Friday, April 24, 2009

Get the Scoop on...Sandra Gulland

In honor of the paperback release of Mistress Of The Sun, Sandra Gulland has been touring the blogosphere all month, leaving each blog with wonderful guest posts and interviews. Her book focuses on a 17th century Frenchwoman named Louise de la Vallière and her life as the Sun King's mistress. Check out my review here. More about Sandra here.

I am thrilled that Sandra took time from her hectic schedule to visit my blog and answer some questions!

How do you come up with the titles to your books, especially Mistress Of The Sun? Are the final titles (as we know it) different from your working titles?
Finding a title for Mistress Of The Sun was both difficult and emotional. For six years I had been wedded to the title Bone Magic. Although people liked it, it proved to be difficult. All the suggested alternatives were awful and I was in agonies over changing it. At the annual conference of the Historical Novel Society in Albany, NY, listening to agents talking about how tough the market was, I thought to myself, "Get over it. Get with the program.

And so, on the last day of the conference, I sat down with fellow-historical novelist
Susanne Dunlap and we brain-stormed possibilities. She was the one who thought of Mistress Of The Sun. I sent a short list of possibilities to a freelance editor I work with, Fiona Foster, who liked Mistress Of The Sun quite a lot. Then I sent it to my editors and agent, and it got the thumbs up. By this time the title was growing on me, as well. Now I'm really happy with it. The three novels of the Josephine B. Trilogy had titles from the start, so this was a new experience for me. I'm now working on a novel that has a "working title" - it's okay, but I'm still looking.

I have seen pictures of you wearing a historically-accurate 17th-century gown, and I know that you had bought it as part of your research. How many gowns do you own now?
I have two gowns now. The first gown, my Josephine B. Trilogy gown, I purchased from the company that had produced the musical Napoleon, after they had shut down. I didn't know until I got the gown that it was the gown worn by the woman who had played the part of Josephine! This same gown is shown on the new Canadian edition of Tales Of Passion, Tales Of Woe.

For Mistress Of The Sun, I needed a 17th century gown. I tried going to costume outlets, but the gowns weren't right. Plus, they were extremely heavy and bulky, which would have made travel impossible. I was lucky enough to be introduced to a dress designer in Toronto, Susan Dicks, who liked the project and took it on. (Usually she's outfitting film and rock stars.) We poured over images, and the one she went with is the one Louise de la Vallière is wearing on the cover of the U.S. edition. I was thrilled.

As part of your research, you make a special effort to visit the locations where your heroines lived. Do you have a favorite location among them? Are there any locations that surprised and/or excited you?
In my travel research, I try to go to all the places where scenes take place in the novel. (For this reason, I do my travel research after a draft is written.) Paris is my favorite; I never have enough time there. For Mistress Of The Sun, I was thrilled beyond measure to stand in the door of the actual Vallière barn.

You have gone great lengths in the name of research. What is the most outrageous thing that you have done to learn more about your characters and their lives?
Good question! I once went to a woman to learn meditation techniques (to help me in my writing) and she invited me to "time travel." I said, "Why not?" It was, in fact, an amazing experience. I wept "meeting" my characters. Other than that, spending a week in a silent monastery was quite interesting.

Looking back, are you surprised with how much you know about 17th and 18th centuries? Have you been frequently asked to lecture and share your knowledge about this time period?
On the contrary! Although I do know quite a bit, I am always - always - learning more. I used to give lectures for Napoleonic associations, but the 17th century is not so well-known (or popular), and so the only lectures I'm invited to give have to do with my books. That's fine with me!

Your books have stuck with the same time period. If you could write about another time period, which one would you choose? Do you anticipate writing a future novel that is set in a different time period?
After a decade of the Napoleonic era of the Josephine B. Trilogy, I jumped back in time to the mid-17th century, to the Court of the Sun King. I expect to be in this era forever: there are so many stories!

You mentioned that you first discovered Louise de la Vallière when researching the literary scene to gauge what Josephine B might have read at that time. Were you surprised to find that a biography about Louise had been published?
I wasn't so much surprised as interested. What was it about Louise de la Vallière that interested people of the Napoleonic age? I found out!

I am sure that you have read your fair share of historical fiction. What are your top 3 must-read recommendations? What authors do you recommend?

In general I recommend the work of Rose Tremain.

I can't possibly narrow my list of top historicaly fiction titles to only three! I refer readers to my blog and scroll down the side-bar to "Wonderful historical novels" - that list, starting with A Walk With Love And Death by Hans Koning, are my personal all-stars.

