Friday, July 25, 2008


Sorry for absence - will be AWOL for a while due to a family situation. At the moment DH, the kids and I are still going to Derbyshire this weekend (though that might have to change, depending), so with luck I'll be back in a week or so with nice pics and be the usual happy, smiley Kate.

This isn't a warts-and-all blot, I'm afraid, so out of respect I'm not blogging about the situation. But I can reassure everyone that Dad isn't in hospital again. (And I am touching wood and crossing my fingers it stays that way.)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

end of an era

Current work: nonfic
Listening to: various piano stuff
Reading: Kate Harrison, The Secret Shopper’s Revenge (excellent)

Yesterday was the end of an era. Both children are moving up to the next school in September, so it’s the end of a 7-year association with the Infant School. Very sad. But we’re looking forward to the future.

Today was officially the first day of the school hols. Did some church-crawling (for the book), which was a bit of a mixed bag. First church: locked. But I did get the shots I needed of the saint’s well. Road to the second church was a tad hairy – we’re talking roads not much wider than my car. Reached the church, parked in the field that had a ‘church car park’ notice – and then an enormous combine harvester arrived. Glad I missed that, I thought with relief - and then watched as it turned into the field towards my car… (The car was OK. I had a bad moment.) And after all that the church was locked. But the keyholder was next door and handed over an enormous key. Found the wallpainting, but it was very faint; and the epitaph I was looking for was either no longer legible or was some ancient antiquarian’s idea of a leg-pull. Visited Dad; then on to the next church. Got the photos I wanted; but then in our final church of the day the two epitaphs I was looking for weren’t there. (One was almost 300 years old, and outside, so it was probably illegible from wear.) The churchwarden and gift shop man were both very kind and suggested I came back for a chat with the archivist.

I could just repeat epitaphs collected by Victorian enthusiasts, but I want to check they’re still there; so there will be some jiggery-pokery for that chapter, sigh.

Tomorrow – into town to purchase last-minute holiday bits (and maybe do some churches, but will tell my research assistants just before we start). I really need this holiday. Would help if I could stop waking up at 4 a.m. and then being too wide awake to go back to sleep.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

sex and chocolate

Current work: admin and Modern Heat (I will get time to work, I will, I will – had a decent night’s sleep last night so am not a complete zombie as I was yesterday)
Listening to: Kathryn Williams
Reading: Kate Harrison, The Secret Shopper’s Revenge (this is a sheer joy of a book – other one wasn’t my cuppa tea and I’d rather spend my precious reading time on something I do enjoy reading. Interestingly, both are first person. But Kate’s book has characterisation that really grabbed me and kept me reading until I was too tired to keep my eyes open.)

Following on from yesterday’s post – one of my fellow guests on BBC Radio Norfolk last week was Angela Ruthven, founder of Saffire chocolates. I said the samples were gorgeous. I didn’t say HOW gorgeous. The white chocolate and lavender one was scrummy. Ditto the coffee and vanilla one. And the praline one. And… Oh, let’s just say these are better than Hotel Chocolat, in my opinion (and regular readers/personal friends know these are my big weakness). Delia Smith recommends them. These are SERIOUSLY good chocolates.

I have a feeling that I will have to write a chocolatier heroine and go and spend some time shadowing Angela. (As well as my radio book. Dear lovely editor, if you’re reading this… big hint… will send you choccies…)

Angela also told me about Aero Man. Now, I don’t like NestlĂ© chocolate (it’s the texture) but she told me to check out the ad. That my readers would like it.

So I did.

And here, for your delectation, is Aero Man.

Enjoy. (But take my advice and get some decent chocolate to go with the totty view. Saffire, Hotel Chocolat, Green & Black’s or Lindor.)

Monday, July 21, 2008

on top of the world (well, the charts, anyway)

Current work: admin and Modern Heat (I will get time to work, I will, I will)
Listening to: Kathryn Williams
Reading: The Queen’s Fool, Philippa Gregory (whoops, got the title wrong last week)

Lovely weekend. The radio interview was fab (more on this tomorrow). Very sad to say goodbye to our headteacher on Friday but her leaving do was a real celebration. The word that kept being used was ‘outstanding’ – very true. Her shoes will be very difficult to fill.

Then my best friend was up for the weekend – lots of talking and laughing and consumption of chocolate. (Helped by lovely, lovely India Grey who not only sent me her new book, she sent me chocolate to say thanks for telling her about the Chopin piece. Thank you, India.)

Yesterday evening, went to see my cousins and went through all the wonderful wedding pics.

