This Friday I will be in Florida, attending my first-ever Historical Novel Society conference. I've heard so much about the star-power lunches and dinners (this year the guests of honor will be C.W. Gortner, Steve Berry and Anne Perry!), the costume pageant, and the juicy author panels.
I'm honored to be on a panel with my friend Sophie Perinot, author of the wonderful novel The Sister Queens. Our panel has the awesome title "The Feisty Heroine Sold Into Marriage Who Hates Bear Baiting: Cliches in Historical Fiction and How to Avoid Them." We will try to lay down the law along with Susan Higginbotham and Gillian Bagwell. :)
To generate more excitement for the conference (and let me tell you, I am already very excited), I've updated an interview I conducted with Sophie that revealed her historical knowledge, creativity and savviness about being published:
Nancy Bilyeau: Your first novel, The Sister Queens—telling the story of Marguerite and Eleanor of Provence, sisters who both became medieval queens—came out in 2012, can you tell those readers who may not have read it yet a little bit about the book?
Sophie Perinot: The Sister Queens is a sister story first and foremost. Yes, it is set in the 13th century and the atmosphere, politics and history are richly detailed and appropriate to that time but I wanted to focus my novel on that which is timeless—the way our sisters shape us whether by challenging us or by supporting us.
I’d like to share the back-cover blurb if I may because I really think my publisher did a brilliant job of summing up the novel:
“Raised together at the 13th Century court of their father, Raymond Berenger, Count of Provence, Marguerite and Eleanor are separated by royal marriages—but never truly parted.
“Patient, perfect, reticent, and used to being first, Marguerite becomes Queen of France. Her husband, Louis IX, is considered the greatest monarch of his age. But he is also a religious zealot who denies himself all pleasure—including the love and companionship his wife so desperately craves. Can Marguerite find enough of her sister’s boldness to grasp her chance for happiness in the guise of forbidden love?
“Passionate, strong-willed, and stubborn, Eleanor becomes Queen of England. Her husband, Henry III, is neither as young nor as dashing as Marguerite’s. But she quickly discovers he is a very good man…and a very bad king. His failures are bitter disappointments for Eleanor, who has worked to best her elder sister since childhood. Can Eleanor stop competing with her sister and value what she has, or will she let it slip away?”
NB: What was the most exhilarating moment for you as a debut author? The most humbling?
SP: The most exhilarating moment was, without doubt, my launch day. I was able to lunch with a small group of my fellow members of the Chesapeake Bay Chapter of the Historical Novel Society including the marvelous Kate Quinn and Stephanie Dray. Afterwards we walked to the nearest Barnes & Noble. The minute I crossed the threshold I spotted The Sister Queens on the “New Releases” table. Pure bliss. Needless to say, many pictures were taken.
The most humbling moment came about a week later. I took my youngest child to a Barnes & Noble near our home so that he could see my book on the “New Releases” table. He took one look, shrugged (really) and said something along the lines of, “that’s nice but the hardback books at the front are displayed standing up.” Wow. Yeah, that pretty much deflated my ego.
NB: We will both soon be headed to the 2013 North American Historical Novel Society Conference. Can you tell readers a little bit about the topics of the panels you will be sitting on in Florida?
SP: I will be sitting on two panels. The first entitled “Location, Location, Location” will look at historical settings, their importance as the foundation of good historical novels, and tricks and tools for building them credibly. The Second is our panel on clichés. It will examine the good, bad and ugly of common clichés in the genre. I expect both panels to be scintillating, so if any of your blog readers are coming to St Pete’s, I hope they will consider adding these panels to their list of “must see” sessions.
NB: Is the St. Peterburg HNS Conference your first?
SP: No indeed, I am a veteran of North American conferences, having been at every once since the 2005 inaugural event in Salt Lake City. I honestly believe my early HNS conferences—before I had a completed manuscript—were extremely important in terms of career building/shaping. They really made me think about the business end of writing historical fiction, and gave me the information I needed to make educated decisions about what I wanted in an agent and what sort of publication I was seeking. I think it is very easy for new writers to write in a “creative bubble” focusing solely on developing their craft, but authors are actually small business people and the earlier a novice writer realizes that the better. I’d recommend attending an HNS Conference to anyone serious about writing in the genre and to interested readers as well.
NB: When you get home from Florida I am sure it is back to the writerly grindstone. Can you tell us a little bit about what you are working on right now?
SP: With pleasure. I’ve moved forward a little over 300 years to 16th century France where I am hard at work on a novel about Marguerite de Valois, the youngest daughter Henri II and Catherine de Medici.
Marguerite grew up immersed in the political and dynastic struggles which consumed France during the Wars of Religion. She was a witness to and participant in a lot of fascinating—and sometimes gruesome—history. Yet she has seldom been explored in fiction, and when she has I am afraid portrayals of her—as a vain, corrupt wanton—reflect more of the ugly anti-Valois propaganda of her time than historical reality. I hope to give readers a more balanced and nuanced view of Marguerite who was not only one of the most beautiful women of the French Court but also one of the most intelligent. Readers can expect plenty of mother-daughter conflict between my heroine and her legendary mother, Catherine de Medici, as well as political and Romantic intrigue involving the likes of the Duc de Guise, Henri of Navarre, Charles IX of France and the future Henri III.Thanks for a wonderful interview, Sophie, and see you later this week!
For more information on The Sister Queens, go to: http://www.sophieperinot.com/home/