As promised, we have Sandra Gulland as a guest today on the blog, and here is her post… Enjoy !
Viewing history through a kaleidoscope by Sandra Gulland
I’m now writing my second novel set in the court of Louis XIV, the Sun King. Louise de la Vallière, the heroine of Mistress of the Sun, is only briefly seen. It is the same world — and peopled by many of the same characters — but seen through a different lens.
This is not so much a series (as was the Josephine B. Trilogy) as novels written about the same characters, but from different points of view. This poses some interesting challenges! With each novel, I research deeply, and, as a result, come to understand the history differently. Already I can imagine the readers of Mistress of the Sun puzzling over scenes in my next novel that might be portrayed in quite a different light. Where lies “the truth”?
At lunch today with friends from France, they told me something interesting about Margaret Yourcenar, the author of Memoirs of Hadrian (a novel about ancient Rome) and many other finely-crafted historical novels. In 1980, Yourcenar was the first female to be elected to the Académie Française. A French novelist, she spent most of her life on an isolated island off the coast of Maine. She believed that to recreate history took not only years of research, but a mystical identification. (I echo that.)
She was, without a doubt, not only a great writer, but a brilliant one. An extraordinary academic, she taught herself to read Japanese, German, Spanish, Portuguese, and modern Greek. (Humbling, isn’t it?) But what I found especially interesting is that she apparently revised a novel every time it was reprinted, according to her new findings. For Margaret Yourcenar, clearly, a historical novel was an ever-evolving work.
The thought of makes me shudder, frankly! The events in Mistress of the Sun will never change (and should not) — but the interpretation of those events? Yes, quite possibly, but in my next novel, and in the novels that follow. I like to think of myself as looking at the Court of the Sun King through a kaleidoscope. Turn the focus just slightly, and the entire image changes.
For more thoughts on history and writing, see Sandra’s blog: Notes on the Writing Life: http://sandragulland.blogspot.com/