1. Who or what inspired you to become an author?
My sister gave me a shove in the direction of becoming a writer. So, if you love my book thank her, and if you don’t, you know who to blame. I was a lawyer at the time. I’d wanted to be one since I was a little girl. It was my dream job but it was turning out to be not-so-dreamy. I knew I wanted to do something new, but deciding what to be when you grow up when you are already grown up is an angst filled business. I don’t do angst without my sister (much as she doubtless wishes I would). So I was on the phone with her using her as an unpaid career counselor/therapist when she said, “I know you are making up a story right now in your head. Whatever that story is pick up your dictaphone and start saying it out loud.” I was leaving on a family beach vacation, but I took my dictaphone along and followed my sister’s orders. The result was my first completed manuscript.
2. What inspired you to write about Queen Marguerite of France?
I first encountered Marguerite while researching a different project. I was reading about Notre Dame de Paris. She and Louis jointly presented the church’s last and smallest door—the Porte Rouge—and if you look up, you can see Marguerite’s kneeling image carved over that charming door. Anyway, in the pages of a history of Notre Dame I discovered all four remarkable daughters of Raymond Berenger, Count of Provence. I wondered how such women, with their powerful Savoyard connections and politically significant marriages, could have slipped through the fingers of history. The fact they had aggravated me. So I started a file folder with their names on it, vowing to come back and tell their story. The Sister Queens is the result of that vow.
3. Who is your least favorite character you wrote about in The Sister Queens?
King Louis IX of France. I suspect some readers will be surprised that I don’t say Blanche of Castile. She was certainly a harridan, and very unkind to Marguerite but as they say, “hatred isn’t the opposite of love, indifference is.” Blanche hated Marguerite because Blanche feared Marguerite. The Queen Mother wanted to retain her power over her beloved son. Her motivation, while certainly not laudable, is understandable. Louis’s indifference to and neglect of his wife seemed more sinister—at least to me. There was no reason for him not to embrace and value his queen. She was a lovely and educated woman with many fine qualities. More than this, her family could have been a real asset to him. But Louis was weak. He couldn’t put mommy aside. And he was also a religious zealot and used his piety as an excuse from some very unchristian behavior.
4. What is your next book project?
Having tackled the relationship between sisters, I am working on a novel driven by the mother-daughter dynamic. It is set in the 16th century, which is one of my all-time favorite periods in French history. My main character is Marguerite de Valois, sister to three kings of France (Francis II, Charles IX, Henri III) and wife of a fourth (Henri IV). Here is the tagline I am using to focus my writing: “The mother-daughter relationship is fraught with peril—particularly when your mother is Catherine de Médicis.”
5. What is your favorite quote?
I have a quote or quip for every occasion. Sometimes I mangle them so badly their original author would weep. But there is a sub-genre of quotes that relate to the guiding principals of my life. These are the ones that I bludgeon my children with.
1) Mr. Knightly on duty (which is no longer a popular virtue but is certainly high on my list):
“There is one thing. . . which a man can always do, if he chooses, and that is, his duty”
Jane Austen’s Emma.
2) On love
“. . . Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;”
From Sonnet 116
And Mr. Munsch:
I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.”
Love You Forever
3) Mr. Somebody (doubtless centuries ago) on the living up to promises:
“A man’s word is his bond.”
6. What advice would you give to an aspiring author?
To aspiring authors generally I would say it’s not enough to hone your craft you have to learn the business (unless you are writing solely for your own satisfaction). That way when the happy day arrives and you have an agent and a book contract, the facts of life (e.g. authors need to be involved in marketing and promotion) or simple definitions (do you know what it means to “earn out”) won’t stop you in your tracks.
To historical writers specifically I would say respect history but don’t be smothered by it. When I read a work of historical fiction I want accurate historical detail yes, but I need a compelling story. Any academic historian will tell you that history is fluid—interpretations change and even the “facts” as we know them aren’t set in stone. New information and artifacts are discovered. Old theories and artifact identifications are discredited. As a writer, you get to make choices based on evidence. If you change something that is currently accepted as “fact,” please mention that in your author’s note. But if you have conflicting sources don’t hesitate to choose the facts that support the narrative arch you are trying to build. This is fiction.
Sophie Perinot was the first member of her college graduating class to declare a history major. Following her BA from The College of Wooster, Sophie earned a JD from Northwestern University School of Law. After practicing law for a number of years, her inner-artist could no longer be subdued and reinvention as a writer was in order. Given her life-long passion for history it seemed only natural that Sophie should write historical fiction. As someone who studied French abroad, and a devotee of Alexandre Dumas, French history was a logical starting point.
Sophie’s debut novel, The Sister Queens, weaves the captivating story of medieval sisters, Marguerite and Eleanor of Provence, who became queens of France and England. She is currently working a novel set in Valois France which plumbs the mother-daughter relationship.
When she is not visiting corners of the 13th and 16th centuries, Sophie lives in Great Falls Virginia with her three children, two cats and one husband.
Thanks you Sophie for giving me the pleasure of this wonderful inerview!