I Have a Dream!–The Making of Becoming Josephine


For the first dance here at the Deb Ball, we’ve been talking THE BOOK. The big kaboom of inspiration that ultimately led to a book deal. So here’s my story. Writing this debut changed me forever.

It all began when I was expecting baby number two. My plate was full and the wonderful job I had loved so much began to feel like a shoe that’s too tight. All of a sudden I couldn’t breathe. I wanted to be home with my babies, YES, but I also felt a soulful stirring. What was I doing with my life? Did it fulfill my dreams? Strangely enough, at that time I didn’t know what my dreams were, I just knew that my stint as a high school teacher had run its course. That if I spent one more day doing it, something inside of me would dry up and wither away.

So I resigned. I started doing odd jobs—tutoring, coaching, test proctoring—anything flexible that would help pay the bills and still allow me to be home with the kids. But I was BORED and I began to question my decision. Should I have given up a sure thing—something I knew I liked—for a big fat unknown? Who was I anyway? I had forgotten.

For a year I tarried over the next season of my life.

But then something miraculous happened.

I HAD A DREAM! I dreamed I was writing at a desk, and the dream flowed to Paris then Versailles, and a swirl of images floated through my head. When I awoke, the last vision I remembered as the fog of sleep faded was of Josephine Bonaparte.

Now, mind you, I knew a fair amount about the French Revolution, having taught about it. I’d been to Versailles and seen David’s painting of Napoleon crowning his empress, but that was the ONLY image I had ever seen of Josephine and the ONLY thing I knew about her. But that simple dream set my mind to whirring. I went to the library and checked out a single biography about Josephine. I devoured the tropical sensuality of Martinique, the shimmering ball gowns at the French Court, the horror of war among brothers, and Josephine’s long string of lovers, her failings and her triumphs. In short, I fell madly in love with her fascinating, awe-inspiring life.

And one night, as I finished my third biography, I turned to my husband in bed and said, “I’m going to write a book.”

He smiled in that supportive yet doubtful way and said, “Okay, honey. Go for it.”

And just like that, my life changed. I pored over every resource I could find. I spent months and months learning about publishing, going to conferences, meeting writers, learning the game. As I slaved over my pages, my love for writing deepened. Exhilarating, fulfilling, exhausting, excruciating moments came one after the other. It was all there—that intensity you feel when you REALLY connect to something great. This world of creating, sharing, inspiring. This world of writing.

There was no going back.

I had always been a writer. Deep down the dream of being a writer had been lying dormant. Short stories as a child, advancing to the state level in essay contests in high school, copy editing my college newspaper, and my relentless obsession with books…all along it had been there. So as my trajectory shifted, and MY DREAM bubbled to the surface, it consumed me. I longed to see my books in print, to inspire people with stories of the remarkable human spirit, of survival, of MAKING OUR LIVES COUNT, and always, of good ol’ fashioned fun.

So now I thank Josephine for so many reasons. For her amazing and incredible life, for her whispering inspiration in my ear that fateful night, and most of all, for helping me live out my dreams.

How about you, writers? How do you find inspiration for your books? 

Readers, what inspires you most in a novel you love?

Author: Heather Webb

Heather Webb is the author of BECOMING JOSEPHINE, her debut historical (Plume/Penguin 2014). A freelance editor and blogger, she spends oodles of time helping writers hone their skills—something she adores. You may find her Twittering @msheatherwebb, hosting contests, or hanging around RomanceUniversity.org as a contributor to the Editor's Posts. She is also the Twitter mistress for the popular Writer Unboxed. She loves making new reader and writer friends. Stop on by her website, Between the Sheets!

32 Replies to “I Have a Dream!–The Making of Becoming Josephine”

  1. I feel invigorated just reading this, Heather, especially the part about your world changing as you delved deeper into the writing life. It’s such a great reminder that we all can start with nothing more than a dream and actually make it happen.

    1. Thank you, Natalia. What an amazing ride it has been! And yes, I started from ground zero. 🙂 I just want to shout to people everywhere sometimes to FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT! Following our dreams isn’t easy, but it’s one of the most incredible and fulfilling things I’ve ever done.

  2. That is such a cool story, Heather! You are an inspiration to so many of us. And as for me personally, I thank my lucky stars every day to call you my friend.
    I can’t wait for Becoming Josephine to come out!! It’s just an incredible book from a fantastic new talent.
    Plus– awesomeness–you’re a phenomenal writing partner and mentor!

    1. Ha! Always a good thing. You wouldn’t believe some of the dreams I’ve had since I’ve started writing. I have serious full-on spy thrillers in my head, down to details and gadgets and what-not. It’s insane!

    1. There were so many magical moments, I couldn’t even write them all down, Susan. The kind of synchronistic loveliness that seems to come from the universe…or somewhere? lol. And oh yes, the hard hard, grueling work…

  3. Hi Heather, we met at Erika Robuck’s reading in Concord. You talked about your book in brief snippets, but I had no idea of the story behind its creation – I really enjoyed reading about how you came to be a writer. I can’t wait to read BECOMING JOSEPHINE.

    1. Thank you for stopping by, Cindy! We had a delicious lunch that day, didn’t we? I hope your book is coming along well. Perhaps we can meet again in Concord when my book releases. I’d love a replay of that lovely day and to catch up!

  4. I’m so glad you had that dream, and that you chose to pursue it. BECOMING JOSEPHINE is such a wonderful book – I know readers will love it as much as you (and I) do.

    It’s funny that as long as I’ve known you, this story I didn’t know! I’m so glad you shared it today.

  5. Love hearing how you were inspired! I am so excited to read BECOMING JOSEPHINE and hopefully to see you again at a Houston Book Signing! 😉 Isn’t it wonderful what pregnancy can do to ya!? HA!

    1. Kimberly, I’m so happy to see you here at The Deb Ball! <3 Thanks for stopping by.

      I'm DEFINITELY coming to Houston! For one thing, I'd love to see you, and the other, I hear there's a great reading community there with several well-loved indie bookstores! 🙂

  6. I love hearing how you changed your dream and took your writing to the next level. I love historical fiction, but I admit I know next to nothing about Josephine or France. I’ll be waiting for your book…..what an exciting time this is!! Great first post as a Deb!

  7. My novel Death is a Star was totally inspired by a (very strange) dream, so I totally relate to this. Glad you went for it and succeeded. I have to admit that Josephine sounds like a much better person to spend time with then my current obsession, Vlad Dracul.

  8. What a fabulous story, Heather. I can’t wait to read your debut (put it on my Goodreads TBR the minute I saw it advertised). And I love that your writing passion was always simmering beneath the surface. What a wonderful journey you’ve begun!

    My stories usually draw from different sources – a question, something someone has said, an emotion, a theme – all seemingly disparate ideas and often story lines floating about that SOMEHOW end up coming together.

  9. Love this post Heather and I can relate to SO much of it. I’m always fascinated by writers’ journeys – I think it really shapes the writers we become. Such exciting times for you … 🙂

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