Iraqi-Irish by birth, KATHERINE NOURI HUGHES attended Princeton University, where she earned a Master’s Degree in Near Eastern Studies and where she served on that department’s advisory council for 25 years. After living in Cairo and traveling extensively in the region, she returned to the United States and was a communications executive in both the for-profit and nonprofit sectors. She has edited two books on K-12 education, and serves on the boards of the American University in Cairo, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, and WNET/13, the PBS flagship and largest public television station in the country. Her husband, former U.S. Attorney and Attorney General of New Jersey Robert Del Tufo, died in 2016. Kate lives in New York City and Princeton, and has two daughters and two grandchildren.
Visit https://www.harpercollins.com/author/cr-127419/katherine-nouri-hughes/ for more information.
Biggest literary influencers:
Richard Ford, Lawrence Durrell, Richard Powers.
Last book read:
The Leopard (Lampedusa)
The book that changed your life:
The Mapmaker’s Daughter.
It made me a reasonably serious student of 16th century Ottoman history. It took me to remote parts of Greece and Turkey I wouldn’t have visited and made true friends out of perfect strangers. It showed me that I had far more patience and perseverance than I realized. It forced me to manage – repeatedly but temporarily – rejection. It taught me to take no for an answer and learn from the no. It bore out the instinct to put all my eggs in one basket. It has allowed me to see everything more clearly. It taught me how to write history and fiction at the same time. How to control and benefit from narrative arcs. How to be free to imagine. How to write a novel. It made me a novelist.
Your favorite literary character:
Cecilia Baffo Veniero, later known as Valide Sultan Nurbanu, the protagonist of The Mapmaker’s Daughter. First as girl, then as woman, she is my favorite in a way I’ve never experienced. I favored her, and she revealed herself, and I love who she is. I love her because she has mettle as a little girl. Because she is physically brave at 12. Because she is a born student, is sincere, devoted and empathic. Because she is guided by strong women. Because she understands the facets of powerful men. Because she is determined to be honest with herself for honesty’s sake. She is my favorite because love matters to her more than redemption.
Currently working on:
A historical novel about a boy and the man he becomes.
Words to live by:
“The truth will set you free.”
Advice to new and aspiring authors:
Be patient finding your voice – and find it. It will guide you.
View The New Yorker Briefly Noted Page
diyMFA Podcast Interview with Katherine Nouri Hughes
Katherine Nouri Hughes – The Mapmaker’s Daughter – Interview on WOCA “The Source” – Captured Live on Ustream at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/american-radio
“[An] absorbing historical novel… compellingly interlaces public history and intimate conjecture.”
-The New Yorker
“Voice — the great, elusive necessity in all historical fiction—is rapturous and irresistible in The Mapmaker’s Daughter. Katherine Hughes’s novel just seems to talk to us, and in so doing makes these titanic events seem human and natural, and thus all the more preoccupying. A very impressive book, indeed.”
“In The Mapmaker’s Daughter, Katherine Hughes introduces us to Cecilia-Nurbanu, an astonishing girl who becomes a woman of immense power in the Ottoman Empire. Lost to history, Hughes retrieves her and through a stunning act of imagination takes us into her consciousness as she finally reckons with a decision that in the light of the present seems unspeakable. Hughes’s novel is a potent reminder of what even today a woman may encounter when she becomes, as Nurbanu becomes, an accessory to power.”
-Carol Gilligan, author of In a Different Voice
“A heartbreaking read that marries a strong story arc with a dedication to historical details.”
“A fascinating evocation of the major players of the Ottoman renaissance.”
“Hughes adeptly mixes fictionalized elements with historical details.”
“Hughes has richly imagined the life of a remarkable historical figure. . . readers who enjoy in-depth historical detail and court intrigue will be riveted.”
“An impressively engaging and consistently entertaining read from beginning to end, The Mapmaker’s Daughter reveals author Katherine Nouri Hughes’s genuine storytelling gifts. … Unreservedly recommended as an enduringly popular addition to community library Historical Fiction collections…”
-Midwest Book Review
“When the fiction is good, the history is usually distorted, and on the rare occasions when the history is good, the fiction is usually less interesting than the straight historical narrative. This novel is a remarkable exception . . . part history, part fiction, it is enthralling.”
-Bernard Lewis, Cleveland E. Dodge Professor of Near Eastern Studies, Emeritus, Princeton University
“Of all the appetites, the lust for power is the strongest—and most dangerous. This is a lively, absorbing and utterly convincing self-portrait of a woman who came under the influence of the greatest of all Ottoman sultans—with tragic consequences.”
-Edmund White, author of Inside a Pearl: My Years in Paris