Nov 7, 2011


Kate Walker
Kate, your latest book The Return of the Stranger has a fascinating premise. Can you tell us about it?
 It was part of the mini-series The Powerful and The Pure based on classic books of romantic fiction. The premise was to take four of the great classics of romantic fiction and use them as inspiration for Modern Romances (Presents/Sexy) and I was asked to do Wuthering Heights.  Of course Mills and Boon know about my MA thesis on  Emily and Charlotte Bronte’s  childhood writings and how they reflected in the adult novels they wrote so  I suppose I was a pretty natural choice as one of the authors involved.

The other  authors chosen were  – Sharon Kendrick (Jane Eyre), Kate Hewitt (Emma), Cathy Williams (Pride and Prejudice). Iconic romantic stories that everyone who loves romance remembers – with fascinating heroines and specially with heroes that have set the ‘dark and devastating’ standard for all time to come.

It’s perhaps important to say that the plan for this series was not – as some people have thought – plagiarism or stealing from the originals.  We are using them as an inspiration, and honouring them by doing so. They were all much bigger books than a short category romance – with much more in them than just the love story that romance writing focuses on –but that central love story was what I needed to focus on and to weave into a Modern Romance for today’s readers.
The Return of The Stranger is inspired by  Wuthering Heights but it’s a stand-alone romance  for the Presents line that works whether you have read the original or not.

 Was it fun to write and create a contemporary take on one of the most famous love stories of all times – and finally give them a happy ending?
It was both fun and a challenge. Wuthering Heights was a problematic novel to work on as a romance writer as I don’t really believe it is a love story – it’s hugely romantic in terms of powerful, passionate emotions but it’s more a novel about passion and possession and power than a long-lasting love that translates easily into the happy ever after. The love these two share is ultimately a destructive one – it is a wild, ferocious storm of emotion.

It’s interesting that the real love story – that between younger Catherine and Hareton – seems so mild in comparison that in so many film adaptations it gets left out completely and yet this is a love of real strength that flowers in spite of the very rough ground it grows on.

So that’s some of what I had to contend with  - giving my Heath and Kat  the understanding and strength of love, forgiveness, sharing while trying not to  diminish them in the passionate, tempestuous love. I also had to make two characters who some find unsympathetic and cruel, believably sympathetic and ultimately loveable.  But there was also the fun bit where I got to give Cathy and Heathcliff the happy ending that I’d always wished they could have – right from when I first read the book. 

Who are three of your all- time favourite heroes?

Heathcliff has to be one of them – I fell hard for him when my schoolteacher told us the opening of Wuthering Heights one day when a storm had fused all the lights in the school. As I’ve grown up I find Heathcliff far less sympathetic and appealing – but there’s no doubt that his fierce passion and the power of his feelings make so many people think that they would wish to be loved like that.  But probably only in a book!

But he is one of the ambiguous heroes I have loved over the years.  My very first ‘ambiguous’ hero –where you weren’t sure if he was a hero or a villain - was in Simona’s Jewel by Marjorie Phillips. I recently found this book again and was stunned to find that the hero Michele was actually only 14! But he set a pattern for the heroes I’ve loved. Mary Stewart always wrote those sorts of heroes -  Mark Langley in The Moonspinners  or Simon Lester in My Brother Michael are such great heroes.

 And one hero who fascinates me – who makes my heart ache with his vulnerability as much as I can be shocked and fearful of his ruthless determination and cold ferocity – is Francis Crawford of Lymond – the hero of the l-o-n-g series of historical novels called The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett.

 But it isn’t all about the hero, is it. What qualities do you think are most important in a heroine?
A heroine needs to have a backbone – particularly if she comes up against one of the forceful, ruthless, alpha heroes that we Presents/Sexy authors create.  She needs to be able to stand up for herself – though sometimes this can be shown in a quiet, vulnerable strength rather than feisty defiance or arguments. She needs to be vulnerable too – both the hero and the heroine do really so that they can reach out and touch each other through the chinks in their emotional armour.  A heroine needs to have the strength and courage of loving heart, one she can share with the man who becomes her hero. Loving someone isn’t just giving in to what they demand/what they think they are looking for – but giving someone what they truly need, even when they don’t recognise it themselves at first.  

Now Kate, you are coming up to your 60th romance. Wow. How are you going to celebrate this milestone?
To be honest, I haven’t actually thought about that yet! The trouble is that with publishing everything is planned so far in advance that  you get used to working on something now that won’t be published till next year. The Devil and Miss Jones will be published in the UK in March 2012  and – yes, I will need to plan something to  celebrate that. But what? Do you LoveCats have any ideas?  I’ll be thinking about that now – so watch my blog for news!  I love to celebrate with my readers so I’m sure I’ll think of something.

