Monday 16 March 2020

Author Spotlight ~ Drēma Drudge

I'm delighted to welcome Drema Drudge to the blog today

 😊 Hi Drēma, welcome to Jaffareadstoo 😊

1. What was your inspiration for writing Victorine?

I took an enrichment college class called The Painted Word that explored novels featuring artists. We read Irving Stone’s Lust for Life and Tracy Chevalier’s Girl with a Pearl Earring. I fell for the genre which I now call art fiction. 

As part of the class, we went on a trip to Chicago’s Art Institute and had to choose a painting to write a story about. I wrote a story about Olga Meerson, a model for Henri Matisse who was, it turned out, also a painter. It ended up being my first story, and it was published by the Louisville Review. 

I saw Victorine Meurent posed as Olympia in Edouard Manet’s painting of the same name in yet another class (I think classes are good for my creativity!) when the professor put up a PowerPoint presentation. I felt like the woman in the painting had something to tell me, and I wanted to keep writing about art, so win/win. 

Just as I’d fallen so deeply into those novels for that class that spoke so beautifully of art that I felt I was living in a painting, I wanted to spend time ins Paris of the mid-19th century writing a novel of my own. The experience was as beautiful as I could have hoped. 

2. What will draw readers into Victorine’s story?

Victorine Meurent was the model for Edouard Manet’s most iconic paintings. But history has forgotten that she was also a painter herself, a good enough one that her work was exhibited at the prestigious Paris Salon several times. In fact, in 1876 her work was accepted, and Manet’s was not. I find that fascinating. 

Her works were thought to be all lost until 2004, when one was recovered. Gradually, three more have surfaced, a fact I had to dig deeply to discover. My favorite of those paintings which has come to light is her self-portrait, the very one shown in the same room where Manet’s would have been, had he been accepted. A self-portrait of someone who has been painted by others so many times is priceless for those with as few facts about the woman as we have: it was how Meurent chose to see herself. We know so little about her historically. When I began writing my novel, I believed that studying her paintings would help fill in the blanks. I believe it did. 

3. Did your research require travel? 

It did! My research took me to Paris, which, let me say, did not break my heart to “have” to visit. I visited the Musee d’Orsay, where I was able to stand in front of Olympia myself and stare to my heart’s content. Then there was Luncheon on the Grass, too, another painting of Manet’s for which Victorine sat. Just soaking up the atmosphere during long lunches in the Luxembourg Gardens and strolling by Notre Dame made me feel I knew what life was like for Victorine all of those years ago. It was magical. 

4. Tell me who your literary influences are. 

Besides the authors of those art novels listed above, Susan Vreeland’s novels are inspirational, being almost exclusively art fiction. What a loss to the literary community her death was. Luncheon of the Boating Party was one of the first books of the genre of art fiction. It remains one of the best. 

W. Somerset Maugham’s Of Human Bondage is another of my favorite books that deals with art obsession. Who could forget the woman he couldn’t get enough of, the one who wrecked his apartment to the point that absolutely nothing could be salvaged? 

My mentor, Sena Jeter Naslund, writes the most amazingly rich historical fiction novels. I can only hope to learn her powers of observation and the precision with which she writes is astounding. She doesn’t give up until she finds le mot juste. 

Then there are others whose writing have mightily affected my style because I have read them so extensively and intensively. Toni Morrison’s novel Beloved taught me how to feel, how to process pain, and how to read more deeply and symbolically. Amy Tan’s novels are masterpieces of place. She transports her readers and immerses them into cultures and times she creates word by word; I desire for my writing to do the same. 

March 17th 2020

Victorine is a compelling rendering of the life of a model working for Edouard Manet in the 1860s, who longed to be a painter in her own right. In this book, you will feel paint flow onto the canvases of Manet, Monet, Degas, Morisot, Stevens, Meurent, and others. You will imagine life on the streets of Paris in all its beauty, harshness, and fragility. And you will see a relationship between painter and model unfold with remarkable clarity and sensitivity. Victorine Meurent s body is the vehicle for Manet s artistic vision, while her robust courage, irreverence and honesty, and her longing for her own agency, shapes the painter s vision. The intimate collaboration between two artists creates life-changing revelations on both sides this dance of color and light complicated, sensuous, and intense. –Eleanor Morse, author of White Dog Fell from the Sky

The model for great impressionist artist, Manet, the sassy, sexy, smart and artistic Victorine is as vivid as his best paintings. Yearning to paint herself, she questions Manet and his artist friends closely annoyingly about what they paint and how they paint it, treating the reader to a sequence of fascinating exchanges about art, its creation and demands. In a gallery of episodes, narrated in the gaudy, evocative voice of the protagonist, author Drema Drudge renders Victorine Meurent from flesh to soul. Applying bold strokes of language, Drudge animates the story of a life lived at high intensity sparkling, inventive, imaginative, ambitious a totally original life. You can'
t help but love them both. –Julie Brickman, author of Two Deserts and What Birds Can Only Whisper

More about Drēma

Drēma Drudge suffers from Stendhal’s Syndrome, the condition in which one becomes overwhelmed in the presence of great art. She attended Spalding University’s MFA in Creative Writing Program where she learned to transform that intensity into fiction. Her first novel, Victorine, comes out March 2020. 

For more about Drēma's writing, art, and travels, please visit her website,, and sign up for her newsletter.

Twitter @dremadrudge

Huge thanks to Drēma for being such a lovely guest today and for sharing her thoughts about her writing and her novel, Victorine which is published tomorrow


  1. Dear Jo and Jaffa,
    Thank you so very much for hosting me on your blog! What an honor on my book birthday!

    1. You're very welcome. Thank you for being such a lovely guest x


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