COLUMBUS (PRWEB) June 17, 2023 -- Patti Flinn had never heard of Louis-Benoit Zamor until she came across the portrait of him painted by Marie-Victoire Lemoine, on Pinterest. The full-time executive assistant—and part-time romance novelist—was browsing French art for her living room wall when she discovered Zamor, a black man who lived in 18th-century France. That portrait led to a three-book fictional series called The Last Favorite’s Page, of which the first book, The Greatest Thing, is set to release in October 2023.
“Pinterest is great because there’s no pressure to engage,” says Flinn. “On any other social media site, just looking and not engaging makes you a lurker—which sounds bad from the outset—but on Pinterest anyone can just share or browse.”
Cruising past the portrait of Louis-Benoit, something in his eyes caused her to back up and click on the link. That was when she learned about Zamor, the personal servant—or page—who lived in the Palace of Versailles during the reigns of Louis XV and Louis XVI. He’s best known as the traitor who helped send Madame Jeanne du Barry (former mistress of King Louis XV) to the guillotine during the French Revolution.
Admitting she knew little about the history of black people on mainland France in the 18th century, Flinn wondered if others might be as curious about the period or if they’d even be interested at all. She decided to pen Véronique’s Journey and Véronique’s Moon, parallel stories based on a character from the Zamor series. Though she didn’t want to take too much time from the main story, Flinn felt there was a need to introduce readers to the unexplored subject matter. Already, Véronique’s Journey has won an IPPY (Independent Book Publishing Award). Véronique’s Moon, set to release July 2023, ends just after the character’s introduction to Louis-Benoit Zamor.
“I’m excited that other people are as interested in what was happening with black people during that time as I am. We see these images on social media and rarely put a story to the faces. Before seeing that portrait I never even considered writing a historical novel but something about this man’s eyes opened up a whole new world for me. That’s the beauty of visual arts – they touch us in different ways. I’ve seen many portraits of people of that time but seeing Zamor’s face was, instantly, like looking at an old friend. I felt compelled to continue in response, one artist to another.”
Coincidences kept Flinn writing when doubt told her she had no business writing historical fiction. Called to tap into her imagination to fill in the gaps, more than once she found her made-up assumptions bolstered by truths. One prime example was Zamor’s name. Knowing that he was born enslaved in India, she was sure Louis-Benoit Zamor wasn’t his real name. Then she found out Madame du Barry was a close friend of the writer Voltaire, who famously penned a play about a slave named Zamor who becomes an obedient Christian. On the heels of that, the notes of a historian willing to share his information seemed to corroborate that du Barry gave him his first name, as well. Add to that, the common practice of baptizing children after their godparent who, in Zamor’s case, was King Louis XV, fit the piece of the puzzle. It was a little thing but it kept her going.
Throughout the process, Flinn was often overwhelmed by the complexity of information and laws regarding slavery in the 18th century. Due to a language barrier (twenty-year old French didn’t take her far), she couldn’t rely on French texts and leaned heavily on people to translate, including staff at the National Library of France. It quickly became obvious the information simply didn’t exist. It was at those times, when it seemed she’d hit a brick wall, that a tiny nugget would drop into her lap, encouraging her to proceed. Unaccustomed to biographical fiction, she constantly had to remind herself to approach the story as the fiction it was, without strict adherence to facts; that she was a novelist and not a historian.
“I discovered Lemoine and Zamor—the artist and her subject—both died in 1820. For the average person that means nothing, but to a writer, those little links stand out. They were unique individuals: he was a black man who freed himself of the status quo and she was a female artist – both of them refusing to stay in the lane of their station in life. Both, somehow, survived the Revolution.”
The author says she’s hesitant to browse as freely on Pinterest now—restricting herself to recipes—out of fear the algorithm will present her with another portrait, spurring another three-year journey to find the story behind a face.
“It feels like a responsibility when you’re writing about a real person. Lemoine gave it to us when she painted that portrait – imploring us to look and see. That’s what art does.”
Visit http://gildedorangebooks.com to learn more.
Patti Flinn, Gilded Orange Books, https://www.gildedorangebooks.com, 1 6145758178, [email protected]
SOURCE Gilded Orange Books