And then I caught up with work and a couple of interviews and blog pieces that needed to be written. As part of it, I checked the URL for my new US book, and had an amazing surprise. Not only is One Night, One Baby STILL in the e-harlequin top 10 ebooks (that’s three weeks now), yesterday it was NUMBER ONE!

So I’m on top of the world. And the charts – because I’m also still in the Jarrolds local bestseller charts. And my new book is out and Waterstone's had already practically sold out. DH – who doesn’t have the book bug – grabbed it and hasn’t put it down all weekend. I decided to ask him what he thought (he’s painfully honest, so this was actually major bravery on my part). ‘It’s really interesting.’ (That’s DH-speak for utterly brilliant. My husband is extremely laid-back: the most he'll usually say about anything is that it's ‘all right’.)

Colour me very happy.

Friday, July 18, 2008


Current work: nonfic/admin
Listening to: David Coverdale, Northwinds
Reading: just about to start The Other Boleyn Girl, Philippa Gregory

Did tons of work yesterday, which is pleasing as summer holidays are approaching at rocket pace. Particularly pleased as it involved using several of my Early English Text Society volumes. My Old English needs polishing and I really MUST do something about my Latin, but maybe not this year. Really pleased with my interview in the Eastern Daily Press about me (big headline: ‘The History Woman’ – the kids were thrilled, too). Thanks to Pete Sargent for such a great write-up.

Plan for today:
  • admin this morning (I have to tidy my desk because I can’t see it and I can’t work in this much of a mess, especially as my to do list is buried there instead of being stuck on my wall where I can see it and tick it off, and I MUST do my tax form today on pain of… well, penury);
  • interview on BBC Radio Norfolk (12 noon GMT, for those interested);
  • buy Madam’s goodies for her leavers’ party on Monday;
  • check Jarrold’s because new book is probably there (my author copies are on their way but I cannot cannot cannot wait for this one – my ruins and castles book);
  • go to Madam’s school for leaving assembly and then our head’s retirement do;
  • home to cook dinner;
  • transport son to his school leavers’ disco;
  • squeeze in some work in between.

Kate Hardy, mistress of the quiet life :o)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Big Read

Current work: nonfic
Listening to: Martin Ostertag and Boris Bagger, Nocturne (cello and classical guitar)
Reading: Eileen Ramsay, The Stuff of Dreams plus some nonfic research

Nicked this from Michelle Styles, one of my fellow National Year of Reading 2008’s writers in residence.

Apparently the average adult has only read 6 of these top 100 books. Idea is:
1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.
2) Italicize those you intend to read.
3) Underline the books you LOVE.

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame (doesn’t bear re-reading as an adult)
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis (er, hello, what about #33?)
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding (hated this and The Spire)
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon (too much graphic violence for me)
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt (Wallbanger. I did try)
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy (genius book)
68 Bridget Jones's Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce (not into Joyce, loathed this, prefer Yeats' poetry)
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt (this is one of my all time top reads)
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte's Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare (er – why is this here when the complete works are mentioned? And I HAVE read the complete works)
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Oh dear. This is bad. I’ve read 90 on that list. Just as well the meme didn’t say “how old were you” (let’s just say 20 of them were before I was 10, … oh dear. Anything on that list published before 1990, I’d read it before 1990). In my defence: I could read before I went to school, I read voraciously and widely, and reading is one of my favourite pleasures. One I’m so glad I’ve passed on to my children.

There are some big ones missing there for me. Where’s The Mill on the Floss (my all-time fave)? Where’s Malory? Where’s Chaucer? Where’s The Mabiniogion and Sturlusson’s Edda? Where’s Beowulf? (I recommend the Swanton translation, but I’ve heard that Seamus Heaney’s done a fab job. I would also include The Exeter Book in my top 5, but as stories were written down as poems rather than prose during the Anglo-Saxon period, it counts as fiction... and Notes from a Small Island isn't exactly fiction, is it?) And if we’re talking popular fiction rather than classics, where are The Vizard Mask (Norman), Katherine (Seton), The Sunne in Splendour (Penman), Lady of Hay (Erskine)? (All of these for me are much more page-turning than Dan Brown – sorry, not being a snob, I’m talking page-turning quality, a gripping story and great characterisation and great pace.) Where’s Georgette Heyer? For modern litfic, where’s Robertson Davis? (Lots of lovely intellectual stuff there.) There’s the token dystopia of 1984, but what about Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World? Or, my favourite, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451? (His books are fabulous reads.) Where’s John Wyndham?

