A week of joys: Mistress printed, selected as Editors’ Choice Title by Historical Novels Review

I was on the phone with my Mom this morning when the bell to my apartment rang. It was the FedEx guy.  I did not know what to expect and opened the package. Surprise! Two final copies of Mistress of the Revolution, sent my Julie Doughty, my editor at Dutton. Not galleys. Final copies, the very same as the ones coming to a bookstore near you on March 13.

My fingers caressed for the first time the cover. The printer did a beautiful job: there is a sort of antique patina overlaying the Fragonard painting I picked last May. I opened a book at random and happened upon a piece of dialog between Gabrielle and Villers. An amazing feeling: these were the same words I remembered typing at night on my laptop. But this time they were staring at me from a real book, my book.

Now it has happened: I am a published writer. I feel like Gwyneth Paltrow during her teary Oscar acceptance speech: I want to thank my Mom, my son, my friends, my agent, Stephanie Cabot, Julie, everybody else at Dutton who made this possible.

This was indeed a week of joys. Two days ago I received an email from Sarah at Reading the Past alerting me to a new review (scroll down to the fifth one) of Mistress of the Revolution in Historical Novels Review, the quarterly publication of the Historical Novel Society. Not only had my novel been reviewed, but it has been designated an Editors’ Choice Title! This quarter only 20 books made the cut, and Mistress is one of them.

Here is an excerpt of the review:

Gabrielle weaves her tale and exposes her
secrets—eminently pragmatic, admirably unsentimental, and consistently
sympathetic… A[n] … intricately detailed portrait of this turbulent era and its characters, from the
proud Queen herself to a rapacious, money-grabbing landlord. A most impressive
literary debut, this outstanding novel of the French Revolution is well worth

I had to read it a few times before I believed my eyes. I still read it once in a while to make sure it really says that.

You see, writing historical fiction is such fun and such hard work. So much research is required, beyond the task of writing itself. As I explain in my website, I had to read volume after volume of memoirs, pour over trial transcripts, collect statistics about the casualties of the Revolution. I never knew whether I would find a hidden literary gem, discover details of everyday life I had never read anywhere else, or simply plow through a dry, dull, irrelevant or sometimes misleading narrative.

All this effort while I had no idea whether I would ever be published, whether anyone beyond my friends would ever get to read my book.

And then a reviewer, and one who specializes in historical fiction, has these wonderful things to say about my novel. She likes my Queen, she likes Citizen Marcelin, Gabrielle’s repugnant landlord. This vindicates all those nights spent reading and writing.

So, yes, it has been a great week.

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