It is my great pleasure to welcome Katharine Ashe to Teatime Romance today! Katharine is a historical romance author with Avon and one of the nicest, sweetest people around. We clicked instantly when we met at the 2011 RWA Literacy Signing in NYC. She’s here today to talk about her latest release, I Married The Duke. It’s a wonderful book, filled with strong emotions, passion, adventure, and heroes with secret identities-all the hallmarks of a great Katharine Ashe book. I totally loved the book, and am so excited Katharine’s here to talk about it. Take it away, Katharine!
1. Can you tell us about I Married the Duke and the Prince Catchers series?
She thought he was a pirate. He thought she was a governess. Two wrongs have never made such a scandalously perfect right.
Luc Westfall is a scarred, half-blind, autocratic naval hero running from his past. Arabella Caulfield is a poor servant traveling to a prince in a fairy tale castle to fulfill her destiny. When she takes passage on Luc’s ship, neither of them want the seductively dangerous adventure they fall into. But sometimes what you want isn’t always what’s best for you . . .
Lisa: As I said, I loved I Married The Duke. I loved the fairy tale aspect of the book, and how strong and resilient Arabella was.
2. What was your inspiration for the book and the series?
Disney World! I was on vacation with my family, perched on the bed in my room in the Grand Floridian, and pondering what I might write next. I absolutely adore Disney princes, and I thought, “Who wouldn’t like to be a princess if it would mean falling in love with one of those heroes?” At that moment the Prince Catchers were born, three orphaned sisters searching for the prince who will be able to tell them the secrets of their past.
Lisa: I am now a total princess convert. I love my new tiara! 🙂 My favorite Disney hero and heroine would have to be Mulan and Shang. She saves China, gets recognized by the Emperor, AND gets the guy. What’s not to love!!??
3. What drew you towards writing historical romances as opposed to contemporaries, paranormal, or other romance sub-genres? And would you ever want to try another sub-genre?
The stories in history draw me. My father and eldest sister were avid readers of history, and from the time I was in the crib they’d spin tales of knights and castles and pirates and adventures. I pursued those wonderful stories beyond the cradle, eventually going to graduate school for a PhD and becoming a professor of history. But as much as reading and writing scholarly history satisfies my mind, reading and writing historical romantic adventures ignites my heart and soul. As a historical novelist, I get to do both.
I’m open to any story that suggests itself to me, whether set in the past or present or future or some other world altogether. I’ve written time-travel romances and other stories with contemporary characters, and it’s great fun. I’ve also published a Regency romance featuring a medieval ghost as the noble villain, and I plan to write the sequel to that—the ghost’s romance—as soon as I have time.
Lisa: As you know, I was a history major in college, and yes I couldn’t agree more. History is about people, their stories, and what drove them to make the choices and decisions they did. Not a dry list of history and dates.
4. What can you tell us about the hero and heroine Luc and Arabella? Did you have any celebrities in mind when you created the characters, or any point of visual reference?
My heroes and heroines come to me voluntarily, asking for their stories, whether I’ve met them as a minor character in another book or they’re introducing themselves to me for the first time. Usually it begins with one of them—the hero or heroine—then their lover appears soon after. In the case of my Prince Catchers, the three sisters came to me together, and Arabella immediately made it clear that she was the one dead set on marrying a prince. Then Luc strolled up, with the black slash of kerchief over his scarred eye, and declared that (pardon my French) there was no way in hell she was marrying a prince because she was his. Ravenna’s hero introduced himself to me on The Ballroom Blog not long after I conceived of the series, and Eleanor’s hero was there from the instant I met her as a young girl.
I don’t have celebrities in mind when I write. Occasionally, though, I’ll find an image of a man—a model, actor or athlete usually—that suits the hero I’ve already met in my imagination. I’ll admit, it’s never a chore to have those images on my computer screen when I’m writing. I rarely find images of my heroines, although the cover models of my first two Prince Catcher books are ideal for Arabella and Ravenna. (The third hasn’t been made yet.) The moment I saw the woman in the vibrant blue dress on the cover of I Married The Duke running away, I knew it was Arabella.
