Research for author Kerry Chaput‘s interview question began with her website, and I knew immediately we’d get along just fine. Anyone who “believes in warm drinks and tall tales” is welcome in my circle any time! Kerry also believes in (and loves) historical fiction, and her traditionally published debut in that genre, Daughter of the King, just released last week. Naomi Lisa Shippen wrote of the book, ” “If you enjoy swashbuckling adventure, romance and stories set in exciting and dangerous times, then you’re going to love Daughter of the King,” while other readers have called it “historical fiction at its best” and “a sweeping tale . . . ripped right from the pages of the history books.” Lucky for readers, the novel is the first in a series, so we’ll soon find out what happens to Isabelle! At this time of the year, it’s difficult to find time to much else but stress, so I’m very thankful Kerry took more than a few moments to thoughtfully answer these questions.
Christina: Daughter of the King is historical fiction, set in 1661 France. What draws you to historical fiction? Did this story begin as such? Could you see the basic plotline working in any other genre?
Kerry: My father was a US History teacher, and he hosted his honors class in our living room every Thursday night. As far back as I can remember, I would hide behind the couch and listen to the students debate. History literally came alive around me, and it instilled in me a deep desire to understand our past. Historical fiction has always been my genre of choice as a reader because I get to read a great story and travel back in time, often learning something new in every book. As I stepped into the world of writing, I always knew it would be as a historical fiction author. As for Daughter of the King, I focus on the true story of the women who settled French Canada and the struggle of the Protestants of the time. I think religious extremism and the harassment of people who don’t think like the mainstream is probably just as timely today as it was in 1661.
Christina: Regarding those women who settled French Canada: is the main character, Isabelle, based on anyone? What sort of research did you do to make sure that Isabelle remained true to her era?
Kerry: Isabelle is fictional, but who she represents is very real. This group of eight hundred women over a span of ten years left extreme poverty in France for the chance of a better life in Canada. The lives of those women are well documented, and they are a great source of pride for Canadians today—for good reason. I spent two years researching the Filles du Roi program with an extensive ancestry search and books found at college libraries and used bookstores. I discovered this story by accident, while researching my husband’s lineage as a Christmas gift. I found thirty-three Filles du Roi in his line, and once I began learning about who my daughters are descended from, my commitment to telling their story deepened. Some of the young women left La Rochelle as French Protestants and arrived in Canada as Catholics, which would have been an incredible sacrifice for them. This was the story I chose to tell because it wasn’t just about a better life. Their choices came with family betrayal and abandoning everything they’d been taught about their place in life.
Christina: Daughter of the King is your first book with a traditional publisher, and you’ve written about your publication journey on your blog. As a fellow writer with a similar long road to publication, I have to ask: What have you learned? Do you see pros and cons to both self-publishing and traditional publishers? Would you follow the same path again?
Kerry: I have to say, I’m so glad my publishing path turned out this way. My indie books taught me so much about the industry, how to hustle, how to connect with your fellow authors and readers. That process gave me a strong base to build on, and the traditional publisher comes with a bigger platform and higher potential for book exposure. I think it’s great to know how KDP formatting is a total beast, how to navigate Goodreads, and where it’s worth spending your money (custom book covers, marketing/PR) prior to that larger platform with a traditional publisher. What I’ve learned through this path is that patience and tenacity are your best friends. Everything is possible, but you must be willing to work for it. Daughter of the King went through three pitch events, seventy query rejections, and approximately seven full rewrites before finally receiving an R&R (revise and resubmit). I learned how to adjust my process and my writing, taking in feedback and putting it to use. Now I look at that gorgeous cover and I’m so proud that my four years of hard work on this book has finally paid off. I’m a better writer for having been through all that.
Christina: Your bio resonates with me because I, too, chose “the responsible route.” What lessons have you learned in your years as a physical therapist that have helped your writing? Do you draw from your experiences in any of your writing?
