Who run the world? Girls! Today we’re highlighting the often untold stories of women in history. The Game of Hope is the debut YA novel by international bestselling author Sandra Gulland. Join the conversation online by following @PenguinTeenCa and using the hashtag #HerStoryTeen.
Q&A with Sandra Gulland
What inspired you to write a YA novel?
Before I became a novelist, I was a book editor, and for over a decade I edited young adult novels for reluctant readers. But even so, it took at least two months to consider. It takes me years to write a novel, and I have to feel passionate about it and fall in love with it. So, I reread books about Hortense and covered our dining room table with plot points on index cards. I needed to see if there was a story there, a story about Hortense’s teen years, an enchanting story.And there was. And it was one I very much wanted to write.
What books did you consult while working on The Game of Hope?
I posted the complete list to my website and it comes to about 150 books and magazine articles, so I’ll spare you the details and generalize. I read Hortense’s two-volume memoir, The Memoirs of Queen Hortense, two decades ago, and it was time to reread them, as well as biographies about her. I read books on etiquette, period dance, and costume, of course: the details of daily life are what interest me the most. The book on sex that Caroline Bonaparte was so enthusiastic about, and which horrified Hortense, was also an amusing discovery. I read quite a lot on Madame Campan, including her letters to Hortense, as well as a little epistolary novel she wrote about two fictional girls in her wonderful school. A historian and I even shared the expense of hiring a researcher in Paris to find a set of letters in the National Archives written by one of Campan’s students. (Yes, you could call me obsessive.)
You’ve written a lot about various historical periods in France. What do you love about French history?
There is something about French history — at least the periods I’ve studied — that is so idealistic (even when it’s brutal), and at the same time almost theatrical. There is often a hint of humour, and I adore that.
What surprised you the most about the lives of teenage girls in post-revolutionary France?
There were many things I already knew, yet I was still surprised that teenage girls were expected to marry. They were so young! Also, it was rare for girls to be educated at all, much less well-educated. Campan’s school was amazingly creative and intellectually challenging. I would have loved to have gone to that school.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
SANDRA GULLAND is the author of the international-bestselling Josephine B series, chronicling the life of Napoleon’s second wife. Now, Sandra turns her keen eye for history and her love of story to Hortense, the teenage stepdaughter of Napoleon, in her first YA novel The Game of Hope.