Friday, January 13, 2017

Writers on the Couch: Megan Chance


Today we are humbled and excited to welcome the wonderfully talented Megan Chance to our Writers Couch.

Megan Chance is the critically acclaimed, award-winning author of over 12 books including, The Visitant, Inamorata, An Inconvenient Wife and The Spiritualist. Girlposse.com calls her a “writer of extraordinary talent.” A former television news photographer with a BA from Western Washington University, Megan Chance lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two daughters.

Chance joins our interview session today following the release of her latest historical novel, A Drop of Ink. The book already has readers and reviewers enthralled and we can see why.

A Drop of Ink - a mesmerizing, complex
and darkly passionate reimagining
of the Lake Geneva summer that inspired Frankenstein... 

Set in Geneva in 1876, A Drop of Ink spawns an intricate tale that sees a group of five people meet at the Villa Diodati - the place that inspired the writing of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, sixty years earlier. It turns out that everyone of those five characters has something to hide.

Villa Diodati, Lake Geneva

A Drop of Ink is a richly imagined, emotionally nuanced tale of passion, ambition, inspiration, and redemption. Many of us will love that it pays homage to some of the great writers of that period. 

To paraphrase Seattle Times, 'historically minded readers will particularly enjoy this bumpy ride, and the parallels between Chance’s re-imagined literary quintet and the actual participants in that long-ago gothic writing session.'  

Megan Chance was kind enough to drop by and answer ten probing questions for us - we hope you enjoy learning more about this inspiring author as much as we did. It turns out, Victor Frankenstein is her favorite villain. Want to find out more? Read on.


Megan Chance on the Writers Couch


A Hollywood studio is all over one of your books. Which is it and tell me about the director and/or cast.

Thus far, the only one of my books that has actually garnered any Hollywood interest—and which was briefly optioned—is An Inconvenient Wife, so I suppose I would pick that one. I do hear often that it would make a good movie. When I write, I always visualize actors as the characters, because, as I write, the story unfolds as if I’m watching a movie in my head. This means that my office perpetually looks like the bedroom of a 15-year old girl, with movie star pictures everywhere. For An Inconvenient Wife, I envisioned Kate Beckinsale as Lucy, Johnny Depp as Victor Seth, and Kevin Spacey as William. They’re all too old to play those parts now, although (ironically, given how Hollywood treats women of a certain age) Beckinsale might still be able to pull it off. For the director—well, at the time I would have said Martin Scorsese, given how beautifully he did The Age of Innocence, but now I’d rather have a female director. I think Jane Campion, or Catherine Hardwicke would be great, but I think my first choice might be Sam Taylor-Johnson.

My favorite non-writing day...

Consists of waking up, not exercising, reading the Sunday New York Times for about the three hours it takes, baking something challenging and fun and delicious, reading more, and hanging out with my family. Perhaps doing Latin homework. I started studying Latin this year, for no other reason than I’ve always wanted to. I was persuaded not to study it in high school because it was a dead language, which is a decision I’ve always regretted. I’m really enjoying the puzzle of it, and finding it tremendously rewarding. I really enjoy learning new things, and pushing myself until I’ve perfected them, and that is what I most like to do on my non-writing days.

Tell us what excited you in your latest travel holiday

My husband and I went to New York City—a city I have always loved—with no agenda other than going to the Belmont to watch American Pharaoh run the last leg of the Triple Crown. Beyond the race, we had no schedule, and spent our days simply going wherever we wanted to go, taking the subway, walking, popping into unknown restaurants. It was a great trip because there was nothing we had to accomplish. Then, what made it even better was the Belmont. The racetrack was packed, the lines were long, the trains to get there were overwhelmed, but the sheer energy and excitement of that race was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever experienced. People were screaming, shouting and stomping. The stands were shaking. Everyone was hugging everyone else, and we were all strangers with nothing in common but wanting that horse to win. To watch him do that … I can’t really describe what it was like. We were all one person and one voice in that moment, and all of us were with that astonishing horse, and I will simply never forget it. 

