- a genealogist turned award-winning author who brings her ancestors to life.
Readers, thanks for checking out another Author Spotlight Interview. Let’s give a good, hearty welcome to this week’s guest!
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 expediting print jobs and collecting debts 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 down the back roads of France to the unsung principality of Salm where superstitions were part of everyday life. The myths and legends of the Renaissance and the grit of the people steadfast in faith as war surrounded them enveloped Juliette. Writing about it was the only way she could get it out of her mind.
Juliette’s debut novel, From the Drop of Heaven, won the 2021 Gold Medal in the Royal Palm Literary Awards for unpublished historical fiction.
Since her two children have grown and have families of their own, Juliette lives in Western Pennsylvania with her husband. She enjoys painting and tending to a pollinator garden. Connect with her online if you want to know more about legends or life during the Renaissance.
Juliette, thanks for agreeing to be here today. Most author spotlight interviews start off with the boring stuff, but I know what readers REALLY want to know.
If you could have any pet (real/fantasy/no-allergies/no worries about feeding it) what would it be?
I already had the very best pet in the world, my little buddy, Casper. He went everywhere with my husband and me, and we loved him like a child. But he died last year. Just writing this is making me tear up. I haven’t had the heart to even change my profile picture.
He was such a character and he loved to ride motorcycles.
I think wanting more time with a beloved pet is always the right answer. Sending hugs!
What do you write? And how did you get started?
I was a software engineer with no ambition to write until I found my 13th-generation great-grandmother. I am a genealogist and I found this ancestor whose history was so shocking that I couldn’t get her out of my mind, and I decided that I had to write about her life.
So much historical evidence exists about the Renaissance that even though some of the topics were difficult to grasp, writing the book was enjoyable. The problem was how to stop writing about her. I had written over 180,000 words before I decided I had to stop and start cutting to get the book into a manageable size.
It’s always great when history and family can combine to inspire new tales.
What do you like to read?
While I can always be found leafing through a cookbook, I love to learn something from the books that I read. I started reading historical fiction as a child with the John Jakes series. I remember one of my history teachers used to toss out US history trivia for extra credit. I knew the trivia better than the required learning, but the way the material was presented in the history books was boring, whereas John Jakes took me on adventures and I didn’t realize I was learning.
I also enjoy paranormal or horror especially if they have a touch of religion. For me, that gives it a more ominous air.
So true! The best non-fiction for me (or even fiction), are the ones where I learn something without it feeling like work.
Do you snack when you write/edit?
Sometimes. I love fresh fruit and dark chocolate.
Oooh! I’m a dark chocolate fan, myself. Although, there are those mandarin oranges that I really should eat, sooner rather than later.
Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that doesn’t work for you
I knew that I should make an outline when I started, but I liked to just write what I wanted and see where the characters took me. That’s how I ended up with such a long book. I’m not sure if I would have thought of some of the storylines had I outlined but I probably wouldn’t have had to edit so much.
That’s always the struggle! Letting the story have enough room to breathe, but having enough of a direction to go that you don’t lose the rest of your days to editing.
Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice they can pry out of your cold, dead hands
Use beta readers.
I love beta readers. My book has a lot of religion, and in my view, religion is very personal. I didn’t want to offend anyone, yet I had to be true to the historical facts. So I had to walk a tightrope.
So true! Without early readers to give feedback, it’s hard to create a story that people outside of your head can follow as well. While some subjects are prone to offend people, making sure that the subjects are covered in a respectful way is the best one can do to mitigate that.
What do you drink when you write/edit?
I drink coffee with French vanilla creamer or unsweetened iced tea almost exclusively. Maybe it’s the caffeine that keeps me going.
Very classic choices there! I’m one of those weird people who drink neither tea nor coffee, so I’ve gotta get my caffeine through chocolate.
Shameless Self-Promotion time!
What defense is there to superstition?
It’s 1582, a time when books are banned, and witches live next door. Citizens of the European principality of Salm are free to pray the way they want. However, both Catholic and Protestant fanatics surrounding them believe theirs is the only truth. Everyone is a heretic to one side or the other. Martin, an accused seditionist, seeks safety in Salm, and he teaches Nicolas, the mayor’s son, to read. Though Nicolas knows Martin’s books are banned, he cannot resist them.
Catherine Cathillon and her family live in isolation as her father’s mistrust of the church prevents her from joining the community. A chance meeting with Nicolas changes everything. He reads to Catherine, and when she learns what life is like outside their farm, she begs him to teach her to read. But class differences force them to meet in secret. During the lessons, they fall in love, but their romance is exposed, and spurned lovers swear revenge.
Lovelorn vengeance is one thing, but when one of the banned books is found in Nicolas’s shop, Catherine realizes that her father was right. Their true enemy is the man charged with saving their souls, and he will stop at nothing to reinforce his position of power.