Book: American Duchess
Photo Courtesy of Karen Harper
Author: Karen Harper
"A New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author, Karen Harper is a former college English instructor (The Ohio State University) and high school literature and writing teacher. A lifelong Ohioan, Karen, and her husband love to travel.
Besides her American settings, Karen loves the British Isles, where her Scottish and English roots run deep, and where she has set many of her historical novels about real British women: THE ROYAL NANNY, THE IT GIRLS (Oct. 2017), and AMERICAN DUCHESS (Feb. 2019), which is now available!
Karen's books have been published in many foreign languages and are available in print and ebook formats in English. Most are in large print and audio. She won the Mary Higgins Clark Award for her Amish-setting novel, DARK ANGEL.
Karen has given numerous talks to readers and writers across the country. Her author collection is with The Ohio State University Rare Books and Manuscript Library." (Source: Karenharper.com)
1. What are some key character traits you wanted to highlight in Consuelo Vanderbilt?
I admire her because she’s not a spoiled little rich girl, which she could so easily have been. She had a heart for the downtrodden and less fortunate (which was almost everyone since she was a Vanderbilt).
When she saw that Blenheim Palace was run much as a feudal estate, she tried to break that pattern despite the fact “that just isn’t done.” She spoke out for women’s rights in an age where women still could not vote.
2. What attracted you to tell her story?
I visited Blenheim Palace in England and was amazed to hear a little of her story then. I love to find historic American or British women who made a difference in their cultures, and she did. Besides, she was on Hitler’s kidnap-and-ransom list to get money for the Third Reich, and her flight to safety made a great ending for the story.
3. How much time did you spend researching this particular story?
When I switched from writing Tudor-era historicals to the Victorian and Edwardian ages, I read background for about three years (while I continued to write my contemporary suspense novels.) Then I researched Consuelo for about a year. The book itself took about six months to write and revise.
4. You have written multiple novels about royal families. Have you noticed any shared core beliefs or common values among your selected characters?
I do note that, royal or not, they are individual people. Some I came to see as villains, such as King Henry VIII and much later, King Edward VIII. On the other hand, royals seem to rise to the occasion in dire times.
I have just finished a novel focused on the queen most Americans know as ‘The Queen Mum,’ the now deceased mother of the current queen. She and her husband, King George VI, were heroic in getting Britain through WWII. Each ruler and his/her family have their trials, tragedies, and triumphs.
5. You are also a well-accomplished suspense novelist. How much suspense can readers expect in American Duchess?
My agent has said, “All good writing is suspense writing,” and she is correct. Even in a historical novel, page-turning for the reader is important. What happens next? Is she going to be all right?
There may not be a murder or a kidnapping in this historical novel, but there is tension and terror.
6. What is the most rewarding feeling about having your books read all across the globe?
Good question, one I haven’t been asked. It’s very rewarding to see how universal stories can be. I was a high school teacher and university instructor for years, and I still believe I can teach through my novels.
It is great fun to see the covers of the foreign copies, exciting to know that my Queen Elizabeth I novels were bestsellers in Russia, of all places. Some books, of course, I can’t read a word, such as in Japanese.
7. Do you plan on writing more books in the future?
I’ve been published since 1982 with almost 70 novels to my name now, but I hope to keep going if my imagination and self-discipline to write doesn’t let me down. I just completed a historical novel set in WWII and I'm working on a new contemporary suspense trilogy set in Alaska.
Onward and, hopefully, upward is my author motto. And that’s another thing, I admire about Consuelo Vanderbilt. Even when terrible times hit, even when Hitler’s forces were chasing her across Europe, she never gave up but kept on!
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