Where did you get the idea for Precious Pawn?
At Mount Holyoke one of my best friends taught in the French Department and used the unpublished memoir of the Comtesse de L... in her translation and stylistics course. From time to time I would check the accuracy of her students’ translations (my colleague was French, and handling English was some difficulty) for her, and it was in this way that I came to know the story of this eighteenth-century provincial aristocrat. I found it such a striking story of the condition of women at that time, when women could be disposed of like so much property yet exert tremendous power as a king’s mistress.
How did you research the setting and the time period? What was your favorite part of the research?
After several years in Kinshasa when social and political unrest became chronic, we returned to Washington. With a shock I one day realized that in our world there, I was simply “Larry Devlin’s wife.” My way of getting back to some notion of my former self was to turn to writing. And since I had taught creative writing for many years at Mount Holyoke, the haunting story of the comtesse de L... immediately appealed to me. Georgetown University gave me a faculty pass to their library so that I could do all the research I needed. I enjoyed every minute of the research and writing of Precious Pawn.
Are you working on anything now?
Cuidono Press will be publishing Death in the Rainy Season sometime in January 2017. As the title may indicate , the novel is set in Zaire. When I left Africa, I didn’t want ever to forget what life was like there—the privileges and moral disarray of expatriate life, the political intrigue, the profiteering, and, above all, the misery and squalor midst so much beauty. And, at the center of the novel, I wanted to develop a genuinely passionate love story.
At the moment, I am finishing another historical novel, The LaMotte Woman, about that extraordinary swindler who is believed by many to have brought down the French monarchy.
About Mary Martin Devlin
Before I did my Ph.D. in English, a couple of my degrees were in French language and literature with a Fulbright to the Université de Grenoble. My entire teaching career (English and American lit) was at Mount Holyoke College except for two Fulbright professorships—one to the Université de Toulouse and another to the Université de Tunis. I resigned from Mount Holyoke after my marriage to the legendary CIA officer, Larry Devlin, and moved to Zaire.
Thank you, Mary!