Contemporary Canadian Women & Marguerite

Shirley Barrie


Shirley Barrie is a prolific Canadian playwright.  She has composed several plays and has written a number of works on Marguerite de Roberval.  Her play, I am Marguerite, premiered in Toronto in April 2015.

Shirley Barrie’s website

Interview with Shirley Barrie, January 2015

  • LR: How did your fascination with Marguerite de Roberval begin?

SB: I’m almost embarrassed to say how long I’ve been ‘living’ with the story of Marguerite.  It must have been about 1989 when I was looking for a new project.  I had written a couple of plays for CBC Radio – one of them the story of the Jamaican Maroons who were exiled to Nova Scotia in the last decade of the 18th century – and I also had written several plays for young audiences.  I discovered the story of Marguerite in a book for younger readers:  Jean Johnston’s Wilderness Women and was immediately hooked.   This was pre-internet but I began painstakingly researching the story the old-fashioned way and pitched it to the Drama Department at CBC Radio. Marguerite de Roberval was broadcast in 1990 as five fifteen minute episodes on the nationwide program, Morningside.

  • LR: It has been almost five hundred years since Marguerite de Roberval was supposedly marooned on an island in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. In your opinion, why does her story continue to intrigue us today?

SB: It continues to intrigue because of its timeless emotional elements.  Women continue to be abandoned, betrayed and suffer unbearable loss.  The story also has the added factor of physical danger.  We know how brutal the climate can be in this part of the world.  But all of this would not be enough if Marguerite had not somehow found the will and the skills to survive.

  • LR: From your perspective, what is the importance of Marguerite de Roberval and her role in Canadian history and culture?

SB: Marguerite shows that women’s stories are an important and compelling part of Canadian history.    But she has a more general importance than that.   Some have argued that her experiences formed the groundwork for eventual successful European settlement in Canada.

De Roberval and Cartier’s attempts at colonization were failures.   De Roberval and his settlers barricaded themselves in their fort, used their furniture for firewood in the depths of winter, suffered severely from scurvy (until they did learn a cure from the natives), and many died from malnutrition and brutal treatment.   Years later, it is said, Samuel de Champlain learned from Marguerite’s story of survival.  When he founded the settlement at Port Royal, he understood the importance of living off the land, and he founded The Fellowship of Good Cheer to psychologically help his compatriots get through the harsh winter.

  • LR: Since 1558, several European and Canadian writers have produced different versions of Marguerite’s story. What compelled you to write your own accounts of the events?

SB: I wrote the radio play because I was fascinated by an amazing story from my own country’s history that I had known nothing about.

When it came to the stage play, what continued to compel me was how contemporary Marguerite felt.  This was well over 20 years ago, and her story seemed to fit into the political/feminist narrative that I was living through.  There was much discussion of patriarchy and its role in oppressing women.  There were women who worked within the framework of society as it existed, and those who fought for systemic change from the outside.  There were heterosexual relationships struggling with the new realities of women who could be more powerful and better earners than their mates.  And, having spent 14 years living in England, I was very aware of the class divide that too often could separate women.  Marguerite and the characters who peopled her story seemed to reflect all of these things.

Coming back to the tale all these years later, those elements are still lurking there, but pushed more to the forefront are some of the basic universal emotions:  abandonment, betrayal, courage, despair, and ultimately an indomitable human spirit.  I am also more interested in exploring the style of storytelling now – in discovering what repetitive and layered language can add to an already fractured story.  And I wanted to create the opportunity for a more multi-media experience.

  • LR: You initially wrote the play, Marguerite de Roberval. Your second play about this compelling heroine, I am Marguerite, will premiere in Toronto in April 2015.  Can you talk about your decision to write about Marguerite de Roberval not once, but twice?

SB: This is actually the 4th time I’ve written her story.

The radio play (1990) was called Marguerite de Roberval.  After that project was finished, I couldn’t get the character out of my head.  I felt like I hadn’t done her justice.

So I started work on a play I called I am Marguerite, which I suggested could be done with two or with five actors.

It was produced (with two actors) by Black Box Theatre in Prague in 1993 as part of a festival of new work.

