Welcome Mills and Boon and Harlequin Presents author Kate Walker to
Romance Author Buzz.
Welcome Kate, to Romance Author Buzz. To read Kate's bio, you can find it here at her website. While you're there, check out Kate's current releases and her blog.
Her husband wants her back!
Marina thought her dreams had come true when her husband placed a wedding band on her finger. But their marriage was not the fairytale she'd hoped for, and eventually Marina walked away, her heart broken.
But two years on Pietro DInzeo no longer haunts Marina's dreams. She knows the time has come to move on, and even a summons to join him in Sicily won't deter her However, with his wife standing before him, about to sign on the dotted line of their divorce papers, Pietro wonders why he ever let her go?
Kate, is there a behind the book story for The Proud Wife?
A small part of the story of The Proud Wife comes from my own life. Before my son was born, I had another pregnancy, one that ended in miscarriage. My husband and I hadn’t been married very long at the time and we both dealt with the loss of the baby in very different ways. So when I was working through Pietro and Marina's reactions, I remembered those days and the complicated intense feelings that went with them. I also wanted to explore the theme that my web designer has put into the great banner for this book on my web site – that sometimes you don’t know what you’ve got until you’re about to lose it.
Are you a plotter or pantser? What is your writing routine?
I’m sort of half and half really! A plotster? I always start out with the ‘seed’ of a book – just an idea. Perhaps a line of dialogue or just a ‘what would happen if . . .’ Then I take it from there. Sometimes I plan out the scenes ahead- these are the times when the book has to develop a very definite way or when I know a scene that has to come in later. Other times I’ll just ‘ travel hopefully into the fog’ and see where the characters will take me. Because for me the characters are the most important – they are what make the story. It’s their story and I have to tell it for them. So I need to know my characters very well so that I can understand how they will behave and how they will react to what happens to them.
With The Prod Wife, I knew that my hero, Pietro, was going to push for a divorce - but that he would never reveal what his real reasons for doing so were. He thinks that his marriage is over and that the best thing to do is to end it cleanly and definitely so that he and Marina have a chance to move on. Marina thinks that this shows there is no chance for their future so she is resolved to accept nothing from him in the divorce settlement - and that is what makes them both stop and think.
This book is really very typical of how I work. I knew these details about my characters at the beginning, and I knew why their marriage had failed, what had driven them apart. But once they came together I was working more as a ‘pantser’ – seeing how they would react to each other and how they would then take that further. For me the really hard work in a book is the ‘thinking time’ before you are actually writing the story. That’s when you have to ask yourself (and your characters) a lot of questions and most of them begin with ‘Why?’ I try to work on my writing – or something connected with it every day. But I don’t really have a routine other than to make myself sit down at the desk and work. Sometimes the words flow and sometimes they don’t. On the really good days, I can work for hours – and still be at my desk at 10 at night. But I also need to make sure that I get a chance to unwind.
How did you start your career? Who was your first publisher?
If we’re talking about novels, then Harlequin Mills& Boon were my first publisher. I had my first novel published by them – The Chalk Line – in 1984. Before that I had had some short stories published in small magazines but nothing very much. I always wanted to write and even as a child I was writing stories
What are you working on right now?, always scribbling in notebooks. I wrote a long story in instalments that my friends read like a serial and that was very romantic so when I left work to have my son I looked back at the things I had enjoyed writing and realised that romance was the sort of novel writing I liked best. I also remembered a friend of my mother who had written for Mills & Boon when I was growing up so I decided to give it a try., My first attempt was rejected (not surprisingly, it was pretty bad!) but my second attempt got a response from a Senior Editor telling me what was wrong with what I’d submitted and asking me to try again. Of course I did and The Chalk Line was the result. They wanted some small revisions and that was my first acceptance.
What news would you like to share with your readers?
I’ve just had some really great new – fabulous news! One of my novels from last year – The Konstantos Marriage Demand - was shortlisted by Romantic Times for their Reviewers’ Choice Awards – for the Best Presents Extra and it was just announced in the new issue of Romantic Times that I had won! I was so thrilled. I’ve been nominated twice before for this award - with The Twelve Month Mistress and Bedded By The Greek Billionaire but this was my first win. And I’ve just learned that RT gave The Proud Wife 4 1/2 stars so they really seem to like what I’m writing right now.
How did you build the relationship between Marina and Pietro so that it felt real?