I’d love to know who put together that list. Some of it’s stodgy (nailing my colours to the mast, I much prefer Opie and Eliot to Austen – the only Austen one I do like, Northanger Abbey, isn’t there - and Dickens can be so incredibly turgid. (This is what happens when you pay a writer per word. No cutting for pace!) Dombey and Son’s a good read, but The Old Curiosity shop and Little Dorrit are both tedious – and I have read hundreds of 19th century novels, both English and French, so that's an informed opinion). Some of it’s clearly a sop to ‘chart toppers’. But then again it’s quite hard to do a top 100. I’d find it very difficult to rank my favourites.

What worries me more is that if the average person has read 6 on that list, that means there are others like me who score significantly higher and bump up the average. Which means that a lot of people don’t read at all.

I could weep that people are missing out on such pleasure.

This is indeed why, despite my time being squeezed right now, I am supporting the National Year of Reading 2008 and being the Writer in Residence for Norfolk. Books are NOT just for people with a degree or who are ‘clever’. They’re for EVERYONE. Reading’s one of the best pleasures ever and it’s FREE. For me a good book is one that brings me into another world and makes time stop. Books MATTER.

And long may this continue.

(And if you decide to do this list on your own blog, leave me a note below because I'd love to come and be nosy!)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Current work: nonfic/MH book 2 c1
Listening to: Martin Ostertag and Boris Bagger, Nocturne (cello and classical guitar)
Reading: Eileen Ramsay, The Stuff of Dreams plus some nonfic research

Busy writing. One work week left until the kids break up. Have started new book in a completely different way (had the lightbulb moment in the five minutes last night between my live radio interview on BBC Radio Norfolk and having to go to the meeting at school, where I’ve promised to go in during Book Week and talk about being an author); guitar went OK (am doing prelude to Bach lute suite in Dm and there are some tricky stretches); am trying not to get overexcited about the fact that the BBC is putting up a feature about me on their website (OK, so am failing miserably at this because am actually very overexcited about it) and I also get a feature in the EDP at some point in the next week… And the nice thing is that it's all because of positive achievements. I work hard and it's lovely to have that recognised. (There are people who refer to my career as 'your little hobby'. Teeth-grinding moments.)

Though I’m not moaning. I love high-octane busy weeks like this one. And I love it when a new book starts to work properly. Doing what I love most - writing - is a real high. Authors often talk about books being like their babies. I think that’s true: they’ll arrive in your head when they’re ready and not before, just as babies will arrive when they're ready (eldest was 10 days late and put me through a 2-day labour on top of that). And I always get the same dip after delivering a book that I had after both children were born – obviously emotional rather than hormonal, but similar in feeling.

Right. To work.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

begin at the beginning – or not

Current work: nonfic/MH book 2 c1
Listening to: Martin Ostertag and Boris Bagger, Nocturne (cello and classical guitar)
Reading: Eileen Ramsay, The Stuff of Dreams plus some nonfic research

I don’t often do craft pieces (mainly because I dislike analysing my own work and why I do things – I’m too close to it to judge, and analysing it always gives me a nasty dose of Impostor Syndrome) but I spent a lot of yesterday dithering about this question. One that normally doesn’t bother me – I usually like the beginnings of books and have problems ending them. (We don’t talk about the saggy middle syndrome – my book and my body tend to share this problem, and although I can fix it in the book… no, let’s not go there.) But yesterday the book refused to start.

So where do you start a book? At the beginning? Or not?

I know the theory. In a romance novel, you’re meant to start
  • at a point of change (i.e. the beginning of the journey)
  • preferably with something that pulls the reader straight into the middle of things
  • and with your hero and heroine on the page together as soon as possible. (The theory there is that your readers are like puppies – they bond with the people they meet first. That’s quite insulting to said readers, but it’s a valid point: readers do expect to meet the hero and heroine first because they’re the most important characters.)

Now, the beginning of the journey isn’t necessarily the same as the beginning of the story. Yesterday, I could have started my book in three different places.

Number one was the beginning of the story (and involved a journey, so that appealed to me) – but it just wasn’t strong enough. I could see big information dumps (things which are better shown by the characters in dialogue and action rather than told by Mrs Omniscienct Narrator – oh, how basic a mistake is that? How many books have I written? Have I learned a thing?).

Number two skipped over that beginning and was probably going to end up being a love scene by the end of page two. Too much, too soon?

Number three was definitely a strong, dramatic opening – but it was the storm and I want the calm first. I want the readers to know my characters before seeing them tested.

And then there's the whole question of viewpoint. (Am dithering on that one, too.)

It doesn’t help that I watched a film with DH this weekend which I enjoyed hugely and set all kinds of ‘what if’ threads running through my head. A little bit of self-discipline is required. Which means getting on with what I’m supposed to be doing and not letting myself be distracted by new exciting storyline here. Especially as I know said distraction will wait: I’m putting off starting this book because I’m scared it’s going to go pear-shaped. It’s planned, it’s doable, it’s something I want to write. Bu-u-ut- I’m having one of those sticky moments where I wonder if I’m up to the challenge.

