One Author’s Writing Process

J. Fremont‘s debut novel, Magician of Light, tells the story of René Lalique beginning with his adolescent years in Paris, his journey from student to leading glass manufacturer, and his real-life romance with Lucinda Haliburton. Who doesn’t love Lalique glass? Below, J. Fremont describes the rather unusual way this novel came about.

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Somewhat unconventional and unusual. That is how I would describe my process in creating my novel, Magician of Light, a book about René Lalique, a renowned glassmaker. Busy producing other material, short stories on my blog and researching/writing other tales, I had a dream about an unknown man. He appeared to me in another dream three months later and told me I am to promote him. Six weeks later, he appeared again. Puzzled, I wondered, who is this guy? Why is he haunting my dreams? If you are wondering how I knew it was the same person in my dreams, let me clarify. I have kept detailed dream journals for nearly forty years. Rereading my entries, even years later, they stimulate my mind like looking at a photograph, and the dream becomes a movie replaying in my imagination. One day, about eighteen months after my first dream of him, I stumbled across Lalique’s picture on the internet. The photograph was exactly how I saw him in that dream and he became the subject of my recent novel.

I immediately ordered a book about him and his phenomenal glasswork. This reference book was just the beginning. The book included high-quality photographs of his art and I learned to appreciate and understand him through his work. Besides containing other information that proved invaluable to me, it contained a timeline of important events in his life. [photo source Lalique.com]

This provided a jumping off place for further research on the internet. I ordered another book dedicated to his phenomenal jewelry. These books gave me insight into specific people that influenced his early life, work and rise to fame such as Louis Aucoc, Sarah Bernhardt, Calouste Gulbenkian and Francois Coty. The challenges that I encountered in my research were the scant information available about Lalique’s personal life and I don’t speak French. Much later, I ordered a book of Lalique’s correspondences 1890-1908, mostly business, but some to his mother and wife, Alice, written in French (no available book in English). I spent countless hours typing pages into Google translate.

Besides using the online translator, I did a lot of surfing on the internet. After I found out that Lalique attended school in the Crystal Palace in Sydenham, England, I read about this structure. Unfortunately, destroyed in 1936 by fire, I could not find any historical records regarding his education. Happily, I found an old map of the area during that time (1870s) which was useful for constructing scenes and the plot. Besides learning about London and additionally educating myself regarding Paris in these eras, I used Google map street view to see surviving structures in areas of France where he lived, went to school and places of businesses. Being associated with a large university system, I had access to their physical library and their digital database. I located a lengthy dissertation on Lalique that was tremendously helpful. 

Source lalique.com

Perhaps this all sounds rather conventional, but there was one area of research that was unique. As the book developed and I wondered about unknown personal details, occasionally, I would ask for inspiration in my dreams. Over time, becoming familiar with Lalique, strangely enough, I received tidbits of information like names, words, or feelings about what to focus on. For instance, being French, I felt he must appreciate good food. Thinking about what food he liked, soon I dreamed of the word violet. Waking up, I thought, he eats violets? It made little sense until, when perusing French recipes for food ideas, I discovered Petit Violets. These artichokes originated in Provence, where he owned a mansion in later life. Continuing my research, I read in an article that stated Lalique always carried a notebook in his pocket with drawings, poetry, addresses of artisans, and recipes. A confessed foodie, I don’t carry a pocket notebook with recipes. The name of Ahhotep came to me in a dream. After researching, I learned this ancient Egyptian queen’s jewels were at the 1867 World Exhibition in Paris. The possibility exists that Lalique attended that fair and was impressed by her jewelry. 

Far-fetched perchance, coincidence maybe, fluke likely, but I included these details in the plot. This technique was not always fruitful. Sometimes, the clues would lead to nothing or the same articles, but other times, I found myself led down a rabbit hole of fascinating lore, a treasure trove of information. While I don’t recommend relying solely on this technique, dreaming is like imagination, so why not utilize it? Great scientific discoveries and inventions have come through in dreams.

While researching Lalique’s character and observing his life’s work, I concluded he leaned toward the mysterious, peculiar and atypical. A talented and extraordinary person, what better way to encounter him but by dreaming?

Those who are long-time readers of A Writer of History will know that guest-post authors often describe aspects of their writing process – but this is the first time someone has spoken of dreaming their way into a novel!

Magician of Light by J. Fremont ~~ One of the most innovative designers of his time, René Lalique was a leader in the decorative arts. Magician of Light begins in his adolescent years in Paris as a striving apprentice.

Meanwhile, across the channel, Lucinda Haliburton is facing her own struggles, including a dysfunctional family and history of mental illness. Her grandfather, Lord Haliburton, suggests a visit to his archaeologic dig in Egypt in an effort to help her escape her difficulties at home—but the trip ends in disaster, and Lucinda returns to England with the belief that she is being preyed upon by ancient Egyptian spirits.

Rene and Lucinda’s paths cross when he leaves Paris to continue his studies at a nearby art college. His fascination with Egypt sparks a connection with Lucinda, and romance blooms—but is complicated by her mental condition. Overactive imagination, insanity, or a real haunting? Will their love see them through?

Magician of Light touches on the truth of Lalique’s illustrious life, the people most important to him, and the anguish of some of those personal relationships, creating a unique view of his real life and a compelling storybook love story.

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M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, PARIS IN RUINS, is available on Amazon USAmazon CanadaKobo, and Barnes&Noble. An earlier novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from AmazonNookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

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4 Responses

  1. This is a very interesting story about how Fremont came to write her book. In addition to it being unusual, it also resonates with my own experience, to some extent. My WIP follows the Kennedys of Mount Kennedy, and particularly the first of the line, Robert. It does feel, at times, that he has been directing my research. The number of coincidences and ‘lucky’ discoveries generates a sense that he wants his story told. This would be all the more pressing as almost nothing has been done on him, even though the local small town bears his name in the form of Newtownmountkennedy.

  2. Based on J. Fremont’s experience, I can imagine a story about an author similar to the 2011 movie Midnight in Paris. Interesting possibilities!

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