Monday, 27 March 2017

#TimelessTour - Q&A with Sally Christie, author of THE ENEMIES OF VERSAILLES

Hello fellow historical romance readers!!

Today, I'm here to start off Simon & Schuster Canada's TIMELESS TOUR

Over the next few weeks, I'll be a part of a group of bloggers sharing posts relating to three of S&S Canada's big historical romance books this season: PROMISES TO KEEP, THE ENEMIES OF VERSAILLES, and THE SCRIBE OF SIENA!

I'm lucky enough to launch the Timeless Tour, so welcome, welcome! I hope you enjoy all of our fabulous posts, and that you go away from this tour with three new books that you just can't wait to read!

My first post for this tour is a Q&A with Sally Christie, the author of THE ENEMIES OF VERSAILLES, the third and final book in THE MISTRESSES OF VERSAILLES TRILOGY!

To start us off, here's a bit of an introduction for THE ENEMIES OF VERSAILLES:

(The Mistresses of Versailles Trilogy #3)

Author: Sally Christie
Publisher: Atria Books
Release Date: March 21, 2017
Number of Pages: 416 (Paperback)

In the final installment of Sally Christie’s “tantalizing” (New York Daily News) Mistresses of Versailles trilogy, Jeanne Becu, a woman of astounding beauty but humble birth, works her way from the grimy back streets of Paris to the palace of Versailles, where the aging King Louis XV has become a jaded and bitter old philanderer. Jeanne bursts into his life and, as the Comtesse du Barry, quickly becomes his official mistress.

“That beastly bourgeois Pompadour was one thing; a common prostitute is quite another kettle of fish.”

After decades of suffering the King's endless stream of Royal Favorites, the princesses of the Court have reached a breaking point. Horrified that he would bring the lowborn Comtesse du Barry into the hallowed halls of Versailles, Louis XV’s daughters, led by the indomitable Madame Adelaide, vow eternal enmity and enlist the young dauphiness Marie Antoinette in their fight against the new mistress. But as tensions rise and the French Revolution draws closer, a prostitute in the palace soon becomes the least of the nobility’s concerns.

Told in Christie’s witty and engaging style, the final book in The Mistresses of Versailles trilogy will delight and entrance fans as it once again brings to life the sumptuous and cruel world of eighteenth century Versailles, and France as it approaches irrevocable change.

Now that you know a bit about the book, it's time for the Q&A you've been waiting for!


1. The Enemies of Versailles is the last book in The Mistresses of Versailles trilogy. Which of the mistresses was your favorite to write? 

I loved the Comtesse du Barry the most of all of my characters – she was such a warm, friendly, genuinely nice person. We all know people like her – I think of them as “favored angels” – they have everything, but rather than becoming cold or superior, they retain their essential goodness. I also hate how the Comtesse du Barry has been portrayed recently – for example in Coppola’s film Marie Antoinette – and felt she needed some vindication!

So the Comtesse du Barry was my favorite character, but I had the most fun with Pauline from The Sisters of Versailles – her blithe bitchiness was really fun to write.

2. The Sisters of Versailles and The Rivals of Versailles both heavily feature letters, whereas Enemies does not. Was this a conscious decision? 

Sisters has four rotating viewpoints, and the letters (which were an excellent idea suggested to me by an editor, and one to which I was initially resistant) are a great way to keep all four characters alive and updated in the minds of the readers, as well as to pepper in a lot of fun facts and anecdotes. Rivals also has rotating viewpoints, but not alternating – Pompadour has the first half of the book, then some of her rivals get a chance to speak, then she finishes up – and in this case the letters were a good way to keep her involved and central even when she was “off stage” and the other mistresses were speaking.

For Enemies, I didn’t hesitate for one minute about the structure – I just knew it had to be Jeanne du Barry and Madame Adelaide. With only two narrators, who were together at Versailles for a good chunk of the book, there just didn’t seem to be any need for them. I toyed with the idea of including a couple of real letters in the book (there are some surviving examples from Jeanne du Barry to her lover Hercule, for example) but that idea never took flight.

3. The titular enemies Comtesse du Barry and Madame Adelaide have very opposing personalities. Du Barry is naïve and eager-to-please, whereas Madame Adelaide is pious and jealous. How did you strike a balance in portraying two very different characters while giving them each validity and agency? 

Their differences are what made them so fun and interesting to write. It was easy to make Jeanne a relatable character – she is someone who is easy to fall in love with, and like the modern reader, she is the ultimate outsider to the world of Versailles with all its ridiculous rituals and rules.

Adelaide is a more difficult character to relate to, especially in the first half of the book, where her rigidity and pedantry combine for a very annoying personality. I think her best moments, and the ones where readers might warm to her, come when she experiences heartbreak because of her father, and then as she comes to slowly realize that maybe, just maybe, much of Versailles and the world she was born to, might have a few faults…

4. Because of the stark contrast between Comtesse du Barry and Madame Adelaide, do you think readers will gravitate to one character more than the other? Is it important for your characters to be likeable? 

