GETTIN’ LUCKY: An interview with Jennifer McGowan, author of MAID OF SECRETS

Today I’m excited to introduce my agent-mate, Jennifer McGowan, and her fun historical spy thriller, Maid of Secrets. Here’s the blurb:


Seventeen-year-old Meg Fellowes is a wry, resourceful thief forced to join an elite group of female spies in Queen Elizabeth’s Court. There she must solve a murder, save the Crown, and resist the one thing that will become her greatest freedom–and her deadliest peril. 

For Meg and her fellow spies are not alone in their pursuit of the murderer who stalks Windsor Castle.

A young, mysterious Spanish courtier, Count Rafe de Martine, appears at every turn in the dark and scandal-filled corridors of the Queen’s summer palace. And though secrets and danger are Meg’s stock-in-trade, she’s never bargained on falling in love…


Thank you so much for having me! I’m delighted to share the stories BEHIND the story of MAID OF SECRETS with you all.

Obviously, a ton of research went into Maid of Secrets. What was the most challenging part to research? 

I knew a fair amount about Elizabethan England as a fan of the time period, but that all changed when I began to actually write about the era. I had to double check everything, and make my own decisions when the historical “facts” conflicted between one resource and another. The most difficult research for Meg’s book centered on how exactly Windsor Castle was laid out in the 1500s. I take a few liberties (particularly below the Castle!) but I tried to stay as true to the old drawings and accounts as possible.

Meg Fellowes, your main character, is one of an elite group of Queen’s maids who also serve double duty as spies. Was this concept a ‘what if’ sort of scenario or is it based in reality?

Actually, the validation for the idea of MAID OF SECRETS came from a single line in a mid-1560s accounting of Queen Elizabeth, wherein the author remarked that the Queen’s advisors were sometimes surprised that Elizabeth knew more about what was going on in the Castle and the country than they expected her to know. The natural question was: well, how did she find these things out? And thus the five spying Maids of Honor were born. In the Maids of Honor stories I have the following spies: a thief and actress (Meg), a court insider who is a master manipulator (Beatrice), a seer just coming into her powers (Sophia), a genius puzzle-solver (Anna), and an assassin (Jane).

Taking off from the above question, why Elizabethan England? What made this time period the right one for this story? 

I chose Elizabethan England because of its Queen. Elizabeth was only twenty-five years old when she came to power, but ended up remaining on the throne for just over four decades… and she never married. For a story essentially about girl power, it was the best fit possible. And, of course, I love the time period, and I’ve wanted to set a book in that era for over a decade!

Each of your spy girls has a unique skill that adds to the group as a whole. If you had your own spy skill, what would it be? And will we get a closer look at any of the other maids in future books?

If I could have any spy skill I would choose perfect recall—I would love to be able to see a room or a page and be able to remember it exactly! So you could call me Maid of Memory.

And yes! In book 2, MAID OF DECEPTION (out Aug. 2014) we’ll see the world of the Queen’s court from Beatrice’s eyes. If we continue with the series, book 3 will hopefully be Sophia’s story, MAID OF WONDERS, then Anna’s story, MAID OF MYSTERY; then Jane’s story, MAID OF SHADOWS.

As this community is All for One and OneFour KidLit, we’d like to know what two or three books inspired you as a kid?

They would have to be Madeleine L’Engle’s A WRINKLE IN TIME, C.S. Lewis’s THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE, and then Tolkien’s RETURN OF THE KING. All high fantasy, now that I think of it!

Thank you again for inviting me to visit!

JennStarkYA_Book copy


Jennifer McGowan was born in Ohio, raised in Montana and studied in Paris. Now living in Ohio as a full-time writer, she pens Young Adult romance full of swash and buckle. Her first novel, MAID OF SECRETS, debuts May 7, 2013 from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.


Jaye Robin Brown, or JRo to most everyone but her mama, lives and writes in the Appalachian mountains north of Asheville, NC. She’s fond of dogs, horses, laughter, the absurd and the ironic. When not crafting stories she hangs out with teenagers in the high school art room where she teaches. Her debut novel, SING TO THE WIND (Harper Teen, Fall ’14), is a love song to small town girls and mountain music.

12 thoughts on “GETTIN’ LUCKY: An interview with Jennifer McGowan, author of MAID OF SECRETS

  1. *scoops up jaw from desk* OH MY GOSH! What a phenomenal concept! So smart and clever–I cannot wait to get my paws on these.
    Great interview, ladies! And best of luck to you, Jen! (Though I have a feeling you won’t need it ♥˘⌣˘♥ )

  2. You had me at “mysterious Spanish courtier.”:)

    This book sounds AWESOME!!!! Thanks for hanging with the One Fours today, Jenn, and I’m so excited for your debut!!!:)

  3. I’m obsessed with Elizabethan England, so as I read this interview, I found myself leaning closer and closer to the computer screen. Amazing concept. I’m so excited for this one! Pre-ordering on Amazon now.

    Great interview, Jro!

  4. Oh, wow, you guys! How wonderful to read your comments and share some love for Elizabethan England. I so hope you enjoy the book — I had a great experience writing Meg’s story, and though Beatrice’s is quite a bit darker, it shows much more of an “insider’s” view to the Queen’s court. So hopefully the adventure will continue in 2014!

    • Kristen, hello! While there are a number of real-life people, sadly I could not include Shakespeare. He wasn’t born when the Queen first came to the throne, and I wanted to feature a time when the Queen herself was still a young woman. However, other key people play a role: The Queen and her closest friends, as well as her spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham and her chief advisor Sir William Cecil. The ambassadors from Spain (de Feria and de Quadra) were real, as well. (and de Feria was a grumpy guy, as he is in my tale.) 😉

  5. Pingback: The weekly web ramble (4/19)

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