Or maybe authors change the way they work from time to time without realising it. I used to rush through a book and then the ending was like treacle. Maybe it’s going the other way round for me now, because at the moment I seem to be writing the endings first and putting off the moment where I have to write the first words.

Right. I need some trumpet-blowing to bolster me. So. Apologies in advance for this. The University of Leicester has done me proud with their press release (and I’ve had some nice emails about it); this weekend saw me in the local bestseller chart for the sixth week running with Heroes, Villains and Victims of Norwich; and One Night, One Baby is still in the e-harlequin top 10 ebooks. (That’s been ages – about a fortnight now.)

Thank you SO much to everyone who’s been buying my books. I will do my best to write a new story you’ll really enjoy. (And thank you, Jan, for passing on comments to me about Breakfast at Giovanni's (aka In Bed With His Italian Boss). Maybe I should redo my tagline as 'warm, realistic romance' or something like that...)

Plan for today: school run, guitar lesson, work, school run, evening meeting at Madam’s new school (where I get to hand in admission forms etc). And then a bit more work.

Monday, July 14, 2008


Current work: admin/nonfic/MH book 2 c1
Listening to: Bach
Reading: Eileen Ramsay, The Stuff of Dreams (enjoying it very much so far – have learned a lot about breathing and diction from it, too. I love books which teach me things at the same time as telling me a story)

Last full week of term, so I have to get my skates on. Busy week this week – especially Friday, with a radio interview and our headteacher’s retirement do.

Did my revisions over the weekend, but am not sure if I’ve threaded enough of the conflict in early enough. Am going to leave it for a couple of days and then take another look, because right now I’m sick of the book and I need space before I can look at it objectively. My ed’s away this week so I do have time.

Today, need to sort some admin and then get cracking on the book I’ve been tinkering with on the PDA (saved to the machine as well as the new SD card), and I’ve highlighted the new text so it’s easy to compare that version with the one on my desktop. That is, provided Madam’s feeling better this morning – last night she was complaining of feeling sick and she was very pale this morning when I looked in on her. This is my last 'proper' week's work for six weeks... Will enjoy the holidays, but I need to be very disciplined about my time now.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

back to earth

Current work: revisions to MH book 1
Listening to: David Coverdale
Reading: Sharon Penman, The Sunne in Splendour (finished it last night and it made me cry)

So. Back to normal today. Haven’t quite caught up on my sleep, but am working on it (as well as my revisions).

DH managed to ‘mislay’ Madam’s school report while I was away. (How? Why didn’t he just put it where I put theatre tickets etc?) However, I begged a second copy from school. DH enlightened me that it doesn’t have her exam results in it (so will have to ask for a copy of that too) but am very pleased with her report. She’s NICE as well as clever. And I do think it’s important to be a decent human being and be kind to others.

Twelve days until the end of school. Going to be very sad this year as they both move on to their next schools – Madam is moving to son’s current school so that won’t be so bad, but I’ll really miss the infant school. Big chunk of my life there, including my involvement with the PTA and as a governor. Will be a completely new routine in September as we need to leave the house 30 minutes earlier. As Madam is an owl rather than a lark, this will be interesting… and I also lose my first-thing-in-the-morning work time.

Plan for today: revisions. I need to make the conflict clearer to readers. But the important bit for me is that one of the secondary characters – whose book is next – doesn’t need changing. Big sigh of relief there. (Authorial paranoia. Doncha just love it?)

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

conference, part 3

Current work: admin
Listening to: David Coverdale
Reading: Sharon Penman, The Sunne in Splendour

Sunday, we started with a roundup of the PR activity this year from Catherine Jones (shown here flogging RNA cards!) et al.
The amount of coverage we got for the Awards was stunning. Lots of exciting stuff planned for the rest of the year, including plans for the RNA’s 50 year anniversary in 2010. Any RNA members reading this, remember to send cuttings to Liz Bailey and any bright ideas for PR: the press responds really well to ‘fun’ items.

Then it was a truly hilarious talk by Jane Wenham Jones (sorry, I was laughing too much to take a picture). Made me want to go and read her novels.

And then Kate Walker on websites – lots of food for thought there too.

And then it was my talk on local history for novelists. Now, I was worried that I was going to be teaching people to suck eggs… but people seemed to enjoy it. At least, they came up to me afterwards and said I’d started off ideas or they completely understood why I spend my spare time fossicking around ruins and churches and museums and in the archives. And although I’d printed out my notes, I didn’t refer to them that much. Because I told stories, showing how local history can inspire you and how you end up going off on a tangent. (Thank you, lovely Fiona Harper, for taking the pics.)

