Thursday, July 21, 2011

Interview with Karleen Koen, author of Before Versailles

Karleen Koen has been one of my favorite authors for years. Therefore, I was more than a little bit excited to be able to review her new book, Before Versailles, for the TLC Book Tours and to interview her. Being able to email back and forth with one of your favorite authors . . . very cool!

For my review of the wonderful book, Before Versailles, and a chance to win a copy of the novel please check out this link. I'm still thinking about the book and how I loved all of the characters. Also for an additional chance to win, leave a comment (with your email) on this blog post with what interests you most about this interview.

LAG: I have loved all of your previous novels. I noticed this novel follows a different format. What was your inspiration for writing about Louis XIV rather than a fictional character in a historical setting?

KK: To write about Louis XIV has been on my mind since my second book, Now Face to Face. I was trying to write about him when I brought young Alice and Richard in as minor characters, and they marched off with what became Dark Angels. I broke off a piece of my Louis XIV story for Dark Angels. When Dark Angels was finished, I realized I had the key to writing a Louis XIV story. I was trying to write too big an amount. The story could be broken into pieces. Before Versailles is the second piece, or the first piece, if you want linear timing. Dark Angels is the sequel written before the actual story!

It is harder, I think, to write about an actual figure in history, particularly as a main character. You want to be true to historians and yet the story must take wing and fly. I didn't know if I could get this story--Before Versailles--up, but I did, and I am very pleased with it.

LAG: Was it different for you writing from the perspective of a man rather than of a woman?

KK: Yes and no. I didn't know for a long time that Louis was going to be the main character. I thought the main character was going to be either Henriette or Louise. But when I was in Louis's head, I was so intrigued by what he had to face ( a true power struggle and a true falling in love) that I really liked being there. And before I knew it, the book was his. He's at a special time in his life, young, still tender, ardent, gallant, and determined. He seduced me in the best possible way.....

LAG: What role did Louis’s mother play in his life?

KK: She was a huge influence. She taught him wonderful manners and courtesy, a kind of Spanish pride mixed in with French fun. She provided security for him. Once he was born, once his father died, she was a tiger fighting for her son's right to be king. There was an evil uncle who wanted the throne and several civil wars. She and Cardinal Mazarin (a brilliant minister) made Louis the center of their concern. And Mazarin introduced politics to Louis in the best way....not too much, but enough, allowing Louis to find his wings.

LAG: Truth is stranger than fiction . . . Was it a new discovery for you in your research that Louis had an affair with his sister-in-law, Princess Henriette?

KK: No, I knew about their love for a long time. That's why I kept trying to write a Louis XIV novel....because his interactions with women and their relationships to one another were so interesting.

LAG: How did you research this novel? Did you discover any interesting tidbits that were not used in the novel? What was the most surprising discovery that you did use in the novel?

I already knew a lot because I was interested in Louis XIV. As always, I went to original sources when I could and considered all the historians' points of view, making my own decisions when historians' differ....and they often differ. I used every yummy detail I found in the novel. That's fun for me, to eye dropper history into a story in a way that doesn't stop the plot. The most surprising discovery I used in the plot is one historian's premise that Mazarin may have been Louis's actual father.

And it was great fun to play with the man in the iron mask.

LAG: Will you write any more novels with any of the characters from your previous novels?
In my thoughts, about 3 to 4 more novels exist with the dear Tamworths, those characters from my previous books.

LAG: What are you currently working on?

KK: I'm not really working right now, and I feel it. But in August, I'm going to begin a young Alice and Richard story. It will be yet another piece of the big Louis XIV story. I have no idea how large Louis will loom in it. And I think I need to resolve action around the awful Henri Ange from Dark Angels. Everything is very wispy and unformed right now....

LAG: What are your favorite authors/novels?

KK: Too many to list. But for comfort I always turn to the regencies of Georgette Heyer. I love her wit. And I reread two historicals by the great Dapne Du Maurier. And I love the first 5 to 6 books of Winston Graham's Poldark Saga.

Thank-you Karleen Koen for the great interview and for writing another fabulous book! The growth of Louis XIV in the pivotal few months depicted in Before Versailles is amazing. I look forward to your next novel!


  1. Wonderful questions! No need to enter me. I cannot wait to read more of her books!

  2. Great interview, I agree great questions and I'm glad to hear there will be more Alice and Richard in the future!

  3. Great interview, Laura and Karleen! I LOVED Before Versailles and am excited to hear that one of her favorite authors is Winston Graham because I just bought the first 3 books in his Poldark series!

  4. Great interview, I can't wait to read the book.

  5. Nice interview, i'd love to read this book, sounds fantastic

  6. Thanks for this great interview!

  7. Thanks for the interview! Historical fiction is my all time favorite genre, but I don't know very much about French history. For example, I had no idea that Louis had an affair with his steamy :)! I cannot wait to read this book!

  8. Great interview! I really enjoy reading how an author researches & develops a new novel. Thanks.
    megalon22 at yahoo com