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Monday, October 16, 2017

A 'charmed' writing life

“Most people are so busy knocking themselves out trying to do everything they think they should do, they never get around to doing what they want to do.” – Kathleen Winsor

Born in the small Minnesota town of Olivia on this date in 1919, Winsor is best known for her 1944 historical novel Forever Amber, a runaway bestseller (more than 3 million copies sold) and the first of 7 books that she would write.   A newspaper sportswriter first (one of the first female sportswriters), she started writing the book after her first husband did research on King Charles II of England.  It sparked Winsor’s interest in the era known as “The Restoration” and started her along a path toward her massive bestseller.

While Forever Amber tells the story of orphaned Amber St. Clare, who makes her way up through the ranks of 17th century English society, the subplot follows Charles as he returns from exile and adjusts to ruling England.   Winsor spent years researching the period, including reading hundreds of books on the era.  Her nearly 1,000-page novel (edited down from almost 5,000 pages) includes vivid portrayals of Restoration fashion, lifestyles and customs and of politics and public disasters like The Plague and the Great Fire of London.

The book made Winsor a worldwide celebrity and ultimately led to her second hit novel, 1950’s Star Money, based loosely on her experience of becoming a best-selling novelist.  
                                  Married 4 times, Winsor became a leading light in California and New York Society circles and was known for her wit and charm, to which she once replied,  “Charm, you know, is simply the ability to make someone else think that both of you are pretty wonderful.”   She died in 2003.

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