Kathleen Givens

by Sherri Browning Erwin on January 3, 2010

Yesterday, Julia London and I heard the devastating news, and with heavy hearts we share with you that Kathleen Givens, our dear best friend and one of the original three Whine Sisters, has died. She’s far too young and it’s much too soon. We’re still reeling from it. How can it be? But it is and we’ll never be the same.

Julia shares her thoughts:

We met in the bathroom at our first RWA conference:  Chicago, 1999.  Kath had a great story of how we met that escapes me now.  All I remember is her jet black hair and my need to pee.  Somehow, in the way those things happen, we became fast friends.

Kath has been a true and loyal friend these past eleven years.  She was the first on the phone when I was down, the first on the phone when I was up.  We talked mostly on email—daily, and several times at that—because our phone calls could last hours.  We have been there for each other (all of us, Sherri, me and Kath) through the worst of this business and the best.  We have lived through the travails and triumphs of family.  We have exchanged pictures and oohed and aahed over our kids and dogs, and exchanged gifts at birthdays and Christmas.  In fact, we all agreed just a few days ago that our favorite Christmas tradition is when we meet online in a chat to open our funny little gifts for each other.

This year, Kath gave Sherri and me a necklace that said, “Never, never, never, never give up.”  It is a quote by Winston Churchill, and she had taken that on as her mantra.  She was so done with 2009, so ready to begin new in 2010.  I wore the necklace to my nephew’s wedding.

I am still stunned in the passing of one of my best friends, and I think there are more poetic things to be said about her than I am able to think of at the moment.  Right now, with the news of her sudden and unexpected death so fresh, the only thing I can think is this: Kath loved His Majesty and her daughters more than her life, she adored her grandchildren with every breath she took, and she cherished and nurtured her friendships in a way that I have envied.  She would not want us to grieve.  She would tell us that life is short and to live it.  As usual, I am not listening to her.  I am grieving.

Sherri shares her thoughts:

I met Kathleen in the bathroom, too, Chicago 1999. She remembers that she met Julia London in the bathroom and has a great story about it. I never wanted to horn in on her “meeting Julia in the bathroom” story, so I just kept it to myself that she met me there, too, and smiled. It’s probably better that she didn’t recall me walking up to her and asking about her books after I saw her nametag. I told her we had an email loop of Dell authors and that she should join us. Later, we met again at a workshop and shared a glance and a knowing smile. At that moment, we connected. We both knew we were kindred spirits, and we hit it off from there. That’s what mattered. Meeting in the bathroom, not so much. She could share that one with Julia London. :)

Kathleen and I shared laughter, tears, and lots of long phone calls. We couldn’t figure out how to conference call between the three of us, and it was funny enough to see us trying to get it together to Instant Message for the Christmas Exchange. But there were the daily emails zinging back and forth between the three of us—I could never bring myself to delete a single one of them. I have them all going back to 2005. A system crash deleted the ones from previous years. She used to marvel that we should be so close when she was almost my mother’s age and I was closer to the age of her daughters. I would laugh it off and tell her I was a very old soul. Her daughter Patty summed it up better when she joked that her mom was just impossibly immature. Still, she couldn’t help getting a little maternal with me at times, protective, though she was usually more of a sister, and always more than a friend. The love I feel for Kathleen is overwhelming and the loss of it is staggering. I remind myself that I’ll always have her with me and that love goes on and on. But I can’t call her and laugh about it. I can’t pick up the phone and hear her voice to give me instant inspiration. She had the gift of listening and inspiring. I had the gift of making her laugh at the worst of times, but I didn’t get that chance in 2010. I’m going to talk to her anyway, out loud at random intervals, and I want to think that sometimes, I’ll hear her laughing back. Kathleen, I love you, man.

Kathleen wrote gripping, true-to-life Scottish historicals in her trademark lyrical prose. She won a RITA for The Destiny, and it was a proud and exciting moment for us all. You can check out the rest of Kathleen’s book list at her bio here, or at her webpage http://www.kathleengivens.com.

