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In-Person Event

Can Proust Make You a Writer?


Tuesday, August 8, 2023

6:00 pm


Tuesday, August 8, 2023

7:30 pm

Jefferson Market Library

Janet McGiffin joins the Proust Society at the Jefferson Market Library, New York, on 8th August to discuss how Proust inspired her while writing the Empress Irini Series.

Can Proust make you a writer?

“Yes,” says Janet McGiffin, who will be speaking at the Jefferson Market Library on the 8th of August about how she wrote her four-volume, Byzantine historical-fiction series while taking a two-year course on Proust’s “In Search of Lost Time”.

“Proust kept me going—and sane,” she says. “I learned that it’s OK to write for eleven years without a glimpse of a publisher. It’s not Lost Time — Proust wrote for twenty years! I learned it’s OK to write about one character for so long that the book has to be divided into volumes. Proust sent his manuscript to a publisher who said it was like wandering lost in a forest!”

McGiffin’s writing was influenced by Proust’s penetrating insights into human behavior and his jabs at snobbery, elitism, and other human foibles. “Proust showed me how to write about a period of history and bring the characters to life.”

McGiffin wrote a mystery series for Fawcett Press in the 1990s. Her brand new YA series concerns the eighth-century Byzantine Empress Irini, who, McGiffin believes, poisoned her emperor father-in-law, her husband, two patriarchs, and had her son murdered — all to gain the throne. “She was a fascinating woman who did nothing that male emperors didn’t do,” McGiffin says. The series is divided into four volumes, the first two being: Betrothal & Betrayal, and Poison is a Woman’s Weapon. Books three and four come out in February 2024. They series is marketed as Young Adult fiction because the narrator, a seventeen-year-old abbess of a convent where Empress Irini goes on retreat, sets out to find the truth.

“Proust says over and over in his many volumes that he wants to find the truth about people. Isn’t that what we all want?”

All are welcome.

Book signing to follow.