Thursday, April 30, 2009

Guest Blogger: Sandra Gulland & Giveaway

Yesterday, I reviewed a wonderful book called MISTRESS OF THE SUN by Sandra Gulland. I highly recommend it to those of you who enjoy historical fiction. I am just so excited that Ms. Gulland agreed to write this essay for Booking Mama, especially since it is about something I relate to: motherhood!

Mothering as Key to Character

I was, like Julie P., the author of this delightful blog, a stay-at-home mom (and, I should add, fortunate to be so). I worked from my home, first as a freelance editor, and then, with time, as a novelist. When the children were babies, I would set my alarm for 5:00 a.m. in order to have a little quiet time to write before they woke up. I discovered, after a year, that what I had hoped would be the makings of a novel, was, in fact, simply hundreds (and hundreds!) of pages — all on the subject of exhaustion.

That changed, of course, as our son and daughter grew up. Along with my husband, they became my cheer-leaders, my biggest fans. They knew I was writing a book, but when my first novel was actually published, they were astonished. (Our son said, over his breakfast cereal, "This is like finding out that not only is your mom a hockey player, but that she's in the NHL.")

In coming to understand a character I'm writing about, one of the most important things I consider is her relationship with her children. With Josephine (of the Josephine B. Trilogy), her two children were clearly the most important part of her existence. Once I understood that, a great deal of what she did made sense. Indeed, I believe she married Napoleon because, as a widow with two young teens to provide for, she was in need of a man who could be a father to them.

With Louise, heroine of Mistress of the Sun, it was more challenging. (Warning: spoilers!) Ultimately she leaves her children in order to join a convent. This was hard for me to understand, but I did, in the end. She had only two choices, after all: to be a mother who was publicly (and miserably) living in sin as mistress to a married man, the King; or to be a model of virtue, a guide for her children to follow. Given how religious Louise was — and how involved she remained with her children while in the convent — it's easier to understand how she could have made the hard choice that she did.

The character I'm writing about now is also a mother — and her child, a daughter, is key in helping her see her way clear. As with Josephine and Louise, it's her relationship with her child that ultimately guides her, informs her most important decision.

Does MISTRESS OF THE SUN sound like a book that you'd like to read? I just happen to have a copy to share with one lucky reader. For one entry, leave a comment with your e-mail address telling me something you found interesting in this guest post. For an additional entry or two, blog and/or tweet about this giveaway with a link back to this post -- you can get up to three entries if you comment, blog and tweet. This contest is open until Thursday, May 14th until 11:59 p.m.; and I will announce the winner the following day. This contest is open to those of you with U.S. and Canada mailing addresses only. Good Luck!


Beth F said...

Great guest post. And this book is something I'd love to read. I was especially interested in the idea that Josephine married Napoleon because she was thinking of what might be best for her children. And I loved her son's hockey analogy!

I'll add this post to my weekly link round up and I'm off to twitter.

bermudaonion said...

I agree with Sandra, your blog is delightful. I love the quote from her son comparing her writing a book to playing hockey in the NHL. It sounds like something Vance would say. I would love to be entered. milou2ster(at)

Amy Sue Nathan said...

Great essay. Mothering infiltrates every part of a woman's life (if she's a mother) and it's important to remember that when characterizing a mom in our books. For my main character she has to come to terms with the possibility of balance - finding what is good for her kids and what's good for her, and accept that it doesn't have to be at odds, but that it can be in sync.

This post was a good reminder.

Melanie said...

I'm intrigued by the comment "one of the most important things I consider is her relationship with her children". I am not a mother myself, so I find this an extremly interesting way to look at a character. I'm sure it will add to my comprehension of femal character when I'm reading from now on.

Stacie said...

As a SAHM mom as well, I can imagine that most of my writings have to do with exhaustion as well. As a mom, everything I do revolves around my children, their schedule and their needs. It sounds like her books echo that as well. Please sign me up!

teabird said...

I love her son's comment - NHL! there should be an NHL for writers.

teabird 17 (at) yahoo (dot) com

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

No need to enter me, although I'd love to read this. I'm just dropping in to say thanks for the e-mail. I've got this posted at Win a Book for you.

ginabad said...

I felt very inspired about that part that her children became her cheerleaders. As a working mom, I often feel that my creative endeavors - pursuing my novel-writing dreams - take me away from my kids. I've learned to set aside time that I'm not taking away from the kids or when their Dad or Grandma is around. It's heartening to know that one they may support my work too!

The book sounds wonderful. Mother-daughter relations is top theme with me, I relate to those books the best.

Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said...

There were two things that stuck out for me:

1 - Being the mom of a 7yr old hockey player (and Capitals fan!) the comment from the author's son about the NHL really made me laugh.

2 - I'm also intrigued by the idea that the lives of these characters were so influenced by their children; it is a great theme to consider.

Great post - I very much enjoyed it.

Vera Marie Badertscher said...

Lovely comments. I already have a copy, so do not need to be entered in your contest, but wanted you to know that I linked to this post on my TBR (To Be Read) page at A Traveler's Library. I am looking forward to reading the book, and thrilled about the support of her children. Lovely Mother's Day thoughts.

Anonymous said...

I found it interesting that understanding of the character came from understanding her relationship with her children.

Please enter me, thanks!

nbmars AT yahoo DOT com

Unknown said...

I too have been thinking about getting up early, just to get some creative time in before the kids get up. But I'm just not that much of a morning person! Kudos to Sandra for sticking with the early morning routine.