This is me telling my story about the only funerary wax effigy outside Westminster Abbey and how I’d had this bright idea and tried it out on my middle research assistant… (Later, when he looked through my slides, he looked at me. ‘Mum. You didn’t tell them.’ Yes, honey, and they would all have done exactly the same…)

Then it was lunch and final goodbyes. I was travelling home with my friend Kate Jackson Bedford, so it was lovely to have company (and also a map-reader until we reached the other side of the M25, when I knew where I was going). Then we discovered the junction from the A11 to the M11 was closed, so we went back on the A12 instead.

Had a fab time away, but it was good to be home. And now I have some catching-up to do.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

conference, part deux

Current work: admin
Listening to: Karine Polwart
Reading: Sharon Penman, The Sunne in Splendour

I’m aware that did a lot of name-dropping yesterday. Sorry. Don’t mean to be luvvie, but these people are actually my real-life friends. I guess it’d be the same if there was a musicians’ conference (oh, duh, there is – it’s called a music festival) – if they blogged they’d be talking about the people they chatted with at the bar and… do rock stars eat cake and chocolate, the way romantic novelists do?

Anyway. To the point. Saturday at the RNA conference. First was a talk by Mark Thornton from Mostly Books

all about thinking like a bookseller (very useful for me re local history books and much food for thought).

Then Liz Bailey and Eileen Ramsay did this hilarious talk on networking and how to do it gracefully; great entertainment value, and I think it told us all an important thing – that authors are just as paranoid as each other and convince themselves that nobody will want to talk to them, yada yada yada. (As with any profession, you get the odd person who behaves badly, but most are nice - you just need to talk to them and treat them as you'd like to be treated yourself.)

Interestingly, they also mentioned that it’s bad form to ask another author to crit your work or intro you to their editor or agent… if they offer, fine, but don’t ask. I have to admit, I feel bad about refusing to read people’s work, but I have tight deadlines and young children and I just don’t have spare capacity, especially this year. I’m behind on my own stuff and just can’t do it. (I can, however, recommend a very good appraisal service. Hilary Johnson.)

Then it was Anna Louise Lucia on a sense of place – enjoyed this very much and it struck a real chord with me, as well as getting me to write the first couple of paragraphs of chapter two in longhand. I’ve cropped this photo of our Anna, because Anna uses her hands a lot when she speaks, and the full view is… Well. Let’s just say it goes with other, um, conversations I had with various people after wine later that evening…

After lunch, the head of Midas PR talked us through a PR campaign.

Much food for thought there. Then I ducked out of the next session as I needed to flop, and that’s when I discovered that the PDA disk had corrupted. Tried writing longhand and ended up with a pageful of scribblings-out. Ick. Can't work that way. Then lovely Katie Fforde

introduced the next speaker - an audience with Jill Mansell.

Jill is amazing. She writes her book longhand with a fountain pen (hats off to her, because I prefer to compose straight to screen!). Her talk was great fun – as warm and witty as her books.

Chatted to historical author Mary Nichol at lunch about local history (she’s from my part of the world); then dinner. Silver service, allegedly… but very difficult for the poor waiting staff when the tables were crammed so closely together. Not sure what the first course was; then duck (which was nice) and lemon pudding (which was REALLY nice, the best food of the weekend).

And then it was the presentation of the Elizabeth Goudge award. I was so pleased for the winner, as it was her first conference. And I was also delighted because one of my friends was a runner-up – here’s Biddy Coady collecting her prize from Joanna Maitland.

And then it was time to go to the bar – spent lots of time chatting with lovely Nell Dixon, who had me in hysterics with some of her tales. (Sadly, I can’t use them as research, because it’s not a setting I can use in a Med…)

We did have coffee breaks in between, and I was thrilled to be asked to sign copies of mine. (Doesn’t take much to make an author happy. Four little words. ‘I loved your book.’ Even better when they can remember the hero’s name – and if they can remember a snatch of dialogue, well. Author heaven.)

To borrow a phrase, ‘And so to bed.’ More attempts at stifling the gimlet light with Post-It notes. (Yes, this is going to end up in a book. This book, to be precise, because it fits this one.) More failure. Wide awake at 4am on Sunday, panicking about my talk… but I’ll tell you about that tomorrow.

Edit: I've just discovered that One Night, One Baby is the featured book today in the ebook section at eHarlequin (and it's still in the top 5 bestselling ebooks - wow!)