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{ 82 comments… read them below or add one }

ellice October 18, 2010 at 2:09 pm

So sorry to hear about Kathleen Givens. I have recently purchased all of her books and rapidly read through them, loving every character and storyline. Thoughts are with her friends and family.


Gail Adams August 12, 2010 at 7:47 am

I was checking for Kathleen’s booklist when I came across the sad news. My what a loss. I loved her books and enjoyed them so much. Once you picked one up, you could not put them down. Her characters came to life so readily and certainly held your heart with their stories. My heart goes out to the family and all of her friends. I know that she is sadly missed by all her friends and her readers.


amy April 4, 2010 at 9:19 am

I did not know Kathleen personally but I loved her writing. She moved me like no other romance author and made me live the stories she conjured and wove from history. I loved her attention to detail and the very real characters she created. She was a huge talent and I mourn the loss of the books she was yet to write. But it is good to remember all the joy she brought to so many readers through use of her gifts. I celebrate her life and talents!


cecilia scerbanenco February 8, 2010 at 4:21 pm

I can’t believe it. It’s a terrible shock. I’m mrs. Givens italian translator. What can I say? My mother died few months ago; Kage Baker died few weeks ago… And now this.
I read her first novel for mondadori, and bought the second one. I fought to have them translated for months: other editors said the Macdonalds novels were too long and too historical for italian readers.
Tonight I was browsing to see if there were some news about the series. I had asked Mondadori permission to check with mrs Givens if the Mac serie was to continue…
And I found this.
I still can’t believe it.
I know it is sad, but maybe her daughter will publish what she left? Her novel were so special.
I only hope she may be with her scottish heroes now, up there in the sky.
Addio, msr Givens, un’altra voce che se ne va.


Alicia Azcué de Bartrons January 15, 2010 at 7:48 am

La muerte de Kathleen me conmovió profundamente.
Su cálida sencillez es el recuerdo imborrable que atesoraré para siempre, junto con los breves pero cariñosos diálogos que compartimos.
Tuve el honor de traducir al español cuatro de sus maravillosas obras.
Reí y lloré con sus personajes inolvidables.

Alicia Azcué de Bartrons.


Jeanine Krock January 14, 2010 at 6:42 am

I was devastated to hear the news of Kathleen’s passing. I met Kathleen in May 2007 at the Bookslovers Conference in Wiesbaden/Germany. We were talking the night away in out hotel’s fine wine bar (“red wine in Wiesbaden” became our secret joke) and we decided we must have been close friends in a former life.
I knew she was special to me when we first met and I was so honoured when she said, that she felt the same way. I found our conversations fascinating and hoped to continue to have many more in the years to come.

In October we met recently again on twitter and she wrote: “You’ve been on my mind a lot lately – you must have felt the vibe.” What a gift her friendship has been! It is is a great loss, indeed. My condolences to her family and those who were close to her.


Cheryl Wyatt January 8, 2010 at 10:17 am

I’m so very sorry for your tremendous loss. Hugs and prayers,

Cheryl Wyatt


Christine January 8, 2010 at 7:18 am

I only ‘met’ Kathleen online but it was such an honour! She replied to a post I made on Ladies of Lallybroch 10 years ago…and I saved it and printed it out! We then emailed a few times over the years…I was always holding out hope that the 3rd Kilgannon book might just get published! She was always so kind and when I once emailed and asked if she remembered me she responded with “Who could forget a woman who uses a musical Scottish party as a screen name?” (I am Ceilidh on LOL)

I had come online (since I am reading Kilgannon AGAIN) to check out any news on books in progress to see the shocking “In Memory” on her webpage.

She will be missed!


