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.

Soon after that, I met Lord Ben Doreé on a snowy night in the corridor of a country greathouse that I was writing. In that scene in the first book of my Rogues of the Sea trilogy (Swept Away by a Kiss), the hero told his lady that the work he did upon the sea saving others — honorable, perilous work — had a wealthy patron. And there was Ben standing behind me while I wrote, looking all dashingly tall, dark and handsome, telling me he was that patron, he the powerful man of mystery behind that noble work. And he said he wanted Octavia, a girl whose heart matched his perfectly, to be his heroine. He told me this in no uncertain terms.

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, her new blog (with five other terrific historical authors), or on Facebook at


  1. I was hidden for many years, or tried to be. I didn't like admitting I liked romance novels. But eventually it became clear I was doing a lousy job hiding it when my husband kept getting them for me to try (thanks to him, I fell in love with Keri Arthur, Kim Harrison, and a couple of others).

    Now, I'm out and I'm proud. That doesn't mean I don't get embarrassed about it from time to time. A couple weeks ago, we were at the library (my son, hubby and I) and the husband looked at the titles (and covers) of the books I was getting. And then he looked at me. I turned bright red.

  2. Hi Katharine! So lovely to have you here today. I adored In the Arms of a Marquess! Ben and Tavy's story was definitely sigh-worthy and a wonderful way to end this terrific trilogy. :)

    I can't say I've ever hidden my love of romance but I never really advertised it (in my younger years) either. Of course, I've had my share of derogatory comments from the unenlightened. I've learned to not let them bother me. It's their loss.

    I've marked February 28th on my 2012 calendar for When a Scot Loves a Lady. What a great title!

  3. Welcome back, Katharine!! As you know, I loved your newest. Ben and Tavy had to work hard for their HEA, so it made it sweeter. :)

    I've never been "hidden", per se. I brought my romance novels to school with me in high school and while some people said something, I didn't really care. I even did a book report on one! My teacher loved it. The only time I've ever hidden anything is when my kids were younger if the covers were too risque. I use book covers now, but only because they have handles and it makes it easier to carry. I'll tell anyone I read romance and am proud of it!

  4. Glad you were able to "come out", Tory! My husband is the only guy I ever dated that didn't make fun of my reading I knew he was the ONE. :)

  5. PJ said: Of course, I've had my share of derogatory comments from the unenlightened.

    Oh, PJ, haven't we all? People shouldn't knock it if they haven't tried it!

  6. Good morning, ladies! Thanks to Andrea (and Buffie, Gannon and PJ) for hosting me today. It's lovely to be here again. :)

  7. Tory, oh, isn't that the case? We can be totally out and proud and still have moments of thorough embarrassment. I'm still not sure why we do; what's embarrassing about loving love??? But we're human, so I suppose it goes with the territory. :)

  8. Hi, PJ. Thank you!

    It's so wonderful that you've never hidden your love of romance. I like the way you put that -- "the unenlightened." It's so true, I find that folks who easily insult romance haven't actually read much of it, or any at all. Poor dears. They're missing so much!

  9. Andrea, thanks again for inviting me to visit you ladies today, and for your lovely words about my book. :)

    How fantastic about your high school confidence. I'll bet your teacher was thrilled with your paper! And I completely understand hiding it from the little ones, of course. My home office is right next to my son's room. He was about seven when one night as he was getting ready for bed he came up behind me at my desk and read out loud a button pinned to my chair:

    "Don't tell my mother I write romance. She thinks I play piano in a whore house."

    Well, that button went into the drawer mighty quick, along with all other materials inappropriate for a young boy! Sometimes it's necessary to hide just a little. ;)

  10. Haha how cool... "When a Scot Loves a Lady" will be released on my birthday. I think I know what I'll put down on my wishlist. :P

    I'm not "out" yet, mostly because I don't know anyone who reads romance, or historicals for that matter. Only my BFF knows I read romance, and she doesn't mind it. I haven't tried to convert her yet, but who knows what will happen.

