In the last post we learned about M.J. Rose and her adventures in the publishing world. In this post, we’ll learn more about her writing style and inspiration.
What is the one thing that always puts you in the space or frame of mind to write when you’re working on a project—even if you’re not feeling particularly inspired?
“I have a talisman for every book…an object that belongs to the main character. All I have to do is focus on it. Right now it’s an old silver and amethyst ring that I believe my character, a 16th century perfumer, wore on his forefinger all his life.”
How do you approach plot when you’re writing a new novel? Do you use an outline in your process?
“I spend a long time on my main characters, creating scrapbooks for them filled with all the mementos of their life. I give about three months to this process not writing a word, but finding my characters in the details of their histories.
It’s really fun and a great way to procrastinate between novels.
Then I have a 10-20 main plot points outlined, but I deviate like crazy.”
“When I was three years old, I told my great grandfather things about his childhood in Russia that there was simply no way I could have known.
He became convinced I was a reincarnation of someone in his past. And over time, after more incidents, my mother—a very sane and logical woman—also came to believe it.
Reincarnation was an idea I grew up with that my mom and I talked about and researched together. For years, I wanted to write a novel about someone like my mother—who was sane and logical—who started out skeptical but came to believe in reincarnation. But I was afraid if I did people would think I was a ‘woo woo weirdo.’
I tried to start the book 10 years after my mother died, but I was too close to the subject and missed her too much to be able to explore it objectively.
Every once in while the idea would start to pester me again but I still stayed away from it. Then in 2004, on the exact anniversary of my mom’s death, my niece, who was a toddler at the time, said some very curious things to me about my mother and I—things she really couldn’t have known—and the pestering became an obsession.
Josh Ryder, the main character in The Reincarnationist has my mom’s initials, her spirit and her curiosity and like her, he’s a photographer. But there the similarities end. When Josh starts having flashbacks that simply can’t be explained any other way except as possible reincarnation memories he goes to New York to study with Dr. Malachai Samuels—a scientist and Reincarnationist who works with children helping them deal with past life memories. In the process Josh gets caught up in the search for ancient memory tools that may or may not physically enable people to reach back and discover who they were and who they are.”
Was any hypnotherapy or regression done to try and find out how you knew the information about your grandfather? Or to indicate, if you were reincarnated, who you may have been in the past life? What did your research with your mother find?
“Several times I went to past life regressionists, with very reputable therapists, but wasn’t ever able to discover anything about my past lives. I have a character in the books named Dr. Malachai Samuels who is a reincarnationist, and I’ve endowed him with the frustration I feel at being so connected to this concept but never being able to find out anything about my own pasts.”
One thing I admire about your work is the ability to weave different elements into the story; for instance, reincarnation, Beethoven, European travel and mystery writing. How do you approach these seemingly unrelated elements during the writing process in order to make them work together cohesively in your novels?
“I see the story that way—they play out like a movie in my head and are interrelated from the moment that I start to think about them.”
You have an interest in perfume making, which informed your novel The Book of Lost Fragrances. Did you conduct much research while writing this book, and if so, how did you balance writing time with research time during the novel’s composition? If not, from where did you draw information and inspiration for the work?
“I worked on a new perfume launch when I was in advertising and have been fascinated every since so I started the research many, many years before I ever though of the book. And then I had to do more before I could write about it—I can’t do research and write at the same time. I need all my research done before I can write a word.”
What is your favorite perfume and what tones does it contain?
“Vol de Nuit by Guerlain but only vintage – Wood, Iris , Vanilla, Spices, Green notes
Orchidee Vanille Eau de Parfum by Van Cleef & Arpels – Vanilla, almond and chocolate, litchi, Bulgarian rose and violet.
Coromandel by Chanel – A true oriental with Amber tones.
Galconda by JAR – the perfumer has never revealed what the tones are but I smell cinnamon, jasimne and carnation and heaven.”
A company has decided to make a custom perfume inspired by you. What tones would be included in it and what would it be called?
“I was lucky enough to have this happen when The Book of Lost Fragrances came out. Frederick Bouchardy created Âmes Sœurs – inspired by the fragrance I invented in the book. It has rose, of course, orange blossoms and incense. And I love it.”
How do you feel that Seduction shows the evolving nature of creative work, and in particular your evolving body of work? How is this work similar to or different from your previous novels?
“I don’t know how to answer the first part—I don’t have that kind of distance to view the book in that way. But I can say its similar in the way all my work is—I am fascinated with how our past informs our present. How is it different? I believe every story I tell has its own darkness, and shadows, and dreams.”
“Victor Hugo in Seduction has to be both the most difficult and my favorite—at least so far. He was so passionate and sensitive which I could imagine—but he was also a genius and that made it very hard for me to find the courage to try to explore him this way.”
When you hear the phrase “Everything is Connected” what comes to mind?
“Carl Jung who is a great influence in my life and my writing. He coined the term ‘synchronicity’ in the 1920s. It refers to events that reveal an underlying pattern. He called it ‘temporally coincident occurrences of acausal events’ an ‘acausal connecting principle’ and a ‘meaningful coincidence’ and ‘acausal parallelism.’ Jung introduced the concept as early as the 1920s.”
What is your favorite saying? “Paris is always a good idea.” –Audrey Hepburn, Sabrina
If you liked what you read in this post, you’ll have to check out M.J.’s novels. You won’t be disappointed! And check back soon for the next post!
Copyright © 2013 Kelly Lydick