A Question Readers Often Ask: What’s next?

A Question Readers Often Ask: What’s next?

Readers often ask, “What’s next?” The answer to that question depends on when the question is asked, of course. What follows is an evolving diary, begun many, many years ago.

A reader wrote some time ago:

Are you going to write more stories about the court of the Sun King?


You did such a great job with the historical details and as I have studied Louis XIV and his court— there are plenty of interesting stories to tell (including the adventures of the Princess Palatine, even La Grande Mademoiselle and Lauzun, a couple that united even after a prison term and old age only to break up over greed).

Indeed! By the way, I love La Grande Mademoiselle, but have yet figured out how to tell her story.

You could even do a trilogy of Louis XIV’s Mistresses— you’ve done La Vallière, next could be Montespan, then Maintenon (the king’s mistress, then second wife).

I believe she’s onto me.

Or a novel on Princess Henrietta as she has a tragic back story with her father being killed, her brothers Charles and James, and she had several romances during her marriage to her cousin Monsieur that are interesting reading, including one lover who was her husband’s boyfriend who falls for Henrietta and became a master of disguise to see her at any cost (De Guiche–who visited her as a fortune teller, a litter bearer and in a domino so he could romance her in Philippe’s presence at a masked ball).

What wonderful suggestions these are. Henriette would indeed be a fantastic subject.

I especially love the De Guiche stories, and in fact wrote many scenes of him hiding in the fireplace and disguised as a fortune-teller, etc., but these scenes, like many, many others, now reside in my cut file.

What I wrote in answer to this letter above:

I am considering writing a novel about Athénaïs (Montespan), but it might focus on her first engagement more than her relationship to the king. I’m not sure. It could also be a story told from the point-of-view of Des Oeillets, her maid who was the go-between between Athénaïs and Voisin, the convicted poisoner.

As this reader points out, there are a wealth of wonderful stories to be told. The hard part is choosing. It took me eight years to write Mistress of the Sun because I kept changing perspectives. I even included the unforgettable Mademoiselle at one point.

I did, in fact, eventually choose to tell the story of The Shadow Queen from the point of view of Des Oeillets (Claudette).

Shadow Queen Cover copy 2

But to answer, “What’s next?”  I am writing a Young Adult novel based on the teen years of Josephine’s daughter Hortense. I am back in the Napoleonic world!

The Game of Hope by Sandra Gulland Canadian Cover

It’s Easter 2018, and Hortense’s story, The Game of Hope, will soon be published in Canada, two months later in the U.S.

As for what’s next? I’m writing — or, at least I think I’m writing — a novel about a teen, a girl falconer in Elizabethan England.

That story about Mademoiselle at the Court of the Sun King continues to haunt me, however. Might that be next next?

{Photo at top is by Evan Dennis on Unsplash.}SaveSave



Home base, at last

I’m back in my main office for the week-end, after being away for six months. It’s my favorite place in the world to work and I’m happy as a pig in mud.

I need to get the room ready for the four-month-write-The-Next-Novel stint coming up, and getting it ready means quite a bit of sorting. There are stacks of paper and piles of books here and there: what was I thinking? I’ve just gone through some of the books, re-piling them, for now I have different priorities.

I’ve just come upon the “scene cards” I made for a novel about La Grande Mademoiselle. It’s a thick stack, divided into parts, representing over six months work before I rather suddenly got swept away with my new subject.


What should I do with these cards and all the other papers and notes I’m bound to find? I’ll put them in a box, label them “La Grande Mademoiselle,” and place them high up on a shelf. In my latest Q&A on the Blog Tour, Julianne Douglas, author of the blog Writing the Renaissance, asked: Who is a character (from any place or era) that you wish someone would write a novel about? Are you tempted to try??” Part of my answer was:

“From the Sun Court era, I’ve tried a number of times to find a way to tell the story of La Grande Mademoiselle, the King’s eccentric, rich cousin and an early feminist. I’m reminded of a painting I bought, the image of a mountain in our area. The artist told me, ‘I’ve looked at that mountain for years, wondering how to paint it.’ La Grande Mademoiselle is my mountain.”

I think I’ll name that box: Mountain.

Photo taken last spring by Debbi Christinck.



I’m in book mode. Winter will soon be upon us, and we plan to leave for sunny Mexic in only a few weeks. What research books will I need to take? I’m still somewhat unsure about the subject of The Next Novel. I have been thinking that it will be about La Grande Mademoiselle, but another possibility pounced upon me a week before we left for Europe and has taken root in my thoughts. It would be told against a background of the theatrical life in the 17th century. There is so much to be learned. On a practical level, I will need information, books—and I don’t have very much time to order.


More anon!

(I also just posted to my research blog: Baroque Explorations.)



I’m at that familiar “it’s impossible” stage, brought on (as usual) by research. My focus has been La Grande Mademoiselle, but—like the lady herself—it’s a big, brave, sad story, rather like that of a female Don Quixote. It’s hard to take on a subject about which much has been written. I waded into Josephine blindly—and over a decade later waded back out.


Also, I waver between fact and fancy. I’ve been (as a novelist should) giving way to fancy—but now, rereading Pitts’ La Grande Mademoiselle at the Court of France, I’m face-to-face once again with fact. It’s like poking a hole in a balloon.

(For notes on the research, see my research blog, Baroque Explorations.)

Still catching up


I’m keeping to the scenes. Today, being Sunday, I thought: just one. But it ended up being five index cards. They are stacking up.

I’m also filling out the Timeline with respect to La Grande Mademoiselle: I’ve read many books on her, “T” marked in the margins—this is my code for “post to Timeline.” Posting facts to the Timeline is a big job, engrossing but time-consuming, and also somewhat hard on my body (in spite of all my ergonomic equipment).

My intent is to get the facts about La Grande Mademoiselle’s life down and then print the significant events onto cards, and sort them in with the scene cards. Before I do that, I’d like all those “T” notes posted. I question the wisdom of this: am I procrastinating in the guise of research?

As well, I found a down-loadable version of one of La Grande Mademoiselle’s novels, which I now have on computer. It would be a worthwhile project to attempt a translation. (Reminding me now of the lost project, the “translation” of the 17th century book on horsemanship.)

All this helps to explain, I think, why it takes me so darn long to write a novel.