Monday, May 22, 2017

Kathleen Baldwin Author Interview

Photo Content from Kathleen Baldwin

Award-winning author Kathleen Baldwin loves adventure in books and in real life. She taught rock climbing in the Rockies, survival camped in the desert, was stalked by a mountain lion, lost an argument with a rattlesnake, enjoyed way too many classes in college, fell in love at least a dozen times, and married her very own hero. They’ve raised four free-spirited adventurous children.
Find more about Kathleen on her WebsiteNewsletterTwitterFacebook

Awarded 2016 Spirit of Texas, A School for Unusual Girls , is her first historical romance for Young Adults. It is a Junior Library Guild selection. Publisher’s Lunch listed it in their 2015 Young Adult BookBuzz. Kansas State NEA Reading Circle gave it a starred review in their 2016 “Best of the Best” for High Schools. Scholastic licensed it for book fairs, and New York Times Book Review called it “enticing from the first sentence.”

Kathleen is also an avid reader and adores the wit and humor of Oscar Wilde, P.G. Wodehouse, and Jane Austen. Her eclectic reading interests range from Frank Herbert to Meg Cabot, and on to the delightfully imaginative tales of Diana Wynne Jones.

Series: Stranje House (Book 3)
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Tor Teen (May 23, 2017)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0765376040
ISBN-13: 978-0765376046

Praise for THE STRANJE Series

"A Completely Original―and totally engrossing―world, full of smart girls, handsome boys, and sinister mysteries...Sign me up." ―Meg Cabot, New York Times Best Selling Author of The Princess Diaries

What’s one thing that readers would be surprised to find out about you?
I can’t think in words. Not at all. To compound matters, I’m dyslexic.
As a small child, long before I learned to speak, an entire inner language formed. My thoughts consist of vibrantly colored emotional clouds and images—it’s difficult to explain. It may sound disorganized, but the opposite is true. These swirling images make sense of the world for me. However, it means everything I write or speak is a translation from this deeply seated inner language.

By second grade, I realized that I didn’t think along acceptable norms, and I learned to hide my inner world. In college, two psychology professors invited me into a creativity study, where they hooked students up to an EEG. I learned it was okay to be different and that lots of people have abnormal thought patterns. I made peace with my intrinsic language. Despite this progress, I craved being out in nature, rock climbing, skiing, survival camping, anything away from civilization. Because out in the wild my inner language doesn’t seem peculiar at all.

When did you write your first book and how old were you?
In sixth grade, I filled a whole notebook (that’s kind of a book) with a romantic novella about an orphaned fifteen year-old French immigrant sent to live in colonial America. No snickering when I tell you the title, In a Field of Daisies. Okay, you can stop rolling your eyes. Yes, I blush to think how mushy it was. There you have it—my first book was a teen historical romance. No surprise to learn that’s where I finally landed.

What was the greatest thing you learned at school?
Hard to choose. I loved school. Maybe the greatest thing was my sixth grade librarian introducing me to Dickens. No, it was Ms. Merrick, in seventh grade, making us recite poetry. Wordsworth, Browning, T.S. Elliot, I still love thee. Oh, wait! My science teacher, Mr. Lenhardt, taught us a great memorization trick for long lists of things such as the Mohs Hardness scale. I still use his trick today. Okay, Mr. Lenhardt wins the prize!

How would you describe yourself in three words?
Loving, ageless, wildling

Did you learn anything from writing REFUGE FOR MASTERMINDS and what was it?
Yes, I did. Lady Jane tries to take care of everyone around her. She's a caretaker and, consequently, a little bossy. I was eager to see how she would arc from bossy to not bossy, from caretaker to trusting those around her to take care of themselves. I was especially eager because those traits are ones would like to change in myself. Lady Jane surprised me, AND I learned some great things about those traits I battle. Firstly, they're not all bad. As with most gifts, they're two-edged swords. It astonished me that Lady Jane learned how to put them in perspective, when I have had such a difficult time with them.

What was your inspiration for the series?
Two years ago, while signing copies of A SCHOOL FOR UNUSUAL GIRLS at a Teen book festival, two girls came and stood at my table giggling. One pointed to her friend and said, "She is Lady Jane."

Confused I asked, "Do you mean her name is Jane?"

"No. She IS Lady Jane. She's so much like her, they could be twins." The accused young lady nodded, affirming her friend's assessment.

I leaned closer and said, “But Lady Jane is wonderfully smart and extremely capable, but she’s also, well, kind of bossy.”

They laughed again and she nodded. “Yep. That’s me.”

She isn’t the only young lady to confide that sentiment. I’ve heard it since at other signings and gotten several emails from readers saying the same thing. Apparently, Lady Jane’s traits are highly relatable. Who knew?

As far as direct inspiration, two of my children are great strategists, masterminds. My son has been involved in politics from an early age and my daughter is able to juggle multiple projects at her architectural firm and does an amazing job. Both were great resource as I wrote Lady Jane's story.

Which character have you enjoyed getting to know the most over the course of writing STRANJE HOUSE?

