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Author Interview with Sophie Perinot 3/6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sophie Perinot interview by Jerelyn H. (I-F-Letty)

 

 

This is a first for me and I am flying blind, I am interviewing an author whose first book is yet to be released.  I first became aware of Sophie Perinot from Facebook she is friends with several authors I follow.  Her book The Sister Queens is one of the few I have seen about these remarkable women.  They were the daughters of Raymond or Ramon Berenguer V Count of Province; he had 4 daughters all would become Queens.  Ms. Perinot will be focusing on the elder two.   They were Marguerite Queen of France, and Eleanor of Provence, Queen of England.  Since I haven’t read it I don’t know how much we will learn of Sanchia Countess of Cornwall who was married to Richard Earl of Cornwall.  Who, was for a time styled as King of the Romans, so Sanchia was also a Queen of sorts.  The youngest was Beatrice of Provence, Queen of Sicily; to say they were at the center of western power would be an understatement.  As I have said I have not read this book, but it is one of the ones I am looking most forward to this year.

I would like to thank Sophie for agreeing to this interview.

Jerelyn: This must be an exciting time for you, what does launching a début novel entail?

Sophie: Exciting yes, but actually I think the last weeks before launch are a tough gig.

I was much more at ease when I was working with my editor to polish the book.  Words are something I can control.  How people will respond to those words . . . not so much.  Launching a debut is sort of like putting your child on stage at the school talent show.  You’ve done all you could to prepare (watched hours of practice, made the costume) but now your baby has to stand on her own.  If people clap wildly you will be thrilled.  If they don’t . . . you can’t even bear to think about that.  So you sit in your seat holding your breath.

Of course today authors – and perhaps especially newbies – are expected to do more than sit and wait.  This is the era of social media.  We are expected to promote.  I am an outgoing person, but when I connect with people I don’t like that conversation to be “me, me, me.”   So I spend a lot of mental energy trying to walk a line between communicating my own enthusiasm for The Sister Queens and turning into one of those spamming-authors I personal don’t enjoy running into on Twitter or Facebook.

 

Jerelyn: I know that you are a very active mom and wife; your posts on Facebook crack me up .  When do you find the time to write?

Sophie: “School is my friend.”  I bet every parent out there who works at home can identify with that, lol.  When I have a deadline, the hours between dropping off and picking up my children are devoted 100% to writing.  This can have some unfortunate side-effects—usually in the form of dinners cobbled together from a dwindling pantry or the plaintive cries of family members claiming they are, in fact, wearing their last pair of clean underwear.  When I am not facing a looming deadline my rating as a wife and mother goes way up.  I have to admit though that I ALWAYS give myself permission to surrender completely to special family moments (as opposed to laundry which is not special).  Don’t ask me what I got written in the month of December.  My oldest went away to college last year and in her sudden absence I realized that my memories of times I’d dropped what I was doing to run the school Halloween party, or hear about her day were golden.  So when I am doing a science fair project with my little-guy, or hanging with my high-schooler I try to be fully present and in that moment.  I try not to think “oh my god, you should be writing.”

 

Jerelyn: Will you tell us about The Sister Queens?

Sophie: The Sister Queens is a sister story first and foremost.  Yes, it is set in the 13th century and the atmosphere, politics and history are richly detailed and appropriate to that time period but I wanted to focus my novel on that which is timeless—the way our sisters shape us whether by challenging us or by supporting us.

I’d like to share the back-cover blurb if I may because I really think my publisher did a brilliant job of summing up the novel:

“Raised together at the 13th Century court of their father, Raymond Berenger, Count of Provence, Marguerite and Eleanor are separated by royal marriages—but never truly parted.

“Patient, perfect, reticent, and used to being first, Marguerite becomes Queen of France. Her husband, Louis IX, is considered the greatest monarch of his age. But he is also a religious zealot who denies himself all pleasure—including the love and companionship his wife so desperately craves. Can Marguerite find enough of her sister’s boldness to grasp her chance for happiness in the guise of forbidden love?

“Passionate, strong-willed, and stubborn, Eleanor becomes Queen of England. Her husband, Henry III, is neither as young nor as dashing as Marguerite’s. But she quickly discovers he is a very good man…and a very bad king. His failures are bitter disappointments for Eleanor, who has worked to best her elder sister since childhood. Can Eleanor stop competing with her sister and value what she has, or will she let it slip away?”

 

Jerelyn: Why did you choose to focus on only the elder sisters?

Sophie: The relationship between Marguerite and Eleanor moved me.  I am a “big-sister,” and my relationship with own sister defines me and has done so since childhood. Marguerite and Eleanor were the closest of the four sisters, despite being separated by the English Channel for long stretches of time, and their relationship of mutual support, tinged with rivalry, really spoke to me.

