Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Review of The Book of Lost Fragrances and Q&A with M.J. Rose

Q&A with MJ Rose
The Book of Lost Fragrances

MJ first of all I have to admit that I’m a huge fan of yours I’ve read all of your Butterfield Institute series and have loved each of your last three The Reincarnationist, The Memorist, and The Hypnotist. So tell us a little about this next novel The Book of Lost Fragrances.

Thank you so so much.

I was reading about Cleopatra (69 BCE to 30BCE), who was the last pharaoh of Ancient Egypt, and found she was fascinated with and some say obsessed by scent. Marc Anthony built her a fragrance factory where he planted now extinct flora and fauna including groves of balsam trees  (important in the creation of perfume at the time) confiscated from Herod.

In the 1980s a team of Italian and Israeli archaeologists believe they unearthed the factory at the south end of the Dead Sea, 30 km from Ein Gedi. Residues of ancient perfumes along with seats where customers received beauty treatments were found there.

Cleopatra was said to have kept a recipe book for her perfumes, entitled Cleopatra gynaeciarum libri. The book has been described in writings by historians Dioscorides, Homer and Pliny the Elder. No known copy of the book exists today.

When I read that I knew I had the idea for the novel.

Jac L'Etoile has always been haunted by the past, her memories infused with the exotic scents that she grew up surrounded by as the heir to a storied French perfume company. In order to flee the pain of those remembrances--and of her mother's suicide--she moved to America. Now, fourteen years later she and her brother have inherited the company along with it's financial problems. But when Robbie hints at an earth-shattering discovery in the family archives and then suddenly goes missing--leaving a dead body in his wake--Jac is plunged into a world she thought she'd left behind.

Back in Paris to investigate her brother's disappearance, Jac becomes haunted by the legend the House of L'Etoile has been espousing since 1799. Is there a scent that can unlock the mystery of reincarnation - or is it just another dream infused perfume?

The Book of Lost Fragrances fuses history, passion, and suspense, moving from Cleopatra's Egypt and the terrors of revolutionary France to Tibet's battle with China and the glamour of modern-day Paris. Jac's quest for the ancient perfume someone is willing to kill for becomes the key to understanding her own troubled past.

You are a true advocate for authors, founding the first marketing company for authors AuthorBuzz.com which I use as a go to tool for what to look for in new releases and contests too, and which my library puts a link to every weekday on their dear author emails you’ve also co-written the marketing book Buzz your Book and it’s a wonderful place to go for authors who have questions that a true veteran can help with.

Can you tell us what precipitated this, was it your own experience in publishing or something else.

I had been in advertising for more than a decade as the creative director of a top NYC firm, when in 1999 when my first book sold. I started working with my publisher and discovered not only how they marketed books but also how uninvolved authors were in the process. I thought both parts of the equation needed some help.
That led to me teaching authors marketing for the next year years as well as writing two non fiction books for authors. All of which led me to start AuthorBuzz in 2005.
By then it was more clear than ever that authors wanted to invest in their own books, and publishers wanted them to and both of them needed a reputable way to do it. Its turned out that as many publishers use it as authors – but what matters to me about it – is that its become a trusted resource in the industry and authors know that since I am one of them, we won’t sell something ever just to sell it.

Tell us a little about what led you to become an author.
I was always a reader and I think that’s probably what leads most of use to write. I also am a very anxious person and when I write I can forget about all the things there are in my real world to worry about. But the actual path was pretty round about. I wanted to be a painter and went to art school which led to me being an art director at an ad agency which led to me switching and becoming a copy writer at the ad agency. I wound up being pretty successful fairly quickly. Needing a new challenge I started writing screenplays. That somehow led to a novel, a great agent and rave rejections.

In your bio it says that one of the reasons you self published your first novel Lip Service is that it didn’t fit in one genre, now in the land of multi-genred reads all the time that should never be a problem. And on that note how do you feel about being put on a genre shelf now.
Genres are constricting and I really don’t like them and never have. I just want to read good books… and I just want to write them. I still make up my own genres. The Book of Lost Fragrances is historical fiction/suspense with a touch of the paranormal thrown in.
Walk us through a typical day with MJ Rose
I try to get up before six thirty and no matter how hard I try to start writing right way, I don’t. I waste at least an hour reading email and Twitter and the NYT. Then once I settle down I write for an two hours and then break to take a 45 minute walk or go swimming. Then errands and back at the computer by about 3 or 4 till 6 when I break again for wine!!! and dinner.
If I’m in the thick of a book or there’s a lot of AuthorBuzz piling up, after dinner I’ll go back to work and often work till midnight.
If I’m not doing that I love to read and watch movies. It’s really pretty boring when I write it down.
Somewhere in there is a lot of snug time with the dog, some great conversations with my husband or friends, looking at as many beautiful things as I can every day and getting out of the house and away from the computer as much as possible.

When you start a novel do you know how it ends.
Absolutely. I have to know the end. But that doesn’t mean it won’t change. For me writing a book is a journey. I need to know where I’m starting and where I’m going. The stuff in the middle is the fun part.

Do you have any upcoming B&N signings, I’m sure your fans here would love to meet you in person.
Yes totally. Here’s my tour schedule.
Thank you so much M J for answering my questions and letting your fans and me too a little inside your world.
Good luck with the novel.

Here's my review of the novel

Jac L’Etoile comes from a long line of perfumers, she can personally trace the ancestry back centuries and there’s even a myth that they go back longer still. But she gave up the dream of creating scents with the death of her mother. She’d always been plagued by fragments of past lives but the episodes since bordered on psychotic, the treatments she was subjected to were more like torture and without the help of Malachi Samuels of the famed Phoenix Society she might have gone mad. Her brother Robbie is the perfumer, holding the fragile business together by mere threads and her idea of selling their signature scents to pay off debtors is not going over well.
Robbie has ideas of his own and they don’t include selling anything except perhaps a family legend, he’s found some ancient pot shards and is hoping that revealing the hieroglyphics will show him the formula his ancestor is said to have brought back from  Egypt, to help him he asks long time friend and Jac’s ex-lover Griffin North who’s an expert in the field.
Robbie and the artifacts have turned up missing with a dead man in the lab which brings Jac rushing to Paris to find him. But being in Paris brings troubles of it’s own for Jac who’s visions are returning and who finds herself allied with two men from her past, one her savior Malachi and one ex-love Griffin who it seems has never left her heart or her thoughts. And more troubling than that there are forces against them that’s still a mystery to Jac and everyone else as well.

As always the work of M.J. Rose is exceptional, she takes a bit of mystery, a piece of legend and slice of reality and turns it into a finished product that’s both contemporary and literary with a portion that’s macabre and paranormal. Her storyline is one she’s revisited with each previous novel dealing with reincarnation but she gives each one a different set of realities. Her narrative is a symphony of chimera and realism where her research is evident in every sentence I read. She presented me with characters some that I came to know as friends and others who were on the fence, but each one she gave a three dimensional visage that made them all the more real. Her protagonist Jac is complex and fragile yet with tensile strength and her supporting characters all compliment Jac and each other and become an essential piece in this puzzle of a mystery that kept me reading til the wee hours. Combining the edge of your seat of a thriller with the flow of a drama and the heart of a love story I know I’ll return to read this over and over again, in fact it’s one of those novels where a re-read is beneficial and the nuances you miss the first time will become more relevant with each renewed look. This is the perfect novel for your permanent shelf and is perfect for gift giving as well. The glossary in the back is reason enough to buy the book as it gives details on the authors research and is ripe with pictures from her journeys.
Thank you Ms. Rose for an energizing adventure and I look forward to my next one with you.