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Katherine J. Chen Books In Order

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Stories from Suffragette City(2020)Description / Buy at Amazon

Katherine J. Chen
Katherine J. Chen’s work has been published in Literary Hub, The New York Times, and the Los Angeles Review of Books, as well as the historical fiction anthology “Stories From Suffragette City”.

Katherine got her MFA from Boston University, where she was a senior teaching fellow and was awarded the Florence Engel Randall Fiction Prize.

Katherine has been writing stories as long as she’s able to remember. When she was a kid, she made picture books. By the time she’d arrived to Princeton, she was focusing on poetry, and taking creative writing courses that were taught by the likes of Susanna Moore, CK Williams, and Meghan O’Rourke.

After she’d graduated, she worked at a literary agency for two and a half years before she signed a deal for “Mary B”.

She focused her debut novel on Mary Bennett because she found herself growing more and more distant from Elizabeth Bennett, the heroine of “Pride and Prejudice”. It happened organically.

Her eye continued to wander to the corners of the page and the screen, and she was more intrigued by the sister that lived in the shadows.

People are fast to cast Mary off as just some bookworm or as a pseudo-intellectual, sermonizing fool. Austen herself described Mary as being the sole plain one in the family, but still she worked hard for accomplishments and knowledge and was always impatient for display.

One of the times she reread the novel, and was in a state of mind at the time that she started to develop this curiosity for Mary. It interested Katherine that Mary’s described as being physically deficient, and even defective. A daughter that cannot just be married off (unless she’s independently wealthy) is more or less just a lifelong burden to her family.

Mary’s awareness of her own faults, and seeking to improve herself by “knowledge and accomplishments” signaled a decidedly forward thinking and fresh attitude.

With the novel, she didn’t seek to copy Austen or her voice in “Mary B”. The book is told from Mary’s point of view. And Katherine’s interpretation of her character is that she’s not one to sugar coat her thoughts or behavior.

Before writing the novel, she reread key sections out of James Edward Austen-Leigh’s memoir, and it was mentioned that Austen determined that Mary had obtained nothing better than one of her uncle Philips’s clerks for a husband. And Katherine found that rather pitiful. Austen is rather harsh to Mary, and so, out of necessity, Katherine became forced to take a stance on Mary that’s in great opposition to Austen’s original vision of the character.

For her second novel, she’d originally set out to write about Jesus Christ’s youth. However one day, while combing through her bookshelf, she came upon a biography about Joan of Arc. It’d been an impulse buy years prior, and she’d never gotten around to read it. The book caught her eye, and inspiration stuck.

She’d already finished a first draft when she was diagnosed with cancer by 2019. She felt this sea change had taken place inside her, and she had to rewrite the novel.

“Mary B” is the first stand alone novel and was released in 2018. The overlooked middle sister in “Pride and Prejudice” casts her prim exterior off and takes center stage in a fresh retelling of the classic novel.

What is to be done about Mary Bennett? She possesses neither the high spirited charm of Lizzy, nor the beauty of Jane, her eldest sister. Even compared to her frivolous younger siblings, Lydia and Kitty, Mary knows that she is lacking in all of the ways that matter for single, and not-so-well-to-do women during the nineteenth century England that must secure their futures through finding a husband. While her sisters get married off, one at a time, Mary pictures herself growing older, a spinster without any estate to run or kids to mind, dependent on the charity of other people. But at least she’s got the silent rebellion and some secret pleasures she gets from writing and reading to keep her company.

However even her own fictional creations are no match at all for the tragedy, scandal, and romance which eventually visit Mary’s life. In this novel, readers get transported well beyond the center of the ballroom to learn that wallflowers can sometimes be the most intriguing guests at the party. Underneath Mary’s bookish demeanor and plain appearance simmers this inner life that brims with imagination, passion, and humor, as well as a voice which demands to be heard.

Set during, before, and after “Pride and Prejudice”, Katherine’s vividly original debut pays homage to a beloved classic novel as it also envisions a life which is difficult to achieve in any era: that of a truly independent woman.

“Joan” is the second stand alone novel and was released in 2022. Warrior, girl, heretic. Saint? A stunning secular reimagining of the epic life of Joan of Arc.

1412. France is mired in this losing war against England. Its people have been starving. Its king is in hiding. From all of this chaos emerges a teen girl that will turn the tide of the battle and lead the French to victory, an unlikely hero whose name is going to echo through the centuries.

In Katherine J. Chen’s hands, the legend and myth of Joan of Arc becomes transformed into a flesh-and-blood woman: brilliant, reckless, and steel-willed. This deeply researched book is a sweeping narrative about her life, from a childhood that was steeped in both violence and joy to her following meteoric rise up to fame up at the head of the French army, where she navigates both the treacherous politics of the royal court and the perils of the battlefield. Many people are threatened by a woman that leads, and Joan draws a bit of suspicion and wrath from all corners, even while her first taste of glory and fame leave her vulnerable to her own powerful ambition.

With some unforgettably vivid characters, action packed storytelling, and transporting settings, this is a triumph of historical fiction, a thrilling epic, and is a feminist celebration of a remarkable, and a remarkably real, woman that left an indelible mark on history.

Book Series In Order » Authors » Katherine J. Chen

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