Today’s our stop on the Girl on the Golden Coin blog tour and I’m thrilled to welcome Marci Jefferson to Lit, etc! Her debut novel, Girl on the Golden Coin, will be released on February 11th and ah I loved this book so much! I’ve reviewed it here .
Giveaway details are located at the end of the interview along with a synopsis of Girl on the Golden Coin. I loved this book so much that in addition to the copy being offered by St. Martin’s Press, I’m giving away an additional copy. Please note: the copy being given away by me is open international as long as The Book Depository ships to where you live (check here), you’re 18 or older and void where prohibited by law. Good luck!
Q. Tell me something about Marci Jefferson other than the standard bio on your website.
My dad was in the Air Force, so we moved all the time. The second time we lived in the Philippines, we were forced to evacuate from the Mt Pinatubo volcanic eruption. All I wanted in the world was to grow up and have a calm, quiet life. Now I work as a Registered Nurse part time, have two busy children, and cram writing in whenever I can. So I’m afraid (and pleased) that I’m rather average. It’s true that I drink tea all day long. I am addicted to 70% dark chocolate.
Q. What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I love historical research. I’m not sure that qualifies as interesting, but it does lead to fascinating discoveries. And it definitely becomes a quirk when I spend hours and hours reading rather than writing.
Q. Historical fiction focuses on the lives people lived and imagining what their life was like. What type of responsibility do you feel you owe them when writing about them?
It is important to stay true to a historical figure’s spirit. Depending how much information was left behind about that person, this could mean digging through mountains of propaganda and gossip to make an educated guess. I read all I can reasonably access before making my mind up about a character.
As a Quality Assurance nurse I learned how to analyze everything, question everything, get to the root cause of problems, accept nothing at face value, make no assumptions. I’ve carried those habits into my historical research. I am reluctant to accept a historian’s theory until I understand that historian’s motive and have analyzed the sources they referenced. It slows me down. But knowing that I did the hard work makes me confidant as I paint word-portraits of historical figures.
Q. What were some of the challenges you faced while writing Girl on the Golden Coin?
As I mentioned, my nature drives me to analyze historical sources to make my own conclusions before I craft my characters. Unfortunately, I couldn’t hop on a plane and do this research first hand in England. Thank goodness for the internet! I was actually able to solve this problem by contacting archivists at the UK National Archives and the Lancashire Record Office. They helped me access documents that I may not have discovered alone.
Q. Girl on the Golden Coin is about Frances Stuart who caught the eye and heart of King Charles II. She ultimately becomes the model for the figure of Britannia that appeared on official currency (until it was redesigned) and government documents for several hundred years after her death. What inspired you to write about her?
I first learned about the Royal Stuarts during a stay in London over a decade ago. Someone happened to point out the Banqueting House, stating that’s where Charles I was beheaded. Since, up to that point, I thought kings ordered all the beheadings, I felt compelled to study the Royal Stuarts independently, to understand their fascinating rule. Frances Stuart initially stood out as a woman who embraced her personal liberty in defiance of kings.
A few years later I read The Other Boleyn Girl and became obsessed with the desire to do for the Stuarts what Phillippa Gregory had done for the Tudors. I picked up my independent studies again and soon realized Frances Stuart’s independent streak matched the collective spirit of the Restoration age. Since she also happened to be the model for Britannia, I realized there was no better subject for a novel of Restoration England.
Q. You conducted extensive research for Girl on the Golden Coin. Was there anything that surprised you in the research and writing? Did you make any discoveries that changed your perspective?
Just as my agent went out on submission with the novel, a friend of mine found a mysterious entry on Wikipedia referencing a Dutch television show about celebrity genealogy. The show claimed one of their celebrities was related to Charles II through an illegitimate daughter he’d fathered by Frances Stuart. As you know, I research things to death. I was entirely certain Frances Stuart did not have a living daughter by Charles II, but this show made me doubt my entire body of work. In fact, I had an all-out panic attack!
