What an incredible amount of joy it is for me to welcome to Jorie Loves A Story, the writer of historically enriched French novels which ache to be classified as literary as much as they are most decisively historical in breadth of scope — Ms. Heather Webb!
I was quite wickedly intrigued by her debut novel: “Becoming Josephine” which not only introduced me to the Bonaparte’s in a way I had not expected possible, but it clued me into the particulars of Revolutionary France and the swirling tide of rule that would alter time and history. I was not quite ready to meet Josephine as her story was quite brutally harsh and incredibly layered, (a credit to the writer who brought her truth to light from her pen) but what I walked away with was this undying intrigue for France & for eclipsing previously unknown eras of French history through stories presenting a lifeblood of a living person who dared to make their mark at a time that was fashionably slanted against them!
This has become Ms. Webb’s signature style — of interweaving historical fact and the mysterious unknown spirit of truth of her characters into a riveting read of history encased in a figmented glass of eloquence.
I’ve come full circle — I hosted Ms. Webb for her debut novel, and now after having spent many a spontaneously happy moon meeting up with her in the twitterverse, I am hosting her for her second novel, this time centered around the Belle Epoque era of artistic dynasty!
You’ve previously reflected how much you adore the Belle Epoque era of French history due to the well of inspiring innovative thoughts, movements, and progress stepping out of it. Do you remember what gave you the first bonefide passionate link to the Belle Epoque world? Was it a particular person, story, or movement that eclipsed your heart?
Webb responds: It began when I was twelve years old and living in Nashville. (My dad was military so we moved around a lot.) A traveling exhibit of the impressionists came to one of the museums downtown. My mom, ever on the hunt for the cultural things to see in each place we lived, bought us tickets immediately. I’ll never forget marveling over the array of gorgeous paintings, how the artists used color to depict light and movement. From that point on, I wanted to know more about these painters and thus began my interest in this era.
I have oft found the best discoveries we have in our lives are the ones that are fortuitously spontaneous and unexpectedly alighting on our path! How keen your Mum had a bit of inspiration towards your growing curiosity on art history inasmuch as sparking a flame inside your mind that would one day lead you toward’s telling the story within Rodin’s Lover! I love finding such connective pieces of where inspiration and curiosity start to carve such an intricate thread through our mind’s eye towards revealing in our future how that moment solidified a desire we had yet to give a name too!
When it comes to fine art, I have drifted between Renaissance artists of Italy (i.e. Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, Michaelangelo and Raphael) to the Pre-Raphaelites (i.e. John W. Waterhouse, Bouguereau, or Godward), yet I haven’t explored Rodin. Except to say I have lamented about his sculpture “The Thinker” throughout my childhood, whilst I studied fine art. What tipped your interest on Rodin initially, and sparked your joy in bringing out Camille Claudel who had such anguish in loving Rodin?!
Webb responds: I fell in love with both Camille and Rodin while in my French film class in college. The film, simply called Camille Claudel, was multiple award-winning in Europe and the U.S. with stars Isabelle Adjani and Gérard Depardieu playing the roles of Camille and Rodin. Their tragic love story gripped me and I swooned at the beauty they created both together and separately. After the film, I became rather obsessed with sculpture in general. Many years later, I had not forgotten Camille, and knew I wanted to delve more into her life.
Isn’t that interesting?! Depardieu, you say?! I remember finding him for the first time in Green Card; yet I had not realised they had brought Rodin & Claudel to the screen! Although having become further interested in the real-life counterparts to this story, I had nearly suspected there might have been a classic motion picture on behalf of their life, as they so oft had brought to life people who had such a strong impact on art and society. There is beauty within tragedy as much as there is solace out of darkness — I can see how the strong emotional ties of their orbit heightened your motivation to tell their stories!