What is the working title of your next book?
Bouche. It means ‘mouth’ in French and is part of the name Boucher so it encapsulates some of the novel’s subject and themes.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
I lecture on the artist Francois Boucher and have spent a fair bit of time in the Wallace Collection in London where there are several of his paintings. I was sat on the landing of the Grand Staircase looking at Boucher’s fabulous The Rising of The Sun and The Setting of the Sun and realised I wanted to write about him.
What genre does your book fall under?
Literary historical fiction.
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
No idea. Probably some beautiful French actors.
What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
It is the story of an artist obsessed with perfection.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I don’t know yet but I love the immediacy of e-publishing and discovering this incredibly supportive community of authors, bloggers, reviewers on sites such as goodreads and smashwords.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
I haven’t finished it yet but it will take a few months. I write very slowly.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I still haven’t got around to reading Tracey Chevalier’s The Girl with The Pearl Earring but the premise of taking an artist and elements of a known biography and then departing from it is similar.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Several things. One was the paintings. I always strive to make my writing sensory and Boucher’s works are all about pleasure and overwhelming the senses. Then there was the fact that my first novel Whorticulture was dark and, though I don’t think of it as a pessimistic book, it is fair to say that male-female relationships in it are all characterised by oppression, need, or compromise. So one of the challenges I set myself with Bouche was to see if I could write a straight love story and to create a sympathetic male character. Francois Boucher the man is often wrongly confused with Boucher the artist so he has been characterised as lecherous and adulterous but there’s evidence to suggest he had real respect for his wife Marie-Jeanne Buzeau.
The other source of inspiration was a fascinating doctoral thesis Conchyliologie to Conchyliomanie: The Cabinet of François Boucher, 1703-1770 by Jessica S. Priebe. After reading it I realised who my version of Boucher was going to be.
What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
In comparison to the antebellum world of Whorticulture which was full of violence, Boucher’s C18th Paris is refined and artificial. So the love story is set against all the intrigue and machinations at Versailles, the debates in the literary salons, the ambitions of the artistic community in the Louvre… The art historian in me is making sure the details are accurate so anyone interested in art history might enjoy Bouche too. Key paintings feature so the reader could go on a Boucher trail. These include his portrait of Madame de Pompadour. She is just one of many fascinating characters in his sphere – Louis XV, the Irish prostitute Marie-Louise Murphy, Diderot the philosopher, Boucher’s pupil Fragonard who painted The Swing…
The Next Big Thing tags
As part of ‘The Next Big Thing’ I am to tag five other authors over the coming months. My first is Jason Parent. I reviewed his psychological thriller What Hides Within and it is one of those superb, dark books that you’ll never forget. Read his interview here and here.