Sunday, February 05, 2012

An Important Anniversary - Kate Walker

I didn’t know whether to write this post this month – in February  -or a little later – in  April. I’ll explain why later. But last night as I slept it snowed, thickly and heavily, and this morning when I woke the white stuff lay all around, making it so difficult -  almost impossible at first – to get out of the house or travel anywhere.  And  that snow reminded me that this month is an important anniversary for me.

My very first ever book -  The Chalk Line – was published back in 1984 – 28 years ago!  But then there was a gap before I had any more novels accepted.  My mother was terminally ill, I was ill myself -  several family crises meant that I didn’t get much chance to write and I got the ‘second book blues’, finding it hard to follow up my first success.   I wrote one book that didn’t work – tried another. And then, just as I was wondering if I was a one book wonder, I wrote a new story and this one worked.

OK, I had revisions – I even had to cut a lot of words (15,000 to be exact!) Because it was far far too long. But I n the end it was accepted and  Game of Hazard became my second romance  to be published.  And it came out in February 1986.  So that’s why I’m looking back at it today.

It was  my second novel but it was also my first in a couple of other important ways. Back in 1986,   Mills & Boon published 16 Romances  in a month . They didn’t separate them into Modern and Cherish(Romance) then – just brought them all out as Romances with a couple of Historical titles and a two Doctor Nurse Romance. And not all of those Romances went into paperback.   This is why Game of Hazard was such an important novel for me – it was the first one that went into paperback. The Chalk Line had never done that – it wasn’t published in paperback until 1991.  And every book published in  the UK didn’t go to America -  Game of Hazard was my very first romance ever to have that happen. The start of a very important stage in my career.

It was also published in Harlequin Romance not Presents.  Back then, I didn’t know very much about the international market  - there wasn’t anything like so much  information about the  way the books were published, and of course there was no internet, so it wasn’t as easy to find out about things.  I was just thrilled that my book was going to be published In America and thrilled to have a USA edition in my hands later that year.

Why did the snow make me think of the publication of Game of Hazard? Because the book starts on a day of heavy snow, with the heroine arriving back at her isolated cottage on the Yorkshire moors, to find that her  ginger cat, who had been inside when she left home that morning, is now waiting for her outside on the doorstep of her cottage. And that means that while she was away someone had come to her house and let themselves into her home.  So who is he (of course he’s the hero, Nick)  and what is he doing there?   I remember I got the idea for the opening because I had taken my son to nursery school and when I came home, in a whirling snowstorm, our big ginger cat was sitting on the doorstep just like the one in the story.

Looking back at Game of Hazard it makes me realise how much my life and  writing romances has changed in the 26 years since that February.  The little boy I took to school that morning  is now fully grown up and set up in his own home. The ginger cat is sadly long since passed over the Rainbow Bridge but his name was Rumpuss and our current ginger cat Charlie has  the full name of Charlie Rumpuss in   his honour.  And I  now have well over 50 titles published  since then.

The book itself – well the hero was no billionaire, no sheikh, but a TV reporter, and international correspondent  who had been kidnapped  and held hostage before he had escaped.  But he had left behind someone important  and when he had an accident in his car on that snowy day he lost his memory,  wiping that important memory from  his mind. I remember too that he also smoked! Something I’d never want my hero to do these days – and  I doubt if I’d ever get away with it.

The list of other authors published that month when Game of Hazard came out, now reads like a roll call of some of the greats of romance writing – Robyn Donald, the Late great Penny Jordan, Betty Neels,  Margaret Pargeter,  Margaret Way, Lindsay Armstrong  . . .  There are also names that I remember from the distant past who are only vague memories -  Katrina Britt,  Maura McGiveny,  Wynne May, Annabel Murray, Sandra K Rhoades . . . . I was so honoured as a new beginner to be listed amongst all those famous names.

It was a long time ago – but it was the start of something wonderful and special  - the real start of my international publishing career.  I was so excited to have my first book coming out in America, so thrilled to have a copy with  the Harlequin  logo on it as well as one with the Mills & Boon rose.