And (with five actors) by Summer Theatre by the Bay in Cornerbrook, Newfoundland in 1997.

In 2004 or 5, director Molly Thom and Beggarly Theatre were planning a workshop prior to trying to get funding for a Toronto production of the play.  Instead, she proposed commissioning me to pare the story down to its bare emotional elements and write the libretto for an opera.  In 2003, I had done the Lib/Lab: – a librettist and composers two week intensive at Tapestry New Opera Works during which librettists wrote four five minute operas for four different composers, a selection of which were showcased in a public performance at the end of the period.  I had been highly charged by the experience, and jumped at the opportunity to work in this new form with a story I was still very attached to.  There was a very successful workshop in conjunction with Tapestry New Opera Works with ten minutes of music composed by Chan Ka Nin, but unfortunately the project didn’t go ahead.

In 2009, after I’d written Bozo’s Fortune, an adaptation of Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi  for a Shoestring Opera school tour, directed by Molly, she threw me another challenge.  Could I take the pared down highly charged elements of the opera libretto and turn it back into a stage play?  I was initially reluctant.  How many times could I come back to this story?  Did I have any more to say or explore?  But other projects I was working on at the time were in a fallow period, so I thought I’d dip my toe into it, so to speak.  Once I did, I found I couldn’t stop jumping right in.  The result of this work is the production at the Alumnae in April of 2015.

  • LR: In both of your plays, you portray Marguerite de Navarre as having extensive contact with Marguerite de Roberval. I am fascinated by this intriguing possibility.  Can you comment on your reasons for incorporating this relationship into your texts?

SB: Well – it’s hard to remember why originally.  I think it was because I was also fascinated by the complex character of the Queen of Navarre, and her own tragic story.  I wanted to include her.  (Partly because of the answer to question 4)  And it made sense to me.  I believe I found references to the friendship of Jean-Francois and the Queen, and it seemed reasonable that he might want to palm his sister off on a good friend with high position and impeccable morals.  I also reasoned that the Queen would not have told such a story about her good friend’s expedition in the Heptameron (however disguised and amended) unless she had a special reason for keeping alive the story about the woman and her remarkable experience while exonerating her friend.  In the play the Queen offers a needed counterpoint on the island.  Through her and her court, we can access Marguerite’s life in France – so starkly different from her current situation.  The Queen is also the defender of intelligence, of reason, often Marguerite’s link to sanity.   But when it comes down to it, she’s a reformer not a revolutionary, and her arguments cannot convince Marguerite to return.

  • LR: Your representation of contact between Marguerite de Roberval and the First peoples of Canada before her 1542 voyage is another compelling aspect of your work. Can you offer some reflections on your motivations for including this element in your plays?

SB: This is an element that, regrettably, did not make the crossover to the new version with the narrower focus on Marguerite’s emotional dilemma.

During the time I was first writing, cultural appropriation and inclusion of native voices was a big issue here.  Also Ken Chubb and I had a long history of both non-traditional casting and giving space to non-white directors and writers when we were running the Tricycle Theatre (1980-84) and before that the Wakefield Tricycle Company (1972-80) in London, England.  I felt I had to acknowledge the fact that the so-called New World was already the long time home to many people.  But Marguerite was abandoned on an uninhabited island, and the isolation was important, so First Nations people couldn’t be directly a part of the story.   But it was an historical fact that Cartier took Donnacona and several other natives, including some young girls, back to France after his second voyage.  And someone – I can’t remember who – was creating a dictionary of the Iroquois language with Donnacona.  I was also surprised and intrigued by how much Marguerite seemed to know about winter and traps and basic survival skills.  (Especially when de Roberval and his party knew so little.)  She had the support of Damienne, of course, but I imagined that the knowledge transfer could have been a bit more direct.  The character of a girl, Little Flower, could open the gateway to a connection for Marguerite with the very clever Donnacona.  And a girl like Marguerite might well be more taken with tales of the New World – where her brother was going to be King – than with the subtle arguments that went on in the Queen’s salon.


