Debut Author Christine Trent

I’m delighted to welcome my friend, Christine Trent, to Risky Regencies. Christine is debuting in Historical Fiction, trade paperback-size, with a wonderful book about Marie Antoinette’s dollmaker, The Queen’s Doll Maker. When she first told me about this book I just knew we’d see it in print and it’s out now!

Trent’s debut follows the fortunes of an intrepid heroine who triumphs over numerous obstacles. Her portrait of the world of a dollmaker places her in Rosalind Laker’s league; she takes an unusual profession, actual historical personages, a fascinating backdrop and places her heroine in a world of wealth, fame, intrigue and danger.– Kathe Robin, RT Book Reviews

“Winningly original. . .glittering with atmospheric detail!”–Leslie Carroll, author of Royal Affairs

“Unique, imaginative. . .replete with delightful details and astounding characters, both real and imagined.” –Donna Russo Morin, author of The Courtier’s Secret

We’ll be giving away a signed copy of The Queen’s Dollmaker to one lucky commenter, selected at random.

Welcome, Christine!

Tell us about your book.
THE QUEEN’S DOLLMAKER is the story of a young woman falsely accused of smuggling money and jewels inside fashion dolls destined for the imprisoned Queen Marie Antoinette.

On the brink of revolution, with a tide of hate turned against the decadent royal court, France is in turmoil – as is the life of one young woman forced to leave her beloved Paris. After a fire destroys her home and family, Claudette Laurent is struggling to survive in London. But one precious gift remains: her talent for creating exquisite dolls that Marie Antoinette, the Queen of France herself, cherishes. When the Queen requests a meeting, Claudette seizes the opportunity to promote her business, and to return home…Amid the violence and unrest, Claudette befriends the Queen, who bears no resemblance to the figurehead rapidly becoming the scapegoat of the Revolution. But when Claudette herself is lured into a web of deadly political intrigue, it becomes clear that friendship with France’s most despised woman has grim consequences. Now, overshadowed by the spectre of Madame Guillotine, the Queen’s dollmaker will face the ultimate test.

We love to hear “The Call” stories. Tell us yours.
Oh my. I suppose it was really The E-mail. Except I was too naïve to understand what it was. On a Wednesday, Audrey LaFehr from Kensington Books e-mailed me in response to a full manuscript I had sent to her. She said something like, “We really like your manuscript. When can I call you to talk to you about it?”

Any halfway intelligent writer would understand that this was the equivalent of The Call. Alas, it was me receiving this e-mail. So I ended up calling my friend Delilah Marvelle, who was too kind to tell me I was an idiot, and convinced me that, indeed, I was being offered a contract for publication.

Two agonizing days passed, and then that Friday afternoon, around 5pm, I was in the Staples parking lot in the middle of the pouring rain, carrying several packages to my car. My cell phone rang, and when I saw it was from a New York area code, I had enough presence of mind to realize that it must be Audrey. So I dropped my packages onto the soaked pavement and answered. I remember very little about that call, except that Audrey told me to think it over and get back to her the following week.

We’re all about being risky here. What is risky about your book?
I decided that if I was going to get the attention of an editor, I’d have to do something different with my heroine. Yet I wanted to do something that familiar to me. I’d just finished reading a biography of Marie Antoinette and was thinking on it while doing some organizing of my doll collection, when I thought, “What if Marie Antoinette had a favorite dollmaker?” My second thought was, “Uh oh, can I even find out anything about 18th century dollmaking?” Most dolls from that era are long gone, and the antique wax, china, and composition dolls that collectors buy today date from the early 19th century.

What interesting piece of research did you discover while writing the book?
First, that dollmaking was really a man’s job, because dolls of that period were made of wood and therefore carved by carpenters. And, of course, carpenters were men. Second, I learned that in the 18th century, cheap dolls made of rags or dried fruit were what children had for play. Carved wooden dolls, dressed in fancy fabrics, were primarily used to display current fashions for the wealthy (although some became playthings). It was also fascinating to learn that Marie Antoinette really did like dolls. After she had moved to France from Austria, she would send dolls to her mother and sister as gifts.

