Interview with Meghan Masterson, Author of The Wardrobe Mistress

We’re talking today with Meghan Masterson, author of The Wardrobe Mistress.

What’s your story about?

The Wardrobe Mistress follows Giselle Aubry, one of Marie Antoinette’s wardrobe women, who casually spies on the queen as revolutionary fervor takes hold in Paris. As the revolution escalates, she becomes torn between her loyalty to the queen and her growing love for her idealistic revolutionary suitor, and in danger of facing the guillotine herself.

Share a teaser sentence or two from your novel. 

Her diamonds catch the light and shatter into hundreds of colors, rainbow pinpricks after the other, hovering around the queen, dancing with each of her steps and floating away from the people as she progresses through the courtyard.

“It is like she is made of light,” says Madame Campan poetically.

It’s like she is stealing the light from everyone else, I think.

What do you want people to know about your book?

Color plays an important part in the novel. As revolutionary fervor grew, people wore tricolor rosettes in red, white, and blue to show their support. Of course, if someone didn’t wear tricolor, it could signal royalist sympathies and draw potentially dangerous attention. Since Marie Antoinette was in the public eye so much, she was often judged by her clothing – not just the opulence of it, but also the color.

What did you learn about yourself while writing this novel?

I’m not good at sticking to outlines. I wrote a whole plot synopsis for this novel before getting into the first draft, but it’s not very close to the finished book. Also, apparently I’m totally fine with being really mean to my characters if it leads to a better plot.

What was your timeline from drafting to publication?

I started researching and outlining in February of 2014, and writing the first draft in March – I’m always impatient to get going on the writing, and I research continuously. I finished in February 2015, so it took me a year to write it. I did some edits with my agent, and then some more after receiving editorial feedback when the book was on submission, and I signed a book deal with St. Martin’s in April 2016. Then the publication date wasn’t until August 2017, so it’s been a three year journey!

What is your favorite part of writing (drafting characters, making up scenes, plotting, developing emotional turning points, etc). Why?

I love fitting character development and emotional scenes into the historical framework. It’s like a puzzle. And it’s the best feeling when I find a historical detail that just makes everything click into place. Of course, sometimes the opposite happens and that’s less fun.

Briefly, where did the idea for your book come from?

I’d always been interested in the growing chaos and shifting loyalties of the French Revolution. In my early research, when I stumbled across the secret du roi spy ring, Giselle and her ex-spy uncle showed up in my head with a story to tell. I also enjoyed writing about much-maligned Marie Antoinette – such an alluring, tragic figure.

When do you do your best thinking about your work in progress?

Invariably when I can’t write anything down, like when I’m driving, or walking my dog, or half asleep at 3 am.

Share something people may be surprised to know about you?

Hm. I’m not sure I’m a very surprising person. I’m a pretty good cook. I like whiskey neat. People are sometimes surprised about that one, for some reason.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever gotten?

It’s a quote I read in an interview with Ursula Le Guin. “When people say, ‘Did you always want to be a writer?’, I have to say, ‘no! I always was a writer.’ ” This resonated with me because it made me realize I should stop trying to qualify myself by using other people’s markers of success.

What’s next?

Another book, I hope! I’m always writing something.

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“In THE WARDROBE MISTRESS, Masterson deftly captures the tumult of the French Revolution and the tragic unmaking of history’s most infamous queen—Marie Antoinette—through the eyes of clever and likable dressmaker Giselle Aubry. Immersed in scenes of jeweled courtiers, of furtive exchanges between spies, and the palpable danger lurking in every corridor, tavern, and rue à Paris, I grew impatient to return to the book each night. By turns sexy, absorbing, and suspenseful, this story sweeps you along to its riveting conclusion.”—Heather Webb, author of Becoming Josephine and Last Christmas in Paris