Friday, May 30, 2008

Good News Part One

I wrote a lot of blogs this week - I have a new book out and I've been asked to help a special friend celebrate a special book (haven't written that one yet!) . I had my PHS Column to write and and I was asked to guest on a couple of blogs - I Heart Presents, and I'll be Blogging With Lucy Monroe just as soon as June dawns . . . and just about all of these seem to have something of a common theme - and that involved Spaniards.

For a start, the book I have out this month has a Spanish hero. With a title like Spanish Billionaire, Innocent Wife, that's sort of obvious. And I have good news to share on that book as and when . . Not being deliberately mean - the good news starts on June 1st and I'm waiting for the powers that be to announce if officially. But as I'm dropping hints over on I Heart Presents, I'll do the same here and mention the words Daily Lit .

Anyway, back to those Spaniards . . . there are lots of them around at the moment.

There's Raul in Spanish Billionaire, Innocent Wife. (And if you remember the answer from the Here Come the Grooms contest I ran with Anne McAllister and Liz Fielding, his real name is Don Raul Esteban Marquez Marcin - not Raul Esteban as the blurb on the back of the book has it.

And of course there's Santos - Santos Cordero in the book I've just finished. The one that's now titled Cordero's Forced Bride.

And then there's the Spaniard who appears in the Centenary Celebration Collection - in The Duke's Secret Wife. His name is Don Luis Alejandro de Silva

And then, if that wasn't enough - well . . remember this?

Back in February, I came home from the 100th Birthday party, really excited and happy because I'd learned that Mills & Boon were reprinting the three books in the Alcolar Family trilogy in one By Request volume in August. That was such a thrill.

But now I've had even more good news about the Alcolars - and that is that the whole trilogy - all four books of it - will be released as an ebook Bundle on June 1st.

Hey - hang on, I can hear you thinking. Four books? How can a trilogy have four books?

Well, yes - OK - four books is a quartet. But if you remember, the very first story about any of the Alcolars was Wife For Real. That was the one where Alex Alcolar appeared - and everyone discovered at the end of the story that Alex had two brothers and a sister. As a result, people wanted to know what happened to Joaquin, Ramon and Mercedes. And so, by popular demand, The Alcolar Family was written.

A lot or readers found it difficult to get hold of a copy of Wife For Real. The on-line read on eHarlequin was taken down and it was difficult to track it down. I think it may still be available in the On Line Read Library on the Mills & Boon Site - I'm telling you this because the By Request reprint of the trilogy doesn't have this title in it.

But the ebook Bundle does!

I'm so pleased about this because it means that for the first time all the Alcolar stories are together in one complete set. And that means that so many people who have written to me because they haven't been able to collect the set, or they've missed out on Alex's story, can now download the lot in one quick and easy bundle. And that 'bundle' is going to be part of my backlist over on eHarlequin so it will be available for a l-o-n-g time.

Here's what the ebook summary has to say about The Alcolar Trilogy Bundle

Four fiery Latin lovers, with money and sex appeal galore...four sexy, spirited women who want marriage, but on their own terms. Put them together and you have a recipe for stormy conflict, tempestuous misunderstandings...and searing desire. Top selling Harlequin Presents author Kate Walker’s Alcolar Family series will stir your emotions and stoke your imagination with its breathtaking passion and heartstopping romance. Bundle includes Twelve-Month Mistress, The Spaniard’s Inconvenient Wife and Bound by Blackmail. And as a very special free bonus, also included in this bundle is Wife for Real, the original online read that inspired Kate Walker to create the Alcolar family trilogy, available now for the first time ever.

You can find the Alcolar Family ebundle here on eHarlequin.

So that's part one - I'm hoping I can let you know part two . . .well, it starts of June 1st too so I should be able to tell you that

Thursday, May 29, 2008

All over the place . . .

Yes, that could describe me in many ways today - but I'm actually blogging in different places.

So if you want me as the PHS Columnist, you'll find me on the Pink Heart Society blog talking about the Centenary and everything connected with it.

And if you want to learn all about my new ebook publications - and more - and get a hint about the good news I can now announce then take a look over on I Heart Presents where I'm blogging too.

And tomorrow I can talk in more details about those.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Joan Walker

I had some sad news yesterday, My aunt died yesterday morning. She was an old lady - nearly 90 - and it wasn't unexpected. But obviously any death in the family brings you up sharp and makes you look back and remember.

Joan Walker, affectionately known as Cho by her nieces, was my mother's younger sister. And to be honest, when I was growing up she wasn't expected to live past my adolescence. She had severe heart problems then and had to have several operations to save her life. She also wore out several pacemakers in her time!