Lisa: I absolutely can NOT wait for Ravenna and Eleanor’s story!! I have my theories as to who Eleanor’s hero will be. I can’t wait to see if I’m right! And Luc’s kerchief made him so rougish, and dashing!
5. What is next for you? Another book in the Prince Catchers series? Many of your readers are anxiously awaiting books 4 and 5 of your Falcon Club series as well! I’m so glad that Constance and Colin will be getting their books eventually.
I’ve just finished up a Prince Catchers spin-off story, Kisses, She Wrote, a Christmas novella coming out December 3. Prince Catchers book #2 will be out next summer and #3 is in the making. But Falcon Club #4 and #5 aren’t far behind. I can’t wait for my readers to have Constance and Colin’s stories, and to discover the identity of the mysterious Lady Justice. It’s been agony for me not to have them come out right away, but, alas, such are the vicissitudes of publishing.
Lisa: I was so thrilled to hear that Luc’s cousin Cam would be getting his story, and I love Christmas books, so yay! 🙂 And again, I have my theory as to who Lady Justice is, and am dying to find out who it is!
6.To your mind, what are the essential ingredients your heroes and heroines must have to have you fall in love with them, and root for them, and have your readers fall in love with them too?
Compassion, courage, intelligence, wit, the willingness to laugh at themselves, and the soul-deep desire to make another person truly happy.
Lisa: YES! I have nothing to add, except I couldn’t agree more, especially wit, compassion, and humor. I love someone who can make me laugh.
7. The heroes of your novels oftentimes have secret identities, or not precisely who they appear to be at first glance. What draws you to write these types of heroes?
For years I wanted to write romance full-time but hid that desire from everybody I knew. But it’s not only because of my career choices that I write characters with secret identities. The struggle to appear the way the world expects and yet to be your authentic self and live life according to your most profound values is something we all experience, I think. My heroes and heroines are often constrained by society’s expectations and demands to appear one thing on the surface while their hearts urge them to be something else—something better. In my books, love allows my heroes and heroines to throw off their masks and be who they truly are.
Lisa: That is one aspect of historical romances that I really enjoy-heroes and heroines who struggle with society’s expectations and rules, and triumph over them.
8. Not only are you a romance writer, you are also a professor of medieval history. What inspired you to pursue both of these career paths, and does your academic/teaching background influence your writing at all?
I enjoy writing scholarly history, but I adore writing historical fiction. I enjoy teaching, though; it’s nourishing in a different way, and I didn’t want to give it up when I left full-time academia. So now I do both. My work as a professional historian most certainly influences my writing. My specialty is medieval religious history, but I read broadly across historical places and eras, and the story and plot ideas in my books come directly from scholarly histories.
Lisa: I really admire you and other romance writers who juggle writing, other careers, and their families! It’s wonderful that you were able to find a balance that worked for you, so you can have the best of all worlds.
9. Who are your writing inspirations and idols?
The novelists whose work I love most, especially Dorothy Dunnett, Umberto Eco, and J.R.R. Tolkien. Many other authors inspire me as well, including William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Emily Bronte, and a host of other ancient, medieval and modern writers.
Lisa: Austen and Shakespeare are favorites of mine too.
10. What books do you recommend to romance newbies to introduce them to how awesome the genre is?
My first recommendations are always Laura Kinsale’s Flowers From the Storm and LizCarlyle’sThe Devil You Know for historical romance, and Rachel Gibson’s Truly Madly Yours for contemporary romance. Currently I’m loving Lisa Kleypas’s Friday Harbor series. She writes so beautifully.
Lisa: Great recommendations! I love Lisa Kleypas too-her Wallflower and Hathaway books are phenomenal.
