Launch: Juliette Godot’s From The Drop of Heaven
INTERVIEW BY LESLIE S. LOWE
Always the history nerd, Juliette Godot has been working on her genealogy since childhood. Though she never found any royal blood, she did find many noteworthy characters. Juliette spent too many years at a hardware co-op before dropping out of the daily grind and going back to school. Upon graduation, she landed a software engineering position at Carnegie Mellon University and spent the next fifteen years battling deadlines and traffic. By then, she had over 40,000 ancestors cataloged, but she wanted to know more than just names on the family tree.
The quest to find her roots led her to Salm, France, where superstitions were part of everyday life. Juliette was enveloped by the myths and legends of the Renaissance and the grit of the people steadfast in faith as war surrounded them. After winning the 2021 Gold Medal in the Royal Palm Literary Awards for unpublished historical fiction, her debut novel, From the Drop of Heaven, was picked up by Sunbury Press and has just been released.
How would you describe this book and its themes in a couple of sentences?
It’s 1582. Banned books in tow, Martin, an accused seditionist, narrowly escapes the pyre and finds safety with Nicolas’s family. When Nicolas and his love, Catherine, are caught with the books, all three of them are plunged into a fight for their lives. The story is based on my family tree.
What inspired and attracted you to writing historical fiction?
My hobby is genealogy and I found an ancestor with such a shocking life that I couldn’t get her out of my mind. I decided her story needed to be told, but writing historical fiction was much harder than I thought. The research was so fascinating that I kept working on it and came to love it. I traveled to France, took classes on writing and grammar, joined critique groups, and eventually, I finished the book.
Will there be a sequel?
One of my POV characters had an interesting background and her grandson is a minor character in this book. A lot of their backstories landed on the editing floor in a prior version. Both have complex backgrounds and I’ve thought of a twist that I’ve never seen in a novel before.
Does any part of your own life experiences connect with any character or events in the story?
My book is set during the French Renaissance, a period in history when religion ruled the day. Growing up next to my grandparents’ farm, along with my Catholic upbringing, gave me a lot of situations that I could use. I wanted my book to be as true to life as I could make it but I also realize that religion is very personal. I tried to walk the tightrope and not offend anyone.
Is there a key historical event you found in researching that inspired you to write this story to portray a key message?
Yes. My twelfth-generation grandparent’s ancestral record was the inspiration for the book. In fact, the title of the book, From the Drop of Heaven, is the English translation of their name, de la Goutte de Paradis. If I hadn’t found these grandparents, I would never have written a book at all. The message is that though times change, people don’t.
How did you balance the research with writing the story? Is your genealogy search and travel to Salm part of the story or setting of the story?
My cousin whom I had met through genealogy was instrumental in the research. We started writing the book together, but we had different visions for the book. She was a journalist and I was a software engineer with no dreams of writing. She finished her book years ago and self-published it, while I kept writing and rewriting. My husband and I traveled to France to meet her. She showed us the areas of interest in the book from Strasbourg to Nancy, France. We went to the lake, saw the mines and forges, and walked the streets of Vacquenoux. I felt like I was breathing the air that my ancient grandparents breathed. It made all the difference.
How do you think the reader will connect with your characters?
I threw my characters into real situations. They have flaws, biases, insecurities, and dreams. They make mistakes and are the product of their environment and the ideas of the day.
Every author has their own publishing journey. Tell me about yours (process, handling rejection, success).
I literally sent hundreds of queries over the years. I would rewrite the book, send out queries, get rejected, and throw the manuscript in the drawer. After only a couple of months, I was at it again. This went on for many years until I lost all confidence that I would ever finish. Yet, Catherine and Nicolas wouldn’t let me quit. When I joined the Oxford Writing Critique Group, someone suggested that I enter the manuscript in the Florida Writers Association Royal Palm Literary Awards. I only entered because I would get a deep critique of the whole book, which is not something you get from a query letter. I was shocked when I won the Gold Medal for unpublished historical fiction. I am sure that award was the catalyst that made Sunbury Press notice my book.
What advice would you give to other aspiring historical writers?
Don’t give up, but don’t self-publish after you get your first rejections. Make your book the best that it can be. Enter contests, join critique groups, get advice, learn to write, and write it better. It’s a lot harder than people think. Throwing the manuscript in the drawer worked to my advantage because I realized where the story had holes when I read it months later.
What is the last great book you read?
I just finished Cold Blows the Wind by Anne Meyrick.
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