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History Buff is a site
for history lovers everywhere. It is also a site very interested in women
of the past. Although I (sadly) no longer have time to continue these interviews, here is an archive of Q&As about women's lives
in history. And please feel free to stop by History Buff's
sister site for archaeological discoveries making news today. Enjoy!
historical fiction writer I am fascinated by news stories featuring the
past as it's unearthed and reimagined and brought to life. I spend a
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Saturday, March 19, 2011
Q&A with historical fiction author Karen Harper
Q: An Irish princess in the Tudor Era? I didn’t know the Irish had royalty.
A: The heroine’s Fitzgerald family were considered the “uncrowned kings of Ireland.” They controlled much of the country for decades. The heroine’s father, the Earl of Kildare, managed to get along with the Tudors for a while, until his heir rebelled against King Henry. The English king then declared war on the Fitzgeralds and invaded Ireland. His military general arrested many of the Fitzgerald men who were sent to the Tower of London and executed. The king took the Earl of Kildare’s daughter, Elizabeth (Gera) into his court. (Trivia for the day: one reason President John Fitzgerald Kennedy liked to use his middle name was that the Irish, even American Irish of the 1960s, would still feel loyalty to that name.)
Q: So the heroine, Gera Fitzgerald, and her family were all real people. Were they hard to research?
A: They were a prominent enough family that there is much written about them, though, of course, the women members were not as well known. But Gera escaped the devastation of her home and family, made a life for herself and worked to avenge her family’s losses during the reigns of Henry VIII, Mary I and Elizabeth I. When Gera’s life starts to intertwine with these historical figures, including the important man she eventually married, she is easier to trace.
Q: So, if she was living in England after her family fell, did the Irish rebel marry an Englishman?
A: She did, and it was quite a love-hate relationship for a while because she hated the English and the king for ruining her family. And the hero, High Admiral Edward Clinton, worked for the Tudors. Besides, both Gera and Edward were “forced into” arranged marriages before they could finally persevere and marry each other. Even then, their life together and the times were dangerous and turbulent.
Q: As best you can tell, what was ‘The Irish Princess’ really like?
A: First of all, she was a survivor. The two portraits remaining of her show a pretty red head with a very determined look. Gera was once sent to the Tower of London for “plainspeaking to the queen” [this was Queen Elizabeth] but was quickly reinstated as one of Elizabeth’s closest friends. That led me to her feisty nature, her insistence on the truth, her strong backbone and her amazing ability to be a friend of Elizabeth Tudor when Gera had hated the queen’s father. That shaped much of the plot and Gera’s main motivation--revenge. Also, Gera was a beautiful woman, who inspired some of the Earl of Surrey’s poetry. For Queen Elizabeth to allow a lovely redhead to be her friend when she wanted to be the center of attention and the most beautiful woman at court really says something about Gera’s powers of persuasion.
Q: So Henry VIII emerges as the villain in the book?
A: Absolutely! The more I use him as a character, as I have in THE LAST BOLEYN and THE QUEEN’S GOVERNESS as well as in this novel, the more reasons I find to detest the man. I keep coming back to that old saying, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” King Henry VIII dealt with many noble families, especially those with any royal ancestors, by finding ways to utterly destroy them. Of course, I must admit now that I’ve just completed a novel about his parents, I can see why he became so paranoid about anyone who had a drop of royal blood and could threaten his throne.
Q: For those of us who love to travel, what are some of the Irish or English sites associated with the Fitzgeralds?
A: Their stronghold was Maynooth Castle eleven miles from Dublin in County Kildare, but it is much changed from Gera’s time. It was damaged by a siege when King Henry’s forces attacked it. The keep and newer manor house are available to tour. Pictures can be found at http://www.heritageireland.ie/en/midlandseastcoast/MaynoothCastle. In England, Gera would have known many of the typical Tudor places such as Hampton Court and the Tower of London.
Q: You also write contemporary suspense set in Amish country. Isn’t that a real stretch from Tudor England?
A: I love to take my readers into places that are different, and clashing cultures make for fascinating reading: the English vs. the Irish; the Amish vs. mainstream culture. It also works well for the romance angle of the story to have the hero and heroine come from opposing world views. They learn to appreciate and overcome their differences and, hopefully, the reader does too.
Q: Anything else you’d like to add about THE IRISH PRINCESS?
A: Only that it makes a great St. Patrick’s Day reading. Erin go bragh!
Thank you Karen! And feel free to visit Karen Harper online for more information about her amazing new novel THE IRISH PRINCESS.