Which historical period holds your fancy for male/female clothing

I am one of those people who likes comfort over fashion. My husband and my oldest daughter are both much more fashion conscious, and they despair over me. So, given this, I think it’s odd that I have a secret fascination for men’s clothing. I love looking at the fashion spreads in Esquire, for example. I love reading their articles about men’s fashion. I love it when a man wears something a little different. I have no love for suits, tuxedos, or uniforms. They’re all so boring. But give me a jacket in a deep blue or green velvet, or a tuxedo that’s cut like a frock coat or a duster, maybe with a Nehru collar, or colorful vests, and I’m in love. I rue the late nineteenth century, when men’s clothing, which had until then been made up of a mix of colors and fabrics, moved toward a singular color, and that mostly black or blue. I love the early century, when there were different cuts of trousers and coats, and when men might wear checked trousers with a form-fitting frock coat, along with a vest of any of a multitude of colors and fabrics, and a broad swath of a silk neckcloth. And let’s not forget a watch chain decorated with all sorts of baubles and ornaments. It was a very individualistic period for men’s fashion, and some of the cuts were gorgeous, and really showed off a man’s form. I love to see a man who’s a bit of a peacock—why shouldn’t they be as unique as women when it comes to fashion?

Who is a writer who has moved you?

There are many, but my favorite these last several years has been Elizabeth Knox. She’s a New Zealand writer, and she’s lyrical, smart, challenging and emotional. Her The Vintner’s Luck is probably my very favorite book. I have read it several times, and it never fails to completely satisfy and move me. I have no idea why, and I almost hate sharing it, because the book feels so very personal to me. I recommend it often, but I have no desire to discuss it with anyone, or debate it—it feels secret and lovely and mine alone. I also love her Billie’s Luck, which was the first book of hers I read, and which kept me up until two in the morning to finish. I’ve also read that several times.

Who is your classic writer soulmate?

Can I have more than one? Balzac, Byron, and Edith Wharton. Balzac, because he’s prolific, cynical, smart, funny, realistic and I feel I relate to him on a cellular level. Byron for all the same reasons, plus I know Byron’s life well enough that I can often read between the lines of his work, and so his pain and his rejection of that pain and his struggles for love and acceptance are real and moving. Lastly, Edith Wharton, whose emotional novels about women are so true and lovely and heartbreaking that I am slayed every time. I think each of these writers writes about the things I am most interested in—that is, how our emotions control and define us, how we live with the consequences of our decisions, and how those decisions are often limited by social strictures and judgments. Society likes to keep things in their proper place, and these writers all write about what happens when someone slips out of that place to try to make a different kind of life for his/herself. So in that way, they are all my literary soulmates.

Honoré de Balzac, French author

Who is your favorite literary villain and why?

Probably Victor Frankenstein, who—make no mistake—is the villain of Frankenstein. It’s not that his motives for making the creature are bad, it’s simply that every single decision he makes is. He is weak, self-deluded, self-righteous, defensive and ultimately immoral in the way he turns away from the creature he has created. His decisions are what set himself and the creature he brings to life—who, by the way, is more human, compassionate and moral than his creator in every way—on their destructive path. Victor Frankenstein is, as we all are, both the hero and the villain in his own story. He is the classic man against himself, and that makes him interesting as a villain. Reading his arc in Frankenstein is like watching a trainwreck, and he’s got no one to blame but himself for everything that happens.

What kind of writer are you?

I know most writers either refer to themselves as a “pantser” or a “planner,” but I am somewhere in between. Once I’ve done the research, and I’m devising the story, I generally have a sense of 1) where to start, 2) what happens at the quarter point that turns everything on its head, 3) what happens at the halfway point to turn it again, and 4) a turning point at three-quarters of the way through. I may not know the end, and I have NO idea how I’m going to get from 1 to 2 to 3 to 4. That’s where the story comes alive for me. Knowing too much tends to kill it, knowing too little leads to frustrating dead-ends. This structure seems to be a happy medium.

