Monday, June 6, 2011

Interview with Linda Urbach, Author of Madame Bovary’s Daughter a novel of Fashion & Fortune

This week we have have the pleasure of talking with Linda Urbach. She has provided us with a wonder description of her novel and even answered a few question for us. I think you will enjoy this one as much as I do. 

Thank you for Joining us this week Linda. 

Madame Bovary’s Daughter a novel of Fashion & Fortune by Linda Urbach.

Published July 26, 2011

Published by Radom House, Bantam. On July 26, 2011
Available on, Barnes and Noble, Random

Madame Bovary's Daughter. The Summary:
Picking up after the shattering end of Gustave Flaubert’s classic, Madame Bovary, this beguiling novel imagines an answer to the question Whatever happened to Emma Bovary’s orphaned daughter?

One year after her mother’s suicide and just one day after her father’s brokenhearted demise, twelve-year-old Berthe Bovary is sent to live on her grandmother’s impoverished farm. Amid the beauty of the French countryside, Berthe models for the painter Jean-François Millet, but fate has more in store for her than a quiet life of simple pleasures. Berthe’s determination to rise above her mother’s scandalous past will take her from the dangerous cotton mills of Lille to a convent in Rouen to the wealth and glamour of nineteenth-century Paris. There, as an apprentice to famed fashion designer Charles Frederick Worth, Berthe is ushered into the high society of which she once only dreamed. But even as the praise for her couture gowns steadily rises, she still yearns for the one thing her mother never had: the love of someone she loves in return.
Brilliantly integrating one of classic literature’s fictional creations with real historical figures, Madame Bovary’s Daughter is an uncommon coming-of-age tale, a splendid excursionn through the rags and the riches of French fashion, and a sweeping novel of poverty and wealth, passion and revenge.

Why did you choose to write this particular book?
When I encountered the novel Madame
Bovary for the first time in my early twenties thought: how sad, how
tragic. Poor, poor Emma Bovary. Her husband was a bore, she was desperately in love with another man (make that two men), and she
craved another life, one that she could never afford (I perhaps
saw a parallel to my own life here). Finally, tragically, she committed
suicide. It took her almost a week of agony to die from
the arsenic she’d ingested.

But twenty- five years later and as the mother of a very cherished
daughter, I reread Madame Bovary. And now I had a different
take altogether: What was this woman thinking? What
kind of wife would repeatedly cheat on her hardworking husband
and spend all her family’s money on a lavish wardrobe for
herself and gifts for her man of the moment; most important of
all, what kind of mother was she?

Is there a message in your novel that you would want readers to grasp?

The message:  the importance of mother love.
When Berthe was born, Emma Bovary did the opposite of
rejoice. The epigraph to my novel describes how she greeted her
daughter’s arrival in Madame Bovary: She fainted in distress!
How, I wondered, did the ignored, unloved Berthe overcome
such a childhood? Her father was too busy trying to make a living
and her mother barely acknowledged her existence. I wondered
how it felt to grow up as the child of one of literature’s
worst mothers. When I wrote this book, I wanted to make sure
Emma’s child not only survived but triumphed in the end. I
guess you could say I adopted Berthe as a sort of second daughter.

Can you tell us about your main character?

Berthe Bovary is a woman who has to overcome her beginnings.  Her mother was considered (even by today’s Playboy) to be “the most scandalous” woman of her times. She lied, she cheated, she ruined her family and destroyed her own reputation. Berthe’s main goal in life was to grow up to be not like her mother.  And yet, in many ways she was her mother’s daughter. Berthe loved fashion, she was dazzled by riches and she was attracted to the wrong kind of man.

When did you know you first know you wanted to be a writer.

I majored in English Lit in college mostly because I loved to read.
I knew I wanted to be a writer but was that was more of a wild fantasy. Like, I also wanted to be a trick rider in a rodeo.  I thought the best place to pretend to be a writer was in Paris. And the best way to do it was to find a garret and live the life of a starving artiste. After graduating from college I found a garret, or rather a furnished room without a bathroom, on the Left Bank, and proceeded to starve, which seemed to take up all my writing time. What little time I had left I spent trying to earn a few francs. I got a job teaching English—I could barely speak French, by the way—for five francs an hour. I lived this way for a year.