  11. Hi Katharine! :) Great to see you here again at The Dish!

    I first started reading romance in high school, and I definitely was a hider at first.You know how it is in high school-you constantly feel like you're under a microscope and being judged. But then I found out one of my classmates in choir also read Nora, so I wasn't alone, lol

    Once I got to college, that was all over. I happily lent my books to my friends, and my roommates saw my romances on my bookshelf. These days, I happily read them on my train on my commute to and from work, and noone has ever said anything to me, and I wouldn't care if they did. And I have seen plenty of my fellow commuters reading romances too!

    One of my law school classmates saw me reading Eloisa's Duchess by Night and mocked it an the cover. I told him there was nothing wrong with what I'm reading, and it was my business what I liked to read for pleasure. So yes, I have dealt with my share of the unenlightened too!

    And congratulations and thank you Katharine on all the great work you and the other Kiss and Teal authors are doing to spread the word to raise awareness about ovarian cancer! :)

  12. In the Arms of a Marquess is on my TBR shelf, and this interview makes me even more eager to read it.

    I've been a romance reader since I was ten, but I admit I was a closet romance reader in grad school and beyond. I think Pam Regis's A Natural History of the Romance Novel initiated a change in attitudes toward romance fiction within academic circles. If I were a grad student now, I'd write my dissertation on romance fiction. But for most of my career, saying I read romance novels would have been met with disdain and horror. The reactions among those who did know ranged from amused tolerance to accusations that I was destroying brain cells, betraying feminism, and compromising my integrity as a scholar. And these comments were from friends in the English department.

  13. Katharine Ashe said: I'll bet your teacher was thrilled with your paper!

    She was! And I got an A. I always wondered (but never asked) if she was a romance reader. I'm betting she was. :)

    LOL on your son reading the button! Well, I'm sure it wasn't funny then, but still. The worst that happened to me was when my son was little and he asked, "What are those people doing?" with big eyes. LOL! I responded, "They're hugging." *g*

    Nowadays, both kids tell others that Mommy reads romance books. :)

  14. I am mostly a closet romance reader (hangs head).

    I did, though, write an article for my library newsletter that recommended some romance summer reads. I guess that was a little step out of the closet! LOL

  15. What a great birthday present that will be, Antonia. *g* I hope you'll be able to "come out" soon!

  16. Forgot to add, Antonia ... I tried for awhile to get my sister to read romance and one day she finally said, "Fine, I'll try one." So, of course, I thought long and hard about which book to let her borrow because I only had one shot. I chose THE DUKE AND I by Julia Quinn and she was instantly hooked and wanted to read more!

  17. Lisa said: And congratulations and thank you Katharine on all the great work you and the other Kiss and Teal authors are doing to spread the word to raise awareness about ovarian cancer!

    Amen to that, Lisa! Such a terrific cause. And I'm so happy that so many of the September releases have already gone into a second printing!!

  18. Janga, I am so sorry that you had to deal with people like that. How disheartening it must have been for you. The romance community is so wonderful! If only everyone could get along so well...

  19. Baby steps, Cheryl. Baby steps. :)

  20. Katharine--I'm looking forward to reading your newest. As to your question, my family usually just rolls their collective eyeballs over my love of reading. We don't generally talk about what I'm reading, but since there are books all over the house...I'm sure it's evident.

  21. Hi Katharine,

    I don't care who knows that I'm a Romanceaholic reader. I make no secret of it. I've been a lover for years and years now. I post so much on my Facebook page about romance books, links etc. I think that my friends would have to be blind not to notice. lol

    I adore reading Historical Romance. I thank my lucky stars that I have wonderful writers like you who help to make my dreary life a lot happier.

    Thank you for another opportunity to win "In The Arms Of A Marquess". This would complete my "Lords of the Sea trilogy set.

    dpd333 AT aol dot com

  22. Hi, Katharine! It's great having you here today. :-)

    I'm a proud reader of romance! I figure if people don't like it, that's their problem. They have no idea how many great books they're missing. *g*

  23. Hi Katharine and Andrea!

    Wonderful post Katharine, thanks for sharing with us today!

    I read A LADY'S WISH and knew I had to keep up with future books by you. Nikolas and Patricia's story was right up my alley.

