(Hortense as a teen, at right, with one of her best friends.)
I have news today. (It’s already being tweeted on the Twitterverse!) I’m going to be writing two Young Adult novels for Penguin Canada. The first — and possibly both — will be about Josephine’s daughter Hortense, taking me back to the Napoleonic era. The books will be published in Canada as part of Penguin’s Razorbill line and in the U.S. as part of Viking Young Readers.
I got the offer some time ago quite out-of-the-blue. It arrived on my agent’s desk in a ribboned box containing chocolates and the proposal.
I needed time to think about it. I’d been long planning to write another (adult) novel about the women in Molière’s life — this I will still do.
But YA? I was interested. For over a decade I was co-editor of a YA series for reluctant readers. Too, many teens are fans of my adult novels. The idea of writing YA intrigued (and challenged) me.
I spent quite a bit of time reading YA and re-researching Hortense’s life, imagining what her story might be. I wasn’t sure I wanted to return to the 18th century — but then I got hooked. Hortense is a very appealing character, and her teen years are dramatic, but also very sad. It’s a truly sweet love story, as well of the story of a girl having difficulty coming to terms with a step-father (Napoleon).
It’s going to be a very interesting few years! Somehow, I feel that I can do all of this all at once: finish This Bright Darkness, begin another adult novel set in the 17th century, write two YAs and a short novel for GoodReads, as well as launching my own e-book imprint.
A sense of reality, apparently, hasn’t clicked in with my advancing years.
I just got off the phone to a book club in Geneva — wonderful! The Skype connection was excellent. They were deep into the Trilogy and had lots of very interesting questions, a pleasure to chat with. (I told them secrets.) Thank you, Karen Smith, for organizing it.
If any of you reading this would like me to chat with your book club … just send me a note (sgulland AT sandragulland DOT com).
It’s so much fun!
I am so excited for your new novel and now news of a young adult book about Hortense? This is a real treat!
Thank you so much, Rachel, AS ALWAYS! x0x
“The Orange Trees of Versailles” is a great primer on all of this, and it’s one of the few to be translated into English.
As with many of these youth-oriented Louis XIV books, Madame de Montespan is the heroine’s antagonist, and makes a wonderful one at that.
A funny note:
In “Orange Trees,” there is a scene in which the beautiful Athenais, still very much in her prime, goes on an almost superhuman eating binge following one of her notorious tantrums. (The rich and exotic delicacies consumed by the favorite, if memory serves, takes almost an entire page to describe.) The best part is that Pietri, like any good author, is keen on rewarding longtime readers with sharp memories: In “Parfum de Meurtre,” a sequel to “Orange Trees” that takes place a few years later, Athenais’ servants, having had to endure many impossible demands over the years, have come to dread one most of all — attempting to lace up her corsets. :)
Sorry, I meant to post this as a reply to your reply, Sandra, but it wound up as a new post. You get the gist, I’m sure…
Yes, Montespan makes a delicious villain! And she was, I suspect, subject to binging. Thank you for bringing this book to my attention!
Congratulations on being offered this new project. It sounds like a fun challenge — writing about a subject you love, but in a way that will be accessible for kids!
It also reminds me of something I’ve been meaning to ask you.
As you know, I love stories involving Louis XIV. This has led me to a strange discovery: In France, there is a veritable cottage industry in youth-oriented literature set in the Sun King’s court. I know you’ve done a lot of research on Louis XIV-themed literature yourself. Have you noticed this phenomenon?
I think it all started with the unexpected success of Annie Pietri’s “The Orange Trees of Versailles” (2000). Since then, literally dozens of titles — usually involving a pre-teen heroine attempting to navigate the intrigues at court — have cropped up, many of which seem like quite a lot of fun, even if they cover some of the same narrative territory. The authors specializing in these books include Pietri (she’s written several sequels to “Orange Trees”), Anne-Marie Desplat-Duc (whose Louis XIV-themed oeuvre includes a large series of books involving the students at Madame de Maintenon’s school for girls), Anne-Sophie Silvestre, Annie Jay, and others. (The novelists all seem to to be Annes or Annies, for some reason. Odd.)
