I love when reality and fantasy collide in a picture book. Today’s picture book is set in France in the era of Louis XIV, but it’s told from a completely unique point of view with an interesting plot twist.
Lynne Marie has visited my blog several times before. She has written numerous picture books over the years while juggling many different hats. She’s worked as a Travel Agent with Pixie Vacations for over 8 years. She’s the Owner and Administrator of Rate Your Story. She’s formerly an editor for a small press and currently an Agent Mentee at The Seymour Agency. She has also started a critique and mentoring business. You can learn more about her at her website or follow her on Twitter, on Instagram, or on Facebook.
THE PALACE RAT is a story of a rat named Henri who is the favorite pet of King Louis XIV. He is pampered with treats made just for him by the chef, clothes designed by the tailor, and sleeps on the King’s pillow at night. But, alas, these good times come to an abrupt end when the chef, the tailor, and the queen all conspire together to get rid of him. Henri flees to the country and is astounded at how the country mice live. How will he survive? What will his beloved King do without him? The illustrations by Eva Santana are delightfully soft and detailed with patterns and textures that really bring the story to life. It’s a fun escape from reality that reminds me of the feel of a classic picture book. There are plenty of surprises in store here for young readers.
Welcome back Lynne Marie!
Me: I love the idea of King Louis XIV having a pet rat that he cherished, living with him in the palace. How did you come up with this story idea? Was this story based on a real pet or real history in any way?
Lynne: First of all, I must preface that for reasons even unknown to myself, I am absolutely fascinated by the historic period before, and especially during the French Revolution. I loved tales like The Scarlet Pimpernel and The Tale of Two Cities, and the persons of Madame Tussaud, Marie Antoinette and more.
So while waiting for tickets to the Palace of Versailles (in France), the story idea ( a rat LOL) raced across the Courtyard. I started thinking…what if THAT rat was related to the rats of the French Revolution? From there, my imagination took off – what if the rat ancestor was the pampered pet of King Louis XVI? And what if the Queen (and the Cook and the Tailor) were jealous? And what if the rat had to give up Palace Life, and so on…
Me: Did you have to do any travel or research on the history of the time period or the locale of Versailles for the setting of this book?
Lynne: I had spent three weeks in France, including a visit to Versailles and was well-read in the history and literature of the time period. As a result, I hoped to give it a subtle setting of the French Revolution. However, as King Louis XIV (The Sun King) made a more dashing figure illustration-wise than King Louis XVI (his grandson who ruled during the French Revolution), this change was made. But that is okay, because as we know, our stories end up taking a different course than the idea we originally envisioned, and to be honest, it wasn’t all that crucial to the story.
Putting on my Travel Agent hat for a minute, I must share that France was one of the most amazing places I have ever been in the world (and I have been to many places). There’s so many cultural influences, fabulous cities, castles, churches and countrysides – there’s truly something for everyone in a carousel tour of France!
Me: I love France. I also love that you included French phrases and delicacies. Did you have any trouble including them in your manuscript without including a glossary?
Lynne: I wrote this in 1997 while in France, so at the time I was certainly more proficient in the language and have truly not spoken a word since. I did wonder, when I submitted it, whether I would be asked to take the words out when it got in front of an editor, but my publisher did not seem to have a problem with any of it.
I do believe that a sprinkling of language in cultural books adds to the flavor. But I do think there should also be context in the sentence, and often a glossary as well.
Me: I adore a good epistolary picture book, but I admit I laughed that Henri never received an answer to any of his letters (and what happened with each one). Were you thinking of that format when you wrote the book at all? What gave you the idea to include letters?
Lynne: While writing I struggled with how I might give Henri’s character more agency and yet not have him return to Versailles (which would not be safe). Yet, he wasn’t the type to just easily accept his fate, so I couldn’t have him do nothing. And the King would have been mourning the loss of his pampered pet, so it became only natural that the story’s villains would intercept them.
But you have hit on something – another reason I wrote the illustrated letters was to get some of that word count away from the text and allocate it to art. When I had originally drafted this manuscript, illustrated tales were as long as 2500 words and this was quite long!
Me: Wow! What a great device. What is one thing that surprised you in writing this story?
Lynne: What really surprised me is how, when you build a strong foundation to your story, it can come together naturally and somewhat effortlessly. Having planted the seeds of these characters, their motivations and the situations, the idea sprouted and bloomed in a way that made sense. As one example, Henri’s love for telling stories is planted in the beginning, and then truly manifests in the end, in the way it was meant to. Stories are meant to be appreciated and shared! And of course, his former palace life inspired the tales so that is important as well.
Me: The illustrations by Eva Santana are so wonderfully soft and detailed! I love the patterns everywhere and the way she uses watercolor. Were there any illustrating surprises for you?
Lynne: Well, though I love the illustrations, I did find them surprising at first. Having been to Versailles and knowing the period, I had never pictured soft watercolors but more ornate details. But that’s the beauty of this genre – two visions coming together!
Me: I agree! Would you have been a pet in the palace of Versailles with King Louis XVI if you could have been? Why or why not?
Lynne: Another great question – having traveled all over France, I was torn, much like Henri is, between palaces and sunflower fields. They are both beautiful and so different, but which is better? Where would I live if I could? I think whoever reads the book will know what I ultimately would choose!
LOL! Indeed. Thank you for stopping by my blog again today Lynne Marie.
Dear readers, this book will be released on September 5th. I think you will want to keep an eye out for it. It’s a fun romp through French culture with an unexpected hero.
BUT wait! There’s more! Lynne Marie is also giving away a half hour mentoring session. You can enter the rafflecopter here. Good luck!