Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Susan Vreeland - HBS Author's Spotlight

Today our blog puts the Spotlight on Internationally known author of art-related historical fiction Susan Vreeland. She is a New York Times bestselling author of Clara and Mr. Tiffany and more.

Author Genre: Literary Historical Fiction

Website: Books by Susan Vreeland
E-Mail: susan@svreeland.com
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Author Description:
Susan Vreeland is the Internationally known author of art-related historical fiction. Her newest, Clara and Mr. Tiffany, as well as three earlier books, are New York Times Best Sellers. Luncheon of the Boating Party reveals Renoir’s masterpiece, the personalities involved in its making, and the joie de vivre of late nineteenth century Paris. Life Studies is a collection of stories of Impressionist painters and contemporary people encountering art. Girl in Hyacinth Blue traces an alleged Vermeer painting through the centuries. The Passion of Artemisia illuminates Italian Baroque painter Artemisia Gentileschi. The Forest Lover follows rebel British Columbia painter Emily Carr in her encounters with native peoples and cultures. What Love Sees is a love story of a blind couple who refuse to accept limitations. Three of these books have been winners of the Theodor Geisel Award, the highest honor given by the San Diego Book Awards. Vreeland’s novels have been translated into twenty-six languages, and have frequently been selected as Book Sense Picks. She was a high school English teacher in San Diego for thirty years.

SPOTLIGHT Questions and Answers with the Author

First things first. Let’s start with what’s next. Rumor has it that you’re taking us to France for more Mystery and Romance. Can you tell us the timeline for its release and give us a little tease?

Thanks for asking this. LISETTE'S LIST is scheduled for an August or September 2014 release.

Set in Provence, France in the years just before and after World War II, an ochre miner of paint pigments sets in motion a string of events involving his collection of paintings by Pissarro, Cézanne, and Picasso hidden from German officers keen on contributing to Hitler's collection of art. Their recovery is left to his grandson's Parisian wife, Lisette, who loses a husband, gains a lover as well as Provençale allies, befriends Marc and Bella Chagall hiding nearby, and learns the values of village life in her search not only for the paintings as part of the endangered legacy of French art, but for her place in the Paris art world.

Since you started before the social media buzz, what impact has social media relationships had on your current success? How much has it changed your book launch process? Do you prefer Facebook or Twitter?

I have found who my avid fans are. Through Fiction Writers Coop, a Facebook-based entity, I have networked with other fiction writers more than I ever did before. Between now and the launch of Lisette's List, I will be starting my own blog and entering into the shifting waters of Twitter.

You do a lot of book signing, interviews, speaking and personal appearances? (Sorry I missed you in Tucson.) When and where is the next place where your readers can see you? Where can they keep up with your personal contacts online?

Yes, I love the interaction that occurs with personal appearances. My next event is in Laguna Niguel, CA, September 21, Soroptimist International. Contact Linda Friedman, bookevent1@cc.rr.com.

Readers can consult http://www.svreeland.com/app.html for my schedule.

You have great covers. How does your book cover creation process work? Do you hand over the basic theme or do you have more of a hands-on approach? Do you get your readers involved in its development?

Your answer here.I usually send my publisher a selection of art images by the artists featured in the book. The art designer takes it from there, showing me the suggested cover for my approval.

What kinds of writer support groups do you belong too? Do they help with the writing, marketing and the publishing process?

Many years ago, I belonged to a writers' critique group in Orange County, but the Friday afternoon trip from San Diego became too troublesome. Instead, I shifted to two or three authors to critique the entire manuscript, rather than reading it chapter by chapter to a group. Now I am only involved with the networking group Fiction Writers' Coop, which focuses on promotion and mutual support of each other's releases.

Between your book writing, blogging, marketing, family and all the other things that can get in your way, how do you manage your time? Do you have a set schedule or do your sort of play it by ear?

It depends upon what stage I am in. If I am hard at work on the writing, I work from abut 9:00 am to dinner time, and often go back after dinner to revise what I wrote during the day. On pre-writing days, I am at the university library. At post-writing days, you'll find me at the computer doing correspondence with venues, preparing the text and design for my website, and going to signing events.

