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Take Five: M.J. Rose and The Book of Lost Fragrances

Photobucket [1]

Kath here. We’re so pleased to share the news that valued contributor M.J. Rose’s latest book, The Book of Lost Fragrances [2], has released! When Therese and I met with M.J. last summer in NYC, she was deep in the throes of writing — and as soon as she described the premise to us, I knew it would be A Big Book, and one of the must-reads of 2012. It’s got swag: an epic storyline, suspense, mystery, moving backwards and forwards through time while lifting the veil on an ancient practice: making perfume.

Publisher’s Weekly calls it one of spring’s ten best books and “a deliciously sensual novel of paranormal suspense smoothly melds a perfume-scented quest to protect an ancient artifact with an ages-spanning romance.” It’s a Starbuck’s Book Club pick and a Pulpwood Queen’s pick for summer reading.

Intrigued? Check out the book trailer below. Then enjoy our Take 5 with M.J. Rose

Take Five: M.J. Rose and The Book of Lost Fragrances

Q: What’s the premise of your new book?

MJ: Here’s the write up – we spent such a long time on it – I think I should just give you the flap copy.

A sweeping and suspenseful tale of secrets, intrigue, and lovers separated by time, all connected through the mystical qualities of a perfume created in the days of Cleopatra–and lost for 2,000 years.

Jac L’Etoile has always been haunted by the past, her memories infused with the exotic scents that she grew up surrounded by as the heir to a storied French perfume company. In order to flee the pain of those remembrances–and of her mother’s suicide–she moved to America. Now, fourteen years later she and her brother have inherited the company along with it’s financial problems. But when Robbie hints at an earth-shattering discovery in the family archives and then suddenly goes missing–leaving a dead body in his wake–Jac is plunged into a world she thought she’d left behind.

Back in Paris to investigate her brother’s disappearance, Jac becomes haunted by the legend the House of L’Etoile has been espousing since 1799. Is there a scent that can unlock the mystery of reincarnation – or is it just another dream infused perfume?

The Book of Lost Fragrances fuses history, passion, and suspense, moving from Cleopatra’sEgypt and the terrors of revolutionaryFrance toTibet’s battle withChina and the glamour of modern-dayParis. Jac’s quest for the ancient perfume someone is willing to kill for becomes the key to understanding her own troubled past.

Q: What would you like people to know about the story itself?

MJ: How I came up with the idea – because it’s based on a fascinating little known fact about Cleopatra.

Cleopatra (69 BCE to 30BCE), who was the last pharaoh of Ancient Egypt, was fascinated with and some say obsessed by scent. Marc Anthony built her a fragrance factory where he planted now extinct flora and fauna including groves of balsam trees  (important in the creation of perfume at the time) confiscated from Herod.

In the 1980s a team of Italian and Israeli archaeologists believe they unearthed the factory at the south end of theDead Sea, 30 km from Ein Gedi. Residues of ancient perfumes along with seats where customers received beauty treatments were found there.

Cleopatra was said to have kept a recipe book for her perfumes, entitled Cleopatra gynaeciarum libri. The book has been described in writings by historians Dioscorides, Homer and Pliny the Elder. No known copy of the book exists today.

When I read about that book, I knew I had the idea for a novel.

Q: What do your characters have to overcome in this story? What challenge do you set before them?

MJ: My main character, Jac L’Etoile is a cynical New Yorker who doesn’t believe in dreams. In THE BOOK OF LOST FRAGRANCES she has to suspend her disbelief and open herself up to wonder and possibility. It’s very difficult for her and she fought me at every step of the way.

Q: What unique challenges did this book pose for you, if any?

MJ: Writing about scent was very difficult. How do you evoke fragrance with words alone? I felt like I had to learn a new vocabulary to evoke all the mavelous perfumes and aromas I was researching and getting to smell.

Q: What has been the most rewarding aspect of having written this book?

Photobucket [3]MJ: While writing THE BOOK OF LOST FRAGRANCES, to keep in the world of scent, I burned candles. When I was finished, I searched out the perfumer who’d created the candles that had inspired me the most, Frederick Bouchardy owner of Joya Studios, and gave him a copy of the manuscript as a thank you.

Bouchardy was instantly intrigued by the book—first, as a reader, he said he was taken with the mystery and romance of the story.  In my tale, scent plays a strong role as it pertains to memory. Bouchardy, who creates using oils and other classic ingredients, said this notion spoke to him as a designer and producer of fragrances, and thus the idea to create this beautiful fragrance was born.

The ancient fictional fragrance at the heart of the novel is called Âmes Sœurs, which means “Soul Mates” in French.  Inspired by the book, Bouchardy named his version: Âmes Sœurs, The Scent of Soul Mates.

Bouchardy interpreted the novel’s imagined fragrance with notes of Frankincense, Myrrh, Orange Blossom, and Jasmine.  Working with a master perfumer, he experimented with his library of oils, creating a smoky incense fragrance with a bright, uncommon finish.

He even created a limited edition of 15  special containers made of slip cast porcelain, with porcelain “shards” glazed and painted in 22k gold with hand hammered covers (as well  as bottles of the fragrance) will be for sale later this spring at selected stores and via Joya Studio’s website: http://joyastudio.com/ [4]

Âmes Sœurs notes:

Top: Tamarind, Grapefruit, Cypress
Mid: Rose Bulgar, Ginger, Orange Blossom
Dry Down: Cedarwood, Incense, Amber, Sweet Musk

Thanks, M.J.! The Book of Lost Fragrances [2] is available NOW at all retailers.

About [5]

Writer Unboxed began as a collaboration between Therese Walsh [6] and Kathleen Bolton [7] in 2006. Since then the site has grown to include ~50 regular contributors--including bestselling authors and industry leaders--and frequent guests. In 2014, the first Writer Unboxed UnConference (part UNtraditional conference, part intensive craft event, part networking affair) [8] was held in Salem, MA. Learn more about our 2019 event, ESCAPE TO WuNDERLAND, on Eventbrite. [9] In 2016, the Writer Unboxed team published a book with Writer's Digest. AUTHOR IN PROGRESS: A No-Holds-Barred Guide to What It Really Takes to Get Published [10] has been well-received by readers who seek help in overcoming the hurdles faced at every step of the novel-writing process--from setting goals, researching, and drafting to giving and receiving critiques, polishing prose, and seeking publication. James Scott Bell has said of the guide, "Nourishment for the writer's soul and motivation for the writer's heart." You can follow Writer Unboxed on Twitter [11], and join our thriving Facebook community [12].