It’s not uncommon, of course, for an adult-oriented Louis XIV novel, or two, to be released in a given year. But nothing like the glut of youth titles that has exploded in the French marketplace. Something about the setting must have really captured the imagination of today’s French schoolgirls!
Sadly, my French isn’t good enough yet to enjoy these books! I’m working on it…
Thanks for this! I didn’t know. How interesting! I just did a Google search for Anne-Marie Desplat-Duc and I see what you mean: so many titles? (Alas, none on Kindle.) I was able to buy The Orange Trees of Versailles, however. (It will be a lovely time of year to read it, since our own tangerine tree is in bloom.)
It’s rather similar to the passion of the Japanese comix featuring Louise de La Vallière!
And in North America, the preferred YA setting seems to be post-apocalyptic.
Sociologists: get to work!
Congratulations Sandra!! I will be sure to read this (and have my daughters read it as well:) Hortense’s story- I love it already! Please keep me posted. Going to tweet this now…
Congratulations, sounds like it will be a grand adventure!
Adventure, yes! Thank you! ???
Late comer here…
I read and enjoyed the Josephine B trilogy so it’ll be wonderful to read Hortense’s take. Not much has been written about her in recent years so I’ll be interested to read about her as the lead whenever the novels come to the US.
Hi Elisa — thank you for your comment. I’ll keep everyone posted on my blog. It will be some time … the book must be written!
So much good stuff! You’re a wonderful role model.
Lilian, that is so sweet of you to say! I don’t feel like a good role model at all. Writing a novel, as you well know, always feels like an impossible task.
Congratulations, Sandra, what wonderful news! I first came to your books through Josephine B, a gift from my mother when I was around 20, give or take a year or so. The last few years I’ve started reading a lot in the YA genre, so I’m delighted that you’re planning on writing something of Josephine’s world for the YA market.
As an aside, I live near Perth, ON, and I like to think of you sitting in your writing office somewhere in the green forests north of me, spinning your excellent stories. :)
The YA genre is in a renaissance, I think: there’s so much that’s being done, both imaginatively and in terms of format. Very exciting. What YA do you recommend?
Perth is lovely: lucky you!
Oh, goodness; that’s a tough question, and depends a lot on your tastes. Favourites of mine are The Hunger Games series and Cassandra Clare’s books; Robin McKinley’s Sunshine; Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother; Gayle Forman’s If I Stay; Kristin Cashore’s Graceling; Holly Black’s White Cat; Stephanie Perkins’ Anna and the French Kiss; John Green’s The Fault in our Stars – among others!
I agree about the YA renaissance – the YA section of the library now looks nothing like the YA shelves of my teen years, 15-ish years ago.
Thank you so much! I read (and admired) The Hunger Games, and I’ll check out the rest. A YA I adored, and it’s Canadian, is TILT by Alan Cuymn. It’s wonderful!!! I recommended it to any reader.
Thanks for the suggestion – I’ll have to check it out!
I think you’ll love it.
I’ve downloaded Kindle samples of most of your suggestions. So far, I’ve started to read THE FAULT IN OUR STARS and LITTLE BROTHER. So good! Thank you!
Glad you’re enjoying them, Sandra! Those Kindle samples are handy, eh? I seriously cried through most of the last 70ish pages of The Fault In Our Stars. Have tissues handy!
Oh oh. Thanks for the warning! I was wondering: How can this story end?
This is fabulous news, Sandra. Congratulations! Hoping to catch up with you next week in San Miguel. We will be there Wednesday to Saturday morning. I know you are busy with the conference but it would be great to see you and chat about YA move.
Anne, yes — let’s meet! I just sent you an email.
Yay, this is awesome news Sandra! I love your novels and can’t wait to read everything that you’ve got in the works! I am really excited to read about Hortense, I love that time period. I don’t know how you manage everything you’ve got going on, but bravo to you! Congratulations!
Thank you, Amy! I’m excited about it too.