Not that that ever held her back. She lived in Dublin, worked for many years in advertising in the 1950s,/60s/70s, made up advertising jingles for radio. She never married, and lived what I always regarded as a wonderfully sophisticated life, mixing with people who ranged from The Beatles to Seamus Heaney and the arts and literary groups in Dublin. She travelled extensively well before it became popular and delighted in sporting a dark tan acquired on many trips to Greece, Spain and Italy. Frequent surgery meant that her torso was crisscrossed by white scars but she always wore a brief bikini and swore that the scars attracted rather than repelled handsome young men. And she brought back wonderful gifts for her nieces - I remember one Italian scarf that I wore and wore and wore until it frayed at the edges.

When we visited she gave up the floor of the livingroom of her one-bedroomed flat overlooking Dun Laoghaire bay, where the ferries from Holyhead arrived, so that four or five of us (depending how many of us were staying at the time) could have somewhere to sleep.
She was a wonderful cook. Though there was one memorable visit that when her cousin and my mother's fruit crop was so enormous that we simply ate strawberries and icecream, alternated with raspberries and ice cream for dessert every single day of that holiday. Which was a pity as I always loved the spectacular sauce she made for pouring over ice cream simply by slicing up and melting down Mars bars.
I was so impressed by her cooking and the sophisticated restaiurants she ate in both in Dublin and abroad that on one occasion when she came to visit I was horrified to realise that I had been concentrating so hard on making the meal wonderful that I had totally forgotten to make any pudding. The only things in the cupboard were two packets of Angel Delight, one coffee and one chocolate flavoured and a pint of milk. In a panic I whipped them all up together and then sat in a fury of embarrassment as she praised the result, telling me that I had achieved what she had never managed and been able to create 'the perfect mocha mousse'. Unable to bear it any longer, I confessed and saw her eyes light up with laughing appreciation at my ingenuity, if not my culinary skills.
It was some time later, on another visit to Dublin, that I learned that at her dinner parties Cho was wowing all her friends with a wonderful new dessert - mocha mousse, made to a secret recipe shared with her by her niece.
Sophisticated, creative, charming and fun, Cho was lucky in that she was always associated with family holidays and enjoyment. When we were small we used to make the long drive to Anglesey and holiday in a rented house in a small village called Treaddur Bay. From Dublin, Cho would catch the ferry over, arriving in Holyhead just down the coast and join us there. She would dig in the sand, make sandcastles, swim with us in the icy waters of Caernafon Bay. That's where this early photo of her (with my 2 older sisters) was taken. (The one at the top of this blog was taken at my wedding - she had been chopping beetroot for salad just before she left for the church and her hands were still stained faintly pink for the rest of the afternoon!)
She was the sort of slightly raffish aunt who often earned my mother's disapproval but my adoration by sharing with me things that Mother would have frowned on. The trips to The Abbey or the Gaiety Theatres were fine (she even managed to get tickets for the opening of the New Abbey in July 1966), treats like going to the cinema to see Oklahoma and other musicals she loved were no problem. Introducing me to gaelic coffee with a strong dash of whiskey or buying me an underage lager at that opening of the Abbey were quite a different matter. But then Cho had always lived life to the full and after the amount of sunbathing, red wine and cigarettes she indulged in, it was a surprise that she made it to the age she did.
Shew as thrilled when I had my first book published, though disappointed that there wasn't going to be a posh launch party provided by the publishers - she would have loved that.In her later years, increasing weakness and her heart problems meant that she retired to first one and then another nursing home in the Dublin area. But even then her indefatigable spirit meant that she was determined to make sure that she shared some of her life memories by insisting taking us to the United Arts Club for lunch. She was stunned to discover that lunch there now consisted of toasted sandwiches, not the elegant dining she had expected. But the toasted cheese and onion sandwiches of that day in her company were yet another of the happy memories she has left me with.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

One day I'll catch up . . .

'More tomorrow,' huh?

Yes well . . . Someone stole my brain cell. The one that works; the one I use to write my blogs with. And I've had lots of blogs to write

And life just refuses to slow down. Which means I have plenty to tell you - just not enough time to actually sit down and do it. I have news coming up - I can finally let you know of that good news thing - and some other bits & pieces - but first I'd better finish talking about that Lincoln weekend.

So - Saturday May 17th was an up and down sort of day - and up and down Steep Hill sort of day. And believe me Steep Hill doesn't have that name for nothing. So going up and down it provides a good workout - affectionately known in this family as 'good B&L work' - good bum and leg work.
My up and down routine went something like this
1. Down the hill to Pimento's Tea Rooms to meet my lovely friend Kate Hardy who had travelled to Lincoln from Norwich. To get there I had to walk past the farmers market which is always fascinating We had tea and talk - it's been too long since we last met up so we talked each other's heads off.

