An excerpt from Paul Dimond’s in-depth interview with Jorie from Jorie Loves a Story: Conversations with the Bookish, June 8, 2017.
Q: How did you approach the authentic voice of the real persons who appear in the novel alongside Belle? How did you give gravity to their truths whilst honing in on Belle’s journey?
A: First, I read as much of the real persons’ original writings, letters and talks and reviewed as many of their photographs and videos as I could. I also read biographies and reviews written by others. Second, I studied their settings, events, and whereabouts during specific time periods relevant to Belle’s story. Third, with the exception of Emily Dickinson, I did not quote any poems of the real characters, but tried instead to write and place their conversations, letters, and interactions with Belle in as authentic a context and voice as possible.
In several instances, this required a reinterpretation of the words quoted or conclusions drawn by particular biographers to praise or damn the real-life persons at particular times and places. Based on my extensive research, I tried to share a more authentic story, at least from Belle’s perspective. I am convinced that her view of her three great poet friends reveals more about the character of each in the context of this novel than any biographer ever could. Put differently, Belle’s unique first-person perspective offers a sharper eye, a more attuned ear and a better personal feel for the character of these real-life persons.