Dystopian novel set in SOUTH EAST FRANCE
Talking Location With author Julie Maloney – Bavaria (and artist Käthe Kollwitz)
10th April 2018
#TalkingLocationWith…. author Julie Maloney, who has part set her debut novel “A Matter of Chance” in Bavaria
The idea to travel to Germany to research my debut novel began while cruising along on a highway near my home, 35 miles outside of New York City. Months earlier, I had viewed a drawing by Germany’s most revered artist—Käthe Kollwitz—on a trip to the Morgan Library in the heart of the city. It haunted me so that I knew I had to see more work by Kollwitz.
Four months later, my husband and I were on our way to Cologne. I was excited at the prospect of visiting the Käthe Kollwitz Museum. Two museums—one in Berlin and the other in Cologne—are dedicated solely to this artist’s work. We stayed at the exquisite Excelsior Hotel Ernst—a perfect location to walk to the Dom, an architectural masterpiece. But it was the museum, a few blocks away that brought tears to my eyes.
The Käthe Kollwitz Museum is small and intimate. Upon entering, I was greeted by a full size black and white photo of the great artist, herself. At the time of our visit, my husband and I were the only guests. For hours, I browsed, took photos, stopped, stared, sat, stood, and experienced the pleasure of seeing the original work of a master. To read about a great artist is one thing. To see the drawings up close…another. I bought several beautiful books in the gift shop, all written in German, with glossy images of Kollwitz’s work. I handpicked a large collection of postcards to keep—not to send—depicting many of the images in the exhibit.
While writing “A Matter of Chance,” I often referred to the drawings. Sometimes, I would simply sit and turn the pages from the books I had purchased, and study them. I tried to see what Kollwitz saw, but of course, how could I? My protagonist, Maddy Stewart, unleashes her passion to draw and paint, only after she suffers a tragic loss—the kidnapping of her 8-year-old child. Kollwitz painted her way through personal grief as both her son and her grandson, both named Peter, died fighting in two different wars. She endured personal pain throughout her life, pausing only to fight the political and social atrocities of her time. Although Maddy finds solace in her art, she wondered if the suffering she endured over the disappearance of her child—for five years—forced her to discover her own gifts, even as they fell onto the canvas amid heartbreaking grief. While Kollwitz depicted accessible images of the lost and forlorn, Maddy’s work evolves over the story’s timeline from blatant hideousness to hints of comfort.
Leaving Cologne, we drove to Heidelberg and stayed at the famous Zum Ritter Hotel, a distinctively old but charming hotel with breakfast served each morning. I spent an evening sitting with the clerk at the front desk, talking about his life growing up in the countryside. “I can still remember the smell of the pigs,” he said. (I used this line in my novel!) On a stroll around Heidelberg, we stopped at the Hackteufel cafe for lunch. As my imagination soared, I chose this location for where Rudy and Hilda Haydn would meet—two main characters whom the reader must decide whether to hate or to crack open the door to compassion.
On a drive accompanied by a delightful picnic bag full of overflowing sandwiches and sumptuous pastries—do not miss out on the German sweets—we stopped at the Forggensee to swim in this stunningly serene lake. The surreal landscape encourages everyone who drives by to stop and relax. With the Alps as the backdrop, nothing short of magic remains with me when I think of this afternoon. Families were sunbathing and swimming. As we sat quietly and watched everyone playing peacefully, my mind mulled over the possibilities of how “A Matter of Chance” could find its way to a satisfying ending. We continued on and then I found it…the home on a brilliant piece of green landscape down a winding path where my precious Vinni, the child gone missing . . . would have a chance.
JULIE MALONEY is the author of “A Matter of Chance” (April 10, 2018, She Writes Press). She is the founder/director of Women Reading Aloud, a non-profit organization devoted to promoting women writers. She is a trained workshop leader in the Amherst Writers and Artists Method and holds an MFA from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She is a former dancer, choreographer and artistic director of the Julie Maloney Dance Company in New York City. Her book of poems, “Private Landscape,” was published by Arseya Press. Her poems have appeared in many journals, such as Tiferet, WomenKin, Paterson Literary Review and others. She is a frequent speaker on “Writing as a Life Tool.” As director of Women Reading Aloud, she leads writing workshops throughout the year. Maloney will return to the island of Alonnisos in September 2018 to lead her eighth international writer’s retreat in Greece. In 2017, she led her second writer’s retreat in the south of France.
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