Has the advent of ebooks changed anything in your writing, your marketing and the relationship with your readers and fans?

It certainly has not changed my writing, either the process or the result. As yet, it hasn't changed my marketing or the relationship with readers.

How do you manage your plots, characters and timelines to keep your stories going? Do you use any software to keep track of your books?

I love my characters. They are dear to me and they live in the forefront of my thinking at all times. I start by constructing a historical timeline of the peripheral historic events and, in the case of real artists, their date, locations, and relevant works. Then I insert my invented characters and events into this rubric. Using a software program is not only unnecessary, it is absurd, for me. As for plot, I keep a list of chapters and the dates of the action so I get the seasons right.

It seems you travel quite a lot. Are you doing research for your next novel? Which do you enjoy the most, researching the topic or writing about it? Does moving from one to the other give you some breathing room?

I'm in the last stages of revision of LISETTE'S LIST so most of the research was done a couple of years ago. However, just this spring, I came upon an important letter written by Marc Chagall which not only fit into my novel beautifully, but deepened Lisette's sense of purpose. That was an exciting find, and it came so late in the revision process, but just when I needed it. I was extremely grateful. So you can see that joyful research continues with the writing, mostly early writing, except for this extraordinary example.

You have published your books in other languages. How is your audience abroad? Does marketing online help in communicating to those readers?

My largest foreign reading audiences are Italian, German, and Dutch. All of my books have been published by Neri Pozza in Milan, and now they are clamoring for LISETTE'S LIST. They try to get the jump on the American publication, and with CLARA AND MR. TIFFANY, they did just that. I get the most heartfelt and grateful letters from Italians. Of course! They are art lovers!

With ereaders now in color, have you considered publishing some of your research pictures in the ebook version? (Maybe in the appendix.)

I don't think that's up to me. Since there is a charge for any art reproduction, the ebook publishers have to decide. However, the first book I wrote, WHAT LOVE SEES, is not about art. Rather, it is the true story of a family, and they graciously provided photographs for the ebook.

Author's Book List
What Love Sees
Can a blind couple raise four children on a ranch? Author Susan Vreelend met such a family in 1983 and felt compelled to share their lives.

What Love Sees is her first novel, published in 1988. Jean Treadway, a young, cultured New England woman whose every material need is supplied by wealthy, overprotective parents “meets” through arranged correspondence Forrest Holly, a dirt-poor Southern California rancher whose spiritual foundation turns despair into purpose.

As different as they are in background, they share two things: their blindness and their determination to live an active, normal life and raise a family.

While Jean was among the first women to use a Seeing Eye dog on urban streets in the late 1930s, Forrest used a seeing eye bull and his horses to guide him on the ranch in the 1940s.

As they discover each other through letters that have to be read to them, his earnestness and folksy humor win her heart.

Their four children, each with a distinct individuality, provide challenges, frustrations, and occasions for tenderness. Through tears and laughter, tragedy and triumph, they all learn Forrest’s doctrine that “There’s more than one way to skin a cat.”

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - iTunes
Girl in Hyacinth Blue
A Dutch painting of a young girl survives three and a half centuries through loss, flood, anonymity, theft, secrecy, even the Holocaust. This is the story of its owners whose lives are influenced by its beauty and mystery. Despite their unsatisfied longings, their own and others' flaws, the girl in hyacinth blue has the power to engender love in all its human variety.

