The First Time I Read: Welcome Jeannette de Beauvoir

Welcome to my new blog series: The First Time I Read . . . where guest bloggers are writing about the literary greats who inspired them. Please welcome awarding-winning novelist Jeannette de Beauvoir and congratulate her on her latest book, Asylum. Today is the release day! If the cover is any indication, the book must be wonderful. It's on my must-read list.

The first time I read Mary Stewart, the world around me disappeared. Instantly. Completely. Her first sentence, first paragraph, first page utterly pulled me in, and did so with a grace and lyricism that has challenged me, every single day since then, to become a better writer.
She wrote in a genre known as the romantic mystery or romantic thriller, rife with mystery and nail-biting tension and exciting twists, with romance woven throughout like a ribbon through plaited hair. Her protagonists are almost always women: women who are smart, independent, creative, and very, very accessible to the reader, who can somehow believe that she, too, could be as clever and adventurous as they were.
At least that was how it worked with me.
Stewart’s novels take place in amazing venues: the Greek islands (The Moonspinners), southern France (Nine Coaches Waiting), Austria (Airs Above the Ground), Lebanon (The Gabriel Hounds) and, of course, her native England (The Ivy Tree). Perhaps that influenced me, also: though I grew up in France, there was a lot of travel and stays in foreign countries also.
But it isn’t the places, or the protagonists, or even the stories themselves that keep me reading and rereading her books, three decades after I opened the first of them; it’s that reading Mary Stewart is the best writing class I’ve ever attended. Like P.D. James, she proves that genre fiction can also be literary fiction. When I have the how-did-I-ever-believe-I-could-write blues, I read Mary Stewart, and she makes me want to try again, be better, reach higher.
She also gave me the point of view with which I’ve always been the most comfortable in my own novels, the first person singular. Telling stories from within the protagonist’s mind and heart and experience may be limiting, but it’s also deeper, more thoughtful, offering greater substance.
Mary Stewart started publishing in the 1950s and went on through the 1990s, an impressive career that spanned adult novels, children’s books, and poetry. I’ve read a lot of far more famous and classical writers, but none who influenced me as she has.

Jeannette de Beauvoir is an award-winning novelist and poet whose work has been published in 15 countries and has been translated into 12 languages. She grew up primarily in Angers, France, and now lives mostly in North Truro on Cape Cod, though she spends part of every year in Montréal and traveling. She writes primarily mysteries and historical fiction and teaches writing workshops and online classes.
Asylum (St. Martin’s/Minotaur)
Martine LeDuc is public-relations director for the mayor's office in Montreal. When four women are found over
several months brutally murdered and shockingly posed on park benches throughout the city, Martine's boss fears a PR disaster that will affect the tourist season, and Martine is appointed as liaison between the mayor and the police department. The women seem to have nothing in common: they’re of varying ages, backgrounds, and body types, and yet the macabre presentation of their bodies hints at a connection. Martine is paired with a young detective, Julian Fletcher, and together they dig deeply into the city's past, uncovering dark secrets hidden during the 1950s when orphanages in Montréal and elsewhere were converted to hospitals for the insane. It isn’t until Martine finds herself imprisoned beneath the old asylum that she can put the pieces together—and then it’s almost too late...


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