Monday, February 15, 2010

Make-Believe Monday with Stephanie Cowell

Today on Make-Believe Mondays my guest is Stephanie Cowell.

Stephanie, first, tell us a little bit about the manuscript you’re working on now.

Stephanie: It’s based on a true nineteenth-century romantic love story. I am fascinated with the relationship between men and women, the wonderful courting period when they are not quite sure if the other one is really interested, and then the complexities of love after marriage. The complex balance of life and how love travels through that! But my next novel is coming out very soon (Claude and Camille) so I feel very torn between the bohemian world of the struggling impressionists and this very different English world.

Debra: Yes, this fascinates me too and I'm intrigued by your struggling impressionists.

Ray Bradbury said, “We are cups, constantly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.” How do you keep your creative cup filled?

Stephanie: Well of course the creative cup isn’t always full; to slip into another metaphor, creativity has to go fallow like a field in winter but under the earth things are stirring. Often my great creative bursts come after a very dull period when I think I will never put a noun and verb together again. The best thing to restore myself is long walks, and watching old movies I love (some of my DVDs are almost worn out I think!) and just lie around on the sofa. Sleep, wander aimlessly in the park or museums. Sit by the Hudson River.

Debra: I quite like your metaphor. What a wonderful gift to yourself and your muse, that permission to wander.

Is there a point when your characters begin to come alive and you can see and hear them?

Stephanie: Characters come alive for me from the beginning, but I see them more clearly as the drafts go on. I have to shape them so that they are clear for the reader. It is plot which comes last for me.

Debra: As a child did any particular book or author pull you into their imaginary world?

Stephanie: Oh absolutely! My four favorites were A Little Princess, The Secret Garden, and a beautiful shorter book (and beautifully illustrated) called Petite Suzanne by Marguerite De Angeli and of course Heidi. I still love them today. The great author Madeleine L’Engle was my mentor and friend and once when we were together, we started to talk about A Little Princess; we were like two little girls, talking about the story, and quoting the final great scene where the poor waif Sara is discovered. We quoted it line for line. Madeleine was near eighty at the time. I still feel thrilled by the story. I read all four books when I am very weary of things; I curl up in bed like a child and read them.

Debra: Oh, what a lovely story of your time with Madeline L'Engle. Thank you for sharing it here and for sharing the glimpse into your life and the boosk which feed your soul.

Is there anything else you would like to add about the role of imagination, and dreams in creating fiction? Any other message for our readers?

Stephanie: I seem to be making a small specialty of writing about historical artists and writers and musicians. I find it fascinating to create the ordinary life of these people. I wander in museums and see objects and try to write them into the story. When I was writing about the young Claude Monet, I had to go down to the river and watch the light change every day and the many colors of the water. I think I’d say, try to see the everyday world through the eyes of your characters. I escaped into other worlds as a child because I felt I really could not express who I truly was in my own world, and I guess that is the main reason anyone becomes a writer. Everyone has special worlds inside them, a unique way of seeing things and stories to tell. I am always enriched by the worlds within my fellow writers! They can write things for me that I would not think to write!

My web site is and my blog Everyday Lives of the French Impressionists is My new novel Claude and Camille: A Novel of Claude Monet will be published by Crown on April 6th, 2010.

Debra: And what beautiful worlds you have to share with us as well, Stephanie.
Thank you for joining us here on this Make-believe Monday to share a little bit of the magic of writing with our readers.

Debra's News/Debra is watching:

Authors wishing to be interviewed on Make-Believe Mondays, please email me at or visit my website and fill out the form online.

Upcoming events:

I have been invited to be a part of the first Book Bloggers and Publishers conference March 19th to 20th because of my Make-Believe Mondays blog, which I've been doing since 2005. I'm looking forward to being on panels there.

One of my panels/workshops has been accepted for the Romantic Time convention in Columbus, OH the last weekend in April. As Columbus is my birthplace and I still have family there I'm quite excited about traveling there this year.

More details on these and other events to come. In the meantime I continue to work on my novels, with the occasional book signing as time allows.

Love to all,

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