Sandra Gulland is the author of Josephine B. Trilogy, The Shadow Queen and The Mistress of the Sun.
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Karolina Małkiewicz: You are the author of the Josephine B. Trilogy, which is about Napoleon's wife Josephine, as well as novels about the Sun King's first mistress, Louise de la Vallière, and Claude des Oeillets, maid to the Sun King's official mistress, Madame de Montespan. What inspired you to write books about these women? Which one do you like the most and why?
Sandra Gulland: These women – Josephine, Louise and Claude – are all very different, but they are alike in a significant way. None of them were born into high nobility, yet they each played an important role at Court. It's that transition that interests me. It's impossible for me to say which one is a favorite, for they are all dear to me.
KM: Are there other women in history who intrigue you? Which ones? And why exactly these? Would you like to write a book about them?
SG: Joan of Arc is certainly interesting, but many books have already been written about her, so I doubt that I will ever write about her.
KM: You wrote about the Napoleonic era and about
during the reign of the Sun King. Why
did you decide to choose these parts of French history? France
SG: My fascination with both these periods in French history began quite by chance. I happened to read a Young Adult biography of Josephine Bonaparte and became fascinated by her life. In researching Josephine, I learned about Louise de la Vallière, the Sun King's first mistress. Both periods are ones of great change, which makes for interesting stories.
KM: Why did you decide to become a writer? Was it a childhood dream?
SG: I have always loved books, and my dream was to make one. First I became a book editor, telling myself that I would write a book of my own "someday." When I turned 40, I decided that it was time to get serious about that goal.
KM: What does Sandra Gulland do every day? What are her dreams? What does she want to do? What is her hobby?
SG: I rise early, usually around , make myself a mug of coffee, and settle down somewhere quiet with my laptop computer. I glance at my email, and maybe even look at Facebook and Instagram (to see if there is news of our children and grandchildren), but I then quickly move onto writing.
This morning quiet time is what I call my “Cup of Work,” and I try to do it even when we’re travelling. The writing work I do at this time might be working on an outline, writing first draft scenes or revising. It depends what stage the work is at. I write on a bed or couch – rarely at a desk. I find that’s best for me ergonomically.
After my Cup of Work, I break for breakfast, dress, and then return to writing work. I’ll break at or so for exercise and lunch. In the afternoon I deal mainly with correspondence, research and household chores. And Social Media, of course, and posting to my blogs, which I enjoy. I also like to fit in a little time painting with watercolors every day, my current hobby. Writing is a very cerebral art, and it’s refreshing to create with stuff. As for dreams, I’m hoping to stay healthy and active long enough to write several more novels. I am 70; it takes me years to write a novel, so I’m not sure how many I will be able to finish!
KM: What's your next project? Could you tell us a little bit about it?
SG: Right now I’m writing a Young Adult novel about Josephine Bonaparte’s daughter Hortense de Beauharnais. She’s 15 when the novel opens, and 16 when it ends. The novel only spans a short period of her life, but a lot happens in that time. The novel is set in her boarding school until her step-father Napoleon takes power, and suddenly she’s something of a princess and living in a palace. The story is one of a girl mourning the death of a father who was guillotined during the French Revolution and coming to terms with her step-father Napoleon Bonaparte.
KM: What kind of books do you like reading? Do you have a favorite author or a book? Whose prose do you feel closest to?
SG: I read lots of books for research, but for pleasure I enjoy reading literary fiction. Recently I read Nora Webster by Colim Toibin (I love all his novels), and I am now reading Lila by Marilynne Robinson. It's hard to pick a favorite author – I have so many – but Canadian authors Helen Humphries, Heather O’Neill and Miriam Toes would all be contenders
If you want to read this interview in Polish, please click here.
You can also visit the Sandra Gulland's blog.
You can also visit the Sandra Gulland's blog.