Katherine Nouri Hughes Discusses her Debut Novel

Steve Adubato goes one-on-one with Katherine Nouri Hughes, author of the historical novel "The Mapmaker's Daughter," who shares her journey in writing her debut novel.

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"Hi, I'm Steve Adubato. This is the Tisch WNET Studio, here in the heart of Lincoln Center in Manhattan. It is my honor and pleasure to introduce for the first time with us, Katherine Nouri Hughes, otherwise known as Kate, if you will, the author of a fascinating book called The Mapmaker's Daughter. How you doing? I'm doing fine. How are you doing? I'm doing all right. This book took you... we were just talking about it before we got on the air, 20 years? Yeah, it didn't take 20 years to write, thank God. Process? But it's from the beginning of the project, when the idea was first brought to me by a professor of mine at Princeton, till its publication in this past August, it's 20 years. Hmm. The hook... not "the hook" - I shouldn't say that, the primary theme of the book? It's a story about the bond between a 12 year old girl and the most powerful man on earth, who at the time was the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. It's a story about who that girl becomes... very much under his influence. And it's about the trust that they repose in each other, and why they feel this trust, and it's about the sense she tries and succeeds in making of her life as the book unfolds. It is an end... it's a sickbed, I won't say deathbed, because I don't want to give too much away... Sure. ...memoir. So it's toward the very end of her life, and she wants to get to the bottom of who she is, and why she's done the things she's done. What drew you to her as a character? What draws you to her as a character? She was enormously powerful. That's what I was told in the beginning by my professor at Princeton who... Excuse me, her name was Nur...? Nurbanu. Nurbanu? Right, I'm sorry. That's the name that Suleiman gave her. She was born... you'll like this, she was Italian, she was Venetian, Cecilia Baffo Veniero. Yes. And... Our family is from Naples. We found our way up there at some point. Go ahead! So you know how important... this is set in the middle of the 16th century... Yes. ...right? When the Ottoman Empire is at the apex of its power. Yes. And what my professor at Princeton, Bernard Lewis said, was that there was this woman who was gigantically powerful when the empire was at the height of its power, but very little was known about her. And so I wondered well, why that... you know, I wondered about that incongruity, the amount of power and the little that was known, and that clearly made her very attractive as a subject for fiction, which this most definitely is..."