A reader writes:
“I enjoyed the book very much–you did the near impossible–you brought Louise Vallière to life and made her a comprehensible and touching character to modern eyes. Usually in most histories on Louis XIV, she is presented as crying ninny who goes off to a convent when Louis moves into Versailles, but you actually made her life interesting.
“My only quibble is that you left out some of the more dramatic stories on Louise–like her riding to the front to see the king without his permission, the queen refusing to feed her, the queen remarking on La Vallière’s earrings, the queen tormenting La Vallière for being pale after her secret birth, Montespan hypocritically taunting La Vallière publicly for being the king’s mistress when she was also involved with him at the exact same time, etc.”
I knew that readers who knew Louise’s story well would note that there are some scenes missing. These are dramatic scenes and I thought of them at length, and wrote them. I wrote the scene of Louise riding to the front, and her humiliation after, several times over, but I could never seem to get it right. Plus, historically, the accounts are somewhat contradictory. My own feeling is that Henriette may have urged Louise on (Voltaire claims that Henriette provided a carriage and horses), and certainly the sister-in-law may have been insistent. It’s also possible that Louis sent for Louise—he needed a cover, after all, for his affair with Athénaïs. As for the horses bolting across the fields in front of the Queen: I can’t understand it. It is so out of Louise’s character.
As for Athénaïs scorning Louise to the Queen—Louise was not present when this happened, and for this novel I’ve held to either Louise’s point-of-view or the point-of-view of someone who was near her.
The painful part of writing historical fiction is that so much must be taken out for the story to work. My cut files are three times the length of the novel!