Kerry: Again, I go back to commitment. I earned my bachelors, masters, and doctorate degrees, which gave me a solid career. I developed the strength to know that I can commit to anything I want to do. Writing took a positive turn for me when I decided to approach it as I did my doctorate. Commit one hundred percent and read voraciously. It’s proved to be a winning combo for me.
I have heard some of the most fantastic stories over the years from my patients. Dropping out of planes on D-Day and working as a secretary for Winston Churchill. I’ve seen the forearm tattoo of a Holocaust survivor and heard deep family secrets people just couldn’t hold in anymore. My favorite part of their rehab was listening to their incredible life stories. I think they inspired me to keep their histories alive. I worked primarily with the geriatric population and my critique partners are always amazed that I write “tough old broads” as well as I do. The tough as nails older women were my favorite people to work with and they still inspire me as I write.
Christina: You’re part of the Query Chats duo (along with author Jen Craven) featured on Instagram on Mondays at 7 p.m. ET. How did this partnership come about? What do you hope to accomplish?
Kerry: Jen and I met through Instagram, both of us indie authors with projects out in the query trenches. We are both part of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association and decided a while back to support each other. This partnership became a friendship, and we have exchanged WIPs and books, offering critiques on writing, pitches, and query letters. Jen wanted to start a series of Instagram lives where we could give that kind of support to our author friends out there going through the difficult process of querying and I was so excited to join her. We meet every Monday evening and it’s been so fun!
Christina: In a recent blog post, you wrote about why you don’t personally participate in National Novel Writing Month. You stated, “My challenge is to slow down and be very purposeful with my words and plots.” What are your tips for slowing down, finding the correct words, and being at peace with what we’ve written?
Kerry: NaNoWriMo is definitely not for me. I can see that it would be wonderful for many writers, but I’m not one of them. I’m working on my fifth book right now and I’ve discovered that as a pantser, I have to stop myself every step of the way to challenge my ideas. How does each choice play into the larger plot, the character development? Where do I need to breathe in the story, to soften, to heighten? Honestly, I’ve never asked myself those questions until just recently. I write entirely off of intuition. This can be wonderful, but it can also lead me astray (and it has). I’ve learned so much about writing craft over the last four books, and my current focus is to slow down to put that into practice as I write my rough draft. If given permission, I’d probably write five thousand words per day of total nonsense, then have the unenviable task of cutting 90 percent of it! I think it’s about finding the process that works for you. I will never be a plotter, but I now take several months to marinate on an idea, not putting one word on the page until I understand the stakes and the emotional journey of the protagonist. Writing into the great expanse of my imagination, while thrilling, leaves me with a hot mess to clean up in revisions, and taking this extra step keeps me on track, but still allows for a little magic in the process. I think every writer should allow for those surprises — those moments that take you by storm, almost as if the characters take over and demand to be heard. Is it muse, is it imagination, is it magic? Maybe a little bit of all that, but it’s the most delicious part of the process, and I hope everyone lets themselves enjoy the detour.
Christina: You’re an introvert and once said, “I like coffee and maybe . . . three people.” What sort of coffee, and what do you look for in someone before allowing them into your circle?
Kerry: Coffee has been my constant friend for my whole adult life. I even snapped a picture recently of the coffee shop where my obsession began back in college. I mostly drink lattes and cappuccinos, having switched from drip coffee after a trip to Europe in my late twenties. I collect mugs and my early morning ritual of coffee and writing is what keeps me sane throughout the day. Although I do keep my circle small, the three people might have been a bit of an exaggeration. I have come to terms with my introvertedness, actually loving the quiet routine of my life. I also struggle with anxiety, and I guess I seek out the people who make me feel comfortable. In an interesting twist, I have a full, wonderful tribe of authors that have become wonderful friends, while my non-writing life is still quite small, just my immediate family and a few close friends. Maybe it’s the like-minded nature of writers that make me feel like I can be myself.
Thanks to Kerry for agreeing to this interview! If you know of an author who’d like to be featured in an interview (or you are an author who would like to be featured), feel free to leave a comment or email me via my contact page.