Amazon Exclusive: Christopher Moore on Writing Sacre Bleu
I suppose it started when I learned the circumstances of the suicide of Vincent van Gogh; how he had finished a painting, then walked into a corn field and shot himself, and not in the manner one thinks of a suicide. He shot himself in the abdomen, then walked over a mile on a rough trail through the woods above the village of Auvers, France, to the home of his friend, Doctor Gachet, for help. It seemed clear to me that this was not the behavior of a suicidal man. (Particularly when you see how well he was painting at the time.) Vincent had been murdered, and for some reason, I guess from looking at his paintings, I thought that the color blue might be a clue to the circumstances of his murder.
So I decided to write a novel about the color blue.
When it first occurred to me, I had no idea what a can of paint of I was opening. I’ve written historical novels before, but I’d always picked periods and stories that had huge blank spots in them, spots that I could fill in with my story. But I was about to write about the period in which the French Impressionists rose to prominence, and unlike the life of Jesus or the court of King Lear, where very little was known about what actually happened, I could pretty much look up what each of the Impressionists had for breakfast every morning. It was a curse of riches. There was more material than I could ever cover in a single story, unless I found a way to constrain it.
So, to pursue my murder mystery, my tale of an art movement, my portrayal of the Bell Epoch in Paris, I had to find a point of view that would help me cover the time period, from 1863 to 1891 and beyond, so I invented, Lucien Lessard, the baker of Montmartre, Paris—the baker who wants to be a painter, whose father was a patron of Monet, Renoir, and Cezanne when they were at their poorest, and who attended art school with Vincent van Gogh and his best friend, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec. Lucien and Henri would be my detectives, and with them, we would discover not only Vincent’s killer, but the secret and magic behind the mysterious shade of “sacred blue” (Sacré Bleu), and how it had inspired and haunted artists all through history.
Four years after the notion first occurred to me, I turned in the manuscript to Sacré Bleu, and I think it is what I had hoped it could be: a mystery, a fantasy, a romance, a comedy, a history, and an appreciation. I didn’t have an art education going into this book, but I certainly do coming out, and I hope that the reader will painlessly and joyfully, share some of the enthusiasm I have for the subject.
Or, as it says in the prelude:
“Blue is glory and power, a wave, a particle, a vibration, a resonance, a spirit, a passion, a memory, a vanity, a metaphor, a dream.
Blue is a simile.
Blue, she is like a woman.”
“[H]ilarious, educational, and original. . . . [I]t is difficult to put the book down, for there are astonishing new developments on every page.” (BookPage)
“A page-turner…. Your ‘Lear’ can be rusty or completely unread to appreciate this new perspective on the Shakespearean tragedy. That is if you enjoy a whole lot of silly behind the scenes of your tragedies.” (Valdosta Times (Georgia) on FOOL)
“If there’s a funnier writer out there, step forward.” (Playboy)
“[W]all-to-wall, farcical fornicating and fighting…a jolly good time can be had.” (Booklist on FOOL)
“A laugh-a-page novel that’s raunchy and irreverent.” (USA Today)
“A raunchy slapstick comedy of young vampires in love . . . Moore is in top form, and this reviewer laughed all the way through this page-turner. Enthusiastically recommended.” (Library Journal)
“A vampire comedy that’s witty, bright and funny.” (People)
“An instant classic . . . terrific, funny and poignant. (Rocky Mountain News)
“Funny, literate, smart and sexy, all at once!” (Jeff Lindsay, author of the Dexter series, on FOOL)