Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Guest Post No 2 - Kate Walker on romance writing...and a book giveaway!

Hello Romantic Friday Writers, members and guests. Today I have another special guest for you, this time to speak to us about romance writing, because that’s what we’re all about. I’ve tried to stress that romance writing doesn’t have to be all hearts and flowers and Kate Walker feels the same. Whether you’re writing a full-length romance novel, a novella, romantic poetry or romantic flash fiction, you will learn something today that will enhance your writing.

When I did a library catalogue search at my local library on Kate, there were 39 titles available. So Kate knows a thing or two about writing and publishing romance. We're not turning into a book giveaway blog but Kate is just so sweet she insisted on offering a free book to a commenter. I'll draw your name using may choose from any of Kate's books at the end of this post.

Take it away, Kate. 

Why I Write Romance

I’ve been thinking about writing romance - going back to basics and starting right from the beginning. This tied in with the fact that whenever I do a workshop  - as I’ve been doing for the Mills & Boon New Voices Contest – or other events like talking at a Festival of Women's Writing about my latest book 'The Return of The Stranger'  then someone - usually a reporter or radio interviewer has asked me the question 'Are you a romantic person?' I usually answer yes, but add 'if being romantic means caring deeply about things and about the other person - it doesn't necessarily mean hearts and flowers and all those things that the stores would like us to BUY to show how ‘romantic’ we are.'  The problem is that then when the quote appears the second half of it is usually missed off. 

Then recently, in a Q&A I was doing, I was asked what was the most romantic thing that has ever happened to me and I found that incredibly difficult to answer.  I couldn't think of something that would sound romantic  - to other people - and that was when I realised that, deep down, the most romantic things are often not the ones that people might really expect - and that got me thinking about Romance and what it means to me and why I write it.

You see, I think one of the reasons why I ended up writing for Harlequin Presents is that I don't find hearts and flowers and boxes of chocolates truly 'romantic'. Don't get me wrong - they're all very nice in their place and I'm never going to turn down a beautiful  (though I’ll pass on the chocolates – I struggle enough with my weight!) gift, but they are not at the heart of romance.

Let me tell you a story - a real life story - a real life romance story.

Once upon a time there was a lovely lady - she was beautiful, intelligent, generous, hard working - and very lonely. She had married young to a man she adored but the marriage had broken down irretrievably and they had parted very bitterly. She had young children to care for and she focused her life on them. She was a deeply committed Catholic and never thought of divorce - it just wasn't possible for her. But she got on with life, she bought a little house, she had a tiny garden and in that garden she grew roses.

She'd been brought up in Ireland, in the countryside and she always said that the best thing to fertilise roses was donkey manure. So if anyone ever asked her what she wanted for her birthday, she would always say she's love a load of donkey manure for her roses. But because she was a lady and elegant and stylish, everyone laughed and thought she didn't mean it– she couldn't want donkey poo! - so they gave perfume or chocolates and that sort of thing as gifts.

Some years later she met a lovely man - he came to work where she did and they fell for each other. But the lady's husband was still alive, and she still believed that she couldn’t get a divorce. And the new man was a Catholic too so he understood. Eventually there came a time when he couldn't bear staying and not being able to be with the person he loved. So he applied for a job a long way away and he got it and prepared to leave. But just before he left it was the lady's birthday and on the day he left he came to her house in his car - and in the car were sackloads of donkey manure for her roses. Those roses grew beautifully ever after.

That's romance. That's caring for the other person more than for yourself. It's giving the person you love what they need - what they want - not what you think they want. It's understanding that, no matter how much you might want something for them, it will not necessarily be right for them and it will make them unhappy even if you make them go along with it. True romance finds a way to love the person as they need to be loved.

So when I'm writing a romance, I'm not writing the sort of book that people describe as ' a soppy love story' or 'hearts and flowers'  or 'chocolate box' romances where the heroine is moping around without a man in her life and then when she meets the hero she 'swoons away' or her heart races in her 'heaving bosom'.  I try to write real relationships between people who really could exist. (Okay in a Presents novel the hero is usually a billionaire - but take away all the money and the power and the success and he's just a MAN underneath it all - and it's that man's problems I like to deal in.)

When I think of romance, I think of the way it originated as stories in mediaeval times - when knights of old used to court ladies - and act as her champion and fight for her honour at a tournament or in a duel or in battle. That meant really fight. A knight could be injured, maimed, killed - he took great risks for his lady and often she took them for him too - because women had very little choice in who they could marry and dreadful things could happen to her if she fell in love with the wrong man.  Modern romance (or Modern Romance if I'm thinking about the books in the UK! ie Presents) is very different and yet very much the same. The heroes and heroines I write about today aren't likely to be executed or killed in a hand to hand fight (though there might be a risk of that in some suspense story) so perhaps the physical risks are less violent.

But the emotional risks are every bit as dangerous - the emotional stakes every bit as high - or they should be.

Love is something we all crave - something we all hope for, dream of, work towards. It's what adds a special value to life and puts a whole new light onto each day. But love can bring those dangers as well - the loss of someone you love is the most devastating blow you can suffer. And the moment we accept that we love, we are also forced to accept the possibility of that loss.  But often love also gets trivialised - 'If you love her buy her XXXX chocolates' or 'show you care - with a bunch of red roses . . .'