  • LR: Since the Renaissance there have been short stories, poems, and countless novels written about Marguerite de Roberval. Other than Anne Hébert, you are the only playwright to depict her harrowing ordeal.  In your opinion, what elements of her story make it so fitting for theatre?

SB: This is not entirely accurate. Newfoundland playwright, Robert Chafe has also written a play about Marguerite called Isle of Demons.  I believe it was first produced in 2004.

I don’t think the story of Marguerite is necessarily “fitting for theatre.”  Elements of it are highly charged dramatically, and the tale in its entirety is emotionally and dramatically compelling.  But it is theatrically challenging.  A chronological approach risks trying to cover, perhaps, too much territory.  It also starts with many characters and then reduces to one – except for the arrival of the sailors.

A dramatic approach has to be created.

For the radio play I chose the device of Marguerite in later life as a teacher in France, relating her story, in dramatic flash-blacks, to her students.  This worked well for the medium, but when it came to the stage play, I wanted to do something more immediate.

I decided to focus on the major dramatic moment – the realization that rescue from the island is possible – allowing the contradictory emotions around whether Marguerite wants to, or feels she can, return to France, to reveal the important elements of her story.  Having part of the play take place outside reality (ie in her mind) allowed me the dramatic option of including her brother and the Queen of Navarre as active characters, and bringing Eugene and Damienne who were with her earlier on the island into the story.

  • LR: Is there one specific passage from I am Marguerite that you feel most clearly represents the indomitable spirit of Marguerite de Roberval?

SB: I’d say it is the ending, when Marguerite does decide to return to France. But not just to return:  to speak.  To speak to anyone who will listen.  To tell her story, over and over.  To never shut up.

I’d argue that this is the reason that her story has survived.  Although she was barred from court, the Queen of Navarre heard the story.  Andre Thevet heard the story, Belleforest heard it.  Samuel de Champlain eventually heard it.


  • LR: What are the most important aspects of this young woman’s story that you hope that the reader/spectator would take away from your plays?

SB: Ultimately the story is about the triumph of the human spirit. It’s about the struggle for sanity in the midst of terrifying isolation and privation.  Her losses are enormous and incredibly painful, but ultimately Marguerite finds the strength to remember and to keep her experiences and the memory of those she loved and who suffered with her, alive.


  • LR: In your play Carrying the Calf you represent four women who have experienced violence, but who also manifest strength.  In Straight Stitching, you evoke the struggles of immigrant women.  Your works on Marguerite de Roberval demonstrate an interest in questions of women and justice.  Do you see your writing as a means to advocate for women?

SB: That would seem to imply that I have some answers.  As a playwright I see my first priority as entertaining in a dramatic manner.  But I do that through stories or issues that compel me in some way; that force me to ask questions, and go on a voyage of discovery.

Annamarie Beckel


Annamarie Beckel is a writer, ecologist, and editor.  In addition, she has also worked extensively with the Ojibwe tribe in the United States and she has published a novel about the Beothuk tribe of Newfoundland.  Her 2008 work about Marguerite de Roberval, Silence of Stone, was also published simultaneously in French as Les voix de l’île.

Interview with Annamarie Beckel

1) LR: How did your fascination with Marguerite de Roberval begin?

AB: It’s always hard to say exactly where the inspiration/obsession for a story originates. At the time I wrote Silence of Stone, I was working at Breakwater Books/Jesperson Press and had come across George Martin’s book of poetry The Legend of Marguerite (edited by D. W. S. Ryan). I was also familiar with the story of Marguerite, although I can’t recall precisely where I first heard it.

There are lots of ideas for novels that cross my mind; the majority don’t stick in terms of developing a novel. With most ideas, I become less intrigued the more I think about them and research them. But the more I read about Marguerite, the more interested I became in her story: her alleged offence, the apparent injustice that her uncle visited upon her, society’s apparent tolerance for that injustice, and the sheer remarkableness of her survival. I could not imagine how it would feel to be alone for that long, especially under those circumstances. She was so young when she was abandoned on the island, and I became incredibly interested in her character and in how she might have been shaped by her experiences. I researched the effects of solitary confinement on the psyche, which is where much of the hallucinatory imagery comes from. If Marguerite were alive today, we’d certainly suspect that she would suffer from PTSD. As a former animal behaviourist, I was also fascinated by the profound relationships people can have with animals and birds, especially when they are alone and begin to think about animals and birds unconventionally.

