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On Memory and Fiction: Part 10

(Read Part 9 here.)

Sandra Gulland is the wildly popular author of a trilogy of novels about Josephine Bonaparte: The Many Lives and Secret Sorrows of Josephine B., Tales of Passion, Tales of Woe, and The Last Great Dance on Earth. She spent eight years researching her latest release: Mistress of the Sun.

MJR: What are some of the lessons you've learned about research and memory and history in all the years you've spent studying the past?

Gulland: One realization that was important for me in delving into history — an epiphany, really — came while I was feeding my horse. I realized that what I was doing was timeless. But for his height, my horse was not much different from a horse in the 17th century — or the third century, for that matter. As for myself, I might be taller than a woman in the past, and clothed differently, and my constellation of beliefs and customs somewhat different, but my body and soul were basically the same, and what I was doing — feeding a horse — had been done for centuries before. That was the key that opened the door for me, helped me to make myself at home in a world of the past.

MJR: Being at home in that past… is it magic? The collective unconscious? Reincarnation? Or just old-fashioned hard work?

Gulland: I don't believe in a collective unconscious, but I don't disbelieve it, either. I do, however, envy writers who claim a book was channeled, that all they had to do was take notes from the voices speaking through them. If only it were so easy!

There is something magical about creation, and we all do whatever it takes to court the illusive muse. Writing my first novel about Josephine, I felt that she was looking over my shoulder approvingly — I liked that. (For the second and third, I sensed I was on my own. "She's busy," I told myself, somewhat sadly.)

÷ ÷ ÷

Visit M. J. Rose at her website ( or read her daily blog ( on reincarnation facts, philosophy, and curiosities. Her most recent novel, The Memorist, is an Indie Next pick.

Books mentioned in this post

  1. The Memorist
    Used Hardcover $2.75
  2. Many Lives & Secret Sorrows of Josephine Used Trade Paper $0.95
  3. Tales of Passion, Tales of Woe Used Trade Paper $1.48
  4. The Last Great Dance on Earth: A Novel Used Trade Paper $2.63

M. J. Rose is the author of The Memorist

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