by Anna Sugden
I'm delighted to welcome back my very dear friend, the fabulous Mills & Boon author, Kate Walker, for another fun-filled day in the Lair. This time, we're going to give Kate a celebration to remember, as she's joining us during a very special anniversary!
So bring on the cabana boys, gladiators and hockey hunks and let the fun begin! May I be the first to raise a glass of bubbly and say "Congratulations, Kate - may you have many more years of giving us wonderful books! And thank you for all the help and advice you've given us over the years."
Thank you, Anna and Banditas. It's a real pleasure to be back with you all.
It’s very nearly Christmas and everyone is rushing around looking for gifts to give to loved ones, choosing them, buying them, wrapping them up and either putting them in the post or delivering them in person. Christmas is all about giving and sharing with those we care about. But the gifts we give don’t have to be just material things. (Though those are always nice – and a few brand new books in my Christmas stocking will always go down a treat!) We can share help and advice and support and encouragement. And that’s what I love to do with those not-yet-published authors who are aiming and hoping top get their books published some time soon.
But not everyone understands this. A couple of years ago, I was at an event with a lot of other Harlequin Mills &Boon authors. One of them was an elderly, long-established writer who told me to my face that she ‘didn’t approve’ of all the things I did like giving workshops, running courses, teaching and advising ‘wannabes’ (her term). And she really didn’t approve of the fact that I had written the 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance. I was, she said, encouraging them to think that getting published was easy and that all you had to do was to follow a few rules, knock together several thousand words, and you would be heading for the best-seller lists in no time! Hmm! She also wanted to know what I was doing, ‘training up the opposition’, helping new authors who would get published, move in, grab all the sales, and, apparently, ruin my position, knocking me – and other older established authors out of the market altogether.
Huh? I didn’t get it then – still don’t get it now. How could helping a ‘trainee’ author polish and hone her skills so that she sees how things have to be in a romance novel and more importantly why they have to be that way ruin my own career and those of many other like me? How could saying that there are no ‘rules’ but there are things you need to look out for, things you need to focus on, things you need to think about damage the reputation I’ve built up over the years?
[Anna: Trust me, Kate's 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance is invaluable for any wannabes!]
Perhaps I should add in something here. Over on my own blog, as well as celebrating Christmas, I’m marking a very special anniversary. This December 2009 I have been a published romance writer for 25 years since my very first book, The Chalk Line was published in December 1984. In that time I have had over 50 books published, with titles number 56 and 57 coming up in 2010. It’s a very special time for me and an achievement I’m so very proud of.
25 years ago when having a book published was just a dream - one that no one ever seemed to think I was going to achieve – there was just one person who believed in me and thought I might actually make it. She was a friend of my mothers, a woman called Marguerite Lees who wrote for Mills & Boon way back then when I was growing up. Her simple comment ‘You can write,’ when she read my childhood writings gave me faith in myself and sustained me when I thought I’d never make it. My success never damaged hers – so why should I ever think that helping anyone else would harm mine? Could it take away the 57 titles I’ve had accepted?
Some months ago I went to a concert by a favourite singer, Michael Ball. He has had huge success as a recording artist, on stage in musicals, and had won many awards. I’ve seen him on stage many times. This time he had a slightly different show because it included performances by several new young singers who had appeared with him in productions of Hairspray etc. Giving these young - and hugely talented singers – a break by letting them appear on stage with him did nothing to reduce the singing power and presence of the star . Instead their new voices added a different depth and richness to songs I had heard many times before, allowing for different and original arrangements, extending the range and scope of the music.
That’s what I hope for when new authors are signed with Harlequin – in the Presents line I write for, or for any line at all. In fact any genre at all., Every line, every genre, needs new blood to stay alive, stay fresh. Any form of fiction needs to grow and develop, to change and adapt to new years, new trends, new types of societies so that it will always be relevant and never ever become a stuffy old dinosaur that no one wants to read.
And that’s why I love helping what the UK’s Romantic Novelists’ Association calls ‘New Writers’ those who aren’t yet published but with a little help and adv ice and encouragement might yet be the new Lynne Graham, the new Jennifer Cruisie, or even the new Nora Roberts. That’s why I run the courses etc and that’s why I wrote the 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance. This book has already sold out one edition completely and the second, much expanded and updated edition was brought out in an American edition for the first time this year. Since it was published, I’ve heard from at least seven brand new novelists who have been helped on their way to publication by reading this book – and believe me that’s one of the best presents I’ve ever had. Almost – though not quite as good as that very first published book that I held in my hand this time 25 years ago.
So as part of my ‘Silver Anniversary’ celebrations I’m giving away a signed copy of the 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance to one lucky commenter. (Or if you’ve already got it – or you’re not actually trying to get published – then I’ll send you a copy of my most recent Presents novel Kept For Her Baby instead. Your choice.)
I’ve been talking about giving and if you’ve ever visited my blog you’ll know that two years ago my husband (the renowned Babe Magnet) gave me one of the best presents ever when he found me a beautiful and adorable Maine Coon kitten who has now grown into an even more beautiful and more adorable Queen . Her real name is Flora but she’s also known as Flora the Floozie. So Flora and the very first edition of The Chalk Line all those years ago have to come into the category of the Best Presents I Ever Received.
What would be your best present ever? One you’ve been given or one you’d just dream of ever finding under the tree on Christmas morning? I’d love to know. And I’ll get Sid the cat on the job to pick one poster as a winner of a copy of whichever book you want!
And can I add a special request here too – with another chance to win a prize as I have 25 of them to give away to mark this very special Silver Anniversary for me. I’ve been asking readers to let me know which of my books was the very first title they ever read. And perhaps tell me a little bit about how they found it, when it came into their life. And I’m also sunning a vote for the top 5 favourite Kate Walker titles – just send me (kate AT Kate-walker.com) a list with your favourites numbered one to five and I’ll add them to the voting. And if I post your story on my blog, or Sid the Cat picks your name out of the voting you’ll win a signed copy of one of my back list titles together with a little extra gift to share the celebrations of the 25th anniversary. Details are on the Contest page of my web site – and on the home page there you’ll also find my special Christmas ‘card’ to all my readers.
I’ll just end by wishing everyone the happiest of holiday seasons – whatever you’re celebrating. I hope you have a truly special and loving time with your family and friends. And I hope that the new year when it comes brings lots of wonderful joys and maybe even a dream or two coming true. Thank you all Banditas for having me over to visit and I hope to see you all again in 2010.