I have been drawn to reading historical fiction of late and when I saw that Heather Webb, a member of the WRITER UNBOXED group I belong to, mentioned her debut novel was coming out December 31 about Josephine Bonaparte, I wanted to interview Heather and find out more about the process of "Becoming Published." In addition, I visited the Palace of Versailles in 2010 and curious about the the woman I saw in the huge mural.
Would you agree it takes a lot of courage to write a novel? How so for you with your first novel? Absolutely! It takes courage to face that blank page every day, to have enough faith in yourself to keep going despite rejections, to keep learning and growing. I found it difficult to take the head nods and tight smiles that would come when I told friends and relatives I'm writing a book. "Good for you, Heather. Why not? You're not teaching right now. May as well have some fun." Yet I was BURNING inside. I'm the kind of girl who is all in or NOTHING. So yes, courage to face the doubts. Let's not forget all the gumption it takes to face an industry packed with incredibly brilliant, talented people. Once again, courage, and lots of it.
What was the publishing process like for you? I can't complain! I suffered through rejections like anyone else, but ultimately, I only went on THE GREAT AGENT SEARCH twice. I met Michelle at a conference, she loved my pages, and we had an instant connection. After I signed with her, I spent about six weeks revising and then we went out on submission. The book sold in 5-6 weeks. It was quite a whirlwind.
What was it like making a historical figure come alive again in your novel? Josephine's voice was REALLY LOUD in my head. She would wake me up at night to tell me things. On days I wasn't feeling it, I would read Napoleon's letters to her, play my favorite classical station on Pandora, or look through my gallery of photos of Josephine's favorite haunts.
I think part of the reason I could hear Josephine so loudly was that I could identify with her on some level. I moved a lot as a military brat, so I understood Josephine's need to adapt and how she must reinvent herself to belong. My family was very close, as we had to start over and over again, and we were all we had. Also, I could relate to Josephine's sense of caring for her people, something I do utterly for my tribe. I'm fiercely protective of and loyal to my circle of loved ones and friends. At the end of the day, they are what matter and I believe Josephine felt the same way.
In terms of writing about a prominent historical figure, I had history books with me constantly. There are a few I reread at least five times. Though after allowing the factual information soak into my brain, I went with my own interpretation of Josephine. I stressed the different facets of her personality--her faults and her strengths--not just her goodness, not just her spendthrift behavior or highly sexualized nature, but those traits that made her unique in a time packed with famous personalities.
What are your hopes for readers of Becoming Josephine to come away with? Above all, I hope my novel inspires readers to want to know more about Josephine, the times in which she lived, and the people in her life. And I'd love for them to just enjoy her story! It was a real doozy.
Heather Webb is the author of BECOMING JOSEPHINE, her debut historical (Plume/Penguin 2014). A freelance editor and blogger, she spends oodles of time helping writers hone their skills—something she adores. You may find her Twittering @msheatherwebb, hosting contests, or hanging around RomanceUniversity.org as a contributor to the Editor's Posts. She is also the Twitter mistress for the popular Writer Unboxed. She loves making new reader and writer friends. Stop on by her website, Between the Sheets!