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Interview: Sophie Perinot, author of Médicis Daughter: A Novel of Marguerite de Valois

Unshelfish extends a warm welcome to Sophie Perinot. Thank you for joining Unshelfish Sophie.

About Sophie Perinot03_Sophie Perinot

SOPHIE PERINOT is the author of The Sister Queens and one of six contributing authors of A Day of Fire: A Novel of Pompeii. A former attorney, Perinot is now a full-time writer. She lives in Great Falls, Virginia with her three children, three cats, one dog and one husband.

An active member of the Historical Novel Society, Sophie has attended all of the groupís North American Conferences and served as a panelist multiple times. Find her among the literary twitterati as @Lit_gal or on Facebook.

To begin, can you tell us about yourself and your novel, MEDICI’S DAUGHTER: A NOVEL OF MARGUERITE DE VALOIS?

I’ve found lately that my personal tag-line has become: history nut, historical novelist, yet in many ways a modern woman–go figure.

I like to think of myself as a bit of a renaissance woman, and not just because I write novels set in the past. I am a wife of more than a quarter-of-a-century, a mom of three, a former attorney, and I have a glass studio in my home for making handmade beads. I am not afraid to try new things, but at the same time I seldom give up on old ones. I believe there is more romance in the word “duty” than in many other words. All my life I’ve been surrounded by books. In fact, my first paying job was shelving non-fiction books at my local library. So I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when I started writing books, but I sort of was.

My latest novel Médicis Daughter comes from a place deep in my own childhood. I’ve had a sweet spot for the Valois ever since I read Alexandre Dumas’ Marguerite de Valois (more popularly known as Reine Margot). I am a huge Dumas geek (if he’s written it, I’ve read it) but this novel in particular made a special connection. The more times that I re-read it, the more convinced I became that Marguerite de Valois deserved a fuller depiction and a more historically based (Dumas was quite open about playing fast and loose with history) exploration. Médicis Daughter is the direct result of that conviction. It offers readers the coming-of-age story of the youngest Valois princess, Margot, as she struggles to find her own distinct place in her dysfunctional family, in the intrigue-riven court of her brother, King Charles IX, and in the household of her powerful mother, Queen Catherine de Médicis.

Which book was the hardest (or easiest) for you to write?

Each book has its hard spots and its “oh-my-gosh-this-is-writing-itself” spots. In truth, however, the easiest first draft I’ve ever completed is the one I just handed over to my agent for critique. Can’t share more about it, but I will say it consumed me utterly and drove me relentlessly until I had it all down on paper.

If you could meet any of your characters, who would it be?

That would have to be Margot. I’ve spent years trying to understand her, intuit her and channel her. I’d like to think I’ve gotten to the core of who she is, but I’d love a chance to weigh my image of her and the voice I’ve created for her against the living, breathing reality. Also, I think we would get along. She has an unflinching toughness in her that can make her unlikeable to some people, but which draws me. I have toughness in me that responds to it.

Do you he a favorite character among the ones you’ve invented?

There aren’t too many wholly fictional characters in Médicis Daughter. I didn’t need them because the court is so full of fascinating players. In fact it was hard to cut out people, which I had to do or readers’ heads would explode. I have a 30+ page list of the domestic officers of Catherine de Médicis household alone (which includes 7 pages of her ladies of various sorts). The royals were constantly surrounded by people. I do have a fondness for Fleurie de de Saussauy with her dimples and her saucy tongue.

What question do you wish someone would ask you about your book, but nobody has?

Who do you prefer, Henri Duc de Guise, or Henri Roi de Navarre?

This one is not close.

I know the Duc de Guise is the darling of the Catholic court and its ladies—that more women than Margot are swooning over him. And there is no denying he is handsome, bold and, in his own manner, principled. But he is not my guy.

No, despite his awkwardness and his inability to dress himself without something being out of place somewhere, I adore Henri de Bourbon, Prince (and eventually King) of Navarre. There is a genuine pragmatism and goodness in him that draws me like a magnet. He is constantly underestimated (though not by Margot—even if she has no desire to marry him), yet he shrugs that off as he does so much else, using a projected nonchalance as his shield at the Valois court. I am not surprised at all that Henri goes go on to become Henri le Grand, the man who granted religious tolerance to the Huguenots, brought discipline and regularity to the finances of his kingdom, increased the prosperity of his subjects, and became one of the most beloved kings in French History.

02_Medici's Daughter_CoverAbout Médicis Daughter

Winter, 1564. Beautiful young Princess Margot is summoned to the court of France, where nothing is what it seems and a wrong word can lead to ruin. Known across Europe as Madame la Serpente, Margotís intimidating mother, Queen Catherine de MÈdicis, is a powerful force in a country devastated by religious war. Among the crafty nobility of the royal court, Margot learns the intriguing and unspoken rules she must live by to please her poisonous family.

Eager to be an obedient daughter, Margot accepts her role as a marriage pawn, even as she is charmed by the powerful, charismatic Duc de Guise. Though Margot’s heart belongs to Guise, her hand will be offered to Henri of Navarre, a Huguenot leader and a notorious heretic looking to seal a tenuous truce. But the promised peace is a mirage: her mother’s schemes are endless, and her brothers plot vengeance in the streets of Paris. When Margot’s wedding devolves into the bloodshed of the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, she will be forced to choose between her family and her soul.

MÈdicis Daughter is historical fiction at its finest, weaving a unique coming-of-age story and a forbidden love with one of the most dramatic and violent events in French history.


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Publication Date: December 1, 2015 Thomas Dunne Books

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