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