by Anna Sugden
I'm thrilled to welcome to the Lair one of category romance's top authors, my dear friend and fellow Brit, the fabulous Kate Walker.
Kate has been writing for Harlequin Presents since 1984. In that time she has over 54 novels published in over thirty-five countries and total sales amount to over twelve million copies of her books. Kate is also the author of the award-winning 12 Point Guide To Writing Romance. Her latest book, Kept For Her Baby is out now.
You can find out more about Kate at her website http://www.kate-walker.com/ and on her blog http://kate-walker.blogspot.com/ .
So, without further ado, I'll hand you over to Kate.
Hello Banditas – thank you so much for inviting me on to your blog. I’ve visited often, but only as a reader, never actually as a blogger before, so it’s wonderful to be here at last.
I really sympathised with a recent posting on this blog. When I was reading through all the fantastic Romance Bandits blogs that have appeared over the last week or so the one by Christie Kelley really rang bells for me. What can I blog about, she asked – just as I was wondering exactly the same. The point is that I’ve been invited on to a lot of different blogs just lately. The reason for that is pretty obvious. It’s October and I have a brand-new book out in October . Kept For Her Baby was published in Harlequin Presents Extra on October 13th and so lots of places have wanted me to guest on their blogs and talk about my latest novel.
And they all want something different. I know I could make it easy on myself and simply say that’ I have a new book out – the title is . . . and it’s about . . . Please buy it.’ But that just doesn’t seem right. I’ve never been a fan of the hard sell, and I really think that if wonderful people like the Romance Bandits are kind enough to invite me to join them, the least I can do is to chat with you a while. But that means that I have to find something to chat about. Specially for this occasion - my very first visit with the Banditas.
I could tell you just how many months – er – years – this visit has been in the planning. With Anna and I trying so hard to connect up and arrange for me to come and visit, ISP problems and email providers that just wouldn’t talk to each other meant that I thought Anna hadn’t sent an invitation and she thought I was ignoring her message. But we got there in the end and here I am – and can you just guess that I’m prevaricating like crazy and rambling on about nothing because I still haven’t thought of something to talk about?
Well no, that’s not really true. I thought of several things – like discussing the difference between Presents and Presents Extra (there isn’t one – it’s the Modern Heat books in the main Presents line-up that are different) . But I did that for Tote Bags. Or there’s imprisoning my characters – that was on I heart Presents. I was running out of ideas. But then I spent a couple of days away when I was doing a library talk and so was my husband, and the hotel we had an overnight stay in had a spa and as a special treat I booked myself in for a massage and . . . well inspiration struck.
I’d write about why writing Presents is like having a deep tissue massage.
Huh? I can hear you all saying that even as I write those words and yes, it does need a bit of an explanation. So bear with me and I’ll tell you what I mean. You see, a deep tissue massage is quite unlike the other massages this spa had on offer. You could have an aromatherapy massage, a ‘serenity’ massage or a ‘feel good’ massage – all of which were tempting. But I knew that life had been so fraught lately that I needed a really deep, strong pressure massage, one that dug deep and helped to get all the kinks and the knots out of my muscles. And I was right. It was amazing – it was partly painful, partly sensuous, partly curative - and it left me knocked for six and yet wonderfully relaxed at the same time.
And that is really why I write for the romance line that I do – why I write for Presents. It isn’t easy. Sometimes by the end of a book (OK, who am I kidding – by the middle of a book.) I feel as if I’ve gone three rounds with the emotional equivalent of the heavyweight champion of the world. Because the vital part of writing a Presents novel is digging deep into the emotional intensity that makes these stories work. Yes, I know, they also have a reputation for being sexy and sophisticated – the tag line ‘seduction and passion guaranteed’ wasn’t invented for the classic Presents stories for nothing. But it’s the emotional intensity, the powerful conflicts that create such emotional responses that are really at the heart of writing a Presents book. And that’s what takes the effort and the concentration when I’m writing.
Because the conflicts have to be so intense then the characters have to have really good reasons why they are behaving as they do. To me, it’s important not just to write about a ‘Greek Billionaire’ who’s out for revenge because that’s what the line demands. I have to give my hero – and my heroine – really deep, intense, truthful motivations for their actions. And the worse, the more dramatic, the more intense those actions are, the deeper and more involving those motivations have to be.
And that’s why my latest book, Kept for her Baby was a difficult, a powerful, a complicated book to write. I set out to do what my dear friend and wonderful Presents writer Michelle Reid describes as ‘digging myself – and my characters – into a hole.’ And the deeper you dig, the harder you have to work to get them out of it. So I started Kept For Her Baby with a premise that really needed justification if it was not to alienate every reader right from the start. Because my heroine does what might look like the unforgivable – she runs away and abandons her very young baby, leaving him behind with his father while she . . .
Ah but no I’m not going to tell you that. Because that’s what the whole book hinges on. The reasons why Lucy, my heroine acts as she does. The reasons why she thinks she has no alternative but to go. She can’t think of any other possible choice of action – and it’s when I put my hero or heroine into a situation where they really have no possible other choice and they have to behave as I want them to, then I know I’ve succeeded. That’s when (hopefully) the book has that vital ‘deep tissue massage effect.’ It digs deep and exposes uncomfortable feelings to the sunlight. When it reaches out and grabs the reader and just won’t let go.
I had to do a lot of research for Kept For Her Baby. I had to get my facts right – medical facts. But most of all I had to get my emotional facts right so that readers not only sympathised with Lucy but understood exactly why she behaved as she did. And if the emails and letters I’ve been getting from readers have been anything to go by that I’ve succeeded – and I’m really proud that I have. One reviewer called it “a powerful tale imbued with sensuality and pathos that had me reaching for the tissues and kept me engrossed and frantically turning the pages in the early hours of the morning.”
That’s the reason why I write classic Presents stories. So that I can dig deep into those emotions and bring out the stories that I hope will touch my readers hearts and keep them reading and reading until they find out just how the story will be resolved in the end. As a reader and as a writer, I like my romances deep and intense, I like them to wring my heart, to tug on my nerves, to be both painful and wonderful - like the very best sort of massage - so that at the end you feel wrung out, almost a little bit bruised, but so strongly affected that you were glad you went through the experience in order to get through to the other side.
And what about you? Do you like your romances sweet and gentle or powerful, intense and deeply emotional? Do you love to have your heartstrings tugged? Do you really enjoy a ‘weepie’ – a story that has you reaching for the tissues as you read? And what books have you read recently that have really moved you emotionally and had you dabbing away the tears as you turned the pages? I’d love to know
I have a signed copy of my Presents Extra title Kept For Her Baby to give away to one of the people who leave a comment to this post.