I’m a very disciplined writer—that is, I write every day, though I try to take one day on the weekend off. I learned early on that I could not tell the difference between the writing I did on days I was inspired, and the writing I did on days when I was not, and so there was no point in waiting to be inspired, and in fact, inspiration is made, not born. I go to my office to work at about ten a.m. every day, and I don’t stop until I’ve written at least five pages. Why five? Because I also discovered that it took me five pages to hit “flow,” or “inspiration,” or whatever you want to call it. If I could get to five pages, I could go on to ten, or sometimes fifteen, or now and then, twenty. But if I never got to five, I never hit “flow.” Some days, of course, it doesn’t happen, and five pages are all I end up with. But if I don’t get to five, I never get beyond it.

I’m also not one of those people for whom every word must be perfect before I go on. For me, a book is made during the editing and revising stages, and so what I try to do in those early drafts is just to get a sense of the story and the characters. For any book, my process is this: I write 200 pages and hand it off to my critique partner, who helps me refine and brainstorm new avenues. Then, usually, I end up throwing out those two hundred and starting over. I may do this several times before I get to a point where the story starts to definitively gel. Yes, I wish I had an easier and less page-intensive process, but I don’t seem to have much control over that. The process is what it is. It’s usually at about Draft Four—though it may be Draft Five or Six or Seven— that I feel everything mostly works. After that, it’s all about editing and refining plot, character and language. Some books are easier, and some are harder, but they all move along pretty much in this same way.

What is your favorite fairy tale?

I have two, actually. Beauty and the Beast, and The Goose Girl, which is a little more obscure. In looking at them again, I can see that the stories are similar thematically. While the Goose Girl is a kind and honest princess who is betrayed, and the Beast is a spoiled prince who betrays himself, the moral of both stories is that people are not always what they seem, which (see below) also seems to be a theme I pursue often in my own writing. Not only that, but The Goose Girl has a magical talking horse, so there’s that.

What are the recurring themes in your writing?

 I think all of my recurring themes tend to radiate from one big premise, which is that the biggest lie we tell ourselves is that there is a central “truth,” when it fact, truth is an incredibly malleable concept. Truth is not only subjective, but it is not even real. It depends completely on who is seeing it and who is interpreting it. I would say that more terrible things have been done in the name of “truth” than nearly anything else, because we use the concept of truth to control those who are not like us, and to further our own personal agendas. Whenever a single human soul is subjugated, marginalized, or silenced, for whatever reason, we all lose. That is a pretty consistent theme in my work. Related to this are two of my other favorite themes: first, people are not always what they seem to be (which is why the fairy tales I’ve chosen are not really a surprise), and that sometimes we are not even who we think we are. Also, I am fascinated by the decisions we make and the truths we believe that inform those decisions, and how we live with the consequences. We are really so very messy, after all, which makes for some really good stories.


Wow, thank you again, Megan Chance, for visiting our Writers Couch. It has been an honour. Also a huge congratulations on the release of your gorgeous new book, A Drop of Ink




Thursday, January 5, 2017

Julien's Terror - Joseph Fouché visits Marie Anne Lernormand



I don't often share snippets from my work in progress but this won't reveal much of the plot so I'll give it a go. This is one of my favorite short scenes from Julien's Terror, due for release in July this year. 
Here, I pit Parisian fortune teller, Marie Anne Lenormand, against Minister of Police Joseph Fouché. The order from Napoleon is based on fact - he was secretly planning to divorce Josephine in order to marry Marie Louise of Austria...

