- What is the strangest talent you have?
My family claim that I have a bit of a ‘sixth sense’. I’m always talking about people and then we meet them unexpectedly - or I pick up my phone a moment or two before my son rings or texts. Apparently when I was a little girl I used to play with my ’friend’ - a little boy who lived in the old house we had then I knew his name, and he would never go anywhere near the stone steps down into the cellar. It was only later that we discovered that a little boy who had lived in that house had been killed when he broke is neck, falling down those stairs when he was five. I’m still very sensitive to atmosphere and places.
2. What is the best Halloween costume you’ve ever worn?
Oh dear - confession time. I have never, ever in my life, worn any sort of Halloween costume - is that a terrible admission? I’ve never taken much interest in Halloween, even when my son was young. My mother would never have let us have anything to do with the idea of playing at ghosts and ghoulies. She grew up deep in rural Ireland and she would always say ‘If you knew what the dark was really like then you wouldn't want to take risks with it.’ Perhaps this is why I’ve always loved good ghost stories - but never dressed up for Halloween.
3. Are the titles of your books important?
Hmm - now that’s a tricky question - the answer is - sort of - sometimes . . .Which isn’t really an answer, is it? Let me explain - writing for Harlequin Mills & Boon Modern Romance means that the title for a book is very definitely in the editor’s hands for the final decision what will be used. So there’s little point in getting attached to any sort of title because it’s more than likely to be changed. Luckily we have moved on from the ‘buzzwords’ sort of titles that used to prevail, listing every possible ‘hook’ element to the book and so ending up with The Spaniard’s Ruthless Revenge on the Virgin Bride and her Secret baby’ sort of title. I’m grateful that those have been left behind.
For myself, I always have a working title that encapsulates the theme of the plot and the characters. That is the name of the file my book is in so that I know as soon as I see it what I’m aiming for. But when I send the book in to my editor, I usually just call it ‘ Alyse and Dario’s story’ or ‘Martha and Carlos’s story’. Sometimes - rarely - the working title I used has been used for the book as well. So Martha and Carlos’s story became The Devil and Miss Jones. Some past titles that have been mine have been The Twelve Month Mistress and The Spaniard’s Inconvenient Bride and the most recent A Question of Honour. But the latest book that has just been accepted had my title The Wrong Bride and was given the editorial title Destined for The Desert King. But I love that title so I’m fine with that. And as this was my 64th title, I’m often grateful for someone else to take the responsibility of coming up with an idea for it.
4. If you’re struggling with a scene or difficult character, what methods help you through it?
I’ve always found that daydreaming while travelling (when my husband is driving o0f course!) is a great way of thinking through scenes that aren’t working. Or thinking through a scene, letting it play out in my head like a film while I’m falling asleep often means that the answers are there in my thoughts when I wake up. But I’m also convinced that knowing your characters well, digging deep into their personalities, is the way to make sure a book works and moves forward without getting badly stuck. I advise students on the courses I teach to ‘interview’ their characters and that’s why I put a long ‘Character Questionnaire’ into the 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance. When I’m writing I can almost feel that my character(s) are in the room and that if I ask ‘why are you doing this? What are you feeling?’ I can get an answer.
I often find that getting away from the screen and doing something completely different - like gardening or ironing can help clear my mind - I soon think of something new when my hands are occupied and my brain is free. ( And after all I’d rather do anything than more ironing!) One of the most helpful things I can do is to take my husband out for coffee - he then asks me ‘idiot questions’ (his phrase) about my characters and more often than not, saying that ‘no he wouldn’t . . ‘ or ‘she doesn't think that. . ‘ will set me on the right track again.