I could have marked this anniversary today – because Game of Hazard came out  first  in  hardback In February. Or  April when it appeared as my very first paperback. Or indeed in August which is when it first came out in Harlequin Romance.  But when I woke up this morning and saw the snow thick on the ground it reminded me how  the idea for this book had  come to me in a whirling snowstorm, and  made me think that today was the day to mark its publication.

Besides, when  April comes around I’ll have a  brand new  title – The Devil and Miss Jones – to tell you all about and that book is a very special on for me too. But more of that  later.

Do you remember any of those past stars of romance writing. Penny Jordan of course we sadly lost only recently, and Robyn Donald is still writing. But did you read any of the others?  What books by them do you remember?

Kate Walker’s The Return of the Stranger is still available  in  Modern Romance or Presents Extra.  Her next title is The Devil and Miss Jones which is coming in Presents Extra in April 2012. You can find out more details over on Kate's Web site – with all the most up to date news on her blog


Debby said...

Hi Kate, I do not beleive I have rad all of those famous writers. I will have to go on a quest and sample thier books.
debby236 at gmail dot com

Paula Martin said...

Kate, I can so relate to this. My first book with M&B came out in 1968 (due out the same date as my second daughter was due!) and it was a hardback (M&B didn't do paperbacks then). It didn't go to Harlequin, but my 2nd and 3rd M&B novels did, although I didn't get the paperbacks from them (found one of them on the HQ stand in Virginia a few years later though!). Then I had a long gap - young family, and returning to teaching etc, and by the time I started writing again (in the late 70's), M&B wanted sheikhs and Italian counts and Greek billionaires and other alpha males, which wasn't my scene at all! I often wonder what might have happened if I'd stayed with M&B through the changes of the 70's - but I didn't (sigh)

TashNz said...

Hi Kate, I do, my first M&B was by Penny Jordan, cant remember the name but I'm sure the Hero was some sort of sea captain. It wasnt set at sea tho, it was his job. My second was by Carole Mortimer. Again, I dont remember the title but the heroine was a twin. :)

PrincessFiona01 said...

Hi Kate
It was so amazing clicking on your blog and seeing the Game of Hazard Harlequin edition. That identical book is sitting on top of my TBR pile of Kate Walkers. All in order according to publication date incidentally. I have just finished The Chalk Line (I got all emotional as usual with your books). It was also interesting to see the mention of other authors published that month and funnily enough I have just read a couple of Katrina Britt stories from the early seventies. I was commenting to my daughter how all the smoking in those earlier romances has been replaced by sex . Paula, I've also noted the change of hero style. People like Anne Hampson, Margaret Rome and Violet Winspear did the whole alpha male thing but you also had Roberta Leigh and Mary Burchell and a host of other good authors with a whole range of heros.

PrincessFiona01 said...

Sorry Kate, I know this is your blog but on the subject of wierd. I have both Pauline Garnar books in my stack of vintage TBR. They will have to move up in the pile now.

PrincessFiona01 said...

My previous comment to Kate has vanished so will try again. Coincidentally I just finished reading Chalk Line, and Hazard of Hearts (the exact one pictured from Harlequin) is next on my Kate Walker TBR. Funnily enough I just read several Katrina Britts from the seventies over the weekend. I also commented to my daughter that all the smoking in those earlier books (Believe me there is a lot) is now replaced by other shall we say sensual pleasures.

PrincessFiona01 said...

I think we are missing something by not having more varied heroes. I have been reading Ida Pollocks books under her numerous pseudonyms and believe me those heroes are not alpha in the same way moderns are alpha but they sure are hot. Some of the most moving romances I've read are vintage ones by Mary Burchell and her heroes are often quite 'ordinary.'

Linda Henderson said...