***
The door at 5 rue de Tournon swiveled open and Marie Anne Lenormand came face-to-face with the Minister of Police, Joseph Fouché.
“Plotting with the aristocrats can lend you in prison, mademoiselle.”
His sly smile chilled her bones. The man who had once voted for King Louis XVI’s execution won no favors with Marie Anne.
“My royalists are well behaved,” she quipped, still standing by the doorway. “I’ve done nothing wrong. Things have been a little chaotic here, for a few years. Having a glimpse into their future allows the Parisians to sleep at night. After all,” she added, alluding to him, “not many of us can change allegiance as frequently as their linen.”
Fouché’s thin lips were pursed and he shot her a murderous glare. Marie Anne saw that her remark had hit its target.
“I am warning you, that is all. Call it courtesy.”
“You could, yourself, predict the future but the doom and gloom would suit no clients, Fouché. What do you really want?”
“May I?” He gestured towards the door.
She let him in.
Fouché’s piercing small eyes missed nothing of his surroundings. He strolled on the thick carpet in the entrance hall and sat himself on a Louis XV seat. Then he crossed his leg and reclined, drawing out a pipe which he pressed to his lips.
Marie Anne Lenormand remained standing at the door.
“My clients are waiting, Fouché. Are you planning on arresting me?”
“Not this time.”
“Then what is it you want?”
He inhaled quietly, his sunken cheeks appearing all the more spectral under the dim candle light.
“It’s simple. I want you to start turning away Josephine de Bauharnais. Without revealing state secrets, I can tell you, that the emperor is entering a state of affairs that can only agitate her in the months to come. Josephine has, as I understand it, often had recourse to your generous services. When the moment arrives, and I believe it will be soon, she is likely to turn to you. Just as she has, countless times. For this reason, much as the emperor has tolerated your charlatan cabinet for years, his warning is now explicit. He wishes that there be absolutely no influence on your part. Mademoiselle Lenormand, may I make this very clear. Your affairs, meddling with the empress are now ended. Do you understand?”
“You wish me to turn away the empress on her next visit?”
“That is correct. And the visit after that. And the one after. It is over, mademoiselle.”
“You would prevent me from seeing Josephine de Beauharnais?”
“Something like that.”
“Then I say, Monsieur Fouché that you are as much a crook as I am.”
“If you say so.”
“And what if I refuse?”
“That, mademoiselle, would be very, very unwise. If you so much as meet Josephine de Beauharnais, either in this house, or elsewhere, or even – and don’t think me a fool – even in the Luxembourg gardens, I shall know of it. I have spies watching your every moves, mademoiselle. And if I find that you have lent your services once again to the empress, I shall have no recourse but to arrest you. Mark my words.”
“Arrest me? For seeing the empress who willingly engages my science? The nerve of it!”
“Your black arts, your charlatan tricks, whatever you want to call them. By all means, indulge another, but not the empress.”
“You cannot arrest me for obliging a willing client!”
Fouché put away his pipe and rose, indicating that the interview was finished. Marie Anne stood away from the door and pulled it open.
“Get out!”
“I will be watching you, mademoiselle.”
And he let himself out without looking back.

***

Julien's Terror is psychological thriller/mystery set in post revolutionary France. Watch out for the early Kindle release in May...


Monday, December 12, 2016

Julien's Terror - Imagining the French Revolution


Julien's Terror, my latest novel, is the story of a haunting - a haunting that is either metaphysical or psychological, or is it both? 

Set in the dramatic period of the French Revolution, culminating into Napoleon's empire, it revolves around a young couple from different walks of life. Yet both have lived tragedy and both are touched by it. 

Julien's Terror features impressive figures of the French Revolution, including Charette, the Vendée counter-revolutionary and Marie Anne Lenormand, the celebrated Parisian fortuneteller.

Historical figures who play a minor role in the story but which I place on a pedestal, are the author, Madame de Staël who Napoleon hated, and the famed Austrian physician, Franz Anton Mesmer, whose works laid the foundation for hypnotism and psychotherapy.

The novel is dedicated to Charette.

While some dates around Charette’s presence in the Gralas forest may have been modified or blurred to aid the narrative, the events of the Vendée war depicted in Julien's Terror and the tragic massacres that unfolded in Western France are historical. 

When I was a teen, enamoured of art, I reproduced a centuries old drawing depicting Charette’s entry into Nantes on February 1795. At this young age, I knew not the significance of this drawing and its relation to the French Revolution.