2. Up the hill back to the hotel to meet with the Magnet and

3. head down into the town to deliver the handouts etc to the Drill Hall ready for the workshop that afternoon. Then on to the station to collect my editor, Suzanne Clarke and Alex from Midas PR who were arriving to be part of the evening event.

4. Back up the hill to deliver Suzanne to the hotel, snatch a sandwich, change into smart workshop-giving outfit

5. Back down the hill to the Drill Hall for the workshop. (Thanks to Kate Hardy for the photo - isn't that face on the wall amazing?)
At this stage I managed to have a breather - sort of - while I did the 2 hour workshop. 15 people is about the right number. Not too many so that you have to give a lecture rather than a workshop. Not too few so that you find it hard to get different responses and answers to questions. We did some concentrated work on Characters and looked at potential for conflict between them. Everyone joined in and I enjoyed the session. Thank you to everyone who came - specially Jane who came a l-o-n-g way!

6 Back up the hill again (this time I chickened out and caught the shuttle bus) for a quick recovery, shower and change before meeting everyone in the hotel foyer and heading . . .

7. Back down the hill again for the evening celebration of Mills & Boon's Centenary.

While we were doing other things, Alex had organised goody bags and glasses of champagne (I almost forgot to get one and only grabbed one of the last ones at the very end of the evening.)

Officially we were a 'panel of authors' but as we all knew each other do well it was really like a gang of friends who had got together to chat about writing and books and of course Mills and Boon. It was all very relaxed and a lot of fun - I think the audience had fun too, certainly the Festival organisers had had good feedback as a result. Suzanne gave a summary of the history of Mills & Boon - after all, that was what we were there to celebrate - and she also arranged a quiz with lots of old M&B covers seeing if the audience could guess the date of publication of each one.

The time just flashed by and before we knew it, it was time to bring things to a halt. But before we did there was one more thing left to do and that was to draw the raffle.

L to R Trish Wylie, Suzanne Clarke, Kate Walker, Natasha Oakley, Kate Hardy
I'm afraid I've forgotten the name of the lovely lady who won but she was a real M&B fan, who bought 18 books every month - and she worked in the libraries so she got brownie points for both of those from me. She was absolutely thrilled when I presented her with the huge box of books. So thrilled that she was actually shaking as a result. Still, it was a fantastic prize with over 85 books from a wide range of authors from all the lines. My sincere thanks to all my author friends who donated their books to this great prize. And of course all the proceeds went to Breast Cancer Research so it was for a great cause.

Eventually the evening broke up and we all headed out to the lovely Italian restaurant where we had booked a table to all of us to enjoy a great meal and celebrate a very successful evening before - you guessed it . . .

8. Heading back up that hill again to the hotel.

As I'm sure you can imagine, I slept very well that night. And woke to the wonderful sound of the Cathedral bells ringing out to announce the morning.

I had a great time. My thanks to Lincoln Book Festival for inviting us to join them, specially to Sara and Karen who put in so much work on the day - and before it. Thanks to the audience - both for the workshop and the evening celebrations and thanks to Alex/Midas for organising goody bags and champagne - always a good way to make an event go well!
And special thanks to Trish, Kate, Natasha and Suzanne for joining me there. It was wonderful to see everyone and I think my voice has just about recovered from all the talking.

Friday, May 23, 2008

It's what day??

How did it get to be Friday?

I know I was busy in Lincoln (and yes, I know I still have to tell you about that) - but that was at the weekend. And there have been - er four more days since I got home.
Four busy days, admittedly. But I had hoped to blog before this.

So - let's catch up. I last blogged at all when I was about to set out for Lincoln. My lovely friend Trish Wylie was here and - well, that was part of the problem. When authors get together (which we don't do often enough) we talk - about writing, about heroes, about books, about editing, about heroes, about life . . .

So Trish and I talked - when we got a chance. She had a book to finish and so she spent a lot of time curled up on my settee with her laptop and an expression of fierce concentration on her face. Occasionally Sid would help her by offering head butts or Flora would try to walk over the laptop to add some extra letters into the mix. Occasionally I also offered food - or tea - and once or twice I dragged her away for a moment's relaxation. Specially when there was a video I just had to share with her. (If you haven't seen that, then I suggest you visit Trish's blog right now and enjoy - but advance warning - just make sure you're not eating or drinking when you do)

The book got finished, and was sent on its way to Trish's editor - and then we could relax. Well, in between preparing for the workshop in Lincoln, and packing (the packing was a little tricky as there was a small grey and white kitten who kept jumping into the suitcase and insisting that she was coming with me) And what did we do to relax? We talked . . . and talked and talked. . .

