A MOTHER’S PROMISE: An Interview with K.D. Alden

Woman typing on old typewriter
Author KD Alden dishes on writing her first historical novel, A Mother’s Promise. (Photo courtesy Canva)

There are few things as strong as the maternal instinct, a fact which is vividly brought to life in K.D. Alden’s heartrending new novel, A Mother’s Promise. We are excited to have her here with us today. We hope you enjoy our exclusive interview with the author! —J&H

J&H: K.D., welcome!

KDA: Thank you so much for having me! It’s a pleasure to be here.

J&H: First of all, we must tell you that A Mother’s Promise is just wonderfully written. But even so, it is not always an easy book to read because it packs such an emotional wallop, primarily due to the character of Ruth Ann Riley. Tell us about her and the circumstances she’s facing here.

KDA: Thank you. It wasn’t always easy to write, because I had a very emotional reaction to the story and a sense of disbelief that events such as the ones in A Mother’s Promise could unfold in the U.S.

Ruth Ann Riley is an unwed, pregnant teen mother in the 1920’s—which was a huge societal no-no back then, as you can imagine. She’s actually not pregnant by choice, but nobody’s interested in hearing her story. She wants to keep her baby, but social services takes the child away and gives her to another woman to raise. Ruth Ann herself is falsely declared “feebleminded” and is sent to a colony for the ‘epileptic and feebleminded,’ where she endures even more ill-treatment.

Her goal is to get her baby back … but as she fights to do that, she never dreams that her battle will take her all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

J&H: Ruth’s story isn’t wholly original, though, right? You based this on a true story. How closely does Ruth compare to the real life Carrie Buck and where do they differ?

KDA: So writing historical fiction always involves making some difficult choices in service of the novel’s plot. In the case of A Mother’s Promise, I followed Carrie Buck’s legal and medical journey very closely … but did take liberties with timelines and did create characters such as Glory, Ruby, Mother Jenkins and Clarence who didn’t actually exist. I also changed aspects of characters who are modeled on ones who did exist. For example, I made Mrs. Dade, the foster mother, nicer than she was in real life!

J&H: Was it difficult to reimagine Carrie through Ruth? And how much research did you have to pour into writing this novel?

KDA: It was not difficult for me to reimagine her, because I had a very strange experience when I heard Carrie’s actual voice recorded in an NPR interview that a friend suggested I listen to. I absorbed her story with total shock, and then literally ran to my laptop, flipped it open, and started writing chapter one. (This never happens in real life, by the way! LOL. Not in mine, to say the least.)

I wanted to tell the story from her own simple point of view, because the theory of eugenics, or the “science of better breeding,” which was behind it, was complicated and did require a lot of research on my part … but she knew none of it. She had a 6th grade education and loved to read and do crossword puzzles, but she didn’t understand what was happening to her or why. She was an unwitting victim of grand theory put into practice without thought for the consequences.

J&H: Having a baby isn’t every woman’s dream, but for those who want one and can’t, there are other options out there these days to help them have a child. Why are Ruth and Carrie’s stories particularly horrific, and how do you think the institutions they found themselves in ultimately affected mother’s rights today?

KDA: Carrie Buck (Ruth Ann Riley) and her sister, Doris Buck (Bonnie Riley) were spayed against their will like today’s shelter animals, because “their sort” shouldn’t breed. Carrie’s child was given away without her consent like a kitten to another family. They were deprived of their self-respect, their liberty, and certainly their pursuit of happiness. Their feelings weren’t considered at all—but more important, their basic human rights weren’t respected … even when they were considered legally.

Institutions for unwed mothers in previous generations were often horrible places—and not just here in the U.S. Women’s sexuality was considered dangerous and immoral. As societal attitudes have changed and more awful stories have come out, public outrage has helped shine a light onto these places and practices.

J&H: Did writing this story take an emotional toll on you as you wrote it?