Many years later, I learned the meaning of this drawing. It was a truce (not in the novel). Charette had agreed to a truce with the Republic and one of the secret conditions of this truce was that the revolutionaries would free the young king, Louis Charles. The truce was later ignored, as more fighting between Republicans and the Vendéens insued. 

Meanwhile, the young King, Louis Charles died in the Tower of the Temple in Paris. He was neglected and suffered the worst conditions. 

Ah, I almost forgot. Louis Charles is a central figure in Julien's Terror. 

There are many things that drove me to write Julien's Terror. On the one hand I was unsettled by the disturbing fate which an eight year old was forced to suffer until his death.  I wondered at times whether Louis Charles' soul might not haunt Le Temple had Napoleon not demolished it... 

There were also personal reasons - my awe for Charette is one of them.

Recently, while researching my Breton and French genealogy, I discovered that one of my 18th century ancestors, had hidden Charette in the area of Montaigu, south of Nantes. It was that perilous time, prior to Charette’s capture in 1796, when the Vendée general had been abandoned by most, and erred from farm to farm in search of an asylum. I was proud of my ancestor for hiding Charette.

There was also the urge to tell the world of something tragic, to reveal a past...

Nantes is my home city in France, the city of my ancestors and a place that I have returned to many times since childhood. But when I visited in 2013, I experienced an urge to write about the drownings, the “noyades”, and to depict the tragedy that befell Nantes during the Terror.

And then, there was a fascination for the psychology of the people of France in those times. 

More than simply creating a character who had lived those events of the Revolution, I wanted to create a dynamic between two people, both damaged by their experience of the reign of terror. I examined the psychology of that period. What was fascinating was the increased resort to fortune telling services; the arts practiced by Marie Anne Lenormand were never more popular than from the revolution to the First Empire, where people sought answers and were deeply anxious about their future, and the future of France.

Delving into the past, with a psychological lens, I envisaged these historical events as a major cause for the rise in suicides, the growing number of asylum patients and the rise in depression. And then I remembered the majority. The majority which in all appearances seemed to not exhibit mental problems. If they did, then these poor souls never sought help, because such psychological help did not exist as it does today. This majority whose mental illness would remain concealed in a domestic realm, would resume living, but it would forever hide wounds.

That’s when I realised that this majority, it was an entire nation. And perhaps just as France’s wounds were never healed completely, so too, there exists today, in most parts of the world, wounds that have not healed and psyches that are forever marked by historical events. In essence, it is the psychohistorical dimension of this novel which most drove me to write.


Sunday, September 11, 2016

If Having Children was like Writing Books


The life of a writer is peppered with misunderstandings. 

For example, well-meaning people have often attributed my voluntary childless existence to the fact that I am a writer. Perhaps there is a belief that the focus, dedication and endurance required of motherhood has been, in my case, channeled into writing instead.

They will speak of my current work in progress as my latest child or else mention my 'babies' to mean books. 

Yet as many writers and mothers will tell you, these two passions are entirely different and mutually exclusive - I know many authors who are also mothers, one doesn't replace the other and vice-versa. 

Perhaps the allusion to books as babies originates from age old beliefs that women are meant to be mothers first.  And if they are not...then it is assumed that it is because they have fulfilled a need through another means. Note that one does not often hear of a male writer's literary babies, the book/baby metaphor is mostly used with women. 

Being spoken to about my literary babies does not enchant me. I see no parallel between writing and being a mother. 

A mother's journey is a social, family- and friend-seeking journey.  Writing is a solitary endeavor, one of isolation. Solitude is as crucial to creating a book as it is for many creative pursuits.

Writers are a poorly understood group of people and like many creative minds are prone to mental illness and suicide. Consider that some forms of psychosis involve a
 fixed belief in an imaginary world that lasts months or years.  This is similar to what the novelist goes through to write their book.

Writers choose the path less traveled because that is part of their nature.  On the other hand, having children is still a common, universal path. It is a well understood behavior and in some countries, it is still socially expected.