Monday, July 07, 2008

conference, part 1 (Friday)

Current work: nonfic /MH duo book 2, chapter 1
Listening to: Bach
Reading: Sharon Penman, The Sunne in Splendour

Back from Chichester, where I had a fabulous time. Thanks to lovely Jan Jones for organising such a wonderful event. I feel really energised, full of ideas, and raring to go - but I must admit that right now I'm also completely knackered after a weekend of way too much talking and very little sleep! I think the best thing about any conference like this is the chance to meet up with old friends, and also the chance to make new ones. Right from the start, there was a real buzz about the conference. (And it’s nice to know that authorial paranoia isn’t peculiar to me… and that others have it even worse than I do.)

I did write really detailed posts every night, while I was away... but then the SD card in my PDA decided to corrupt and I lost the lot. So this is a reconstruction from two days ago: apologies for anything missing!

The journey down took me about 4 1/2 hours. I was dreading the bridge; there was a huge queue and I had to drive really slowly across it, but my attention was pretty much taken up with making sure my car didn’t get squished by maniac male drivers wanting to push into the queue, so I didn't have time to stress about where I was. Hmm. Let’s just say I'm very glad I don't have to drive on the M25 all the time. However, the weather was on my side and the scenery was incredibly pretty - especially around Arundel Castle - so I’ve suggested to DH that we should go to Sussex next summer because it looks like a wonderful area to explore.

This was the block where I was staying (my window is middle floor, right hand side of the cream bit - I know this because I leaned out of said window to bellow hello to Julie Cohen the following evening):

It had this rather unusual atrium in the middle of each landing - imagine a four-sided pyramid with convex mesh sides. Course, Nerdy Kate I-love-architecture Hardy had to do the arty pic from the ground floor...

This was my room. Much swisher (and larger) than my own room as a student!

Though I’d stupidly forgotten to pack my pillow (lovely Fiona Harper and I really did have 'pillow talk', i.e. a conversation in the bar about the best pillows - she, being younger than I am and with a better memory, brought hers), and I’d also forgotten just how lumpy and narrow student beds are. Add the electricity meter with a really fierce red light on it on the wall right at the foot of my bed (so it glared at me all night, even when I put sticky notes over it to try blocking the light), and this is why Princess Kate didn't get a great deal of sleep…

Anyway. The conference began with a welcome by Sara Craven, the RNA vice chair, in this stunning conference room - the chapel. This doesn't do justice to the glass.

Then Jan gave the conference notices:

plus celebrations and milestones, and it was really lovely to be able to celebrate shortlistings and first sales. Then it was time for the panel: Nicola Cornick, Kate Harrison, Anna Jacobs, Kate Johnson, and me.
(LTR Sara Craven, me, Anna Jacobs.)

We were talking about what romantic fiction is, and we all started by introducing ourselves and the explaining what we write and why we chose that genre. Then it was time for questions. I can remember some of the questions and my answers, but I apologise for not remembering everyone else's!

First of all, what is my favourite book in my genre? I don't think my answer would surprise anybody who knows me. It's Liz Fielding's “Gentlemen Prefer… Brunettes”, which I think is the perfect category romance. The characterisation and dialogue are wonderful, the hero is someone you want to marry, the heroine is someone you want to be your best friend, and it has a wonderful feelgood happy ending. The and because I write as two people, I cheated and chose a second with my historian hat on: Diana Norman's “The Vizard Mask”, which again has wonderful characterisation, a hero to die for, and fantastic background.

If the current hero who in my work in progress came to life and beckoned me, would I? Well, what can I say?

Course I would!!! My husband is my research assistant, so he’s the hero in my head whenever I write certain scenes. (You think this is bad? Believe me, some of the discussions over the weekend were MUCH … Oh, use your imaginations. I’m not telling. Just be aware that there is an equation: romantic novelists + wine = outrageous conversation.)

And what do I think romantic fiction is? I think it's about the journey. It's a short book, starting with the attraction, a conflict which keeps the hero and heroine parts, resolution, and the each the day.

There were other questions but from this sleep-deprived side of the weekend (the caffeine hasn’t kicked in yet) I can’t remember them. Sorry. Blame my SD card.

Then it was back to the kitchen in my house with Nicola Cornick, Sarah Morgan and editor Kim Young for a cup of tea (what was I saying about outrageous conversations? I should also mention my stomach hurts from laughing too much), followed by a glass of wine in the bar.

(That is indeed a half pint glass of wine - student bar, remember? - and my great friend Kate Walker NEVER OPENS HER EYES FOR PHOTOGRAPHS. Bad Kate. And I mean her, not me.)