    Congratulations on your new release, IN THE ARMS OF A MARQUESS! I'm sorry to see ROGUES OF THE SEA series end, but thrilled for THE FALCON CLUB series, I can't wait!

    I have been reading historical romance for years now, I still enjoy reading them. Lots of great new authors over the years. Every now and again, I dust off an oldie and remember how wonderful these stories are. I have NEVER had a problem with the books I choose to read. My friends ask me when am I going to put those awful books away....NEVER!! LOL!! I have never hidden my books or been embarassed by them, I love them too much to hide them or lie about what I read. :-)
    I proudly show off the covers, especially when there's a sexy highlander on the cover!

    I roll my eyes at people who tell me that they have never read my books of choice, I just say 'what are you waiting for' and 'you don't know what you're missing'....I usually just get a wide-eyed looked, too funny!

    Have a wonderful Friday ladies!

  24. Hi, Antonia. I'm honored that When a Scot Loves a Lady will share your birthday. :) As to being "out", I never told my friends in academia that I wrote and read romance because I couldn't possibly imagine any of them read it too. Then one night at a dinner party a friend's husband outed her to me. She was mortified... until I revealed to her my secret. Now we happily chat about romance!

  25. cheryl, I think that was a *big* step out of the closet, in fact! Kudos to you. :)

  26. Andrea, the other day my son asked me if there are naked people in my books. I said yes indeed, when they remove their clothes to go to bed they're naked. Well, it wasn't a lie, though admittedly I didn't use air quotes when I said "bed". But I imagined them! Then he asked me if they see each other naked. I changed the subject. :)

  27. Hi, LSUReader. It's true that if you're a voracious reader it's usually the quantity rather than the identity of the books that folks comment on. A lovely thing to get them talking, indeed!

  28. Katharine, I love to see secondary characters step to the forefront!

    I'm "out" as a writer to family and friends now. There's still a part of me that hesitates to speak up because people ask what I've written that they can read, and the answer so far is "nothing." So I just keep working to change that.

    I've been "out" as a reader for years, and I don't sit quietly when people (including other readers) refer to romance as "trashy books." I see nothing trashy about the quest for a committed, loving relationship.

  29. Hi, Diane. Yay for being a proud romance reader! And I feel the same way you do about feeling lucky to have so many fabulous romance authors writing stories for us. :)

  30. Hi, Gannon. I for one am terribly glad you (and Andrea, PJ and Buffie) are proud and "out"!

  31. Fabulous, Dalila! I love hearing this. Confidence is the only way to go. And I can't believe your friends tell you to put those books away. I can't imagine ever telling someone what to read! I'm glad you stand fast and proud. :)

    Thanks for your kind words about A LADY'S WISH. Nik and Patricia were such fun to write!

  32. I don't think I have ever hid the fact that I read romance novals. My sister calls me the library because she borrows books from me all the time. Back when I was working full time I didn't have the time to read but things have changed now.

  33. I'm sorry that your family rolls their eyeballs, LSUReader, but good for you for not giving in!

  34. Good for you for shouting it proudly, Diane!

    I thank my lucky stars that I have wonderful writers like you who help to make my dreary life a lot happier.

    Amen to that!

  35. So true, Gannon. If only they would give romance a chance. *g*

  36. Hi, Dalila! I'm glad you enjoyed the interview.

    I proudly show off the covers, especially when there's a sexy highlander on the cover!

    Or if Jed Hill (the Hot Dish from yesterday) is on the cover... Sigh... *vbg*

  37. Katharine Ashe said: Andrea, the other day my son asked me if there are naked people in my books. I said yes indeed, when they remove their clothes to go to bed they're naked. Well, it wasn't a lie, though admittedly I didn't use air quotes when I said "bed". But I imagined them! Then he asked me if they see each other naked. I changed the subject. :)

    LOL!! Oh, the things that children say... *g*

  38. Nancy said: So I just keep working to change that.

    And you will, Nancy!! :)

  39. Virginia said: My sister calls me the library because she borrows books from me all the time.

    Oh my gosh, Virginia, my sister calls me the same thing for the same reason!!! Too funny!