5. Do you prefer dog, cats or none of the above?
I love dogs but I’ve always been a cat person - ever since I was given my first little grey and white kitten called Misty for my seventh birthday. Since I married, my husband and I have had a whole series of cats, usually two at a time, sometimes three. The latest two are Charlie the Maine Coon - a huge ginger and white tom cat and his much smaller ‘sister’ Ruby who is a little black and white rescue cat. Charlie was a Christmas present 4 years ago. At that time we had another Maine Coon. a beautiful smoky grey female called Flora but sadly she contracted cancer when she was only 6. I wasn’t sure I was ready for another cat when I visited the Cats’ Protection in December 2013. I had just walked into the pens where they were being held when this little black and white creature threw herself into my arms (literally) and stayed there and purred and purred . . We couldn’t leave her behind and she has settled in with us and Charlie as if she was always meant to be there. When I run a contest, Charlie helps me pick out the winners - I put the names of every entrant on a piece of paper and then put a cat treat on the top of each one. Then I let Charlie into the room and the first treat he eats has the name of the winner underneath it!
6. Who’s your favourite author? Why?
That’s hard - if not impossible to answer. I love so many wonderful authors and their books - so here are just a few of the important ones to me.
I grew up in a house full of books so I read anything and everything I could get my hands on. One of the major discoveries I found on my mother’s bookshelves were the novels of the Bronte sisters. specially Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. I’ve read that book over and over again and wrote my MA thesis on it . I’ve even written a Mills & Boon Modern/Harlequin Presents version of the story in The Return of The Stranger which came out in 2011.
A major influence on my romance writing was Mary Stewart with her books like The Moonspinners and My Brother Michael. I’d read lots of Georgette Heyer too but when I read The Moonspinners, I fell in love with Mary Stewart's dark and possibly dangerous heroes. Reading her books I became addicted to the sort of ambiguous heroes she creates, men who you might start off hating (or at least disliking/distrusting initially) but then come to love as you - and the heroine - learn more of their story. I have collection of everything she’s written.
Another author whose books I’ve collected over the years is the historical novelist Dorothy Dunnett. She write long complex historical novels in a series of six titles - the Game Of Kings is my favourite. It is filled with historical details and some actual real people woven in to the mix. Her heroes (Francis Crawford in this series) are also ambiguous and complicated. You can never fully get to know them unless you’ve read the whole series if books and learned about their pasts and how they’ve come to be the people they are. They are fascinating and absorbing - and wonderful lessons in how to create and develop characters and how to build emotional tension.,
7. Do you have a pet peeve?
Perhaps inevitably the biggest, strongest peeve I have is the way that when I tell people that I write for Harlequin Mills & Boon they trot out that old old story about the ‘Formula’ and claim that all the books are the same and they can be so easily ‘churned out’. I wish! I’ve written 64 novels for Modern Romance and each character has to be an individual with their own back story and life experiences. The thing that annoys me most is when people come on my courses or tell me that they want to write for Harlequin Mills & Boon and that in order to see what the publishers want they’ve read one or two titles - usually from about 1978! When I say that the books just aren’t like that any more, they ask me to explain how things have changed. My answer is to look at the way society has changed - and read some of the contemporary publications to see what they’re really like;. I can’t believe that after 30 years of publication I’m still meeting people who are stunned to discover that romances have sex in them!
8. Do you remember your dreams when you wake up in the morning?
Sometimes! It depends on whether they’ve been good or bad dreams. Nightmares usually wake me up and so I break into the middle of the dream and remember it. And of course - see my answer to question 4 - if I’ve been thinking through a plot or a character point, then I hope to remember in the morning how I worked it all out in my sleep!
Kate's latest release is OLIVERO'S OUTRAGEOUS PROPOSAL
For Dario Olivero, Alyse Gregory was supposed to be a way to reap revenge against his estranged half brother. But Alyse carries the key to the family acceptance he's always craved and, realizing just how much trouble she's in, he can't turn away.
A marriage proposal is not what Alyse was expecting. But this deliciously sexy Italian will resolve her family's debts if she becomes his convenient wife… Her head says no but her body begs her to say yes.
With an intensity rivaling the Tuscan sun, their mutual desire soon escalates to something inconvenient, creating a whole new dilemma!
Kate is waiting to chat!! Questions?? Comments??