Friday, September 16, 2011
Today's Special -- Katharine Ashe
I am super thrilled to welcome back the author Booklist decribes as one of the "New Stars of Historical Romance", Katharine Ashe! Katharine swept so many romance readers away with her debut, Swept Away by a Kiss. She has since penned Captured by a Rogue Lord and her latest, In the Arms of a Marquess, out this month from Avon. Katharine was gracious enough to answer my questions, so without further ado... Welcome, Katharine!
So, you have a new book out—In the Arms of a Marquess—which I completely adored. I stayed up way too late finishing it because I could NOT put it down! Can you tell us a little about the story?
Seven years ago in the tropical heat of the East, a girl poised to enter society and a wild young lord tumbled into first love... passionate love... forbidden love, only to be torn apart. Now Octavia has returned to England, but Ben is no longer the man she lost her heart to. Instead he is a powerful, wealthy lord. He has never forgotten her, the taste of her lips or the touch of her hand. This time danger threatens, and he will do anything to protect her... and to have her again.
It is a story of young love, lost love, and love gloriously re-found.
The beginning of the book takes place in India and your descriptions were so detailed that I felt like I was right there in the port bazaar surrounded by the heat and spicy scents. Have you ever been to India?
Thank you! I’ve not yet been to India, alas. For decades, though, I’ve studied the culture and history of the subcontinent, and I hoped to bring some of my love of those to this book. Generally, I think my travels abroad have helped me appreciate the really tactile differences between the texture of life at home and elsewhere. I’m also very fortunate to have scholars of Indian and British Indian history among my family and close friends. My favorite moment of consultation had to be when my eminently respectable brother-in-law, a Harvard Divinity School grad and Professor of Religion, helped me find just the right word from ancient Sanskrit love poetry for my hero to utter at— shall we say— a crucial moment. All my colleagues were enormously generous in helping me work out details and bring that world to life, for which I’m very grateful.
Ah, what a wonderfully crucial moment that was! *g* There were many secrets and lies throughout this story that were revealed at the perfect time, which kept me turning the pages. This had me wondering if you plan/plot your stories out or do you write by the seat of your pants? Also, did Ben and Octavia surprise you at any time while writing their story?
I always begin a story with the heroine and her hero, and the romantic dynamic between them entirely determines the plot. And the more emotional and tumultuous the better! Once I meet them, I get an idea of an overall plot that will throw them together and pull them apart again and again. Then while I write the first chapters and get to know them better, details come to me and I’m able to sketch a plot more thoroughly. By the time I started writing In the Arms of a Marquess, I’d actually known Ben and Octavia for years — his powerful sense of responsibility and her honest, affectionate nature. What I didn’t know about Octavia until I started writing the book, though, was how loyal she is, and I’d no idea how that loyalty to her friends would complicate her relationship with Ben and what he was trying to accomplish on her behalf.
In the Arms of a Marquess is the final book in your Rogues of the Sea trilogy, and in this particular story, the heroine Octavia became obsessed with the sea at a young age. How much (if any) research did you have to do? What draws you to the high seas?
The sea is a powerful mistress. It is awesome, beautiful and rich with life and opportunity yet at once terrible and dangerous. I love this contrast, and especially how it provides such a dramatic counterpoint to the proprieties of Regency society. The heroes of my Rogues of the Sea trilogy reflect this; they are at once gentlemen and adventurers, highly cultivated men but warriors at heart. The ladies best suited to them aren’t afraid to dare whatever necessary to win their heroes, and have a vibrant streak of adventure in their own souls.
As for researching life on the high seas — yes indeed! Books about pirates and sailors have been some of my favorite resources over the past decade. I like best to use texts written in the era I’m writing about (historians, you know, are never quite content with secondary sources). The book that Tavy uses as her diary of sorts and which provides the chapter epigraphs, Falconer’s Dictionary of the Marine, was an 1815 reissue of a popular book among seamen. I’d used it while writing the first two books in the trilogy and it seemed so natural for Tavy to feel comfortable with it too.
I loved the epigraphs! There were a perfect addition to each chapter. In your writing, which comes first for you—the characters or the story?
I’ll answer this with an example, if I may.
I first met Miss Octavia Pierce on the verge of sixteen sitting in a chair with her long legs thrown over the arm like a thorough hoyden and her freckled nose sunk in an enormous Atlas of the World. She was a minor character in the story I was writing at the time. But instantly I knew she would have a grand adventure.
