Interview with Juliette Benzoni
by
Linda Comapgnoni Walther



 

Linda :  Bonjour dearest Juliette, what was your first reaction, when you received Frédérique’s and mine letter? Learning that there existed  fan sites about Juliette Benzoni?

Juliette Benzoni : I was delighted, of course! I already knew that I had many readers around the world, otherwise why would they have taken the pains to translate me into…. I do not know any more exactly, how many languages, but that someone takes pains to be interested in me that was new. I wanted to meet you and I discovered then truly friends. It was wonderful! And I believe that I shall never be able to thank you enough.

Linda : Did you have any idea that you had millions of fans all over the world, from age 14 up to 100 years old? (or more)

Juliette Benzoni : This question duplicates a bit the previous one. My publishers always informed me and also those of my friends, who while traveling around the world, sent me photos of bookshops from Peking, New York or elsewhere. The letters I received did also inform me, but not as much as you do. I am not – yet – connected with Internet!

Linda : As we know from older interviews, you were absolutely not happy the way “Catherine” was filmed in 1968. What made you change your mind to be on board for the TV production in 1985?

Juliette Benzoni : I think that I have never cried so much in my life - about something of my natural work! – By watching this movie in the Studios of Boulogne. It was everything but my story. As we were in 1968, the screenwriter had kept only one thing: that it took place in Paris during an University riot! From this, my hero Arnaud de Montsalvy had become a student from the Parisian riot - instead a captain of Charles VII! - Then leader of a band of brigands in the forest of Fontainebleau and so on … A horror! I wanted to remove my name from the credits. The result: the German and Italian co-producers refused to pay. The movie was able to be seen only one week, instead of a month, before being banned by a law decision, but that did not prevent it to have a small success in the Middle East. After ten years, it even made a furtive appearance on television. I have a copy which I owe to the kindness of Henri-Jean Servat.

Quite different was the TV adaptation, which gave me a lot of joy. Designated by my friend Henri Spade - one of the greatest figures on TV, nowadays departed, I was able to see my story come to life in front of me – like I was afore able to watch MARIANNE come alive, played by the young debutante Corinne Touzet! - my characters - thanks to Marion Sarraut's talent, the tireless director, and to the young comedians with whom she liked to work with : Pierre-Marie ESCOURROU, Claudine ANCELOT, Gérard CHAMBRE, Benoist BRIONNE, Pierre DENY, Philippe NAHON, Philippe CAROIT, Christian RAUTH and those just a bit less younger, Pascale PETIT, Dora DOLL, Jean-François PORON and the irresistible Philippe CLAY! Without forgetting the superb Queen Yolande, who Geneviève CASILE of the “Comédie Française” was willingly to incarnate, Georges MONTILLIER as bishop Cauchon larger than life, Marthe MERCADIER and Isabelle GUIARD who was a touching Jeanne d’Arc!

As for the adaptation I was all the more delighted to participate in it, when I learnt that it was under the guidance of Jean CHATENET, one of the very best who became a friend! It was fascinating! I admit that I have spent with this merry gang, some of the best moments of my life and that I still bear for them friendship and gratitude and evidently also for those of Le Gerfaut (The Lure of the Falcon) and La Florentine (Fiora)!

Linda : Do you have any special fond memories, be it amusing, hilarious or even disastrous from the filming of “Marianne, Catherine, Le Gerfaut and Fiora, the Florentine?

Juliette Benzoni : No precise memory comes into my mind, only that which I have just written about the merry gang …

Linda : Now many years have gone by, since “Catherine” your first big success was published in 1962. In your own opinion, what could have been the reason that “Catherine” will always stand out as the BOOK of Juliette Benzoni, even though you have written so many other Bestsellers?