I wanted my book to examine the early reigns of these two important queens (both France and England were major powers at the time), while they were finding their feet in strange lands and establishing roles for themselves as queens, wives and mothers.  Therefore, my novel, which covers a twenty year period between 1234 and 1254, actually ends before either Sanchia or Beatrice had crowns of their own.  So that effectively limited the roles of the younger sisters to supporting players.

Does this mean we can look forward to a second book about Sanchia and Beatrice?

Never say never:  I would love to do a Sanchia and Beatrice book (which would be a very different sort of sister story then my current novel).  Alternately I’d enjoy writing a continuation of Marguerite and Eleanor’s story.  The Sister Queens leaves Marguerite and Eleanor in the prime of their lives with a lot of excitement and pivotal historical events yet to come.

 

Jerelyn: Do you have a favorite?  Perhaps one you identified with more strongly?

Sophie: Oh, you’ve touched upon a bit of a family controversy here.  When I wrote The Sister Queens I really grew close to Marguerite.  I started to identify with her and started to “own” her voice.  Then my sister read the manuscript for the first time and said, “oh my gosh, you as SO Eleanor.”  I am SURE she is right but still, just once I’d like to get away with thinking of myself as the patient, forbearing type without getting called on it.

In all seriousness, I think I was moved by Marguerite’s story—her struggle to find love with her husband, her struggle to be recognized as a person of strength and political intelligence—but my own marriage (like my outspoken personality) is much closer to Eleanor’s.  I am not saying my husband is professionally inept (do you hear that, dear?) as Henry III clearly was, but he is a man who, like Henry, cares deeply for his wife and children and delights in their happiness.  I also have always felt like an equal partner in my marriage and I think Eleanor, like her mother Beatrice of Savoy before her, was valued as a political player by her husband.

 

Jerelyn: I realize that this is a work of fiction, but I am one of those readers that go a little bonkers when unsubstantiated rumors and enemy propaganda is presented as fact.  How do you deal with this?

First of all I think an author’s note is key.  As a writer you need to tell the reader why you’ve made the decisions that you have and where you may have deviated from the record.  But honestly, as someone with a degree in history, and a sister who writes academic history and is a history professor, I would argue that history is often far from agreed upon and far from static.  I think most historians would agree with that position.  New primary sources and facts are discovered all the time.  Sources themselves—whether primary or secondary—were written by humans with their own biases and agendas.  Interpretations of history change.  The more adamant any person becomes that they “know absolutely” that something is truth, the more suspicious of them I become.  Just this past year a significant archeological study brought into question something historians had accepted as fact for many years – that rats caused the London plague of 1348-49.

 

Jerelyn: I read in your bio that you have a law degree and worked on the editorial board for the Journal of Law and Criminology, and then you practiced law for a time, why do you think lawyers make such good writers?

Sophie: Precision of language is absolutely essential to the successful practice of law.  A lot of people do not realize that, but it is.  Also, law is a business of deadlines.  Miss a deadline while working at a big firm and you are out of a job.  So lawyers develop self-discipline or they fail.  Self-discipline and the ability to meet deadlines are skills that come in very handy in a writing career.

 

Jerelyn: What is your next project?

Sophie: I am currently working on a novel driven by the mother-daughter relationship.  It is set in the 16th century and my main character is Marguerite de Valois, sister to three kings of France and wife of a fourth.  Here is the tagline I am using to drive my writing:  “The mother-daughter relationship is fraught with peril—particularly when your mother is Catherine de Médicis.”

 

Jerelyn: What books did you love as a child and as a teen?

Sophie: When I was a child I read like my life depended on it.  I fell in love with so many books.  My grandfather gave me all the Dr. Seuss books before I started school and I still have those copies.  Where the Wild Things Are reminded me that even if you sail off thorough night and day and in and out of weeks your mother will always love you and have your dinner ready when you get home.  Little Women and What Katie Did stick out from my elementary years.  As does Another Place, Another Spring by Adrienne Jones (to this day I can recall entire scenes and bits of dialogue from this novel).  In my teens I read a lot of classics (and never in these dreadful abridged “young readers” editions that some publishers produce now).  I was introduced to Austen and all the Brontes, devoured Anna Karenina for the first time, and got hooked on Alexandre Dumas.

 

Jerelyn: What books do you read to your own children?

Sophie: All my children are old enough to read on their own now.  When my first child was in elementary school I assembled a library of books that I felt shaped me with the hope that each of my children will browse through and read selections from it, but I never try to circumscribe their reading world.   When I do read aloud to my kids—even the most grown-up one—I tend to revert to picture books like Guess How Much I Love You, Love you Forever and Where the Wild Things Are.  These are all books that remind my children I love them as they are, where they are.