Trisha Telep January 6, 2010 at 4:53 pm

I had only known Kathleen as a fan of RIVALS FOR THE CROWN. I loved the writing and the cover was so pretty and I kept the book out on display at Murder One all the time. It just seemed to be everything a historical should be and I was really taken with it. So when I got a chance to put together The Mammoth Book of Irish Romance, I immediately thought of her (Scottish, Irish, anything!: I just wanted a historical from this writer! I knew she’d be fabulous, whatever she wrote). And her story is truly lovely. Very fairytale-esque and classical, steeped in gorgeous myth. I dedicate the book to her and am so happy that I at least got the chance to meet her. I am so sorry for her family’s loss and I wish them comfort in their grief.


Lady Celtia January 5, 2010 at 6:40 pm

I am in shock. We first met at a Scottish festival here in California. Besides being a wonderful writer, she was one of the sweetest women I’ve ever known. I will miss her smile, her wonderful sense of humor, her thoughtfulness. She just sent me a terrific recipe and I was going to let her know how it turned out. I’m just stunned by the news. Julia and Sherri, my thoughts and prayers will be with you and with Kathleen’s family (and everyone else who knew and loved her).


Michelle Thorne January 5, 2010 at 4:05 pm

I am so saddened by this tragic news. As a bookseller and a member OCC/RWA I knew Kathleen pretty well. I remember when she signed at my store and at the OCC meeting. A very classy lady. I looked forward to seeing her in March when she was going to speak at OCC. The way I chose to remember Kathleen is the nigt she won the RITA…She came to the OCC suite with here husband (who looked like he just adored her) She was decked out to the nines and looked so beauitful and happy. I’ll hold on to that. Life is short. Call or hug some you care about TODAY. You never know.


Emily Bryan January 5, 2010 at 12:46 pm

I’m so shocked by this news. I just finished reading Kathleen’s wonderful RIVALS FOR THE CROWN and was so moved by it, I posted it as my Em Recommends pick for January on my website. She was such a talent. I’d intended to send her an email to let her know I was spotlighting her work, but hadn’t gotten around to it yet.

I guess we should never put off telling someone something nice.

My deepest sympathy to her family and friends,


Maureen Walters January 5, 2010 at 11:38 am

I was devastated to hear the news today of Kathleen’s passing. As her first agent, I had the privilege of meeting Kath around 1997 and selling her first two books to Dell. We stayed in contact and in fact, I talked with her just last month. My deepest sympathies go out to her husband and two daughters. She was a terrific lady and she will be greatly missed.


Teresa Hill January 5, 2010 at 11:34 am

Well, we met at the literacy reception, but I have no idea which conference it was. I know I’d read at least her first book, maybe her second, and I thought she was such a beautiful writer. Great characters, great emotion, epic stories. I was in awe. Am so sad to hear that she’s gone, and that we won’t have anymore of those wonderful stories.
I hope her family is reading here and knows how much other writers admired her talent.


Linda Abel January 5, 2010 at 11:18 am

I met Kathleen at a Scottish festival last May and then saw her once again at another Scottish festival in October. It’s her smile I will remember–so warm and inviting. Kathleen is one of the reasons I’ve brought The Medieval Chronicle to the web. I will always remember her for her encouragement and support. She is–was–one great lady! Like everyone else, I am in shock. My God bless her family and friends.


Marsha Canham January 5, 2010 at 11:03 am

I was lucky enough to know Kathleen for over a decade. We both shared a love for Scottish history, the focus for some of our best works. She was gracious, generous, thoughtful, and had a sense of humor and wit that could bring out a laugh from anyone. Apart from sharing bar stools at conventions, I had the pleasure of meeting with her and her husband on two occasions, and as I mentioned to Sherri and Julia and others on our email loop, it was like being in the company of newlyweds. My heart breaks for Russ and his family, and he has my thoughts and prayers. The publishing world has lost a beautiful talent in Kathleen and we have all lost an amazing friend.


Megan Maxwell January 5, 2010 at 9:21 am

I feel much is lost.
A kiss to her family and her, wherever you are.


susan leech January 5, 2010 at 7:28 am

I am in total shock to hear about Kathleen Givens. I love her books and I could feel by her books that she was a warm and caring person. My heart goes out to all her family as well as her dear friends who had the luck to know her on a much more personal level then I did. Peace in your hearts at such a sad time. susan L.


