Are there TV shows or films that have influenced your writing?
Yes. I saw The Red Balloon (1956) at our local library when I was a young girl. I was immediately enchanted with Paris. The movie has no words and there are no words to describe how deeply it moved me. The boy in the movie was poor. He lived in a small apartment in a dirty rundown section of Paris. Yet I was moved by Paris’s beauty and charm in every scene.
When I was 19 I went to Paris for the first time as an au pair and lived in a maid’s garret on the top floor of a building. No hot water, shower or bath. A Turkish toilet (don’t ask). Just like the boy in The Red Balloon chasing his balloon in the streets of Paris I spent that year chasing beauty all over Paris.
What do you worry about in your work?
I tend to avoid conflict and always seek happy endings. Yet novels are built upon conflict. To write a good novel you need lots of conflict before you can get to the happy ending. In my Anne of Brittany series I was challenged to touch upon the less positive aspects of my heroine’s character. Now that the series is done, I have moved on to Margaret of Austria, who experienced plenty of conflict during her years as governor of the Netherlands from 1507-1530.
As governor of the Netherlands she was responsible for administering Habsburg rule over 17 different territories that comprise today’s Holland and the Benelux countries, as well as Burgundy (now folded into France). She batted heads with many of her legislators, each of whom wished to maintain privileges for their respective regions.
My challenge is to refrain from writing a puff piece on Margaret of Austria, but rather to offer a balanced view of how she managed her position, both good and bad. I hope I will lead my readers to a satisfying ending, coming away with a deep appreciation for this historical figure.
What brings you great joy as a writer?
It brings me great joy to read a passage from one of my books a year or two after it came out and realize there’s a certain voice to the prose that is all my own.
A second source of joy is to hear from readers of my Anne of Brittany series that they had never heard of Anne of Brittany before and are fascinated to discover her story. I hope the same will be true of Margaret of Austria once my new book comes out. I feel connected to a larger purpose by bringing to life the stories of these female Renaissance rulers who played such vital roles in early 16th century Europe. History books have only sketched them in. My goal is to fill in the gaps and bring their personalities to life for readers of today.
Do you speak a second language? Do you think differently in that language? Does it influence your writing?
Yes. I speak French passably, not fluently. I think differently in that language. When I speak French my personality becomes more feminine, refined. I feel more myself. The challenge is to translate French phrases into English in a way that maintains their subtlety, shifting the English-speaking reader’s sensibility. The French language reflects its culture, utterly different from that of English-speaking countries. When researching historical figures in French texts, fascinating differences between Anglophone and Francophone worlds emerge, particularly in the area of pleasure.
The French celebrate pleasure, the English-speaking world feels guilty about its pursuit. The French pursue pleasure in eating, in creating beauty in their surroundings, in giving and receiving pleasure.
When I read texts covering Francis I and his 16th century Renaissance court I came across many passages about men’s preoccupation with providing satisfaction to their ladylove. There would be references to men boasting of how many times they pleasured their ladylove. My eyes opened and the scales fell away. If there were similar texts in English, either the subject would not be mentioned at all or any male boasting would have been about how many times they achieved satisfaction, not their female partner.
What was the inspiration for your most recent book?
While researching Anne of Brittany’s story I came across mention of Margaret of Austria as an 11-year-old, raised at the French court to become queen to Charles VIII of France. Charles jilted Margaret to marry Anne of Brittany, who was very kind to her despite having taken her place. When Margaret returned to the Netherlands, Anne of Brittany and Margaret of Austria stayed in touch. Both were interested in creating a Habsburg hedge around France, to curb its dominance. Both women were instrumental in the seminal development of what has now become the European Union. Both began their lives as pawns of powerful men and both emerged to become powerful players themselves on the European political stage.
Rozsa Gaston writes historical fiction. She studied European history at Yale, and received her Master’s degree in international affairs from Columbia University, including one year at Institut des Etudes Politiques (Sciences Po), Paris.
She worked at the United Nations, then at Institutional Investor before turning to writing full-time. After beginning her writing career she worked as a columnist for The Westchester Guardian.
Author of the four-volume Anne of Brittany Series, Gaston won the Publishers Weekly 2018 BookLife Prize in general fiction for Anne and Louis, Book Two of the series.
Gaston lives in Bronxville, New York, with her family and is currently working on Margaret of Austria: Governor of the Netherlands and Early 16th Century Europe’s Greatest Diplomat. She is a member of and former guest expert at the UK Tudor Society and a founding member of France’s Splendid Centuries Facebook page.
