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Monday, January 11, 2010

Author Interview with Christine Trent

I would like to extend a warm welcome to author Christine Trent, whose first novel, The Queen's Dollmaker was released this month. I have had several conversations with her while I was reading the book and she is the nicest person. She has taken the time to answer some questions about her book, future works, and some other interesting questions as well.

There are so many details in this book about these dolls and how they were made. Were you able to see any of these types of dolls in person? What type of research did you do in order to find out all of these details about dollmaking?

The research on 18th century dollmaking was interesting, mostly because there isn’t a lot out there. Most of the reference materials I found made passing glances at the wooden dolls of Marie Antoinette’s time, and really started their narrative with the wax, porcelain, and composition dolls that gained popularity in the early 19th century. I found myself in college libraries, reading through dusty old volumes of dolls to glean the information I needed. I filled in details on an 18th century dollmaker’s life by simply imagining what it would have been like. My readers will have to judge how well it comes across.

I was very fortunate indeed to see an excellent example of an 18th century wooden fashion doll during a 2006 trip to England. My husband and I visited Lullingstone Castle, which dated from the Tudor era, and was one of those wonderful stately old homes where you’re actually shown around by the family members themselves. Someone had recently found a doll buried in a trunk and shoved up in an attic, and sent it off to the Victoria & Albert Museum to determine its provenance. The museum concluded that because of the family’s relationship to royalty in early times, that the doll may have actually been a present from Queen Anne Stuart herself. Wow! The doll was in wonderful condition. She wore original clothing, and you could tell that it had once been a lovely shade of pink. Unfortunately, she was kept in a glass box, and I was not permitted to use my camera on her.

Although I wasn’t able to take photos of that doll, your readers might be interested in the work of Susan Parris, an 18th century reproduction dollmaker. http://www.susanparrisoriginals.com/ You can see here an example of her detailed, painstaking work.

Regarding your writing process, did you have most of the story planned out or outlined in advance or was it something that evolved as you wrote?

Oh, I am a strict plotter. I remember sitting over many a dinner with my poor husband, playing the “What if” game. What if Marie Antoinette had a favorite dollmaker? What if the dollmaker got involved in an intrigue with the doomed queen? What if the dollmaker could be quite successful in her own right? I developed a ten-page synopsis of the story before I ever wrote the first paragraph of the book. I made a few deviations during the writing of the story. For example, the scene where the competing dollmaker’s grandson breaks into Claudette’s shop was an invention long after developing the synopsis, as was the scene between Claudette and William outside the church. But generally, I stick to a detailed script.

What was the most challenging part about writing this book? The research, the writing, the publication, etc?

I would have to say that getting the book to publication was the biggest challenge. Because it was a first novel, it was far more difficult to get it noticed among the many, many manuscripts that agents and editors see on a daily basis. And I had to keep a stiff upper lip over many a rejection letter. I was fortunate enough to meet my editor at Kensington Books during a writer’s conference in 2008. I sent her a query, she wanted to read more....and the rest is history. Or, rather, historical fiction.

The story of Claudette the Parisian dollmaker was fascinating. What do you have in store for us next?

Thanks for asking this, because I’m very excited about my next book, tentatively titled The Wax Apprentice (my editor has assured me the title will change). It follows the adventures of Marguerite du Georges from The Queen's Dollmaker, as she becomes a waxworking apprentice to the great Madame Tussaud. Her new career nearly melts down when she assists the English crown in a scheme to create wax effigies of important political figures to fool Napoleon into thinking that England is negotiating treaties and alliances with other countries, when in fact something else entirely is happening. A French spy catches on to Marguerite's game and Napoleon's long grasp puts her in mortal danger.

The book is slated for release in 2011.

I know that you are an avid reader. What are some of your favorite things to read?
I am, of course, an avid historical fiction reader. I love anything British set, but also enjoy fiction set in France, Italy, and Spain. Anywhere in Europe, really. I’ve also recently become a fan of novels set in ancient Egypt and Rome. Unfortunately, it seems as though most of the books I read lately are strictly for research for upcoming books, but it doesn’t prevent me from buying the books I see reviewed on blogs like The Maiden’s Court!