Last but not least, sum up Mistress Of The Sun in 20 words or less.
(20 words! The best I could manage was 28.) A love story with mystery at its heart, Mistress Of The Sun illuminates the power of love and the rash actions we take to capture and tame it.

Thank you to Sandra for letting me be a host during your blog tour! You have been wonderful, and I truly enjoyed your book!

Thanks to Sandra and her virtual assistant Diane, I will be giving away ONE copy of Mistress Of The Sun to a lucky commenter!

Rules are as follows (separate and all-in-one comments welcome):
+1 for leaving an email (REQUIRED TO BE ENTERED)
+3 for new and current followers
+5 for commenting on the review (+10 if you did so before 4/24)
+5for commenting on the cover (+10 if you did so before 4/24)
+10 for telling me what you found interesting about this interview with Sandra
This ends MAY 1st


Mistress Of The Sun Blog Tour
* = review; & = guest post/Q&A; $ = giveaway

Historical Tapestry& | Reading Group Guides& | Savvy Reader& | Scandalous Woman | Reading The Past& | Marta's Meanderings*&$ | Travels Of The Bookworm*&$ | Historical Novels*& | Devourer Of Books& | Peeking Between The Pages*& | The Epic Rat*&$| Planet Books& | Booking Mama*&$ | The Tome Traveller*& | Raucous Royals* | Shhh! I'm Reading*& | My Friend Amy*&| Enchanted By Josephine*&$ | Skrishna's Books* | Writing The Renaissance*&$ | Linus' Blanket*& | Kris Waldherr*&$ | Books Love Jessica Marie*& | Medieval Woman: Blogging With Historical Fiction Writer Susan Higginbotham*&$


  1. +1 for leaving an email - bjhopper(at)me(dot)com

    +3 for current followers

    +5 for commenting on the cover - I think the cover looks like it would match the story.

  2. Ha! I've always wanted to get a period costume as well. Maybe I'll finally get one made now... And the cover is perfect. I like heroines on the front.

    mmillet at gmail dot com

  3. Great interview. Loved the bit about the gowns.

  4. +1 for an email addy

    +3 for current followers

    And I forgot the rest but, I do love that cover. Completely fits the time period.
    And I respect how the author tries to immerse herself in her story and it's times as much as she can, by buying period dresses and visiting sites. I'm sure it gives the book a more authentic feel/description.

    Thanks for the contest and hope this finds you well.

  5. I waaaaaant this book!!!

    +1 lesly7ch(at)yahoo(dot)com
    +3 I follow
    +5 I commented on the review
    +10 I commented on the cover
    +10 I loved it that she 'time traveled' HAHAHAHAHHAHAH ...

  6. I love all of the research questions and answers in this interview! I'm a follower and I'd love to read this book.

    -violetreads at gmail

  7. I'm in! I'ma a follower, commented on your review before 24/4. :D

    I found it interesting that Sandra actually tried meditation and "time travelling" to further her research. If that isn't dedication, I don;t know what is.

  8. +1 for leaving an email:

    +3 for being a follower!

    +5 for commenting on the cover:
    This cover has almost a classic feel to it. Very nice.

  9. Period costumes are so cute! BTW I prefer the Canadian covers though they dont look historical fictiony they are so pretty

    I follow

    BTW my interest is the title. Titles are so important, and I've seen a lot I really like discarded (Bone Magic = Awesome title) but I like the new one too!

  10. +1 for leaving an email - megalon22[at]yahoo[dot]com

    +5 for commenting on review - Welcome to the world of historical fiction! The more you read, the more you'll come to like these types of books.

    +5 for commenting on the cover - I didn't really care for the US cover. My favorite cover is the CAN paperback cover.

    +10 for telling me what you found interesting about this interview with Sandra - I found it interesting that Sandra actually travels to the locations where her novels take place. I bet Sandra's been to some fabulous places!

  11. +1 Please include me in your giveaway.

    +3 for current followers.


  12. Don't enter me, just wanted to stop by and say great interview! I finished Mistress of the Sun last night and loved it.

  13. This isn't my usual thing, but I'm always open to new books. :)

    +3 Current follower.
    (I don't think I commented on the review, but I've been wake for sixteen hours and honestly can't remember)
    +5 Commented on the covers. :)
    +10 I thought it was interesting that she took such time and effort to find those gowns.

  14. Please enter me!

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