Interview with Nicole Galland

Last week I read and just loved Nicole Galland's Godiva, her seemingly-light but surprisingly-meaty historical novel of 11th century royals, taxes, friendship, and a naked horseride. I'm thrilled to share my interview with Nicole Galland so please read on to learn more about her, her newest novel, and what she does when she's not writing fiction.

What was the plot of your very first piece of fiction?

When I was 10, I wrote a story about a girl in colonial Massachusetts, but I haven’t the foggiest memory of what she was doing. When Star Wars (the first one – the REAL one) came out, I was 12, and of course I started writing sci-fi/fantasy, classic hero’s-journey stuff, deeply mythical and probably very unoriginal. All hand-written in my teeny-tiny handwriting, hundreds of pages of brilliant adolescent dreck. I still have it somewhere.

Otherwise, I think the first plot was what became The Fool’s Tale, which I began in college but did not finish for another 14 years. In the interim – during those 14 years, I mean – I wrote a screenplay that pre-dated Shakespeare in Love but was 80 percent identical to it, as well as a screenplay based on my grandparents’ relationships, which won me a screenwriting award and kick-started my writing career.

Do you have any writing rituals or routines?

In my ideal world (which I seldom inhabit), I write my first draft in about 3 months, working 18 hours a day, 7 days a week. Then I take my time with rewrites. Even in the real (non-ideal) world, I need long daily stretches for my first drafts. I’ve moved around so much over the past decade, it’s hard to settle into a real routine, so every book is different. There’s a certain pattern to the intersection of research and writing, more research and rewriting, but it’s hard to put it into words.

Was Godiva the original title of your book?

No, actually. Once upon a time, when it was a very, very different kind of novel, I used the working title “The Abbess Variations.” By the time it was finished, however, “Godiva” seemed like the easiest title, since it was a familiar name.

How did you come across Godiva's story, and what prompted you to turn her into the heroine of your next novel?

I was originally writing what I thought would be a novel about Edgiva, the Abbess of Leominster – who is now the secondary lead in the novel. While I was doing background research, I discovered that the patron of Edgiva’s abbey was Earl Leofric of Mercia, best known for being the husband of Godiva-who-rode-naked-through-the-streets-of-Coventry. Initially as a little mental break from the Edgiva research, I indulged in checking out, online, some info about Godiva... And realized there was a very interesting story there. The next day I went into the city, to the New York Public Library, and did more in depth research. Then it was a no brainer: Godiva had to tell her story. She quickly elbowed Edgiva out of the way and became not only a part of the story, but the leading role.

As you were writing Godiva, was there a particular scene or character that surprised you?

I love questions like this! It shows an understanding of what it’s like to be a writer ;-). I think both Leofric and Sweyn, the two main male characters. Leofric in particular was a pleasant surprise. I was concerned at first that we would just be sort of in the way, a technical necessity, and somewhat inconvenient to Godiva’s personality... But in the end, their relationship, and his attitude in general, actually accentuated her particular qualities.

When you’re not writing, what do you like to do?

Indulge in nature and/or Shakespeare. My friend Chelsea McCarthy and I started a theatre troupe called Shakespeare for the Masses – we adapt and direct very irreverent staged readings of Shakespeare’s plays, and with a troupe of dedicated and very indulgent actors, we stage them, for free, at the Vineyard Playhouse on Martha’s Vineyard. The goal, which I think we’ve been pretty successful at, is to get Shakespeare-phobes to come and enjoy themselves. We’ve done about 23 plays in the past 5 years. So that takes a lot of time.

Otherwise, being in nature, especially with my cute dog or my cute husband. Kayaking, biking, walking, hiking, the usual.

I also do yoga, but more and more often lately, when I am in a class, I find myself thinking, “How ironic is it that these exercises that were developed for pubescent boys training to become celibate monks, are now practiced almost routinely by mature women who are trying to look sexy?”

Read any good books recently?

Oh yes! I LOVED The Orphan’s Master Son, which won the Pulitzer this year. One of those books I cannot stop telling people to read, although it is not light reading. I am also blissfully in the middle of reading, simultaneously, Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder and David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. (This means my current fiction reading is full of chemical compounds.) Most of my other reading is research for projects.

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My thanks to Ms. Galland for her time and thoughtful answers. You can learn more about her and her books at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Comments

  1. Thanks for posting this interview. I love reading authors' thoughts! Shakespeare for the Masses sounds great - wish we had something like that by me!

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    1. I know, I'm dying to go -- I'm going to keep my eye out and see if my wife and I can make a performance sometime. It looks wonderful. I'm just so taken with Galland!

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  2. It's interesting that she started out writing about Edgiva -- maybe that's why the interactions between Godiva and Edgiva were so well done. She sounds like a neat lady -- I love the idea of Shakespeare for the Masses (being one of them myself).

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    1. Agreed -- and I love that that historical connection was authentic and real!

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  3. Those plays sounds like so much fun! I was I could attend one.

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    1. Don't they? I'm keeping an eye on their calendar to see if it is something I can swing someday!

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  4. I ordered this book for the library after seeing it pop on blogs here and there. Probably not one that I'll end up reading, but I'm sure historical fiction fans will appreciate it!

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  5. Ooh, I had missed that you'd interviewed Nicole when I was reading your review of her book. How exciting! I really am excited to try some of her re-tellings and share her love of Shakespeare, so if I'm ever near Martha's Vineyard I'd love to watch her troupe's plays.

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  6. I enjoyed this interview! I never knew that about yoga, too funny. I'll have to check out The Orphan's Master Son. I really enjoyed State of Wonder too.

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