Sarah Ferguson on Life Beyond the 'Hurricane': 'Sometimes, You Don't Want to Be the Eye of the Storm' 

"When you have a sense of humor and you're a redhead, everyone takes you for a big hurricane," she tells PEOPLE exclusively in this week's cover story

Sarah "Fergie" Ferguson describes herself as a "full-blown Celtic redhead" — but says that sometimes, her fiery roots are at odds with her yearning for quiet.

"When you have a sense of humor and you're a redhead, everyone takes you for a big hurricane," she tells PEOPLE exclusively in this week's cover story. "But sometimes, you don't always want to be the eye of the storm."

In the past year, she found herself at the center of several storms: Like millions of people around the world, she lost a close friend to COVID-19 and experienced the isolation of the pandemic. She has also continued to weather the fallout from her ex-husband Prince Andrew's association with American financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, which led to Andrew's announcement in 2019 that he would be stepping back from royal duty. (He has denied any wrongdoing as well as any knowledge of Epstein's crimes.)

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Sarah Ferguson in PEOPLE Magazine. David Burton

She and Andrew, 61, divorced in 1996 but remained close as they raised their daughters, Princess Eugenie, 31, and Princess Beatrice, 32.

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From left: Princess Beatrice, the Duchess of York, Prince Andrew and Princess Eugenie in a family photo shared on Instagram. Sarah Ferguson/Instagram

Of Andrew, she says, "whatever challenges he has, I will stand firm to the co-parenters we are together. I believe he's a kind, good man, and he's been a fabulous father to the girls."

Throughout her nearly four decades in public life, the Duchess says she has often battled "this extraordinary fear of getting it wrong or putting my head above the parapet only to be hit down."

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Sarah Ferguson and Prince Andrew on their wedding day in 1986. John Shelley Collection/Avalon/Getty

Now she is entering the spotlight once again, this time with the release of her debut novel, Her Heart for a Compass, a fictionalized coming-of-age story due August 3 about one of her ancestors, Lady Margaret Montagu Douglas Scott.

Watch the full episode of People Cover Story: Sarah Ferguson on or on the PeopleTV app.

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Sarah Ferguson's new novel, Her Heart for a Compass.

"In researching her, I found out more about my own DNA, and I found that resilience and courage and sense of hope and optimism," says the Duchess, who has a long career as a children's book author, including her Budgie the Little Helicopter and Little Red series.

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"I've written this book because it's about women's empowerment and being strong enough to stand up and be counted," she adds. "With each line and each chapter, I was in search of my own heart."

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