Author Interview: Historical Fiction Author Catherine Delors


Welcome to The Writer's Life, Catherine. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you have been writing?

Thank you so much for having me here.

I was born, raised and educated in France and came to the United States as an adult. I became an attorney in California and have been practicing law for over ten years. Now I split my time between Paris and Los Angeles. It’s a fairly complicated life, but I like it this way.
I started writing at the very end of 2004. It felt very intimidating at first, but then I picked up assurance.

Can you please tell us about your book and why you wrote it?

It all started with a conversation with my father about the name of a street in the little mountain town where I had spent all of my summers as a child. It was named, my father told me, after Pierre-André Coffinhal, Vice President of the Revolutionary Tribunal. I knew nothing of that character, though the street itself had always been familiar to me.

So I began to look into Coffinhal’s short and eventful life. I found a very strong man, though one most people had hated. A perfect character for a novel, in fact. That immediately piqued my curiosity, about him, and about the whole French Revolution.

What kind of research was involved in writing Mistress of the Revolution?

A lot! It is normal for an author of historical fiction. Since my novel is cast as a memoir, I worked from actual memoirs and diaries of the time. This way I was able to get the first-hand impressions of eyewitnesses. And I found unique details on everyday life. I also reviewed scholarly works on the Revolution and read many transcripts of trials before the Revolutionary Tribunal.

How much input did you have into the design of your book cover?

Many people will tell you that an author doesn’t have much of a say for the design of her book cover. I must have been fortunate because, in the case of Mistress, my editor at Dutton, Julie Doughty, was very gracious. She and the designer agreed with my choice, a beautiful Fragonard painting titled The Stolen Kiss. You can see a detail of it on the cover now.

Has it been a bumpy ride to becoming a published author or has it been pretty well smooth sailing?

From what I read, it seems I had it easy! I found two agents in a little over a month, and my agent found three interested publishers within days of submitting the manuscript. Those weeks while I was still without an agent, and I kept receiving those rejection letters, didn’t feel like smooth sailing, though.

For this particular book, how long did it take from the time you signed the contract to its release?

I reached a deal with Dutton just around Thanksgiving 2006. I think it took several months before we signed the formal written contract, say February 2007. The book is coming out in March 2008, so that makes it a little over a year.

Do you have an agent and, if so, would you mind sharing who he/is is? If not, have you ever had an agent or do you even feel it is necessary to have one?

Yes, I do have an agent. Her name is Stephanie Cabot. She works at the Gernert Company (the people who represent John Grisham, no less!)

I would advise any unpublished writer to get an agent. For one thing, many publishers won’t even look at your manuscript if you don’t have an agent. Also, in my case, we had competing offers from several publishers. I didn’t know anything about the business of publishing, and saw how Stephanie handled it and drove up the amount of the advance. Then she advised me as to which publisher to choose and whether to sign up for a two-book deal. It was a very difficult, and very important decision. I would have been lost without Stephanie’s help.

Do you plan subsequent books?

Actually I already turned in my second novel. It is also a historical, also set in France, a few years after Mistress of the Revolution. But it’s not a sequel. There is another set of characters altogether.

Are you a morning writer or a night writer?

I have no choice. I have a day job, so I write at night. I also write during the day whenever I have a minute. When I lived full time in Los Angeles, I would compose entire pages in my head while stuck in traffic jams.

If money was no object, what would be the first thing you would invest in to promote your book?

Ah, if money wasn’t an object, you and I would do many things… As it is, I have an excellent publicist, Amanda Walker, at Dutton, my publisher. I also hired Dorothy Thompson, of Pump Up Your Book Promotion, for a blog tour. Between the two of them I feel I am in good hands.

How important do you think self-promotion is and in what ways have you been promoting your book offline and online?

Who is the best person to promote your own book? You, of course. You have a vested interest in its success, you know it, you love it. That makes you the best advocate for it. So I started my own blog, and I started networking with other bloggers to get the word out about my book. I have been amazed by the level of support I received.

Any final words of wisdom for those of us who would like to be published?

Don’t lose heart. Work harder at perfecting your writing. If you can afford it, have a professional editor take a look at it. Keep trying. Start a second book and use the skills you learned writing the first one. And don’t ever get bitter.

Thank you for coming, Catherine. Would you like to tell my readers where they can find you on the web and how everyone can buy your book?

Oh sure. I would love to welcome your readers on my website at catherinedelors.com or my blog: blog.catherinedelors.com.

Anyone interested in Mistress of the Revolution may find it at Amazon, Barnes &Noble, Borders, on the website of Penguin, my publisher, and of course at all good independent bookstores. It is also available in ebook format.

Thanks for having me here!
Big News!!!! Associated Press Writer, M.L. Johnson appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle as saying, Mistress of the Revolution is "definitely a contender for one of the best reads of the year." You can read the article here. Congratulations Catherine!

Catherine Delors's virtual book tour is brought to you by Pump Up Your Book Promotion and choreographed by Dorothy Thompson.

Leave a comment here and you can win a free copy of her book, Mistress of the Revolution.
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