2) LR: It has been almost five hundred years since Marguerite de Roberval was supposedly marooned on an island in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence.  In your opinion, why does her story continue to intrigue us today?

AB: There are enough extant records to validate her abandonment, if not the circumstances, as something that actually did happen. I think people are simply amazed that this young noblewoman managed to survive on her own. Even now, it would be extremely difficult to survive a Newfoundland winter on your own, even if you had shelter and all the tools you needed, so we find it remarkable and incredible that Marguerite was able to do so. If there were not an historical record to back up Marguerite’s story, no one would find Silence of Stone believable as a novel. We’d all say, “No, that’s not possible. There’s just no way she could have survived that ordeal.”

I think, too, we’re outraged on her behalf, at what her uncle allegedly did to this young woman. It’s hard to imagine a crime so vile that it would justify abandonment, especially in such a harsh environment. His act also defies logic. If he was trying to start a viable colony in the “New World,” it makes no sense to abandon a young woman to almost certain death – especially if she’s pregnant – no matter what her crimes. The irrationality of his actions has led some people to believe that Jean-François de Roberval had other motives for wanting her dead, and these are explored in the novel.

3) LR: From your perspective, what is the importance of Marguerite de Roberval and her role in Canadian history and culture?

AB: Marguerite could be considered an icon of the incredible resilience, toughness, and creativity of the original European colonists. And I think women, especially, are drawn to her story because she’s a woman who managed to survive on her own without the help of any men. I also like to imagine a respectful attitude toward First Nations people.

4) LR: Since 1558, several European and Canadian writers have produced different versions of Marguerite’s story.  What compelled you to write your own account?

AB: I simply became fascinated with her character and the possibilities of her story. I researched every nonfiction account I could find, but avoided all novels until Silence of Stone was finished. I didn’t want to know how other novelists had rendered her story.

5) LR: In Silence of Stone, you portray Marguerite de Navarre as meeting Marguerite de Roberval after her return to France.  I am fascinated by this intriguing possibility.  Can you talk about your reasons for including this in your narrative?

AB: One of the nonfiction books I relied on was Elizabeth Boyer’s Colony of One. Boyer had travelled to France and gone through as many of the royal archives as she could. She could read “Old French,” and I believe it was she who suggested that Marguerite de Roberval had probably spent time at court with Marguerite de Navarre before she left France. De Navarre was a free-thinker when it came to religion and, therefore, not popular with the French clergy. And of course there is de Navarre’s Heptameron, which contains a version of Marguerite de Roberval’s story; the inclusion of that story suggests that de Navarre met with de Roberval after she returned to France. Boyer also suggests that it may have been de Navarre who supported de Roberval financially after she returned to France.

6) LR: In your novel, we find a negative representation of André Thevet as well as a much more positive portrayal of Marguerite de Navarre.  In many ways, your depiction of these writers mirrors my own thoughts.  Can you comment on your perception of their literary accounts and why you chose to portray these authors in this way?

AB: I’m drawn to de Navarre’s free-thinking with regard to religion as well as the idea that she was a writer engaged in intellectual pursuits during an historical period when women’s options were limited, even for noblewomen. According to Boyer and other sources, it was she, and not her brother, King François, who was the intellectual at court and who drew other intellectuals into her circle. In my research, I also encountered nonfiction accounts of Thevet. Almost  everything written about him portrays Thevet as a plagiarist of other people’s work and something of a boor and a buffoon, a man who was not respected even in his own time. I can no longer remember the source, but one of the references I read claimed that he actually approved of Jean- François de Roberval’s punishment of Marguerite, so it’s hard to imagine that an interview between the two would have gone well, or that Marguerite would have liked him or respected him, or been honest with him.

7) LR: You also depict Marguerite de Roberval as getting some resources from the First peoples of Canada.  This is a fascinating aspect of your story and one that some historians have suggested may have been necessary for her survival.  Can you talk a little about your motivations for including this element in your portrayal of her experience?