I can’t pick. It would be like trying to choose which of my children I like most. Impossible. I love them all, but differently. It is an honor and a joy to wake up in the morning, hurry to my computer, and hang out with the unusual women of Stranje House.

What part of Jane did you enjoy writing the most?
The banter between Jane and Alexander was priceless. He had fun teasing her, so naturally I enjoyed it, too.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I’d like to see what would happen if Izzy from Cut from the Same Cloth and Lady Jane were thrown into a locked room. They’re both so opinionated and self-assured that I think, at first, they’d clash big time. There would be some serious fireworks. If they were stuck in that room long enough and learned to understand each other, I believe they’d end as best friends.

You have the chance to give one piece of advice to your readers. What would it be?
You are changing the world around you, creating endless ripples with every action. It’s so important that I put this advice on a stamp I use at book signings.

Photo Courtesy from Kathleen Baldwin

Who was your first boyfriend?
Kit Carson, Dr. Dreamy of second grade. By the way, that’s his real name Kit Carson, not Dr. Dreamy. He’s named after a famous frontiersman, and in the mountains of northern Arizona that was about as cool a name as you could get. Sigh. Kit was as rugged and strong as his namesake, or at least I that’s how I saw it in second grade.

Tell me about your first kiss.
Oh Jean! LOL. What a startling question. I’m astonished I can still remember this, because it happened in second grade. I mentioned that terrible crush on Kit Carson, right? Well, it was winter, four feet of snow covered the playground. They let us out for recess. I remember him chasing me, seems like I may have thrown a snowball, someone did. Anyway he chased me, a giggled and laughed until he caught me by to backstop, thrown me down in the snow and planted one right

Where is the best place in the world you’ve been?
Moab Utah, on the Colorado River.

Photo Courtesy from Kathleen Baldwin

What is your favorite room in your home and outside environment?
My office, messy though it is. It is my inner sanctum.

Photo Courtesy from Kathleen Baldwin

What decade during the last century would you have chosen to be a teenager?
The crazy one I lived through—the late 60’s and early 70’s—a generation of upheaval and change. I loved it! Relished our lunchtime debates, heated cafeteria arguments about women’s rights, war, and dress codes; the sit-ins, the protests, the questioning of everything.

What is your greatest adventure?
How about I tell you about one of my adventures that went terribly awry—great and embarrassing.

During my survival camping years, I took off on my bike during a summer draught intending to cross the high deserts in southern Utah and Northern Arizona. I didn’t bring a canteen because, hey, I was always able to find water in the desert. Cocky, right? Yep, big mistake.

In case you haven’t been there, this is what a lot of that country looks like:

Photo Courtesy from Kathleen Baldwin

I had
a small backpack with no money in it, a change of shirt, a blanket that I used as a light bedroll, a pocketknife, matches, and an apple—for a 300 mile trip.

Epic fail.

First off, there’d been a serious draught.

Serious, as in crispy crunchy grasses, water holes dried up, underground moisture gone. My second night out, a mountain lion butchered a sheep not more than thirty yards from where I slept curled up under an outcropping. Both of us too thirsty and exhausted to care that I was invading her territory. Plants weren’t as green and pretty as they look in this photo. Wild onions were scarce, a few thin stalks of bitter asparagus still clung to the sides of washes, cactus provided some moisture and nutrition, but it wasn’t enough to sustain the energy it took for a cycling in the hot sun.

Finally, on the third day out, I found a muddy trickle of water. So had other thirsty creatures; cattle, ground squirrels, and javelina. There was even a big ole Mohave rattlesnake sunning herself on the bank, waiting for her next mouse meal to crawl past. Now, I knew better than to mess with a Mohave. Their venom is necrotizing, which means it’ll turn your blood into death soup.

Thing is, I was too thirsty and wiped-out to cross the ravine. So, I threw rocks at her. “Move.” I growled, my throat dryer than a two day old biscuit.

That ornery snake lifted her head and sized me up. I’ll never forget those beady eyes focusing in on me, her tongue flicking in and out, tasting the air, gauging which of us would have to yield to the other. Determined to win this argument, I threw another pebble. She whipped into a dangerous S curve, stretched her neck higher, and shook her rattle.

Beaten. I stepped back. I could almost hear her smug chuckle as she laid her head back down. “You’re no match for me, girly, not in your condition.”

She was right. I was done in. At the rate I was going, I’d be coyote food by the next day.

I climbed back up to the road, went further upstream and stumbled across the gully. There I knelt down and joined the rest of the humbler creatures of the desert, sipping slow dark water from that puny trickle.

Sadly, I had only covered 122 miles of the 300 miles I needed to cross the desert. Too far to turn back, and too far to complete the rest of the trip. I spent the night near that brown ribbon of water. In the cool of the morning before sunrise, I hit the road again, but took a detour. I headed to Annabella, a tiny town at the base of the mountains where luckily one of my friends happened to be visiting his family for summer. (This was back before cell phones, so it really was a godsend.) He loaded my bicycle into his car and drove me back to college, scolding me the whole way.

He could’ve saved his breath—the rattlesnake had said it all.