Juliette Benzoni : Maybe because it was not only the first success but also the very first of my novels and also the longest: seven books while Marianne (Marianne, the bride of Selton Hall) has six and then I exceeded the number 4 only for "Le Boiteux de Varsovie” (14 adventures to this day). I believe however that, thanks to the TV series, Le Gerfaut made up to Catherine. I even own it a lovable letter from Ronald REAGAN, then President of the United States and his wife Nancy because of my description of the War of Independence!

Linda : In your book series you chose always a different century. Will you reveal to us, what made you choose the time-period for each new novel?

Juliette Benzoni : I do not choose a different period, I choose according to the story I wish to tell, with a preference for the Middle Ages: CATHERINE, UN AUSSI LONG CHEMIN, Les CHEVALIERS, DE DEUX ROSES L’UNE, the same with LA FLORENTINE which is however close to the Renaissance period. There were special characters who had always tempted me: Jeanne d’Arc, the sublime leper King, Baudouin IV of Jerusalem, Duke Beaufort, and Baron de Batz, all of whom I have now written about.  Now it works on a heartbeat. But, before writing, I always need a very long time on research. At present, I confess to having a deep pleasure to write the Morosini series with its famed murderous jewels.

Linda : You have now so far, written seventy-six books (and as we know, you are very busy at the moment with the sequel to “La dague au lys rouge” Is there one character, female or male you would love above all, to write still about and will you reveal it to us?

Juliette Benzoni : This question duplicates the precedent one but it is true that, I had to give up a continuation to Le GERFAUT (*), I sometimes dream about an eighth book for CATHERINE. If that is what God wants!

Linda: As we know, your latest bestseller is called“ La dague au lys rouge” . Can we expect that it will be translated also in other foreign languages, like English, Spanish, Italian and German?

Juliette Benzoni : I know nothing about it. And neither does my publisher for that matter!

Linda: Exists there still one historical character, you always wanted to write a book about, but there was never the right moment?

Juliette Benzoni : I do not see one.

Linda : Is there one question you have never been asked, and would have loved to answer?

Juliette Benzoni : No. On the other hand, there is one that I am asked with a great regularity: " From where do you get all this? “ Then, one more time: from my passion of History and the joy to write!

Linda : What advice can you give to an unknown author, who wishes to write historical books like you have done in the past and still do?

Juliette Benzoni : Foremost a solid preparation. It is necessary to study the epoch, the real characters, to make a chronology, to study the lifestyles, the fashions itself, everything which can enrich and give a veracity. It demands a lot of time and a lot of work. That is why you need above all to be passionate. After that, you can let the imaginary characters live their life as they want… or as they can!

Linda : If you had a wish free, which of the fictive characters you created so far, or which personality would you like to be for a day?

Juliette Benzoni : Without doubts the Marquise de Sommières, for the pleasure to live among people completely according to my heart. I would love to have Aldo Morosini as a nephew! Maybe also the cardinal of Richelieu: to see the effect of having the supreme power! But only for twenty four hours!

 

(*) : Juliette Benzoni had already told us, that there could not have been a continuation for Le Gerfaut, because the character would have had the same fate as Baron de Batz whose history she writes in " Le Jeu de l’Amour et de l’Amour  ": to try anything to save Louis XVI, Queen Marie-Antoinette and the Dauphin.
 

I would like to thank my dearest friend Juliette from the bottom of my heart, for doing me this extraordinary great honour, to answer my 12 questions.
Not in my wildest dreams would I have thought that I should one day be able to  interview my most beloved author Juliette Benzoni, who wrote my Catherine, the one book series I was never able to forget for over forty years.

Juliette you are so adorable, please never stop writing. Thank you for the beautiful friendship you have offered me right from the beginning of our meeting. I bow before you and your talent, your energy, your willpower. You are the most phenomenal and outstanding woman I have ever met.


A special thank you to dear Frédérique,
who encouraged me to ask Juliette for this interview.


 © linda compagnoni walther (mistral) 28 September 2010
 


...and the link to Juliette Benzoni's Questions of Proust...

image - texte Mon Questionnaire de Proust

by Juliette Benzoni


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