Rising Star Spotlight: Kate Archer!

Kate
Archer

You hold dual citizenship, American and Irish.  Tell us about that!
My Nana emigrated here in her twenties. She’d been raised on a small farm in County Leitrim that could not support all the brothers and sisters, so they scattered and went all over the world—Canada, the U.S., and Australia mostly.
My grandmother’s ending up in the U.S. was a little bit of happenstance. She had been working as a nanny for a British Colonel and he was being transferred to Nairobi. She was invited to go and she desperately wanted to, but her mother put her foot down on that idea so she joined her sister in New York instead.
You’ve had a lot of different careers, which one was the most rewarding, and which would you like to forget?
I have had a lot of careers. The last time I interviewed for a job, I noticed the interviewer looking a little perplexed at my resume and I said, “I should probably walk you through this.”
Writing is, no surprise, the most rewarding. It is a job, yes, but it is a job that I would do even if nobody was paying me. (There have been long bouts of no pay, especially in the beginning.) It is a privilege to work at something that feels like fun. It’s like if you love to play tennis in your free time and then somebody says, “I can make tennis your job.”
One career I would like to leave behind FOREVER was running a county civil court. Not much good happens there, it’s pretty much all bad news—divorce, custody, evictions, mortgage foreclosures, tax liens, judgements, you get the idea. The only happy things we did were name changes and passports. Customer service is a challenge anywhere, but when everybody who walks in is already upset, angry, and/or distraught, it is a heightened sort of experience. As well, I worked for an elected official, and I will never do that again! As it turns out, I rather despise politics and its unseemly habits.
One of your past careers was teaching SCUBA. Tell us about that.
That was one of the careers I fell into almost by accident. I was working hard in NYC for too many hours and too many years and had a lot of vacations canceled at the last minute. So one day I decided I would take a year off and live in the Caribbean.
I ended up staying for eight years and became a master instructor. While it didn’t seem like the next logical step from an office job in NYC, it was a pretty good fit for me; I’d been swimming and sailing all my life. I really liked the aspect of training students into confidence, and the psychology learners taking in and synthesizing new information.
What first prompted you to write a book?
Writing, like most of my careers, was not a linear progression. First I thought I’d write a book for my young niece and nephew, which I did. In retrospect, it was far too long and had way too many characters for a book for young readers. It also was set in Regency England, as that’s where my real interests were. From there, I tried all sorts of writing, but kept circling back to that time-period.
Writing takes a lot of practice and though I read that fact a hundred times in a hundred places, I conveniently ignored it. And then I found out through experience that it was true! There is nothing so deeply fun and satisfying as to be able to create a world and people it with interesting characters. I help run a writing group and we just had our summer social. I looked around the room that night and thought, “We are the luckiest people on earth!”
Your regency romance books often feature servants with their own point of view. Why is that important to you?
I think of a regency era house as a living organism where everybody has a part to play. And, like most organizations that involve multiple people working in concert, things are not always going to go smoothly, nor is everybody going to exhibit mad respect for the bosses. One of the things I think managers overlook in their carefully laid plans is diverse personalities. I want my regency house to be filled with big personalities.
I love my butlers especially. In book two of A Society of Sponsoring Ladies, The Sprinter, Mr. Ranston has a nervous condition and is prone to fainting at inopportune times, while also telling spine chilling stories of his experiences in the war to his staff.
In book six, The Regal, the duchess believes her butler can predict the weather and that is, in fact, how he got the job. He can do no such thing and is almost always wrong, but he has invented lofty technical terms and rather whimsical theories about weather.
I have also had a few lady’s maids playing a large role in some of the plots. Bemmy in book 3, The Undaunted, is perhaps my favorite. She is not a lady’s maid at all. She saw other women coming and going for interviews and walked right in. She has remarkably bad judgment and leads her young charge into all sorts of nonsense. What she can do, though, is appear the most serious, strict, and grave maid that ever walked the earth when speaking to the mistress of the house, who calls her ‘a treasure’.
Bravo aux serviteurs, I say.
Your books contain a lot of humor, tell us about that.
I actually wrote my critical thesis on humor because it is such a fascinating subject to explore. If you ever want a good laugh, check out Freud’s theories—there was never anybody less funny trying to define funny.
I think the overarching general consensus today is that humor is subjective, but I also do not think that is exactly true. It is true that what one person might think is hilarious, another does not. However, I believe that is not due to the structure of the joke, but rather its subject matter.
I am most attracted to character-driven humor. Meaning, the humor is not random but springs from the character’s particular view of the world and their place in it. We all learn thousands of societal agreements throughout our lives—red lights mean stop, that sort of thing. The humorous character has gone off the rails on some of these agreements. BUT, they’ve gone off the rails for reasons that are part of their history and seasoned by their innate temperament.
Jane Austen may not have known what to call it, but she instinctively understood it. Emma is who she is because of what she’s lived and tempered by her innate personality. Mrs. Bennet is who she is because of what she’s experienced and her natural inclination toward hysterics. I am also convinced that Charles Dickens looked at what Miss Austen had done and took it even further. If you are looking for examples of characters with their own delusions about themselves and the world, look no further than The Pickwick Papers.  
The essential is that this character might be or do or think outrageously. But they are not outrageous to themselves. They make perfect sense to themselves and society is their ultimate straight man.
What attracted you to the Regency time-period?
That’s always such an interesting question because while it was an actual time-period, the reality of it is really not what we romance authors are writing about. It is as if we have been able to create a new and invented time-period that is so much more pleasant!
I do not write about the abominable state of human rights, or the horrifying positions a woman was put into by the governing laws, or the abject poverty or the terrible punishments for being poor and committing a crime to stay alive, or the workhouse or the lack of antibiotics or any of the terrible realities for most people of that time. I do not even write about the toilet situation or lack of deodorant or awful dental care.
I have swept all of those realities offstage and am happy to do so. I suspect there are curmudgeons out there who would be violently opposed to this sweeping away of realities. Fortunately, I do not believe many curmudgeons read romance so I am unlikely to hear from them. If I did, though, this is what I would say to them: “Explain to me why it is wrong to wish to travel to a different time where everything sparkles and all will come right in the end? Explain to me what sticking to cold reality all the time gets you? Because as far as I can tell, it’s only turned you into a curmudgeon.”
Really, the actual world we live in is complicated enough. I am delighted to travel to this wonderful world we have created together, even if it never really existed as I describe it.
Tell us about The Society of Sponsoring Ladies.
Six highly placed matrons are bound together in friendship by the one tragedy of their lives—none of them have daughters. These women are not at all alike and would not have been friends but for that commonality. They had all imagined they would have daughters to dress and coddle and bring out into society. It is a disappointment they cannot get over.
One day, they decide to do something about it. They decide they can have daughters, if not their own flesh and blood. They will bring in girls who have the background but not the money for a season, conveniently leaving actual parents behind.
How can readers get in touch with you?
Katearcherauthor on both Facebook and Instagram and my website is katearcher.weebly.com. My newsletter sign up link is http://eepurl.com/hcOKyn (Don’t worry, I do not email regularly—just when I have a book coming out).
I have started to post regency crosswords I make up myself, and also break apart puzzles where you click on a picture from the regency and it jumbles it into pieces and you put it back together again. Try them, they’re fun!