Then dinner (what, Kate Hardy not describing the food? Yeah, there’s a reason for that – let’s just say the Wii said I lost 2lb when I stood on it today, though that is a Very Good Thing), another drink (mineral water, because I’m such a lightweight nowadays), and then the travelling hit me and I thought I’d go to bed at 11. Though it took me ages to drop off (it really didn't help that I had some fantastic books in my goodie bag, and shh, don't tell DH, but I bought the few at the book stall as well) and I was wide awake at four. Wrote a paragraph or two of the Modern Heat. (Eaten by the SD card, sob.)

But I think this post is long enough for now. I'll tell you all about Saturday tomorrow.

Friday, July 04, 2008

off to Chichester

Off to the RNA conference today, amid much family nagging.

Dad: I’m not happy about you driving all that way on your own.
Me, sighing: Dad, I used to travel a lot in my ratrace days. I’ve driven to Scotland on my own. I’ve tackled Glasgow in the rush hour. I’ll be fine. (Deliberately ignores fact will have to drive over the Dartford Bridge – am a tad wary of suspension bridges.)

DH: Have you got your route map printed out?
Me: Yes. (Fishing it out to prove it.) And I’ve printed out a short version to remind me which roads to look out for.
DH: Change for the toll. (Hands over coins.) And you’ve got some cash?
Me: I’m stopping at the cashpoint this morning.
DH: Phone charger?
Me, coughing: I have a packing list on my desk…

Honestly. Organisation is one of my major strengths, and they all know it. And it’s not that bad – it’s two hundred miles each way. Admittedly, I’m not used to motorway driving – more used to tiny narrow roads where you end up scraping the car in the hedge because White Van Man has to drive in the centre of the road – but I’m perfectly capable of doing this.

I think this is their way of saying they’re going to miss me.

Back on Monday with a full report of the conf and pics.

Oh, and ‘on the huh’ means ‘wonky, not straight’. Sadly, I don’t know the derivation and the Net isn’t helpful. But if you want to know what a real Norfolk accent sounds like (as opposed to the West Country mishmash that’s used on TV), go over to the Friends of Norfolk Dialect home page and listen to the sound files.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

the sound of names

Current work: nonfic /MH duo book 2, chapter 1
Listening to: Beethoven piano sonatas
Reading: Sharon Penman, The Sunne in Splendour

Had a newsletter from a certain romance organisation yesterday which had a super link to an article on the meaning of the sounds of names. Very, very interesting (it’s here, if you want to see it). The official science behind this is something called phonesthetic sound symbolism – more about that here.

So an example? Kate… the K is caring and intimate (but can be snobby); the long A is spread out and wide (*cough* yeah, OK, been slacking on the diet front); and the T is Temptation, the letter of the dreamer, the designer of grand schemes, the traveller who follows her star. (Sounds very much like a short, round, romance writer to me.)

What about Pam? The P is very specific, likes everything to be out in the open, no secrets here; short A is balanced and flat (hmm, sure that L should be in that last word?); M is the maker, the mother, the magician and master of skills. (Sounds like the historian who loves her research and gets a balanced story – and who drags her kids with her on field trips. Delegates at the conference this weekend will learn a little about my field trips…) Some people add a final ‘y’ sound to my name: which apparently means “Sure! I'm game!”, naive, trusting, energetic, and expansive. Yup. This is the woman who does six things at once, takes on way too much (note, O Slowing Down Police, that I have been better this year) and isn’t very good at saying no. And who believes everyone is a new friend until proven otherwise. (And most of the time people do live up to my expectations.)

All fascinating stuff. So what about you?

Have also been reading a fascinating book about the Norfolk dialect by Peter Trudgill. I don’t have an accent, but there are three or four phrases I use which I thought were colloquial everywhere. (Especially bearing in mind that I learned them from my mother, who was born in Hampshire and grew up in Essex.) Er, no. Turns out they’re broad Norfolk.

Just out of interest (and without looking it up!), would you know what I was on about if I said that something was ‘a bit on the huh’? (Last word is the same as the phonetic pronunciation of the letter H.) I really, really wish I’d had a chance to do that dialect course I was running on about on Tuesday. Ah. Case in point. To ‘run on’ means ‘to talk too much’, as least in this part of England – but does it mean the same elsewhere?

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

psst – want an early peek?

Current work: nonfic /MH duo book 2, chapter 1
Listening to: Lindsey Buckingham
Reading: Sharon Penman, The Sunne in Splendour

I have a new nonfiction book coming out later this month. So far, I don’t have a copy of the cover to share. But I do know where you can see it online: at my publisher’s website.

