Saturday, April 19, 2014

Chocolate Box Blog Hop!

I'm taking part in a blog hop during April and May with the rest of the Chocolate Box Blog team - and there's a load of prizes up for grabs, including t-shirts, books from fabulous writers such as Donna Alward, Shirley Jump, Susan Meier, Liz Fielding, Jackie Braun, Ami Weaver, Samantha Hunter, Barbara Wallace and Michelle Douglas and - obviously - chocolate! There should be a rafflecopter at the end of this post; the more things you click, the more chances to win. :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, March 24, 2014

Guest blogger: Nina Harrington - why writing in more than one genre is a must for any author

I'm thrilled to have a guest blogger here today - Nina Harrington, who also writes for Harlequin, has just released her first romantic suspense title and is here to toll us all about writing in more than one genre. Take it away, Nina!

Thank you Kate for your warm welcome to your Blog. I am very happy to be here.

When I am introduced to someone for the first time, and they find out that I am a fiction writer, often the first question they ask is: ‘What kind of books do you write?”

I usually resist the temptation to say that my pen name is actually E.L. James and I am here in disguise, and instead reply along the lines of:

“I write series contemporary romance for Harlequin Mills and Boon. And single title romantic mystery. And romantic suspense. Oh, I mustn’t forget the science fiction young adult crime and techno-thrillers which I still have to edit. I am also currently working on a non-fiction book and …”

You get the idea.

Depending on the nature of the project I am working on that day, my answer is bound to confuse and send people away bewildered.

The kind and polite person was probably expecting a one word answer. Surely a writer only creates one type of book? One brand. One name. One kind of book. Simple.

But therein lies the problem.

Think about the books you have on your bedside table or waiting on your Kindle or other eBook reader?

Are they all the same genre or subgenre?

Mine aren’t. At the moment my bedtime reading choices are a detective novel, a middle grade fantasy adventure and a gardening manual to help me with my new raised bed. And I love that variety in my reading. It is so inspiring and entertaining.

I like to think of this way. Would you like to eat the same food every day of the week, every week of the year? No matter how delicious the food, and how nicely it was prepared, I would soon become bored and crave something different to experience and enjoy.

Exercising the same muscles every day is not good for the rest of the body and can make you very lop sided!

But writers seem reluctant to step over the barriers, for fear of ‘diluting’ their core brand and confusing their readers and getting lost on the way.

I find that readers are incredibly smart people – they can definitely handle the fact that an author can write in more than one genre or multiple sub genres.

James Patterson writes under the same name regardless of the genre. He respects his readers and knows that they will decide what they want to read that particular book.

Moreover, my experience has been that writing in a different style and in a different genre, really does make my creativity step up another notch.

My latest release, ‘Deadly Secrets’, is a crime novel with a romantic thread. Not only did I have great fun researching the location in the Ionian Islands, but I really enjoyed writing a much more plot based story and stretching those story craft muscles.

This was a story that simply refused to go away, despite all of my nagging about it not being a romance novel.

But one thing remains the same. It is still my voice telling the story. And there lies the key. As writers we have so many stories burning inside of us, waiting to be told and not nearly enough time to write them all. Don’t let those stories wither and fade because they don’t fit neatly into the genre you normally write. They need you.

‘Deadly Secrets’ by Nina Harrington – out now from all your favourite online stores.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

A few days as a princess...

It's not every day you get to be hugged by Darcey Bussell.

So I hope you'll forgive me for, um, running on about it just a little bit more.

The photo below is courtesy of the RNA - Darcey is giving me the trophy, and I've just given her a copy of my book Ballroom to Bride and Groom ;)

And if you want to see my acceptance speech (a bit overwhelmed and incoherent, talking way too fast, and trying very hard not to cry) then lovely Fiona Harper filmed it, and you can see it on the Mills and Boon website right here.

Yesterday, I had lunch with my local RNA chapter to celebrate, which was fabulous (not to mention scrumptious - a week like this, I am so allowed to eat polenta chips covered with parmesan and we can ignore the calories). The same goes for the coffee and the very small Italian almond macaroon (which I prefer to the French type) in Carluccio's afterwards with Caroline Anderson.

I've been thoroughly spoiled with flowers.

These ones are from Caroline Anderson (same colour roses as the ones in my wedding bouquet).

