Why did you write this Gabrielle in French?
Two words: accident, pandemic.
The first day of spring in Los Angeles, a mild and sunny afternoon: life is beautiful. Suddenly, two tons of steel, launched at full speed, crash into my path. Bones shatter, eyesight is lost, the body broken. I was very unlucky, or very lucky...
I returned to France to continue my convalescence, then the pandemic dissuaded me from going back to California. I was able to take stock of what I had accomplished before the accident. My role as a mother, my career as a lawyer, in Paris and in Los Angeles. But also my writing: two novels successfully published in the United States, in English.
Now I had to decide what I was going to do with this "extra" life I had miraculously been granted. Since I was in France, I wanted to rewrite my first novel, Mistress of the Revolution, for a French audience. This is not a translation, mind you, it is a new version. In French, a language so close and so profoundly different from the original English...
And why did you write Gabrielle's story?
I have always been fascinated by the French Revolution, but I had a confused memory of it: a succession of events, in a sequence I had never really understood. Blood, death everywhere, the guillotine.
One day, decided to rediscover the Revolution. To understand it, I tried a new approach, which was to read the memoirs written by people, especially women, who had lived through it. It was a revelation: the often violent encounter between the history of France, of its people, and the individual destiny of these memoirists. For them, the personal, the intimate even, are indissolubly linked to politics.
They have taken up their pens to tell us the details of their everyday lives before and during the Revolution, how they lived through the tempest. Direct accounts, irreplaceable, frank, brave. So I wrote Mistress, and then Gabrielle, in the tradition of these women's memoirs, in the first person.
This novel is my reflection as a woman, a Frenchwoman, an American, and also a lawyer, on liberty, both personal and political, in particular women’s liberty.
What are your literary influences?
On the English side, above all Jane Austen, whose entire œuvre I re-read at least once a year. But also the great novelists who followed her: Emily Brontë, Elizabeth Gaskell, George Eliot.
On the French side, the authoresses of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, too little read, when they are not relegated, bowdlerized of course, to the shelves of children's literature: mesdames de La Fayette, d'Aulnoy, de Villeneuve, Leprince de Beaumont. Heiresses to the preciosity, they often use the fairy tale genre to address the theme of relations between women and men.
Of course, for the Enlightenment, Laclos, Diderot, Beaumarchais, Marivaux, without forgetting Sade and his implacable misandry. By the way, thank you, Citizen Sade, for lending me the subtitle of Gabrielle! Later, the classics of the French 19th century: Flaubert, Zola, Maupassant.
Any new projects?
I am immersed in 1791 Paris, at the time of the King’s flight to Varennes, with flashbacks to Auvergne at the time of the Beast of Gévaudan. My heroine goes in search of the secrets of her childhood and a troubling historical figure who might hold the key to them. She refuses to measure the danger of this quest. For the Beast never died: it bides its time, lurking in the streets of Paris. The question is whether she will recognize it in time.