I always work the same way on building my characters - I have to get to know them really well. So I spend a lot of time thinking about who they are and what has happened to them in the past – then what happened between the two of them and the most important question ‘why’? I knew, obviously that they had been married but the marriage had broken down but I needed to know what had been the cause of that breakdown and how it had made them both feel. The problem for these two people was that they had married in a rush because Marina was pregnant, but they didn’t know each other well enough to survive the grief and pain when Marina lost the baby. They shared a powerful physical passion but they needed more than that to cope with what life threw at them. Grief does terrible things to people. Some couples can be drawn together by it, others are torn apart. And because Marina and Pietro didn’t know each other well enough to understand what each of them was going through that grief opened up the cracks in their marriage and they didn’t know how to communicate what they were feeling to each other. They still had the burning passion that had brought them together. But passion wasn’t enough to keep them together. In the end, Marina couldn’t take the emptiness any more and she left. And believing separation was what she truly wanted, Pietro let her go. I try to dig deep into my characters to understand what they are really feeling – and that’s not what they say they are feeling. So many times people put on masks’ to hide what they’re really feeling – I had to make them take those masks away.
Do you identify with the characters you write about?
Oh yes – I think you have to to be able to write them really well. I don’t just tell my characters’ stories, I try to get inside them, into their hearts and their minds. I want to feel the way they are feeling, understand their anger, love, pain - all the emotions that run through them. I may not have experienced everything they live through - or I might not do what they would do in a certain situation but I need to understand it and believe in it so that I can communicate it to my readers and get them to believe in my hero and heroine and the way they think and feel and act.
Tell us a little about your favorite “hero” type guy.
I love the way that Executive Editor Tessa Shapcott once described the powerful Alpha Male as the ultimate nurturer. I know a lot of people wouldn’t associate that word with some of the powerful Presents heroes, but what I love about the heroes I create is that they are really trying to do what they think is for the best. They may have got it all wrong through misinformation or something but they are aiming to do what seems right to them. I also have to show a pure thread of honour in a man before I can call him a hero – that goes with him trying to do what’s right. Sometimes this can make it seem as if he is too domineering or forceful but that’s because he feels things so strongly and thinks he knows what’s needed so he can’t see why everyone else – specially his heroine - isn’t doing the same. I can understand mistakes and getting things wrong but there needs to be that honour. Then when he acknowledges his mistakes it’s not a sudden transformation or ‘redemption’ - I would find it hard to believe that a man who needed redeeming would really know how to love. I love a hero who is strong – not just physically – dependable and isn’t afraid to acknowledge how much he cares. It might take him a while to say so because he doesn’t have the right emotional vocabulary to show his feelings easily but when he does say it, it’s well worth hearing!
Would you please describe the heroines you love to write?
I love to show a heroine with a quiet strength. They can look sweet and gentle but they are no pushover. I love to write a heroine who doesn’t just lock horns with a hero and challenge him – that might seem brave but in fact it’s like waving a red rag at a bull. The heroines I enjoy writing are those who are caught in situations they don’t like or understand but they are going to try and find a way out of it – or, at worst, to cope with it until they know how to handle it best. They use a very different approach to dealing with their hero – a feminine way – with patience and skill and understanding. They’re comfortable in their own skin, sure in their femininity, and they have a great inner strength as a result.
How would you describe your life in only 8 words?
Busy fulfilled loving happy creative challenging enjoyable – great!
What is your motto or maxim?
Life is not a dress rehearsal.
How would you describe perfect happiness?
Being with those I love and knowing they are happy and fulfilled.
What’s your greatest fear?
I have been married to my husband for 38 years in July – I’ve known him for 40 years. The inevitable fear that comes with loving someone so much for so long is the thought of ever parting from them
What advice would you give aspiring authors?
My first piece of advice is always to read, read, read. I’m always stunned by the number of people who tell me they want to write – whether romance or any other genre - and then they follow up that remark by saying ‘well, I’ve never read any, but . . .’ In Romance it is particularly important to read so that you get to know the line you’re aiming for, the sort of books they buy, the tone of the emotion, the sort of characters, plots and conflicts they want. Reading shows you what the editors are looking for much better than if they spent an hour listing what they want.
The other important advice for would-be romance writers is to write from the heart. What sells a romance is the emotion that goes into the story so you need to put yourself into the place of your characters, into their minds and hearts and feel what they’re feeling, care about the things they care about. A lot of would-be writers get too concerned about their plots when what they should be concentrating on is the characters. Getting to know your hero and heroine from the inside is what matters. If you truly understand them and know what drives them, then this will make writing so much easier because you know what they will do and how they will react in an situation.