Julie Anne Long January 4, 2010 at 8:23 pm

I’m more sorry than I can possibly say for the loss of your dear, dear friend. I met Kathleen only briefly at my very first RWA conference, and she was just lovely—warm, gracious, so kind to nervous, neophyte me. The tributes here are beautiful and heartbreaking, and it’s so clear her friendship was a rare blessing and a great loss, indeed. Thank you for the opportunity to read about her. My heart goes out to those who loved her.


WendyK January 4, 2010 at 8:00 pm

Ohh my gosh. I’m so sorry to hear this. I’m so sorry for her family and for all her friends who knew her so well. I knew her only through reading a book and have a few still in my TBR pile. I’m sorry to hear of this loss to us all.
Many hugs and much love to you all and to her family.



Joanie January 4, 2010 at 6:18 pm

I never had the privilage of meeting this fine lady and in reading all the memories I know I have missed out on a rare jewel. The thing that struck me most was her generous and giving warmth to new authors, those still on the road to that first contract. What a wonderful example to us all.


Tara Green January 4, 2010 at 6:15 pm

Kathleen is an author who has stood by me through thick and thin. I have worked with her for years. I have only just heard this news and I am absolutely heartbroken. Is there anyone who can email me to tell me what happened?


Julia London Julia London January 4, 2010 at 9:05 pm

Tara, I believe her family thinks it was probably a heart attack. It was sudden and unexpected.


Sue Swift/Suz deMello January 4, 2010 at 4:34 pm

I’m stunned and saddened. What a tragedy. She was such a kind person.


Sherri Browning Erwin Sherri Browning Erwin January 4, 2010 at 4:06 pm

I’m really touched that so many people knew and loved Kath so much, it keeps bringing our site down to capacity problems. Thank you for staying patient and sticking with us and posting your memories.


Kathy Holzapfel/CATE NOBLE January 4, 2010 at 3:59 pm

I, too, first met Kathleen Givens back in the Warner days. In addition to being a gifted storyteller, Kathleen possessed a rare magic that made one feel instantly at home, instantly a friend. To think of her brings a smile, even in the midst of sadness. My condolences to her family and those who were closest to her.


Deborah Cooke (aka Claire Delacroix) January 4, 2010 at 3:58 pm

I’m in complete shock. Thanks, Sherri, for posting about this terrible news. I can’t believe it.

Like so many others, I met Kath in Chicago in 1999. We had phases of being in touch and being out of touch, but whenever we saw each other (usually at National) it was as if we’d parted ways an hour before. She was a wonderful, warm and giving person, genuine — and enormously talented, too. The world is a lot less bright without her.



Sue-Ellen Welfonder January 4, 2010 at 3:25 pm

Good heavens, this is a terrible shock! I’m stunned and so very sorry for her family and friends. I met Kathleen early in my career when she, too, was writing for GCP, then called Warner. We sat across from each other at the Warner dinner at RWA. Being quiet, I was happy to be placed near her because she was so warm and friendly. She struck me as highly intelligent and very gracious. In other words, a lady. I also remember her smile. This is just a dreadful, dreadful thing. Heartfelt condolences to those of you who were close to her. What a loss….


Virginia Henley January 4, 2010 at 2:55 pm

These tributes to Kathleen are absolutely wonderful. It is impossible to read them without shedding more tears. Kathleen however, would not want us to cry. I quote from the song “Memories” to sum up how she would advise us–”For it’s the laughter, we will remember, whenever we remember the way we were.”


carly phillips January 4, 2010 at 2:42 pm

I met Kathleen during my years with Warner back in 2002 … she was lovely. That’s how I remember her. I’m so sorry to hear the news. Life is just too too short. My heart and prayers go out to her and her family (immediate and extended) and to all here.


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