Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed author Kerry Chaput about her life, what inspires her, and the creative process that went into her new book, Daughter Of The King.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
I work full time in healthcare and write books in every spare minute I find! I live in Bend, Oregon with my husband, two daughters, and two rescue pups. When not writing, you can find me on the hiking trail or in a coffee shop. I consider myself an introvert, an empath, and a caffeine junkie.
When did you first WANT to write a book?
Twelve. I did write a few terrible ones back then. There was this magical quality to books and storytelling, and I just knew I needed to be a part of it.
When did you take a step to start writing?
I attempted several times over the years, but I was still so insecure and the world knocked me back pretty easily. Writing wasn’t “practical” by my parent’s standards, so I turned away from it and chose the sensible path with a solid career. I focused on college and graduate school, marriage, career, kids.
When I turned forty, I just ran out of excuses, and I didn’t want to live one more minute not pursuing the thing I had always wanted to do. Ultimately, I stopped telling myself that I couldn’t do it. I wrote during nap times and in the early morning darkness before the house stirred. It made me feel like I had something special in my life, something I did just for me.
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
I started my first book at twenty-five, saved it to the hard drive and didn’t look at it for fifteen years! Once I picked it back up, it was another two years before I dared show it to an editor and published it the next year. She was so kind and encouraging (despite it being a hot mess). So, from start to finish, it took about eighteen years. Thank goodness I’ve sped up my process since then. My second novel took one year from idea to publication.
How long did it take you to complete your latest book from the first idea to release?
Four years. While writing my first book, I began to research my husband’s French-Canadian ancestry. I discovered this amazing story but didn’t dare start to write it. The research alone for seventeenth century France was a daunting task. But the story continued to nudge me, and I kept reading and researching. A story began to form, and it took me five months to complete a rough draft.
Still an inexperienced writer, I worked through many, many revisions, critique partners, editors, and beta readers. I pitched it and queried it without much success. I put it away for a good six months while I worked on another project and in that time, a small press offered me an R&R. Reignited with possibility, I dove back into edits. Two months later, I signed with Black Rose and Daughter of the King will publish on December 16, 2021. It’s book one of the Defying the Crown series.
Focusing on your latest release. What made you want to write Daughter Of The King?
The incredible story of these women simply blew me away. King Louis XIV recruited orphaned, impoverished young women to help populate the colony of Canada. He provided them a dowry, new clothes, paid passage, and protection. Once In Quebec, the women would interview and CHOOSE their husbands from a group of settlers.
They took as much time as they wished to make their choice and were under no obligation to marry if they chose not to. They were first married in a civil ceremony so they could break the contract at any time. The King provided money and a farm and paid them again with each baby.
Can you imagine, going from complete hopelessness to being a woman of power? They often chose their husbands in an old-world version of speed dating. I was so taken with their stories, and knowing my daughters are descended from at least three dozen of these incredible women kept the story close to my heart.
What were your biggest challenges with writing Daughter Of The King?
When I started this, I had no tools for being a writer yet. Luckily, I know my way around research so learning about life in 1661 France was an exciting part of the process. Plot comes naturally for me, but I knew little about story structure, character arcs, or word count. My first draft was very messy, and I had to do the difficult work of learning to write as I revised my story.
I was lucky enough to be in a wonderful critique group and they taught me so much. I read craft books and watched webinars, and read every historical fiction book I could get my hands on. I went through the painful process of querying a book that wasn’t ready because I didn’t know it wasn’t ready. Once I completed the R&R I finally understood how to put together all that I’d learned. Querying too soon- it’s the most common pitfall I hear from writers. But I think it’s a mistake we all make and learn from.
Who or what inspired you when creating your Protagonist?
Several of the women I researched originated from La Rochelle, France. This was a Protestant stronghold, resisting the demands of Catholic France. I found the idea of faith and struggle an interesting part of French history. Isabelle Colette represents the women who had to face a difficult decision —a future in exchange for loyalty. Isabelle suffers a crisis of faith, struggling to accept her life of persecution as a Protestant. Many of these young women had to face the choice to go against their family’s wishes and convert to Catholicism, otherwise risk death or torture. The stakes couldn’t have been higher.
Who or what inspired you when creating your Antagonist?
The true story of the Huguenots (French Protestants) is a sad and often overlooked part of history. I was intrigued with the idea of Isabelle’s antagonist being her own country. The King who ordered her torture offers her an unbelievable opportunity. I love the idea of one woman taking on the monarchy in her own quiet way. Hence the title of the series, Defying the Crown.
What is the inciting incident of Daughter Of The King
Isabelle risks her life daily to help her fellow Protestants. She finds resistance in the smallest of moments simply by walking through town and delivering goods to houses. When an elder in her Protestant community is killed while the Catholics try to force his conversion, she realizes that remaining Protestant will end in tragedy. She questions her faith but her devout mother will not allow her to consider any other way. She’s thrust toward a choice she isn’t prepared to make.
What is the main conflict of Daughter Of The King?
Isabelle wants freedom above all else. She wants to breathe free and choose faith and love on her own terms, but her mother and her country won’t allow her to do that. Whether she remains Protestant or becomes Catholic, both would mean betrayal. When she meets a handsome Catholic soldier, she begins to see the world differently and questions her life of fear. To accept a future as a Daughter of the King, she would need to leave behind the memories of her past, and her deep desire to save her people.
Did you plot Daughter Of The King in advance, or fly by the seat of your pants and write freely?
I am a revision writer and a pantser. I write my first draft wild and free, and usually require many revisions to add layers and texture, streamline the story, and sadly, cut some characters. I find that it’s easier for me to overwrite and pull back later. I love the process of sitting down at the computer with no idea what I’m going to write, only to find that the story sort of writes itself. It often takes me on wild adventures that surprise me. I discover the story through multiple drafts, deepening my understanding of the characters.
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did Daughter Of The King need?
So. Much. Help. Yes, I used two developmental editors, three critique partners, multiple beta readers, and author friends who work as editors. This book would not be what it is without their help.
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a story?
Get out of your own way. I believe that stories want to be written, and writers can block that flow by summoning our favorite insecurities (imposter syndrome, inadequacy, and fear). When we can find a way to quiet the voices and just write where the story takes you, magic happens. Don’t ever be afraid to write the wrong thing. You can fix anything and everything later. Just let the story speak to you and remember every day why you wanted to write it in the first place. I hold tight to the idea that if your motivation is the love of storytelling, you can’t go wrong.
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
I’m currently in revisions of another historical set in the Great Depression about seventeen-year-old Magnolia, an orphan who fights to protect her little brothers. It involves orphan asylums, kids riding the rails, and Eleanor Roosevelt. And one complicated, brave protagonist.
And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
I can honestly say that the day I decided to “be” a writer, my life changed. While I am so incredibly proud of myself for every book I’ve written, nothing makes me prouder than having the strength to admit that I wanted it. I dropped the “aspiring” disclaimer early on and simply declared, “I am a writer.” That is the moment I am most proud of because it meant shedding all the things that held me back. Every book is a reminder of the moment I took control of my life and pursued my dream.
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