Hello, Anne! Welcome to Let Them Read Books!
Hello, Jenny, it’s a pleasure to be here. Thank you for having me.
How were you first introduced to Eva Gouel, and what inspired you to write about her?
I first learned about Eva when I was preparing to write a novel about Picasso and his first significant love, Fernande Olivier, a woman who still, curiously enough, figures prominently in Madame Picasso. But the fact that Picasso was pulled away from Fernande so powerfully by his feelings for Eva, made my original proposal not one worth pursuing in my mind. Through my research, I discovered that Eva was his heart when he was young and on the cusp of his major international stardom, and he needed her. When they were together, she really did change him, calm him, love him and, I believe, help him become a better man. That sentiment is backed up by Picasso’s friend and biographer, Pierre Daix. Knowing the impact Eva had on him was definitely my initial inspiration to tell her story.
What kind of challenges did you face in portraying a figure as iconic as Pablo Picasso in your novel?
I think the biggest challenge was to make him human for readers, and less the stereotypical bald, brooding shirtless middle-aged artist who earned a pretty dreadful reputation regarding his romantic relationships after Eva. To the point of trying to humanize Picasso, I received two enormous gifts during my research for the novel. First, I was granted access by Yale University to Eva and Pablo’s handwritten letters and post cards to Gertrude Stein and Alice Toklas, which are numerous and revealing. Seeing the sweet and funny way he would tack little notes onto Eva’s letters, sometimes little sketches too, or just “Picasso” beneath her “Eva,” as if to make a full name, made young Picasso seem more vulnerable to love to me. Second, while I was in Spain and France doing research, I was able to interview one of Picasso’s last living friends at his atelier. He spoke to me of Picasso’s private generosity and his wonderful sense of humor, among other things. As I wrote the novel, I therefore felt Picasso was a much more multi-dimensional figure, a flesh and blood man, rather than an icon.
What types of sources did you use as research to bring your characters and the time period to life? Did you discover anything that surprised you?
In addition to Eva’s letters, (someone’s handwriting is such a fascinating window into their heart and soul, I think!) and the interview in France, I poured over every biography written about Picasso pertaining to those years, including Gertrude Stein’s books on the subject, and Fernande Olivier’s biography as well. Also naturally, my office is still filled with volumes on costume, history of the time period, transportation, maps and location photos. Each historical novel I write on a true love affair from history, and I have published 13 others under my own name, Diane Haeger, requires what feels like an advanced degree in all things pertaining to my characters, but I love that. The thing that surprised me the most about this story would have to be how truly honorable Picasso was with Eva until the very end. He most definitely rose to the occasion, for love of her.
Your novel is likely to be many readers’ introduction to Eva and the sphere she lived in. What do you hope most resonates with them about Eva and her life story?
You are so right that most readers probably had never heard of her, since Eva left so little of herself, and her story, for the world. That seems to have been somewhat intentional, which is a mystery in and of itself. Many documents were either lost or destroyed, for whatever reason, so, naturally, an element of weaving a full story through a balance of fact and creative license was required. My hope is that I did so respectfully, plausibly, and allowing Eva the great dignity she deserves. That most certainly was my goal. What I hope resonates with readers about her is the great impact she had on Picasso, not only during their time together, but long afterward. Even after he had gone on to other loves, there is evidence of her memory threaded through places in his life. Pierre Daix said in his biography that two-thirds of a century later, mention of Eva still brought tears to his eyes. In my opinion, that is a powerful love.
Where will you take readers next?
My next book is called Platinum Doll, which takes a look at the early career, and loves, of a young Jean Harlow as she maneuvered her way to stardom in the Hollywood of Clara Bow, Charlie Chaplin and her dear friend, Clark Gable. I’m having great fun writing it.
I can't wait to read about Eva and Pablo! Thanks, Anne!
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Madame Picasso is on a blog tour!About the Author:
Anne Girard was born with writing in her blood. The daughter of a hard-driving Chicago newsman, she has always had the same passion for storytelling that fueled his lifelong career. She hand-wrote her first novel (admittedly, not a very good one) at the age of fourteen, and never stopped imagining characters and their stories. Writing only ever took a backseat to her love of reading.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in English literature from UCLA and a Master’s degree in psychology from Pepperdine University, a chance meeting with the acclaimed author, Irving Stone, sharply focused her ambition onto telling great stories from history with detailed research. “Live where your characters lived, see the things they saw,” he said, “only then can you truly bring them to life for your readers.” Anne took that advice to heart. After Stone’s encouragement twenty years ago, she sold her first novel. When she is not traveling the world researching her stories, Anne and her family make their home in Southern California. When she is not traveling or writing, she is reading fiction.
Anne also writes historical fiction under the name Diane Haeger. For more information, visit www.dianehaeger.com. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.