Please enter me for her wonderful book.

jgbeads AT gmail DOT com

Holly (2 Kids and Tired) said...

The hockey analogy is great. And, while I'm not a writer, I can so relate to getting up early to have time for yourself.

This sounds like a great book. I'd love to be entered.

darbyscloset said...

Interesting? The fact that she related herself to Julie the blog owner along with her understanding on marring Nap. for a father figure to her children.
Thanks so much
darbyscloset at yahoo dot com

Unknown said...

Great guest post!

I would love to try this book!

Please enter me!


Jo-Jo said...

That was a great guest post Julie. I like how she uses the mother/child relationship to understand her characters. Please enter me in this contest.

joannelong74 AT gmail DOT com

bloggytreasures said...

I just can't wait to read it and see what was going through her mind and how she came to that decision.

bloggytreasures said...

I also tweeted it:

Ashley said...

Please enter me!

I loved the hockey analogy that her son used!

Valorie said...

Interesting? I liked that it was pointed out the perceived dual nature of a woman that made her either sinner (Eve) or virtuous (Mary). Tough spot for women.




Anonymous said...

I was most interested in the idea of marrying Napoleon. And of course, the NHL analogy!

jaam121388 at yahoo dot com

Rachel said...

I found the whole post interesting! Thanks for the giveaway!

Nicole said...

I remember one entrepreneur at a local event was asked "how do you balance family and work?" He said "I get up really early, before the kids, to start work."
It's interesting that Sandra said that she used to get up at 5 am to work. Maybe there is something to being an early riser.

Jo-Jo said...

I'm back to let you know that I blogged about your contest here.
joannelong74 AT gmail DOT com

Anonymous said...

I loved her son's reaction, comparing it to hockey. I also twittered.

carolsnotebook at yahoo dot com

Anonymous said...

I liked the part where she said she'd set her alarm for 5AM so she could have some quiet time to herself.

Please consider me for the giveaway - I adore Historical Fiction.

pattirose4 (at) yahoo (dot) com

Irene said...

I read a book about Louise when I was younger (high school), but apparently the author did not research as much as Sandra Gulland did because I was never aware Louise entered a convent! This review was fascinating and the book is one I would love to win. Please enter my name. Thank you.

cyeates AT nycap DOT rr DOT com

Bonnie said...

What a well written guest post. I loved her comment:

"In coming to understand a character I'm writing about, one of the most important things I consider is her relationship with her children."

That is such a powerful statement and what a testament to mothers that the author considers this most important relationship. I can't wait to read her books and looke forward to reading Mistress of the Sun.

Please add my name to the drawing.

Amber said...

The idea of "living in sin" is so interesting to me, and I really want to read about this woman who leaves her children to live in a convent - most probably due to societal pressures placed on her. Was this what she really WANTED? Or just what she felt was the most socially acceptable thing to do?

Thanks for the giveaway :)

Alyce said...

I loved the parts about motherhood in the guest post. I laughed when I read about the hundreds of pages about exhaustion. That's pretty much what I would write if I was getting up at 5 in the morning. :)I didn't read the part with the spoilers because the book sounds like something I want to read.

I tweeted about the contest:

akreese (at) hotmail (dot) com

CherylS22 said...

I found it interesting that Sandra Gulland writes her books from the perspective of the women as mothers, not from the perspective of the women as wives or lovers.

Please count me in - Thanks!

Ashley said...

I posted this contest on my sidebar at



Beth F said...

Here's the link to my post that mentions your giveaway. I forgot to leave my email in my first post: BFish[dot]Reads[at]

Marie said...

I was fascinated about how Louise maintained contact and influence over her children even after being in the convent!

Sue said...

I'm an SAHM and to me it's the greatest thing I could ever imagine, so I'm intrigued by a woman who could leave her children for anything else. I read that same scenario in Loving Frank and I find it personally unimagineable, but at the same time it's so thought provoking. Thanks for the giveaway~
s.mickelson at gmail dot com

Kristi said...

I loved what her son told her after she had her first book published! Kids' perspectives are refreshing!

kherbrand at comcast dot net

Alyce said...

I blogged about it here:

Chris said...

I can't believe your discipline! Waking up at'd kill me!


Karlie said...

I loved that she was a stay-at-home mom and was able to balance working from home with being a mother.

Carol M said...

I love the comment your son made about finding out that not only is your mom a hockey player, but that she's in the NHL. This book sounds really good!
Carol M
mittens0831 AT aolcom

Esme said...

I never knew her children were an important part of her life.

Belinda M said...

I think her dedication was amazing while writing. Trying to fit the time in to write while having to worry about kids and every day things

"Canadian Contests, Freebies, Coupons, Deals, Games and Fun:"

Gaby317 said...

This sounds like a wonderful read, but I really enjoyed hearing the writer's own story. I can just picture her face when her son said, "This is like finding out that not only is your mom a hockey player, but that she's in the NHL." So sweet!

pls count me in!

gaby317nyc AT gmail DOT com

Gaby317 said...

i've posted a link to your contest on my blog's sidebar.

thanks again!

gaby317nyc AT gmail DOT com

Jenny Girl said...

Excellent guest post. I think what is onteresting and very sweet, is how her son compares her to an NHL player. It means he knows how important being published was. What a good son!
Jennygirl73 (at) gmail (dot) com

Luvdaylilies said...

I found the guest post very interesting=) I realy found it great that her children cheer her on!

Luvdaylilies at bellsouth dot net

Vera said...

I really liked her son's comment about NHL - priceless! And I REALLY want to read this book!