Saturday, February 16, 2013

Katherine Howe

Katherine Howe was born in Houston, Texas, and holds degrees in art history and philosophy from Columbia and in American and New England Studies from Boston University. She is the author of The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, which debuted at #2 on the New York Times bestseller list, and which has been translated into more than twenty languages.

Howe's latest novel is The House of Velvet and Glass.

Not so long ago I asked the author about what she was reading.  Her reply:
Maybe it's because so much of The House of Velvet and Glass concerns ocean-going, between scenes set on the last night of Titanic and one character's adventure set on a clipper ship bound for Shanghai, but lately I've been reading a lot of nonfiction books about sailing. I've been particularly drawn to A World of my Own, by Robin Knox-Johnston, a gripping memoir by the first man to circumnavigate the globe in a single-handed sailboat, and to The Long Way by Bernard Moitessier. Moitessier was competing against Knox-Johnston for the Golden Globe, one of two prizes offered by the Sunday Times in 1968: one for first solo circumnavigation in a sailboat, and another for fastest solo circumnavigation. Knox-Johnston came in first, and Moitessier seemed certain to win for fastest. But instead of returning to port to claim his prize, at the last minute Moitessier decided to keep going. He turned south to round the Cape again and continued halfway around the world alone, on his own, leaving behind his family and friends, because he felt compelled to. Both of these men and the other seven competitors in the Golden Globe appear in Peter Nichols' breathtaking A Voyage for Madmen, the classic account of the Golden Globe race, in which nine men set out to circle the world alone, but only one returned. Nichols' book illuminates the particular personalities of men who, like my character Lan Allston, are drawn to seek their fortunes on the sea, even though it could destroy them.

While it's true I'm attracted to these true tales of ocean adventure in part because I'm an amateur weekend sailor myself, I think I'm also drawn to them because the experience of setting forth alone in a boat doesn't seem all that different, metaphorically speaking, from writing a book. You might think you know where you're going, that you are prepared for what you're about to do, but there will be surprises and challenges ahead. You might not end up where you expect. You must pay constant attention. The risks are all yours, but so is the authority. There must be rigor brought to the enterprise, or all will be lost.
Visit Katherine Howe's website.

The Page 69 Test: The House of Velvet and Glass.

My Book, The Movie: The House of Velvet and Glass.

--Marshal Zeringue