1/ Please tell us a little about your journey to first getting published?
I always loved telling stories even before I could write I was making up stories. My mother told me that I was making up the tale of the Three Little Raindrops — Drippy, Droppy and Droopy for my two younger sisters when I was four. I can't remember a time when I wasn't scribbling away at something, and I wrote my first 'book' when I was eleven, an adventure story, most of it in secret in lessons at school. I kept on writing stories all through my school years. A friend of my mother wrote romance for Mills and Boon and I so admired her and wanted to do what she did but my mother and teachers always said that being a writer was just a dream and I would never succeed at it. When I married and worked as a Children's Librarian, writing took a back seat but when I left work to have my son I decided that if ever I was going to achieve my dream the time was now. I remembered my mother's friend who wrote from home when her children were small and so I determined to see if I could do the same. I set aside the two mornings a week when my son was at Nursery and I loved the whole experience of telling stories all over again. The first two novels I sent in were rejected, but for the second one I received a detailed comment letter. That said ‘please read some of the recently published books and try again.’ When I read that I was determined to try again and I wrote a third story and sent it in. That was the very first book that Mills & Boon accepted and it became The Chalk Line my first published novel. And even better I showed everyone who said I would never make a success of writing that in fact I did – and I've continued to do so for almost 30 years now!
2/ How many books have you had published so far in your career?
The latest romance I had published – A Throne for The Taking – was my 61st novel for Harlequin/Mills & Boon. That was published in June this year. I've also written the 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance so that
3/ The world of publishing is ever evolving, how have you stayed on top of trends and continued to give your readers what they want?
Sometimes I ask myself that and I can’t really give a definite answer. I have been writing and been published – as I said - for almost 30 years now ( The Chalk Line was published in 1984) so there have been plenty of changed in that time. For example, when I started no one used the hero’s point of view – now it’s in almost every novel. I have always tried to keep up with what is being published – in romances and in the larger genre of popular fiction. Reading what is current is the best way to see what is currently popular, but you have to be careful not to jump on a bandwagon too late – and the saying goes, if you can see the bandwagon then it’s probably going past you! As well as fiction, I read a lot of magazines, watch TV, particularly things like soaps which develop over time too, see films – again, what is poplar gives me the ideas of what I could write about. As you say, publishing is ever evolving and romance writing doesn’t stand still. Themes and ideas that were popular 5 – 10 years ago are no longer so popular or even acceptable so I need to keep alert to what is happening.
4/ What has been the highlight of your publishing career so far?
There have been several – obviously the acceptance of my very first book. And I had a special and really enjoyable celebration for the publication of my 50th title. But really the great thing about having a long lasting career like this is that each new book accepted brings a great sense of achievement and then the day it’s published and I first see in in the shops is another great pleasure. It’s wonderful knowing that I have achieved this dream that everyone said would never happen.
5/ Which of your books is your favourite, and why?
Oh that’s impossible to answer! As I’m sure everyone says it’s like choosing which of your children is your favourite. There’s The Chalk Line which was my first ever book. Or Game of Hazard which was the first to go to America (they didn't all do that automatically then.) There’s The Sicilian’s Red-Hot Revenge which was my 50th title - and then The Konstantos Marriage Demand which won the Romantic Times Best Presents Extra award. And I loved writing Return of the Stranger which gave me a chance to revisit one of my personal favourite books - Wuthering Heights – and rework it as a Modern Romance.
6/ Are you a plotter or a panster?
I’m largely a pantser. I tend to start with a small idea and then nurture it to make it grow – usually by asking the question why? Why did that happen? Why would he do this . . .’ I then ‘set off hopefully into the mist.’ But as I’m working I always have a pen and notepad beside me so that I can write down ideas for the way ahead and scenes that will be coming up. I work so much through my characters – they are what I start with and I need to make them work so the story develops through them and the way they would behave.
7/ What’s the one piece of advice you would give aspiring authors?
I’m often asked this and the main piece of advice is always the same – read, read, read. If you look at the answer to question 3, you’ll see why. Read what the publishers are publishing now, the sort of stories they are buying. No matter what genre you want to write – read widely in that genre (and others) to get an idea of the wide range of stories that are published in it. The other thing is to write from the heart – to be true to yourself and not try to copy other authors, other voices. In romance writing it’s very difficult – almost impossible to be amazingly original, there are so many tried and tested themes, but your individual voice, your individual ‘spin’ on a story can make the tried and tested seem new again. As I always say at the writing courses that I teach, ‘ It will be really difficult to be truly original – but you can be truly authentic – true to yourself.’ The published don’t want another Penny Jordan or Emma Darcy, they already have books in those voices – they want you.
8/ What do you love most about being a romance author?
What’s not to love (oh well- ok there’s the waiting times and the revisions, always revisions!) but what otherjob can you do still in your pyjamas if you want to - or trackie pants and a tee shirt and bare feet, I can plan my own hours, work in the middle of the night if I want to. I get to watch films/TV dramas with the most gorgeousmen in them – and call it research. Ditto with a travel and visiting new places. When I teach I meet enthusiastic and involved people and have some great conversations about writing. I get to spend my days with (imaginary) gorgeous tycoons or sheikhs and feisty heroines , deal with passionate and intense emotions, – and I get to write down all that those ‘voices’ in my head are telling me and not get called mad! Oh, and I get paid for it as well!!
Thank you Kate for being our guest today! And Kate has a copy of A Throne For The Taking to give away to one lucky commenter.
Visit Kate at her website ......