Today I am a bit star-struck to introduce a dear lady and fantastic author, USA Today bestselling author, Katharine Ashe. Katharine it’s great to have you at my virtual café. Would you like a drink before we get started?
Katharine: . Coffee with hot milk, if you please. Or tea. I enjoy both! Though I don’t suppose you’ve any Scotch? It became a favorite of mine due to what we can agree to call “book research.”
Sherri: Yes, I’ve done a little of that research as well, though I’m a bourbon gal myself.
I’m sure you know, I’m a huge fan. I enjoy reading your books. I especially enjoy your history notes at the end. I’m a history buff but you’re a true historian. From reading your newsletters I know you’ve taken fencing lessons and traveled for your research. You also teach history.
Katharine: Yes,I also adore history — all sorts, all places, all peoples. So there’s lots of very cool history in my novels. Take for instance my latest novel about a woman who pretends to be a man so that she can study medicine, and a foreign man finding a new home in the British Isles, both based on historical people. Or my novel about a popular pamphleteer (think today’s bloggers) who writes under a pseudonym to call for social change. Or any of the other fascinating characters or situations I’ve plucked out of history and woven stories around …
Sherri: Your latest novel, “The Prince” that you mentioned is the reason I suggested our theme, “Why We Write…Giving Voice to the Voiceless.” Your characters dealt with prejudice, disabilities, social mores they didn’t agree with, and their own insecurities; your writing mirrors todays problems with a truth that is both historical and relevant. Did I tell you, I’m a fan? Katharine will be the keynote speaker for our upcoming conference. What do you hope attendees will come away with from your talk?
Katharine: Writing can be a joy. But publishing can destroy the soul. When I speak to writers — especially young or aspiring authors — I try to share useful, practical information that I wish someone had taught me. Mostly, though, I try to remind us all that when we write from our truest selves, without fear, we write at our best, and we touch the humanity in others.
Sherri: I try to write from the heart, but I have to admit, baring my soul and letting people see what’s inside is terrifying. I’m not naturally brave. How did you come by your strength and character?
Katharine: I’m the fifth child in a big Catholic family, as a kid growing up in Pennsylvania, I wore hand-me-downs, rode cast-off bikes, and babysat my little sister for free. Yet I knew abundance well. My parents, who had traveled the world, welcomed into our home strangers from near and far who became family too, as well as all of my and my siblings’ friends. Of love and food and imaginative play there was always plenty. And books positively overflowed. It was a gloriously full house in so many ways.
Sherri: So you were not born and raised in North Carolina, but you seem very at home here.
Katharine: The south called to me. At age seventeen I left the snowy north for the sultry climes of Carolina, and four years later graduated from Duke University in ’89 with a degree in History.
As soon as I departed Durham, I longed to return. After a few years in the working world, then more in graduate school, in both the US and Europe, I made it back here in 2007 as a part-time professor of history and popular culture at Duke, and a full-time novelist.
Sherri: As a fan, I’m familiar with your work but for those who may not have read your novels, tell them what you write.
Katharine: In the last decade I’ve published sixteen novels and eight novellas, all genre romances and all but one set in early nineteenth-century Britain and its empire. Currently I’m delighted to be writing the final two novels in my Twist Series of historical romances, and I am (rather impatiently) awaiting the day I’m able to devote myself fully to a historical novel that I’ve been developing.
Sherri: I know you are a busy person but what other hobbies or interests do you have and do these show up in your novels?
Katharine: I have a puppy! We walk, run, play, train, and socialize together. We garden together too (that is, she digs holes and I fill them in.) She’s sweet and smart and independent and loves everybody. And yes indeed, several of my novels and novellas feature animals, dogs and horses as well as other furry and feathered critters.
I suppose this really returns to the question above: when you write about what you love — what you care about — the cup of joy cannot help but runneth over.
Katharine Ashe is the USA Today bestselling and award-winning author of historical romances reviewers call “intensely lush” and “sensationally intelligent,” including Amazon Best Books in 2012, 2017, and 2018. A former Fulbright Fellow, Mellon Scholar, Fellow of the American Academy in Rome, and Duke ’89 grad, as Katharine Brophy Dubois she holds a PhD in Medieval Religious History, and currently teaches courses on popular culture and history at Duke. She is the associate convener of Duke’s MicroWorlds Lab; co-creator and host of Duke’s UNSUITABLE Speakers Series on women, fiction and popular culture; and founder of Facebook’s Feminist Romance Lovers Book Club.
Learn more about Katharine and her books at https://katharineashe.com, where she is giving away a conference registration + one-night hotel stay for the Pamlico Writers’ Conference.
*Note: Katharine is taking a hiatus from social media, but you can find out more about her from her website and newsletter. If you love historical romances with real history, check out her books, you will be glad you did!