AB: I worked for fourteen years on an Ojibwe reserve, and my experience with the culture led me to believe that if native people were anywhere near Marguerite, they would have known of her existence. Among First Nations people, a person living alone, and surviving, is a highly unusual thing, so much so that they might have viewed her as a spirit. They might well have left offerings for that spirit, not out of fear but out of respect. And certainly it is hard to imagine that she could have survived completely on her own. Alternatively – and this is not a direction I chose to go in the novel – native people might well have taken her into their tribe, in which case, it makes sense that she would not have wanted to leave when the Breton ship landed. Reports are that she was reluctant to leave the island with her Breton “rescuers.”

8) LR: Along with your novel about Marguerite de Roberval, you have written, Dancing in the Palm of His Hand, a story that represents witch trials and persecutions in seventeenth-century Germany.  These two works focus on women and certain injustices that they have suffered in history.  Do you see your writing as a means to advocate for women?

AB: I’ve been a lifelong feminist and have always bristled at the injustices women have suffered and continue to suffer. I am drawn to telling stories in which those injustices are particularly egregious. My first novel, All Gone Widdun, is about Shawnawdithit, the last surviving Beothuk Indian in Newfoundland, and William Cormack, the Scottish gentleman who decided to study her.  She, too, was hard done by – on two counts: her race and her sex. I think I’m also drawn to the theme of aloneness. In all three novels, the protagonists are alone in a world that does not understand them. I’m also drawn to think about the abuses women have suffered at the hands of religion, and all three novels deal with that as well.

9) LR: Is there one specific passage from your novel that you feel most clearly represents the indomitable spirit of Marguerite de Roberval?

AB: Not one particular passage and not just her survival on the island, but also her absolute refusal to be cowed by Thevet.

10) LR: What are the most important aspects of Marguerite’s story that you hope that the reader would take away from Silence of Stone?

AB: My first priority is to tell a good story. So I’m satisfied if a reader comes away from the novel having enjoyed it and having found it thought-provoking.

I didn’t write the novel to “teach a lesson,” but if a reader does take away an idea, I hope that he or she might consider that the injustices visited upon Marguerite are extreme; but her strength, resilience, and creativity are extreme as well (as are Eva’s and Shawnawdithit’s). I guess one of the things I hope the reader might take away is an awareness of how cultural and religious patriarchy continues to visit injustices upon women.


Rosette Laberge


Having published over twenty novels in the past fifteen years, Rosette Laberge is an extremely prolific, francophone writer.  Her interest in historical fiction is evident in her recent portrayal of Marguerite de Roberval as well as her trilogy about Marie-Madeleine de Verchères.  In 2011, Rosette Laberge published, La noble sur l’île déserte, a novel about Marguerite de Roberval.  This is the most lengthy version of Marguerite de Roberval’s story.

Interview with Rosette Laberge

1) LR: Comment votre fascination pour Marguerite de Roberval a-t-elle commencé?

RL: Je dois d’abord dire que normalement c’est mon éditeur qui me propose des sujets d’écriture, mais pour Marguerite de Roberval c’est moi qui l’ai proposé. Une connaissance est tombée sur une revue littéraire dans laquelle il y avait un article sur elle. J’ai non seulement lu l’article en question, mais j’ai aussi fait des recherches sur elle. Et j’ai trouvé que c’était quelqu’un de fascinant. De plus, j’aime l’histoire, j’aime apprendre, et j’aime aussi découvrir plein de choses nouvelles.  Mais disons, en résumé, que j’ai eu « un coup de foudre » pour elle.  Quand on pense qu’une noble de 19 ans qui ne sait que broder, lire et prendre le thé, a été abandonée sur une île déserte de la Basse Côte-Nord, ça ne peut être qu’un sujet intéressant. Écrire ce roman a été un de mes plus grands défis d’écriture. C’est que sur l’île, au plus fort du roman, il n’y avait que trois personnages, puis deux, et finalement que Marguerite. Mon objectif : faire vivre cette histoire merveilleuse.