Delphiniums from my bestest cousin (she knows I love them).

Irises from my best friend (who knows how much I love them).

And then this morning my publisher sent me champagne, chocolates and roses (and note the cute little ladybird on the chiffon ribbon - that amused me highly and I'm sure that will find its way into a book).

I've also had an orchid from another close friend, flowers from DH, cards and tons of lovely emails and kind messages.

Plus an interview with the local paper, and I'm off to talk to Stephen Bumfrey at BBC Radio Norfolk tomorrow.

I am enjoying having a few days as a princess (though I can't ignore the fact that the tumble dryer has been noisy for a month, spitting out bits for a week, and is threatening to blow up by the end of the week - so it's off to John Lewis at the weekend to sort out a new one - LOL, this is life going back to normal!).

Thank you to everyone who's been spoiling me and sharing the joy.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

RNA Awards 2014

Monday 17 March 2014 has to rate as one of my best Mondays ever.

Forgive me for running on a bit (and posting a gazillion pics), but I'd like to share the whole day, warts and all.

I'd been so looking forward to the RNA Awards do - I'd been thrilled to be shortlisted again for the RoNA Rose prize, and not just with one but TWO books! Better still, some of my best writer friends had been shortlisted with me, and I couldn't have been on a shortlist with nicer people. (It didn't matter who won. We were all going to cheer each other on. We'd all been shortlisted before and we were just going to have a wonderful day together and enjoy every second.) I was looking forward to seeing other RNA friends that I hadn't seen for ages, too.

And, thanks to the Kate Unlardy project, I had enough confidence to wear a dress - the first time I've worn a dress since my wedding day, 22 years ago. And, cough, the tiara. (It's sparkly and awesome. And I love it. And yes, I am a toddler on a sugar rush.)

Monday morning actually started with a bit of a panic. I'd painted my nails the night before and thought I could get away with just one coat. In daylight... Oops. Rushed to get ready, added a second coat, and it was just about dry when my taxi arrived.

Anyway, I caught the train in time, met Caroline Anderson halfway there, and we talked all the way to London.

Our editors had arranged to take us to lunch in the Massimo restaurant in the Corinthia Hotel. It's so easy to find - you just walk out of the tube station at Embankment and it's there in front of you.

And what a beautiful building.

 I fell in love with this light installation in the lobby lounge. (Yes, that is going to appear in a book at some point.)

The room was just gorgeous.

And we met lovely Liz Fielding for coffee. (This is Caroline and Liz in the lounge.) 

They did coffee art just for us. (The biscuit was cinnamon, and very nice too.)

Then the editors started walking past, so we went to join them and met up with Louise Allen and the late Joanna Fulford's husband. I had some fabulous news over lunch - my sixtieth Mills and Boon (aka Plague Squirrels) has been accepted. (Real title is 'It Started With No Strings' and it's out in October.) Oh, and at this point we started on the prosecco...

Lunch was fabulous. I had the burrata to start with (kind of like mozzarella, with a slightly softer middle) with vegetable caponata.

Then fillet of hake on a bed of lentils and giroles (chanterelle mushrooms - and it tasted even better than it looked). 

And, because I read menus backwards and the editors and my writer mates all know me very well, there was a bit of teasing because everyone knew exactly what I was going to choose for dessert - panna cotta with blood orange jelly. (I am still trying to work out how they got the top bit to fizz. Must experiment.) And the ricotta doughnuts were still warm. (Ultra nommy.)

Certain people couldn't resist the tiramisu with espresso jelly.

Then it was time to go across the road to One Whitehall Place and have our photographs taken. (First stop: loos, to check hair and lippy for the officialphotographs - nice to see Janet Gover and Henri Gyland.)

I love the staircase at One Whitehall Place. I know I've posted a similar pic before, but I really do love this staircase!

This is the room for the reception before the do.

And I got to see my fabulous mate Milly Johnson with her great new hair.

Shortlistees for the RoNA Rose having an official photo (ltr Liz Fielding, Louise Allen, Caroline Anderson, me, Brian Croft for Joanna Fulford).

And we met up with Emma Fraser, who'd been shortlisted for the RoNA Epic. (ltr Louise Allen, Caroline Anderson, Emma Fraser wearing IMPOSSIBLY high heels, me, Liz Fielding)

We had an interview with the Buena Vista book club. (Lovely people.)

