Jules Larimore, author of The Cévenoles Sagas (2nd part)
2nd part of our paper dedicated to Californian writer Jules Larimore (read the 1st part).
LET'S FINISH OUR CHAT
You found the inspiration of your debut novel, The Muse of Freedom in your family history... What else came along to spice up the intrigue?
I developed the plot out of a timeline of known events in the life of Jean Pierre Bondurant, as well as many days (and sleepless nights) of allowing the “muse” to guide me. Low and behold, Jehan’s own muse became part of the story and the title. Since novels with a bit of romance seem to attract more readers I had intended to develop a fictional love interest for him but I didn’t know, until I opened up to it, that it would be a free-spirited, mystic holy woman! I wanted someone Jehan could have something in common with, and since we know he trained as an apothecary, this seemed like a good place to start. Since Amelia is a “freespirit” who does not avow to any one religion but embraces them all, she inspires Jehan to seek his spiritual path rather than letting it be dictated to him. I was able to use her to touch on ancient healing techniques — Greek, Gabali Celtae, and others — that might be considered magic or witchcraft by many.
To my surprise, I found in my later research that these healers were common in the Gorges du Tarn and Lozère areas in the past. “There is almost no village, even today, where we do not find one or more secret healers, (that's the name we give them) sorcerers or diviners, with the reputation to cure all kinds of illnesses, even from a distance, by means of signs, dead ends or ridiculous formulas.” - The Lozerien Peasant: Local Studies (Ed. 1899) by Jules Barbot I also wrote a scene at the Knights Hospitaller commandery at Gap-Francès on Mont Lozère where a summer solstice fête was held annually. Things get a bit “spicey” between Jehan and Amelia there. That scene was inspired after reading an excerpt from hospitaliers-saintjean.com citing the Bulletin de Lozère, 1864:
“The Druidic cult must have laid deep roots in the hearts of the peoples of Mont Lozère because, in these solitary, deserted places, covered, here and there,
with vast forests, everything seemed to favor this mysterious, symbolic religion, with austere dogmas and barbaric practices.
Moreover, the inhabitants of Lozère bordered on the Cévennes population, with a light and frivolous character,
who has always been eager for pleasures and entertainment. At the Gap-Français Hospital, on June 25, at the summer solstice,
we still celebrate a fair known for centuries under the name of the dance fair and whose origins go back, perhaps -be, in the Druidic era.
Mr. André, however, tells us in his Notice on the Gap-Français, that this fair owes its origin to the Commanders of the Hospital.”
I also added a different sort of “spice” by incorporating theories from Lionel Laborie’s scholarly works on the fanaticism of some Reformed Cévenols. His publications indicate that between the intake of spiced possets, ergot de seigle (a fungus that grows on rye), and a secret white powder (probably a weak form of opium from the local poppies), many of the inspirés were actually suffering convulsions and hallucinations rather than divine inspiration.
Excerpt : “A French Huguenot apothecary’s legacy of secrets, a mystic healer’s inspiration, a fateful decision.
In the mysterious Cévennes mountains of Languedoc, France, 1695,
Jehan BonDurant, a young nobleman forcibly held in a Dominican prieuré as a child, comes of age only to inherit a near-derelict estate
and his Huguenot family’s dangerous legacy of secrets. While he cherishes his newfound freedom apprenticing as an apothecary,
his outrage mounts over religious persecutions led by King Louis XIV’s Intendant Basville,
who is sent to enforce the King’s will for “One King, One Law, One Faith”.
Your French ancestor, your “8th great-grandfather Jean-Pierre Bondurant dit Cougoussac was a French Huguenot (Jehan BonDurant is the novel)”.
Did this very particular historical side motivated you to start this kind of book? Did/do you consider writing about another theme?
Historical fiction is my first love, and I find so much to write about just by tapping into my genealogy, and even more so, in the little-known history of the Cévennes. The themes in The Muse of Freedom are very relevant to things happening in the world today — bigotry, authoritarianism, persecution — so the timing for it has been meaningful. It gave me the opportunity to convey the positive qualities of courage, tenacity, and transcendent vision. But, in the entire three-book Huguenots trilogy, the overarching themes are love, compassion, and tolerance. While religion as a theme is hard to escape when writing about times prior to the Enlightenment, I hope to shift away from stories about religious persecutions.
My novels “in progress” include two more books in the Huguenots trilogy, then once those are completed, I will finish one on Sainte Enimie and one on another ancestor, Adelaide/Azalais de Toulouse, Dame de Burlats (in the far western reaches of the Cévennes), Comtesse de Carcassonne. (Historical Times magazine recently published my non-fiction article on Adelaide where I explain how I am delving into research on the others in her life — Constance de France, Counts Raymond V de Toulouse and Raymond VI de Toulouse, Viscount sRoger II Trencavel and Raimond Roger Trencavel, King Alfonso II of Aragon, Count of Barcelona, and troubadour Arnaut de Mareuil — to learn more about her).
My books going forward will have an even stronger element of romance to them, but still be very much focused on accurate history. I have an idea for a novella on becoming Cévenol; a memoir-style compilation that taps into the connections that many descendants of Jean Pierre Bondurant feel to the Cévennes.
Would you like to add a comment?
A French translation of The Muse of Freedom is in the works. It is a collaboration with a wonderful local Cévenole woman who lives in a village south of Génolhac, and with my critique partner who is fluent in French and will do the proofreading. We hope that version will be out later next year. In the meantime, French speakers can purchase the English-language version of the ebook at Amazon.fr and turn on the translate mode.
A second book in Jehan BonDurant’s and Amelia’s story, titled Find Me in the Stars, will be released in early Spring 2024. It covers his time as a refugee in search of an “Eden” while Amelia remains under the protection of the Knights Hospitaller on Mont Lozère to tend to her aging sage-femme grandmother. The story follows Jehan through the Swiss cantons and Rotterdam, then eventually to London where he awaits a ship to a resettlement project in the New World. And what happens to his muse, Amelia? Readers will need to wait to find out the ending. Good to know: The Muse of Freedom: first novel in the series from the Cévenoles Sagas, nº1 Amazon Bestseller in Renaissance Historical Fiction, Winner of New Voices Award by Writers & Publishers Network, Finalist in the Global Book Awards, Reader's Favorite Five Star Award, and Honorable Mention in the Historical Fiction Company’s Book of the Year Awards.
Good to know: The Muse of Freedom: first novel in the series from the Cévenoles Sagas, nº1 Amazon Bestseller in Renaissance Historical Fiction, Winner of New Voices Award by Writers & Publishers Network, Finalist in the Global Book Awards, Reader's Favorite Five Star Award, and Honorable Mention in the Historical Fiction Company’s Book of the Year Awards.