Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Interview with Anne Girard, author of Madame Picasso

Author interviews are one of my favorite things to post which is why I am super excited to welcome author Anne Girard to Flashlight Commentary to discuss her latest release, Madame Picasso. 

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Welcome to Flashlight Commentary Anne. Great to have you with us. To start things off, please tell us a bit about Madame Picasso.
Thank you so much, it’s a pleasure to be here. Madame Picasso is perhaps an unlikely story to some, since it was a love mof short duration. Yet after many months of research, both here and abroad, I do believe with total conviction, that theirs was an epic love affair, and one that defined Pablo the man, and Picasso the artist, for many years afterward. Eva Gouel (incorrectly called Marcelle Humbert on several internet sites, as that was her nickname in the city), met Picasso when both were young and living in the inspiring, daring, and romantic Paris world of the early 1900’s. I loved everything about that premise.   

What inspired you to write this story? Where did it start? 
I write true epic love affairs from history (13 previous novels under my real name, Diane Haeger. Anne Girard is a pen name), that is what always inspires me, to tell a true story and hopefully, if I do my job right, give readers something they didn’t know. Madame Picasso began when I went looking to write a novel about Picasso and his first significant love, Fernande Olivier, a woman who still curiously enough, figures prominently in my book. But the fact that Picasso was pulled away so powerfully from Fernande by his feelings for Eva, made my original premise not one worth pursuing. Eva was his heart when he was young and needed her. That sentiment is backed up by his friend, and French biographer, Pierre Daix. 

Your novel begins in Paris, 1911. How did you bridge the gap in time and to bring Madame Picasso to life?
I think that, at heart, people are people. They have always loved, and lost and there have always been epic love affairs, no matter the time frame (I always start from that place when I write, and my subjects (going back as far as young Henry VIII, and Diane de Poitiers before that). Times change, ways of speaking, clothing, however, emotions remain. I start with that notion and the characters help me bring them to life.

Eva left very little record of herself. How did you approach her character and what do you hope readers take from your interpretation of her? 
Certainly there must be interpretation involved. This is a novel, after all. I do weave fictional elements throughout my stories but I pride myself, and long have, on intense research and travel to the locations about which I write. If I use fictional elements or characters, it is always noted in the author’s note. As to how I approached Eva, well, for me, the most essential part, and the gift, was having the collection of her personal letters, those she wrote with Picasso, to and from Gertrude Stein and Alice Toklas. Since I speak French, reading her thoughts, her sense of humor, and watching the story unfold through her words in her own handwriting, was as close I believe as anyone will ever get to the essence of Eva. Those letters figured heavily into how I wrote the novel. 

How would describe Eva and Pablo’s relationship? What do you think she meant to him?  
Based on my research, not on literary license or fantasy, I believe that she truly was his muse, and the love of his life. He gave up an established life for her, and many of his friends. He did go on to love again, and if I may say, to cement his own poor personal public reputation through the following years by not countering the negatives.  But in the novel, I attempt to show a slice of young Picasso. He was still open, still vulnerable with his heart. Eva arrived in his life at exactly the right moment. His friend and biographer confirmed that. And in speaking directly last summer in France with another dear friend of Picasso, I learned that the man was far different than the image he allowed the press to cultivate.

How do think his relationship with Eva compared to his relationship with Fernande Olivier?
They were totally different women, which is what drew Picasso to Eva. Fernande was a storm in the midst of his own creative sea. Eva was calm and welcome water.

Femme en chemise assise dans un
fauteuil (Eva), Woman in an Armchair
I’m very interested in the Bateau Lavoir studio. Atmospherically it has a very distinct feel. How did you approach recreating this particular environment? 
Ah, the Bateau Lavoir, yes! A place which literally means, washing barge. It was a dark, foul-smelling cheap place for artists to live up in Montmartre. The area, the studios (not the building, as it was), the essence of the place remains. I think Picasso, and others, felt free there. They didn’t love the squalid conditions, of course, but the inexpensive cost gave them more money for canvases and paint. They were young and they all had the goals for success. I think the environment bonded them.

