May 31st, 2020
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Interview with Karen Harper

After reading and reviewing Karen's historical novel, THE FIRST PRINCESS OF WALES for Fresh Fiction, we spoke about her work. Here's a distillation of that conversation.

Genie Davis: Karen, I so enjoyed reading THE FIRST PRINCESS OF WALES. I know that this book originally was published a number of years ago, did you change anything in its new incarnation?

Karen HarperKaren Harper: Yes, THE FIRST PRINCESS OF WALES, has been republished, which is great fun, because I love the characters and the Medieval Era. The amazing tale of Joan of Kent and the Black Prince of Plantagenet England was always one of my favorite historical love stories, and is all the more powerful for being about real people. I did revise the author's note, mentioning that when I first wrote the book, Princess Diana had recently married Prince Charles and their love story was still ongoing. After all their tragedies, the story now has new meaning. And I did rewrite a bit before the novel was republished. After all, writers learn a lot over the years and I wanted to tighten some scenes.

GD: You seemed to do exhaustive research for this book ‑ was it hard, and how long did it take? Do you enjoy the research process?

KH:I love doing research. Anyone who doesn't would be crazy to write a historical novel. I worked about nine months to write the book but had been researching it for years. I majored in English in college, but always took a lot of history courses. Also, I've traveled extensively in England, so that makes my English settings come alive for me--I hope for the reader too.

GD:. Can you tell us a little bit about some of your other books ‑ I know you write different genres for different publishers, which speaking personally seems to be what a lot of us are doing these days!

KH: I do write in several genres. I really enjoy writing contemporary romantic suspense for Mira Books. These are a mix of romance, mystery and thriller--pages turners for sure. The latest one is INFERNO. BELOW THE SURFACE, set in South Florida where I live in the winter, will be out in Feb. '08. I have also just completed a historical mystery series of nine books which feature Queen Elizabeth I as the amateur sleuth--there I go with my love of English history again.

GD: I've had THE MODEL MAN and FIVE O'CLOCK SHADOW - two romantic mystery/romantic suspense titles released myself, so I'm a big fan of that genre, and look forward to reading your latest as well. How about in the historical genre, do you have any new releases coming up there?

KH: In the historical novel category, I have also had THE LAST BOLEYN republished. If you read Philippa Gregory's THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL, you will realize that my book focuses on the same woman: however, I wrote about Mary Boleyn twenty years ago. The two books make for interesting comparison because, I view things differently from Ms. Gregory. I was very fortunate to have Baron Astor, then owner of Hever Castle, where Anne and Mary grew up, share his research with me.

GD: When did you first start writing? And what made you choose a writing life?

KH:I was actually first published in 1982 and have had 44 books on the shelves of America (and a lot of foreign countries.) I had taught writing and literature at both The Ohio State University at in high schools when, on one trip to England, I got an idea for THE LAST BOLEYN. I wrote it, sold it and kept writing. After five years of writing and teaching, I left teaching to write full time.

GD: What is your favorite part of writing in general and in writing each new book? Your least favorite?

KH: My favorite part of writing is seeing the amazing way things come together, almost as if parts of the book write themselves. My least favorite part, however, is dealing with the middle ("the muddle") of the book, where I'm juggling so many characters and plot lines. Also, keeping dates straight can drive me crazy. I am definitely a "word person," not a "numbers person."

GD: I totally hear you there! So - who or what has influenced you the most in terms of your writing?

KH: What has influenced me the most for my writing career is the fact that I taught writing and literature for 17 years. One of the best ways to learn how to do something is to have to teach it. Also, the fact that I love to read and read voraciously as a child has helped my own writing tremendously.

GD: Can you describe a little bit of your average writing day to us?

KH: My average day of writing begins early. My mind is much clearer in the AM than PM. I read over what I wrote the day before to get myself back into it, revising all the way. I revise everything between 4-5 times before I print it out the first time. It's always easier to find mistakes on the black and white page rather than on the pc screen. I write the story in order and like to be sure it is as correct as possible in all ways before moving on. I see each scene as an essential building block that must support the weight of all that will come next.

GD: Who or what do you like to read?

KH:I read widely, fiction and nonfiction, although a lot of the latter is for my own research. Between books I binge read fiction I have piled up. I try to read the first book in a lot of mystery series, but seldom get to read an entire series. I do get to read some books before they are published if editors or agents ask me to give novels an author endorsement, so that is fun. And I do have a shelf of "classic keepers" that first inspired me, mostly historical fiction set in England--no surprise there!

GD: Anything else you'd like your readers to know about you or your books?

KH:Having been a teacher for so long, I do like to give my readers something to learn in my novels. Of course, mission number one is to entertain. I try to bring alive a sweeping story of the past that still moves readers today. To learn more about my books and how I write, I hope people will visit my website at

GD: Thanks so much, Karen. It's a pleasure to speak with you.




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