In one sense, I've been researching Before Versailles since I was a junior in college and ordered Nancy Mitford's handsome coffee table book, The Sun King, through Book of the Month Club. Does anyone else remember how exciting it used to be to receive a book once a month? The book interested the amateur historian who has resided in me since I was a girl, and I began to read other books about Versailles and about the three kings named Louis who occupied it. I found myself most interested in Louis XIV, so I read anything and everything about him for years: translated memoirs of the period, biographies, social historians' view of Versailles and the intricate court ritual that resulted from its golden cage atmosphere. When I began writing fiction, I was always interested in the story of Princesse Henriette of England (explored in my novel, Dark Angels) and in the true life relationships of Louis XIV and the women in his life. In fact, Dark Angels came into being because I kept trying but couldn't write my Louis XIV story. After Dark Angels, I realized the reason was that the story was too large. I had to focus down, as I had for the plot of that novel.
And so I chose a quite fascinating time in Louis XIV's life.....before Versailles came into being, when he had to decide what to do about a minister more powerful than he was and when he was falling in love again, not as a boy, but as a young man. The web of relationships to his brother, his brother's wife, his mother, the minister, his aide Colbert, friends, especially the Comte de Guiche, just intrigued me. When I knew the specific time, I focused in, researching deliberately that period of his life, extracting details I thought would interest readers because they certainly interested me. So I guess the way I research is to start out very broadly, roaming through a period on all levels: political and cultural, and then I work out a time frame.....the novel will begin here, end here.....and focus tightly within that frame. But I try never to let the research run the story, but rather, the characters and what they are facing and/or attempting to overcome.
I quite fell in love with Louis XIV at 22 in Before Versailles. I hope you will, too. And for those of you who are interested, Dark Angels is a "kind of" sequel to Before Versailles, only I wrote it first. Go figure.......
K A R L E E N K O E N
Learn more about this book:
Karleen Koen's latest novel, a celebration of France's vibrant, young Louis XIV before he became the icon of the seventeenth century.
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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 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.
But there are other problems lurking outside the chateau of Fontainebleu: 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...
SOME HAVE SAID...
"This is a powerful rich telling of a few months in the life of King Louis XIV." Romance Reviews; Historical Novel Society Editors' Pick.
AND I SAY...
A big story about Louis XIV has been brewing since my second novel. A piece of all that intrigued me was used in Dark Angels. Here is another piece of the immense story that is his life.