Monday, July 30, 2012

How it all began...

This is going to be a bit of a self-indulgent week, so I will apologise for that in advance. But I think I have just cause, as it’s the lead-up to the biggest milestone in my career to date. On publication day, the party starts and goes on for – well, ages and ages, because my friends are really generous and wonderful. I have lots and lots of guest posts coming up, with a chance to win books on each. Plus I’ll do the odd door post to win a signed copy of my 50th. It’s worldwide (and so are my guests).

So do come along and leave comments – we all love talking to our readers, and my guests are all from the NICE side of publishing. No snark, no meanness – just nice people you’d enjoy having dinner with and talking and laughing with them until your sides hurt. I know Kate Walker dubbed me ‘Scary Kate’, but that’s actually because I write fast. I’m very far from being scary in real life. I’m middle-aged, short and round (well, a little less round since I’ve been going to the gym three times a week), I make great cookies, and you’re assured of a warm welcome here. Too shy to comment? Then I’d like to say thank you any way for your part in my career, i.e. reading my stories.

How did my career as Kate Hardy begin? I guess we should go back to when I was a pre-schooler. I’ve always written. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t making up stories; I could read at the age of two and I was definitely writing before I started school. My dad used to have those Challenge duplicate notebooks for work (the carbon paper was known as ‘magic paper’ by me) so he used to keep me supplied in notebooks and paper. To keep me busy in the holidays, my mum would give me a title, and I’d go and find myself a quiet corner and write a story. The early stuff (sadly, none of which survives) was all sci-fi, because I was a tad obsessed with the moon. (We queued for 5 hours to see a piece of moon rock at Norwich Castle when I was five or six. The ‘method writing’ thing – of which more later in the week – started early.) On my sixth birthday, my parents bought me a proper manual typewriter. From there, I wrote pony stories (influenced heavily by Elyne Mitchell’s ‘Silver Brumby’ series and the Ruby Ferguson ‘Jill’ series) and ghost stories.

In high school, I was always writing a novel (firstly Tolkien-inspired stuff, and then schoolgirl romance). By then, I had an electric typewriter. And when we had no money after moving in to our first house, my then-fiancé said I really ought to have a proper computer as I was going to be a published writer one day – and he bought me one of those little Amstrads that came with a printer and a narrow floppy disk. (That’s when I knew I’d definitely made the right choice of future husband, because he really believed in me. This is the man who built me a library – well, hired a builder to remodel the house and included a room for my books. The man who doesn’t mind being dragged off on research trips, and who puts up with quite a lot in the name of research. Superstar. And yes, he’s why most of my heroes have blue eyes.)

I had a few short stories published in my early twenties (including by Virago), and I tried for M&B and had a couple of rejection letters. [Big shout-out here to unpubbed writers – if you get long rejection letters, it means you have promise so you KEEP SUBMITTING – you don’t think ‘oh, they don’t want me’ and give up, as I did!] Then I wrote a string of erotic novels for Headline, NEL and Black Lace in my mid to late twenties. (No, I’m not telling you the names I used for them – I’m not ashamed of them at all, but my writing style has changed, and I’d want to rewrite them all in the light of what I’ve learned in my career.)

When I was pregnant with Chris, I went freelance, working as a copyeditor and a health journalist. I still wanted to write romance. And I watched an awful lot of medical dramas on TV. When I was pregnant with Chloe, Gerry suggested I should try writing ‘one of those doctor-nurse romances’. I decided to read a couple, to see the sort of thing M&B were looking for. And I discovered Caroline Anderson and Jennifer Taylor and Maggie Kingsley. Fabulous stuff. OK, I thought. When the baby’s here and things have settled down into a routine, I’ll give it a go.

Righty. This is the weepie bit. At seven weeks, Chloe had bronchiolitis. I was writing an article on it at the time, and wondered if I was being super-paranoid and she just had a cold. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong. As it was the day before our doctor’s surgery was due to shut for Christmas, I took her in to be checked over. The GP sent her straight to hospital. Chloe spent the next week in hospital – on her first Christmas, she was being fed by a tube and was on oxygen – and I spent every day at her bedside. The only way I got through it was to start writing my own medical romance. My agent loved the outline and first three chapters. So did M&B. I had to do several rounds of revisions, but A Baby of Her Own was accepted on Chloe’s first birthday in 2001 and published on her second, and Ottakar’s gave me a huge launch party with balloons and a bouquet. Talk about feeling special. It really was a dream come true.

Oh, whoops – I forgot. After my editor accepted the book, she told me I needed a new name, as she wanted to make a distinction between my nonfiction and my fiction. My two best friends from uni (aka the children’s godmothers) happened to be coming to stay for ‘early Christmas’, so we sat down with a bottle of wine and brainstormed it. Hardy was obvious, because my special subject in my third year at uni was Hardy’s writing; and the most popular name in our year at school was Kate. So that’s how I became Kate Hardy, ten years or so ago.

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