2) LR: Il y a près de cinq cents ans que Marguerite de Roberval a été probablement abandonnée sur une île déserte dans le golfe du Saint-Laurent.  À votre avis, pourquoi est-ce que son histoire continue de nous intriguer aujourd’hui?

RL: Je pense que c’est une femme qui nous invite au dépassement. Marguerite de Roberval n’avait qu’une idée en tête, celle de survivre à tout prix et de retourner en France un jour. Elle était pourvue d’une détermination peu commune. Il fallait la voir  surveiller les rares navires qui risquaient de passer devant son île.  C’était quelqu’un qui avait un caractère très fort. Par sa force de caractère, elle démontre qu’il y a toujours un moyen de se dépasser.

3) LR: De votre point de vue, quelle est l’importance de Marguerite de Roberval et son rôle dans l’histoire canadienne?

RL: Quand vous examinez les faits historiques écrits sur le seizième siècle, vous remarquez très vite que tant l’histoire que les histoiriens n’ont pas donné beaucoup de place aux femmes. En tout cas, en ce qui me regarde, on n’a jamais parlé de Marguerite de Roberval dans mes cours d’histoire. De Madeleine de Verchères et de Marguerite Bourgeois, mais pas un seul mot sur elle. Son histoire inspire les gens, elle fait rêver autant les hommes que les femmes. Marguerite de Roberval surprend par sa grande capacité d’adaptation loin de son monde, mais surtout de ses serviteurs.

4) LR: Depuis 1558, plusieurs écrivains ont écrit différentes versions de l’histoire de Marguerite. Qu’est-ce qui vous a motivée d’écrire votre propre version de ces événements?

RL: Je dois dire que je n’ai pas vraiment réfléchi. Disons plutôt que j’ai été fascinée par le personnage et par son histoire peu commune et captivante dans son genre.

5) LR: En tant que femme canadienne, à quel point votre identité a influencé votre décision d’écrire un livre sur Marguerite de Roberval?

RL: C’est indéniable, je suis solidaire à la cause des femmes et je suis vraiment curieuse de nature.  Et qu’on en ait dit aussi peu sur elle m’a fait réagir. Je me suis dit que si le fait d’écrire ce roman pouvait faire connaître Marguerite de Roberval aux gens, eh bien je me devais de le faire.

6) LR: À la fin de votre roman, La noble sur l’île déserte, vous représentez une rencontre entre Marguerite de Navarre et Marguerite de Roberval après son retour en France.  Je suis fascinée par cette possibilité intrigante.  Pourriez-vous parler des raisons pour lesquelles vous avez décidé de représenter cette rencontre dans votre roman?

RL: On se souviendra que le Sieur de Roberval était un ami proche du roi de l’époque et que Marguerite de Navarre était sa soeur. Elle devenait donc la plus susceptible d’aider Marguerite de Roberval, de lui offrir sa support, de la protéger de son cher oncle qui la croyait morte et de l’aider à récupérer ses terres et sa fortune.

7) LR: Dans votre roman, Marguerite de Roberval reçoit de l’aide et des ressources importantes des peuples autochtones du Canada.  C’est un aspect fascinant de votre histoire.  De plus, certains historiens pensent que ce contact a dû être nécessaire pour la survie de Marguerite dans un environnement si brutal.  Pourriez-vous parler un peu des motivations derrière cette représentation?

RL: Partons du principe que s’il n’avait pas eu les Indiens, on ne serait pas là. Et Marguerite n’avait personne d’autre. C’est pourquoi, il fallait à tout prix trouver quelqu’un pour l’aider. C’était clair dans mon esprit qu’elle était en contact avec eux à un moment ou à un autre de sa captivité.  Même s’ils ne parlaient pas la même langue, ils pouvaient l’aider. Les faits historiques confirmaient qu’elle était retournée en France, c’est pourquoi il fallait absolument qu’elle réussise, qu’elle trouve la force intérieure necessaire pour survivre. J’ajouterai qu’encore aujourd’hui on aurait beaucoup à apprendre des Indiens.

8) LR: Quels aspects de l’histoire de Marguerite de Roberval souhaitez-vous que le lecteur retienne après avoir lu La noble sur l’île déserte?

