Melanie Clegg, author of "Before the Storm", "Minette", "The Secret Diary of a Princess", and "Blood Sisters" answers 10 questions about her favorite time period in history, her favorite figures from history, and the age old question of coffee or tea.
1. If you could go back in time and be any figure from history, who would it be?
I'm not sure that I'd want to be any of my own characters as they always come to sticky ends or die tragically young so I think I'd either have to opt for a sticky ender like Mary, Queen of Scots and use the benefit of hindsight to steer her in a proper direction (DON'T MARRY DARNLEY, YOU IDIOT! HE'S NOT THAT INTO YOU.) or be someone loved by one of my crushes, so possibly a little known lady called Henriette Duplay who was engaged to Louis Antoine de Saint Just for a few months before his execution or maybe one of Prince Rupert of the Rhine's lady friends from when he was all young and sprightly.
If I had to pick one of my characters then I would have to choose Minette although it's a close thing between her and Lucile Desmoulins. Loved by the young Louis XIV and sister to the fascinating Charles II - what could be better? Okay, she died at the age of twenty six but perhaps it would be worth it to live in such interesting times and to be close to so many fascinating people.
2. What year in history would you have liked to live in?
Once upon a time I would have said 1789 as I adore French history and the French Revolution has been a passion of mine for almost as long as I can remember and, wow, what an exciting year to be alive but right now I think it would have to be London in 1888 so I could experience the Jack the Ripper phenomenon first hand and maybe catch him using the knowledge that we have now about the case! Perhaps I could join forces with my great great great grandfather who was part of the police force trying to catch him and we could be a slightly creepy crime fighting duo! Imagine his wide eyed horror as I pull out my Android phone and try to fire up Google maps! I don't think he'd be too keen on my pink hair either.
3. You're having a dinner party and you can invite 5 people from history, who would they be?
Minette, Prince Rupert of the Rhine, Charles II, Athenais de Montespan, Louis XIV. I'd ply them with gin then just sit and listen to the scandalous stories they'd tell. Oh and gaze soulfully at His Royal Hotness Prince Rupert. Afterwards we could have more gin on the terrace and invite Samuel Pepys, Philippe d'Orleans and Barbara Castlemaine in as well and have a right old party. It'd be ace.
4. What castle from the past or present would you like to live in?
I've always thought that the Petit Trianon would be absolutely delightful to live in - a beautiful jewel like interior which is big enough to entertain and feel grand in but at the same time small enough to be comfortable plus who could resist somewhere that has such wonderful links with Mesdames de Pompadour and du Barry as well as Marie Antoinette, Pauline Bonaparte and the Empress Eugenie? If I ever become lavishly disgustingly rich, I'm going to commission an architect to make me my own replica Petit Trianon - or would that be heinously tacky?
Failing that, Hogwarts would be nice.
5. Two fellow historical fiction authors you'd like to go on a history themed tour of the world with?
I would love to go on tour with Hilary Mantel as she is my all time writing hero and I would love to have a REALLY long chat with her about the French Revolution and the Tudor court. I'd also like to go to Italy with Sarah Dunant - I absolutely adored her recent novel about the Borgias and would love to tag along to Rome and Ferrara while she researches the sequel!
6. Who was more dashing and interesting, King Henry VIII of England or King Louis XIV of France?
I'm really not a fan of Henry VIII at all as I think he was just a horrible human being so it would have to be Louis XIV every time as at least he treated his wife well even if he wasn't all that into her. Mind you, she did give him a son pretty early on but even so, I like to think that he would have behaved like his cousin, Charles II if she hadn't and would have refused to put her aside to marry someone else. Also, if you've seen pictures of him in his ballet outfits, I think you'd agree that poor old Henry, even in his comely youth, couldn't possibly compare in the dashing stakes!
7. Which of the six wives of King Henry VIII is your favorite?
It varies over time - usually I'm most interested in poor little Catherine Howard as she never seems to get all that great a press and even the faint praise that she gets seems to come with a sting in its tail. Poor thing. It often seems to me as if historians writing about her were never teenagers themselves.
8. English monarchy or French monarchy?
Oh definitely the French monarchy. I feel like a bit of a traitor in that respect, being British myself but I've always found French history much more interesting.
9. What three novels could you read over and over?
Ooh, this is a tough one but I think I'd have to go with the wonderful "A Place of Greater Safety" and "Bring up the Bodies" by Hilary Mantel and "Cotillion" by Georgette Heyer, which is just perfection and my 'go to' book when I'm feeling glum.
10. Tea or coffee when writing?
Alas, neither as I have a caffeine intolerance and can't have either of them. Instead it's boring water or, if I'm feeling a bit flash, Rose lemonade all the way here! I suspect people think I'm swigging gin out of the bottle while typing away but I don't think that would work very well although it may well lead to some fairly inspired if not inspiring prose and some interesting plot decisions!
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