I noticed on your website that you have been to Madame Tussauds. What were your favorite wax look-alikes?

I’ve actually been to Madame Tussauds in London three times (and counting). I can’t get enough of that place! The most thrilling “room” at the exhibition for me is the one which houses most of the historical royal and political figures. I love the tableau of King Henry VIII surrounded by his six wives, as well as those of Britain’s royal family today.

Just as Marie Tussaud did in the 19th century (and which you will read about in my next book), the wax exhibition changes its figures around regularly to keep it fresh, while making sure to keep its perennial favorites always on display. Sometimes they keep the same figures out, but move them across the room and develop a different setting for them.

As a side note, Madame Tussaud lived to the ripe old age of 89. Her family carried on the business until 1889, when the exhibition was taken over by a group of businessmen. The new company expanded the business to include Amsterdam, Berlin, Hollywood, Hong Kong, Las Vegas, London, New York, Shanghai, and Washington, DC. I highly recommend a visit to anyone who lives near one of these locations.

Thanks Christine for those wonderful answers. I look forward to your next release!  You can visit Christine at her website for additional information about her books.

Copyright © 2009-2011 by The Maiden’s Court


  1. Great questions Heather! I loved the interview:) Christine, I'm just about to start your book- and can't wait! Your next book should be just as fascinating for me since I devour everything written about Tussaud- and now a book on her apprentice- how original! Thanks:)

  2. Great interview, I always love reading about an authors writing process! Looking forward to your next book Christine :)


  3. Ms. Lucy, I hope you enjoy the read. And I found Madame Tussaud to be a very interesting study: how she managed to make a success in England following the Revolution is nothing short of miraculous. She was strong, savvy, and no-nonsense. But you'll have to wait until next year to know more. :)

  4. Muse in the Fog, thanks for visiting. I think I've seen you following the progress of my book on other blogs, and I appreciate it! I'm looking forward to the next book, too, which will have the heroine not only learning waxworking from the great Madame Tussaud, but getting caught up in a dangerous spy game. I hope you enjoy both books.

  5. Both books sound amazing! I must pick up THE QUEEN'S DOLLMAKER now. Thanks for the great interview.

  6. I love this interview I can't wait to read this book ! I love anything with historical fiction and Marie Antoinette is always a favorite subject of mine. We wer elucky enough to visit Versailles this year !

  7. Sounds like there is another fascinating book in the works...again told from a very intriguing angle.

  8. Great interview, thanks! The upcoming book sounds as interesting as the first.

  9. Msslaydbug, Marie Antoinette has always been a favorite subject of mine, too. Isn't Versailles fabulous beyond all description???

    Priscilla and Deborah, I hope you will enjoy the sequel when it comes out next year.

  10. Interesting idea for a novel; interesting interview with a most interesting author. Looking forward to reading this book, and the upcoming one about Madame Tussaud.

  11. Christine, your next book sounds very interesting. I have always been fascinated with Madame Tussaud and the world of wax figure making. One of my favorite classic horror film is House of Wax. I am really looking forward to reading The Queen's Dollmaker!

  12. Oh, what a delightful interview! Thank you Christine and thank you Heather for the most interesting questions! I am SO glad you asked about the doll making; it all sounds so romantic, researching in dusty old libraries while writing a novel. {sigh}
    Funny the interview should lead to Tussauds, we're planning a daytrip to DC with that precise destination! Now I have to go check and see if Henry and wives are there...
    Again, thanks to both the interview.

  13. Great interview!! The reproduction doll is adorable!! I hope to read this book and the next one about Madame Tussaud's apprentice looks amazing too!

  14. Linda, thank you for your very nice comments!

    Michelle, funny that you should mention House of Wax. I was just talking about that movie with Leslie Carroll, author of NOTORIOUS ROYAL MARRIAGES. It made me run out to Netflix to rent it. Looking forward to watching that movie again....I haven't seen it in years.

    Mannequin, I haven't been to the DC Tussauds. I know it's in an old Garfinckel's department store, so it must be a pretty large exhibition. Hope you enjoy it.

    inthehammockblog, I too, hope you will read THE QUEEN'S DOLLMAKER and its sequel. :)


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