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Sep 10, 2012

Guest Post (Giveaway) Karleen Koen: Before Versailles

A favorite read of mine for 2011 was Karleen Koen's Before Versailles (review) and it is now available in paperback from Sourcebooks. (See below for instructions on how to enter the giveaway courtesy of Sourcebooks!)

Before Versailles
September 2012 paperback from Sourcebooks

Louis XIV is one of the best-known monarchs ever to grace the French throne. But what was he like as a young man—the man before Versailles?

After the death of his prime minister, Cardinal Mazarin, twenty-two-year-old Louis steps into governing France. He’s still a young man, but one who, as king, willfully takes everything he can get—including his brother’s wife. As the love affair between Louis and Princess Henriette burns, it sets the kingdom on the road toward unmistakable scandal and conflict with the Vatican. Every woman wants him. He must face what he is willing to sacrifice for love.

But there are other problems lurking outside the chateau of Fontainebleau: a boy in an iron mask has been seen in the woods, and the king’s finance minister, Nicolas Fouquet, has proven to be more powerful than Louis ever thought—a man who could make a great ally or become a dangerous foe . . .

Meticulously researched and vividly brought to life by the gorgeous prose of Karleen Koen, Before Versailles dares to explore the forces that shaped an iconic king and determined the fate of an empire.

Please welcome author Karleen Koen to Burton Book Review, as I asked Karleen to share her thoughts on one of her favorite or most inspiring characters from Before Versailles, asking which one spoke to her the most and who was the most fun to write scenes for:

Surprisingly, the character in Before Versailles who was easiest to write scenes for was Louis XIV. I didn't expect that. I expected that character to be either Princess Henriette or Louise de la Baume le Blanc (one of whom I thought would run the story). But as I imagined Louis and the very real problems he faced when he was 22, and what he might have been feeling, I found I could sink into a young man who was gallant and honorable and a bit idealistic--and I found that I really, really liked the sinking. 

It takes some mind maneuvering to move from all the known facts about an actual historical character and make that character real, particularly an icon like Louis XIV. Before Versailles is likely the only book I'll ever write where the main character actually existed. There's much more room to breathe when characters are completely fictional, and I usually surround fictional characters with ones who actually existed, but the actuals are on the second level of the story. But Louis really was ardent, gallant, brave, and disciplined, and he faced enormous challenges. At 22, he was the prince in the fairy tales, and that was fun to realize, imagine, and write.

Other characters who came easily to me were Choisy, the cross dresser (actually existed) and the Comte de Guiche, who also actually existed. I envisioned Guiche as flip and cool and cruel. I love any scene Guiche is in. Oddly enough, my little heroine, Louise, was the hardest one to write because historically, she is the most unnuanced. She's almost too good to be true. Her quest for the boy in the iron mask helped me define her, but it was only in the last edits--novel bought, to be published, working with an editor's input--that I finally felt able to define her. 

Other characters for whom the writing just slipped out without much effort on my part were the old Duchess de Chevreuse, a key player in the times of Louis XIII and Cardinal Richelieu,  and the musketeer, Cinq Mars, completely fictional, a crusty, indomitable old soldier for whom I felt enormous empathy. I don't know why the guys held my imagination so strongly in Before Versailles, but they did

Karleen Koen ( is the New York Times bestselling author of Through a Glass Darkly, Now Face to Face, and Dark Angels, an Indie Next List bestseller and a BookSense pick. She lives in Houston, Texas.  Before Versailles is available in bookstores and online.

Courtesy of the publisher Sourcebooks, they are giving away Before Versailles!!

To enter, please comment here with your email address, and let me know what Louis XIV or French Revolution reads you have enjoyed! Followers of Burton Book Review in US & Canada only please. Giveaway ends September 13th 2012.