Luckily, I have a friend who speaks Dutch. She translated a letter to the producers of the show in which I politely refuted their claim and asked for their sources or a thorough explanation. They responded saying that they no longer had a copy of the episode and therefore could not explain the genealogical connection. Nor did they offer the name of the genealogical expert they used. This actually calmed my fears. Since they were not able to support it, at this time I do not believe their mysterious claim.
Interestingly, the Wikipedia entry remained for about a year before someone (not me) removed it. But not before a major ancestry database website and a few blogs had copied the information for use on their own sites! This is a perfect example of why you can’t believe everything you read on the internet. And why I do as much research as possible.
Q. Girl on the Golden Coin is told via Frances’ perspective. Did her voice come naturally while writing or did you struggle to trust what she was saying?
It did take me awhile to figure this out. When I didn’t understand her place in historical events, I found I couldn’t get her to speak or act. She was stiff on the page. This is one of the reasons I had to research the Anglo Dutch war, the Protestant-Catholic tensions, and politics of the Restoration government. When I decided what role Frances played in the historical events of her era, she came to life, and I was able to trust her voice.
Q. Frances ultimately says “no” to one of the world’s most powerful men. What do you think women today can learn from her?
It is simple, yet profoundly important: To be true to yourself, you must be bold.
Q. If a reader wanted more information about Frances Stuart, what book(s) would you recommend?
The only biography of Frances Stuart is titled La Belle Stuart by Cyril Hartmann.
All the King’s Women by Derek Wilson is a fantastic all-inclusive review of King Charles II’s complicated love life.
For detailed information about Charles II, the Restoration, and what was at stake, I suggest the probing book by Ronald Hutton titled The Restoration.
Q. Finally, and on an entirely unrelated note, who would play you in a film of your life?
01. English monarchy or French monarchy?
During the 1660s? Definitely English!
02. Fair or theme park?
03. Cake or pie?
04. Titanic or The Notebook?
05. Tea or coffee?
Tea. Always tea!
06. Jazz or Classical?
07. Godzilla or King Kong?
Years after graduating from Virginia Commonwealth University, immersing herself in a Quality Assurance nursing career, and then having children, Marci realized she’d neglected her passion for history and writing. She began traveling, writing along the way, delving into various bits of history that caught her fancy. The plot for GIRL ON THE GOLDEN COIN evolved slowly after a trip to London, where she first learned about the Stuart royals. Marci is a member of the Historical Novel Society. She resides in the Midwest with her husband, making hair-bows for their daughter, trying not to step on their son’s Legos, and teaching a tiny Pacific Parrotlet to talk.
2 copies of Marci Jefferson’s Girl on the Golden Coin are up for grabs. The copy being offered by St. Martin’s Press can only be won by those in the US and the copy I’m offering can be one by anyone. Good luck!
Synopsis: Impoverished and exiled to the French countryside after the overthrow of the English Crown, Frances Stuart survives merely by her blood-relation to the Stuart Royals. But in 1660, the Restoration of Stuart Monarchy in England returns her family to favor. Frances discards threadbare gowns and springs to gilded Fontainebleau Palace, where she soon catches King Louis XIV’s eye. But Frances is no ordinary court beauty, she has Stuart secrets to keep and people to protect. The king turns vengeful when she rejects his offer to become his Official Mistress. He banishes her to England with orders to seduce King Charles II and stop a war.
Armed in pearls and silk, Frances maneuvers through the political turbulence of Whitehall Palace, but still can’t afford to stir a scandal. Her tactic to inspire King Charles to greatness captivates him. He believes her love can make him an honest man and even chooses Frances to pose as Britannia for England’s coins. Frances survives the Great Fire, the Great Plague, and the debauchery of the Restoration Court, yet loses her heart to the very king she must control. Until she is forced to choose between love or war.
On the eve of England’s Glorious Revolution, James II forces Frances to decide whether to remain loyal to her Stuart heritage or, like England, make her stand for Liberty. Her portrait as Britannia is minted on every copper coin. There she remains for generations, an enduring symbol of Britain’s independent spirit and her own struggle for freedom.