1. There are secret passages throughout the house and you can easily get lost in them. So you might not want to go in one without a guide.

2. Stranje House is a girl’s school so it may surprise you to learn that there are quite a few gentlemen visiting Stranje House. The fact that many of these visitors are diplomatic attach├ęs for the foreign affairs office may or may not be a clue.

3. Oh, and that skeleton in the sea cave beneath the house is NOT a former student. Ignore the pink ballgown, and don’t let Lady Jane scare you with one of her ghost stories about it.

4. Also, you may not want to stroll outside the house at night because two big black ferocious creatures—half dog, half wolf—guard the grounds. Once they get to know you, it’ll be safe for you to sneak outside like the rest of us do.

5. Don’t be alarmed if Tess wakes up screaming it’s probably another of her prophetic nightmares. Usually, she just gets up and goes outside to run off her terrors.

6. On the other hand, maybe you ought to be alarmed. Most of the time her dreams come true. If only the meanings were clearer. Maybe you can help us interpret her dream.

7. Pay close attention in to Miss Stranje’s lessons on code-breaking, methods for properly hiding weapons, poison antidotes, and how to get free when tied to a chair. It might save your life someday.

8. Skipping Madame Cho’s lessons on defensive arts isn’t a good idea. She can be brutal with that bamboo cane of hers, but in our occupation, close combat skills come in handy.

9. Careful what you say. There are also listening holes in most of the rooms at Stranje House so you never know if your conversation is private or not.

10. Lady Daneska is our sworn enemy. She hates us. She was once a student here, but turned on us. Now she and Ghost are ruthless spies, leading Napoleon’s secret order of the Iron Crown

11. Watch out. There is a traitor at Stranje House. Someone in the house is sneaking information to Lady Daneska and Ghost

Lady Jane Moore has a secret. A secret that must be kept buried. For if anyone discovered the truth, her life at Stranje House would crumble. And with Napoleon Bonaparte’s invasion of England underway, everyone at Stranje House is already in danger. Mortal danger.

Jane knows it. She may not be like Tess, who has the advantage of prophetic dreams. Nor is she like Sera, who notices every detail no matter how miniscule and draws conclusions based on the smallest thread of evidence. She doesn’t possess Maya’s ability to soothe the tempers around her with a few well-spoken words. Neither is she a brilliant scientist like Georgie. According to Miss Stranje, Lady Jane Moore is a mastermind.


Jane doesn’t consider herself a mastermind. Quite the contrary, she believes herself to be an ordinary young lady. It’s just that she has a rather excessive bent toward the practical. She tends to grasp the facts of a situation quickly, and by so doing, she’s able to devise and implement a sensible course of action. But that’s all there is to it. Well, there is the fact that she also organizes the players in her plans with quiet efficiency. So much so, that occasionally Lady Jane’s friends tease her for being a bit managing.

Do they expect her to sit back and do nothing when trouble is brewing? Not likely. Not when the people she cares about are at risk. Call it being a mastermind if you must, it is a trait that comes in rather handy in a world full of spies, sabotage, and double-dealing. Especially now that Lady Jane and Sera have rooted out the truth: There is a traitor at Stranje House.

Someone is sneaking information to Lady Daneska and Ghost, Napoleon’s spies. Jane is determined to find out who it is before the bonds of friendship at Stranje House are ripped apart by suspicions. Her desperate hunt for the traitor ensnares Robert Fulton’s nephew, Alexander Sinclair, a brash American inventor, in an ambush that puts his life in danger. Sinclair may well be the most maddening man in all of Christendom, a wicked-tongued rascal with boorish manners, but for some reason, Lady Jane cannot bear the thought of the golden-haired genius being harmed.

Is Jane enough of a mastermind to save Alexander, her friends at Stranje House, and possibly England itself?

You can purchase Refuge for Masterminds at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you KATHLEEN BALDWIN for making this giveaway possible.
3 Winners will receive a Signed Set Copy of Stranje House Series by Kathleen Baldwin..
MAY 24th WEDNESDAY Movies, Shows, & Books EXCERPT 
MAY 25th THURSDAY Whatever You Can Still Betray EXCERPT 
MAY 26th FRIDAY The Forest of Words and Pages REVIEW 

MAY 27th SATURDAY Mary Had a Little Book Blog REVIEW 
MAY 28th SUNDAY Sabrina's Paranormal Palace REVIEW & FAVORITE THINGS 
MAY 29th MONDAY Crossroad Reviews REVIEW 
MAY 29th MONDAY Mother.Gamer.Writer RANDOM THINGS 
MAY 30th TUESDAY A Dream Within a Dream REVIEW & DREAM CAST
MAY 31st WEDNESDAY Reading for the Stars and Moon REVIEW 


  1. Martin Luther King, He was an amazing person who Had Dream and died trying to make his dream come true !

  2. I would say Ben Franklin but since I don't like crowds I would take him for a cappuccino. I adore Baldwin's series Stranje House. Love the historical setting with young adults and intrigue. She is on my keeper shelf.

  3. I would love to hear Abraham Lincoln give one of his speaches.