THE UK AND US COVERS – LOVELY AREN’T THEY! VERY MODERN TOO! Ed.
Hi, thanks for coming to chat to us today! I am in awe that your 65th book title is out today – such a wonderful achievement!
Thank you for inviting me, Rachel – I’m happy to be here!
Q1. Can you tell us a little about your WIP?
Oh I had hoped that I would be able to say ‘it’s no longer ‘in progress’ as I just sent it off to my editor’ – but a bad migraine attack put paid to that and so I’, still putting the ending on to it and, sadly, it’s still on my desk!
Ok – so – my working title of the current book us The Scandalous O’Sullivan Sisters – Part One Imogen’s Story. When my last and latest novel was accepted, my (then) editor said that she’s love to have a duet of linked books from me so of course I was happy to work on that. The point that connects the two books is that – as must be obvious from the working title! – they are about two sisters who both have been labelled with the nickname the Scandalous O’Sullivan Sisters. Imogen is the older sister and her younger sister is Ciara. They have only really just got to know each other since their parents split up and the father kept Imogen and the mother took Ciara with her. Now Imogen is getting married to a local neighbour – but a few days before the wedding takers place Raoul Cardini, the man she met and fell in love with three years before but who rejected her cruelly then, turns up unexpectedly. His plan is to break up the wedding for his own vengeful reasons.
Q2.What’s next for the writing?
Well that’s an easy one – once Imogen had her happy ending, and the book is (hopefully) si8gned off – then obviously, the next job is to write the other O’Sullivan sister’s story. So my next project will be writing Ciara’s story. I have plenty of ideas and as I’ve had to include Ciara and some elements of her past and her present conflict in Imogen’s story, then I feel I already know her quite well – and I know a lot about her hero !
Q3. In addition to your books, what kind of career have you had?
I’ve been writing for a frighteningly long time – 30+ years! So I have been writing full time for longer than I’ve done anything else. Before I was published I worked as a children’s librarian which was a really satisfying experience. From studying children’s books and YA fiction, I learned the importance of good storytelling which grabs the reader and holds them, keeping them involved, caring about the characters and wanting to in what happens to them – and how the story develops. That was the way to keep children coming back for more- and reading more and more. It’s something I’ve remembered and hopefully put into place with my own writing of romance.
Now, as well as writing romance, I also do quite a bit of teaching creative writing. These weekend residential courses are based on the writing guide I wrote Kate Walker’s 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance and they’re a great way to meet new writers, readers, and to talk to the about books and writing.
Q4. A typical day in the life of you – what does that look like?
Hmm – there isn’t really a ‘typical’ day. Because I’m lucky enough to write full time and because now there is only myself and my husband at home we can write – our adult son has a home of his own – when we choose and for how long we choose – or not! My husband is a writer too though he writes non-fiction on history, the history of crime, local history and biographies. The main thing we do regularly is to make sure we meet in the middle of the morning to have coffee together – and then we can talk over things we need to do – whether about writing or the practical things in life. Then we write for however long and how hard we need to make sure that we complete out contracts with our different publishers. Whoever isn’t on a demanding deadline cooks the evening meal. But we do have one regular timetabled meeting each week – and that is that every Saturday we go out to a coffee shop, and sit down with the Telegraph Cryptic Crossword. We don’t leave until we finish it. We’ve been doing this for five years now and we’ve completed it each time so (fingers crossed) it hasn’t beaten us yet!
So you see the life of a published romance novelist isn’t exactly glamorous – it’s BICHOK – bum in chair, fingers on the keyboard) ! Sometime I do get to add a little glamour when I have a lunch with my editor in London or give talks at events – or as I said, I might be running a course with Writers’ Holiday or Relax and Write – but mostly it’s sit down and put the words down one after another.
Q5. I collect elephant ornaments (and books of course!) – do you have something you collect?
The books- oh dear, yes! Books. And more books. I have a collection of first editions of favourite author – Mary Stewart and Dorothy Dunnett and a couple of antique editions of Wuthering Heights and Villette that I found in old book shops when I was writing my MA thesis on the Bronte sisters – the bookshop owner saw me with the 1855 edition of Villette that was only 50p and said that if I preferred it, he had a ‘nice clean paperback edition ‘ for not much more cost! I declined the offer and kept the older version.
I have always loved crafts – particularly sewing/embroidery – and I specially loved the old-fashioned ‘samplers’ that young girls (children of about 8 years old!) used to sew to practise their embroidery skills. Years ago I found one – it was in a collection of ‘ rags’! – and since then I’ve been collecting them when I can find the, When I started all those years ago, you could find a sampler quite easily and they didn’t cost too much. These days, they are much rarer and can be very expensive in antique shops. The oldest one I have is dated 1789 and I have some modern ones – a couple that I embroidered myself and one that a friend did for me. Then there are ones that I have collected just because they were so beautiful – or one that I had to take home with me because it was so badly done I just had to take it home! The samplers usually have all the letters of the alphabet , some embroidered pictures – a house, a tree etc – and then a bible verse. One of the samplers I have was done by Selina Dyson aged 8 – and the bible verse she chose was obviously picked because it was so short – it’s ‘Jesus wept’! There are some interesting ones – like the one by Eliza Parker which lists all her family and their ages – I was able to look this family up with the help of a friend who does genealogy and so I’ve recorded what we found about them. The saddest is a ‘mourning sampler’ where it marks the death of Lizzie Hindmarsh who died aged 18 ½ and it has this sad poem embroidered on it:
We have to mourn the loss of one
We did our best to save
Beloved on earth, regretted gone
Remembered in the grave
But my favourite is not actually a sampler, just a small embroidered bookmark – which says simply ‘To dear Mama From Katie ‘. Katie was my grandmother – the first Kate Walker and I was named for her. So obviously this is very special.