And then on Friday afternoon we headed out for one of my favourite places in the whole world - Lincoln. There we settled into the White Hart Hotel, unpacked and waited for Natasha (Oakley) to arrive. At first it seemed that Natasha and her husband would be too late to join us for dinner, so we booked a table for three. Then it seemed that she was so much closer to Lincoln than we'd thought - but the restaurant was very busy - so Trish worked her best Irish blonde charm on the waiter and we ended up with a slightly later table with room for two extra people. Thank you Café Zoot.

The meal was fabulous too. (Deepfried Brie with cranberry sauce, followed by panache of fresh fish on chunky ratatouille) And the wine. And the taste of Trish's cheescake dessert that I tried (I couldn't manage a whole one)

And of course we talked and talked and talked . . . about books, and offices (a subject much on Natasha's mind as you'll see if you visit her PHS blog. )

And then we staggered all the way back to the hotel (ie just across the road) and we talked some more. Until I just couldn't keep my eyes open - and I had people to meet and a worskshop to run the next day - so I stumbled up to my room, fell into bed and fell fast asleep.

More tomorrow - but today I must just add a special set of congratulations to Anne McAllister. Anne, who as you may remember, got to share the inspiration for my hero Santos so that he could also act as inspiration for her hero Seb, has just learned that her book has been accepted without any revisions.
And that,as they say, is as rare as hen's teeth. So Santos/Seb must be some great inspiration. Congratulations, Anne - I can't wait to read Seb's book. Which I suppose must come out round about the time that Cordero's Forced Bride appears on the shelves - but in spite of the similar inspiration, I'm sure that the two heroes will be very very different. That's the great thing about individual authors' voices - you get individual heroes. even when they're based on the same man

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Writers' Q&A 4

I'm trying to cram everything in - with the Lincoln Book Festival Event coming up on Saturday - and the workshop in the afternoon. So I have Trish Wylie staying with me and we're having a lot of fun talking writing, heroes and playing with the kitten.

But I have another question for the Q&A and this one is from Johanna who says:
I'm told that my writing is still too plot-led rather than character-led. I think part of the reason is because I like to plan my books before I begin writing them; the idea of writing blind is terrifying for me. Do you have any tips for how I could still do this but make sure my story is still driven by emotion?

I've already answered Johanna personally but I'll share my answer with you all here:
The main question is - are you planning your books by EVENTS ? Things that happen 'on the outside' so to speak? External events - things that happen to your characters are far less likely to create emotional tension than events that happen inside them.

You can still plan - but try taking a look at your plots and trying to plan according to the emotional changes that happen to your hero and heroine and try to write a scene that shows that change rather than where something you've decided on happens.
You can decide that your Spanish hero arrives at the heroine's home and this is where your story starts . In order to gte into the emotions from the very beginning, you need to get inside your character's mind and then let that dictate the action . . .
So - your Spaniard arrives at the house - in what mood - why?
What he sees there confirms his mood or changes it? Why?
So what is he feeling when he meets his heroine? Why?
How does this make him behave?

Ditto for heroine

Then - what would this make him/her do and why?
If she does xxx - how will that make him feel and so how will he react?

Take a look at some books - good ones would be Michelle Reid, maybe even a Kate Walker! Read for the story first so you get to see the 'what happens next' progress of events - you'll find there are fewer than you think. Someone like Anne McAllister is also a good example because here the conflict is perhaps less high octane might be easier to 'watch' the emotional changes taking place. Sometimes the pace of a highly intense emotinal conflict can carry you along so fast you don;t spot the subtle emoti0onal changes and adjustments.
Then try to analyse the book on the level of where the emotional changes happen, when and why. Try and see how they direct the 'plot' of the book. Because the plot is the emotional relationship developing. Don't be afraid of having to little plot - in your opinion - you need the emotional development and changes at the centre of things

One final piece of advice is don't put in any 'event' unless you know why it happens/how it changes things and why it changes things .

It's not easy. I know with Presents/Modern the 'plot' is pared down to just the relationship between the hero and heroine so you need to make sure that you have a conflict that isn't one simple thing but that changes and makes the characters change as things develop between them

Hopefully looking at books from the aspect of emotional changes rather than plot events will help. I understand how you'd be afraid of launching into the unknown rather than planning but if you work from why characters are doing and what they are feeling at each point it should get the balance back

To summarise - instead of saying 'he's going to do this ' and then thinking 'but Kate is going to ask em why - so I'd better think of an answer ;o) try sayinghe/she's feeling this way so what would that drive them to do next in response to the way they are feeling?

