Published on May 2nd, 2023 | by Isabelle Karamooz, Founder of FQM0
From Las Vegas to Normandy: The Story of Madison’s Transformation in ‘Arizona Stars’ – An Interview with Novelist Virna Lorentz
Concerning your third novel “Arizona Stars,” Arizona is very present as well as Las Vegas which is always at the heart of your saga. Madison is the heroine and resides in Las Vegas. How did you choose to take an interest in this character? How did you come up with the idea to write “Arizona Stars?” »
Stumbling across Madison at the Bellagio, on Las Vegas Boulevard, during a mundane appointment in a spa, in November 2015, was a godsend. This gorgeous Afro-American indigo-eyed lady struck up a conversation with me spontaneously. One thing leading to another, we found out that we had so much in common, with a special soft spot for Normandy, each of us having her own reasons… For my part, this region, so dear to the Impressionists, brings me endless inspiration. As for Madison, it’s much more than that, as one quarter of her genetic heritage comes from Normandy. In her family, the last three generations consider 1944 as the starting point of a passionate and tragic journey. In the wake of D-Day, an endless love blossoms between Élise and Bradley, who are none other than Madison’s future grandparents. Originally from Evreux, Élise is twenty-one, engaged to Count Maxence. However, Bradley, a young American Black G.I. from New Orleans, falls madly in love with her, asks her to marry him, before perishing in dubious circumstances. Despite being inconceivable at the time, their passion gave birth to the twins Ryan and Bradley Junior. Madison is the only child of the latter. When I met her in 2015, she was longing to cross the Atlantic Ocean to reach Normandy. A return to her roots? Not just that. Madison was secretly hoping to provide Élise with a few answers regarding Bradley’s tragic death. Madison flew to Normandy in the summer 2016, without imagining one second the irreversible turmoil she would have to face, having a major impact on all her family in New Orleans. Therefore, my new novel ARIZONA STARS is dedicated to Madison, to her quest for truth and justice, as well as to her journey leading her to the path of love and resilience.
Madison is a female character. Are you more comfortable writing a male character or a female character? But also, is it easier or more difficult to write about a character that we have met in real life?
Writing is to me like a performance on stage or in a movie. I usually play the part of each character of my novel, trying my best to interiorize their emotions, so that I can translate them into words afterwards. In my previous novel MIRAGE BLUES, Élise is the flagship character throughout the plot. This may give the impression that I feel more comfortable with female characters, but in fact, I’m not so sure that is true. I believe that my penchant for feminism gets the upper hand and encourages me to turn the spotlight on women with extraordinary destinies.
As far as real or fictional characters are concerned, I would say that it’s harder to portray a character that I met in real life. Sticking to reality becomes a leitmotiv in the writing process. On the contrary, there are no bounds with fictional characters!
When I read your second novel “Mirage Blues,” I immediately fell in love with Élise and Bradley. I thought they were such a touching couple. From their union, from their forbidden passion, will be born the twins Ryan and Bradley Junior. Writing about people who really existed, I was wondering if you would ever be interested in writing a real biography?
A biography? Yes, why not? Provided I’m passionate about the work, career, or talent of the personality whose biography I’ll be writing. If I had to give you two names straight away, they would be Lady Day (Billie Holiday) and Sarah Bernhardt. Both women had exceptional destinies. Unfortunately for me, a plethora of biographies are already dedicated to these two remarkable artists.
Finally, I always ask a question of reading recommendation. Who is the last author you fell in love with and would like to recommend to the readers of French Quarter Magazine?
I’m reading in Portuguese the latest book by the famous Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado entitled “Amazônia”. The book is about Amazonian climatic events, future issues at stake regarding the “Lungs of our Planet”, as well as native tribes, their traditions, and ancestral ways of life. Some of these tribes have never been in contact with the rest of the world. In my view, there is no better book than “Amazônia” to disconnect from our sometimes oppressive reality, whilst perusing breathtaking photos! I also highly recommend the exhibition of the same name at the Museum of Tomorrow (Museu do Amanhã) in Rio de Janeiro.
Just a word about Brazil where you now share your life between trips to the Côte d’Azur. In addition to mastering the language, Portuguese, did you fall in love with Rio de Janeiro? I take advantage of this interview to play the curious… 🙂
I must admit that cariocas (Rio de Janeiro’s inhabitants) are in a way, blessed by the gods! Lush vegetation, birds of paradise, beaches as far as the eye can see, golden sand, tropical fruit galore, bossa-nova songs on every street corner, geological sites to die for, prevailing summery climate, etc. A blissful environment under the watchful eye of Christ the Redeemer overhanging Tijuca Rainforest and Guanabara Bay. Culturally colorful, Brazilian Portuguese doesn’t sound like a language, but more like a melody. Last but not least, discerning gourmets will enjoy the vast array of local dishes, in addition to the countless international restaurants.
You are a French novelist whose professional background is quite unique. You know the world of publishing well. You are a translator by training, you speak 5 languages, your current editor is based in Paris and as you show in your last two novels, you have an attachment to America, in particular Las Vegas and New Orleans where and unravel your stories. How is it going concretely, to publish novels today and how do you see your evolution?
That’s a killer! I shall only comment here about the French editorial landscape with which I’ve been familiar since 2018. It’s clear that the working conditions of novelists and writers are deteriorating year after year. The pandemic forced hundreds of authors to publish their books independently on Amazon, one year after my first novel was published in March 2019. Myriads of small publishing companies shut down. Furthermore, some of the largest publishers no longer accept new manuscripts, closing their doors to many authors.
For my part, my first novel LUNE POURPRE was published by a Parisian publisher for one and a half years, then the pandemic broke out, with all the ensuing economic implications: closure of book shops, publishing companies at a standstill, paper crisis which incidentally, is still rife.
As a result, I decided to terminate my contract with my publisher and to sell my novel exclusively on Amazon. I did the same with my second novel MIRAGE BLUES. My third novel ARIZONA STARS is back on the traditional editorial path with a Parisian publisher, Éditions Maïa. I hope that we’ll have a profitable and constructive partnership.
How do I see my career progressing?
Graduating as a linguist gave me the opportunity to wear more than one hat, working as a translator, interpreter, language instructor, and novelist. Thanks to the characters of my novels who literally intoxicate my imagination, my mind constantly hovers thousands of miles above the stratosphere. What more could I ask for?
To find out more about my pending and future literary projects, simply log on to my official website https://www.virnalorentz.com
ARIZONA STARS is now available on www.editions-maia.com (shipping costs are free for any destination) and can be found in all good bookstores!