She has also graciously given PTTP one copy to give away to a lucky reader, so be sure to enter the contest at the end of this post.
And now, the interview with Karen Harper....
What inspired you to tell the story of Elizabeth “Gera” Fitzgerald?
After a lovely trip to Ireland my husband and I took several years ago, I searched for an Irish heroine, preferably one who lived in my favorite Tudor period. I finally found her through research about the ladies-in-waiting of Queen Elizabeth I. I knew it was unusual that Elizabeth had an Irish friend—as the Irish were not England’s friends. Also Gera was a beautiful redhead, and the queen was jealous of pretty women. I figured there must be an interesting story in Gera’s life, and indeed there was, more than I could have hoped. Her past was tragic, her life triumphant and she had a wonderful love story. Since she married Edward Clinton, the Lord High Admiral of the English navy, it was kind of a “sleeping with the enemy” romance between them. The hero and heroine lend a swashbuckling aura to the story.
Can you describe the unique friendship between Gera and her royal cousin, Elizabeth I?
They were, indeed, distant cousins. And, if Gera’s family had not been ruined by the Tudors under Henry VIII, Gera would have been an Irish princess, as her father was considered “the uncrowned king of Ireland.” This too, must have made Elizabeth wary of Gera. However, despite all the odds against their friendship, it was long-lasting and weathered storms. One telling detail that speaks loudly about this was that the queen once sent Gera to the Tower “for plainspeaking to the queen,” yet Gera was almost immediately back in Elizabeth’s good graces.
Also, Elizabeth’s early years were difficult; her own father, King Henry, often turned against her. So the two women had that in common: Henry VIII is the villain of this story as the king had ruined Gera’s family. Despite their tensions and many differences, these two dynamic women obviously saw their similarities and it bonded them close for many years. I hope I did their edgy friendship justice; I love both of their characters, strong, prideful and argumentative.
Historical fiction is a blending of historical fact and fiction. How much of The Irish Princess is fact and how much fiction?
Yes, I always say I write faction, a blend of these two elements. Although I do create fictional scenes and dialogue and add some minor characters who did not exist, it is history, thoroughly researched, that is the backbone of my plots and characters. I do not change anything I can find—or if I do, it is minor and I “fess up” to the reader in my Author’s Note at the end of the novel. In Gera’s case, I moved one incident forward a few years to include it in the story. In the queen’s name, Gera at least once commanded a ship which took some pirates prisoner, and I could not pass that up.
The other thing is that Tudor-era research is often conflicting. In researching each of the thirteen Tudor novels I’ve written (this includes my nine-part Queen Elizabeth Mysteries) I’ve found discrepancies in dates and in “facts.” In each case, I try to go with the most logical information.
What can readers look forward to next from you? Will you stay with the Tudor period?
I would love to write in the Tudor period forever—however, I do go where a good character or story takes me. I have just completed a novel, tentative title MISTRESS OF MOURNING, set around 1500 in the bridge between the Medieval and Tudor periods. It feels more Medieval or Gothic than Tudor.
The two main characters are Queen Elizabeth of York, wife of Henry VII and mother of Henry VIII, and a fictional (but very real!) merchant class chandler who also carves wax death masks. This one is also a mystery as the main characters try to answer two huge questions: who killed ‘The Princes in the Tower’ and was Prince Arthur Tudor possibly poisoned? Arthur was then, of course, wed to Catherine of Aragon. If he would not have died, Henry VIII never would have been king, and history would have been so different.
Also, THE QUEEN’S GOVERNESS, about the life of Katherine (Kat) Ashley, “foster mother” to Elizabeth I, will be out in U.S. paperback in June. My British publisher, Random House UK (imprint Ebury,) will issue that book in July. MISTRESS SHAKESPEARE, renamed SHAKESPEARE’S MISTRESS, will appear from Ebury in October. It’s great fun to see how the covers change between the US and UK books.
In addition to your historical novels, you have also written an Amish trilogy, which is currently being re-released in new packaging. Does it require a change of mind set when you switch genres?
It surely does. Different narrative voice, different cultures, different vocabulary, even sentence length. But in each genre, I take the reader into a world he or she does not live in. I try to be true to the characters and their times; yet I continually find that people’s reactions to their loves, losses, triumphs and tragedies are universal. I should add that to bring both places and people alive, I try to visit each site I use. I’m currently balancing writing historicals with a new trilogy of Amish suspense novels, so I give myself a break between writing those very different settings. (The covers of the Amish novels are, of course, quite stark and plain compared to the Tudor historicals. To see all the covers, visit www.KarenHarperAuthor.com.)
If you could invite three historical figures to dinner, who would it be and why?
How about a really wild combination of three very different but charismatic figures, Jesus Christ, Elizabeth Tudor and George Washington? They would have a lot to say to each other, and I’d love to listen in and take notes. I am fascinated by leaders of nations, those who step forward for great accomplishments no matter the risks to themselves.
And lastly, a question near and dear to my heart...do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
I was both a college English instructor and a high school English teacher before leaving education to write full time, so I guess I never stop teaching, even through my novels. Entire books can be written on this question, but let me say one key thing. You have to be strong and believe in yourself. You are probably going to meet with rejection, and it is a lonely task—sometimes just you and your characters for months at a time. Talking about being a writer; attending conferences; reading author, agent, publishers websites is not writing. You must produce actual pages and then have the nerve to submit them. As Winston Churchill put it once, “Never give up. Never give up. NEVER give up!”
ABOUT THE BOOK
Born into a first family of Ireland, with royal ties on both sides, Elizabeth Fitzgerald-known as Gera-finds her world overturned when Henry VIII imprisons her father, the Earl of Kildare, and brutally destroys her family. Torn from the home she loves, her remaining family scattered, Gera dares not deny the refuge offered her in England's glittering royal court. There she must navigate ever-shifting alliances even as she nurtures her secret desire for revenge. From County Kildare's lush green fields to London's rough-and-tumble streets and the royal court's luxurious pageantry, The Irish Princess follows the journey of a daring woman whose will cannot be tamed, and who won't be satisfied until she restores her family to its rightful place in Ireland.
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GOOD LUCK TO ALL!