I've been reading Harlequins for such a long time that I've read just about everybody. Margaret Way has lone been one of my favorites. She is one of the reasons that I got so hooked on reading books about Australia. I had all of her books on my keeper shelves, but unfortunately lost everything to the tornado here in May. I know I'll never be able to recoup all of hers because they would probably be almost inpossible to find. I also had a Lindsay Armstrong collection and I've read a lot of Betty Neels. My sister is the Betty Neels fanatic so I gave all of mine to her, which is great since I would have lost them all if I still had them.

Nas Dean said...

Hi Kate,

I remember a Mary Burchell- With All My Worldly Goods. It was a lovely story with an unique twist of the heroine suspecting her husband (hero) of trying to poison her.

And I have several Penny Jordan's and Betty Neels on my shelves. These are books with the artwork cover and are almost falling apart! As I got them from seconds shops. As I always say I hardly check the covers- I just pick up HM&B titles!

Congratulations on the upcoming release of The Devil and Miss Jones!

marybelle said...

I can't recall the names of the authors of my early reads. More my memory than any deficit on their part.

Laurie G said...

Of the ones you mentioned Margaret Way and her Outback men:The Outback Engagement.

Betty Neels' Cobweb Morning, The Secret Pool, Roses Have Thorns, A Kind of Magic- and her English ladies, both mousey or statuesque, usually nurses, who move to the Netherlands and end up with tall Dutchmen usually professors of medicine.

Robyn Donald with her Prince and Princesses. Lyndsay Armstrong More Outback The Unsuitable Wife.

Penny Jordan I read the most: Game of Love, Taken By the Sheik, The Italian Duke's Wife, Power Play. She covered everything!
Lynne Graham I read too.

Catherine George, Catherine Spencer, Sharon Kendrick, Helen Biachin

PrincessFiona01 said...

You might be surprised. A lot of older Harlequins turn up on eBay, Amazon and Abebooks. I've been collecting specific authors (including our Kate's early ones that I foolishly disposed of) and have had a lot of success. Hard to find books I put on a wish list and you'd be amazed what turns up if you are will willing to pay freight. Harlequin are also reissued books in their treasury and you might find them there. A lot of Way's recent stuff is on Kindle I notice.

Kate Walker said...

Hi Debby - I remember some of these authors, and know I've read books by them - but not all of them. It would be fascinating to collect up all the books that came out in the same month as my very first paperback.

Kate Walker said...

Hello Paula - 1968! I thought my career went back a long way but that's l-o-ng! I must try and find some of your earliest titles. I see Fiona has found some so they must still be around. I wonder what might have happened if oyu'd stayed with them - you might have been very successful in the Romance/Cherish line that didn't need billionaires or sheikhs - there's a lot of scope in m M&B. I know my writing and the types of books I create has changed and adapted as the years have passed and of course I now write for Presents not Romance

Kate Walker said...

No worries Fiona - I was interested to know that Pauline's books are still around and I'm sure she's glad to know you have copies of them. Enjoy.

Kate Walker said...

Your comment did arrive, but I'll answer you here anyway. You're really collecting all my old books aren't you Fiona? I'm honoured. The Chalk Line was my first ever - and I'm asssuming you mean Game of Hazard not Hazard of Hearts. I now wince at all the smoking in the books - I suppose it seemed sophisticated back then. I have a small collection of vintage M&Bs including one by Mary Burchell and Marguerite Lees who was a friend of my mother.

Kate Walker said...

Hello Linda I love meeting long time Harlequin fans - I count myself in amongst those! Fiona is right about some of the older books can be found. I remember Margaret Way from a long time ago - and Betty Neels of course. I hgeard about the way you had lost so much in the tornado - how terrible for you - and all those books! I don't know if you had any of mine before the tornado struck - but you will soon! Watch for the postman!

Kate Walker said...

Hi Nas! Now that Mary Burchell sounds interesting - she was a fascinating lady and quite a heroine in the war (under her real name of Ida Cook)I think Panny Jordan and Betty Neels will go on for ever in their stories even if sadly they are no longer here in person.

