Launch: Jules Larimore’s The Muse of Freedom

INTERVIEW BY KEIRA MORGAN

Jules Larimore has been writing nonfiction for over 15 years. The Muse of Freedom, which deals with a character and locale close to her heart, is her first published novel. Its lush language and rich setting will carry readers to a little-known time-period and area of France—the 17th-century Cévennes mountains of Languedoc.

Jules and I met at a Historical Novel Society conference. Our shared fascination with France’s medieval and Renaissance past drew us together. We are now part of an authors’ collaboration on Facebook, France’s Splendid Centuries, where she shares more about her passion for this period and era.

How would you describe this book and its themes in a couple of sentences?

In the mysterious Cévennes mountains of Languedoc, France, 1695, a dangerous legacy of secrets torments Jehan Bondurant, a young noble apothecary stolen as a child from Huguenot parents. He journeys to the Gorges du Tarn where he discovers his muse, a free-spirited, mystic, holy woman who reveals ancient healing practices and spiritual mysteries, inspiring his quest for freedom. But when Louis XIV’s persecutions force Jehan to decide where his loyalties lie, he must make a fateful decision—recreant, rebel, or refugee?

Why did you choose this period of history?

The period chose me, actually. I’ve always had a love for the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. I have felt a calling for over twenty years to write a story inspired by Jean Pierre Bondurant dit Cougoussac, a French Huguenot ancestor—my 7th great grandfather. Once I dove into the research, I became utterly fascinated with this overlooked period in the late 17th century that led up to the Camisard War. I blended it with Cévenole magic lore into a coming-of-age story and family saga of courage, tenacity, and the power of love. I wrote it as an adventure to transport the reader into a thrilling and obscure slice of French history.

What made you choose the setting for this book?

The Cévennes mountains region of Southern France was the homeland of Jean Pierre Bondurant. It is the perfect setting for the story for it is resplendent and remote—a wild area of mountains, causses (plateaus), and dramatic river gorges. Dotted with medieval villages and towns built atop old Roman and Gabali Celtae settlements, the geography becomes a character interacting with and shaping the human characters.

Which character challenged you the most?

My main character, Jehan, was most challenging since he experienced complex, rapidly evolving emotions. The state had forcibly held him in a Dominican prieuré from seven to 18, because of Louis XIV’s laws concerning children of Huguenot parents who refused to convert. My goal was to show the evolution of a traumatized young man who, upon his release at 18, is very naïve. Since his parents have already died, he is left to unravel the secrets they left behind. He believes his parents abandoned him. He discovers that the world outside the prieuré is filled with divisiveness and persecutions. Nor does he fit in with either the Catholics or the Huguenots—as French Protestants were called—since he lives under the dangerous stigma of being a nouveau converti. I wanted to show his struggles and challenges in his new life as he unravels its secrets and finds the guidance he needs.

What inspired you to start writing?

For over fifteen years, I’ve written narrative nonfiction articles for blogs and magazines. My previous career in marketing offered an outlet for creative writing. I promoted brands by romancing them with mystery, excitement, and remoteness from everyday life. I have intended to write this novel for nearly 20 years and had worked on outlining and researching it. Three years ago, a chronic health challenge forced me to stop working full time. The blessing in it was the opportunity to finally begin this novel. After a few years of master classes, workshops, and working weekly with a fantastic critique partner, I refined my manuscript and sent it to an editor.

What kinds of research did you do for this story?

I began my research by organizing genealogical information that my uncle had done and located a series of books written on the history of the Bondurant family. Then, I visited Jean Pierre Bondurant’s hometown twice. On the second trip, I toured one of his homes with the current owner. He offered a previously undisclosed insight about the house, making for an intriguing secret that I reveal in the novel.

I also read many primary sources. In district archives—fortunately, digitized in France—I located old records from both local notaries and the Dominicans. Yet, I felt there was more I wasn’t finding. I then contacted Marie-Lucy Dumas, a historian who published a history of Jean Pierre’s hometown, Genolhac, France, who graciously sold me digital copies of her books. These two volumes compiled most of the primary sources and archives that exist pertaining to the town. I also connected with a French cousin who shared old documents I had not discovered.

I found many secondary sources from the late 17th and early 18th centuries via museum websites, Gallica, Gutenberg, Google books, and, yes, even the infamous Internet Archive. Websites for the Parc National des Cévennes, and regional naturalists, provided wonderful information about flora and fauna. Some of the most complete information I came across was in academic articles and books available through JSTOR and Academia.edu from a few specialized historians.

What is your next project and how far advanced is it?

Next, I will write two more volumes in the series to complete the story of Jehan Bondurant and his muse. I have finished 70% of the research and a draft outline. Learning the ropes of book launching has taken much of my time recently, but I will begin the writing soon. Once I have written these books, which I hope to finish fairly quickly, I plan to work on a Merovingian story set in the Cévennes.

What is the last great book you read?

That would be The Prophet’s Wife by Libbie Grant, (Olivia Hawker).

The Muse of Freedom launches on 13 September and is on presale now.

 

HNS Sponsored Author Interviews are paid for by authors or their publishers. Interviews are commissioned by HNS.


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