Well, we had some words; she was fifteen for heaven’s sake! He said (with contained impatience), yes, he understood this, but perhaps we could come to an agreement. Finally I relented, but I told him he would have to wait a few years for her to become a lady, then after that he would lose her... for a time. He glowered at that last bit, but I stood fast. I know what I love in a romance novel and an easy, quick conquest isn’t it.
So that’s how it happens. A minor character, usually a young woman, lifts off the page and almost immediately her hero presents himself to me. They tell me who they are and why they are perfect for each other, and I take it from there.
That's so awesome! Thanks for giving us an example. So, what would you say is your favorite part about being a writer?
I immerse myself in a love story every day. I’m thoroughly addicted to the feeling of falling in love. It’s my drug of choice. (Chocolate comes in a close second.) Also, sharing those love stories and talking about them with readers is beyond wonderful.
What a beautiful way of putting it! I guess as romance readers, we all are at least a little addicted to falling in love. Sigh. Since you are a professor of European history (and a wife and mother), I’m curious as to when you find time to write. What is a typical writing day like for you?
When I’m writing a book I find it difficult not to write, no matter what else I’m supposed to be doing. My husband has a picture of me standing at the stove stirring dinner with one hand while typing away on my laptop with the other. I simply cannot leave those lovers until they get their happily ever after! My family comes first, and I teach classes a few times a week. But every other moment goes to the story — whether I’m actually sitting at my computer or writing scenes in my head as I walk the dogs, mow the lawn, grocery shop, or what not. And I don’t sleep much. I’m pretty sure I’m aging in double-time because of this, but it’s worth it.
Oh my goodness, I would love to see that picture! I'm not sure if I could do that. LOL! Katharine, what hobbies/activities do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I play with my son and my dogs. I run. I occasionally garden (in a very English garden sort of you-can’t-really-tell-I’ve-done-anything way). I bake cookies. I eat cookies. I drink champagne. And I read.
Mmm, cookies and reading. Is there anything better?! *g* What is one piece of advice that you were given that you would give to aspiring authors?
Write what you love. There will always be people telling you not to. I wrote all sorts of books with safe, easily marketable premises and characters. But the book I actually sold — a Regency — featured a hero who was a vigilante anti-slaver disguised as a French priest. I wrote it because I loved it, the same way I wrote an Anglo-Indian hero for this book. After all, what’s the point of doing it if it doesn’t fill you with excitement and joy?
Terrific point! There is a very special K.I.S.S. and Teal campaign associated with Avon’s September releases, including In the Arms of a Marquess. Can you tell us about the campaign and what it means to you to be a part of it?
Avon hopes to raise awareness among women about the whispering symptoms of Ovarian Cancer. For every K.I.S.S. and Teal book sold (e-book or print), Avon will donate 25 cents, up to $50,000, to the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance toward research on this fast and stealthy disease. Women learn too late about Ovarian Cancer because they don’t know what to watch for and because there are no screening tests. As a writer and historian I’m all about spreading the word, especially when the word whispers but needs to be shouted out instead. Knowledge is empowering, and I love helping other women feel empowered. I’m excited and honored to be part of this campaign. Please help us SHOUT against the whisper!
Okay, you all heard it--let's SHOUT against the whisper!! So, what’s coming up next for you, Katharine?
My Falcon Club Series debuts on February 28! One night behind the façade of a townhouse that looks like a mere gentleman’s club, five secret agents abruptly quit. Actually leaving behind the past is another thing altogether. In WHEN A SCOT LOVES A LADY, a snowstorm throws a scandal-plagued London spinster into the arms of a roguish lord. The beauty suspects that succumbing to the beast’s seduction may be the only way to tame him, until she discovers the beast is in fact no beast at all…
Ooooh! I can't wait!!
Quick Six Time!
Coffee or Tea? Coffee with breakfast pastries. Tea when it’s raining, with a crackling fire and friends.
Alpha or Beta? Intelligent alpha capable of great compassion and tenderness.
Mountains or Beach? Beach. (I write books about the sea!)
Comedy or Drama? Drama, but I love laughing through tears.
Diamonds or Pearls? Diamonds. Glitter is always good. Always.
Milk chocolate or dark? Both!
Thanks so much for answering my questions, Katharine! Now it’s your turn—is there a question you’d like to ask our readers?
Because of my other profession, I was a closet romance writer for years (though my family and close friends knew I read and wrote romance voraciously). I’m dying to know if your readers are “out” to their friends and work colleagues about their love of romance, or if they hide it like I did from my colleagues?
To learn more about Katharine and her books visit her website at http://www.katharineashe.com/, her new blog (with five other terrific historical authors) http://www.theballroomblog.com/, or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/KatharineAsheAuthor.