A common mistake for beginners is to think that they need to have lots of action, lots happening in a story or the pace will drag. But in a story where there is action as opposed to emotion the emotion then needs to be added afterwards and that can slow the pace down.

Readers come to romance for the emotinal journey. And as long as the characters' emotional relationship is deeveloping, then the events are largely catalysts to this and so can be used as sparingly as possible. Otherwise the events drown the emotion and your book becomes 'too plot led'. Your characters and their reactions to each other are what should really lead the story.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Writers' Q&A 3

Today's question comes from Lorrraine, who asks:
What do you do if your heroine wants to veer off in a different direction to the one you have planned for her? Do you ever, 'go with the flow', or do you stick rigidly to your outline?

So here's one of those times when I need to preface my answer by emphasising the point that TANR There are no rules - and IAITE - It's all in the execution.

I'm going to talk about the way I write - there are others who write differently, but neither of us is right - we're only writing right for ourselves. Some people are careful, deliberate plotters, some are total ‘pantsers’ – people who set of hopefully into the mist and ‘write by the seat of their pants.’ I’m one of those.So when I start out on a book, I usually don’t have a complete idea of where I’m going. I have a hero, and a heroine, and I have an idea of the conflict between them – or at least the way that conflict starts off because a conflict must have many layers. And then I write the opening scene, bring the hero and heroine together and off we go on a voyage of discovery.

So if I had a heroine who determinedly went off in one particular direction, then that possibly wouldn’t worry me as much as it might a plotter, because I am, in a way, waiting for the characters to tell me their story and sometimes when I do that I’m grateful for any input they give me at all! So I would probably go with the flow.

But if you are a plotter and have planned out your story carefully, knowing that this happens and then that happens and that . . . then a heroine setting off determinedly in what you might think is the wrong direction can be very worrying and set all sorts of panic bells ringing.

And now here I have to add something really, really important – and that is that at this point both the plotter and the pantser, and everyone, no matter which way they write - has to pause, think, and ask themselves . . .


Because what I missed out – or skimmed over – in the way that I work is that before I set out hopefully into the mist, I know my characters as people so I know what makes them tick, how they feel about what has happened, who they are – and so, when something happens that in my rational mind I wasn’t expecting, I know that somehow it has come from my subconscious because I know these people better than even I realise.

That’s why I never plot out a book, or create anything by the most sketchy of outlines – nothing that I’d need to stick to too rigidly. Because for me when I’m writing romance I don’t think too hard about plot but I do think very hard about characters. Because in a romance, the characters and their emotional journey, the development of the relationship between them is the plot. And as long as I am portraying the development of that relationship then the scenes my characters and I create together are fine by me.

I do worry that if writers ‘stick rigidly to the outline’ then they can try to push their characters through hoops and into scenes that are there because they think they will have dramatic impact, that they are ‘great scenes’ that the author can just imagine inside their head. But are these ‘great scenes’ ones that the characters have given you or that you are trying to mould your characters into?

Only you can answer that. In the same way that only you can answer whether what your heroine is doing as she veers of in that different direction is telling you something that you need to know about her – revealing a vital part of her real personality – or if she’s simply being self-indulgent and wandering all round the houses, trying on scenes for size, because you’re letting her – because you don’t know her well enough to know if she’s messing about or giving you some really good stuff.

So you come back to Kate’s Favourite word – you ask WHY? Why is she doing this? Why is she going this way instead of the nice neat plan you though you had. Why is this what she’s telling you rather than what you thought she was. And why is this the truth about her – or not?

If the answers you get tell you a lot about your character, go deeper into her personality, her reasons for behaving in this way – and what the effect will be on her hero and how it will change his actions and feelings too- then you’re on the right path. But if you can’t imagine why on earth she’s doing any such thing – and what the effect will be on her hero and how it will change his actions and feelings too- then you need to haul her back into line.

But you’ll also need to look at the point at which she set off on that new direction. The bit just before she did it. Because it’s very likely that in that section you wrote something that just didn’t fit, something that didn’t set right with her character and that meant she baulked at going the way you were taking her.

It’s all about knowing your characters well enough to let them take you the way that grows from inside their true selves, the way that makes the plot grow from who they are and what they are, not what you’ve decided will make a good plot.

That’s why the 12 Point Guide has a l-o-n-g section on creating both a hero and a heroine – and a lengthy Character Questionnaire that asks so many questions, some that might seem at all relevant to the book you’re creating – but which help you dig deep into your characters and their motivations and then when you need to ask the question WHY – you’ll also know the way to answer it.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Book News

Just interrupting this Q&A to bring you up to date on my book news - with a bit of that good news I'm now able to let you know.

