New Historical Novel Series On An Old Legend is Revealed
Lake County, California
237 years ago this month, on the Island of Martinique, two young girls' lives were forever changed when a fortuneteller prophesied that they were both destined to become queens. One of them, Rose, would indeed enter history as such and remain one of the most famous Empresses the world has ever known. The other, Aimée, would be abducted by pirates and disappear into obscurity. A small part of Aimée's story would eventually be told in a book published in the UK in 1954. Purely by chance in 1971, Zia Wesley read that book and became fascinated. The whole world knew the person Rose grew into, but what really happened to Aimée Dubucq de Rivery? Was the legend about her becoming a Turkish Sultana true? That question stayed with Zia for many years.
Early one morning in 1997 a loud voice woke Zia up saying, "write her story!" After carefully questioning her sanity, Zia began to write. She says, "The story just came pouring out. I wrote as fast as I could for ten hours a day for more than a year. There was no library or Internet access in the remote valley in southern Colorado where I lived." Several years later, when she moved back to California and began to research, she discovered that many of the characters and situations she'd believed she had "invented" were indeed real.
The legend of Aimée Dubucq de Rivery has survived on three continents for more than two hundred years and The Stolen Girl tells the first part of her extraordinary story, her adolescence on the island of Martinique, and her voyage to Paris where all hopes of finding a husband are shattered. Consequently, Aimée decides to become a nun and sets sail for Martinique to visit her family one last time. However, fate had other plans for Aimée; ones foretold years earlier by an African Obeah woman.
Her closest friend and cousin, Rose Tascher de la Pagerie, also born in 1763 on Martinique, leaves the island for Paris to marry a dashing young aristocrat, Vicomte Alexander de Beauharnais. Married life proves to be a great disappointment and none of her dreams come true until the French revolution changes everything.
The journeys of Aimée and Rose comprise the two books that are The Veil and the Crown series: Book 1, The Stolen Girl, and Book 2, The French Sultana.
Jon Stence interviews Zia Wesley about her new book series and the process in writing Aimée Dubucq de Rivery's story.
JS: How did you come about finding the original source for the story of Aimée?
ZIA: There is not one original source and most of what has been written in the Western world simply supports the legends about Aimée. However, the Ottoman Turks carefully recorded the lineages of their sultans and I was able to uncover some interesting information that way. Also, the blue eyes and blonde hair that followed in her line were pretty telling, as there was no other source for that other than Aimée. There were also legends within the harem that were passed down and it was clear that Nakshidil had formerly been called "Namay."
JS: How long did it take to both research and write the story? Was it a continuous process?
ZIA: I began writing in 1997 and wrote at a furious pace for about a year and a half just getting the story down. When I got stuck and wasn't sure what happened next I'd close my eyes and the images or information would appear. After writing hundreds of pages, I realized I didn't know the first thing about the form of a novel, despite the fact I'd read hundreds. Writing is a different story all together than reading. So, I put it down and spent the next few years learning everything I could. Then I began to research in libraries and by about 2004 I was pretty burnt out and discouraged. I'd already written five drafts by then. I put it away and didn't even look at it again until 2011 when I asked myself how I'd feel if someone else wrote a runaway best seller about Aimée that got made into a film. I felt like I'd been punched in the stomach. That's when I buckled down to make it happen.
JS: There are some famous characters in your book, one especially being Aimée's Cousin Rose who would become a well-known historical character herself. However, information on Aimée seems to be very limited. How did you find additional information on her?
ZIA: It was very, very difficult. Once she entered the harem, she disappeared to the eyes of the western world with few exceptions. The Europeans like Fannie Sebastiani, the wife of the unofficial ambassador from France, wrote about her. And of course there is Rose's first hand account when she told her story to Marie LeNormand, the woman who wrote her biography. I found first editions of the English translation of those books published in the US in 1834. Finding those particular passages was very exciting.
JS: What do you find is the most significant aspect of Aimee's story that makes her unique in regards to women of the 18th century?
ZIA: She was an aristocratic Catholic girl, a nineteen-year-old virgin, who survived abduction by pirates in a foreign land and being put into a harem of five hundred "wives"... a place she was raised to believe to be the worst fate that could befall any woman. Despite the overwhelming odds she immediately rose to the top and stayed there through a succession of three sultans, two revolutions, Janissary revolts, political machinations against her, and continual threats of death to both her and her son. She not only adapted and survived; she excelled and was most likely responsible for Turkey's embrace of all things French, including a modern army. When her son Mahmud became sultan, he instituted sweeping reforms that allowed Turkey to become modern and to join the Western World.
JS: You have written The Stolen Girl, and its sequel, The French Sultana, has just been published... are there plans to include any other books within the series?
ZIA: The second book, The French Sultana really completes the story. However, her progeny continued to rule and to modernize the empire as Rose's progeny did in Europe. There might be another book or two at some point but there are other stories I want to write at the moment.
JS: Where can the public purchase your books?
ZIA: The Stolen Girl is available as an eBook from amazon.com (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00KJ7RQME) and will be available in late August on Nook and Kobo. The French Sultana eBook is also available on amazon.com (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MARK2BI). Beautiful six by nine print versions of both are also available at createspace.com: The Stolen Girl at https://www.createspace.com/4819428 and The French Sultana at https://www.createspace.com/4921652.
About the Author Zia Wesley:
Zia grew up in northern Westchester, New York and now resides in Lake County, California. Her writing career began at the age of 35 when she became a cosmetics consumer advocate and Bantam published her first non-fiction book, Putting on Your Face. She wrote another 5 books in the genre of natural beauty and founded Zia Cosmetics, Inc., the first natural skin care company in the United States. After her retirement from the cosmetics industry, Zia turned her attention to historical fiction, and has no plans to stop writing anytime soon.
To learn more about Zia Wesley and The Veil and the Crown historical fiction book series, visit her website at http://www.ziawesleynovelist.com.