This Covid pandemic has forced us all to be less active and more introspective. It’s one of the times I can especially appreciate being a writer, for my writing takes me out of my own very limited (at the moment) world and lets me visit other times and places and get to meet new characters. I’ve taken advantage of the time to finish a new book and start on another one. I’ve long wanted to write a trilogy about the du Bignon family of Jekyll Island, and it is finally coming to fruition, assuming I have time to finish the book I’m currently working on now that the first two are either already published or in press.
I hope it won’t take as long as Eleanor’s Daughter: A Novel of Marie de Champagne, which I worked on at various intervals for forty years. It’s finally available now on Amazon and Barnes & Noble (and wherever books are sold) in hard cover, paperback, and on Kindle. For anyone who has read it or may be interested in reading it, I’d like to share the story of the image on the cover. It’s a wood carving of the 12th-century seal of Marie de Champagne, done by a Monsieur Renard, a craftsman who lived in the city of Marie’s primary court, Troyes, France. While I was there many years ago with my family for a semester of research, thanks to a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, my husband and children tracked down Monsieur Renard, with the help of one of our French neighbors and commissioned him to carve the piece as a birthday present for me. He did a marvelous job, using a piece of wood that had once been part of a fifteenth-century church in Troyes. It was a wonderful surprise and a very special treat. I have since then lost my husband to cancer and my children have all grown up and had children of their own, and that wonderful semester is only a memory, but I will always treasure that carved wooden seal and the special effort my family went to in having it created.
I definitely need lessons on the ever-changing nature of technology. It seems that, as soon as I learn to do something, it is “improved,” and I discover that I no longer know how to do it. That’s when I have to call a grandson or a passing teen, all of whom know better than I how to handle this bewildering screen before me. I am amazed when I recall that I had to write my dissertation on an unforgiving typewriter. No mistakes, erasures, or liquid paper corrections allowed. That page had to be retyped. Despite my inadequacies, I am grateful for the advent of the computer, which allows me to make changes at will. My love-hate relationship with technology will no doubt never end, but I do admire those techies who make it look so easy. My new computer and I are still battling wits. Anyone know where I can get lessons?
Beginning a blog is like beginning a new novel. I haven’t done this before, but decided it’s time to give it a try. And for those of you who want to write and haven’t begun yet, there’s only one way to begin. Start writing.
I have been trying to write a new book every two years since I retired from teaching. My last novel, Marguerite’s Landing, the first volume of a trilogy I hope to complete about the du Bignon family of Jekyll Island, was published in 2016. I probably owe the readers of my books about coastal Georgia an apology, because the book I am writing now is not a part of that trilogy.
Perhaps I should explain that I have had two major interests in my writing career (and even then have occasionally diverted attention to other fascinating topics, as I did when I published A Titanic Love Story: Ida and Isidor Straus and The Boys of Shiloh. But my two primary interests are the history of coastal Georgia, especially Jekyll Island, and twelfth-century French literature and history. I’ve loved working in both fields, different as they are. I’ve even found my background in French to be useful in writing about Jekyll Island, where the du Bignon family, members of the French merchant nobility, settled in 1792 to escape the French Revolution. So many documents, so much correspondence is in French.
The topic of my new book is Marie de Champagne, the oldest daughter of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Louis VII of France. I have done research on her court and various writers connected with it for many years. And this is a book I have wanted to write for decades, having done various articles about the topic. It will be historical fiction, but, as always, based on substantial research. It doesn’t mean that I don’t invent and provide dialogue, motivation, and such of my own imagining. But it does mean that I make every effort not to write anything that can be disproven. The working title is Eleanor’s Daughter, but titles frequently change in the process or at publisher’s request. I hope that even you readers of my coastal Georgia books will give it a try.