Q6. Women writers, and romance writers in particular, often see prejudice and a certain ‘pigeon holing’ when it comes to their books – what would you say about your own work?
Oh I get so tired about the sneering, condescending ways some people talk about women’s writing – specially with romance writing. I have been faced by someone who , when I said I wrote for Harlequin Mills and Boon, actually said ‘Oh – you mean you operate the computer’! She actually believed that there was a giant computer programmed with names, descriptions etc of the hero /heroine – and a variety of plots that the ‘author pressed a button and the machine would deliver a randomly selected plot and story! I have to admit that sometimes I’m pushed into emphasising my MA in literature and then pointing out that I got interested in popular fiction when I studied the gothic romances and popular fiction of the time of the Brontes when I wrote my thesis on them. I do think the best response to the ‘they are all the same’ and ‘written to a formula’ is from a dear friend of mine – Anne McAllister who pointed out that one of the most rigid ‘formulas’ in poetry is the sonnet form and yet thousands of people have produced endless variations on that theme over the years. Someone called Shakespeare wrote 154 of them!
I wonder if people realise how boring and uninformed it makes them seem churning out all the old tried and tested and overdone comments about ‘sex books’ or ‘hearts and flowers’ stories. (It always intrigues me how the books can be both!) but when challenged they haven’t read a single title published by Harlequin for example. They just go by the covers on the Mills & Boon editions- and the author has no say in that at all! One thing studying for my degrees taught me was that before you could comment on any book you first had to read it! It’s amazing how few people actually do that – and it’s a sad condemnation o their intelligence that they just accept that the books are as the reports make them out to be without ever question whether the (usually lazy) journalists who write articles know anything about the real facts. The near-prehistoric covers that usually go along to illustrate these inaccurate articles are a bit of a giveaway there!
Q7. If you could branch out into a different genre, which one would you choose and why?
I’d love to write a ghost story – I’ve yet to read a really good ghost story that actually scared me, or didn’t deteriorate into an apocalyptic destruction of everything at the end. And then there are the ones where the real life characters interact with the ghosts without knowing! I’ve even read stories where a character (male or female) had sex with a ghost without realising! At the moment I just don’t have time to write anything else but I admit there are some times I look at my collection of samplers and wonder about the girls who made them . . . .
Q8. Do you have any tips for the budding novelists out there reading this?
As I said, I teach a lot of writing courses – weekend residential courses, day long workshops here in the UK and I know a lot of people want to write – and a lot of those want to write romance so my advice for aspiring writers is always the same – read, read, read! You can’t imagine how many people I meet who want to write category romance because they believe it will make them money – and they’ve never read a single romance title! So they think the books are ‘formulaic’ and full of simpering swooning heroines and bullying alpha heroes. It doesn’t matter if you want to write romance or any other genre – you need to know what is being published right now in that genre – that will help you see what the editors are buying and why. Then you need to make sure that you write something that is authentic to you – don’t just try to copy other authors because you’ll end up a pale copy of the already successful people. Many of the stories are seen over and again because they are so popular but you need to put your own individual twist on to it, your own voice, so that it is not just more of the same. For that you need to start with creating interesting and sympathetic characters,
Of course I should mention my writing guide – Kate Walker’s 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance – which is a book I wrote to answer all the questions I get asked when people want to know about how to write. It works for all fiction, not just romance. And it covers the same topics and problems as I deal with in my courses – it must work because I’ve now had 17 ex-students end up as published authors!
Q9. What are you reading currently?
Err . . is that reading upstairs or downstairs . . . at home or away! I have a terrible book habit and I don’t have a TBR pile but a TBR bookshelf. I have one book by my bed (no – that’s not true – I have several books by my bed) and a couple more by my chair downstairs. Then if I’m travelling as I was this last week, I either have my kindle with me or, if I can’t resist temptation I might pick up a new book and start that! So I have a thriller called Pretty Is by Maggie Mitchell downstairs, a Mills and Boon romance The Flaw In Raffaele’s Revenge on my kindle upstairs and when I was away last week I just couldn’t resist picking up the novel Nelly Dean by Alison Case because I was so intrigued by the fact it’s obviously connected to Wuthering Heights and I wrote my MA on that. I also grabbed Frog Music by Emma Donoghue because I read Room by her and that was amazing. My name is Kate and I’m a bookaholic!
Q10. Finally, do you have a next goal or dream in life? If so, what is it?
Well, my latest novel – Indebted to Moreno – which is out in October is my 65th title! (I started writing very very young!) 65 is a great number – but it’s also a bit of a weird one because there isn’t anything special to mark it. People celebrate the 50th – or the 75th – and nothing much in between. I’m going to be celebrating this 65th book on my blog and Facebook etc – but I’ve also decided that I want to aim for that next big ‘official’ number and mark my 75th – the 66th is just about done, 67th is planned and ready to go . . . I hope to make it if I just keep putting the words down one after another!
Thanks for inviting me to chat Rachel – I’ve enjoyed answering your questions and sharing.
Kate’s book is available now from Amazon UK
, Amazon US
or the Mills & Boon
For further info or to connect with Kate, please see her website
I shall be reviewing Indebted to Moreno on the blog before Christmas too. I can’t wait, big fan here 🙂