 How do you keep your ideas fresh? Is that a challenge?
With each new book I meet a a new hero and a new heroine. It’s the characters who create the books; their personalities, motivations and the conflict that comes between them. And because they are all different that keeps me on my toes – keeps me thinking of new ideas/new scenes/new plots.  Besides, nothing in writing and publishing stays still – the romances I’m writing now are not the same as the ones I wrote when I was first published in 1984 or even 2004 – things keep changing, growing, developing. And it’s a challenge to keep up to date and write what is currently popular for today’s readers – and the readers of the future. 

Just reading your blog made me feel weak, you seem to juggle so much. Can you share your three best time management tips with us?
I get so much done because I love what I do. This is what I always wanted to do with my life – writing and talking about/teaching writing. I never really thought that I would ever end up teaching writing so much, with the 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance in such demand – it has even got me a job teaching a week long residential course in Tuscany – at the Watermill at Posara   next year.

I focus on what I’m doing and work at it till I get it done -  so if I’m writing then my concentration is on that – and if I’m teaching I think I use a different part of my brain from the imaginative one.  The most important thing I need to remember is that writing is my job – writing pays my bills and without novels being published, I don’t have the credentials to do the teaching. So writing is always number one.

I use my computer and my iphone to keep up to date – with everything recorded there and for teaching I have built up a resource bank of workshops that go well ready to print off at the press of a button
When I’m travelling I use the time as well as I can – my husband is great at doing the driving so I read/plan/organise as we go. If we’re on a train then I read or perhaps critique a manuscript – I don’t sit and stare out the window.

And because I manage my own working hours, I work when it suits me best. For example, soon my husband will start his university teaching   and that means that on certain days  he will  be out until 10.30 pm –  that’s a great opportunity for me to get as much done as I possibly can so that when he’s home we can relax together in what would be  a normal working day. 

And when it comes to writing – I always, always have a  notebook and pen – in my bag, beside the bed,  on the kitchen worktop – so that I can make sure I jot down any notes or inspiration that come to me and I don’t lose them. If you don’t make a note of something then you might think you’ll never forget it – but you do!

Whew Kate! You are a powerhouse. Thanks so much for giving such an inspiring interview.
 Thank you for inviting me along to LoveCats. My Maine Coons Flora and Charlie love this site – and they would like to offer a special giveaway of a signed book from my backlist.  Each of them will choose a prize for someone who posts a comment   and send them a special message!


  1. Kate, it's lovely to have you visit us! I second Zana's 'whew' -- you are a powerhouse!

    I love that Return of the Stranger is inspired by Wuthering Heights. What a fabulous idea! I must read it to see how you give Heath and Kat their happy ending!

    Diamonds are the gift for a 60th wedding anniversary ... could you celebrate your 60th book with something diamondy?

  2. I agree with Emily you need to get diamonds for you 60th book. It is amazing to me how authors do write these wonderful books for us. I just wouldn't have the talent for it. You ladies are my Idol.

  3. Kate, it's fabulous to have you visit us at the LoveCats. I've read Return of the Stranger and it's such an intense and emotional book -- readers are in for such a treat!

    I love the Title The Devil and Miss Jones. And I think you deserve diamonds too. :-)

  4. Oh, yes, diamonds are a must for your 60th book! =)

    I can't wait to read The Return of the Stranger. I adored Wuthering Heights as a teenager but I don't think I'd have any patience for Heathcliff or Cathy now, so to read your modern version will be a treat!

    Btw, I love that your Main Coons will choose the winners of your giveaways at the LoveCats. *waving to Flora and Charlie*

  5. Kate will be along when her time zones align with ours :). In the meantime, it's great to see you all here.

  6. Hi Kate ~ Great interview. Every time I think you can't come up with something different to blog about, you do. Mind you this time you had someone asking some great questions. Hopefully by the next stop on your tour I will have read the Return of the Stranger.

  7. Ah, Kate, I'm so relieved! I came to read this with fear and trembling because I have severe doubts about Wuthering Heights even being called a romance. It certainly isn't, by the modern definition and absolutely not by a HM&B definition. When I first read it, I liked it, but not as a satisfying love story. Now, as both romance characters and people, I find the two of them infuriating. I can only bear them by remembering that this is really a Gothic horror story about child abuse and corrosive hatred and what it can do to people. Then I can pity them, in their twisted, obsessive, blinkeredness. But I can't like them and I can't, can't, can't, see their destructive, obsessive passion as love. I look forward to seeing them redeemed with a love that is positive and life-giving as well as passionate!

