Happy Sunday, friends! Today, I present a special, new, segment here on my blog, Interview with an Author. I had the absolute pleasure of working with Jeannie Mobley of the May 2020 release The Jewel Thief for the below interview. And, Jeannie has generously offered to partner with me for a giveaway for one signed copy of her book! Visit my Instagram page for your chance to enter! This is part one of two so, let’s dive in!
The below answers are written from the author, Jeannie Mobley’s perspective. The questions in bold are written as I asked them to Jeannie.
What was your inspiration for The Jewel Thief?
The idea came to me after I read The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt. I listened to the audio book, and finished it about twenty minutes before getting to work. In that twenty minutes, I reflected on how I’ve always loved books that center on an artwork, and wondered why I had never written one. I didn’t want to write about a painting, that’s been done quite a bit, so I started considering other options. By the time I got to work, I was thinking about the Hope Diamond, so on my lunch break, I googled it. I thought I’d be writing about its curse. Instead, I happened on the problem of the French Blue, and the seemingly impossible demand Louis made when he commanded it be cut in the brilliant cut, and I knew I’d found the central problem of my novel.
What was the most challenging part of writing The Jewel Thief?
I think it was clarifying Juliette’s motivation. Her reasons for wanting to see her father’s work through to completion are complex, and she doesn’t fully understand them herself, which I think is fairly realistic—many of us do things for a tangle of reasons. But conveying that to the reader, and even keeping things straight myself was hard. I had many early readers say, “I don’t see why she did that,” and I would try to explain and see that I had it too complicated and I needed to make her purpose clearer, to both the reader and to Juliette.
Which came first, the characters, the setting, or something else? Essentially, what was the spark that started this project? What is your writing process like? Do you like to plan your plots out with outlines or just write whatever comes to mind in the moment?
As I mentioned above, the original spark was the problem of cutting the diamond. I’m mostly a “pantser” instead of a “plotter” when I write, but I often do start with a period of deep thinking about the elements I want in a story. For this one, I knew I wanted a female protagonist, and I wanted to build on the politics and vanity of Louis XIV. As I read up on the history, I also knew I wanted to include a Jewish gem cutter and expose the social injustice that Jews faced in Europe in that era.
My writing process tends to be to pick out the key elements that I want in a story, and the really juicy bits of the historical setting that I can build on. I conceptualize few key moments or turning points in the story, and then I take off and start writing, aiming for those key moments. It’s a bit like sailing the ocean in a little boat. I know where the islands are that I’m aiming for, but I’m sailing through a lot of unknown on the way, and I just take it as it comes.
How long did this story live in your mind before it was published?
The idea of this book came to me late in 2014, but I was promoting another book and didn’t start writing it for a few months. I wrote the first draft in 2015, but before anything happened with it, life got complicated and I pulled it back. Then I sold a different book (Bobby Lee Claremont and the Criminal Element) and turned my attention to that book until it came out in 2017. So I didn’t come back to this manuscript in any serious way until early 2018, and after that, things moved pretty quickly (believe it or not, two years from going on submission to release is quickly in the publishing industry.)
Was anything major changed from the first draft to the published edition?
The romance element with Rene went through a lot of shifts. It was there in the first draft, then mostly removed in later drafts, then put back in even more than before in the final drafts. I laughed when my editor said she wanted that built up, because it felt like I was coming full circle.
If you could write a sequel to The Jewel Thief, would you want to? Why or why not? What are you working on next?
Funny that you should ask, because that’s what I’m doing right now (or will be, as soon as I finish this interview.) But I’m not writing a conventional sequel. Juliette and Rene will not be back. I think that characters should be free to pursue their own lives after a book finishes and stop being tortured by the author (because let’s face it, being the protagonist in a book is hardly fun and games. Juliette’s earned a quiet retirement!)
The one character that will continue on in the sequel will be the diamond, which was stolen during the French Revolution and never recovered. That’s the story of the second book, 120 years later the first, when the diamond is stolen and smuggled to England by a lowly inn keeper’s daughter (and a drool-worthy revolutionary, of course.) Look for that in fall 2021.
Look out for Part II of this interview coming later today where you can learn more about Jeannie’s writing process, reading preferences, and the inside scoop on her latest work.