Betsy Franco’s latest novel, Naked, explores the elements of love and life that ignite our creativity and passion. Similarly, her first novel, Metamorphoses, also explores the artist’s journey: rising up against the misery, rejection and despair. The same is also true of love because in both art and love, you must be naked, utterly exposed. Artists offer up their innermost emotions, ones they spend their lives eluding, and subject themselves to criticism. They risk everything—being accepted, understood, but even so, artists insist on being artists, just like lovers can’t help but be in love.
Naked is a love story between two artists, who meet under unconventional circumstances, to say the least. Narration alternates between Jesse, an acting student, and Camille or “Cat,” a spirit trapped inside a statue in the Rodin sculpture garden at Stanford University, where their relationship unfolds. Jesse becomes infatuated with the statues, with Rodin, and most of all with Cat, the catalyst of all of this. In her first life, she had been a student of Rodin—his muse, Camille Claudel. Having suddenly emerged into the twenty-first century, she finds herself in quite a different world from the one she left behind. I find it refreshing to ponder the modern world from this perspective, and consider all the crazy things we do—the way we dress and interact with other people—and how much the times have changed.
Jesse discovers her and studies her because, for reasons unbeknownst to Jesse at the time, Cat has all the best dirt on Rodin. She fills in the gaping holes in Jesse’s research of the artist she once personally knew. Slowly, Jesse begins to understand some of the torment that she went through studying under Rodin. Jesse knows this torment all too well, having suffered plenty of abuse from his paternalistic father. He lets go of his resentment when he harnesses his rage and casts it into his performance piece. All artists infuse their emotions, agony and ecstasy, into their art—that’s what grips the audience and makes it come alive.
Betsy literally resurrects an artist from the dead and writes Camille a new ending, the one that she deserves. She teaches Jesse what it takes “to start a revolution, to believe in yourself so much that you can withstand the pounding/suffering/rejection/humiliation, march off in your own direction anyway.” You can take the emotional and artistic journey with Jesse and Cat when Betsy Franco’s Naked, published by Tyrus Books/F+W Media, hits stores Nov 18.