Guest Interview with M.J. Rose, Author of The Collector of Dying Breaths
Posted by What The Cat Read
Today we are thrilled to have M.J. Rose visiting with us as part of her The Collector of Dying Breaths Blog Tour hosted by the folks at Media Muscle/BookTrib. Be sure to stop by later today for Willow’s review of this wonderful novel! =^.^=
About the Book:
Publisher: Atria Books
Date Released: April 8, 2014
Series: Reincarnationist #6
A lush and imaginative novel that crisscrosses time as a perfumer and a mythologist search for the fine line between potion and poison, poison and passion…and past and present.
Florence, Italy—1533: An orphan named René le Florentin is plucked from poverty to become Catherine de Medici’s perfumer. Traveling with the young duchessina from Italy to France, René brings with him a cache of secret documents from the monastery where he was trained: recipes for exotic fragrances and potent medicines—and a formula for an alchemic process said to have the potential to reanimate the dead. In France, René becomes not only the greatest perfumer in the country but the most dangerous, creating deadly poisons for his Queen to use against her rivals. But while mixing herbs and essences under the light of flickering candles, Rene doesn’t begin to imagine the tragic and personal consequences for which his lethal potions will be responsible.
Paris, France—The Present: A renowned mythologist, Jac L’Etoile, is trying to recover from personal heartache by throwing herself into her work, learns of the 16th century perfumer who may have been working on an elixir that would unlock the secret to immortality. She becomes obsessed with René le Florentin’s work—particularly when she discovers the dying breathes he had collected during his lifetime. Jac’s efforts put her in the path of her estranged lover, Griffin North, a linguist who has already begun translating René le Florentin’s mysterious formula. Together they confront an eccentric heiress in possession of a world-class art collection. A woman who has her own dark purpose for the elixir… a purpose for which she believes the ends will justify her deadly means. This mesmerizing gothic tale of passion and obsession crisscrosses time, zigzagging from the violent days of Catherine de Medici’s court to twenty-first century France. Fiery and lush, set against deep, wild forests and dimly lit chateaus, The Collector of Dying Breaths illuminates the true path to immortality: the legacies we leave behind.
What attracted you to France and to researching the world and history of French perfumes which are a focus in your new book, “The Collector of Dying Breaths” and also in your novels, “The Book of Lost Fragrances and Seduction?”
When I worked in Mad Men land I had the opportunity to work a new fragrance from the very first days of naming it through to full up TV commercials we shot in Hong Kong and edited at the Lucas Ranch. It was a 40 million dollar launch that culminated with the spots running on the Oscars. During all that, I became intrigued and besotted with everything about the 8th art, as fragrance is called, and it’s a passion that’s never left. But I didn’t know about the history of fragrance before and found it fascinating. As for France – my great grandmother was French and my heritage has always been important to me. Besides, as Audrey Hepburn says “Paris is always a good idea,” and I completely agree.
Since scent has been called the most powerful memory trigger, how do fragrances tie in to your books?
I am fascinated with how the past influences the present. From a psychological point of view, a historical, and even mystical one. So since the memory center of the brain sits next to the olfactory center of the brain, scent stimulates memories of the past as nothing else can. From there it was just a jump to thinking scent might stimulate even older memories… past life memories.
Jac L’Etoile, your main character takes “trips” into the past that are triggered by scents—which makes sense for her character since she was trained during childhood in formulating perfumes. Did you find accounts of people who had similar olfactory experiences or did your imagination produce this persuasive story telling device?
Throughout history shamans and mystics have burned hallucinogenic incenses as aides to help them visit other realms and experience past life memories. The blue lotus – which can be found in ancient Egyptian tomb paintings – is just one such essence priests from that time used to enter into trances.
In “The Collector of Dying Breaths,” you explore how fragrance was brought to France in the 16th century. Who was responsible?
Catherine de Medici was a fascinating young Italian woman who came to France at fourteen years of age to marry one of the crown princes. She brought her perfumer and her astrologer with her. René le Florentin was apprenticed at the Officina Profumo–Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella, one of the world’s oldest pharmacies which was founded in 1221 in Florence by the Dominican Friars who made herbal remedies and potions. He created scents and creams for the young Catherine de Medici. When the fourteen-year-old duchessina traveled to France to marry the prince, she took René with her. René and Catherine are credited with bringing perfume to their newly adopted country.
Is Catherine de Medici’s use of poison to rid herself of enemies based on historical fact?
Yes, although there are of course questions about how many people she had poisoned. For instance there are rumors she had her daughters’ mother in law poisoned. But we know for sure that Catherine had her perfumer, René Le Florentin create innovative and well disguised poisons for her to use on her enemies.
You write in both “The Collector of Dying Breaths,” “Seduction” and “The Book of Lost Fragrances” about the L’Etoile family of perfumers in France. Were the fictional L’Etoiles based on a real family of French perfumers or did they arise from your imagination?
The Guerlain family, which opened their doors to business in 1826, created many of my favorite perfumes, and so in a way they were a great inspiration, but the L’Etoile family’s loves, tragedies and triumphs are all pure invention.
Was collecting someone’s dying breath something people actually did in the past or was this idea something of your creation as a fiction author?
