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
At least that was
how it worked with me.
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.
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.
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...
Labels: historical fiction, inspiration, Jeannette de Beauvoir, mysteries, new release