By The Proust Center At Jefferson Market Library
“Yes,” says Janet McGiffin, who will be speaking at the Jefferson Market Library August 8 in the Willa Cather Room at 6:00 pm on how she wrote her four-volume Byzantine historical fiction/mystery/Young Adult series while taking a two-year course on Proust’s “In Search of Lost Time” and continuing to study Proust in a Proust Re-readers group at the Jefferson Market Library.
“Proust kept me going—and sane,” she says. “I learned that it’s OK to write for eleven years without a glimpse of a publisher. It’s not Lost Time—Proust wrote for twenty years! I learned it’s OK to write about one character for so long that the book has to be divided into volumes. Proust sent his manuscript to a publisher who said it was like wandering lost in a forest!”
McGiffin’s writing was influenced by Proust’s penetrating insights into human behavior and his jabs at snobbery, elitism, and other human foibles. “Proust showed me how to write about a period of history and bring the characters to life.”
McGiffin wrote a mystery series for Fawcett years ago. This series concerns the eighth-century Byzantine Empress Irini, who, McGiffin believes, poisoned her emperor father-in-law, her husband, two patriarchs, and had her son murdered—all to gain the throne. “She was a fascinating woman who did nothing that male emperors didn’t do,” McGiffin says. Scotland Street Press, her publisher, loved the story. They divided it into four volumes, the first and second being Betrothal & Betrayal, and Poison is a Woman’s Weapon. The last two will come out in February 2024. They are marketing it as Young Adult fiction because the narrator, a seventeen-year-old abbess of a convent where Empress Irini goes on retreat, sets out to find the truth. “Proust says over and over in his many volumes that he wants to find the truth about people. Isn’t that what we all want?”
All are welcome.
Book signing to follow.
The first two books are available at Scotland Street Press (https://www.scotlandstreetpress.com/series/the-empress-irini-series) after August 1, and Barnes and Noble (https://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/%20Empress%20Irini) e-books now and in print form after August 1. The last two volumes will come out in February 2024.
Upcoming Proust Center Events:
July 10th: Encore! Film documentary, “Marcel Proust: A Writer’s Life” (6-7:30pm)
August 8th: Can Reading Proust Make You a Writer? (6-7:30pm)
Book Talk by Jan McGriffin: “The Empress Irini Series”