Friday, February 14, 2014

Interview with Marci Jefferson, author of Girl on The Golden Coin

Author interviews are one of my favorite things to post which is why I am super excited to welcome author Marci Jefferson to Flashlight Commentary to discuss her novel, Girl on the Golden Coin.

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Welcome to Flashlight Commentary Marci. To start things off, please tell us a bit about Girl on the Golden Coin.
Impoverished and exiled to the French countryside after the overthrow of the English Crown, Frances Stuart survives merely by her blood-relation to the Stuart Royals. But in 1660, the Restoration of Stuart Monarchy in England returns her family to favor. Frances discards threadbare gowns and springs to gilded Fontainebleau Palace, where she soon catches King Louis XIV’s eye. But Frances is no ordinary court beauty, she has Stuart secrets to keep and people to protect. The king turns vengeful when she rejects his offer to become his Official Mistress. He banishes her to England with orders to seduce King Charles II and stop a war.

Armed in pearls and silk, Frances maneuvers through the political turbulence of Whitehall Palace, but still can’t afford to stir a scandal. Her tactic to inspire King Charles to greatness captivates him. He believes her love can make him an honest man and even chooses Frances to pose as Britannia for England’s coins. Frances survives the Great Fire, the Great Plague, and the debauchery of the Restoration Court, yet loses her heart to the very king she must control. Until she is forced to choose between love or war.

What inspired you to write this story? 
I’d done independent research on the Royal Stuarts for fun. Frances Stuart initially stood out as a woman who embraced her personal liberty in defiance of kings. Years later, after I read the Other Boleyn Girl, I became obsessed with the desire to do for the Stuarts what Philippa Gregory had done for the Tudors. I picked up my research again and realized that Frances Stuart’s independent streak matched the collective spirit of the Restoration age. Since she was also the model for Britannia, she seemed the ideal subject for a novel.

What research went into Girl on the Golden Coin and did you discover anything particularly surprising while investigating background material for you book?
At first I saw Frances Stuart as many historians saw her, as a simple girl who eloped to avoid sleeping with King Charles II. When I read what the French ambassadors and poets and diarists thought of her, I realized she was a very complex person, and found clues suggesting historians may have gotten her wrong. As I studied historical events and the kings she interacted with, I realized how involved she might have been in political problems like the Anglo Dutch war. By the time I finished the book and realized the sacrifice she made might have spared England a political disaster, I had developed a deep respect for Frances Stuart. She was very intelligent, but I believe it suited her purpose to let people underestimate her.

The relationships and rivalries between Frances Stuart, Lady Castlemaine and Catherine of Braganza were my favorite part of the book. Can you tell me how you approached characterizing these women? 
I’m so glad this stood out to you, Erin. It would have been so easy to villainize Castlemaine and marginalize Braganza, but they were complex women and deserved to have multiple sides of their personality shown. King Charles loved each of them for different reasons, which put them in an awkward position. Just knowing they all managed to (mostly) get along is a testament to how wise each must have been. I tried to be open minded when reading their biographies, and imagine how I might have felt in their shoes. I tried to expose their motivations. I tried to channel them and let them be themselves.

What about Charles II. What did you want to convey with his character? 
Charles II may be one of the most underestimated English kings. His father had been executed. His brother would be forced to abdicate. But King Charles II was one Stuart who knew how to keep a crown. Dubbed the “Merry Monarch” for his easy-going ways, his pleasant attitude was actually a way of compensating for the tremendous pressure of his position. The government was a mess. But Charles II was a survivor, a master-manipulator. His delay tactics and ability to play one minister off of another make him seem much like a modern politician. He held his country together during turbulent times. Ideals that emerged during his reign paved the way to the development of democratic government. I hope readers will appreciate him for more than his love of partying.

You probably have many, but is there one scene that you particularly enjoyed writing? 
Catherine’s birthday ball, where Frances Stuart wore silver lace on her black gown, sparkled with diamonds, and out-danced everyone else at court. Her external struggles behind her, she was blissfully unaware of the internal struggles to come. It was her moment of triumph. She and the king were in love, everyone was at their best, and everything was perfect.

What scene posed the greatest challenge for you as an author? 
All of the love scenes were difficult to write! But because there are differing opinions among historians about whether or not Frances slept with King Charles, the physical progression of their relationship actually became important to my plot and her life as I imagined it.

Sometimes fiction takes on a life of its own and forces the author to make sacrifices for the sake of the overall story. Is there a character or concept you wish you could have spent more time with or expanded on? 
Frances actually had a few more adventures before King James abdicated! She traveled. She loved. If there had been room, it would have been fun to work in more stories from her later years. 

If you could sit down and talk with one of your characters, maybe meet and discuss things over drinks, who would you choose and why?
 It would have to be Frances Stuart. I’m dying to know whether I guessed all her secrets and got her story right.  

What do you hope readers come away with after reading your work?
I hope they find much to love about Stuart England, recognize its important contribution to modern democracy, remember Frances Stuart as the embodiment of her age.

Finally, and you probably get this all the time, but what is next for you? Any new projects waiting in the wings?
Right now I’m working on a novel about Marie Mancini who, based on the alignment of the stars at her birth, was destined to disgrace her family in a most spectacular fashion, but ended up shaping the world’s most powerful monarch. It’s loosely titled INAMORATA, A NOVEL OF ENCHANTMENT AT THE SUN KING’S COURT.

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Years after graduating from Virginia Commonwealth University, immersing herself in a Quality Assurance nursing career, and then having children, Marci realized she’d neglected her passion for history and writing. She began traveling, writing along the way, delving into various bits of history that caught her fancy. The plot for GIRL ON THE GOLDEN COIN evolved slowly after a trip to London, where she first learned about the Stuart royals. Marci is a member of the Historical Novel Society. She resides in the Midwest with her husband, making hair-bows for their daughter, trying not to step on their son’s Legos, and teaching a tiny Pacific Parrotlet to talk.

Website ❧ Goodreads ❧ Blog  Facebook  Twitter  Pinterest

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Format: Hardcover
Publication Date: February 11, 2014
Released by: Thomas Dunne/Macmillan
Length: 336 pages
ISBN-10: 1250037220
Genre: Historical Fiction
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Marci said...

What a lovely interview for Valentine's Day! Huge thanks to you, Erin, for your insightful review and for allowing me to discuss details of the novel here on Flashlight Commentary!

Anonymous said...

You're very welcome and thank you for stopping by! Can't wait for your next release.