Five Things Heather Webb Didn’t Know She Needed to Know Before Writing Her Novel BECOMING JOSEPHINE
This week, Heather Webb visits my blog to divulge five things she didn’t know before writing BECOMING JOSEPHINE, which takes place in Paris during the 18th Century.
BECOMING JOSEPHINE is the story of Rose Tascher, who sails from her Martinique plantation to Paris to trade her Creole black magic culture for love and adventure. She arrives exultant to follow her dreams of attending Court with Alexandre, her elegant aristocrat and soldier husband. But Alexandre dashes her hopes and abandons her amid the tumult of the French Revolution. Through her savoir faire, Rose secures her footing in high society, reveling in handsome men and glitzy balls—until the heads of her friends begin to roll.
Heather says: There were more things I DIDN’T know than DID when I first began researching Josephine Bonaparte’s life. Here’s a sampling:
(Click on the question to reveal the answer.)
Some rotted in giant heaps in fields or on the street. Others were buried haphazardly in unmarked graves. And thousands and thousands of others were dumped in abandoned mine shafts once used for quarrying stone in the Middle Ages. At the time the mines were first used, they lay on the outskirts of the city, but now encompass much of the southern half of Paris. Tourists can visit the ossuaries (better known as the Catacombs) today, where over 6 million skeletons have been accounted for from the French Revolution up through World War II.
The materials varied, but lamb skin and chicken skin were of the more expensive varieties. In terms of what was painted on them, it changed based on what was popular in the news of day. For example, the first hot air balloon was launched to impress King Louis XVI in 1783, and soon after, many ladies fluttered their fans decorated with brightly colored balloons. When Napoleon returned from his Egyptian campaign, pyramids and camels graced ladies’ fans.
4. How did Josephine manage to acquire so many plant species for her famous gardens at Malmaison?
With each of Napoleon’s international expeditions, Josephine sent a couple of her most trusted botanists to collect samples and transport them back to France, including 200+ species of roses, purple amaryllis, dahlias, and fruit trees.
After the Reign of Terreur ended, survivors (mostly the former nobility), attended balls wearing red ribbons around their necks to signify the cut of the bloody guillotine as well as red accessories like shawls. Ballrooms were decorated in a macabre way in dark fabrics, etc, and there was even a dance where the attendees mimicked a beheading. A gruesome business!
Heather Webb is the author of historical novels BECOMING JOSEPHINE and the forthcoming RODIN’S LOVER (Plume/Penguin 2015). A freelance editor and blogger, she spends oodles of time helping writers hone their skills—something she adores. Find her twittering @msheatherwebb or contributing to her favorite award-winning sites WriterUnboxed.com and RomanceUniversity.org. Drop by her website to say hello at www.heatherwebbauthor.com.