  8. Hi Kate,

    A great interview! Thanks for sharing so much about The Return of the Stranger.

    Congratulations on the 60th book!

  9. Kate, welcome to Lovecatsdownunder.
    phew, I'm exhausted just reading your post. What an amazing woman you are. And as for the 60th book - definitely diamonds.

    Sue MacKay

  10. Hi Kate - great to see you here at LoveCats. And Diamonds are a must!!!
    Great blog post.

  11. Hi Kate,
    I got stuck on the "week teaching in Tuscany" - wow what a dream week that woudl be!

    Lovely interview Zana and Kate.


  12. Hi Kate
    I can't wait to read The Return of the Stranger. And to Charlie and Flora - if you are as big as the gorgeous Maine Coon I saw at the Brisbane show, I hope you don't walk on the keyboard while your mum is writing the way my cats do! She wouldn't have a hope of getting any work done!
    Smiles, Natalie

  13. I agree with reader consensus. Diamonds do sound like a great way to celebrate 60 books.

    Imelda, I confess, I too found the Heathcliff/Cathy relationship infuriating - but compelling. It will be fascinating to see how Kate reinterprets their fierce love.

  14. As for the week teaching in Tuscany - you are right, Cath, most enviable.

  15. 60 is amazing. For me Wuthering Heights was more obsession than love. I can't wait to read THE RETURN OF THE STRANGER.

    Flora and Charlie show me some love.

    I am on your Newsletter list.

  16. Hi Kate! I'm a huge fan of you 12 Points, as well as your Presents/Sexys! Can't wait to read this one. =)

  17. 12 Points is a fantastic resource, isn't it, Robyn.

    Hey Marybelle - good luck with the coons!

  18. Oh boy! Time zones always do this to me - you've all been busy chatting while I was asleep and now I need to catch up with you all.Thank you to Zana for holding the fort until I woke up!

  19. Kate and Zana, terrific interview!

    Kate, congratulations on your milestone of 60 books published with Mills and Boon! Zana's quite right - you are a powerhouse! I like Emily's idea of something diamondy to celebrate with!

    I hopped over to read about the Tuscany week - it sounds amazing and the venue is magic! Your students are in for a treat all around!


  20. Hello Emily May - a powerhouse? Sometimes I feel I hardly get anything done - but then such a lot of writing is the thinking before I start and then I can write fast because I know my characters.

    If you read Return of The Stranger I hope it workd for you and you enjoy the happy ending. And diamonds! Oh now I need to think about that - but I will celebrate somehow

  21. Hello Virginia - what a lovely comment - I'm amazed at being anyone's idol - I think we all have different talents and mine is for telling stories. You're another who votes for diamonds . .I can see I'm going to have to look out for something that fits

  22. Hello Michelle - and thank you so much for your comments on Return of The Stranger - intense and emotional are just the words I would love to have used to describe this book so it's a real compliment to have you use them.

    I have to admit that I love the title The Devil and Miss Jones - I wasn't sure if editorial would let me use it but they agreed and I'm so pleased. It was my working title to build the spine of the story around.

    Another vote for diamonds!

  23. And Rachel says diamonds too - I'll let you know if this works out! Rachel, I tend to agree with you - I adored Wuthering Heights when I was so much younger but these days I do feel that I want to shake the pair of them - Cathy and Heathcliff - I also think that Heathcliff takes his revenge too far. But I went back to my early memories of the book to work on my romance version of the story.

    Flora and Charlie send you purrs of greeting and say that if you want to see how beautiful they are (and they know it) there are often photos of them on my blog.

  24. Once again Zana - thank you for holding the fort while my time zone was in the middle of the night!

  25. Lovely to see you here again Kaelee - I'm glad I haven't bored you yet! IT's taken some thinking though! But this time it was great - it's easier when I have questions to answer - and these were some great questions (in fact I think I wen on a bit too long on them!)

  26. Imelda- I'm so glad that you are relieved - I felt much the same way as you. So many people say that WH is a fvourite 'romantic' novel but it's not realy a love story and I said that when I was asked to rework it. The others - Emma- Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre - have love stories at their heart but WH is full of so many darker emotions and I think it's the force of passion people rememeber - but not real giving love. As I said, I had to make my Kat and Heath learn more about that so they could have a happy ending - I hope it works for you.