Basically, it's all good for Spaniards right now - I heard from my editor and the revised version of Santos's story has made her happy so that's the first new title for next year . It's out in paperback in March 2008 with the title of Cordero's Forced Bride.

I'll be sorry to say goodbye to this sexy Spaniard but there will be a new man in my life to replace him. At the moment I think he's Italian.

And talking of Italians - I finally found out which of my Italian heroes has his story in the July By Request reprint Her Passionate Italian. My editor tells me that it's Gio (Giovanni Cardella) in the book A Sicilian Husband - which is a coincidence as I posted the UK cover for that book in the discussion about Mediterranean heroes here

More Spaniards - the ebook version of my June Presents title Spanish Billionaire, Innocent Wife, is running high in the Top Ten Bestselling ebooks over on eHarlequin. Thank you to everyone who has bought and downloaded a copy to put it there. The print book is officially due out on June 1st, but I suspect that my American readers will find this book on the shop shelves in a week or so.

And yet more Spaniards - remember that I was thrilled that The Alcolar Family was being reprinted as a 3 in 1 By Request in the UK in August - well, the 'more good news' is that the whole Alcolar Trilogy will be available in a 3 in 1 ebook Bundle for sale from eHarlequin and other ebook sources, also from June 1st. I don't yet have an ebook collection cover for this - so I'll just show you that great cover from the August By Request reprint (any excuse - well, it is a great cover!)
Finally, following on from the question about Mediterranean heroes - there;s a great discussion on the appeal of the Greek hero over on I Heart Presents today. It's being led by Annie West whose own latest book, The Greek Tycoon's Unexpected Wife is a great read.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Writers' Q&A 2

Today's post for writers isn't here - because today is May 12th, so that means I'm over on Tote Bags and Blogs where my 12 Points on the 12th for this month is about ways of getting deeper inside your characters by looking at some things about them that you may not have considered.

So maybe I'll see you over there. And if you join in, post a comment you'll be in with a chance to win a signed copy of my latest novel, Spanish Billionaire, Innocent Wife.

Meanwhile, I'll be thinking about the next question on the list for the Writers' Q&A which will also be about character but in a rather different way.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Writers' Q&A

The first question this time comes from Rachel who asks:

As an aspiring writer, how would you suggest 'getting into' the character traits of particular nationalities? I know that Greeks, Spaniards and Italians are regarded as strong, passionate and proud men and that's what adds to their appeal but I have also read comments from readers on eharlequin that are critical when a writer maybe hasn't got it quite right and they state this as fact because they are/ are married to a Greek/Spaniard/Italian. Comments such as ' an italian man would never do this or say that etc'.

Should I be using my time and brain cells to consider this problem as I only have first hand experience of English, French, Antipodean and Welsh men? Or should I throw up my hands (in a mediterranean way obviously) and hope that the majority of readers are, like myself, happy to revel in the alpha male fantasy as presented?

I've read tons of M&B moderns with these fiery men (because I adore them) but I'm not sure I could tell an Italian from a Greek if all the obvious clues were taken away-perhaps I should be able to.

How did you learn to do this? Is this a justifiable case for a bit of overseas (tax deductible) research? (not that I'd be allowed!)

If you look at the comments by Executive Editor Tessa Shapcott some time ago on the I Heart Presents blog, you'll see that she says:

Every month in Presents guarantees a delicious new crop of heroes who hail from the Mediterranean. And whether they’re Greek, Spanish, Italian, French, or from a fictitious island, these Mediterranean men never fail to wow readers.

Mediterranean men in Harlequin Presents are a particular bunch; always passionate and proud, they ooze power, wealth, dark good looks and sensuality. In fact, often they are a touch more ruthless and quite a bit more vengeful than their British, North American or Australian counterparts (who possess other irresistible qualities – see Jenny Hutton’s blog about British billionaires)! Why is it that we’re all suckers for a Mediterranean hero?

I have a friend who is an academic – an historian. She believes that it’s in women’s DNA, a primeval thing, to feel excitement and anticipation about the dark invader, harking back to when alpha males arrived to pillage and conquer, bringing fresh genes to add to the pool and beef up the existing stock.

Or is it that our Mediterranean heroes are archetypes that give us licence to experience and enjoy the basic strong feelings which lie at the heart of all human relationships, but which perhaps have been ironed out of our emotional landscape by social necessity? What could be more sexy for a woman than to feel that her man wants her passionately and that he will go to the edge of reason to possess her?

