I have a treat for you all today! I had the opportunity to put a few questions to the author of The Orange Grove and Stone Circle, Kate Murdoch.
First, here’s a bit about her latest book:
Blurb: When status is survival, every choice has its consequence.
Blois, 1705. The chateau of Duc Hugo d’Amboise simmers with rivalry and intrigue.
Henriette d’Augustin, one of five mistresses of the duc, lives at the chateau with her daughter. When the duc’s wife, Duchesse Charlotte, maliciously undermines a new mistress, Letitia, Henriette is forced to choose between position and morality. She fights to maintain her status whilst targeted by the duchesse who will do anything to harm her enemies.
The arrival of charismatic tarot reader, Romain de Villiers, further escalates tensions as rivals in domestic politics and love strive for supremacy.
In a society where status is a matter of life and death, Henriette must stay true to herself, her daughter, and her heart, all the while hiding a painful secret of her own.
Sounds intriguing! So without further ado, I will hand you over to my earlier self and Kate Murdoch for more information:
As a writer:
What do you most love and/or hate to write?
I enjoy writing dialogue because it allows me to get to know my characters and it tends to flow more than writing description. There’s nothing I really hate as such, but I do find writing about completely different times and places is easier for me than writing in the present where I’m from.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I read, paint, do yoga and Pilates, keep up my running, have lunches with friends.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
Yes, I do. Good ones are really validating and make me feel like I’m on the right track. Bad ones can be confronting and even upsetting, but I remind myself that just as I’m not going to get along with everyone I meet, neither is my book.
As a reader:
What is your favourite book (other than your own!)?
So difficult to narrow down! But if pressed, Lilian’s Story by Kate Grenville.
What was your favourite book as a child?
What book is top of your TBR pile right now?
With regards to THIS book:
The Orange Grove is set in the early 18th century France, in the château of a duc, and your previous novel, The Stone Circle, was set in a 16th century Italian palazzo. What particularly drew you to these times and places for your stories?
In the case of Stone Circle, the original idea came as a dream about two young boys learning wisdom with the guidance of an old man. I knew it was long ago, but it was only when I read about the resurgence of alchemy in the 16th century in Europe, particularly in Italy, that I pinpointed my time and place.
With The Orange Grove, I had a fascination with the period when Louis XIV ruled France due to the opulence of his court and the lives of nobles at that time. It was the decadence of their lifestyles which led to the revolution. Along with wanting to explore this period I’m a Francophile and the idea of writing a French book was irresistible to me.
Your books are classed as ‘Historical Fiction’ and have been highly praised for their accuracy to period details. How far do you follow historical fact when it comes to your characters and plot? Do you take the historical setting and place your own characters and story there, or do you take inspiration from real people and recorded events, adding your own interpretations and detail?
The former. I take the historical setting and place the characters and story there. In The Orange Grove, Louis XIV does make an appearance, but everyone else is invented. I place details that reflect the time, but focus more on the narrative itself. For example, there is a reference to a peasant uprising — these had started to occur as the nobles did not pay any tax and the system was deeply unfair. So, the events of the time are a backdrop and have an influence, but are not my main focus. Accuracy is very important — I do a specific edit just looking for anachronisms along with researching the period before and during the writing process.
What did you edit out of this book? Were there any characters or sub-plots that you were fond of but had to sacrifice for the finished story?
No, I kept most of the story and added sections as well. I was fortunate that my editor gently guided me, helping to enrich the story and allowing me to make a case for parts I wanted to keep. There were a couple of my sly jokes that were cut. It’s a balance when working with an editor in terms of what you’re prepared to fight for, and knowing when to let go.
Is there anything you would like new readers to know before they dive on into your book?
The Orange Grove explores the ambiguity of morality — negative actions are rarely black and white. Past traumas and present dilemmas converge and cause people to behave in ways that aren’t always kind or perfect. I wanted to write a book about the spectrum of human behaviour in an honest and compassionate way.
About the Author:
Kate Murdoch exhibited widely as a painter both in Australia and internationally before turning her hand to writing.
Her short-form fiction has been published in various literary journals in Australia, UK, US and Canada.
Her debut novel, Stone Circle, a historical fantasy novel set in Renaissance Italy, was released by Fireship Press in December 2017. Stone Circle was a First in Category winner in the Chaucer Awards 2018 for pre-1750’s historical fiction.
Her novel, The Orange Grove, about the passions and intrigues of court mistresses in 18th century France, was published by Regal House Publishing in October 2019.
The Orange Grove is available on Amazon right now and from all other good bookstores, and I will be back in January with my review!