It is reductive also to compare the two.  Mothers may well be offended by the comparison, and right they are!  A book is not a living person.

As a writer who has been doubted and questioned for my choices in the past, and who has lived the journey so far, I also find it simplistic and offensive when the writer's journey is construed and interpreted as what it is not. Especially by those who know little about it. 

The sum of it is that you need to be in the shoes of a writer to know what it feels like, in the same way you would have to be a mother to know what it feels like. 

Anyway, the comparison led me to humorously imagine what mothering really would be like if having children was like writing a novel....


So here we go - if having children was like writing books:


* There would be PUBLIC online reviews and ratings for how well you are doing as a mother.  This may include blatant disparaging comments like how your previous kid was better than the current one, how your abilities as a mother have declined over time etc...


* People who have never had children, or never taken care of kids (non-writers) would be seen as authorities on your child, and these people's public review or word of mouth would determine other people's perception of you as a mother.


Let's see how this would look like: 




Remember all these are public... How do you feel? Would you be ready to keep doing it? 

Read on...

* You would not get paid by the government for child support; you would be seen as an eccentric who needed to prove their worth as a mother and compete with other mothers in order to receive some support grant for your efforts.

* People would find you annoying/repetitive/boastful/vain/freaking boisterous for posting pics of your child on social media.


* Some people would not want to know about your child unless the child had won some award or been recommended in some way by some friend or legitimate authority.


* You would be a minority - few other people would have had children and so few would understand your journey.   (Yes, only a small percentage of the world's individuals actually do write a book!)

* Some people would always see you as a wannabe and never treat you seriously as a mother.

* Schools (aka bookstores) would refuse to take in your child based on your method of birthing.


* You would not get paid a cent by your full-time employer for choosing to take a few months off from work to realize what you see as your natural calling - aka have a baby; nor would they hold your job for you.  (Writing is my calling - I know I could never ask for 6 months off work, partly paid, to write books and then return. That is a dream.)


* Some people would ask you, "but, have you been a mother before?" to mean that you can't seriously intend to be a mother otherwise (aka -  Are you published? Are you going to publish it?)


* It would often take years for your child to be born, and  in that time, there would be zero physical evidence of your long journey and so you would receive no support, and people would wonder whether you are at all having a child or dabbling with words, and whether this child is happening at all, or if you are just a FAKE.


* People would ask whether you have had a traditional hospital birth with REAL medical staff or a self-run home birth with a midwife, and then... treat you and your child differently based on the method used to birth it; they may choose to have nothing to do with your child for that same reason.


* You could have children at a very old age... at 70 or 80; you could have one child per year or more... 


* You would want 10 or 25 of them; three or four would never be enough for all that passion inside you; you would crave the opportunity to create children non-stop.

* Talking deeply and meaningfully about your children would be something you would limit or never do, as most people would not understand what you are going through since, like writing a book, it would be a relatively rare endeavor  - if you are lucky you would have a couple of people who know of your journey and these people would 'get you'. If you are lucky. 


* You would not enjoy a yearly celebratory day dedicated to you where everyone glorifies how mothers change the world and bring meaning to their children's lives - nobody would really care about you being a mother until you are DEAD and sometimes never; and you would be ok with that!  ( Writers have and do change lives... Often they also change the world but no day is dedicated to them...)


* Strangers all over the world would know about your child and be touched by it; though you may never hear of them.


* Strangers all over the world would know of you.

* If you are lucky, strangers would remember you and your child long after you die.


And there you have it, the comparison seems almost silly now that one reflects on it.  We could substitute writing here with any other creative activity. 



Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The Nantes of Jules Verne



In 1828, the world-renowned science-fiction author, Jules Verne, was born in what was then called the Venice of the West - the city of Nantes, in France.

Around the same period, when Jules Verne was only a baby, the English landscape painter, JMW Turner, drew sketches of Nantes.

