Monday, August 14, 2017

Happy Pub Day!

Tomorrow is the pub day for Meghan Masterson’s debut, THE WARDROBE MISTRESS!  This a book that is near and dear to my heart, partially because I love historical fiction and partially because it was a long (but richly deserved!) road to publication.

Tell us about the book!

The Wardrobe Mistress is historical fiction that takes place during the French revolution. My main character, Giselle Aubry, works in Marie Antoinette’s household as one of her wardrobe women. She had so many clothes and had to dress for so many different functions that taking care of all these garments was a real job. Giselle is asked to spy on the queen, but as the revolution escalates, she becomes torn between her loyalty to the queen and her sympathy for the revolutionaries.

You had such an interesting journey to publication…tell us all about how this book came to be!

The first spark of the idea came from a discussion I had with you, Carrie. I’d just finished my second novel since signing with you, and was casting about for a new idea while those other two were still on submission. I remember we started talking about Marie Antoinette, sharing excitement over how glamorous and tragic her life was, and I started to think I could write about her. Plus, we were talking about me writing something a bit more commercial this time, and a well-known historical figure like her seemed like a good fit.

I knew I wanted my narrator to be someone close to the queen, and at first I thought Giselle would work in the kitchen at Versailles. But as I continued researching the French revolution, I discovered that fashion and colour were key signifiers of revolutionary or royalist sympathies. Eventually, it became a law for citizens to wear tricolor rosettes to show their support for the revolution, but even before that, one could hint their support by wearing red, white and blue – or studiously avoiding it. I also read Madame Campan’s memoirs as part of my research, and since she was the first femme de chambre to the queen, she had a lot of fascinating detail about the queen’s wardrobe and household. As soon as I read that, I knew Giselle worked there instead of the kitchen.

I think the most important lesson for me in this book’s journey is to be persistent. It’s the third book that you and I submitted, so at times all the submissions could feel discouraging, but in the end we got a deal with a Big Five publisher! I still love the first two books we worked on, but I believe The Wardrobe Mistress really was the best one for a debut.

What part of the publication process has been the most interesting/fun? What part has been the hardest?

It’s all been interesting and exciting. I think seeing the cover for the first time might have been one of the best parts – it made it feel real. And getting to hold a copy of the book for the first time was amazing! I had to do a fair amount of revisions – I cut down about 15K words from the original draft – and that was a lot of work, but still interesting and I think the book is better for it.

I guess the hardest is that it’s too late to change anything now. Sometimes I glance through the pages and wish I could swap a word or polish a scene a little differently. Publication is also quite a long process, so sometimes it was tough to be patient. We sold the book in April of 2016 but it didn’t come out until August of 2017, so there’s a lot of waiting in between bursts of things happening. At first it was hard to shift between writing a new book and jumping back to working on edits or promotional things for this one, but it does get easier with practice.

What is some fun promotion you've done for the book?  Anything upcoming we should be keeping our eyes or ears out for?

I wrote a short story called “The Diamond Deception”, which takes place a couple of years prior to the start of The Wardrobe Mistress and is about the Diamond Necklace Affair, which involved the theft of a diamond necklace under pretense that the Marie Antoinette was buying it in secret, when in fact she knew nothing about it. It’s a free story for my newsletter subscribers, and you can sign up at this link.

I’m also sharing 18th Century fashion items on Instagram (and cross-posting to Facebook and Twitter), so anyone who follows me there can see what kind of garments the characters would be wearing. So many of the items are so intricate and beautiful, but also so impractical compared to what we wear today. I might match some of the outfits up to specific characters, too. I’ve also got lots of Marie Antoinette themed posts on my blog. If you’ve ever wondered if Marie Antoinette really said ‘let them eat cake’, I’ve got the answer to that and lots more!

There’s a Goodreads giveaway coming up later this month too – stay tuned for that! I will post about it on social media when it’s live.

People (me included!) always talk about the difference between publishing with a smaller press vs. one of the Big Five.  How do you think having this book with St. Martin’s or with your particular editor has made this journey unique?

I’d always hoped to be with one of the Big Five – I guess probably most authors going the traditional pub route do! St. Martin’s was actually always right at the top of my list since so many of my favourite books have been published by them. Obviously I was over the moon when they wanted to acquire my book! In my experience, being with one of the Big Five has a lot of benefits for marketing support. For example, I know some small press authors who had to do a lot of the legwork, like building a street team to mail books to in exchange for early reviews, etc, and I didn’t have to do much in that area since St. Martin’s handled distribution of early copies, both through Netgalley and in galley format. They also managed an early Goodreads giveaway. I think sometimes there’s the worry that a Big Five publisher won’t have time to give every author much individual attention, but I’ve never felt like that – everyone is really professional and helpful.  

My particular editor is absolutely amazing. Lauren Jablonski is so wonderful to work with, and is endlessly patient with all my debut author questions. Her vision for the book made it easier for me to do all those revisions, and the book is so much stronger now because of her editorial expertise. Plus, we both love Harry Potter!

Now fun question!  If these books were turned into a movie (or movies ::salivates::) who would you cast to play the main characters?

First, I must admit this was the most difficult question to answer. Even though this is imaginary, it’s a good thing I’m a writer and not a casting director because I had no idea! I spent a lot of time going over random IMDB lists and sending my mom snapshots of celebrities, which was really weird because that’s not our usual conversation style.
Anyway, I picture my main character, Giselle, as looking kind of like Anna Popplewell. Her love interest, Léon, has dark eyes and hair like Tyler Blackburn. Giselle’s best friend Geneviève looks exactly like Eleanor Tomlinson. This one might be a bit surprising, but I would absolutely want Sarah Michelle Gellar to play Marie Antoinette. And for Robespierre, I’d go with Eddie Redmayne.