First Time Online – Madonna and Abdi on version Femina (Fully Translated)
MadonnaTribe Team member and correspondent from France Vogue has a special Xmas gift for all Tribers.
As our readers remember, Madonna has granted the only interview to the French press during the promo junket for her new children’s book, “Les Aventures d’Abdi” in London to journalist Anne Michelet from “Version Femina” – the illustrated supplement available with several French regional newspapers.
Our friend Vogue has just sent the HQ scans of the three page article, illustrated with nice pictures from the “Abdi” promotion at Selfridges, while a classic shot by Dah Len graces the cover of the magazine.
“Les Aventures d’Abdi” will be published in March 2005 by Gallimard Jeunesse.
An energetic and sharp blue glance, an elegant blond silhouette in “tailleur pantalon”… the star is impressive, But it’s Madonna, mother and author of children’s books, who welcomes us, smiling, at her editor’s head office in London. Exclusively!
Have you always been fascinated by writing?
Yes. When I was in school, my favourite teacher was the English literature one. She taught me the love for the language, for reading and how to use my imagination. It was her then who inspired me for “Mr Peabody’s Apples“. I also used to write poems with my sister when I was young, and I love reading poetry. I was obsessed by Sylvs Plath… (american poetess and novelist, 1932-1083). I then went on with the songs lyrics, and today with the children’s stories. It looks like a natural evolution to me.
Where do you find inspiration for these stories? They are all so different…
Those eternal stories of princes and princesses where nothing ever happens really bored me. I wanted to deal with the conflicts we have with ourselves, that we face and that we overcome. In The English Roses, you find envy, jealousy and the message that you shouldn’t judge people from what they look like. I was inspired by my daughter Lourdes a bit, she attends a french school in London and suffers often of the jealousy of her little pals. My second book, Mr. Peabody’s Apples, is about the power of words, the idea that what we say can be positive, or negative for some others.
Yakov and the Seven Thives, this one is about the prayer and the possibility we have to make miracles happen. It is very interesting to understand that every character is going to overcome an obstacle and succeeds in something.
The fourth book, “The Adventures of Abdi”, is set to be out in March in France…
It is about the certainties, on the way you deal with obstacles and that you need to turn them into positive experiences in order to grow up. And at last, the fifth and last book of this series of tales, Lotsa de Casha, has as its theme the giving and the sharing, because it’s about the life of a very rich Italian who lives in a shiny glittering castle and is convinced he can buy anything.
Are your children your first public?
Of course! I tell them my stories because they are very open-minded, then it’s my husband’s turn, he’s more critic. Reading a story to Lourdes and Rocco, at the time they go to bed, is the best moment to trasmit to them something about life, love, and the search for happiness. My daughter’s feedback is essential to me. While I’m outlining a story and I tell her about it, I can see immediately where her attention is gone… that means that I still have to work on it… (laughs).
And what is your husband’s reaction?
He had some influence on the last story, Lotsa de Casha. The problem is that a good englishmen is not keen on sentiments, then, for example, we disagree on something and we discuss about it… At the end, I tell him: “Thank you very much, but I’m going to write the book in my own way!” (laughs)
Does writing require a lot of work?
Mhh not that bad, but I also enjoy that a lot” It’s challenging! Every story is set n a different age, and in a different country, in Eastern Europe, in England, in Saudi Arabia, in America…
Fashion changes, technology changes, architecture and transports change as well, but the relationships between the people are not changing at all. Therefore, every book shows the universal value of subjects that exist since the creation of mankind. I use to mix moral and humor everyday.
Is that the reason of your dedication “even grown up ones?”
Exactly. My stories can find their place in the perfect continuity of the “human lessons” we received from our ancestors, they show the importance of love between human beings.
As perfectionist as you are, did you also supervise the books’ illustrations?
Yes, all of them. Every page, every detail! I made everyone crazy, to begin with the artists from all over the world who came to illustrate these stories… (Laughs) Sorry! But the resul is there, because the drawings are really awesome.
When you were a little girl, which were your favourite stories?
The loss of my mother’s love made me very sad (Madonna lost her mother when she was five years old) and then reading was a sort of an escape for me. One of my favourite books was French: “Le Petit Prince“, by Saint-Exupéry. I remember especially one sentence that impressed me: “you can only see well with your heart. The essential is invisible for the eyes.” I also loved the books by Lewis Carroll, like “Alice in Wonderland“. I can’t remember all the books I read, but I’ve always been a great reader, and I still am. I admit I use to have the annoying attitude of reading two or three books at the same time. I should correct myself, but you know…
Are you still interested in writing more stories?
I wrote the second part of “The English Roses” and we’re currently working on the illustrations. Lourdes wanted a boy to be in the book, so we created a spanish student, Dominique de la Guardia. There is also a
brilliant teacher, and Bunny Love and Candy Darling, twins and tap-dancers. I added quite a few new characters to make the plot thicker, because I would like to turn it into a movie in which a lot of things happen. I will save the role of the Fairy Godmother of the little girls for myself, that’s a bit of what I am in the story after all!
Did you expect such a worldwide success?
No, not at all. You know, I had never written children’s books, it was then a very nice surprise to see that the public loved them. It’s an amazing experience, because my stories are translated in thirty-eight different languages in more than one hundred and ten countries and we also have an edition in braille.
You’re donating the income of the books’ sales to some charities for children. Would you be temped by working with the Unicef?
Maybe. I think of Audrey Hepburn, who I admire a lot and who’s a model for me. What she has done in her life is extraordinary, she used her being a celebrity in a positive way. We are not in the spotlight for no reason, and we have to use this chance in the best way as a chance to make things better in our world. As opposed to what a lot of people thought at the beginning, I don’t write to become richer, but to share with the young and the grown-up the experience and the wisdom I acquired becoming a mother. To become mother has been somehow a liberating experience for me, and I put all of my heart and soul in these books.
Speaking of that, what kind of mother are you?
Mhh.. I hope a good one. A bit funny as well, because I’m also quite strict at home and I sue to draw limits. You know, I am the naughty policeman, as opposite to my husband. I am the one who imposes the rules and he the one who breaks them! For example, if I say “It’s time to go to bed” or “You’ll have icecream after dinner, not before”, Guy comes and messes everything up (Sighs). But don’t worry, I adore to party with Lourdes and Rocco.
Your daughter has just finished writing a story, was it under your suggestion?
No, it wasn’t. I encouraged her to dance, but I never did that with writing. One day she came and asked me if I wanted to write a story for a charity association who fights against cancer. I answered that I was very busy, and Lourdes decided to do that herself. I told her “Ok, super, go ahead,” And she’s been published in a book who collects at the same time stories by the Duchess of York, by singer Katie Melua and other celebrities. But Lola is incredibly talented! I don’t know where she did get that from…
You look particularly serene. What’s your secret?
I don’t know really, because I think I don’t sleep enough and that always worries me a lot (laughs). But seriously, I am more serene today, because I am happy in my life, with my husband and my children.
Interview by Anne Michelet
Special thanks to our friends Davy aka Vogue, Madoky and Sam from the gang of MadonnaTribe’s correspondents from France for helping MadonnaTribe to premiere online this interview and the scans to its readers.
Translation from French by MadonnaTribe Staff