Thursday, December 20, 2007

The book that started it all

Amongst the Christmas cards and other mail pushed through the door yesterday was a jiffybag that obviously contained a book so for a moment or two I thought it was another gift of a book by one of my author friends. Usually I'm pretty good on recognising people's handwriting or the date stamp gives me a clue as to where it's come from but this time I wasn't able to recognise either.

When I opened it I realised that I'd forgotten about a book I'd ordered several days ago - just shows how hectic the days have been.

But this book was a real thrill as it was - as the heading to this post says - the book that started it all.

When I was growing up in Yorkshire, as I've said before, my mother had a friend who wrote for Mills & Boon as Margaret Baumann, and she gave my mother her books when they were published. I read some of those and quite enjoyed them but they seemed quite mild to me when I was interested in stronger emotions, more passionate stories. (It has always intrigued me that my mother was thrilled to see me reading Wuthering Heights with it's story of passion, betrayal, death and hateful revenge but she didn't like the idea of my reading contemporary romance!) So after I left home and went to university I stopped reading Mills & Boon novels for a while. I was studying Children's Literature as part of my degree and I turned to that for my fix of good, straightforward storytelling.

But then when my son was very small, on an impulse I picked up a book that appealed to me and when I read it I remembered the old romance I had read - but this one did reach out and grab me. It was set in the North of England with a dark, saturnine hero and a young innocent heroine. I loved it and it sparked myinterest in romances all over again. I read more and, recalling how Margaret Baumann had written her novels while looking after 2 young children, it spurred me on to write my own first (and pretty dreadful) attempt at a romance.(I hadn't read enough of the current output to really understand what editors were looking for so I made the classic mistake of not understanding the genre properly.)

Over the years, that first book had got lost, mislaid in several house moves, and as my career progressed I kept wishing I could remember just which book it had been. I knew the author - Anne Mather (still writing today) and I remembered that the hero and heroine had been called Jake and Ashley and that she had lived in the local small hotel of pub. And I knew that when I'd bought it it had been a Bestseller reprint, not the first published edition. I kept looking though and takjed to author friends about it - but no one could recall the book I was talking about. Sadly, I have never met Anne Mather so that I could tell her of this book and ask her which one of her many novels it was.

But last weeek, having a little spare time to myself (I should have been writing Christmas cards or doing the ironing but neither of those appealed) I decide to have one last go at finding this title. With the help of the database over on Fantastic Fiction and a vague idea of the date, I worked through all their synopses for Anne Mather titles of that time. And eventually I found it

- there were the names Ashley and Jake, and the small hotel. And it had been first published in 1974 which would mean that it could have been reprinted in about 1981.

And the title was Witchstone

When young Ashley Calder's father died she travelled north to make her home with her uncle and aunt in their small hotel. It was while helping them there that she met Jake Seton and her whole life changed yet again. For Jake Seton and her whole life yet again. For Jake was unlike any other man she had ever met, and beyond her reach in just about every way. Althrough a man of immense and undeniable attraction for her,- he was far too old and sophisticated for her, his social sphere was far removed from her own-and above all he shortly to be married to his fiancee the glamorous Barbara Forrest. So why did he persist in making it clear to Ashley that the attraction was by no means only on her side?

Armed with this information I found a secondhand copy of Amazon and this was the book that came through the letterbox yesterday - and to my delight it was the Bestseller reprint edition that I originally remember buying. That was published in December 1980.

So one of my Christmas treats will be to sit down and reread this and see if it still has the impact I remember. I've already had a quick glance at the first chapter and found that the heroine first appears in her school uniform! (She's 17) And first her aunt lights up a cigarette when she's finished her baking, then Ashley's uncle lights his pipe and finally at Jake Seton's first apearence he hands round a pack of cheroots. Can't imagine that happening today.

Oh - and thinking about this book and knowing that I'm about to set off into town to have my hair cut ready for Christmas reminded me that it was exactly this week, after just such a trip to the hairdresser, that I arrived home to find a box of my very first published books had arrived. That was The Chalk Line and it was published in December 1984. So that makes it an exact four years from the moment I picked up the book that inspired me to start writing romances to the day I held a copy of my first published title in my hands. 23 years ago today (roughly)
Right - I can hear Sid stirring and looking for food so it's time to go and get him to select a couple of very lucky winners for the Christmas Stocking Stuffed with books - it'll take me a while to put all the names on all the pieces of paper -I had over 100 entries. So I'll be back when I have something to report.

Watch this space


Nature Nut /JJ Loch said...

Congrats to the winners!!!

Kate, have a Merry Christmas. I plan on not breaking my arm this Christmas Eve. LOL I want to hear the children's church service. Missed it last year.

Hugs, to you and your family!


Jan Jones said...

What a lovely bookie story, Kate.

Merry Christmas to you and yours!


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