We’re thrilled to have here today Claire Clairmont from Marty Ambrose’s new historical mystery, Claire’s Last Secret. Claire is a “woman of letters” living in nineteenth-century Florence, Italy.
It is a pleasure to have her with us today at Beyond the Books!
Thank you so for this interview, Claire. Now that the book has been written, do you feel you were fairly portrayed or would you like to set anything straight with your readers?
I am beyond happy that I have finally been able to tell my side of the “haunted summer” in 1816 when Mary, Shelley, and I lived in Geneva, sharing the company of Lord Byron. So much has been written about the great Romantic poets and how Mary conceived her novel, Frankenstein, but no one has ever really focused on my character and how that summer impacted me. Byron was the great passion of my life at the time, and I later gave birth to our daughter, Allegra, who supposedly died as a child. But I never believed it. I outlived all of them and, in my later years living in Florence, I was finally able to delve into this unsolved mystery and tell the world about it.
Do you feel the author did a good job colorizing your personality? If not, how would you like to have been portrayed differently?
I like how Claire’s Last Secret caught the many sides of my personality by showing two eras of my life: my juvenescence in Geneva and my mature years in Florence. During my long life, I evolved from an impulsive, passionate young girl, often caught up in my own fantasies, to a much wiser woman “of a certain age.” I may not have always loved wisely, but I was true to my own heart.
What do you believe is your strongest trait?
My strongest trait is my ability to survive. I had to live by my own wits for most of my life, yet I always tried to rebound quickly from even the most difficult of circumstances. I had a child on my own, traveled the world, and always believed that a woman could have the same freedom as a man. I embraced life wholeheartedly—the good and the bad, even when my choices didn’t always produce the effects for which I hoped. I lived life on my own terms.
If you could choose someone in the television or movie industry to play your part if your book was made into a movie, who would that be (and you can’t say yourself!)?
If my story became a film, I would like the British actress, Lily James, to play my character during the 1816 summer in Geneva when I was seventeen; she reminds me of myself as a young woman. Jane Seymour would be a perfect actress to play me in my later years.
Do you have a love interest in the book?
I had the great fortune and misfortune of loving Lord Byron—the British poet who figures prominently in my story.
At what point of the book did you start getting nervous about the way it was going to turn out?
When I left Geneva at the end of the summer of 1816, I knew that my affair with Byron was over. I was devastated but, at least, I had our daughter for a short time. Later, in Florence, I eventually (and unexpectedly) had a chance to right this wrong from my past.
If you could trade places with one of the other characters in the book, which character would you really not want to be and why?
I would not want to be my stepsister, Mary. When her husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley, died, she was left a widow with a young son—and very few resources. Her later life in England always seemed to be lived in his shadow, though she achieved her own fame from her novel, Frankenstein. I loved her dearly, but I never wanted to be her.
How do you feel about the ending of the book without giving too much away?
I think the ending will surprise many readers. It leads into the next book where I’m on a quest through Italy—with more surprises coming!
What words of wisdom would you give your author if she decided to write another book with you in it?
Well . . . I happen to know the author is writing another book with me as the protagonist! I would like her to show how my character becomes more daring and braver as I begin to solve the mysteries from the past: I take on new adventures that I never dreamed would happen.
Thank you for this interview, Claire. Will we be seeing more of you in the future?
About the Author:
Marty Ambrose has been a writer most of her life, consumed with the world of literature whether teaching English at Florida Southwestern State College or creating her own fiction. Her writing career has spanned almost fifteen years, with eight published novels for Avalon Books, Kensington Books, Thomas & Mercer—and, now, Severn House.
Two years ago, Marty had the opportunity to apply for a grant that took her to Geneva and Florence to research a new creative direction that builds on her interest in the Romantic poets: historical fiction. Her new book, Claire’s Last Secret, combines memoir and mystery in a genre-bending narrative of the Byron/Shelley “haunted summer,” with Claire Clairmont, as the protagonist/sleuth—the “almost famous” member of the group. The novel spans two eras played out against the backdrop of nineteenth-century Italy and is the first of a trilogy.
Marty lives on an island in Southwest Florida with her husband, former news-anchor, Jim McLaughlin. They are planning a three-week trip to Italy this fall to attend a book festival and research the second book, A Shadowed Fate. Luckily, Jim is fluent in Italian and shares her love of history and literature. Their German shepherd, Mango, has to stay home.
About the Book:
1873, Florence. Claire Clairmont, the last survivor of the ‘haunted summer of 1816’ Byron/Shelley circle, is living out her final years in genteel poverty, but the appearance of British tourist, William Michael Rossetti, brings hope that she may be able to sell some of her memorabilia to earn enough cash to support her and her niece/companion, Paula.
But Rossetti’s presence in Florence heralds a cycle of events that links the summer of 1816 – when Claire conceived an ill-fated child with George Gordon, Lord Byron, when Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, and when four tempestuous lives came together – to a tragic death. As Claire begins to unravel the truth, she must go back to that summer of passion to discover the identity of her old enemy.
Learn more on Amazon