Published on May 26th, 2021 | by Isabelle Karamooz, Founder of FQM0
Virna Lorentz’s Interview with French Quarter Magazine
First of all, we owe you “Purple Moon,” your first novel published in 2019 on the subject of 16th century Normandy, which is dear to you and which has been a great success. Your second novel, “Mirage Blues,” brings together Normandy for the umpteenth time, but also Louisiana and the American West, and more particularly Las Vegas. This last city then extends its arms to you. Can you tell us about that chance encounter you had in the depths of Nevada in 2015?
Header Photo Credit: Federation of Alliances Françaises USA.
I was on vacation in Las Vegas and I had an appointment at the Bellagio. I met Madison by chance. One thing leading to another, this stunning young Afro-American woman with spellbinding mauve-ish blue eyes revealed her Norman origins to me. I must admit that I was kind of puzzled, and Madison immediately noticed it. She enlightened me explaining that her grandfather Bradley, an Afro-American GI, encountered her grandmother Elise in Évreux, just after the D-Day landings. Her story was captivating and I just got carried away, but unfortunately my appointment wasn’t long enough. I was dying to listen to what Madison hadn’t told me yet, and she was bombarding me with questions about Normandy. That’s the reason why we agreed to meet up for dinner on the following day, in a restaurant at The Venetian Hotel. I went to this second encounter slipping a pencil and a notebook in my handbag so that I could take some notes. Madison came up with an envelope filled with photos. After dinner, our discussion stretched out till the end of the night in the trendiest clubs of Sin City, although neither I nor Madison lost the thread of her story. At daybreak, while reaching the world-famous neon sign Welcome to fabulous Las Vegas located far south on the Strip, I promised Madison that my second novel would be dedicated to Elise and Bradley’s destinies.
In the premises of the Alliance Française in Las Vegas, you presented your first book and signed many copies. What welcome have you received? Now let’s talk more specifically about “Mirage Blues.” Are you going to talk about your book live from Monaco given the current health situation and book a return trip to Las Vegas once the travel restrictions are lifted?
In the premises of the Alliance française Las Vegas, I received the most unforgettable welcome thanks to Mrs Claudine Escobar-Durand, Director of A.F. Las Vegas, and Mr Marc Zeman, President of A.F. Las Vegas. Both of them organized the event in a magnificent way, showing unparalleled professionalism. I also received the warmest of welcomes from the audience. In addition to that, Claudine had organized a meeting with some students from the Coronado College French Club in Henderson. The discussion with the teenagers and their professor was extremely fruitful.
Due to the Covid-19 crisis, the Federation of Alliances françaises U.S.A. organized the presentation of MIRAGE BLUES online on June 1st.
As soon as travelling to America with no restrictions is possible, I will definitely go back to the Alliance française of Las Vegas, just to meet up again with the wonderful people I had the opportunity to get to know when I presented my first novel LUNE POURPRE.
Has literature always been a passion for you? What kind of books do you like to read to distract yourself?
When I studied at university, a French and foreign literature program was included. I’ve always read books in the languages of my language combination (French, English, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian). However, I had never thought about writing novels until my first stay in Normandy. Treasures of Gothic architecture in the city of Rouen enthralled me. The day after my visit to the Notre-Dame de Rouen Cathedral, the idea for my novel LUNE POURPRE came to my mind as an achievement to strive for. In all likelihood my imagination got to work overnight.
If you had to make one criticism of American society, what would it be?
I’ve no criticism to make since I started to visit the U.S.A. on vacation. I am definitely crazy about the United States of America where I feel in my element. I want to settle there as soon as possible. Of course, I’m giving you my perception of the country as a non-resident. However, I never look forward to going back home when I am in America.
Why did you want to write a novel about the destinies of Elise and Bradley?
I was deeply moved by their fiery passion despite all opposition. Their extraordinary destinies across oceans fascinated me. Furthermore, I had to keep the promise made to Madison in 2015: to dedicate my second novel to Elise and Bradley. In reality, MIRAGE BLUES is a pledge of eternal love between the two of them, which no one will ever be able to challenge. MIRAGE BLUES is also a vibrant tribute to the Allies, and especially the Afro-American GIs whose commitment and heroism have been passed over in silence for too long.
In “Mirage Blues,” we dive into the Jazz’n’Blues of clubs in New Orleans yesterday and in the city of today. And also a little on the beaches of Normandy in 1944 and on D-Day. Is it important to show what America means to you?
America has been dear to my heart since I was a child. I remember the very first movie I watched on my own, without missing a detail. I must have been six or seven years-old and I was captivated by “Duel in the Sun,” a 1946 western starring Jennifer Jones and Gregory Peck. This just shows you that since my tender years, my natural inclination to arid, wild wide-open spaces tells a lot about my enchantment regarding Nevada and Arizona.
Let’s talk about Bradley, the African American, a Black G.I. from New Orleans who meets Elise…
Bradley is the standard-bearer for every Afro-American GI who fought on the side of Allies. He alone embodies the bravery and honor demonstrated by the American troops. After the liberation of Évreux, at the Military Officers Ball, he encounters Elise, a radiant and fresh twenty-one-year-old woman accompanied by her fiancé, Count Maxence. She approaches the stage where Bradley is performing with other soldier-musicians. He dedicates the musical piece “For Elise” to her while playing the piano, and in an instant, everything turns upside down.
Are you already thinking about the third book? Do you know where this book will take place? In what atmosphere?
I’ve almost finished my third novel. Only the last chapter needs to be written. The only clue that I can give you is that Madison has the leading role in the plot that stretches from Normandy to Nevada and Arizona.
What do you hope readers will remember after reading your books?
My novels are a tribute to young women who, on the strength of their convictions; can move mountains, poking fun at self-righteousness and gossip. No matter which century my heroines are living in, they free themselves from convention in order to live their passions, enjoying their status as emancipated young women. Although their lives are punctuated by ordeals, their resilience is only equaled by their courage. Determination helps them to reach a kind of unexpected stability, and to heal their wounds. Their remarkable life experiences illustrate magnificently Nietzsche’s famous sentence “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.”