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Rebecca D’Harlingue writes about seventeenth-century women taking a different path. Her award-winning debut novel,The Lines Between Us, takes place in Spain, Mexico, and modern-day St. Louis, Missouri.
Finalists will be announced November 1, 2018. Thank you to Booklife and Publishers Weekly for bringing my story to today’s readers.—Anne, Duchess of Brittany, twice Queen of France
Anne of Brittany, image by Nurycat
Book Two of the Anne of Brittany Series, Anne and Louis is the story of the first years of Anne of Brittan’s marriage to Louis XII, King of France. Cast of characters include Cesare Borgia, Christine de Pizan, Marie de France, Machiavelli and more. Pre-order Anne and Louis here. Out Nov. 29, 2018.
Statue of Anne of Brittany (1477-1514), Nantes, France
Receiving a 10.00 out of 10 in four categories, the story of Anne of Brittany’s marriage to Louis XII, King of France, is Book Two of the Anne of Brittany Series.
Anne of Brittany reaches across the ages and brings her decision-making skills, and supreme self-possession in the face of enormous loss to modern readers. The Anne of Brittany Series inspires and encourages women of today through the historical example set by 15th century avant la lettre feminist ruler Anne of Brittany (1477-1514).
Send author Rozsa Gaston a personal e-mail if you’d like to receive an advance review copy of Anne and Louis in exchange for your pre-release review (review must be posted on Amazon by Nov. 29, 2018): firstname.lastname@example.org.
May Anne of Brittany’s remarkable story inform your own.
Anne of Brittany by Jean Bourdichon, courtesy gallica.BnF.fr
Sense of Touch is coming soon. My seventh and latest novel is based on the life of Anne of Brittany, twice Queen of France. Her dates? 1477-1514.
Sense of Touch has been chosen by Kindle Scout for a 30-day pilot program to see if readers get interested in this story. If the book receives enough nominations by Oct. 19, 2015, it will be chosen for publication by Kindle Press. That’s a very big deal. Why? Worldwide distribution.
Here’s the link to nominate Sense of Touch for publication. It’s free, and if Sense of Touch gets picked up for publication, you will receive a complimentary advance copy. I will include your name on my acknowledgments page if you let me know you voted. Thank you.
Why am I excited about Anne of Brittany? This remarkable woman, Duchess of Brittany in her own right, and twice Queen of France due to marrying well, lived exactly at the convergence of the Middle Ages with the Renaissance. What does that mean?
To put it in a nutshell, it means goodbye to collective identity and hello to self-identity. My writing platform is all about self-identity, as in how do women achieve their own? Then, how do they hone it through the years as professional and family obligations conspire to obliterate their special je ne sais quoi?
Anne of Brittany did a great job of maintaining her own sense of self. Her motto? A ma vie, to my life. It takes a confident woman to have a motto like that.
Here’s the gist of Sense of Touch.
Tapestry design based on Le Toucher from The Lady and the Unicorn series. Courtesy METRAX-CRAYE, Belgium
NICOLE SAINT SYLVAIN serves at the court of Anne of Brittany, Queen of France, in 1497, at age fifteen. Working with horse trainer Philippe de Bois to heal the Queen’s stallion, she shows an aptitude for diagnosing horses’ ailments through her sense of touch. Soon she has fallen in love, but not with the man her father has chosen for her. Duty pulls Nicole and Philippe in different directions and Nicole becomes a wife, mother, then widow while immersing herself in the healing arts. When Anne of Brittany begs her to save her infant daughter, Nicole works alongside a physician from the South whose reputation for healing began with his work with horses. Will Nicole succeed in saving the Queen’s daughter? And if she does, will the Queen reward her with the greatest desire of her heart—marriage to the only man she has ever loved?
ANNE OF BRITTANY inherited the Duchy of Brittany at age eleven upon her father’s death in 1488. Three years later she married Charles VIII and became Queen consort of France. Instrumental in introducing new techniques of architecture and craftsmanship from Milan to France, Anne of Brittany ushered in the Italian Renaissance to France. By age twenty-one she had buried her husband and all four of her children. Within nine months she became wife of the new king, Louis XII. Pregnant fourteen times, seven times by either king, she raised two children to adulthood. Both were daughters.
She is known as the first female ruler of France to bring together young women of noble birth at court, where she educated and trained them, then arranged appropriate marriage matches. A ruler of influence, refinement, and resources, she rose above personal loss with dignity and grace while espousing the cause of women’s advancement. Her story is for women everywhere.