Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Kaaren Christopherson of Decorum - #interview

Kaaren Christopherson’s brilliantly observed novel captures the glamour and grit of one of the world’s most dazzling cities during one of its most tumultuous eras–as seen through the eyes of a singularly captivating heroine…

In 1890s New York, beautiful, wealthy Francesca Lund is an intriguing prospect for worthy suitors and fortune hunters alike. Recently orphaned, she copes by working with the poor in the city’s settlement movement. But a young woman of means can’t shun society for long, and Francesca’s long-standing acquaintance with dashing Edmund Tracey eventually leads to engagement. Yet her sheltered upbringing doesn’t blind her to the indiscretions of the well-to-do…

Among the fashionable circle that gathers around her there are mistresses, scandals, and gentlemen of ruthless ambition. And there is Connor O’Casey–an entirely new kind of New Yorker. A self-made millionaire of Irish stock, Connor wants more than riches. He wants to create a legacy in the form of a luxury Madison Avenue hotel–and he wants Francesca by his side as he does it. In a quest that will take her from impeccable Manhattan salons to the wild Canadian Rockies, Francesca must choose not only between two vastly different men, but between convention and her own emerging self-reliance.



Kaaren Christopherson is the author of Decorum—a novel about Gilded Age New York—that began taking form in 1999 during a course on writing historical fiction. From that moment, Connor O’Casey (who had been rattling around in her brain for months) finally appeared one night and said, “All right, woman. Here I am. What are you going to do about my story?” So she began to put his words on paper, and he hasn’t kept quiet since. Soon Francesca, Blanche, Tracey, Vinnie, and the rest of the characters began arguing, gossiping, loving, and forming themselves into Kaaren’s first novel.

Kaaren has had a professional career writing and editing for over 30 years and is a senior editor for an international development nonprofit organization in Washington, DC.

She has written fiction since her school days, story poems, children’s books, historical fiction, and time travel, and continues to be active in writer’s groups and writing workshops. In addition to her career as a writer, Kaaren was the owner of a decorative painting business. She loves to travel and prowl through historical sites, galleries, and museums. She is active in several churches in DC and in her local Northern Virginia community, where she shares her home with feline brothers, Archie and Sammy.

A Michigan native, Kaaren received her BA in history and art and her MA in educational administration from Central Michigan University in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan.

For more information visit Kaaren Christopherson’s website. You can also find her on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads


1.  Who did the cover for Decorum? Decorum had reached the stage in the publishing process when work on the cover art was about to begin. I was so very fortunate that just at that time my editor at Kensington Publishing saw this painting of Olivia Peyton Murray Cutting in a Gilded Age exhibit in the Museum of the City of New York. He asked me whether I thought this would be good inspiration for the art department at Kensington to create a new, original cover for Decorum. Of course, I said yes! Before I knew it, Kensington had acquired the rights to use the actual painting for the cover. I feel very fortunate to have Mrs. Cutting represent the look and feel of the Gilded Age. She’s perfect.

2.  How did you come up with the idea for 'The O’Casey Chronicle' as a way to give your readers 'extra'?

I was trying to come up with a way to get potential readers interested in the novel in the months leading up to the release of Decorum. Decorum is my first novel, so I didn’t have a ready-made audience from previous books and readers didn’t know anything about me as a writer. I came up with the idea of an 1890s tabloid that would give backstory on the characters without actually giving the plot of the book away, plus a character biosketch, and “Miss Decorum,” which was intended to introduce the idea of etiquette and the quotations that are in the novel. So, for example, the first issue of The O’Casey Chronicle features an article about what happened the day Francesca’s family was killed, which is the opening chapter of the book, but from a reporter’s perspective. It also has Francesca’s bio and a little Miss Decorum piece. The O’Casey Chronicle ran twice a month for eight months in the run-up to Decorum’srelease. Readers can see all the issues of The O’Casey Chronicle on my website:

3.  When did you first get bitten by the writing bug?
I have always loved writing and can remember as a child making little books, drawing the illustrations, and then stapling them along the edges. The first time I tried writing anything historical was in junior high school. I had a wonderful 9th grade English teacher who had a real knack for teaching literature—not only reading it, but writing it. She had us experiment with writing using concepts that many writers have trouble with, like point of view (who is telling the story) and onomatopoeia (using words that sound like what they represent, like sizzle or hush). I wrote a short story for class about Jennie Wade, the only civilian killed during the Battle of Gettysburg, from the point of view of her sister, with whom Jennie had been staying to care for her after childbirth. It was such a great challenge, using my imagination to bring a scene from history to life. I think I realized then that writing would be in my future. (I got an A for the Jennie Wade story, by the way.)

4.  What brought you from Michigan to DC? Like so many people in the Washington, DC, area, I came for a job. That was a very long time ago; I’ve actually spent more of my life in the DC area than in Michigan. I do get back to Michigan several times a year to see my family.

5.  If you could invite any writers from history to a supper soiree, whom would you invite and what would you talk about?

What a great idea! How about William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, F. Scott Fitzgerald (and Zelda), Edith Wharton (maybe she’d bring artist Edgar Degas with her), Leo Tolstoy, and Agatha Christie? I would be fascinated to hear them talk about how they approach their characters, how they handle the passage of time (meaning does the story take place in one day, over the course of a month, a year, over many years?), pacing the story, and where they get their inspiration—many of the same questions aspiring writers and avid readers ask. We never stop learning.

6.  If you could live in any time period of your choosing, when would you choose and why? Wow, that’s tough, there are so many years and eras I find fascinating, especially linked to events. I would love to have been in the crowd at Lindbergh’s landing at Le Bourget Field in Paris in May of 1927 or to have walked the streets of Boston or Philadelphia or New York before the American Revolution. I would love to have seen London before the great fire of 1666 or before the Blitz destroyed so much of London during World War II. I would love to have caught a glimpse of Queen Elizabeth I or France’s Louis XIV or to have seen San Francisco before the 1906 earthquake and fire. I would love to have been a fly on the wall during the negotiation of the Treaty of Versailles or the gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

7.  Some fiction authors title their chapters and some don't.  Is there some kind of rule to follow? And is a title meant to be kind of a preview?

I don’t think there’s any particular rule about titling chapters and you certainly see it done (or not) in many different ways. In the case of Decorum, the chapter title is taken from the little quotation from my great-grandmother’s etiquette book that introduces each chapter, so it has a real purpose. The chapter title and the quotation provide a set-up.

8.  What advice would you give to children who like to write?

Read, read, and read some more. Write, write, and write some more. Reading fuels writing. It’s like learning by observation. Eventually, what you love to read may become what you love to write.

9.  Where is a place (country or city) in the world you have not visited but would like to? My bucket list—goodness! I’d love to take a European river cruise. I’d love to visit St. Petersburg and the Hermitage. Turkey intrigues me. There are many, many places on the American continent I’d like to visit. Too many places, too little time!

10.  Does O’Casey et al have more stories to tell?

There are always more stories for any group of characters. I would love to write more about Connor, Francesca, Blanche, Vinnie, and the gang. I also have other stories going through my head, with characters I think could be very intriguing. So stay tuned!

1 comment:

  1. Ooo, historical fiction. I have a weakness for that. And that is an awesome cover.