  40. "I see nothing trashy about the quest for a committed, loving relationship."

    Oh, Nancy, how true! I love the way you put that. And congratulations to you for being thoroughly "out"!

  41. Virginia, how wonderful. I think I'd rather be called "the library" than any other nickname. :) I'm glad to hear (and a little jealous!) that you have more time to read lately. That's lovely.

  42. Hi Katharine,

    Congratulations on receiving 4.5 stars from RT on your latest release.

    My friends and family always knew about my love for reading romances. I have never hidden it from anyone, mostly because because i never could. Wherever i went i had a romance novel with me, so it was inevitable that everyone saw me with it.

  43. I have always been out and proud. LOL. For as long as I could remember I have been reading romance books. The only time I was a little embarrassed is when I was in my early 20's and still reading YA romance. Everyone would tease me because I was still reading YA. Now I don't care what it is that I'm reading. If someone doesn't like oh well.

  44. Hey Katharine!!! It is so wonderful to have you visiting with us today.

    I'm looking forward to reading IN THE ARMS OF A MARQUESS

    I don't think I have ever hidden my love of romance. What's funny is I work for a law firm (somewhat reserved office) and anytime a new employee joins the firm and I am always introduce as "she loves romance novels and reviews them too". LOL!

  45. Virginia wrote: My sister calls me the library because she borrows books from me all the time.

    That's very good of you, Virginia. I've almost stopped lending books since a couple I treasured never made it home and I couldn't track down who'd borrowed them.

  46. Thanks for the vote of confidence, Andrea!

  47. Katharine wrote: Sometimes it's necessary to hide just a little. ;)

    Juuust a little. *g* Kids grow up fast, though. The boy and I watched Fanboys, an indie film with a lot of heart (and a way lot of profanity) about Star Wars fans, this summer. I hadn't quite managed to realize it was R-rated when we rented it. But he's 18 and off to college, so I figured the time for shielding him from such was over.

    Glad you like my comeback.

  48. Thanks, Sonali! It's lovely that you've always been "out"! I never hid it from my family either, mostly only my friends in academia. But no longer. :)

  49. Hi, Danielle. I think YA has grown up (as it were) in the past decade or so, with books like Twilight being so high profile the way with fans in their 30s and 40s. Thank goodness!

  50. Hi, Buffie. It's so lovely to be here, thanks! That's marvelous how your colleagues introduce you. It sounds like they're very proud of you, as well they should be!

  51. I've only read romance for the last couple of years so most of my friends and family still don't know. However, they know I read children's and YA so the net result is still getting funny looks when I read in public. I do have a better argument for reading romances than for the others (that I review them for my friends and their kids).

  52. Hi, Sheree. Doing something for friends is always a good justification. And it doesn't happen to hurt that you enjoy it! :)

  53. I'm a proud reader of romance. There should be more of it I say.

  54. I always have one of my historical romance books with me (work for my lunch break, grocery store line,bank line,and all those other places that everyone else is getting bored evryone knows I love my "stories".

    I've done it so often that I now have people coming up to me and ask me what I'm reading! After I got a Kindle I thought it would at least slow down people's questions but now they just ask me "what that think is" that I'm looking at then ask me about the books I read!

  55. I love Katherine Ashe's books. She is such a talented author with yummy and sizzling books.

    I am so proud of everyone behind the K.I.S.S. and Teal campaign. Working together to improve the health of all women is awesome.

  56. Thanks again for being with us, Katharine! I had a blast!

    And long live the romance reader and writer!!!!

  57. Oh, I'm out! I used to hide my romance books when I was younger! I'm a proud romance reader now! I say it loud and clear to all my friends, co-workers family. I just don't care about all those haters out there. I've learned that lifes too short to even worry about such a silly thing!

  58. SAY IT LOUD!!

    (So now you know I grew up in the sixties.)

    I love romance and my book club teases me about it but, they are all missing out on the fun.

    My love of romance novels inspired my dear husband, George, to plan an anniversary trip to NYC for the RWA Conference this past June. Where we were thrilled to meet you, Katherine, and PJ. As well as many of my other favorite authors.

    So all I can say is please keep on writing!