Local author entices readers; Newly-released novels explore historical crime

Aleah Bikle, Reporter

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With an impressive variety of stories that continue to bring new ideas to historical fiction, author Kate Braithwaite is someone who defines the lines of criminal literature.  

Growing up in Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, and no stranger to various parts of England and Canada, Braithwaite resides in Pennsylvania with her husband, children, dogs, and cat.  

“I grew up loving reading novels and I am still always reading a book. I read to relax, to travel to different times and places, and to experience other people’s lives. My interest in writing is rooted in that and in the simple desire to see if I could make one of these things that I enjoyed so much,” Braithwaite explains, “It took me a long time to know what to write about… My advice for aspiring writers is always to write. Read books about writing and write some more. Don’t worry too much about being published or being wildly successful. Writing is a craft and takes time and patience to learn.”  

She has already published two fact-based historical crime novels set in 17th century Paris and London called Charlatan, a tale of poison, aphrodisiacs, lies and infidelity at the court of Louis XIV, and The Road to Newgate, a story of love, lies and the pursuit of justice.  

Recently, Braithwaite captivated her audience with yet another historical crime release titled The Girl Puzzle, capturing the story of aspiring journalist Nellie Bly.  

“My new novel depicts a groundbreaking female journalist who changed the newspaper industry in America forever in 1887. The story has two timelines. First, there’s Nellie in 1887, agreeing to pretend to be mad and get herself committed to Blackwell’s Island Lunatic Asylum in order to win a desperately needed job at The New York World. She’s incredibly brave and bold – women’s asylums at that time were underfunded and badly staffed, and mental illness was not well understood,” Braithwaite continues, “The second timeline is about Nellie Bly when she was much older, in 1920. At this point she was still a journalist but she also had many crusades and causes that she championed, including finding homes for unwanted orphans… I wanted the story to include Nellie when she was older as she had a complex life and interesting life, I wanted to recognize her whole life and personality that some may not know.”  

Braithwaite’s books are all based on lesser-known historical events and she loves to “bring them to life” with complex characters, effective point of views, and progresses in society.  

The author has both titled her books before and after she writes them but, “The Girl Puzzle has always been The Girl Puzzle, as it was Bly’s first published newspaper article and I felt it went well with the story.”  

Braithwaite says she is “very lucky” that her three children are all teenagers and she is still able to write full time.

“I’m able to run our family and write while everyone else is at work and school. When I started writing my first novel they were small – aged 1, 3 and 5. I had barely any time to myself, but I made a point to set time aside and get typing,” the author and mother explains, “Writing a novel is a time-consuming endeavor. Those words don’t type themselves! But thinking about it, it occurs to me that writing, for me, really is taking care of myself. Spending time on writing – the thing I love to do – makes me happy, and hopefully I’m happier and more fun to be around because of it!”

And as for the future, Braithwaite is beginning to conduct research for a planned series of novels set during the French Revolution, “I plan on writing more books in the future, it’s addictive!”

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