It’s a PDF and I think the back copy might be slightly different now (I amended it at proof stage), but it will give you a good clue as to the contents. It’s a book of my heart, so I am really looking forward to this one hitting the streets. (And if you’re wondering where the pic was taken – it’s Baconsthorpe Castle, once home to the Heydon family. The original pic was taken in broad daylight – the designer has done something clever.)

At guitar yesterday, I talked Jim into working out the first four bars of the Lindsey Buckingham arrangement I’ve wanted to play for ages (the one that plays a big part in my award-winning book Breakfast at Giovanni’s – well, hey, you lot told me to be loud and proud *g*). It’s a bit complicated (is jazz-based, complete with loads of accidentals and syncopations) but I’m looking forward to practising it. And I might add that four bars works out at 20 seconds, so it’s quite a long four bars – though it’s a slow piece. Might have a fighting chance of making the stretches, then.

Other things:
  • Did my proofs of The Children’s Doctor’s Special Proposal – pleased with it
  • Panicked a bit over my talk for the RNA. (The butterflies have turned into kittens. I think by Friday they’ll be elephants.)
  • Started my new M&B. The hero is a secondary in the book I delivered last week, so I do hope my ed likes him – or, if not, she tells me very quickly, because it’s likely to have a big impact on the new book.
  • Had very nice email from the alumni sec at my old school (Wymondham College, if you’re local and were wondering). They’re going to include the RNA prize info in the next newsletter
  • Pen samples arrived. I like the barrel of the pink frosted pen but am not sp sure about the clip. Eco one (black and pink) looks good. Decisions, decisions. Will do a straw poll at the conf (delegates and lovely organiser, you have been warned!).

Tuesday, July 01, 2008


Current work: nonfic
Listening to: Kathryn Williams
Reading: Sharon Penman, The Sunne in Splendour

Yesterday was one of those days where I was busy all day but didn’t have words on the page to show for it. Mainly admin – but then lots of PR stuff. As in calls from the press to discuss the new book. (And lots of apologies from me for coughing down the phone. At least my head’s clear today. Please, please, let the cough go by Friday. Or I’m going to be apologising to a roomful of romantic novelists as well.)

Actually, I love chatting to journalists, especially freelancers. I do miss my old freelancing days, particularly interviewing experts. I used to talk to such interesting people. And although this is my dream job, it can get lonely from time to time. Ha. Says the woman who’s been desperate for five minutes’ peace and quiet to work. ‘Be careful what you wish for’, indeed. I did consider trying to get a hot date for lunch, but DH is too busy this week. Most of the conversation I get during the day consists of ‘woof’ – admittedly, I then have to interpret that as ‘oi, the postman’s just knocked, answer the door’ or ‘there’s a sparrow on my lawn’ or ‘there’s a C-A-T on the other side of the street’, but at the end of the day it’s still ‘woof’. So I am really looking forward to the RNA conference this weekend, despite the fact I’m getting butterflies about my talk.

I’d also been catching up with various bits when it also occurred to me that maybe I ought to tell the University of Leicester about the RNA Romance Prize, just in case they wanted to mention it in the annual alumni magazine.

This is the difficulty of PR for the novelist – particularly for an English one. The natural English reserve means that telling people about something you’ve done feels pushy and as if you’re boasting. But if you don’t tell people, you don’t get the publicity and it doesn’t give your career the boost said achievement is supposed to give. Maybe I need some lessons in How To Do Chutzpah. (Offers, anyone?)

Anyway, the staff in the alumni office were really delighted for me and sent me some lovely emails. They also mentioned it to their colleagues in the library and the press office, and then suddenly it went from being a fairly quiet little off-the-cuff email to a fully blown press release. Kate Hardy, Meeja Tart.

But I’m really chuffed that my old uni feels proud enough of me to do a press release about me. I loved my time at Leicester. Best decision I ever made, to go there – even though my school was cross with me for putting Leicester above Cambridge on my UCCA form. ‘It’s not done.’ Ha. I did it for a reason: I wanted to go there. The staff and the course were fantastic. My only regret is that when it came to the specialist subject in the third year, Dialect wasn’t one of the options (it had been, the previous year), and the one I chose originally didn’t run because not enough people signed up for it. (It was on the ubi sunt motif – well, yeah, you knew I’d pick something obscure, didn’t you? Something that involved, um, history?) But hey, I got to spend a year studying Thomas Hardy in depth. And yes, that is indeed why I am Kate Hardy, romance novelist.

This summer, it’s half my lifetime ago since I graduated. Scary. Doesn’t feel like five minutes. Also doesn’t feel like five minutes since the children were babies (note I didn’t say tiny – neither of them were), and my eldest has recently discovered that if he stands on tiptoe he’s an inch taller than I am. Ha. Now that’s cut me down to size :o)