Please introduce yourself and your book(s)!
I’m a historical fiction author, and my debut novel The Wardrobe Mistress takes place during the French Revolution. The main character, Giselle Aubry, is one of Marie Antoinette’s wardrobe women who spies on the queen for the revolutionaries, but finds herself increasingly torn between her sympathy for the Revolution and her loyalty to the queen.
What is/are the real-life story(ies) behind your book(s)?
Marie Antoinette inspired me to write The Wardrobe Mistress. There’s something alluring about the contrast of her luxurious life, and the doomed tragedy of her death, but as I got deeper into my research, I saw that she was probably reviled more than she deserved. Most of the social and economic problems leading up to the French Revolution had been building for years, long before her time on the throne, and Marie Antoinette, as a foreign queen (she was born in Austria, and came to France when she married the dauphin) made a convenient scapegoat. She’s blamed for things like naively remarking ‘let them eat cake’ in response to the shortage of bread (she never said this), when she regularly donated to the poor and took measures like downgrading the palace grain ration so there would be more for the rest of the people.
Originally, I thought my protagonist would work in the kitchen at Versailles, but in my early research, I learned about Marie Antoinette’s wardrobe women – since she had so many clothes and had to dress for so many different functions, it was a real job to take care of all the garments. I also became fascinated with French revolutionary fashion. As tricolor (red, white, and blue) became more popular, a person’s revolutionary support – or lack of – could be easily demonstrated by their outfit.
What inspires/inspired your creativity?
I always listen to music while I write. It helps me focus.
How do you deal with creative block?
I have a few things I’ll try. Sometimes I just need some fresh air or I’m too tired, so a walk or a nap can turn things around. Sometimes just a change of scenery will do it, so I’ll take my laptop to a coffee shop or even just a different room at home. It’s amazing how much of a difference that can make. For a tougher block, shifting your creativity to outlets other than writing is a good way. I’ll give myself an afternoon to just read, or work on a painting. If the block still persists, it usually means there’s a plot or character problem that doesn’t make sense and needs to be puzzled over before writing will flow again.
Do you have tips on choosing titles and covers?
Don’t get too attached to your working title. Your publisher might change it! I didn’t come up with the title The Wardrobe Mistress, but it’s honestly better than what my working title was, and I love it.
How do bad reviews and negative feedback affect you and how do you deal with them?
I rarely read my reviews, good or bad. They aren’t really for me – they’re for readers to help decide if they want to read the book. I think reading reviews only brings a roller coaster of emotions. The good ones make me happy and the bad ones hurt, but essentially there’s no action I can take. The book is done and I can’t change anything, and my next project is different enough that the feedback doesn’t really translate. Negative feedback from critique partners is different though; I really value that and take it seriously when revising a draft.
How has your creation process improved over time?
I’ve grown more disciplined. You can have the shiniest, brightest story idea in the world, but it’ll never become a book without the discipline to actually write it. Building a writing routine to the point where it becomes habit to write really helps.
What were the best, worst and most surprising things you encountered during the entire process of completing your book(s)?
The most surprising things were facts about Marie Antoinette and the French Revolution that I learned during my research. For instance, I didn’t know beforehand that the guillotine was sometimes wheeled around to different parts of Paris. I was also pleasantly surprised to learn about Marie Antoinette’s extensive philanthropic efforts.
Do you tend towards personal satisfaction or aim to serve your readers? Do you balance the two and how?
I think I tend toward personal satisfaction, but still keep an eye on serving the readers. I think writing the story the way you believe it translates to a more authentic reading experience – readers are intuitive, they can tell if the author is faking it! Reading is so subjective, you’ll never please every reader, but you can still broadly determine what is likely to be satisfying or not, and I think that’s important too.
What are your plans for future books?
I recently completed another historical novel set in Second Empire Paris, in which a doctor’s daughter with poison expertise is swept into glamor of the Countess of Castiglione’s social circle and the danger of an assassination plot against Emperor Napoleon III that threaten to reveal secrets from her past. I’ve sent that to my agent, and now I’m trying something different for my next book and am working on a dark fairy tale.
Tell us some quirky facts about yourself
I really enjoy archery. I have my own recurve bow and I take it to the range all the time. I don’t like whipped cream or marshmallows.
Meghan Masterson graduated from the University of Calgary with an Honours Bachelor of Arts in Communications Studies, and has worked several unrelated jobs while writing on the side. As a child, she gave her parents a flowery story about horses every year for Christmas. Thankfully, she has expanded her work past tales of equine perfection and thinly veiled Nancy Drew retellings, and is now mainly interested in writing historical fiction. She is drawn to strong historical figures and unique situations in history, which present unexpected opportunities and dilemmas for her characters. Meghan’s other interests include reading at all hours (even at breakfast), cooking, and going for walks with her dog.