Wednesday, August 12, 2015

An Alfred Hitchcock sort of life

Some time ago, a friend sent me a great quote about writing – fiction in general or drama in the form of a screenplay of a play script.  This quote was attributed to Alfred Hitchcock, but later I found that
Hitchcock was in fact quoting another screenwriter and director.

His name was François Roland Truffaut  and the quote was this:
“What is drama, after all, but life with the dull bits cut out…”

I always remember this when I’m writing. Particularly when I want to create a fast-paced, heightened scene, one in which the intensity sparks between my characters and things are really hotting up. It’s when I use what I call the ‘cup of coffee’ test.  Because, when  the conflict and the emotions in the story are really important, making my characters do something as ordinary and everyday as making a cup of coffee can slow the whole action down and   reduce the pace. (Unless of course the way they make that cup of coffee is full of drama with the mugs banged down on the table, the water spilled from the kettle etc.)

I often wonder if people think that the life of a writer is a drama like the ones we write about.  Writers only seem to get into the papers when the big /TV/magazines when the big things happen –  a major signing a huge advance, a public event for some literary prize, a personal drama or perhaps a huge price paid to turn a book into a film.  The rest of the time we are shut away in our workrooms, with just us, the computer keyboard – and our imaginations. 

The past few weeks though have been what I would term my life with the boring bits taken out.  Part of this was because of my writing – the other pat was because of my husband’s work. He writes too, though mostly fact – true crime and  local history. And just lately he’s had a book of short stories published with the title Uncle Albert, based on memories of growing up in a Yorkshire village and the characters there.

So our summer which is always pretty busy has been more full than usual. We had to travel to Haworth  (where the Bronte sisters lived) to launch the Uncle Albert book – then fly to the Isle of Man to launch the ‘one man show’ that went with the stories.  3 events, radio interviews, all were great publicity but we’re writers – and writers aren’t used to appearing at public events. We’d barely got back before our summer commitments started. I usually go to the Romantic Novelists’ Association conference (and sometimes the RWA one) but these had had to be left aside as there were other commitments
for those dates and times. There was a trip to Wales, where I was teaching at Fishguard Writers’ Holiday, and my DH was giving two talks during the week. We got back, unpacked, did the laundry, repacked – and set out again. This time it was for another event, at the Gilbert and Sullivan Festival where my husband was giving a talk on another of his books – A Victorian Somebody - a biography of George Grossmith who used to appear in the Gilbert and Sullivan productions in 1870s and 80s.   (He also wrote a famous comic book The Diary of a Nobody.)

All this was fun but time consuming. It certainly wasn't 'dull' - but there were times when I wished I could just draw breath and stay put for a while.   Now we’re back home and – thankfully – can breathe again for a little while. The travelling will start again in September when there will be a trip to London to meet with the Association of Mills & Boon Authors – and many of the Editors from HMB London (and Toronto)  I have another course to teach and so does my husband (actually two!)  – and he will be appearing at several book festivals to talk about Uncle Albert and his other books.  Phew!

And before I know where I am, my next book  - Destined For The Desert King - will be on the shelves and I'll need to do some publicity on that one!  

But in the meantime, I’m hoping for a decent patch of quiet time so I can sit at my desk, switch on the computer – and focus. I have a deadline and the next book isn’t going to write itself.  It’s funny that people think  a writers’ life is a hectic and public one. I know that the publicity and the teaching, enjoyable as they are, are the times that interrupt my writing. It’s when I’m sitting  - as the saying is- BICHOK – Bum in Chair, Hands on Keyboard  that I feel most like a writer. Just putting the words down, on paper or on a screen, is what the real writers’ life is like. Even more so, there’s the time that I spend thinking and wondering and planning – before I can even begin to tell the story of my hero and heroine’s journey to their happy ever after.

That’s when I’m working hardest as a writer!  So right now, I’m looking forward to some time where life is pretty dull and ordinary – that’s the way I can best get to know my characters and write their story.   And I can build their story into a drama – by leaving out as much of the dull bits as I can, and focusing on the dramatic bits.

I can’t show you the  image that the cover designers have come up with for the UK edition of  my December book – Destined for The Desert King – but  I can share the Harlequin Presents  cover I’ve only just seen for the first time. This is set on one of the balconies in the palace  in  Hazibah, even if you can't see very much of it.   I like this cover a lot - but it's a bit scary seeing the Christmas decorations on the red banner on the top of the cover  - it reminds me that, even if I get the peace and quiet I want, the time just slips away - and I'll have another deadline, for another book by then.

My  latest romance  is Olivero's Outrageous Proposal published in April in Harlequin Presents and Mills and Boon Modern Romance . Coming next is   Destined For The Desert King  which is published in December this year.

Then there's the  12 Point Guide to Writing Romance, the newest edition of which is available on Kindle or a revised and updated paperback edition now available on and

Kate Walker's web site is here   and the up-to-date news can be found on her blog or her Facebook page.

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