RL: Quand je lis un livre comme celui-la, ça me rend meilleure, ça m’invite à aller plus loin encore, à me dépasser. C’est ce que je leur souhaite. Notre monde est rempli de gens de toutes sortes et l’homme est capable de bien mais de mal aussi.  L’oncle de Marguerite de Roberval en est une preuve indéniable, mais malgré son acharnement pour se débarrasser de sa nièce elle a survécu.

9)LR: Selon vous, y a t-il un passage spécifique de votre roman qui offre le meilleur exemple de l’esprit indomptable de Marguerite de Roberval?

RL: Pensons seulement à sa soif d’apprendre comment vivre dans ce monde hostile qui n’avait aucune comparaison avec son ancienne vie. Pensons aussi à toutes les heures de veille qu’elle s’est imposées pour aviser les navires potentiels de sa présence sur l’île et à sa joie le jour où elle a enfin apercu un navire qui est venu la chercher. Marguerite de Roberval était une battante comme il y en a peu même dans notre monde moderne.

10) LR: Vous avez aussi publié trois romans à caractère historique sur Madeleine de Verchères.  Comme La noble sur l’île déserte, ce sont des œuvres consacrées à l’histoire d’une femme forte.  Voyez-vous votre écriture comme un moyen de plaider en faveur des femmes, ou au moins comme une façon d’affirmer leur contribution à l’histoire?

RL: La premiere raison pour laquelle j’ai écrit ces livres, c’est que j’aime ce genre de roman.  La deuxième raison, c’est qu’on ne nous apprend pas notre histoire, on apprend l’histoire des Français et des Anglais mais de la nôtre on n’apprend pas grand-chose. Même les Indiens ne sont pas dépeints à leur juste valeur. Pour Madeleine de Verchères et Marguerite de Roberval, c’était pour les faire connaître et pour dire aux femmes que nous avons toutes un peu d’elles en nous.  Notre monde moderne laisse une plus grande place aux femmes, mais il ne faut pas qu’on se repose sinon on va vite faire un pas en arrière. Si je peux redonner les cartes de noblesse aux femmes via mes romans, eh bien je le ferai encore et encore.  Cela me plaît énormément d’écrire ce genre de roman; les personnages historiques sont tellement inspirants. Une fois que j’ai en mains les faits historiques entourant mon personage, il n’en tient qu’à moi de faire revivre son histoire à mes lecteurs par mes mots.

11) LR: Pourriez-vous parler un peu de vos recherches sur Marguerite de Roberval?

RL: J’ai fait énormément de recherches tant sur Internet, auprès des sociétés d’histoires, dans les bibliothèques et auprès de specialistes de l’époque aussi.  Il y avait peu de choses écrites, et je voulais rendre un portrait le plus précis possible pour mes lecteurs.  Pour vous donner un exemple, pour avoir vu les îles de la Basse Côte-Nord, je savais qu’il n’y avait pas de bois mais les faits historiques confirmaient que Marguerite de Roberval avait survécu. Il fallait donc que j’en trouve suffisamment pour la construction d’une cabane. J’ai fait aller mes contacts et j’ai fini par tomber sur un spécialiste des navires de l’époque. Ce dernier m’a confirmé que les Espagnols et les Basques faisaient la chasse à la baleine dans le coin et qu’ils construisaient des abris sur les îles. J’ai poursuivi mes recherches pendant toute l’écriture de mon roman. À l’image de mon personnage, j’ai la tête dure et j’ai comme conviction qu’on finit toujours par trouver une réponse quelque part. J’ai aussi consulté un chasseur, un spécialiste de mammifères, des gens au gouvernement de Québec… Je m’adresse à des personnes souvent dotées d’une intelligence plus vive que la mienne et c’est pourquoi je dois tout faire pour pouvoir appuyer mes dires sur du solide.

En conclusion, j’aimerais préciser qu’on m’a demandé d’écrire un deuxième tome mais j’ai refusé. C’est tout de même flatteur de savoir que les lecteurs ne veulent pas que l’histoire finisse…