  27. Hello Romance Reader - I'm glad you enjoyed the interview and thank you for your congratulations. I'm busy thinking of celebrations for the 60th now

  28. Hi Sue - It's funny, I don't think I do so much and then I read an interview like this and think . . .well, yes, perhaps I do do plenty! I'm noting these votes for diamonds and ow I feel I have to act on them.

  29. Nice to see you again Helen - and another vote for diamonds . . . I think I need to go and wander round the local antique market and see what I can find

  30. I know Catherine - every time I write that 'week in Tuscany' I smile at just anticipating it! Some people have said 'but you'd have to teach' - but talking about writing isn't really work is it? I can't wait.

  31. Zana, I'll be working onnthe diamonds! And I do hope that if my reworking of WH works for you - as a reinterpretation of that fierce love, that you'll let me know. I tried to keep the fierce love but without the dark sides of it

  32. Hi Marybelle - I agree with you - the 'love' in WH is so obsessive that it is a hard and dangerous emotion. Flora and Charlie say they are open to bribery - a little tuna wold do it!

  33. Hello Robyn how lovely to see you here. Thank you so much for always saying kind things about the 12 Point Guide - I'm always so thrilled when people find that this books helps them with their writing. I love hearing from writers who have got a lot from it

    And I do hope you enjoy Return of the Stranger

  34. Natalie - I'm sorry - my scolling skipped a bit and I missed your post! I wanted to say that yes Charlie and Flora are typical large Maine Coon cats - Flora is fully grown now but being a lady she is not going to be as big as Charlie who has (gulp!) two more years of growing to do! And yes, Flora does walk over my keyboard when she feels she is not getting enough attention. They send purrs to your cats and say you can visit them often on my blog - they have a lot of fans when I post their photos.

  35. Hi Sharon - after answering so many lovely posts I'm feeling a bit less of a powerhouse but perhaps the hunt for a diamond might give me more encouragement on the next book!

    I'm so looking forward to that week in Tuscany - I understand that on one of their previous courses some students came from Australia - so perhaps you'd like to come and join us??

  36. Hi Kate,

    Wow you are definitely a powerhouse and I'm so thankful to have come across your novels! Thank you for an inspiring post and I look forward to many more hours of fun reading.

    Congratulations on the nomination for The Proud Wife.

    Your fan,
    Rita from South Africa

    p.s. I wish that one day I'll be able to attend for fun the week in Tuscany and get to meet you too ;o)

  37. Hi Kate,
    Sounds like a fantastic book!

  38. Hi Kate and the LoveCats!

    Congrats on the RT Reviewers Choice Award for your THE PROUD WIFE, Kate!

    And you certainly are a powerhouse! Unknowingly another Craft Post crept up! Once again it's DownUnder! 9th November at

  39. Kate

    I do so love your stories they always give me hours of reading pleasure. I am looking forward to this one

    WOW you are so busy I get tired just thinking about all you do LOL

    Congrats on the new release

    Have Fun

  40. Hi Kate, Great to read another of your interviews - don't know how you fit so much in! The 12 Point Guide is my next planned purchase - have promised myself I have to have read through it at least once before the end of 2011. Good luck with the rest of the blog tour. (And diamonds get my vote too!)

  41. Still more posts! I've been out all day and so busy but I can't neglect you - so -

    Rita - thank you so much. It would be wonderful if you could ever make that trip to Tuscany - or I could ever visit SA - the place where my father grew up!

  42. Hi Chey - I hope you enjy Stranger if you read it - and you have a prize from another blog on its way to you

  43. Hi Nas - you're pretty much of a powerhouse tyoo - keeping me on track with this blog tour! I'm glad you posted the link to the extra blog - I can link to it more directly now.

    And yes - a giveaway

    Which reminds me, I should say that when I offer a backlist title then that means one of my novels- sorry, I cna't offer a copy of the 12 Point Guide except on very special giveaways. (one coming up soon on the blog tour!)

  44. Helen, thank you - you couldn't say anything nicer to a writer, I'm always happy when I know my readers enjoy what I write - after all, that's why I do it! I do hope that Stranger is another one you'll enjoy

  45. Hi Susie - thank you for getting hold of the 12 Point Guide - I do hope that it helps you. But don't forget - don't just read it - do the exercises in each chapter too, That's what makes it into a workbook as well as a guide.

    And maybe one day you'll be able to come on one of my courses?

  46. Kate, I would LOVE to come on one of your courses. I'd be joining you in Tuscany if I could, but sadly other commitments (and finances!) stand in the way. I will be looking out for any other courses you run next year though.

  47. Fabulous interview, Zana. I'm inspired to read your books, Katie, and would adore to join you in Tuscany. And I'll be nabbing the 12 Point Guide. Thank you.