You have devised a unique way of promoting the book. Tell us about it.
I’ve done a little bit of community theatre, and I must confess to being a total ham, so I had a couple of authentic Marie Antoinette costumes made (panniers, crinoline, the works). I’m attending library events, book signings, book parties, and so on, in costume. I’ve been surprised by the fact that kids just love having their picture taken with “The Queen.”

But I was even more surprised to realize that there is a very good reason why a wealthy woman needed a lady’s maid back then: it is completely impossible to dress yourself. And the clothing is ridiculously heavy. Between the tight bindings of those weighty gowns and the extravagant, padded hairstyles, I don’t know how women of the French court remained upright!

What’s next for you?
I’ve just wrapped up a sequel, which follows the adventures of the dollmaker’s protégé, Marguerite. Marguerite goes on to become an apprentice to the great waxworker, Madame Tussaud, but her new career nearly melts down when the English Crown embroils her in a dangerous scheme against Napoleon. I’m still waiting for final word on the book’s title, but it is scheduled for release in early 2011.

Does anyone still have a favorite doll from childhood? Or the memory of a doll you loved? I’d love to hear about it!

(Remember to leave a comment for a chance to win a signed copy of The Queen’s Dollmaker.)

About diane

Diane Gaston is the RITA award-winning author of Historical Romance for Harlequin Historical and Mills and Boon, with books that feature the darker side of the Regency. Formerly a mental health social worker, she is happiest now when deep in the psyches of soldiers, rakes and women who don’t always act like ladies.
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51 Responses to Debut Author Christine Trent

  1. Robin Kaye says:

    Hi Christine~
    Congratulations on your debut. I’m so thrilled for you! The Queen’s Doll Maker sounds like an amazing book. I heard about it long ago, probably at a retreat and I’ve been waiting for it ever since. I just love the concept.

    As for a favorite doll, my grandmother made me a Raggedy Ann doll which I loved and wore out. I wish I had put it away fro safe keeping instead of sleeping with it ever night.

  2. Wow – great blog! I love Call Stories! The Queen’s Doll Maker sounds a delicious book – the research behind it must have been awesome.

    My favourite doll has to be my Tiny Tears – I had it for years – too many really – but I couldn’t part with her.

    Take care. Caroline x

  3. Robin, thanks for visiting. I’ve been following your stellar career the past few years. You’ve done very well creating a niche for yourself!

    Of all the dolls I’ve ever owned, I never had a Raggedy Ann doll. I remember having a friend who had both Raggedy Ann *and* Raggedy Andy, and I thought she was the richest kid on the block for having them both.

  4. Hi Caroline, I’ve never heard of Tiny Tears! I can guess what she was like, though. 🙂 Thanks so much for visiting.

  5. Linda says:

    Interesting that you mentioned Rosalind Laker in introducing this post – I just finished reading To Dance with Kings, with a similar setting re. Marie Antoinette. I’d love to read this book. Thanks for the giveaway.

    The last doll I rec’d for Christmas was in 1947, just a month after listening spellbound to the radio broadcast describing the wedding of Elizabeth and Prince Philip. I named that doll Elizabeth and have always had a special feeling for Queen Elizabeth II.

    lcbrower40(at)gmail(dot)com

  6. Linda, it thrilled me to death when RT Book Reviews compared me to Ms. Laker, because I really love her work. TO DANCE WITH KINGS actually made me cry, and it’s not often a book can do that to me.

    Do you still have Elizabeth? Or has she been lost to time?

  7. Linda says:

    Christine, actually Elizabeth was my last Christmas doll. The following Christmas my mother heard about a family with 4 girls, ranging in age from 4 or 5 to a sophomore in high school who had never had a doll. She suggested that I should give away my dolls to that family – my first experience with “more blessed to give than to receive”. Elizabeth went to the oldest daughter and I can only hope that she treasured the doll and *maybe* someone in her family still has Elizabeth.

  8. jcp says:

    Congralations on becoming a published author!

