In honor of Mother's Day and with thanks to Diane Saarinen and the incomparable Sandra Gulland, I have a fabulous interview and giveaway to bring to you, my lovely readers!
Up first is a Q & A with author Sandra Gulland, whose books include the superb Josephine B. trilogy and Mistress of the Sun. Then scroll down for all the giveaway details.
Before becoming an author, you worked as an editor and even school principle, when was the moment you decided to write a book? Did you know then that you wanted to write historical fiction in particular and had you always had an affinity for HF?
I had always wanted to write, but life got in the way. When I turned 40, I realized that I couldn’t put it off forever, that if I was going to write a novel, I had to begin ... that day. And I did.
I had read Historical Fiction, but not very much. I came to Historical Fiction through the back door, so to speak. I wrote a contemporary novel (never published) about a woman possessed by Josephine. One chapter was Josephine’s diaries. Canadian novelist Jane Urquhart, who was writer-in-residence at the University of Ottawa at the time (and who could give feed-back to anyone, not just students), read this manuscript and told me that that one chapter was the one that came to life. “Just write that.” It had never occurred to me to write historical fiction.
What for you is the most challenging part of the research process?
I love research, but at some point it’s time to put it on the back burner and start writing.
What’s challenging now, in a way, is that there is so much available on-line — entire libraries!
Your novels take place in 18-19c France, what is it about that time period and place inspires you to write about it?
Actually, add the 17th century now!
It all began with Josephine.
You’ve written about two very remarkable women, is there anything you learned from them during your time with them?
That’s an interesting question. From Josephine, I learned courage. I would often tell myself, when faced with a challenge: “If Josephine could do it, I can do it.” Jo: courage. From Louise I came to understand the beauty and richness of the contemplative life.
What authors have inspired your writing?
I have such a long list! I will mention one, however: one author, one slender book: A Walk with Love and Death by Hans Koning. (Koningsberger, when I first read him.) His simple, elegant style was the first to inspire me. It’s the one novel I return to again and again.
What are you reading now?
I tend to read a number of books at a time, especially now that some are in book form, and others are digital. I’m reading Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay in the Kindle edition. In book form I’m reading the delightfully witty autobiography of a friend, The Perennial Freshman by George S. Whiteman, as well as The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett.
According to your website your novel in progress is about another one of Louis’ mistresses, Athénaïs de Montespan (Madame de Montespan), who is portrayed as being rather scandalous. How is it progessing and what is can your readers look forward to in this new novel?
I’ve the second draft behind me, and I’m just now setting off on a research trip. It’s the story of Claude des Oeillets, waiting maid to Athénaïs. Claude was the daughter of a theatrical diva. As part of the theatrical world of that period, she knew Corneille, Moliere, Racine. But it was a hard-scrabble life, and she considered her family’s problems solved when she became waiting maid to Athénaïs, a position that was well-rewarded, but for a price: she was ultimately required to sleep with the King when Athénaïs was indisposed and to act as go-between to Madame Voisin, who was burned at the stake for witchcraft during the Affair of the Poisons. Claude managed to escape and build a life for herself and her daughter by the King. Happily ever after!
And last, but not least, a question dear to me heart (and a few of my bloggy friends too)…what advice can you give to aspiring historical fiction writers?
Don’t aspire to be published, but to write a novel that readers find irresistible. Test your work on a wide range of readers. Demand to be told what’s working, and what’s not. Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. And move on. Don’t stop. Never give up.
AND NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY:
To enter to win 1 of 3 copies of Mistress of the Sun OR the complete Josephine B. trilogy, see below...
- Open to US and CANADA entries ONLY (sorry to my peeps across the water).
- Only one entry per person.
- To enter, just leave a comment below and include your email address. Please also specify if you are entering for either the Josephine B. trilogy or Mistress of the Sun or BOTH/EITHER.
- Ends on May 20th.
GOOD LUCK TO ALL!!!!