Another visit to loo (because you wouldn't be able to change your mind once you were in the awards do!). This time, met up with lovely Fiona Harper and India Grey.

Then it was time to go in to the Gladstone Library for the ceremony.

Gorgeous room. Gorgeous table.

As you can see, we were having a very nice time indeed and ther eight have been champagne involved...

Darcey Bussell was presenting the awards - introduced here by lovely Katie Fforde. There might have been a tiny bit of fangirling going on at our table, at this point ;) (Apols for rubbish picture quality for the next couple. My camera did not like the lighting!) 

First up was the RoNA Rose. Our book covers were shown (greedy Kate gets two).

And from here it gets a bit incoherent and blurry, because Darcey took the card out of the envelope. 'And the winner is...' I was all ready to cheer.

I really was NOT expecting her to say 'Kate Hardy'.

I squeaked, 'OMG - did she just say me?' Caroline, Liz and Louise checked I didn't have lippy on my teeth and my hair wasn't all over the place, took my name badge off (because romantic novelists are the nicest people in the world and believe that you look after your own - I am very, very proud to be part of that kind of organisation because RNA members are awesome). And they reminded me to take the ballroom book out of my bag so I could give that to Darcey.

This is the real warts and all bit. What it's like to win an award and what goes through your head while you walk up to the stage.

OMG. This is really happening.  I hope I don't fall over the steps and make an idiot of myself - maybe the heels were a mistake. Remember to suck the stomach in so you don't look like a postbox on stage. OMG. I'm going to meet Darcey Bussell. She's beautiful. What a lovely smile. She's so tall and thin! OMG - Darcey Bussell's giving me a hug and a crystal star - I actually have a trophy, for the first time in my life!!!!

What I actually said (this is warts and all so I am REALLY cringing, but I hope you're all laughing along with me rather than at me) - I'm so thrilled to meet you. You're my favourite judge on Strictly by miles, and I brought you my ballroom dance book and I hope you'll enjoy it. 

She gave me the trophy and a hug. There were photos. And then I had to make a speech that I hadn't actually prepared, so it came totally from the heart. I don't actually remember much of what I said, and I was crying at this point. 

In fact, this is the official picture of the total wreck that was Kate Hardy (thank you to the RNA for the pic). So totally overcome that she committed the cardinal sin of looking down so the double chins showed! :)  (Darcey all smiley and composed, Jane Wenham-Jones I think might have been saying, 'BREATHE!', and me all incoherent :)

(Do you want to know why Oscar winners cry? It's so thrilling and humbling and overwhelming, and you don't quite believe it's happening, and I will never mock them again for being gushy because I was the same.) I do remember saying that I wasn't expecting it, I was so thrilled, and thanking the readers, the judges, the RNA and Mills and Boon. I also remember making my editor stand up to take a bow (on the grounds that your book isn't just yours - you need an editor to remind you to put the stuff that's in your head on the page and not leave it in your head, and I think every writer in that room knew what I meant!).

Back to the tables, collecting the Betty Neels rose bowl on the way (I get custody of this for a year, and my name engraved on it with the year - it's almost next to my name from 2008). Lots of hugs on the way. And I'm so humbled that people are genuinely pleased for me. I was offline while I was in London and came home to literally hundreds of emails and texts and tweets and FB messages, and you're all so lovely and it's so much appreciated.

So - the rest of the awards - and I'm sorry to say I was still in such a daze that I didn't take pics.

Contemporary romantic novel - Veronica Henry
Epic romantic novel - Jennifer McVeigh
Historical romantic novel - Christina Courtenay
Romantic comedy novel - Milly Johnson
Young adult romantic novel - Imogen Howson

Overall Romantic Book of the Year - Veronica Henry

Achievement awards to Dr David Hessayon and Helen Fielding (great speeches from both).

More photos. (Me with Darcey and the other award winners. Pic again courtesy of the RNA - thank you - LTR Christina Courtenay, Imogen Howson, Milly Johnson, Darcey Bussell, Helen Fielding, Veronica Henry, me, Jennifer McVeigh)

And then it was time to go home to my best friend's for a much needed cup of tea.

So that was a super-exciting, super-glam day in the life of a normally rather scruffy middle-aged mum of two.

