DAISY GOODWIN, a Harkness scholar who attended Columbia University’s film school after earning a degree in history at Cambridge University, is a leading television producer in the U.K. Her poetry anthologies, including 101 Poems That Could Save Your Life, have introduced many new readers to the pleasures of poetry, and she was Chair of the judging panel of the 2010 Orange Prize for Fiction. She and her husband, an ABC TV executive, have two daughters and live in London. The American Heiress is her first novel.
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It is 1893, in Newport, Rhode Island, and no detail of Cora Cash’s lavish masquerade ball has been left to chance. Beautiful, spirited, and the richest heiress of her generation, Cora is the closest thing that American society has to a princess. Her debut is the carefully orchestrated prelude to a campaign in which her mother will whisk her to Europe, where Mrs. Cash wants to acquire the one thing that money can’t buy for her daughter in the States: a title.
Be careful what you wish for. Cora makes a dazzling impression on English society—followed by a brilliant match—but finds that the chill in the air of magnificent ancestral homes comes from more than the lack of central heating. As she gradually learns that old-world aristocrats are governed by obscure codes of conduct and loyalty that can betray even the most charming, accomplished outsider, Cora must grow from a spoiled young rich girl into a woman of substance.
Daisy, I would like to congratulate on your latest release. Is there a behind the book story?
I had always wanted to write a novel but didn’t know where to start. Then one day I visited Blenheim Palace and I saw the wonderful Sargent portrait of Consuelo Vanderbilt and I suddenly had an idea for a story about a Dollar Princess.
Do you plot your stories or lead your characters lead you?
I tried to plot the The American Heiress in advance but my characters just took over. It is a completely novel to the story outline I originally wrote, and a better one I hope.
How long have you been writing and what was your call story?
I am a television producer by day so I have always written scripts etc. But I only started writing fiction three years ago, and found that it cam much easier than I thought. The most exciting moment for me was when my American editor called me to say that she loved the book, ‘it’s like Henry James without the boring bits!’ She then told me she wanted me to change the end ( that wasn’t so great but she was right).
What are you currently working on?
It’s another historical novel set in England and Austria about Elizabeth, the last Empress of Austria and a certain Captain Middleton. It is based on a true story. I am also thinking of writing a sequel to The American Heiress
Of all of your characters, do you have a favorite you identify with and why?
Well Cora is very close to my heart. She is spoiled and shallow at the beginning of the book but as the book progresses she matures as a person. And , of course, the Duke is the sort of man who used to drive me mad when I was younger. I have a soft spot too for Bertha, Cora’s maid. I think she is the moral compass of the story.
What is the best thing about your job as an author? What is the hardest thing?
The best thing is sitting down to write and seeing what come out of my head, the hardest thing is finding the time to sit down and write.
What kind of daily schedule do you have? What types of things interrupt your writing? Describe a day in the life of
I have a full time job running a tv production company. So my day starts getting my kids to school and then going to the office. If I am lucky I will write a bit when I come home, but otherwise it is weekends and holidays. The best time for me to write is after office hours so I am not constantly checking my emails, and the best place for me to write is somewhere with no internet connection.
If a movie was made about your life, who would you like to see play the lead role as you?
Julia Roberts or maybe Rose Byrne. They are both gorgeous but they have a sense of humour.
what is something you definitely want readers to know about you
I love history. So getting the context of my books right is very important to me.
When the time comes for you to retire from writing, what would you like your readers to remember the most about you and your writing?
That my books gave them pleasure. There is nothing better than reading a book you don’t want to end.
What are you currently reading?
Gillespie and I by jane Harris
Witchcraft sung by Frank sinatra
Daisy, thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview with me!
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Winners will be announced August 31st.