I’m so proud and happy to host a Q&A today with Kathleen Kent. Kathleen’s a fantastic writer and her topics are near and dear to my heart: witchcraft (The Heretic’s Daughter), Colonial Massachusetts (The Wolves of Andover, also titled The Traitor’s Wife, but I love the consonance of the first title), and the lawless Old West (her latest novel, The Outcasts, which releases on Sept. 24, three days from now. Order now!)
Kathleen gave me an ARC at the Historical Novels Society conference in June. I devoured it and loved it; it really is a wonderful book and filled with harrowing scenes and lots of good plot twists. Here is our interview:
Q: In your new book The Outcasts you write two different character’s storylines: Lucinda Carter, who escapes a brothel and journeys to meet up with an old acquaintance, and Nate Cannon, doing a stint with the Texas Rangers. Was it difficult to write from a male perspective?
KK: No, I didn’t find it difficult at all. My second novel, The Traitor’s Wife, was written from various male points of view, as well as female. We all have masculine and feminine traits and intuitions, and part of the joy of being a writer is trying on all of those personas. I also think growing up with a dad who was a great storyteller of Texas legends helped to plant the voices in my head. From him I adopted the pride, awe and, at times, despair for the wild, rough-edged and dangerous men and women who settled the early frontier.
Q: What kind of research did you do to understand the psychology of someone who
knows their lover does despicable, harmful things to others—and yet still fiercely loves and admires them?
KK: There are so many stories in the history books, ancient and modern, of otherwise reasonable, intelligent women falling for unscrupulous men. Certainly it still happens today. All you have to do is open the paper (or click on the story while on-line) to see the destruction and carnage as a result of a woman aiding and supporting a bad man on a crime spree. As a character study, it was interesting to develop Lucinda’s growing dependence on her lover and the way she rationalizes his character and behavior. In a time when women had---and in many places still have---so few choices in their own destinies, it was easier and at times safer to turn a blind eye to misdeeds.
Q: We talked about your striking cover art in person. Can you talk a little bit about your input, and your feelings about the image? Is that gun *the* gun?
KK: I’ve been really fortunate in that regard as I’ve had a lot of say in the publisher’s choosing the cover art for my first two novels. For The Outcasts we discussed concepts first and then started looking at images. When I was shown the image that everyone seemed to love the most, I was equally enthusiastic about it. . .all except for the gun the woman is holding. Originally, the gun in the photo was a flintlock pistol from the late 1700s. It was a beautiful weapon, but completely inappropriate to the era. I sent back some images of Colt revolvers and, through the magic of photoshopping, the gun was magically transformed. If there’s one thing Texans know, it’s their guns! The gun that Lucinda carries in the novel is a small Remington derringer, effective in close quarters, but too small to look impressive on a book jacket.
Q: I know from your blog you’ve been interested in rumors of buried treasure in Middle Bayou. Did you have a similar fascination with the Texas Rangers?
KK: Growing up in Texas I was fascinated by the legends of the Texas Rangers. One of my father’s distant relatives, Thomas Hickman, is in the Ranger Hall of Fame and was most noted for keeping law and order in the wild North Texas oil-boom towns where my dad grew up. The Rangers of 19th c. Texas seemed to be a law unto themselves and were left unchallenged by government and welcomed by the settlers of the Republic to pursue their own unsanctioned and often violent methods of keeping the peace. After the Civil War, the Rangers were disbanded for a short while, but they continued to protect and serve unofficially, their experience and loyalty to the brotherhood often times more effective than the newly formed Texas State Police in keeping bushwackers, carpetbaggers, cattle and horse thieves at bay.
Q: What are you working on next?
KK: I have two projects that I’ve begun and I’ll have to decide soon which manuscript to finish before the other. The first is a historical novel set in 1910 in a Pennsylvania coal town and involves a mining accident and missing children. The second is a contemporary novel based on a short story, “Coincidences Can Kill You”, that will be published this November in Dallas Noir, an anthology of crime stories by Dallas authors.
Thanks so much, Kathleen! I wish you a world of luck with your launch in a few days. I'm sure we will be seeing this one on the NYT bestseller list as well.
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