I think readers will definitely gravitate to the Comtesse du Barry over Madame Adelaide, and in a sense, though they both get equal page count, the Comtesse du Barry is really the star of the book and Madame Adelaide is her foil. I don’t think it’s important at all for characters to be likeable (though I know many readers disagree!) but I do think they have to be relatable – i.e. the reader should see elements of people they know (and possibly dislike) in my characters’ personalities.

Apart from the Marquise de Pompadour and perhaps Marie Anne and Pauline, most of the other mistresses I write about would have been quite shallow women, largely uneducated and really only focused on themselves and their immediate world. One struggle while writing characters like that is that I have to be true to their worldview, even if their worldview consists of exclusively worrying about what the next meal will bring or which new dress she should buy. I can’t make them conduits for political developments or events that they wouldn’t be interested in!

 5. Why did you decide to start Jeanne’s story when she was 7, rather than an age closer to her introduction to Versailles? 

I’m coming to see there are two groups in this world – those that like reading about childhoods, and those that hate reading about childhoods. I’m firmly in the first group, while it seems all my editors and agents are firmly in the second!

One of the rules of writing is apparently to “start where the action starts”. But I personally really enjoy learning about and experiencing a character’s childhood, as well as writing from that perspective. I always try to sneak as much childhood in as I can, but a lot gets cut –in the first draft of Sisters, I spent a lot more time on their collective childhood, and for Rivals I had a lot more about Jeanne de Poisson’s young life.

6. Jeanne takes on many names throughout the book (Mademoiselle Rancon, Mademoiselle L’Ange, Madame Vaubernier, Comtesse du Barry); which name do you think was the most significant to her character’s development? 

Definitely du Barry! It absolutely defined her and created her and that is who she became.

7. You’ve done a large of amount of research for all of your books. What’s one book/resource from your research you would recommend to readers who want to learn more about 18th century Versailles? 

There’s a good introductory book about Versailles called Versailles: Biography of a Palace by Tony Spaworth. It’s a good general overview of the history and the development of the palace and palace life through the 17th and 18th centuries.

 I personally find the contemporary “memoires” of the day – most can be found online and some in English – to be really fascinating reading. The style of writing, the details, the situations we would judge to be ridiculous yet appears perfectly normal to the author – they really give you a glimpse into the worldview of the 18th century aristocrat. A fun one is the Duc de Richelieu’s memoires – you can find fragments and various versions in English online.

8. Were there any facts/anecdotes about Comtesse du Barry or Madame Adelaide that you weren’t able to work into Enemies

On my website I list a number of omissions about their lives which didn’t make it into the story. The last third of the book is really their experiences in the lead up to and during the Revolution, and it was hard to get both their stories in there alongside everything that was going on in the larger context: a lot got cut in that part.

For example, Jeanne had a very torrid love affair that lasted a few years with an Englishman – this happened before she met Hercule – and also her possible role as a spy during the Revolution is left unexplored.

9. In your Author’s Note you mention that The Mistresses of Versailles trilogy examines the intimate and personal moments that make history. Why is it that Louis XV’s mistresses had more political influence that the Queen? 

The Queen had a very timid personality, and was eternally grateful for the stroke of fate that plucked her from provincial Polish obscurity. She was also very pious and that led ultimately to separate beds for her and her husband, which opened the door for the mistresses to come through. Louis himself was quite weak-willed and very malleable, and came to rely on his mistresses even more than his ministers, and certainly more than on himself.

But I think his “malleability” needs some context: imagine that every decision you made or approved – a new appointment, a budget cut, a new decree – could cause anger and jealousy and a host of unforeseen consequences – naturally you’d shy away from making decisions!

10. Now that you’ve completed this trilogy, what can readers expect from you next? 

I did start a book set partially at Versailles during the time of Marie Antoinette, but I had to give it up – while it’s a fascinating world, there are so many other interesting places and times, and I think I have had my share of Versailles!

So my next project will definitely be historical, and definitely not at Versailles, but apart from that I haven’t decided yet.


I’m a life-long history buff and I really wish time travel were a possibility—I’d be off to the eighteenth century in a flash!

Since I can’t travel back in time (yet), I have done plenty of global travel: as a child I lived in England, Canada, Argentina, and Lesotho, and attended eight schools in three languages. I continued my global wanderings with a career in international development, but now I’m settled in Toronto and loving it.

The Sisters of Versailles is my first novel, though I’ve been writing since I could hold a pencil. When I’m not writing I’m reading, reading, reading; disappearing down various rabbit holes of historical research, and playing lots of tennis.

Follow the rest of the TIMELESS TOUR:

What did you think?

Did you enjoy my Q&A with Sally Christie?
Are you a fan of historical romance?
And are you excited for THE ENEMIES OF VERSAILLES?


  1. I really enjoyed this interview. I liked seeing which mistress was Ms. Christie's favourite as mine was actually the Marquise du Pompadour. 😊

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