On this, the last day of the HFBRT event for Claude & Camille, I bring you an interview with the author, Stephanie Cowell.
Throughout the novel Camille suffered from periodical bouts of depression and inner-darkness. Is this something you found while researching? Was it a sort of manic depression or bi-polar illness?
They didn’t have names for what sort of personality disorder she had back then, but I think she had a sort of manic depression. First of all, I must say honestly that very little is known about the real Camille; we have a few letters in which she is mentioned and diaries of contemporaries. I spent hours and hours gazing at reproductions of his paintings of her. Her character in the book evolved as very complex. She adored Claude but she had a sort of dream of what it would be like to run away with a brilliant unknown artist with great hopes; however, she came from a well-off home and the grim reality of poverty was something she could not have imagined. She felt very stifled as a young woman by her parents’ expectations and began to make up things about her life to seem more interesting. I think she felt the real Camille wasn’t interesting enough. I have known a few people like that and it is very confusing for those who love them. But she was very loyal at the same time, very supportive of him. When he is at one of his lowest points in making money, she tells him he has never failed.
What is your favorite Monet painting and why?
How can I possibly choose? Can I list three? Magpie on a Fence, a picture in the snow when he was likely very lonely. The Point of the Hève at Low Tide, because of the colors of sky and sea and because it was this painting which made me want to write about him. And Vétheuil in Winter across a very cold river. I love the water lily paintings of course and the Japanese bridge. And then I saw a painting of him when he was twenty-five and I thought, “What a brooding, gorgeous, alluring man!”
Magpie on a Fence
Vétheuil in Winter
In your Historical Notes at the back of Claude & Camille you talk about how you were inspired at an Impressionist exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum in 1995. Why did you choose Monet in particular to write about and have you been working on the novel since then (1995)?
I was drawn to Monet because of The Point of the Hève at Low Tide, the closeness of the clouds and water and sand meeting each other. He came out of the painting for me. I was also drawn to the work of Frédéric Bazille and a little painting he made of all his friends in his studio with a great deal of their work hanging on the walls, which was then of course not worth much if anything. But I just made notes on the novel then. I started out to actually write it about six years ago and it took a long time to find the right way to tell the story because there are several stories combined: Monet’s struggles to paint and sell his work, his love for Camille and the growth of the movement Impressionism.
You've written about several visionaries in your books: Mozart, Shakespeare and now Monet, can you explain for us the connection you obviously feel for fellow creative types?
I think almost everyone I have written about is some kind of artist or scholar or visionary. Both my parents were artists (painters) and all my friends were in the arts and the center of everyone’s life around me and my life was creating something. It is odd when I think back on my childhood that it never occurred to me to be a doctor or a lawyer or anything but someone in the arts.
What can you look forward to in the future from you? Is there something in the works?
I have several works in progress but likely my Victorian love story will be finished first. I was reading bits of the draft today and realize how different the whole world is from the bohemian life of the French Impressionists. The whole way they felt about things, about the way they should be in the world.
I would like to send out a HUGE thank you to Stephanie for all the hard work that she's put into the HFBRT event, as well as, my fellow round table ladies and Stephanie's publicist, Diane. Working with such talented and intelligent women made my job easy!
Also, a GARGANTUAN shout out to all of you who followed the Round Table event...thank you, thank you! We have the best fans and I hope you had a great time and good luck to you that entered all the giveaways!
In case you missed any posts, please visit HFBRT's Schedule of Events (with links)!