The birth of her grandson, August, last February has presented Sarah Ferguson with new challenges. “I’ve got to learn to play trains, trucks and diggers because I’ve always had girls in my life and Barbies,” she says. “But, good news, if he wants to play with Barbies, I’ll do that too!”

It’s been an exciting period for the Duchess of York, who will become a grandmother for a second time this fall and who just released her first novel, My Heart for a Compass. “I dedicated it to [my daughters] because I don’t want them to wait till 61 to follow their dreams,” she says. “It’s always been my dream to be a novelist.”

Wed to Queen Elizabeth’s second son, Prince Andrew, 61, in 1986, Sarah survived many public ups and downs. “I am a very sensitive person, and I take things personally. I really did mind when all those terrible articles were written about me,” confides Sarah, who sees a therapist and relies on “friendship, my family and my work to keep focus on what’s important.”

Sarah Ferguson Prince Andrew Photos
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Though her marriage to Andrew ended 1996, the pair remain close friends. “We are very good coparents,” says the mother of Princesses Beatrice, 32, and Eugenie, 31. Sarah has also stood by Andrew through the scandal that forced his retirement from royal duties, describing him as a “thoroughly good man.”

Today, she’s happy. “I’m definitely not dating,” Sarah confesses. “I see my girls and their families as often as possible. The three of us call each other a tripod, in that we will always support the other.”

Sarah’s life may not have turned out exactly as she’d hoped, but that’s fine. “I’m never complacent about the fact that I have been the luckiest girl ever,” she says.

For more on this story, pick up the latest issue of Closer magazine, on newsstands now.