Plus, we tend to hold on to the belief that traditional family structures and rituals remain solid in southern Europe – the fantasy is complete because the Presents Mediterranean man invariably offers marriage as a way of keeping the heroine close. And despite the fact that we may settle for less formal ties and arrangements in our real lives, ultimately many women still dream of becoming brides…

First and foremost the Mediterranean hero in a M&B Modern/Presnets novel, is not meant to be an deeply realistic creation. Just to take on example, so many of these heroes are of the 'tall dark and handsome' model, where the facts are that many of them are not particularly tall at all. I once received a lett of strong criticism from someone who berated me for creating talk and handsome Sicilian heroes when 'everyone knew' that they were small, swarthy and wore gold medallions on theirn hairy chests!

The Mediterranean (or Sheikh) hero comes from a warm country - in the past they would have seemed much more 'exotic' before easy and frequent travel abroad brough Spain, Italy, Greece etc into our holiday plans so frequently. Warm countries, so the belief is , create hot-blooded men, men who are passionate, sensual, more 'alpha', less inhibited, less 'stiff upper lip' than the average British male. They are also it is believed more likely to woo the heroine, to indulge in romantic gestures. I don't neccessarily think this is true - I think it maligns the poor British male - but it is in a way a sort of shorthand for the exotic passionate stranger who sweeps the heroine off her feet.

So a romance novelist isn't trying to create an absolutely perfectly realistic Spaniard or Greek or whatever. But neither do you want to create someone who is so much a stereotype that he appears almost a caricatures.

The thing I always remember above and beyond anything else is that my hero, whatever nationality he is, is a man. This sounds so obvious but it's important that he's a man first and then his nationality affects him second. There are certain characteristics that fit more strongly with certain nationalities than others - thinnk of Italy and you think of style, sophistication, families. But Sicily has more of an edge, a sense of dnager - you think of vendettas etc. Greece always bring with it the idea, for me, of that Greek word 'hubris' - that overweening excessive pride or self-confidence; arrogance. And the many Greek islands all have a character of their own, some busy, sophisticated, some rural, even wild in atmosphere. And that can give the hero a raw edge, a primitive streak that underlies his sophisticated veneer.

So when you create your Mediterranean hero you need to look at the places he would live - read up about them on the internet or in guide books etc. Thinking of my own books, my two Sicilian brothers who came from Syracusa on Sicily are very different from Domenico, in The Italian's Forced Bride who had a villa outside Pavia in Northern Italy. Be aware of national customs, of traditions in the area, the industries and jobs that are prevalent there.
Obviously, going to one of the places you want to set your book and seeing the people there, 'peoplewatching' is a great way to learn so very much - but we can;t always do that. It's not possible to visit a new place for every single book.

What else can you do? Watch films, see interviews with international stars, sportsmen - even politicians -see how subtly different they are from another nationality. Listen to how they speak. I once spent a concentrated time listening to an interview with the then Greek Prime Minister, not listening to what he was saying but how he was saying it. The word order can be very different for different nationalities. I often make my hero's speech slightly more formal - I cannot instead of I can't - because English is his second language .

Reading can help you. Books like Manwatching or People Watching by Desmond Morris will give you clues as to gestures used - or equally ones that are considered rude. And books that detail the adjustments UK people make when going to live abroad will give insight into the way of life - books like Driving over Lemons (Andalcuia) or its sequel A Parrot in the Pepper Tree by Chris Stewart. Two books the Babe Magnet introduced me to that have helped hugely with writing Italian heroes are Italian Neighbours: An Englishman in Verona by Tim Parks and his other book An Italian Education. I'm lucky in that I have friends who live in Spain, for eample, and they are invaluable sources of information.

Finally consider language. If you want to sprinkle words in your hero's native language through his dialogue, then that can give an added flavour - but please always make sure that you have the language right. If you're not sure, leave it out. After all, the sophisticated Presents hero usually speaks perfect or near perfect English!

But always remember, that as with the setting of your book, the nationality of you hero need to be sketched in with a light hand. Don't have him constantly referring to how things are in his home country, or lecturing the heroine on the artists or the politics of that place. To go back to where I started, the hero is always a man first and it is the problems that he faces as a man, the male/female conflict between him and his heroine that matters most. Just as you don't want to turn your book into a travelogue by describing the settings in far too much detail, you don't want to turn it into a lecture on the culture or history of Spain, or an Italian language primer.

At last! The Q&A

Ok so - mauscript 'tweaked' and with editor. - Check

Birthday celebrated. - Check
Washing machine repaired. Check - and check ( 1 repair meant that it was noticed that the pipes were blocked- pipes unblocked - Check - washing started - another problem starts up. . . )
Sheets washed and changed ready for visit of Trish Wylie this week. Check

Reviews of books read added to eHarlequin's 100,000 book challenge - check!