 

Jerelyn: Which authors have inspired you?

Sophie: That’s an impossible question, lol.  There are dozens of writers who inspire my life and inform my work on various levels.  In many cases these writers tackle topics or write in genres that are far removed from my own.  Beyond that, quite a number have “mad skills” I could never hope to equal (so, for example, while I find the work of grandfathers of historical fiction—Alexander Dumas and Sir Walter Scott—very inspiring I would feel pretentious to say they inspired me to write).

 

Jerelyn: For a new author does it surprise you the amount of marketing you have to be responsible for?

Sophie: It actually doesn’t.

When I decided I wanted to pursue my dream of writing for publication I took a business-woman’s approach.  That meant learning about the business side of publishing even as I was writing the first words of the first draft of my first novel.  I attended my first writers’ conference back in 2005.  I talked with established writers as well as others interested in breaking in.  I took copious notes during panel discussions.  I think approach to writing as a business led me to some important realizations early on, including these two:  1) writing a good book is enough, if you write a good book you will find an agent and a publisher; 2) a writer’s job is just to write and your publisher will take care of the rest.  As to number one, there is a lot of luck and timing in this business.   As to number two, I knew going in that the days of recluse writers were largely over.  Not all good writers are natural or good promoters but if you want to stay in this business you have to be willing to give promotion your best efforts.

 

Jerelyn: Do you feel comfortable doing this?

Sophie: Not entirely, but more than one established writer gave me the following excellent advice—focus on what you feel comfortable (or even enjoy) doing because if you hate doing something you won’t be good at it anyway.

 

Jerelyn: Are you a fan of e-readers?

Sophie: Fan is a strong word.  I have a Kindle (I’ve had it for a couple of years actually) but I don’t do a majority of my reading on it.  I tend to use it when I am not at home, particularly when I am traveling.  I love the convenience of being able to instantly download a book on a whim when I finish what I am reading.  At home, however, I am generally a paper book person.  Not only that, in cases of favorite works, I often have particular editions I prefer.  I own an absolutely marvelous complete set of Alexandre Dumas published in 1893.  They have wonderful engravings and there are times when no other edition will do. I like the smell of books.  I like to touch them.

On the other hand I accept that lots of people love e-readers.  More power to them.  As an author I am delighted with any technology that has the potential to boost reading as a leisure pastime.

 

Jerelyn: You have had a lot of support from many writers, are there any you’d like to give a shout out too?

Sophie: So many.  One of the things that just bowled me over when I started writing (and then again when I got my contract and was actively seeking advice from established writers) is what a supportive community writers have built for themselves.  Writers seem to instinctively understand that we all win when we collaborate to build readership for our genre.

I owe a huge debt to my long-time critique partner the very talented historical romance writer Miranda Neville.  Writing would be a lonely road without her.  And I’ve received marvelous support, both personally and for my book, from scads of historical fiction writers including Michelle Moran, Diane Haeger, Christy English, Elizabeth Loupas, Kate Quinn and Anne O’Brien (just to scratch the tip of the iceberg).  Finally I am an enthusiastic member of a small group of debut authors called “Book Pregnant” which cuts across all genres.  Book Pregnant is comprised entirely of writers with books coming out in 2012 and 2013 and offers a safe space for newbie authors to ask questions that might feel “dumb” in other settings.  I’ve made so many valued friends through the group.

 

Jerelyn: I would like to thank you for doing this interview, and congratulations on the upcoming release of The Sister Queens, on March 6, 2012. 

To learn more about Sophie you can follow her on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/#!/sophieperinot , and Twitter, and her blog at; http://www.sophieperinot.com/home/ 

 

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10 Responses to “Author Interview with Sophie Perinot 3/6”

  1. Cheryl M. (hannamatt52) says:

    Another very interesting review. I wish Ms. Perinot good fortune on her book launch,

  2. Vicky T. (VickyJo) says:

    Sigh. Another book for Mount TBR. I loved the bit about your own sister thinking you were SO Eleanor! 😉 Great interview, Letty!!

  3. Jeanne L. (bkydbirder) , says:

    Great job Letty – especially since you hadn’t yet read the book! This book sounds very promising.

  4. Bonnie (LoveNE) , says:

    Jerelyn thanks for bringing us this new author! Ms. Perinot thanks for your time and peek into your first novel! I wish you all the best…

  5. Holly P. (MichiganderHolly) says:

    Wonderful interview 🙂
    Loved this book and can’t wait for the next one!

  6. Vicky — my sister is always the one to keep me honest, especially when I start imagining I am someone I am not (and mild-mannered falls into that catagory, lol).

    Bonnie — it was a pleasure to be here. I’ve been answering a bunch of interview questions lately and I think Jerelyn’s were some of the absolute best because they required substantive/thinking answers.

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