Louis Markus is an interesting character. Can you tell us a bit about him and his role in the story? 
Yes, Louis. Well, every good story needs a strong protagonist (Picasso) and a sound antagonist (Louis), and I think Louis Markus, “Marcoussis” fits the bill perfectly for that. Factually, Louis and Eva were an item for a time before Picasso became involved. He did have an encounter with Fernande. As an author, I loved having him to play against Picasso.

There are several themes within your narrative. Which is your favorite and why?
Such a good question! I would have to say the theme of enduring love. Picasso was clearly pushed out of his comfort zone with Eva’s illness. He despised illness and death, which is documented. However, for love of her, he rose to the occasion and he was there for her daily, across France, no expense or time spared. It’s a special thing to see what true love can make or allow people to do. I believe Eva made him a better man…. At least for a time.

You probably have many, but is there a scene you particularly enjoyed writing?
Absolutely! I felt that I was “there” in many of them, especially since I had gone to all of the places for my research. Even the summer house in Ceret. My family thought I was slightly crazy to seek that out! Yes, favorite scene to write was the confrontation scene—based on absolute fact—between Picasso, Fernande, her friends, and Eva, in the South of France. Hands down. 

What scene posed the greatest challenge for you as an author? Why was it troublesome and how did you work through it?  
The last scene, absolutely, with Eva and Picasso. Still haunts me. I don’t want to give the ending away, of course, but I don’t think I ever have worked through it, or will.

Sometimes fiction takes on a life of its own and forces the author to make sacrifices for the sake of the story. Is there a character or concept you wish you could have spent more time with or expanded on?
Oh my, yes! Eva! She remains an enigma. I gained what I could, precious jewels, from her hand-written letters, but other than that it was my job to interpret those and factor those in the male biographers. There are only 3 known photographs of her in the world. I look at her face and I say to myself, I wish I could have spoken with you. I know you would have had amazing stories to tell me!

Historical novelists frequently have to adjustment facts to make their stories work. Did you have to invent or change anything while writing Madame Picasso and if so, what did you alter and why? 
True, when not all of the facts are known one must spin the tale around the facts. Authors take a series of known circumstances and then must weave a story through, and around, that. But my allegiance to the truth is paramount. Many years ago, I met and spoke with the mega-author Irving Stone, who impressed that idea upon me. I have never forgotten how important it is to be as faithful as possible to the “telling” of other people’s stories. As I said earlier, if I deviate for fiction, it is noted in my author’s note, and I am enormously proud of that fact.

If you could sit down and talk with one of your characters, maybe meet and discuss things over drinks, who would you choose and why?
Oh my……. Love this question! Instinct would have forced me to reply, Eva. Yet I think I would have to say Pablo Picasso. If, plied with good Spanish wine, and thus he could be honest, I would treasure his words about Eva and what she brought to his life, almost more than her take on it all. 

Just because I’m curious, if you could pick a fantasy cast of actors to play the primary roles in a screen adaptation of your work, who would you hire? 
That’s fun! Sandra Bullock as Fernande… she was who I had in mind as I wrote. Javier Bardem as Picasso. Natalie Portman as Eva.

Okay, we've talked a lot about your book. Let's switch gears and talk a little bit about you. How would describe your writing process? 
Full throttle, is my process. Once I commit to a story, I’m in it. I begin with massive research, whatever it takes, and I go to the location, no matter where it is. Sitting and chatting with a man who had known Pablo Picasso for 30 years was the best part of the process, on this novel. 

Who are your favorite authors? 
Irving Stone, Edith Wharton, Oscar Wilde, Karleen Koen, C.W. Gortner, Philippa Gregory. Many more

What are you currently reading? 
Z, by Therese Anne Fowler.

What do you like to do when you're not writing? Any hobbies?
I’m a work-out fanatic, to combat the stress, and I volunteer at a shelter, and am passionate about my adult kids. Being in their livesis my real vocation.

Where do you stand on the coffee or tea debate? 
Both. Liberally. Coffee first, tea afterward.