Nantes - view from Île Feydeau, Turner 1828

The wonderful drawing above illustrates the lively canal activity around Île Feydeau. Then the home of Nantes' wealthiest families, Île Feydeau's majestic residential buildings can just be discerned on the right-hand side.

In the early 20th century, major diversion projects began in Nantes and lasted through WWII. Before this time, the Erdre, the Loire's tributary, flowed through a number of canals, lending the city a somewhat Venetian aspect. During the 18th and early 19th centuries, Nantes' port thrived with large vessels destined for Africa and the Americas, including sadly, slavers. Dark as Nantes' past may be, one easily forms an impression of a bustling trade city comparable to Venice.

Banks of the River Erdre, looking North - Turner

Touring through Nantes one finds much history. There is first the medieval Chateau along the banks of the Loire. The Dukes of Brittany had their seat here and it serves as a wonderful museum today.


The unforgettable Chateau des Ducs de Bretagne, Nantes

Turner's sketch of the castle is lovely too.

Chateau of the Dukes of Brittany - Turner

But a rare treat, if you are a fan of Jules Verne, is to follow the Loire River from the Chateau, past Place Bouffay, all along key spots where one of Brittany's finest authors lived.

18th Century map of Nantes before the diversion of the Erdre
Ile Feydeau lies in the center of the Loire

Stop 1 -  4 Olivier de Clisson Street
An island within a city.
Such is Île Feydeau, which today following the diversion of the Erdre, is accessible on foot.
Parallel to the quay is the old Rue Kervégan which is lined with restaurants and fine mid-18th century buildings. Ile Feydeau is the area of Nantes which was once inhabited by rich slavers and merchants. Its edifices are ornate with marine monsters and creatures that evoke the intense relationship between the island's ancient dwellers and the sea.

Beautiful balconies on Île Feydeau 



The head of marine creatures gracing Île Feydeau homes

It is also on Ile Feydeau, at 4 Olivier de Clisson Street to be precise, that the founder of science-fiction (a title he shares with H.G. Wells), was born. Jules Verne's father was a lawyer and barely of middle-class.

Plaque on 4 Olivier de Clisson Street
"The 8 February 1828
Jules Verne
Novelist
Precursor of Modern Discoveries
Is born in this house."


4 Olivier de Clisson Street

It is no surprise that from a young age, Jules Verne became well-aware of Nantes' trans-atlantic slave trading. He turned out to be a staunch opposer of slavery and of the slave trade, denouncing these in his book, Dick Sand, A Captain of Fifteen. Later in his twenties, he would become a good friend of author, Alexandre Dumas, whose own father had been borne of a slave.

Stop 2 - 2 allee Jean Bart (cours des Cinquantes otages)

At 2 Allee Jean Bart, long before the Erdre was diverted to give birth to what is now the Cours des Cinquantes Otages, we find Jules Verne's other childhood home. His family moved to Jean Bart when he was barely a toddler. They remained there until Jules Verne was 12 years old.

"Jules Verne, as a child lived here from 1829 to 1840."

Stop 3 - Church of Saint Nicolas
Nearby, the basilica of Saint Nicolas, whose earliest building dated from the 12th century and which had undergone a number of evolution through the centuries, was re-constructed starting in 1844 based on plans that had been finalised on the eve of the French Revolution.

Jules Verne's father belonged to the parish council that commissioned this wonderful building.
This neo-gothic church is classified as a historical monument since November 1986.

Neo-Gothic Church of Saint-Nicolas






There are other Jules Verne residences or landmarks in Nantes that are worth mentioning, including 1 Rue Suffren, 6 Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the Chantenay country home on 29bis rue des Reformes, but all are old stone houses and it can get a little dull.

But if you follow the Loire River toward the Jules Verne Museum, you come across a more recent statue, created as an homage to the celebrated author - it is Captain Nemo looking out across the Loire...and just behind him, a fictitious statue of the young Jules Verne sits on a bench, dreaming of the sea.



And that is a rare treat.
Because to dwell upon the imagination of a child who would one day become one of the world's greatest science fiction authors, well, that is sheer bliss.