Discussions with Lincoln Book Festival organisers about Saturday's Celebration of 100 years of Mills and Boon - check!

Discussions with bookshop at Book Festival to ensure titles by all authors are on sale - and copies of the 12PGTWR2 - check!

Box of 85 signed romances delivered to the Lincoln Book Festival shop ready for prize draw on 17th - check!

(Any enquiries about the M&B event, tickets for this or my workshop - or to buy raffle tickets please phone the Lincoln Drill Hall box office on (01522) 87389 or call in. Email details etc can be found here )

Website updates - in hand - check

Workshop for Saturday 17th prepared - er - nearly

Office cleaned, tidied and sorted - er . . .

Accounts completed . . . er . . . . . . .

Oh well, I'm getting there. And that means that I now have time to hunt out the next questions for the Writers' Q&A and get back to answering them

My apologies to everyone who has been waiting patiently while life got in the way . I'm going to start answering questions now!
Brain cell dusted and polished, ready for thinking purposes - check
Now all I need is to find the questions . . .

Friday, May 09, 2008

This one's easy

My life is still making me feel like this tail-chasing hound - going round and round in circles, never quite catching up so my blogging is hit and miss right now. And I'd be struggling to find time to write anything coherent today if I didn't already know just what I wanted to say.

Or, rather, what Michelle wants me to say.

As so many of you know, one of my dearest friends is the wonderful writer Michelle Reid. Michelle has had some hiccups in her writing in the last year or so but she's back now and she has a brand new book out this month - The Markonos Bride.

And to celebrate she also has brand new website

Over the past few weeks, Michelle has been working with Heather from We Write Romance who manages my website too, and together they've completely revamped Michelle's old site and brought it right up to date. I've had a sneak preview and I think it looks wonderful.

And that new web site goes live today.

So here's a message from Michelle to tell you all about it:

A quick note from Michelle Reid

Just wanted to let you all know that my new website will go live today!

I can’t tell you how pleased I am with the design Heather Reed from We Write Romance has created for me. And after two long years when I became so lazy I did NOTHING with my old website, it was truly ready for a makeover. So, thanks Heather, I think you’re wonderful.

To celebrate the website going live at the same time as my latest book THE MARKONOS BRIDE hits the shops, I’m running a contest, so if you fancy a signed copy of the book plus a little surprise, then please go and take a look at

Thanks Kate, for letting me nip in here,


And while we're celebrating May birthdays, today is the birthday of a man whose music and songs have given me so much pleasure for many years, whose live performances have been some of the most fantastic times of my life. His songs have been the background tracks to so many of my books and his words have given me more ideas for stories than almost anyone else in the music world.
Happy Birthday Billy Joel!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Blogger's Block

Would you believe I have blogger's block?

No idea what to write about at all.

I blame it on the Bank Holiday. A Bank Holiday that for once coincided with the fact that I'd sent in the lastest revsions, wasn't on a dreadline (well, not one too close!). I'd also been working several weekends on writing, revisions etc and will be working on the weekend of the 17th when I'm doing the Workshop and Celebration of Mills & Boon event . . .

So I took the Bank Holiday off. Had a proper Bank Holiday for once - doing all the things you're supposed to do., Getting up late, meeting family and friends, reading . . . No writing. I didn't even blog - as you will have noticed.

So now I have blog withdrawal symptoms and nothing to write about

Well, yes I do have some ideas but . . .

1. I can't announce good news until it's official

2. I wanted to post a particular photgraph and now I can't find it. (
PS added later - I found that picture- and another one - not quite taken on the big day, but not too long after it!)

3. I'm feeling terribly guilty about not getting back to the Q&A but I'm not that organised - not yet

4. I have to check on some other good news and find out if it's definite . . .

5. I could show you the wonderful basket of books that the fabulous authors of HMB have donated for the Charity Raffle at the Lincoln Book Festival, but that wouldn't be fair as I haven't worked out a way of letting anyone but the Lincoln locals actually buy tickets for the raffle. If I come up with one I'll certainly let you know. But . . .oh, I'll show you it anyway as it's well worth seeing . . . (Anyone visiting from Lincoln please buy a ticket in the Festival Shop - and spread the word around!)

But I have to write something as certain people have been sending visitors over here for a special reason (You've been spotted, Scary Kate!)

And if they come over here I'll just have to make sure that there is actually a blog for them to read.

But I've nothing to say . . . unless I come over all philosophical about today . . . or the fact that I might have bloggers block because of my age . . .and the reasons why Michelle Reid and I are so close and so alike in temperament . . .

Or I could just leave you all guessing because here's the postman . . . and I'll have to go and open some cards . . . :o)

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