Even though on the surface it seemed like a wonderful adventure
for a twenty- two- year- old, it was pretty depressing. So I started keeping a really depressing, overly written journal.  I also began my career in fiction at that time.  The letters I wrote to my parents were total fabrications about what I was doing, how I was feeling and what a straight and narrow life I was leading.  When I re-read those letters (which my mother saved) I don’t recognize anything in them.  “I met the nicest girl today…” Of course, “the girl” was a man who I moved in with for a month or two. This was my first fiction writing  at it’s worst

Have you included a lot of your life experiences in the plot?

Having adopted my beautiful daughter at age 2/12 days I had a big soft spot in my heart for the orphan Berthe Bovary.  I totally sympathized with her lack of mother love.  Also, I remembered how much I loved Paris when I lived there.  I had a strong desire to return which I was a able to do in my head as I wrote the novel.

What was the hardest part about writing this book?

Simply the hardest part of writing any book.  All those pages. All those characters.  Keeping everyone straight. Having to remember that a character who died chapters before couldn't be at a dinner given many chapters later. 

How important do you think villians are in your story?

Personally, I think villains are far more important than heros or heroines. They are what create the conflict, drive the drama and keep us all engaged.  Boulanger, one of my villains, was borrowed from Flaubert.  He was a cold-hearted  indifferent lover  in the original  Madame Bovary and I just  took him and made him more dangerous and vile--which was a great deal of fun.  The heinous the villain, the more courageous the main character gets to be.

How much of the book is realistic?

This is my first historical novel and I got much of the material from researching the times.  For example, in researching the duties of a lady’s maid I made great use of the Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management, wherein she describes the proper way to dry a ladies hat when drenched in the rain.

Can we expect any more books from you in the future?

Yes, I am right in the middle of Sara’s Hair, the story of Sarah Bernhardt’s hairdresser. Sarah Bernhardt was the Lady Gaga of her times. (1870’s Paris)  She made a name for herself on the stage and took her wild personality and unbelievable talent on the road. She toured all over the world. Pascale, her hairdresser had her hands full, not only with Madame Sarah’s wild head of hair, but her unpredictable temperament as well.

Have you developed a specific writing style?

Really, the only way I know how to write is by listening to my own voice and getting in touch with my own feelings. I ask myself, what would I say in a similar situation. What would I do?  I also tend to be drawn to the humorous side of things.  I do like to make people laugh.

Are you reading any Interesting books at the moment.

I recently discovered the writing of David Nicholls. I highly recommend anything he’s written. Particularly, One Day which I see is already coming out as a movie.

How do you deal with rejection letters?

First I cry.  Then I have a pint of ice cream. Then I go back to my computer.  My computer never, ever rejects me.

Do you have any advice for writers?

The only and best advice is keep writing, keep writing, keep writing.
The only difference between books that get published and books that don’t is one person sticks with it and the other one doesn’t. Also make friends with other writers, read their bogs, get involved with supporting their efforts.  You need it and they need it. Form a writer’s group of fellow writers. Don’t hide out in your writing. Don’t wait until you think it’s perfect to show it to someone.

What are your goals as a writer?

To keep writing. If I don’t write, I’ll have nothing to rewrite  and edit and rewriting and editing are my favorite parts of writing.

What  books have most influenced your life?

The list is way too long to go through.  I think when reading the Alexandra Quartet was the first time I started copying down passages into a notebook.  I was so struck with the beauty of the writing.  That and Jewels of the Crown. 

 Well once again I would like to thank Linda for joining us and remember to check out her novel this summer when it comes out. It sounds like a great read.


  1. aha! Someone who's been enraptured by Alexandria Quartet, like me! I first read it in 1963 and again in 1964...and in about 1981 I began re-reading it every summer, though in recent years I tend to skim looking for my favorite parts. I guess I've really read it all the way through about 25 times. I even wrote an encyclopedia entry on Durrell's life and works and it was published.
    Durrell has influenced my thinking and my style. Too bad his biographies show what a wretch he was in personal life. And I don't like anything else he wrote except Bitter Lemons and his journal. But I think I'll re-read the Quartet again this month. I'd be interested to know which of the four books is your favorite. Justine is still mine.
    Durrell influenced my novel Candles in the Window, which I remarked upon in my interview published by Charlotte.
    Karl Larew

  2. What a great interview. I love to know more about the authors I like, and this gave me a lot of background. I love that Linda and I enjoy the same books: Alexandria Quartet, Jewels of the Crown - so now I must try David Nichols. I'm looking forward to Mme B's Daughter next month.


New Blog

Those who have the ability to be grateful are the ones who have the ability to achieve greatness. -Steve Maraboli Come join my new blog on...