Interview with Margaret Rodenberg, Author of Finding Napoleon

22 Jun 2021

What can you tell us about your new release, Finding Napoleon?

It’s a historical novel that’s based in part on young Napoleon Bonaparte’s real attempt to write a romantic novel. In Finding Napoleon, the exiled, still determined emperor finishes his idealistic manuscript as he struggles against his British captors on remote St. Helena Island. A forgotten woman of history―Napoleon’s last love, the audacious Countess Albine―narrates their tale of intrigue, desire, and betrayal. To succeed with his plans, Napoleon must learn whom to trust. To survive, Albine must decide whom to betray.

NYTimes best-selling author Allison Pataki says it’s “in a league of its own and the writing is beautiful and poignant.” Finding Napoleon just won a “2021 Best First Book” Gold Medal from the Independent Publishers Book Awards.

What or who inspired you to become an author?

I first heard about Napoleon when I lived in France as young teen with my U.S. Navy family. Decades later, when I learned he’d tried to write a novel about a young soldier who encounters love, war, and betrayal, I vowed to finish it for him. But to ghostwrite for Napoleon, I had to understand who he was as an ambitious young man and who he was in his final days when all the power was gone. For inspiration, I traveled more than 30,000 miles, including to St. Helena Island in the remote South Atlantic where he lived his final years in exile.

What’s on your top 5 list for the best books you’ve ever read?

  • The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
  • Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy
  • The Thirteen Clocks, by James Thurber (my favorite book as a child)
  • Hamlet, the play by William Shakespeare
  • Cotillion, by Georgette Heyer (a perfect historical romance novel)

Say you’re the host of a literary talk show. Who would be your first guest? What would you want to ask?

If I could invite a historical figure, of course, I’d invite Napoleon Bonaparte himself. I’d ask him to critique my version of his unfinished novel Clisson. If I had to choose a living author, I’d pick Margaret Atwood. From her, I’d find out the secrets behind writing fascinating stories that truly matter.

What’s your favorite thing about writing?

When I am deeply immersed in my characters’ lives and the words are flowing non-stop, writing is the most intellectually and emotionally satisfying thing I’ve ever experienced. It fills up your whole being.

What is a typical day like for you?

Usually, the morning starts with connecting with readers: social media, setting up book clubs or events, reaching out to bookstores, updating my website and planning other activities. Plus, that’s when I take care of the business side of being an author. Then I break for a lunch with my husband and some exercise. The remainder of the afternoon, I fill with research and writing. I often continue writing after dinner. But I’m not tied to this schedule—if I’m inspired, I stop whatever I’m doing to write or I might decide in advance to devote the whole day to writing and take the evening off.

What scene from Finding Napoleon was your favorite to write?

Well, I must leave out my absolute favorites because they’re spoiler scenes! Instead, I’ll pick the one where the hero from Napoleon’s unfinished novel first meets his true love at an inn. It’s a charming, love-at-first-sight scene when a young, impulsive, naïve man bumps into an older woman whom he immediately idolizes.

Do you have a motto, quote, or philosophy you live by?

Leave the moment and the world better than if you had not been there.

Margaret Rodenberg is the author of the new book Finding Napoleon

Connect with Margaret Rodenberg

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rebecca