Treat the genre with respect and don’t see it as silly books written by silly women for other silly women to read. The romance market is huge – huge numbers of reader, potentially huge numbers of sales. They love what they read – and they read if for enjoyment. And they can be highly critical of what they read. If you can love what you write and write it for enjoyment – your and theirs – you’ll have a chance of winning them to your books. Cynicism, or the fact that a book is just ‘dashed off’ or ‘churned’ out’ to make a fast buck shows and turns the readers away.
It all began with an Instant Message conversation. I was chatting with a friend .about writing and as I’d read some of her unpublished novels I’d asked if she’d ever thought of writing for Presents. This took the conversation on to The 10 Most Important Things about Writing for Presents. I don ‘t remember much detail about that discussion, but I do know that the top three of that Top Ten most important things were:
And The Question Why?
Sometime later I was asked to do some writing workshops. I do some regular teaching here in the UK, at Writers’ Holidays and at festivals and of course the RNA Conference. This was an Internet workshop with a writing group based round eHarlequin. Now where had I put those Top Ten Most Important Things? After a quick hunt I found them again, realised that really, they weren’t just for writing Presents but, if looked at within the guidelines of each line, they applied to all romance writing. I also wanted to make the Top Ten the Top Twelve, and then I used those twelve points for the workshop, which was a great success. Suddenly I found that people were asking me for the details of the ‘twelve points’ – but I realised that just giving them the points without any explanation wasn’t exactly helpful. For example, how do you define the difference between sensuality and passion? Or what exactly is that ‘vital vulnerability?’ And don’t people get all conflicted about conflict? So I put some of the details – this was a very very shortened form of the workshop – into a pamphlet and had that printed to use when I was teaching.
It was that pamphlet that I showed to a publisher when he asked me if I’d write a ‘How To’ book on writing romance. It needed a lot of expansion and detail, but the basic skeleton of the book was there. Could I write the whole thing? At the time the publisher was known for his educational text books, they had a set format, lots of bullet points, were like revision aids and quite frankly they were rather dry. I wanted my book to be different. I wanted it to be as close to coming to one of my writing weekend workshops as it was possible to be. I wanted it to be like a conversation, as if I was – as I had been doing in the original IM conversation – chatting with the reader about writing. And most of all I wanted it to be a workbook.
That had been the important part of the original workshop. At the end of each session, I had given the students a set of questions relating to the topic we’d dealt with and then added ‘Something to Think About’ and ‘Something to Write About’. Because the best way to put something into practice is to write about it yourself. And in the workshops everyone had said how useful they found those sessions. So they went into the book too.
If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
I’m very happy right where I am – at home with my husband and cats and family nearby. But I love the beautiful city of Galway in Ireland - in fact I love Ireland because it’s the country my parents both came from.
What are your most overused words or phrases?
My son would tell you I say Yes too easily – agree to take on too much!
What do you regret most?
That my mother never actually held a copy of my first book in her hands – she was diagnosed with terminal cancer in the same month as I got my first acceptance and sadly she died before the book was published. But she knew it was coming out
If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
I’d love to be able to draw – I have no artistic ability at all. And I’d love to be able to sing. If I do try to sing I clear rooms! And I love music and songs so it would be fabulous to be able to join in and not upset people!
What’s your fantasy profession?
I’m doing it already – I wanted to be a writer from my earliest days - (I always wanted to be an air hostess and a vet and a nurse!) So I’m doing just what I dreamed of doing. I did enjoy the work I finally ended up doing before this - I was a Children’s Librarian - but I love being a writer much more.
If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
Oh that’s a terrible question! As soon as I think of an answer, I want to change it. I love salads – does that count as one food or lots?
Do you have one sentence of advice for new writers?
Read lots to learn the sort of things that editors are looking for and understand the differences between the lines – and write from the heart.
(I’m being really good here and not saying as my one sentence ‘Buy the 12 Point Guide To Writing Romance’ – but that book does have the best advice I can think of in it.)
What comment do you hear most often from your readers?
That they love the emotion and tension I put into my stories. I’m a mean, cruel author who loves to make my readers cry and when they write and tell me that a book made them tear up at some point then I’m happy. Readers also say they love my ambiguous devasting heroes – that’s what I always hope they’ll feel so I’m happy with that!
Where can readers find you?
Twitter: I don’t have a Twitter account
Kate, thanks for allowing me to interview you at Romance Author Buzz
Kate is offering her UK version of The Proud Wife to one lucky International winner. In order to win a copy, answer the question below:
Question: What does Pietro send to Marina at the start of the book? (IT’s in the excerpt on Kate's web site) Email me reading.in.seattle@gmail with your answer. Don't forget to leave your email address here so that you can be contacted. Winner will be announced May 1.