  9. This book sounds so different and wonderful! Congratulations on the release!

    I loved my dolls when I was little, and will never get over the horror I experienced to find my favorite doll stuck in the trashcan on the street one day when I came home from school. I immediately liberated her and fought with my mother, who thought that a legless “walking doll” was pretty much pointless. I kept her for a while longer before she eventually went to doll heaven. I can also remember my mother (who’s really turning out to be the villain of this story) putting the same doll up high on a closet shelf to punish me when I did something bad (which was, of course, not often). I could see her but not touch her. Oh, the pain.:)

  10. Laura B. says:

    I loved my Jem dolls. I still have all of them, and I still have my favorite Barbies as well.

    BTW, the cover of your novel is gorgeous!

  11. penney says:

    Congratulations on your new book,it sounds good the cover is beautiful!
    Penney
    luvhistoricalromance at gmail.com

  12. Mary Blayney says:

    How very exciting to see your first book on the shelf — congratulations, Christine.

    Your research sounds like a took a really unique turn and isn’t it great when what you are “making up” is actually true (like the fact that Marie Antoinette really did like dolls)

    I loved all my dolls but especially the Madame Alexander Doll which was “not to be played with” because it was so “expensive.” Wonder what ever happened to it…

  13. Congratulations on you debut, Christine! Your book sounds fascinating and I can’t wait to read it. And that cover is GORGEOUS! I love stories that tie in to actual events. Makes it all so much more real.

    I have a number of dolls that I have kept over the years and truly treasure. There is a photo of me, old black and white, with the two dolls my grandfather gave me for my first Christmas. One was a baby doll and the other was a bride doll. I still have them both. The bride doll’s dress is long gone, as is her hair. (Brothers with scissors are such rotters at times!) My grandfather died when I was three so I have few memories of him, but I do have those two dolls and the teddy bear he gave me. Fifty years is a long time to hold on to them, but I’m glad I did. I also have the Raggedy Ann I got when I was six. Santa gave me a walking doll who shared my name when I was ten. Still have her too. I hadn’t thought about it, but I guess I have quite a doll collection! We won’t even talk about my original Barbie dolls. My brothers would snatch them and sell them on eBay in a heartbeat!

    But I think the dolls I truly prize are the porcelain dolls my Great Aunt Icie made. She had an entire room full of the dolls she’d made. She hand-painted the faces, hands and feet. She stuffed the bodies and then designed and made the outfits. I have photos of the entire collection as she had very specific instruction as to how the collection was to be dispersed once she died. (aged almost 94) I got three of the dolls and I adore them. They are seated in the antique rocking chair I inherited from Aunt Icie. She taught me how to quilt and how to tat and those dolls were her pride and joy. The most gorgeous doll was her Scarlet O’Hara. It went to the lady who lived across the hall from her in the assisted living facility where she lived. The look on that lady’s face when I took the doll to her is something I will always remember. She has since passed away, but her daughter was kind enough to call and offer the doll back. But when she told me how much the lady’s sixteen year old granddaughter loved the doll I didn’t have the heart to take it back. I hope Scarlet stays in that family for a very long time.

  14. robynl says:

    wahoo, congrats on the first!!!

    The concept of the story really interests me; who would have thought of putting money/jewels in side dolls, wow.

    I remember my ‘Jimmie’ doll so called because my Uncle Jim gave it to me. It met with an untimely death when some boys decided it needed surgery.

  15. azteclady says:

    Oh this novel sounds really good! Best luck with it, Ms Trent!

    I remember looking at some of my grandmother’s porcelain dolls–but we weren’t allowed to touch them, let alone play with them. We were told, my sister and I, that they were very fragile and required careful handling.

    What I still have (well, okay, it’s at my mother’s but still…) is my pink teddy bear. That thing was a constant bed companion until I turned 13 *sheepish* It’s a wonder it survived the washings–let alone my less-than-careful handling through the years 😉

  16. Diane Gaston says:

    Welcome, Christine!!!!! I’m thrilled to have you here. I can see the subject of dolls touches a chord in everyone….that’s why I knew your book would sell!

    I remember Tiny Tears. One must be of a “certain age” to know of that incredible innovation–a baby doll that cries tears. She and Betsy Wetsy were a hit (bet you can guess what that doll did).

    My most treasured doll was a Madame Alexander doll of Beth from Little Women. I loved that doll! Unfortunately, I became a teenager and its value to me waned and we gave it to the Thrift Shop before moving.

