Exclusive interview with novelist Michelle Moran and a review of her new novel about Madam Tussaud’s life *** 3 stars
By Gabrielle Pantera
HOLLYWOOD, CA (Gosh!TV) 3/24/2011 – “My interest in Marie Tussaud began on my very first trip to London,” says Madam Tussaud author Michelle Moran. “Like thousands of tourists before me, I’d decided I wanted to visit the famous wax museum, Madame Tussauds. At the time, I knew almost nothing about the woman behind the name, but as I passed through the exhibition, I began to piece together what would ultimately prove to be a fascinating story.”
Michelle Moran’s fourth book is about Madame Marie Tussaud, and the story starts just before the French revolution. Tussaud and her family consider themselves survivalists. And work both sides of the revolution to survive the war. Will Marie survive or will her only legacy be her wax figures?
Most of the story is set during the French Revolution and the fairly graphic descriptions of the beheadings, storming of the Bastille, and Robespierre’s obsession with those who have betrayed him and his quest for the revolution. Moran blends the horrors of the revolution, Marie’s work obsession and romance along with her family loyalty to give you a compelling story. Moran makes Marie Antoinette and the whole Royal family real and multi-dimensional.
“In the first wax tableau I came across, Marie Tussaud had modeled Queen Marie Antoinette with her husband and children,” says Moran. “They looked young and happy, dressed in lavish court gowns and silk culottes. In another tableau, the mistress of King Louis XV lay sprawled on a couch, her blonde hair tumbling down her shoulders. Clearly, Marie Tussaud had been interested in modeling the celebrities of her day. Some she would have sculpted from memory, while many she would have met and modeled in person. Marie’s art had obviously gained her access to some of the highest circles in French society.”
“But in a third tableau, a different part of Marie Tussaud’s life emerged,” says Moran. “Dressed in a black gown and dirtied apron, a young Marie could be seen holding up a lantern in the Madeleine Cemetery. The Revolution had begun, and she was searching through a pile of severed heads, all victims of Madame Guillotine. Immediately, I wanted to know what she was doing in that cemetery. Whose heads were they, and did she know those people? When I learned what Marie Tussaud went through during the French Revolution, who she’d met, where she’d gone, and what she’d seen, I knew I would someday tell her story.”
“I wanted authentic glass eyes to show at various readings so that readers could see the type of materials Madame Tussaud worked with in the 18th century,” says Moran. “When they arrived in the mail, the postman saw me open the package, I thought he was going to faint! They’re quite realistic.”
“I began with a trip to France, where nearly all of the novel takes place,” says Moran. “Once there, I tried to visit the locations Madame Tussaud herself would have seen. Some, such as the Bastille, no longer exist, but there are others, Versailles being the sublime example, where a great deal of 18th century life has been preserved.”
“After my trip, I did as much research as I could in libraries,” says Moran. “Finally, anything I couldn’t find in books I tried to discover through email conversations with some very generous French historians.”
“As for how the research for this book differed from the research for my Egypt books, I’d say the biggest change was having more to work with in terms of resources,” says Moran. “The French Revolution is so well recorded, whereas digging into ancient Egypt is much more difficult.”
There has been some interest from Hollywood. “But, Hollywood dreams are often just that dreams,” says Morna.
“When the Madame Tussauds Hollywood Wax Museum discovered that I had written a book on Madame Tussaud, they offered to host my book launch,” says Moran. “It was a wonderful event, and something I’ll never forget.”
Dan Lazar at Writers House is Moran’s agent. “We were introduced by a mutual friend,” says Moran. “When I signed with him, I had already published three novels, so there wasn’t any lengthy querying process involved.”
Heather Lazare at Crown, an imprint of Random House, is Moran’s editor.
Moran was born in The San Fernando Valley in California and she’s currently based in San Francisco. Her website is www.michellemoran.com
Moran is currently working on her fifth book. It’s about the women who surrounded Napoleon Bonaparte. The title is EMPRESS JOSÉPHINE’S CROWN, and focuses on Napoleon’s second wife, young Marie-Louise, who came from Austria at eighteen years old.
“I really hope readers enjoy Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution,” says Moran. “And I am always available to my readers for comments and questions. They can find me on my website, or even on Facebook.”
Madam Tussaud by Michelle Moran
Hardback, 464 pages, Publisher: Crown (February 15, 2011), Language: English ISBN: 9780307588654