words "libertarian" and "romance" are not often
linked, but best-selling novelist Karen Kay has built a successful
career that combines the two. In her popular and historically accurate
series of romance novels set in the 19th century American West, she
merges sensual romantic plots with the subtle message that Native
American "tribes held individual freedom as being of the utmost
Kay, perhaps best known as the author of Lakota Princess
(1995) and Gray Hawk's Lady (1997), is matter-of-fact about
her political beliefs. "I am a libertarian," she said in
a February 3, 2005 interview with the Advocates for Self-Government.
"[I believe] that freedom of the individual to decide for himself
those things that influence his well-being should be under his own
control. That one should have the right to one's own life and to decide
what one's path in life will be... That big governments are seldom
helpful or sympathetic to a people and that no one man, or group,
has the right to destroy the freedom or the self-determinism of another."
What inspired those libertarian beliefs? Kay points to Thomas Jefferson,
Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Paine. "I agree with their views
and aims," she said. "I agree that a people should be free,
and I agree that the individual citizen should have a say in his government...
Freedom to speak out, freedom to choose, freedom to worship as one
sees fit, freedom to follow one's own goals -- these things are that
important. May their idea never die."
Kay's libertarian convictions are subtly woven into the plots of her
novels. "The heroes and heroines of my stories are honorable
people," she said. "And in truth, before the incoming Euro-American
culture diversified the Plains Indian culture, the tribes held individual
freedom as being of the utmost importance."
A descendent of the Choctaw Tribe, Kay sets her books among the tribes
of America's Great Plains. The novels usually feature a romance between
a Native American warrior (Blackfeet, Cheyenne, Lakota, or Crow) and
a white woman. Each book is the product of "exhaustive research,"
Kay said; she reads first-person accounts from 19th century travelers,
visits the locations described in her books, and consults with Native
American leaders. Her goal is to make all her novels historically
accurate, she said. "My books center upon the American Indian
culture as it was -- a true picture -- not colored with the sensationalism
of death and destruction as was depicted by the newspapers and 'eyewitnesses'
of the time, who often carried more political ambition than truth,"
she wrote in her blog (www.blogstudio.com/karenkay/).
Kay published her first romance, Lakota Surrender, in 1994.
Since then, she has written Proud Wolf's Woman (1996), White
Eagle's Touch (1998), Night Thunder's Bride (1999),
Wolf Shadow's Promise (2000), War Cloud's Passion
(2001), Lone Arrow's Pride (2002), Soaring Eagle's Embrace
(2003), The Princess and the Wolf (2004), and The Angel
and the Warrior (September 2005). The Literary Times
has praised Kay's novels for their "thorough research, talented
writing and strong characters," while Romantic Times
called them "a fine introduction for anyone interested in exploring
[Native American] culture."
In an interview, Kay said she works in the romance genre because romance
writers "point the way to how love could be, if one is ethical
and honest. Life is not always about betrayal and strife. In my opinion,
it's up to the artist to set the tone of a society... I think that
we should point the way to how life could be, and how good life could
be created." (http://members.aol.com/trusso1441/karenkay/)
Kay also works to make a better life for Native Americans: She supports
the World Literacy Crusade, Blackfeet Literacy, and the Hollywood
Education and Literacy Project (HELP).
For any would-be writers who might want to follow in her footsteps,
Kay offers some very libertarian-sounding advice on the WritersAndReadersNetwork.com
Web site: "Stay true to yourself and your ambitions, and don't
allow others to alloy your view of what you want and need to accomplish
in your life."