    We also had “Jill” dolls, a precursor to the Barbie doll.

  17. Congrats on your release, Christine! Can’t wait to read it. 🙂 My grandmother collected antique dolls and had a lot of Bi-Lo babies. It was fun to look at the fantastic dresses!
    I had a few Madame Alexander dolls as well. Sleeping Beauty and Snow White and Cinderella, I believe. I used to love playing with them.

  18. Kim in Hawaii says:

    Having the honor of dressing The Queen at Fort Meade last year, I am thrilled that your book has been well received … and children love your dress!

    Indeed, Kathe Robin commented at last year’s RT convention that readers are looking for historicals with fresh ideas … and you provided one with The Queen’s Dollmaker.

    Enjoy your success!

  19. What a fantastic idea you came up with! I had many Madame Alexander dolls when young, and my favorite one was Scarlett o’hara. They all went missing when we moved, though.
    Thanks for stopping by!

  20. Dear Maggie, such trauma you experienced with your doll! You must have loved her indeed to rescue her from the trash can. That was a wonderful story, thank you for sharing it.

  21. Louisa – lovely to hear from you again. How fabulous that you had custom porcelain dolls made by your Great Aunt!

    I once helped some local residents go through their belongings after a tornado ripped through the area. It was hard to pick out anything worth saving, actually. But they had a collection of porcelain dolls that had been made by a long-gone relative. Some of the heads were smashed in and it nearly brought me to tears.

  22. For you Madame Alexander doll collectors: I once had a set of *original* Madame Alexander Little Women dolls. From the 1950’s, I think.

    They were lost in a move. I have no idea what ever happened to them. It still hurts. 🙂

  23. Robynl, I think the lesson learned is: no boys around the doll collection! They don’t seem to understand that dolls are precious little people to little girls, do they?

  24. Kim – how grand to see you here! Yes, indeed, I remember fondly my day as the queen with you as my “lady’s maid.” I’ll be participating as the queen in several events over the next couple of months. But there will be no lady’s maid to equal you!!

  25. Susan/DC says:

    I didn’t play much with dolls when I was little, but two of my favorite books had to do with dolls. One of them was Dare Wright’s “The Lonely Doll”, but I can’t remember the name/author of the other. It was a chapter book with black and white drawings about two little girls. If I remember correctly (and I won’t swear that I do since it’s been such a long time), one of them was much better off than the other. She had a beautiful doll with lots of outfits and even a trunk to store them in (shades of today’s American Girl dolls). Something happened, and the doll was left out in the weather and wasn’t found for a long time. That’s about all I remember, but I do remember lusting after that doll and all her clothing and accessories.

    Congratulations on the book and best wishes for many more books to follow!

  26. Jane Austen says:

    Okay so I read the first sentence of your interview and quickly went out and bought your book for my Kindle. Amazon reviews have it at five stars and I’m eagerly anticipating 2011 so I can read about the protege. Congratulations on your books.

  27. Susan/DC, the chapter book sounds like it might have had a spooky element to it. Was it a story of suspense? I’ve never heard of the book.

    I said in an earlier comment that I once had a friend with both Raggedy Ann *and* Andy. Well, this same girl had Barbie everything. Barbie’s convertible, Barbie’s house, and several of those special little open-up cases that looked like armoires that were packed full of clothes.

    I was always happy when I got to go to her house to play.

  28. Jane Austen, all I can say is: every reader should be like you! Buy those new books! 🙂 No, seriously, thank you very much for doing that. I hope you enjoy the story.

  29. Virginia says:

    Hi Christine, congrat on your debut release! The Queen’s Doll Maker sound like a fabulous read, can’t wait to read it. I have been hearing a lot about it one the blogs. I love the cover, its beautiful!

    lead[at]hotsheet[dot]com

  30. Virginia C says:

    Hi, Christine! Congratulations on the release of “The Queen’s Doll Maker”. The cover is beautiful, and the story line is quite intriguing.

    My favorite doll was from childhood was a life-sized infant with a thatch of very pale blonde hair. She had a soft, stuffed body and a vinyl head, arms and legs. I went to stores and bought her clothes, shoes and other things as though she was a real baby! I still have her and all her baby things!

