Behind The Book With Mariah Stewart

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Behind The Book With Mariah Stewart 

Today’s Behind The Book is with New York Times & USA Today Bestselling author Mariah Stewart. I had the honor and privilege of reading her upcoming release The Head That Wears The Crown which will be released on October 10th of this year. 


Q: So after finishing The Head That Wears The Crown, I read in your acknowledgements section that you started this story years ago but put it away. Then during the pandemic you wrote it. So did it take you two or three years to write The Head That Wears The Crown?


A: I think I first started playing around with the idea sometime around 2018 or so, but I had to put it aside as I had other books under contract, and at that time, I only had a chapter or so written. When the pandemic hit, I played around with it a little more because it was light and fun and I was writing it mostly for myself. I did share it with Robyn Carr, who is a friend, and she loved it and pushed me to write more. But right about then, I signed a contract to write a trilogy – which became the Wyndham Beach series – so I put this book aside once again. It wasn’t until the third of the Wyndham Beach books were completed that my agent wanted to see if any publisher was interested in The Head That Wears The Crown. Fortunately, my editor at Montlake – which published the Wyndham Beach books – loved it, for which I am forever grateful.


Q: Some compare this book to The Princess Diaries or say it’s the adult Princess Diaries. What do you say to that?

A: I say first, I’d love for The Head That Wears The Crown to do as well as The Princess Diaries! But gosh, how many books have been written about a “regular” person finding out they’re royalty? The Princess Diaries may not have been the first, but it is perhaps the most well-known partly because of the movie’s popularity. In The Head That Wears The Crown, Annaliese, my soon-to-be-duchess, is no starry-eyed teenager. She’s a forty-something divorced South Philly mom of two teenagers who inherits a country that has a lot of challenges, not the least of which is the all-male Duke’s Council currently running the country that’s expecting her to just sit on her throne and play duchess and let them do all the talking and make all the decisions (these men have a lot to learn about Annaliese Gilberti!). Annie agrees to go to Saint Gilbert to honor her grandmother, who died when Annie was nine, and the other strong, competent women she’s descended from – and because she recognizes the obligations of that legacy. When she’s deciding whether she should uproot her family – leave her job, give up the little house she worked so hard to buy, take her kids from their schools and their friends – her sister Cecilia tells her, “You have the chance to do something that will change people’s lives probably for generations. How often does that happen? Even if the only thing you do there is fix the roads, that’s still making the place better than you found it.” It’s a challenge Annie can’t turn away from.

Oh – and there’s a touch of magical realism to this book as well – just a touch of fun and fancy that I had a great time writing.


Q: The world building of Saint Gilbert was definitely amazing! Did you use bits and pieces of different European countries such as Monaco to create the country?

A: The only thing I borrowed from another country was an actual castle in Golspie in the Scottish Highlands – Dunrobin Castle – upon which I based Castle Blanc, in my book, because it looked exactly the way I saw Annaliese’s castle in my head! Everything else – the history, the way the country’s governed, the villages, Serafina, the churchyard – just sort of evolved organically as I wrote the story.


Q: If Hollywood were to adapt this book into a movie or a television series, who would be your ideal cast to play Annaliese, Max, Annaliese’s sisters and her children?

A: Well, of course, the first and obvious choice to play Annaliese would have to be Tina Fey. She has just the right amount of sass and smarts, and she already has the accent down pat (she’s actually from Delco, not South Philly – IYKYK). Fun fact: for almost thirty years, we lived about a mile from where Tina Fey grew up, and my daughters both attended the same Summer Stage program she did (at her old high school!) though not at the same time, then maybe Amy Schumer to play Rosalie. Amy Poehler would make a great Cecilia. Ralphie and Juliette, don’t know too many teenage actors, but they’d both have to be good and Max? Hmmm….don’t know. Who do you think?


Q: What lessons do you hope readers takeaway from reading The Head That Wears The Crown? 

A: Family first. Respect your heritage. Be true to yourself. Do good where you can – however much you can – even when you’re not sure you can make a difference, always good advice, right?

Oh – and when opportunity knocks – well, you know…