Please welcome today’s guest Sandra Gulland—an internationally bestselling author of biographical historical fiction set in France. She is known for the depth and accuracy of her research, as well as for creating novels that bring history vividly to life. Published by Simon & Schuster and Doubleday in the US, and HarperCollins in Canada, she is now writing two Young Adult novels for Penguin in the US and Canada. The popular Josephine B. Trilogy about Napoleon’s wife Josephine has been published in over fifteen countries. Mistress of the Sun and her latest novel The Shadow Queen are set in the mid-17th century French Court of Louis XIV, the Sun King, and are published internationally as well.
I am writing two YA novels about Josephine Bonaparte’s daughter Hortense. Exploring this new genre after decades as a writer of adult historical fiction is enlightening and creatively invigorating. The explosive renaissance in YA fiction right now is both thrilling and inspiring.
5 Things I’ve Learned from Writing a YA Novel
I have been writing adult historical fiction for over thirty years. After publishing The Shadow Queen, my fifth novel, I got an offer out of the blue from Penguin to write two Young Adult novels.
This was a serious swerve for me: I had never considered writing a YA novel.
Just because a novel is written for teens does not mean that it’s going to be easier to write. Writing YA is fun, but it certainly isn’t easy. I don’t believe it’s any different than writing an adult historical novel. The same standards apply.
In retrospect, I don’t know why. I read and enjoyed YA. Before becoming a novelist, I had been a book editor—and the lion’s share of my work for over a decade had been editing a series of YA novels for reluctant readers. As an editor, I had explored the idea of developing a series of YA biographies. Researching this idea, I read a YA biography: it happened to be the story of Josephine Bonaparte.
Bingo! I got hooked on Josephine. Years later, I sent a book proposal to a publisher for a YA novel about Josephine. The publisher declined, but I persevered, and much—much!—later, my Josephine B. Trilogy was published. I wept finishing this amazing story. Josephine had been an important part of my life for over a decade. Sad and depleted, I plunged into the 17th century Court of the Sun King, selling my Napoleonic research books to make room for this new era. I was finished with Josephine’s world.
Or so I thought…
One of the YA novels, Penguin stipulated, was to be about Josephine’s daughter, Hortense.
I gave this offer a great deal of thought. Over the following months, I mapped out Hortense’s teen years, to see what her story might be. It was all there—enough for the two novels, in fact. I got excited. [Read more…]