And I am totally, totally thrilled.

And still not quite believing that this has my name on it.


Monday, February 17, 2014

Guest post - Donna Alward on the writing process

Last week, I posted my blog on the writing process. As Donna Alward's website is currently undergoing a few changes, I offered to host her here - so, take it away, Donna!

Big huge humongous thanks to my pal Kate (and RoNA finalist – wait double finalist!) for hosting me with my “My Writing Process” blog. Kate’s SUCH an inspiration to our “writing group” and I’ve known her for yonks. But since she joined the Romance line we’ve chatted even more. Sometimes even about writing. Mostly about food. And exercise. And kids. :) Okay – now on to my writing process!

1) What am I working on?
Right now I’m working on a couple of stories. I have a hard time shifting from one set of characters to another at the same time, and both proposals are approved and they both have the same deadline date (fun!). So I chose to write the one that’s calling to me most - Christmas at Seashell Cottage. It’s a 60k story that will be out in digital later this year to coincide with the release of Treasure on Lilac Lane from St. Martin’s Press. As soon as that’s on the way to my editor there, I’m back to finishing up the second story in a trilogy for Harlequin American – a Valentine’s Day story in my upcoming Crooked Creek Cowboys series.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Oh, this is a hard question. How does it differ? By voice, I suppose. I’m a farm girl, and yet my westerns have less of a ranch-y core and more of an emotional centre. That’s what it’s all about for me – the emotion. My series for St. Martins isn’t quite like any East Coast, Small Town Contemporary series I’ve read. Again, they’re about the emotional core and the small town setting, which makes them very intimate. There’s also a little hint of mystery in them. It’s one of those things I have a difficult time putting my finger on – perhaps a reader or editor or reviewer could pinpoint what makes me different. Perhaps it’s that I’m a down-home, Canadian girl that makes the difference. :)

3) Why do I write what I do?
Because Romance is awesome. Because I love happy endings. There are enough unhappy ones in the world that I can’t control or change, but maybe, just maybe, someone will read one of my stories and give a happy, contented sigh at the end. In my stories good guys finish first. The girl gets her happy ever after. Life might not always be perfect, but by gum, they’re going to fight their way through it with the one they love beside them. I don’t think you can really ask for anything better than that. And when a reader e-mails to let me know that my story touched or helped them in some way, it’s the best feeling in the world.

4) How does your writing process work?
It ain’t pretty. I’m a pantser, so I don’t know what’s going to happen all the time. I have my characters, a situation, and a basic idea of what their problem is and why they can’t seem to find happiness. Then I just dig in and work through it. I probably spend the most time on the opening 3 chapters, making sure I’ve got a fairly solid foundation before moving on. Then I work linearly through the story, learning as I go. I’ve learned to trust the process. When I get lightbulbs, chances are I’ve subconsciously laid the groundwork earlier on. I work right through to the end.

As I’m working, though, I always go through the last day’s work BEFORE I write new words. Not for a long time, just a single pass, but I invariably flesh a few things out and get into the rhythm of the story before carrying on. I try to write a minimum of 2-3000 words a day, especially in order to meet my deadlines these past few years. I really guard my time between 9 and 3 p.m. carefully, because those are my “alone” hours when everyone is at school (even the husband, who teaches college). I also try to keep myself balanced by NOT working on evenings or weekends, or if I do, it’s “light” stuff like blog writing, setting up promotions, answering e-mail, that sort of thing.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Breaking news - award shortlist!

I'm thrilled to say that I've been shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists Association's RoNA Rose Prize 2014 - with TWO books!

Sharing the text and photographs from the RNA (with thanks to them), and huge congratulations to my fellow shortlistees:

Congratulations to all authors shortlisted for the 2014 Romantic Novel of the Year Awards. The shortlist for the RoNA Rose Award, recognising the best in category/series and shorter romance that focus on developing a love affair between the hero and heroine, is:
Louise Allen, Forbidden Jewel of India, Harlequin Mills & Boon
Caroline Anderson, Snowed in with the Billionaire, Harlequin Mills & Boon
Liz Fielding, Anything But Vanilla, Harlequin Mills & Boon
Joanna Fulford, His Lady of Castlemora, Harlequin Mills & Boon
Kate Hardy, Bound by a Baby, Harlequin Mills & Boon
Kate Hardy, Her Real Family Christmas, Harlequin Mills & Boon

The category winners will be announced by Darcey Bussell CBE on Monday 17th March in the Gladstone Library, One Whitehall Place, London SW1, along with the winner of the RoNA Rose award, who will receive a star shaped crystal trophy plus a cheque for £1000, along with a silver rose bowl, which is kept for a year.

