WomensHistoryReads interview: Meghan Masterson

The #WomensHistoryReads interview project continues! And today's guest is THE WARDROBE MISTRESS author Meghan Masterson, who interviewed me for her blog earlier this month. Now it's her turn to be interviewed with a guest spot here today.

 Meghan Masterson

Meghan Masterson

Greer:   Tell us about a woman from the past who has inspired your writing.

Meghan: Marie Antoinette inspired me to write THE WARDROBE MISTRESS. There’s something alluring about the contrast of her luxurious life, and the doomed tragedy of her death, but as I got deeper into my research, I saw that she was probably reviled more than she deserved. Most of the social and economic problems leading up to the French Revolution had been building for years, long before her time on the throne, and Marie Antoinette, as a foreign queen (she was born in Austria, and came to France when she married the dauphin) made a convenient scapegoat. She’s blamed for things like naively remarking ‘let them eat cake’ in response to the shortage of bread (she never said this), when she regularly donated to the poor and took measures like downgrading the palace grain ration so there would be more for the rest of the people. 

I knew I wanted to write about her, and my protagonist became one of Marie Antoinette’s wardrobe women, poised to see the truth about the queen, but also the struggle going on in Paris. Having her work in the wardrobe also let me explore the surprisingly intricate world of French Revolutionary fashion, too. 

Greer: What’s the last book that blew you away? 

Meghan: THE NIGHT SISTER by Jennifer McMahon. I loved the blend of suspense, supernatural, and shifting timelines in the multiple points of view. I immediately added the rest of her books to my reading list and have been happily working my way through.  

Greer: Play matchmaker: what unsung woman from history would you most like to read a book about, and who should write it? 

Meghan: Ooh, this is a fun one. I would love to read a book about Wang Zhenyi, a woman scientist and astronomer from 18th Century China. Not only did she research and write about scientific topics like the eclipses and equinoxes, she also wrote poetry – and of course challenged the limitations of women’s roles at the times. Since Weina Dai Randel so wonderfully portrayed Empress Wu as a strong, nuanced, and sympathetic character, I’d choose her to write this story.

Greer: Great match! (And fans of Weina: stay tuned for her interview later in the month.)

Meghan: Have you hidden any secrets or clues in your books that only a few people will find? 

Greer: Not exactly, but I do like to include things only a few people will get the meaning of. A lot of the towns and cities that Arden's magic show visits in THE MAGICIAN'S LIE are named because I know someone who lives there or I have some other connection to the city. And in my upcoming third book, WOMAN NINETY-NINE, several of the characters' names are taken from an Elvis Costello song that was part of my inspiration for writing a novel in that particular setting. They're definitely not clues to the mystery, but fun little Easter eggs, in a way.

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Read more by and about Meghan at her website.