I am so glad to welcome Stephanie Cowell, author of the new historical fiction book CLAUDE & CAMILLE. I recently read and reviewed this novel, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I thought Ms. Cowell did a wonderful job of bringing the character of Claude Monet to life both as an artist and a man.
Ms. Cowell has taken time to write an essay for my Book Club Exchange feature where she discusses the role of book clubs in her life. I love how she not only writes about what it's like to be a member of a book club, but also what it's like to be an author of a book club worthy book!
I have been a member of only a few book clubs and those very briefly. We had one in an office where I worked; we brought and ate our lunches while we talked and I became aware of the minds and hearts of my colleagues in a very special way. Another one I attended I recall for its oddity, for we read a historical novel, and one member bitterly contested the right to a novelist to make up words or scenes for any historical character!
More often I discuss books passionately with close friends by e-mail and over coffee or wine. There is something so intense in discovering that a friend’s heart beats the same way to a particular book. It is a mutual exploration of love.
Most often, however, I have been invited to speak at book clubs and this has opened worlds to me. They have as often as not been held in a private house, and so I enter someone else’s life and the lives of their close friends. They are always very welcoming and I find each one different. I find they have chosen my book for different reasons. It is so wonderful to sit around and discuss why I wrote a book and have the book club members come forth with similarities in their own lives that led them to relate to my novel. There is a bond between people. And then the conversation falls away to the personal lives of the members (babies, jobs, houses, schools) and I get glimpses of communities different than mine. I am amazed always at how a book travels and to whom it travels.
I can remember an amusing incident. I was asked by someone to meet with their book club and, as I don’t drive, she picked me up at the train station. As we made our way through the suburban streets lit by house lamps shining from windows, she confessed that she had time to read almost all my book but the last several pages. Would I mind very much reading it aloud as she drove to see how it ended? I said of course, but it was not a long drive and I never read so fast in my life. I was sort of gasping when we arrived.
Discussing books opens the way to deeper friendships; we meet in a way we might not meet but through the pages of a book. I look forward to the privilege of entering the lives of more readers by phone or in person and sharing my latest novel, Claude and Camille: a novel of Claude Monet. I know there are many Monet lovers out there and I can’t wait to discuss how I saw him as a young man and how they imagine him. We will walk down the paths of our imaginations together.
Stephanie Cowell was born in New York City to a family of artists and fell in love with Mozart, Shakespeare and historical fiction at an early age. She began printing stories in a black and white school notebook at about nine years old and in hery teens wrote several short novels which remain in a dark box. She learned something though, because by twenty, she had twice won prizes in a national story contest.
Then she left writing for classical singing. She sang in many operas and appeared as an international balladeer; she formed a singing ensemble, a chamber opera company, and so on. The translation of a late Mozart opera returned her to writing once more and she now mostly sings while washing the dishes!
Her first published novel was NICHOLAS COOKE: ACTOR, SOLDIER, PHYSICIAN, PRIEST, followed by two other Elizabethan-17th century novels: THE PHYSICIAN OF LONDON (American Book Award 1996) and THE PLAYERS: A NOVEL OF THE YOUNG SHAKESPEARE. In 2004, she returned to her musical background and wrote MARRYING MOZART; it has been translated into seven languages and optioned for a movie.
She is married to poet and reiki practitioner Russell Clay and has two grown sons (one in computer systems design and one a filmmaker). She was born in New York City and is still living there, a short walk away from all the impressionist paintings at the Metropolitan Museum.
A huge thanks to Ms. Cowell for sharing some of her thoughts about book clubs. And I agree that her latest novel CLAUDE AND CAMILLE would make a wonderful pick for a future book club! If you are interested in participating in a future Book Club Exchange, please contact me at bookingmama(at)gmail(dot)com.
Giveaway alert: I just happen to have a copy of CLAUDE AND CAMILLE to share with one of you. All you have to do to enter is leave a comment telling me the name of one of your favorite painters. Don't forget your an email address so I have a way to contact you if you win. This giveaway will be open until Wednesday, April 21st at 11:59 p.m. ET, and I will notify the winner the following day. This contest is open to those of you in the US and Canada only -- no p.o. boxes please. Good luck!