Darcey Bussell will then reveal the author whose book has won the RNA's most prestigious and coveted award, the Romantic Novel of the Year. In addition to the crystal trophy, the winner of the Romantic Novel of the Year will also receive a cheque for £5000.

The categories are Contemporary Romantic Novel, Epic Romantic Novel, Historical Romantic Novel, Romantic Comedy Novel and Young Adult Romantic Novel. The finalists of the RoNA Rose Award do not contest the Romantic Novel of the Year Award.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

nerdy stuff and catchup

Current work: writing M&B #61 (Christmas romance) and awaiting revisions to M&B #60 (tropical medicine)
Listening to: Panic! at the Disco
Reading: Rowan Coleman, The Memory Book (utterly fantastic and highly recommended – if dementia is a hot button for you, it will make you bawl, but it’s beautifully written and I loved it); Caroline Anderson, Snowed In With the Billionaire (excellent); Kate Morton, The House at Riverto (enjoyed)
Gym: totally full of lurgy so not at the gym this week! (Missing it terribly, too…)

Sorry – I have been an appallingly bad blogger, because life has seriously been in the way since DH’s car crash. He’s on the mend, but dealing with the admin has been pretty time-consuming. Haven’t been impressed by the communication or the business processes of all the people involved – apparently, the systems are so poor that nobody can make a note of what they’ve done and nobody else knows what anyone has done, and there’s been an awful lot of buck-passing. (Just how do these companies stay in business, with that level of inefficiency? And I used to work for one of them – in my ratrace days, that kind of service would have been unacceptable.) I’m not usually horrible to deal with, but I did have to get bossy and point out what needed doing. Politely but very firmly. Arrrgh. And I’ve also ended up facilitating the ‘family crisis’. (Those of you who know me in real life – yes, I know I said I wouldn’t do it again after copping all the flak last time, because it isn’t very nice putting yourself out and being really kind, only to have people being super-nasty. But otherwise it just drags on and on and on, so it’s actually less stressful to deal with it myself and get it sorted.)

Working round that lot hasn’t been easy, so I’m expecting massive revisions on the book known as ‘Plague Squirrels’. Still. Onwards and upwards :)

So. Nerdy stuff. It was my birthday yesterday, and DH managed to get a day off with me, so we went to the Roman exhibition at the Castle Museum in Norwich. It was quite a small exhibition (it’s touring the country for the next year or so), but some of the exhibits were really fascinating. (And yes, I was naughty and took photos on the iPod – hence the poor quality.) It was nice to see some local stuff – bits from the Hockwold and Snettisham hoards. And I was also fascinated by the Scottish armlet – I didn’t get a chance to take a pic of that, but apparently 20 out of the 21 known examples all come from around the same area of Scotland (Dundee ish), and they were bronze with a little inlaid picture.

This is a fluorite cup – the Crawford cup, dating from around AD50. There are only two known examples which are actually intact, and both are at the British Museum. Apparently they were highly prized by the nobility in Roman times, and the emperor Nero paid a million sesterces for one. Just to put it into context (and the curator who wrote the accompanying notes really did a fantastic job), this is the equivalent of a year’s pay for a thousand soldiers! For one drinking cup which is roughly the size of the average coffee mug...

There was also a tiny dolphin lamp, which I thought was beautiful.

And this child’s sock, from Roman Egypt. It’s a left sock, and note the division between the big toe and the rest of the toes – this is so it could be worn easily with a thonged sandal.

But my favourite bit? The Hipposandal.

This is a temporary horseshoe, which was put on a horse when it needed to pull exceptionally heavy loads or when the ground was too rough. The more I see of Roman engineering, the more impressed I am with them as a civilisation. Practical, sensible and clever. (And there were photos of my two favourite buildings – the Colosseum and the Pantheon. And bits from the Domus Aureus, which was closed for renovation when we were in Rome. Colour me happy.)