And finally, what's next for you? Do you have a new project in the works? 
I am happily under contract to write a novel about the early life of the actress, Jean Harlow. It is entitled Platinum Doll. I hope I can share a bit of her life, as well, that most readers don’t know.

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Anne Girard was born with writing in her blood. The daughter of a hard-driving Chicago newsman, she has always had the same passion for storytelling that fueled his lifelong career. She hand-wrote her first novel (admittedly, not a very good one) at the age of fourteen, and never stopped imagining characters and their stories. Writing only ever took a backseat to her love of reading.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in English literature from UCLA and a Master’s degree in psychology from Pepperdine University, a chance meeting with the acclaimed author, Irving Stone, sharply focused her ambition onto telling great stories from history with detailed research. “Live where your characters lived, see the things they saw,” he said, “only then can you truly bring them to life for your readers.” Anne took that advice to heart. After Stone’s encouragement twenty years ago, she sold her first novel. When she is not traveling the world researching her stories, Anne and her family make their home in Southern California. When she is not traveling or writing, she is reading fiction.

Website  Facebook  Twitter  Goodreads

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Early twentieth century Paris and Picasso’s lost love come to enchanted, vivid life in Madame Picasso. With a deft eye for detail and deep understanding for her protagonists, Anne Girard captures the earnest young woman who enthralled the famous artist and became his unsung muse.
- C.W. Gortner, bestselling author of The Queen's Vow

The story is so tremendously detailed that readers are transported to early 20th Century Paris, featuring such names as Moulin Rouge’s Mistinguett, Henri Matisse, Sarah Burnhardt, and Gertrude Stein. Picasso’s paintings are described, not only in technique, but with the artist’s feeling in each piece, perfectly setting the tone of the narrative. This is a story that will spark an interest in an era and bring to life Picasso’s intriguingly allusive love, Eva Gouel/Marcelle Humbert, who is not easily found in historical records.
- Arleigh of Historical-Fiction.com

It was hard to put down, I didn't want to leave their world. It was well written, exciting, suspenseful, sexy and heartbreaking. I can't imagine taking on the task of writing this book, the amount of research it would take and the talent to be able to fill in the blanks of the unknown and pull it off but Anne Girard did and very successfully.
- Artist Katherine Rohrbacher

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Format: Print & eBook
Publication Date: August 26, 2014
Released by: Harlequin MIRA
ISBN-13: 978-0778316350
Length: 432 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

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Check Out All the Stop on Anne Girard's Madame Picasso Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, August 25
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Tuesday, August 26
Spotlight at Historical Fiction Notebook
Interview & Giveaway at Flashlight Commentary
Wednesday, August 27
Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages
Thursday, August 28
Review & Giveaway at Words and Peace
Review & Giveaway at Kinx’s Book Nook
Friday, August 29
Review at Scandalous Women
Review at Curling Up by the Fire
Monday, September 1
Review at A Bookish Affair
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Tuesday, September 2
Review & Giveaway at Luxury Reading
Interview & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair
Wednesday, September 3
Review at Gobs and Gobs of Books
Spotlight & Giveaway at Susan Heim on Writing
Thursday, September 4
Review & Giveaway at The Maiden’s Court
Friday, September 5
Review at To Read or Not to Read
Monday, September 8
Review at Book of Secrets
Review & Giveaway at Mina’s Bookshelf
Tuesday, September 9
Review at A Chick Who Reads
Wednesday, September 10
Review at Books in the Burbs
Thursday, September 11
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews
Friday, September 12
Review at Caroline Wilson Writes
Review at The Book Binder’s Daughter
Monday, September 15
Review at Layered Pages
Review at Carole’s Ramblings
Tuesday, September 16
Review at She is Too Fond of Books
Wednesday, September 17
Interview & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books
Thursday, September 18
Review at One Book of a Time
Friday, September 19
Spotlight & Giveaway at So Many Precious Books, So Little Time
Monday, September 22
Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee
Tuesday, September 23
Review at The Librarian Fatale
Wednesday, September 24
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews
Review at WTF Are You Reading?
Thursday, September 25
Review at Kincavel Korner
Friday, September 26
Interview at Kincavel Korner

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