11. In addition to celebrating the release of your new book, I thought it would be fantastic to have you visit us at Teatime because September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. Ovarian cancer awareness is a cause near and dear to your heart. Can you talk about how you came to be involved with Shout Against the Whisper and other charities and organizations related to Ovarian Cancer?
Two years ago my publisher, Avon, mounted a month-long campaign to increase awareness about the signs and symptoms of Ovarian Cancer and to raise money for research. I was an author-spokeswomen for this campaign. At the same time, a friend and sister romance author, Heather McCollum, was diagnosed with OC. I learned from her about what OC really does to a person during her battle against the deadly disease, and I worked with her “SHOUT Against the Whisper!” program to educate women about the signs and symptoms of this most deadly of gynecological cancer. Here they are:
- Pelvic or abdominal pain
- Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
- Urinary symptoms (urgency or frequency)
If a woman experiences one or more of these symptoms for two weeks she should contact her doctor. A Pap smear does not test for Ovarian Cancer (it tests for Cervical Cancer). Researchers haven’t yet created an easy test for OC, so it’s crucial for women to know the most common symptoms. OC is fast and much more deadly than Breast Cancer. It is genetically linked to Prostate and Breast Cancer, too, so if you have either of those in your family tree it’s wise to be especially vigilant.
Lisa: Thank you so much for sharing this important information with us! I’m sure it’ll help save lives.
Also, these six questions are some “get to know you questions” we ask all of our guests.
14. What was the first romance novel you ever read?
Once More, Miranda by Jennifer Wilde.
15. Your house is on fire – which five romance novels do you grab on your way out? Only five!?! Okay, if I must limit it, they’d be the three I mentioned above, Julia Quinn’s An Offer from a Gentleman and Georgette Heyer’s Venetia.
Lisa: I picked The Viscount Who Loved Me as one of my five-love the Bridgertons!
16. What is your secret passion?
I have no secret passions. My very well publicized passions are champagne, chocolate, and handsome, intelligent men with dark hair and dark eyes.
Lisa: Who can say no to chocolate, champagne, and sigh-worthy heroes? Not me!
17. Why do you write romance?
Because every time I write a book I fall in love. Not with the hero—I fall in love with the couple’s love. It fills me up and makes me feel joy and I am addicted.
18. Is there anything in your book that comes from personal experience?
Everything. That said, I’ve never fought with swords on the deck of a ship, driven a curricle, or made love to a pirate (that I’ve known). But pretty much everything else comes from my experience of life and love.
19. What is your favorite kind of tea, and how do you drink it?
Jasmine, hot and straight. Thanks for having me on Teatime Romance, Lisa! It’s been such a pleasure.
Thank you so much for being here Katharine! I wish you the best of luck with your Prince Catcher series, and thank you again for taking the time to spread the word about ovarian cancer awareness!
GIVEAWAY ALERT!: Katharine is generously giving one lucky commenter a copy of How A Lady Weds a Rogue and How to Marry a Highlander. To win, all you have to do is comment below. Or tell us-do you like adventure stories? Or stories about princes and princesses-which are your favorites? Did you ever dress up as one when you were younger, or for Halloween? Did you know the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer before reading this post?
About Katherine Ashe:
Award-winning Katharine Ashe is the author of How to Be a Proper Lady, one of Amazon’s 10 Best Books of 2012 in Romance, and eight other sweeping, intensely lush romance novels. Upon her debut in she was honored with a spot among the American Library Association’s “New Stars of Historical Romance,” she has won the coveted Reviewers’ Choice Award for Best Historical Romantic Adventure, and she is a nominee for the Library of Virginia’s Literary Award in Fiction.
Katharine lives in the wonderfully warm Southeast with her beloved husband, son, dog, and a garden she likes to call romantic rather than unkempt. A professor of European History, she writes fiction because she simply can’t help turning the marvelous material in history books into love stories, and because smart modern women deserve grand adventures and breathtaking sensuality too. For more about her books, please visit her at www.KatharineAshe.com. She loves hearing from readers.