We’re thrilled to have our own Heather Webb here today. A self-described writer, editor, blogger, foodie, and culture nut, she’s also the author of RODIN’S LOVER (Plume) out on January 27, 2015, as well as BECOMING JOSEPHINE.
Take 5: Heather Webb and RODIN’S LOVER
Q: What’s the premise of your new book?
In RODIN’S LOVER, Camille Claudel, collaborator, student, and lover to the famed Auguste Rodin, struggles against the male-dominated art world—and her burgeoning madness—in Belle Époque era Paris to make a name for herself.
Q: What would you like people to know about the story itself?
The story underscores several themes I enjoyed delving into, but one that really consumed me was the idea of zeal versus obsession and the fine lines between them, and how obsession may tip over into madness. I illustrate this theme in different layers through several of the book’s characters. Rodin is both obsessed with his art and his love for Camille. Paul (Camille’s playwright brother) becomes obsessed—possessed even—by his religion. And then there’s Camille, whose paranoia begins to eat away at her mind as she toils with the roller coaster of rejection and reviews, finally turning to full-blown schizophrenia.
Q: What do your characters have to overcome in this story? What challenges do you set before them?
The book is written from two points of view; those of Camille and Rodin, though it is primarily Camille’s story. Camille must overcome her mother’s disdain for not only her sculpting but for who she is, a society not yet open to a female artist who creates sensual pieces, and a lover whose influence both gained her recognition and framed her as a copycat—a tall order, indeed. Rodin must learn to find his place within the art world and be satisfied, to not compare himself to his contemporaries, and to learn to be generous to those he loves.
Q: What unique challenges did this book pose for you, if any?
Unique challenges…I would say threading the madness element throughout slowly, in a believable way was one of the bigger challenges. I spoke with a health care professional and interviewed two women whose parents were schizophrenic, as well conducted my own research to ensure I portrayed the symptoms properly. When finished, I had my interviewees read for accuracy.
Q: What has been the most rewarding aspect of having written this book?
There have been two very rewarding aspects, actually. The first being how much I pushed myself to grow and expand as a writer. I worked very hard on this novel (and was very hard on myself!) to shape it into something I could be proud of, and I am. The other rewarding element has been bringing Camille’s story to light. She was a brilliant, gifted sculptor and deserves to be remembered and recognized. My characters become my friends while I write and I have to admit, I cried a little when this book was picked up—not just from gladness for me, but for her. It feels like I’ve won a little victory for my beloved Camille.