    I have some beautiful “Madame Alexander” collector’s dolls. Of course, I also have an extensive Barbie collection. I loved my dolls, and I loved to play “dress up” and “house”.

    gcwhiskas at aol dot com

  31. Jane Austen says:

    My favorite doll does not come from childhood. When I was in college I was part of the forensics team (no, not CSI, but public speaking and debating competitions) and our fearless leader had a bear that she dressed in L.L. Bean clothing and made talk (it was the creepiest thing in the world to see a Ph. D. make a bear talk and her husband, also a Ph. D. made the bear talk too). So she decided we all had to have an animal. My mother went to Build-A-Bear and made me a stuffed elephant because I had an elephant obsession when I was little although I called them Richards for some strange reason. So I had Richard who was dressed to match my and my partner’s debating outfits (yes, we wore outfits that color-coordinated). A few months after I graduated my house caught on fire. Richard was in my brother’s bedroom. He did not get burned, but he did get awfully smokey and sooty. When we were allowed back in the house my little brother went and got him for me. I thought it was a sweet gesture. And now Richard is on a table in my living room. Too old for a doll? Maybe, but he makes me feel better and truth be told, I like remembering those crazy forensic tournaments and my partner and I really kicked ass.

  32. Christine, welcome to The Riskies. What a fabulous story premise!!! You had me at the first sentences of the brief summary. And I love how the idea came to you. Also great, great idea about doing a dressing-up book-signing. Sorry, this is a very rah-rah kind of post, but I’m just so pleased with the idea of the book and how you’re promoting it. Looking forward to reading it!!! Hope the book sells tons of copies.

  33. Diane Gaston says:

    Christine, my Beth doll would have been from the 1950s….late 1950s.

    Waving madly to Kim!!!! Aloha!

    I had a pink “steamer” trunk for my Jill doll things, another toy lost to the Thrift shop. Years later I saw the exact same thing in an antique shop. I still wish I’d purchased it!

  34. Virginia, thank you so much for your kind words. They are greatly appreciated.

    Virginia C, I had a similar doll when I was younger, too. I think my parents may have put her in the trash prior to a move, believing I was getting too old for dolls. You’re never too old for dolls!

    Azteclady, don’t be sheepish about your pink teddy bear! I had a giant stuffed Snoopy that stayed on my bed until I was at least 15.

  35. Jane Austen, it is indeed a creepy thing to watch a PhD make a bear talk. I remember working with a woman once who would make bottles of Aunt Jemima syrup talk. So, there you go. However, Richard the Elephant must be a wonderful reminder of childhood for you.

    Keira, I love your rah-rah posting. You may always feel free to rah-rah me. 🙂

    Diane, so we both lost Beth! I feel even more bonded to you in our shared loss.

  36. RachieG says:

    Congratulations on your new release!! What a neat concept!

    My favorite doll would have to be my Cabbage patch doll. I’m in my 20’s and when I was young, the CB kids were extremely popular. I still have my first, I must have gotten her when I was 4 or 5. I am extremely attached to her and she still bears a place of honor in my bedroom.

    My cousin is 24 now…he’s a big tall guy probably 6’4 or so and he still has his Cabbage patch doll too. His has even been chewed on by a rabbit, but he is still attached to his doll too. It’s kind of silly but it’s a delightful reminder of our childhood.

    rachie2004 @ yahoo (d0t) com

  37. Diane Gaston says:

    RachieG, my son and daughter were not nearly as thrilled with their Cabbage Patch dolls as my mother-in-law and I were. We both stood in lines to get the dolls; she bought one and I got the other. Now the two dolls live in my mother-in-law’s house!

  38. Lyoness2009 says:

    Wonderful blog today!

    My favorite doll would have to be my Patti Playpal doll. She is about 4 feet tall but I adore her. She makes me happy every time I see her, she’s kind of a part of me because she’s been through so many phases of my life with me. Dolls are so much more than just playthings.

