Tag Archives: “Henriette of England”

black and white

I must go to various groups and talk about Louis XIV and Before Versailles again. It’s a little like reopening a closed book. I have shut the lid on my last book. For me, it’s over. Yet I have the opportunity to present it to the public again, and if I want to do that well–my presentation opens people to becoming readers, my readers–I have to do a little diving in the depths that were Before Versailles. Why did I write about what I did? What excited me?  I have to let Louis charm me again, as he did as he began to take over a story that I thought belonged to either Henriette or Louise. I really liked the place Louis was in his life in the moments I chose to portray, and I geniunely liked the person I envisioned in those moments. He truly was a hero. I’m going to watch Le Roi Danse again or pieces of it anyway. Benoit Magimel, the actor who protrays Louis in this French film, captures the ardor, the innocence, the incipient and polite and steely determination, the attractiveness, the creativity that were all Louis XIV in 1661, that ensnared me as I worked to create a novel in which he was going to be a part but not the whole. And I have to dust off rusty social skills. I’m an oddball, and I am mostly at peace with that, but I do need to protect that part of me when I present to strangers.

How do you prepare yourself when you make presentations? Isn’t it strange, the life of a writer, so solitary and yet these public presentations (if we’re lucky)? How do you resolve the black and white of the  differences?

Wish me luck……


Last time I wrote about what was not true in my latest novel (or in other words, the fiction in the fiction), so here’s what is true in Before Versailles……when Louis XIV* was 22 years old, his mentor died, and he was brought face to face with the fact that someone else in the kingdom was quite powerful, perhaps more powerful than Louis himself. What he did with that fact is interesting even to this day. During that same time period, Louis had been married for one year to a Spanish princess, and for that year, he’d been faithful. But he began a friendship with his new sister-in-law, an English princess who had always lived in France, that quickly turned to flirtation, and maybe more. History becomes quite unclear on this point.

To me,  all of the above, from powerful men to painful decisions to powerful flirtation, is the stuff of drama, the stuff of story. And Louis’s only brother and heir was gay. And that brother’s best friend was also in love with the English princess. More drama. And Louis himself fell in love as he grappled with power and how much was truly his…..all of this in a period of four months in the summer air of the summer palace of Fontainebleau. And so I tried to make a story of that, of young people in extraordinary positions who were unfurling in all manner of ways. They were the Hollywood of their time, a real historical reality show. I thought for a long time the story belonged to the two key women in the excitement, but it didn’t; it belonged to Louis. And once I realized that, I had so much, passion, fear, ambition, treachery, love, betrayal, competition, tenderness; those emotions and qualities were really there, and it was my job to make them discernable again, to polish the tarnished silver of another century and show everyone its gleam……..

For me, it’s always about the people in the story….what do you think? What pleases you in fiction?

*A marvelous snippet from YouTube from Le Roi Danse that shows a young Louis XIV…enjoy…..

Louis, Louis

He was the rock star politician of his time, as if Franklin Roosevelt in his prime looked like a dark-haired Sting with a touch of Brad Pitt thrown in. But oddly enough, he isn’t the one who’s hard to write.

It’s the two women, Louise (de la Valliere, as she was known later) and Henriette (princess of England and France), both real, both intriguing, both loved him and were loved by him, and which is my heroine––that is the problem. I’ve decided and won’t spoil the plot of this book by telling all, but how I have wrestled with this, one draft focusing on one, the other draft on the other, and this draft, the polish/final (I hope, please, please) focusing on the winner.

Who’s the winner and why? The one who contributes most to the tension and forward motion of the story. The one who rises to the forefront in my imagination. In real life, I think they were both heroines. What an interesting point in history, Louis, the burgeoning young lion of Europe, loved by his sister-in-law, his wife, his sister-in-law’s maid of honor (and every other young woman in the vacinity….don’t we all love a star?).  And his breaking of the most powerful man in France and his own brother. To take this story and pull it apart and find the meat, the emotional arcs, the why we do things, the consequences of what we do, which is what I love best, has been such a challenge.

I hope, when it’s done (I think this fall, but it isn’t sold yet, so I don’t know when it will come out) that you think it’s worth it. I have tremendous respect for you…the reader. I am a reader, and I love nothing more than when an author scoops me up in spite of myself and takes me to another world. It’s what I attempt in my writing, to suspend time and place, to create another time and place, where real people walked and talked and loved and lost and survived anyway, just like we do.