Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Welcome NYT Bestselling Author Karen Harper

It is always a pleasure to have talented authors on my blog and Karen Harper is definintely that.  She agreed to stop by and chat about her upcoming release, MISTRESS OF MOURNING.  I learn so much every time she is here!  I hope you enjoy this question and answer session as I much as I did!  After you read the interview, leave a coment and be entered to win a copy of MISTRESS OF MOURNING!

Erin:  Can you tell us about your current historical novel, MISTRESS OF MOURNING?

Karen:  As you know, I’m fascinated by the Tudor era—I’m a true “Tudormaniac.”  My husband and I love to visit the British Isles and historic sites I use in my novels.  MISTRESS OF MOURNING takes place in England and Wales.  Wales was then a wild place full of superstition, legends, and chieftains.  The fens, bogs and deep forests made a great setting for the developing love story between my hero and heroine and their desperate search for a murderer.

Erin:  So this is a historical mystery rather than a “straight” history with your usual strong romance?

Karen:  Yes, the characters and plot led me right to a murder mystery—as a matter of fact, the murder of three royal princes.  I had always wanted to do a book about the first Tudors, the parents of Henry VIII.  The book begins in 1501 as King Henry VII and his wife, Queen Elizabeth of York, try to strengthen their new dynasty after winning what we today call, “The War of the Roses.”

Of course, one way to do this is to produce male heirs.  Their heir is teenage Prince Arthur, who has just wed Catherine of Aragon (Yes, later Henry VIII’s first wife.)  The spare to the heir is the ten-year-old Henry, who is already showing signs of being devious.  But in Wales, Arthur suddenly dies.  The queen fears he may have been murdered by Tudor enemies, much as her young brothers, the so-called Princes in the Tower, were murdered years before. 

With the help of Varina, her candle-maker and carver of effigies for the queen’s two children who died young, she vows to solve Arthur’s murder, although she cannot leave London.  But the book’s other heroine, Varina Westcott, accepts the royal assignment and travels to wild Wales with the man she loves, her guard, a man close to the king.

Erin:  So MISTRESS OF MOURNING really has two heroines?

Karen:  Yes, so that meant a double love story.  The queen is wed to her former enemy, but they are managing to make a marriage of the ruins of the past.  Varina Westcott is a merchant-class widow who owns her own chandlery (candle-making shop) and has done special assignments for the queen.  Varina is in love with Nicholas Sutton, an ambitious courtier who ranks above her—but they cannot deny their love for each other.  What allows Varina to be the perfect undercover sleuth in Wales is that the wax chandlers of the day also made wax death shrouds.  So the queen can officially send her to Wales to oversee Prince Arthur’s burial preparation, but also to secretly learn if he was poisoned.

Erin:  Catherine of Aragon must be young in this novel.  Usually, we see her in the Anne Boleyn era books where she is fiercely Catholic, barren, stubborn and past her prime.

Karen:  It was fascinating to write about her when she was pretty and young.  From the first, the English people welcomed and adored her, which is one reason the masses detested Anne Boleyn later.  (Besides, of course, they blamed Anne rather than Henry VIII for the ruination of their Catholic church.)  Catherine is an admirable character who lived her sad live with what we would today call class.

Erin:  You mentioned that Varina owned her shop.  Was that common in this era between the Medieval and Tudor periods?

Karen:  Sadly, it was uncommon for a woman to own her shop.  Varina controls hers only because her husband left it to her in his will.  Except for embroiderers, women could not belong to the powerful guilds nor own their businesses unless they had inherited them through a father, brother or husband.  Another shocker to me was that if a widow remarried, the control of her shop, her finances and any minor children went immediately to her new husband—not a good time to be a single mom or female entrepreneur!  Varina is being courted by another chandler owner.  It would make commercial sense for her to unite their two shops, but she’s in love with Nick, who ranks above her.  Ah, nothing like forbidden love.

Erin:  I see this novel had two different titles.  How did that come about?

Karen:  My British publisher, Random House UK, decided to retitle the release of the novel THE QUEEN’S CONFIDANTE.  It has a quite different cover also.  My historicals are making the bestseller lists in the UK, and I’m sure it helps in this royal Jubilee year to have the word  queen in the title.

Erin:  Thanks for a glimpse into your new novel and for giving away two copies of it to winners who leave a post.  By the way, are you still writing contemporary romantic suspense too?

Karen:  Yes, and that’s been a real stretch from ‘Merrie olde England,’ since I’ve set my most recent rom-sus novels in Amish country.  My latest trilogy is FALL FROM PRIDE, RETURN TO GRACE and in November, FINDING MERCY.  I’m currently writing another HOME VALLEY AMISH romantic suspense which is a Christmas novel, but that won’t be out until autumn of 2013.  

Thanks, for the interview, Erin.  I always like to touch bases with your readers, as I have really enjoyed your Irish historical romance novels.

Karen Harper is a NY Times bestselling author published since 1982.  A former university and high school English instructor, she won the Mary Higgins Clark Award in 2006.  Please visit her website at http://www.karenharperauthor.com/ .  You can find MISTRESS OF MOURNING wherever books are sold or at Amazon, Barnes & Noble or your favorite online book seller.  For more information about MISTRESS OF MOURNING go to:  http://www.karenharperauthor.com/historical.html 

1 comment:

LilMissMolly said...

I'm a huge historical romance fan and especially enjoy stories set in Ireland. This book sounds wonderful!