Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Sanctuary for a Lady--A Behind the Scenes Look at the French Revolution

One of the most common questions I hear once people learn about Sanctuary for a Lady, is "What possessed you to write a story set during the French Revolution?"

I wish I had an easy answer to that question, but in truth, I don't completely know. My dramatic mind has always latched on to interesting time periods, and I remember sitting in history class in high school thinking, What would it be like to be a French aristocrat, born with the world at your feet, and then suddenly lose everything you've ever known?

Needless to say, Sanctuary for a Lady answers that question. During the French Revolution, thousands of people fled the country, settling in places from England to America to Austria. But leaving wasn't necessarily easy.

Furthermore, as I studied the ideology behind the French Revolution, I found myself sympathizing with the peasant class and wanting a better type of life for them. Before the Revolution, the peasants were utterly oppressed by the church, king, and aristocracy, and this had been going on for centuries.

The French peasant class wanted to be treated fairly. They didn't want to pay half their income in taxes that the nobility and Church didn't have pay. They didn't want to see their tax dollars squandered on the lavish parties King Louis XVI threw at Versailles while they were struggling to come up with enough money to buy a loaf of bread. They didn't want to face starvation if they couldn't afford that loaf of bread.

Yet despite the good ideals at the beginning of the French Revolution, the Revolution quickly digressed into an angry power struggle between political factions, most of which never truly represented the needs of the peasants. Five years into the Revolution, France had angered nearly all of it's neighboring countries and found itself at war with England, Austria and it's territories, Italy and Spain. The inside of the the country was also a mess, caught in a bloody sort of political revenge known as the Reign of Terror.

So in the midst of all this turmoil, I created the character of Isabelle de La Rouchecauld, the daughter of a duke. Isabelle lost everything at the beginning of the Revolution and is now struggling to reach England, where she'll finally be safe. She obviously hates the Revolution and the changes happening to her country. She wants the pre-revolutionary France back. The France where she was safe, where her family hasn't been killed, where her life was free and easy.

Then I drop Isabelle into the lap of Michel Belanger, a peasant farmer who's family has suffered at the hands of the aristocracy for hundreds of years. A peasant who can blame the deaths of family members on the local aristocracy. A peasant who has found life just as difficult under the changes taking place as he found life before the Revolution. And a peasant who has every reason to turn his back on the aristocrat needing help.

It was a hard story to write, but also a rewarding story, as Michel and Isabelle are able to overcome their seemingly insurmountable differences, goals, and ideals. So for those of you planning to read the book, I hope you enjoy being immersed in the unusual setting of the French Revolution, and I hope you identify with the struggles common to all humanity that Michel and Isabelle face.

If you're interested in learning more about the French Revolution, I have a page devoted to it on my website, www.naomirawlings.com.

Did you all enjoy the interviews posted around the Web? I must admit, doing the character interviews for Michel and Isabelle were two of my favorite. I hope you enjoyed them!

Today I'm being interviewed over at Jessica Nelson's blog on what it's like to debut a novel. Jessica and her blog are extra special to me, and Jessica's own novel, Love on the Range, is debuting this month with mine! (I'll be featuring an interview and giveaway with Jessica later in the month).

I also have an interview posted on Lena Nelson Dooley's blog. This interview is a mixture of some quirky personal information about me and some snippets from writing Sanctuary for a Lady.


  1. I first heard of the French Revolution while reading Victoria Holt. She has at least two books set during that time and they're pretty rich in detail. I'm so looking forward to diving into your story!! ;-)

    1. You know, I've never read anything by Victoria Holt. Maybe I should look her up. If you're interested in a true confession. I've never read Tale of Two Cities or The Scarlet Pimpernel either, both classics set during the French Revolution. I have them downloaded to my eReader, but I just can't make myself start reading them. I always get distracted by a popular fiction book that looks more entertaining than some dusty classic. Sad, I know, but true.

  2. You've popped up quite a few times in my blog reader here lately, it's been fun. Liked your ice fishing date story.

    1. Oh yeah, the ice fishing date was a memorable experience, to put it kindly. :-)

  3. Pre-Revolution France sounds eerily like modern America. Just a tiny observation.

    I am very excited to see new Historical periods - like the French Revolution - popping up in the fiction world. It's always interesting to see the events of history up close and personal through the eyes of characters.

    You're book hasn't appeared in my Wal-Mart yet, but it'll jump in my shopping cart post haste when it does.