We don’t know where this concept originated or if anyone in the Renaissance suspected such a thing was possible. But it’s not a far stretch from the well- documented and centuries-old alchemical search for immortality through the breath concept. We do know that in the twentieth century, automotive magnate Henry Ford and the great inventor Thomas Edison, who both believed in reincarnation, supported the idea that in death, the soul leaves the body with its last breath. In fact, Edison’s dying breath, collected by his son, Charles, is in fact on display at the Edison Winter Home in Fort Myers, Florida.
Why have a signature scent made? And do you think more people today are having signature fragrances designed for them?
To be memorable. To have a man lean across a table and say quietly, I love how you smell. To celebrate your uniqueness. To stand out. To revel in your creativity. In a world of sameness to not be the same as anyone else. There are so so many reasons. And yes I do think that the smaller the world gets, the more we tend to look for ways to express our individuality.
Your first Jac L’Etoile novel inspired a perfume, Âmes Soeurs, the Scent of Soul Mates by Joya Studios. How did this partnership come to be?
When I was writing the first Jac book – to keep in the world of scent – I burned a lot of candles. When I finished writing, I gave a copy of the book to the perfumer who’d created the candles that had inspired me the most. Frederick Bouchardy. (Joya Studios).
After he read the novel he contacted me and we met for tea in the Peninsula Hotel in NYC. He told me he loved the book and wanted to create his version of the fragrance at the heart of the novel. I was so astonished and honored, I actually started to cry.
Bouchardy even named the fragrance after one in the book: Âmes Sœurs the scent of soul mates. It has hints of Frankincense, Myrrh, Orange Blossom and Jasmine. I think it has a smoky uncommon finish that suggests the past and the future, and lost souls reunited.
What scents evoke memories for you?
Shalimar – it was the only perfume my mother wore – so just one whiff and she’s there – all around me. It makes me so happy and so sad at the same time.
Pine – I love to walk in the woods and the scent of pine inspires me. There is something fresh and yet ancient and primeval about it.
Popcorn- Whenever I smell it I remember the first magical time I ever went to the circus with my dad when I was little.
Chocolate – makes me think of Paris. I don’t think I ever had great chocolate till I went to Paris.
Perfume with Lemon –makes me think of high school. We all wore Jean Nate or Love – both lemon based.
Coffee – when I smell coffee I think of New York – my hometown – the energy is the smell of fresh brewed, really really good coffee.
What are some of your favorite perfumes and what tones (scents) do they 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, jasmine and carnation and heaven.
Besides being an international bestselling author, you are also recognized as a pioneer in the publishing world? What breakthroughs have you made in this area?
Getting published has been an adventure. I self-published “Lip Service” late in 1998 after several traditional publishers turned it down. Editors had loved it, but didn’t know how to position it or market it since it didn’t fit into any one genre. Frustrated, but curious and convinced that there was a way to market it, I set up a web site where readers could download her book for $9.95 and began to seriously market the novel on the Internet. After selling over 2500 copies (in both electronic and trade paper format) “Lip Service” became the first e-book and the first self-published novel chosen by the LiteraryGuild/Doubleday Book Club as well as being the first e-book to go on to be published by a mainstream New York publishing house. I was also the first person to create the concept of virtual book tours – or blog tours as they are known now – doing one in 1999. As well I was the first author to create a book trailer, in 2000 and the first to have group blog in 2001.
You are a founding board member of International Thriller Writers and are its current co-president with Lee Child. How does the organization and its annual event “Thrillerfest” which is conducted in New York City differ from any other organizations and events?
We have a mantra at ITW – when we imitate we fail, when we innovate we succeed. So our goals have been to keep making our efforts and events unique. We have the largest “craft fest” where authors can come to learn the craft from masters like David Morrell, Doug Preston, Steve Berry, Joseph Finder, Lisa Gardner, and more. We also have the largest “agent fest” in the world. Over 60 agents come to Thrillerfest to hear pitches from authors. For fans, we offer a $10 gift certificate to get them into the book room buying books and unlike most events every single registered author has his or her books for sale.
About the Author:
M.J. Rose grew up in New York City mostly in the labyrinthine galleries of the Metropolitan Museum, the dark tunnels and lush gardens of Central Park and reading her mother’s favorite books before she was allowed. She believes mystery and magic are all around us but we are too often too busy to notice… Books that exaggerate mystery and magic draw attention to it and remind us to look for it and revel in it.
She lives in Connecticut with Doug Scofield, a composer, and their very spoiled dog, Winka.
In 1998, her first novel Lip Service was the first e-book and the first self-published novel chosen by the LiteraryGuild/Doubleday Book Club as well as the first e-book to go on to be published by a mainstream New York publishing house.
Rose has been profiled in Time magazine, Forbes, The New York Times, Business 2.0, Working Woman, Newsweek, and New York Magazine.
She has appeared on The Today Show, Fox News, The Jim Lehrer NewsHour, and features on her have appeared in dozens of magazines and newspapers in the U.S. and abroad, including USAToday, Stern, L’Official, Poets and Writers, and Publishers Weekly.
Rose graduated from Syracuse University and spent the ’80s in advertising. She was the Creative Director of Rosenfeld Sirowitz and Lawson and she has a commercial in the Museum of Modern Art in NYC.
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