As part of her blog tour to celebrate the paperback release of Mistress of the Sun, the story of Louise de la Vallière, I'd like to welcome Sandra Gulland to my corner of the blogsphere! I read Sandra's Josephine Bonaparte trilogy when I was just beginning to write historical fiction. Not only did I learn quite a bit about Josephine from it, I also learned a great deal about the craft of writing. So I'm particularly pleased she's stopping by here.
SH: What drew you to the character of Louise in particular? In general, are there qualities that tend to draw you to a historical character?
SG: What initially drew me to Louise was her extraordinary horsemanship. She could stand a cantering horse. She could out-ride and out-hunt the Sun King, who was himself an amazing athlete. I wondered how this came about. Certainly, it wasn't typical of women in the 17th century (much less today). Clearly, she had spent a lot of time with the guys in the stables and out in the fields.
I have to care deeply about my main character, so the most important quality, for me, has to do with having a sympathetic nature. The other essential is that there be something unexplained, something that provokes my curiosity. With Josephine, it was the fact that her remarkable future had been foretold. For Louise de la Vallière, it was her horsemanship.
SH: I’ve seen several different covers for Mistress of the Sun. Do you have a favorite? Why?
SG: I'm crazy in love with the cover of the Canadian hardcover edition, the one with the big eyes. I think it captures Petite's innocent, yet almost hypnotic and somewhat mystical allure. Poetically, I think it gets to the heart of what the novel is about. Plus, it's so gorgeous, simply lush. It communicates that the novel is historical, without confining it only to readers of historical fiction. It has a literary appeal, as well as romantic: a great combination, in my mind. I don't think I will ever love a cover as much as I love this one.
SH: Is there a character you’d like to write about, but don’t think you ever will? Why?
SG: I'm tempted by Joan of Arc — but she's so intimidating. Plus, there would have to be a question about her I wanted to solve.
I'm also, curiously, tempted by Saint Vincent de Paul. Now that would be a challenge! I've read biographies about him, but the one story that intrigues me is that he was, apparently, very popular as a confessor to the society ladies because he would forgive every sin. Imagine the story possibilities that might open up!
SH: Other than historical fiction, is there a genre you enjoy reading in particular? As a reader, do you have any “guilty pleasures”?
SG: I like literary fiction, especially literary historical fiction. In the historical vein, I've found it difficult, lately, to read works set close to the period I'm working in. Some recent works I've read and admired (Blonde, by Oates, for example) were set in the last century.
I did read a "guilty pleasure" book recently: Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer. (Hasn't everyone read this book?) I thought it well done, but I was quite happy to return to my non-vampire world.
Thanks for the interview, Sandra! Now, here's your chance to win a paperback copy of Mistress of the Sun. Just leave a comment here by midnight May 25 (US EST) telling me which of Sandra's covers below is your favorite. (The winner will get the book with the second cover--the US paperback.)
Me? My favorite's the first one. I'd love to wear a dress like that, and my cats would love to shed on it.