Happy Hour with Katharine Ashe


Katharine Ashe is the USA Today bestselling author of historical romances that reviewers call “intensely lush” and “sensationally intelligent,” including her latest novel The Duke, which won starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Kirkus, and is on Amazon’s list of the Best Romances of 2017. Katharine lives in Durham with her beloved husband, son, dog, and a garden she likes to call romantic rather than unkempt. A professor of history and popular culture, she writes romance because she thinks modern readers deserve grand adventures and breathtaking sensuality too.




How did you become a romance lit writer?


Love is the best thing in the world. While I adore history, adventure, and mystery — and my novels are chock full of them — love stories give us hope. At heart, romance fiction is about struggling through conflict, learning and growing, and emerging on the other side stronger and wiser and happier — and truly, honestly loved.


I actually had a pretty unusual path to becoming a romance novelist. (More about that HERE ) 




What is the biggest misperception about romance lit?


That it’s poorly written “trash” or “mommy porn.” Every genre of fiction has literary conventions, and romance includes strong heroines, emotional and physical intimacy, and a satisfying romantic conclusion. That leaves a whole lot of room to go wild. That romantic fiction is categorically disparaged because many novels feature satisfying on-the-page sex and happy endings is a strange phenomenon that I believe is largely based in misogyny and ignorance of the genre.


I’ve got a few words for folks who’re comfortable dissing all genre romance without actually knowing much about it. (More HERE )


and more on why it’s not necessarily an anti-feminist genre HERE.



What do you work to accomplish with your writing?


My hope is that a reader will get swept up and swept away for a bit — laugh, smile, gasp, sigh, and turn the final page feeling as though they’ve fallen in love too. And I adore hearing from readers who’ve learned a little history from my novels. One of the wonderful things about romance fiction is that a single novel can offer up plenty of fascinating history and page-turning mystery and intrigue, but also that sense of hope. My favorite thing is to write a rollercoaster ride that ends in joy. If it’s satisfyingly sexy along the way, all the better.


Also, I write strong, smart heroines. They don’t tolerate misogynistic, abusive, harassing, authoritarian heroes. They’re usually in the process of discerning what they want from life and how to get it. My heroes have their own lessons to learn along the way too, but they are above all good men who respect women and help the heroines win. My heroes don’t need to be taught how to be decent human beings; they’re fully worthy of my heroines from the start.



How do you find quiet and foster your creative inspiration in spite of our noisy, interruption-oriented culture today?


I shut off everything — Internet, phone, TV — and take breaks from social media and email for days and sometimes weeks. I write best when I’m completely lost in the story. I write the way I love to read a novel: total immersion.



How did you end up living in Durham?


My husband and I came to work at Duke in 2007 (I teach part time in History and Religious Studies). I’d also gone to college here in the 80’s. I fell in love with Durham my senior year when I lived on Watts Street and spent as much time in the city as on campus.



What do you love most about our city?


Its diversity and warmth of community. (And Vert & Vogue, of course!)



What does our downtown need now?


All truly great cities need good affordable housing.



What is your biggest hope for our community?


That we’ll continue on the progressive edge of social justice and politics, encourage and support our diversity, and favor local businesses and residents in our policies and development.



What is your favorite mixed drink or wine?


Bubbly! Champagne, Prosecco, Crémant, Cava… I’m also partial to dirty vodka martinis with extra olives. And Shannon at Alley 26 makes a mescal daiquiri that blows me away.