    Very interesting premise for a book! I am looking forward to reading it.

    lyoness2009 AT hot mail **dot** COM

  39. librarypat says:

    I had only two dools as a child. My babydoll was my favorite. It had a rubber body and a hard composition head. One of my grandmothers made clothes for it and repainted the head once. We moved when I was in 7th grade and it disappeared. Broke my heart. 50 years later, I still have the clothes. The other doll I still have along with the clothes my other grandmother made for her. She didn’t fare much better. She was a walking doll – head, arms and legs moved. My cousin scraped her along the sidewalk and pulled off her arms.
    This book sounds wonderful – history and suspense – my two favorites. I look forward to reading it.

  40. librarypat says:

    After reading the other posts, I checked out the Tiny Tears doll on line and that was what my poor lost baby doll was. When Caroline mentioned the name, it sounded familiar. Wish I still had her.
    Congratulations on your book, Christine. Best of luck with the release!

  41. RachieG and Diane, I, too, have a Cabbage Patch doll (still in its box). I didn’t stand in line to buy it, though. It was given to me recently by someone who’s grandmother had passed away, and the grandmother loved dolls.

  42. Lyoness2009, I remember Patti Playpal! I wanted one very badly, but my parents never got me one. One of the great tragedies of my childhood. 🙂 Thanks for visiting.

  43. Librarypat, how sweet that you still have your long-lost doll’s clothes! I have a few things from childhood. One is a very “adult” doll. She has dark hair, and wore a “maxi-dress” from the 1970’s. She originally had dangle earrings but they are long gone. I was very thrilled to be going through some old family photos recently, and came across a picture of our family Christmas tree, and there was my doll sitting under it!

    I also have two little bean bag dolls left. One is a baby in a yellow suit, named Sunshine. The other is a little dog, which I named Snickers. They’re both terribly dirty and the stuffing is coming out of them, but I’ll never get rid of them.

  44. Carolyn says:

    I’m here late (crazy weekend) but I just wanted to say how much I love that cover. It’s so pretty!

    Congrats on your debut.

  45. Cindy says:

    Sounds like a very interesting book. I am looking forward to reading it. Congrats!

  46. Julia Justiss says:

    Yeah, I’ve been waiting and waiting for this book since Christine first talked about it on the Beau Monde loop! I’m making a note to run to the bookstore soonest!

  47. Carolyn, hope your week will be calmer than your weekend! I’m glad you like the cover.

    Cindy, thanks for visiting. I hope you enjoy reading the book.

    Julia, I like to hear reports of readers who have been waiting for the book! Thank you. It should be available in most bookstores and online.

  48. I can’t believe Blogger just ate my comment! I had written that I, too, had a Tiny Tears, as well as Raggeddy Ann and Andy. I also had a rag doll of Wednesday from the Addams Family. And a “Poor Pitiful Pearl” that was a popular doll in the 1950s and 60s. My cousin Laurie, who is about 15 years older than I am, had an earlier model. I also have Cabbage Patch Kids and American Girl dolls, though most of my dolls are in storage at my parents’ summer home — NYC apartments not being big enough to hold my entire collection. Also in storage is my collection of a dozen Literary Heroine dolls.

    But my favorite doll by far is my Vogue “Baby Dear” doll from the mid-60s. She’s undergone some surgery over the years to get new hair (my kid sister yanked it out when we were little) and a nice plump new body to replace the mashed down (or should I say well-loved) kapok-filled original.

    There used to be a fabulous doll hospital here in NYC 1 block north of Bloomingdales, but the “doctor” passed away last year and neither his family nor his assistants had any interest in keeping the business going.

  49. Leslie, yours sounds like a “must-see” doll collection. And I do hope to see it someday!

    I bought an American Girl doll dress for one of my niece’s dolls (Josefina), and was flabbergasted by the prices for all of the accessories.

    And congratulations on your own new release, NOTORIOUS ROYAL MARRIAGES, which I plan to begin reading today.

  50. Kirsten says:

    Hi Christine! This sounds like a great story. I would love to read it.
    I never really liked dolls as a child. I did have a teddy bear called August. I dressed him up and played with him like another girl would do a doll. He had his own bed and everything.

  51. Kirsten, I think little girls tend to like dolls, bears, or both. August had a very elegant name! Thank you for stopping by.

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