We’re thrilled to welcome Daisy Goodwin. If you’re not familiar with her historicals filled with rebellious heiresses and the complicated men who tempt them, now is the time to get acquainted. Last year, her debut novel An American Heiress was the only cure for my Downton Abbey withdrawal. Now, with The Fortune Hunter, she created a hero I hated to love – but loved nonetheless.
JB: The Fortune Hunter was inspired by the real-life 19th century Empress of Austria, Elizabeth. But the heroine of the novel is a different woman. Did it surprise you that Charlotte took center stage, or was that how you envisioned the book from the beginning?
DG: Good question. I started the book thinking that Sisi would be the heroine, but as I started writing about Charlotte she pushed her way to the front of the book. And when I made her a photographer, I realized that she was the lens through which we see all the other characters.
JB: I was amazed by how much I fell in love with The Fortune Hunter’s Bay Middleton – a man caught between Elizabeth and Charlotte. He could have come across as a hopeless cad, but he didn’t. Was this challenging for you as a writer?
DG: I think we have all fallen for a man who is more charming than he is reliable, I certainly have. Bay doesn’t mean to betray Charlotte but he is overwhelmed by the moment — and lets face it, how do you turn down an Empress?
JB: I saw on Facebook that you visited the grave of the real Bay Middleton. What was that like?
DG: It was rather an impressive monument. Charlotte is buried there, too, and their daughter Violet. One of the biggest surprises for me was meeting Bay’s great-great granddaughter. She showed me the ring that Sisi gave Bay which has his name spelled in diamonds. I think that removed any lingering doubt that they were romantically involved.
JB: Bay Middleton is a real-life distant relation of Kate, The Duchess of Cambridge. Since you find so much inspiration from women in the royal sphere, do you ever see yourself creating a heroine inspired by her story?
DG: I think Kate is too sorted and in command of her emotions to be a great heroine. I admire her very much though, so maybe one day I will change my mind.
JB: Horses play a big role in this story. Are you a rider?
DG: I used to ride quite a lot as a child, and then when I went to Argentina for a few months I used to ride polo ponies in the pampas which was heaven. There is nothing better than galloping over open country. But I have never been hunting, that is too scary for me: too many people I know have been seriously injured. I am happy just to write about it.
JB: I discovered your first novel, The American Heiress, when I was having Downton Abbey withdrawal. Are you a fan of the show?
DG: Of course! My book came out in the UK just before the show came out, so imagine my surprise when Downton Abbey premiered a month later, with an American heiress called Cora! It gave me quite a turn. But my Cora is a bit feistier than Lady Grantham.
JB: Absolutely! What books are on your TBR?
DG: A new biography of Queen Victoria.The new Louise Penny book, I love the Inspector Gamache series. US by David Nicholls
JB: Do you have a new novel in the works?
DG: I certainly do. The working title is Who Will Tell the Queen and it is about an American girl at the court of Queen Victoria.
JB: I know I’m not alone in saying I can’t wait.
THE FORTUNE HUNTER/St. Martin’s Press/July 29