Today at Historical Belles and Beaus we welcome historical author Diane Scott Lewis.
Diane, what inspired you to write this book?
Anne, thank you for having me here. When I wrote my first novel, The False Light, in my original ending (now deleted) I had my heroine travel to St. Helena to visit her old friend, Napoleon. I started to research his time on this rugged, remote, island, and became fascinated by his character, the politics that trapped him there, the people who traveled with him and the possibility he may have been poisoned. The island is intriguing with unusual flora and fauna and topographical features—a character in itself.
I decided I needed to write an entire book with Napoleon as a main character. I also created my heroine, Amélie, a strong-willed woman—the fictional daughter of the head chef—who would rally his soul and love him for himself. She suspects an assassin has been sent with their entourage to murder Napoleon, and ferrets out the culprit.
How did you choose the title?
In my research, Napoleon’s chamberlain—who took dictation and wrote the ex-emperor’s memoires—said he spoke like a spirit on the Elysian Fields. I chose the shorter, Elysium, which in Greek mythology is a “delightful paradise where the gods are sent to die.” Of course, it’s also very tongue-in-cheek, because St. Helena was far from delightful for Napoleon. To Amélie it was her paradise because she found love.
What is your writing process?
I rise early, because mornings are my best time with the most energy. I’m afraid I write by the seat-of-my-pants; in other words, I don’t follow an outline. All my early novels were conceived this way, just throwing ideas onto the computer screen, then researching as needed. This process led to long, rambling stories without enough focus. The False Light and Elysium were first created over ten years ago, and I had to trim them down after I learned about plot, theme and structure. From now on I plan to be more disciplined and at least have some idea where I need the story to go.
How hard, or easy, was the research for Elysium?
In the time before the internet, I spent hours at the Library of Congress researching books on Napoleon’s final exile. Some of the books were actually written during his time there, one in 1817, a marvellous resource. I purchased books recommended, such as historian Octave Aubry’s detailed Sainte-Hélène. I read books written by Napoleon’s valets who suffered with him on the island. I spoke regularly to a Napoleonic scholar who had visited St. Helena several times.
The research wasn’t easy, but I enjoyed the process.
Did you learn anything from writing and publishing this book? What?
I learned so much, I could have written another novel about the characters on St. Helena. In fact, I had to delete actual historical personages from the story because it grew too huge. Through my careful research, I learned that Napoleon wasn’t at all the extreme villain many have portrayed him as, and I tried to show that in this novel. I’m sure I’ll hear disparagement—as I did in one contest—over my effort to make him a rounded human being who desired love as we all do. I also discovered that many escape schemes were formulated to rescue the ex-emperor from his exile. I played on this theme in Elysium. Could Napoleon have escaped? In trying to publish Elysium, I found that mainstream agents and editors weren’t comfortable with me fictionalizing Napoleon, so I chose an innovative small press.
What is your favourite time of year?
The spring. I’m originally from California, where we had mild winters. Now I live in Virginia where it actually, gasp, snows! I run my heating bill up so high just to keep warm. When spring arrives, like now, and the flowers bud, the birds sing, I can stand on my front porch and not shiver, it’s like a reprieve from the Arctic.
What are you working on now?
Another historical—my favorite genre—Ring of Stone. The story is set in the late eighteenth century in Cornwall, England. My heroine, Rose Gwynn, aspires to practice as a physician, uncovers evil village secrets and finds love in the least expected place.
Do you have another release coming out soon?
I hope to have my sequel to The False Light, Without Refuge, out early next year.
Thank you for visiting us, Diane.
In 1815, Napoleon Bonaparte is exiled to remote Saint Helena. Amélie Perrault, the daughter of Napoleon’s head chef, is determined through healing herbs to rise in importance and is fascinated with the fallen French Emperor. After her beautiful singing voice catches Napoleon’s attention, she is drawn into his clash with their British jailers, court intrigues and a burgeoning sexual attraction.
Napoleon is soured on love. Since political maneuvers fail to release him, he desires freedom no matter the risk. Amélie suspects someone in their entourage is poisoning the emperor. Now she must uncover the culprit and join in Napoleon’s last great battle plan, a dangerous escape.
Elysium can be purchased here:
Or visit Diane’s website: http://www.dianescottlewis.com/