This luminous story begins in the present day, when a professor invites a colleague to his home to see a painting that he has kept secret for decades. The professor swears it is a Vermeer--but why has he hidden this important work for so long? The reasons unfold in a series of events that trace the ownership of the painting back to World War II and Amsterdam, and still further back to the moment of the work's inspiration. As the painting moves through each owner's hands, what was long hidden quietly surfaces, illuminating poignant moments in multiple lives. Susan Vreeland's characters remind us, through their love of this mysterious painting, how beauty transforms and why we reach for it, what lasts and what in our lives is singular and unforgettable.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - iTunes
Clara and Mr. Tiffany: A Novel

It’s 1893, and at the Chicago World’s Fair, Louis Comfort Tiffany makes his debut with a luminous exhibition of innovative stained-glass windows that he hopes will earn him a place on the international artistic stage. But behind the scenes in his New York studio is the freethinking Clara Driscoll, head of his women’s division, who conceives of and designs nearly all of the iconic leaded-glass lamps for which Tiffany will long be remembered. Never publicly acknowledged, Clara struggles with her desire for artistic recognition and the seemingly insurmountable challenges that she faces as a professional woman. She also yearns for love and companionship, and is devoted in different ways to five men, including Tiffany, who enforces a strict policy: He does not employ married women. Ultimately, Clara must decide what makes her happiest—the professional world of her hands or the personal world of her heart.

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Luncheon of the Boating Party
With her richly textured novels, Susan Vreeland has offered pioneering portraits of artists? lives. Now, as she did in Girl in Hyacinth Blue, Vreeland once again focuses on a single painting?Auguste Renoir?s instantly recognizable masterpiece, which depicts a gathering of Renoir?s real friends enjoying a summer Sunday on a café terrace along the Seine. Narrated by Renoir and seven of the models, the novel illuminates the gusto, hedonism, and art of the era. With a gorgeous palette of vibrant, captivating characters, Vreeland paints their lives, loves, losses, and triumphs so vividly that ?the painting literally comes alive? (The Boston Globe).

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - iTunes
Life Studies: Stories
With her richly textured novels Susan Vreeland has offered pioneering portraits of the artist’s life. Now, in a collection of profound wisdom and beauty, she explores the transcendent power of art through the eyes of ordinary people. Life Studies begins with historic tales that, rather than focusing directly on the great Impressionist and Post-Impressionist masters themselves, render those on the periphery—their lovers, servants, and children—as their personal experiences play out against those of Manet, Monet, van Gogh, and others. Vreeland then gives us contemporary stories in which her characters—a teacher, a construction worker, and an orphan for example—encounter art in meaningful, often surprising ways. A fascinating exploration of the lasting strength of art in everyday life, Life Studies is a dazzling addition to Vreeland’s outstanding body of work.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble
The Forest Lover
In her acclaimed novels, Susan Vreeland has given us portraits of painting and life that are as dazzling as their artistic subjects. Now, in The Forest Lover, she traces the courageous life and career of Emily Carr, who?more than Georgia O?Keeffe or Frida Kahlo?blazed a path for modern women artists. Overcoming the confines of Victorian culture, Carr became a major force in modern art by capturing an untamed British Columbia and its indigenous peoples just before industrialization changed them forever. From illegal potlatches in tribal communities to artists? studios in pre?World War I Paris, Vreeland tells her story with gusto and suspense, giving us a glorious novel that will appeal to lovers of art, native cultures, and lush historical fiction.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - iTunes
The Passion of Artemisia: A Novel
Recently rediscovered by art historians, and one of the few female post-Renaissance painters to achieve fame during her own era, Artemisia Gentileschi led a remarkably "modern" life. Susan Vreeland tells Artemisia's captivating story, beginning with her public humiliation in a rape trial at the age of eighteen, and continuing through her father's betrayal, her marriage of convenience, motherhood, and growing fame as an artist. Set against the glorious backdrops of Rome, Florence, Genoa, and Naples, inhabited by historical characters such as Galileo and Cosimo de' Medici II, and filled with rich details about life as a seventeenth-century painter, Vreeland creates an inspiring story about one woman's lifelong struggle to reconcile career and family, passion and genius.

Order the Book From: Amazon - Barnes and Noble - iTunes
Author Recommended by: HBSystems Publications
Publisher of ebooks, writing industry blogger and the sponsor of the HBS Author's Spotlight plus the blog: eBook Author’s Corner. Check out the index of other Spotlight authors. Spotlight Index.

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