KDA: Yes. A deep emotional toll. There were scenes and chapters in this book that I cried through while writing and revising them. I have a personal history with infertility, and that’s probably why I identified so strongly with Ruth Ann and her circumstances. I brought my own experiences to the page, and my own emotions bled out, I’m sure.

J&H: This book is set 94 years in the past. How do you think women’s rights have changed since then and what lessons did writing this book teach you?

KDA: Women’s rights have changed radically since the 1920’s, when women had just (grudgingly) gotten the right to vote. I learned so much … but the most important lesson I learned is that we, as women especially, should never take these rights for granted. We have fought hard for equality, and we must treasure it and care for it—so we don’t end up back in some nightmare version of The Handmaid’s Tale one day.

J&H: Now let’s switch gears for just a moment. This isn’t your very first novel. K.D. Alden is actually the pseudonym you are using for this book. Stephen King is another author famous for both using the pen name Richard Bachman and for writing about the duality of writers who use a nom de plum, such as in his book The Dark Half. Why did you choose to use a different name? And does K.D. differ much from the woman who has written your other books?

KDA: I chose to use a different name because yes, K.D. Alden differs wildly from the funny, light-hearted romantic comedies I once wrote. And the YA spy adventure novels. And the quirky, small-town romances I’ve co-authored recently as Liza Kendall. It’s totally different material.

Writing is a bit like acting … you have to step into another person’s shoes and personality and life. So taking a different pen name to write serious historical fiction was a must for me. Actors themselves get type-cast. For example, a director probably wouldn’t cast Seth Rogin (known for comedy) in a dramatic role meant for Anthony Hopkins. (Oh, wouldn’t he make a great Dr. Price?!)

J&H: The book is A Mother’s Promise, published by Forever Books, and is on book stands now. K.D., it
has been such a pleasure chatting with you. Thank you so much for joining us. Please stop by again with
your next one!

KDA: Thank you for hosting me! I love talking with and hearing from readers. Please stay in touch via my
newsletter and/or on social media!



Based on the true story behind a landmark U.S. Supreme Court Decision, K.D. Alden’s debut is a rich and moving story of one woman’s courage and strength at a pivotal point in America’s history.

Virginia, 1927. A chance to have a family. That’s all Ruth Ann Riley wants. But because she was unwed and pregnant, she was sent away and her baby given to another woman. Now they’re trying to take Ruth Ann’s right to have another child. But she can’t stand the thought of never seeing little Annabel’s face again, never snuggling up to her warmth or watching her blue eyes crinkle with laughter. Good thing she has a plan.

All the rich and fancy folks may call her feeble-minded, but Ruth Ann is smarter than any of them have bargained for. Because no matter how high the odds are stacked against her, she is going to overcome the scandals in her past and get her child back—and along the way, she just may find unexpected friendships and the possibility of love in the most unlikely of places.

KD Alden
KD Alden


K.D. Alden is the pseudonym of an award-winning author who has written more than twenty novels in various genres. She has been the recipient of the Maggie Award, the Book Buyer’s Best Award, and an RT Reviewer’s Choice Award. A Mother’s Promise is her first historical novel.

K.D. is a graduate of Smith College, grew up in Austin, Texas, and resides in South Florida with her husband and two rescue greyhounds.

Please visit her, read an excerpt, arrange a book club chat and sign up for her newsletter at KDAlden.com. Readers may also like her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads.

By K.D. Alden
384 pp. Forever. $16.99

Purchase A Mother’s Promise direct from Jathan & Heather Books or from one of these other fine online retailers: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Half Price Books, Hudson Booksellers, IndieBound, Powell’s, Target, or Walmart.

A Mother’s Promise is brought to you in association with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.

K.D. Alden’s A MOTHER’S PROMISE blog tour banner

About Jathan Fink
Jathan is a journalist, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. He is also a travel junkie, foodie and jazz aficionado. A California native, he resides in Texas.

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