own lives.
This fact had struck me. I sent an email to Naomi, telling her that I wanted to support women's cinema. This was followed by an exchange of emails and Skype. We got to know each other a little. Naomi and other women were in the process of setting up THE 51 FUND, an American production company for films written and directed by women with female lead roles. She offered me to be part of the adventure. I said yes. What an adventure! Since then, I became Founding General Partner of THE 51 FUND. In the meantime, there have been a lot of obstacles in the way, plus the covid. But since, I had good news to announce: Cusp, produced by THE 51 FUND, is selected at the Sunddance festival 2021. I am very honored and happy to participate in this beautiful women's project.
As for my novels, I was asked why their main characters were women. You got part of the answer. I would rather ask the question: Why is it that male authors are never asked why their main characters are men?
And why the 19th century? There's no mystery: because I've always loved this century! A question of taste, that's all. Everything inspires me: music, painting, literature, poetry, costumes, horses. My romantic self that I finally assume perhaps?
Another question I was asked: what am I living on? One might be tempted to answer with a question: Why is it your business?
But I will answer:
I was an independent entrepreneur for twenty years with my husband. A very small local business consisting of my husband and I, plus a few extras when needed. A small family business is not just about money as some people who have never had a business may think.
It is a lot of work, of moral, physical and financial investment, difficulties, worries, hopes, disappointments. You have to have a strong morale to survive it. It's a question of human relations above all and of faith in what we do; and we must have faith (or madness!) when the income is below expectations and working hours, as some entreprises like restaurants or bookstores in France may feel and experience in 2020.
On this subject, I also go to bookstores, mostly second-hand, because I only read mainly 19th century authors and I buy editions as old as my wallet will allow me! Because, yes, booksellers are good advice. I discovered some 18th century French authors that I didn't know.
But the book market is a jungle, I realized this in spite of myself.
On the one hand, publishers are entrepreneurs and they are very, very fearful!
My novels, apart from Violette and Napoleon, are considered "long" nowadays. I am unknown, and I don't fit into any box. So publishers think I'm hard to sell. This I understand. In short, I understood that a publisher will only be interested in my work when I am known. That in order for my novels to end up on bookstore shelves, I must first be known on Amazon, sell books there. See the vicious circle?
So I have to manage on my own, which I do willingly: it's my dream, it's my life. After searching in many ways, it turns out that Amazon gives me, as an indie author, the biggest visibility and for free. In fact, it's either Amazon or nothing.
If I expand on this subject, it's because in France, some self-righteous people with a strong voice are shouting against this website and are forcing everyone to a thoughtless and dictatorial intransigence. Basically, you are not "against" this website, you are a bad citizen.
(On this subject, it might be a good idea to ask the question: who puts their books on sale on Amazon, apart from an independent author like me who has no influence on bookstore sales? It's the publishing houses! They say they support bookstores, but they sell directly on Amazon.
I think that booksellers should first and foremost turn against the publishing houses that put their books for sale on this site behind their backs: Amazon can only sell the products that are offered to them. Moreover, thousands of small, local French companies use this platform to sell, in France and abroad, what they could not do alone. And the more they walk, the more taxes they pay in France...
Well, there you go, that was the big parenthesis).
In short, in 2019, suffering from osteoarthritis for fifteen years, our work being very physical, the doctor told me that if I didn't stop this work, I would lose my arms! I had to stop working in our small business, which meant stopping the business and my husband would also be out of work. As agreed between my husband and me, on December 31, 2019, we closed the business, without having found a buyer and without unemployment income to live on afterwards. (In France, bosses get nothing when they are out of work.)
But we had a plan: my husband was going to find a job that would be enough for us to live on (we're not greedy materially, lucky us!) and so I could devote myself to my writing and find a readership.
Bad luck, the first confinement caused all the job interviews to go awry (My husband is a chef). Finally, he found a job from June to October 2020, 350 miles away. It was better than nothing. When he came back home, he started looking for another job for the winter season, but the confinement hit again, restaurants were banned from opening. It's hard on the bank account, it's hard on morale.
But my student children, my husband and I have a huge asset: love and hope.
And then... I write love and adventure novels, I have to get my inspiration from somewhere, don't I?
Finally, December 16, 2020 : A great event!
The SUNDANCE Film Festival announced its selection for January 2021:
CUSP, the feature documentary partly produced by THE 51 FUND, is selected among thousands of others! It is already a consecration for the magnificent work of the two directors Isabel Bethencourt and Parker Hill. This is a great step for the team of hard-working women with great heart of THE 51 FUND.