And thank you for the congratulations on the release (Soon)of The Devil and Miss Jones. I hope you en joy it

Kate Walker said...

I know the feeling Mary! I have the same problem - but soe authors stay in my memory because I loved the books so much

Kate Walker said...

Laurie you are clearly an expert on Harlequin authors - I remember Margaret Way too but I admit I never really took to Betty Neels. But I did love Robyn Donald's books. And Penny's of course. You've menti0oned a lot of my other personal favourites. When I was trying to aim for publication I read lots of Penny Jordan, Helen Bianchin and I always enjoyed Catherine George's books then too.

Anne McAllister said...

I don't remember which Robyn Donald book came out with yours, Kate. But my very favorite of hers, Summer at Awakopu, was out around that time. There were some wonderful amazing writers among those listed. I have stacks of their books. Thanks for reminding me what great company we've been allowed to keep!

PrincessFiona01 said...

Sorry about the title mix up. Wasn't Hazard of Hearts a Barbara Cartland? Probably read it in the dawn of time. Mary Burchell is one I am trying to collect. Some of her plots are so intense. Marguerite Lees and her other pen name Baumann are in my collection of vintage books.

Michele L. said...

The only author names I remember reading long ago are Phyllis A. Whitney and Victoria Holt. I can't remember the Harlequin authors. I have been reading a lot Vicki Lewis Thompson books and found a lot of her earlier Harlequins. They were fun to read! I sure wish I could remember the authors names that I read long ago. Drat!

Maria from 'gaelikaa's diary' said...

I found my first M&B down the back of a sofa in a caravan my parents hired for a fortnight's holiday when I was about 12 years old which must have been 1975. It was called GIRL ABOUT TOWN. The heroine was Christina, the hero was Sean Savage and there was a villainous Frenchman called Remy! I remember it vividly. Sadly, I cannot remember the name of the writer. I found another book too - one by Violet Winspear called THE UNWILLING BRIDE. Heroine Ravena, hero, Marc, a Sardinian. That was thrilling stuff for a twelve year old.

I got into M&B during different periods of my adult life. I remember reading books by Barbara Delinsky and Anne Mather, Margaret Rome. Janet Dailey too is a writer which springs to mind.

Thought you might be interested to know Kate, I found an old book of yours yesterday in a secondhand shop here in Lucknow. Not very old actually, just four years! Never heard of this one, it was called 'Bedded by the Greek Billionaire'. It's in my TBR pile and I shall read it in due course....

PrincessFiona01 said...

Some of Violet Winspears were very dark for their time. She almost invariably wrote ultimate alpha males, usually scarred or with something dreadful in their past and the possibility of doing something dreadful in the future. She got in trouble once for being very un PC when describing what her type of hero might be capable of.

PrincessFiona01 said...

#2531 - Passionate Deception - Mary Lyons, April 1986 Spring Pack
#2532 - Titan's Woman - Ann Charlton, April 1986 Spring Pack
#2533 - The Wade Dynasty - Carole Mortimer, April 1986 Spring Pack
#2534 - Girl In A Golden Bed - Anne Weale, April 1986 Spring Pack
#2535 - Some Say Love - Lindsay Armstrong, April 1986
#2536 - Captives Of The Past - Robyn Donald, April 1986
#2537 - Capable Of Feeling - Penny Jordan, April 1986
#2538 - The Right Time - Maura McGiveny, April 1986
#2539 - The Plumed Serpent - Annabel Murray, April 1986
#2540 - A Girl Named Rose - Betty Neels, April 1986
#2541 - Beyond Reach - Margaret Pargeter, April 1986
#2542 - A Risky Business - Sandra K. Rhoades, April 1986
#2543 - Misleading Encounter - Jessica Steele, April 1986
#2544 - Game Of Hazard - Kate Walker, April 1986
#2545 - The Tiger's Cage - Margaret Way
#2546 - Like Enemies - Sophie Weston, April 1986