Hi everyone! I can't even tell you how excited I am to be writing this right now!
I had the amazing opportunity to ask Jeannie Mobley, author of The Jewel Thief, a few questions about her inspiration for the writing the story, her favorite characters, and possible sequels! This book has quickly become a contender for one of my favorite reads of the year (see my review of it here), so I had a lot of fun picking Jeannie's brain and hearing what she had to say about her newest book!
What was your inspiration for writing THE JEWEL THIEF?
I wanted to write about an artwork (I love books like Girl With a Pearl Earring, The Gold Finch, or The Last Painting of Sara de Vos that center on art), but I also wanted to expand outside the usual box of what people think of as “art.” So, I brainstormed other forms of art, and thought gem cutting/jewelry making would be interesting. I thought of Cartier and the Hope Diamond, but when I began researching it, I discovered the earlier story of the French Blue, and was immediately drawn in.
What made you want to be a writer?
I think I’ve always been a day dreamer, and my writing was a natural extension of that. When I was a kid, my family took long road trips (before the days of audiobooks or DVDs players in cars) and I would pass the time by imagining myself into stories in the landscape outside the windows. My first “novel” was written in the sixth grade, after my family got back from a summer road trip from Colorado to Alaska and was based on the extended story I made up in my head on the way there and back.
That said, stories have always been a part of my family. I spent many Sundays as a kid at family gatherings at my grandma’s house listening to my aunts and uncles tell family stories. So, telling stories came naturally to me for that reason too.
What was the easiest or hardest thing about writing THE JEWEL THIEF?
I think the easiest, or at least the most enjoyable part for me is usually the plotting. I enjoy creating twists and turns to a plot; it’s usually what my mind is doing in the hours when I’m not writing, when I’ve gotten up from the desk to do the laundry or cook dinner, or when I go to bed at night. The hardest part for me is getting the romance right. I think I am a romantic at heart, but as a kid I was often ridiculed for liking sappy, romantic things and came to see that as one of my negative traits. So, I have to be given permission to be romantic on the page. I have to fight the feeling that I am exposing a part of myself that I shouldn’t expose in public. Fortunately, I have a fabulous editor at Viking who gives me the permission and the encouragement I need.
What was one of the most interesting fun facts you discovered while doing research for the book?
The history (or perhaps I should say, the lack of history) around diamonds is fascinating. Famous diamonds have so many stories, legends, myths, and curses. No story is any easier to substantiate than any other, and some of the stories are pretty outrageous (one story has the French Blue being pried from the forehead of a Hindu idol, even though Tavernier clearly states which mine he acquired it from). At first, it was frustrating, because there was so much conflicting information, but after a while I found it freeing. After all, if the truth about diamonds can’t be substantiated, that gives me a lot of flexibility in the story I tell about them. I wasn’t constrained by hard facts.
Who is your favorite character from the book and why?
Juliette, of course, is a favorite, as she’s the tough cookie that has to step in when the men in her life crumble, and there’s always something very satisfying in that. But in addition, I’m a sucker for grandfatherly figures in books, so the Jewish gem cutter, Master Benzacar is a favorite for me, even though his role in the book is small. I also think that Louis XIV’s arrogance is so palpable in his portraits that it was fun transcribing that personality onto the page.
Did you have a favorite scene or part of the book that was fun to write?
I love to write clever dialog, so the scenes where Juliette crosses linguistic sabers with Louis XIV and with Nicolas Fouquet were fun.
Did you consider alternate endings or plot lines for the book?
When I very first imagined the book, I thought of Juliette taking a position in the house of the Jewish gem cutter as a maid to steal the secret. But before I got very far into the story, I realized that wasn’t very plausible, given the restrictions on Jews at the time. As for the ending, I played with several options, some darker than others. But in the interest of avoiding spoilers, enough said.
If you could have Juliette or her father make you one piece of jewelry, what would you commission from them?
I would love to see the French Blue in its original setting. We know what it looked like in the reign of Louis XV, when it was put in an ornament displaying the insignia of the Order of the Golden Fleece. We also know what it looked like when worn by Marie Antoinette on the eve of the French Revolution. I would like to see it in the setting originally designed for it by the master who cut it. There is no depiction or even description of that.
What’s one thing you want readers to take away from THE JEWEL THIEF?
That indescribably yummy satisfaction that comes from having just devoured a delicious book.
Do you have any plans for a sequel? Or are you working on a new novel?
I am working on a sequel, but it will not be your traditional sequel. The character that continues from the first book to the second is the French Blue diamond. The second book is set in 1792-93, in the French Revolution when the diamond is stolen from the Crown Jewels. Other jewels were recovered, but the French Blue was not, at least not until it shows up in England years later recut as the Hope Diamond. So the sequel (currently with the working title of The Jewel Smuggler) is about how and why the diamond is stolen and taken from France to England. It will once again have a female protagonist, a romance, and a glittering royal court (this time the court of Prince George IV of England.) Watch for that in the fall of 2021.
Special thanks to Jeannie Mobley for taking the time to speak with me and for everyone at Penguin Teen for making this possible!
The Jewel Thief by Jeannie Mobley is available now and you can find Jeannie @jmobleyauthor on Instagram. Click here to check out Penguin Random House and grab a copy for yourself and trust me, you'll be glad you took the time to read such a captivating book!
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Hi! My name is Elisa and my bookshelf is quite literally overflowing! Join me in my journey of reading as many books as humanly possible!