Anyone can put on the trappings of romance these days - there are cards for every event, flower arrangements you don't have to think about, perfume or jewellery advisors in every shop. The ‘soaps’ are full of characters who say 'I love you' and then move on to someone new when the script writers believe that the story has got boring - because happiness is boring! It's when the chips are down, when the hard times come, when loving is a struggle, that real romance shows itself.  And that's why I write Presents. I write about characters who are faced with difficulties, with problems that could destroy their love- and they hang in there, fighting for what's important. For their love and the love of the other person.

And all the clich├ęs in the world - all the money, power, red roses, perfume . . . can't solve those problems for them - it's only by going into their own hearts and having the courage to be honest and open that they can win this particular battle. They might not risk death like those knights of old - but they do risk the death of their hearts and that's the real danger for a human being, no matter what century they live in.

So romance isn't in the things that can be faked - it's in staying with someone through good and bad 'for richer, for poorer. In sickness and in health.' It's in working at it and dealing with the hard stuff and caring enough for the other person to find ways through the darkness to the light.

Okay, I'd better get off my soapbox now,

But this is what is in my mind when I'm writing - that I need to show that this particular heroine is the love of this particular hero's life - and if I don't convince my readers that they're right for each other then I've failed. If they are going to be blown apart by some trivial problem or bicker so hard all through the story and then say 'Oh, I'm sorry - I love you' - it doesn't convince me - so how can it convince any reader? And if he treats her appallingly and doesn't have very good reasons for it - and she lets him walk all over her without a protest - then what sort of future would they have together? That's not love  - and it's certainly not romantic, not in my book. My heroes sometimes make terrible mistakes and behave badly as a result -but the heroines fight back. And when whoever made the mistake  ( because it can so often be the heroine as much as the hero)  realises what they've done they do the best thing they can to put it right  - because all the grovelling and apologising in the world is really pretty self indulgent - it not saying I'm sorry/I love you/I'll change over and over and over again - it's doing it.  Or refusing to do something if you know it's wrong. Sometimes the hardest thing you have to fight for love is the person that you love!.

That's what I try to put into my books - strong passions, strong characters, strong love - which I hope creates a strong romance  That's the main reason why I write Presents because the books offer me the chance to write about the things I believe in.


Thank you Kate. It was such a pleasure having you with us today.

So what do you think?
  • Did Kate inspire your romance writing journey?
  • Do you struggle with writing romance?
  • Are there any further questions you have on the topic?
If you'd like to read one of Kate's books, please leave a comment to see if it's your lucky day! I'll announce the winner at next Wednesday's guest post.

The Greek Tycoon’s Unwilling Wife
Bedded By The Greek Billionaire
Sicilian Husband, Blackmailed Bride
The Sicilian’s Red-Hot Revenge
The Good Greek Wife?
Kept for Her Baby
The Konstantos Marriage Demand
Cordero’s Forced Bride
Spanish Billionaire, Innocent Wife
The Proud Wife

Have a great week!

Denise (L'Aussie)


  1. Terrific write-up, Kate! Your words are always so wisely written and inspiring.

    "And the moment we accept that we love, we are also forced to accept the possibility of that loss."

    So true, yet what would life be without love? Cold, barren and downright lonely.

  2. Hi Kate and Denise. What a great blog Kate!!! It was like you hit the nail totally on the head with me! I love the books because they're not all soppyness and sweetness (nothing wrong with that - I'd read them if that's what I wanted).

    I love the "true story" but it almost breaks my heart to think two people could have shared love together but couldnt and the man had to move to the other side of the world (metaphorically). Wouldnt you live a miserable existance after that? Especially when the roses bloomed??? Sad :(

  3. Hi Kate and Denise. What a great blog Kate!!! It was like you hit the nail totally on the head with me! I love the books because they're not all soppyness and sweetness (nothing wrong with that - I'd read them if that's what I wanted).

    I love the "true story" but it almost breaks my heart to think two people could have shared love together but couldnt and the man had to move to the other side of the world (metaphorically). Wouldnt you live a miserable existance after that? Especially when the roses bloomed??? Sad :(

  4. Has Kate inspired my romance writing journey? This is an unequivocal "yes!" I've already read her 12-Point Guide to Writing Romance twice since receiving it this fall. And Kate herself is an inspiration the way she genuinely cares about her readers.

    Do you struggle with writing romance? Regretfully, yes. I seem to do much better when the heroine is interacting with the antagonist than with the hero. Sigh ...

    P.S. Kate, my mom could be the "donkey poop" heroine in your story--and Dad always kept her garden well fertilized. :) Thank you for a great post, Denise!

  5. Fantastic post, Kate! I don't think anyone could have described about romance any better. Love the knight example...and so true - both physical and emotional aspects of it.

    I'm proud to be(or soon would be) calling myself a romance author!

  6. Lorraine: Yes, what would life be without love indeed?

    TashNZ: Yes, it is like a fictional melodrama isn't it?

    Michelle: Glad you enjoyed Kate's post. Yes, I love her '12 Points...' too.

    Ju: Congrats on your debut romance novel!


  7. Great post Kate! I love this part - "it's not saying I'm sorry/I love you/I'll change over and over and over again - it's doing it." To me, love is a verb and nothing is more heroic than action!

  8. Yes, Kate, I totally relate. Loved it!

  9. Hello everyone! Thank you so much to L'Ausie for inviting me to visit I love meeting new writers - though I see I've already 'met' some of you before.

    The time zone thing means I'm coming in here when yo're probably just about to settle down for the evening - and I was asleep when L'Aussie posted! But we'll manage somehow . . .

  10. Hello Lorraine - I'm so glad that my post meant so much to you. I'm not sure I'm 'wise' - but I do speak from the heart and that brings its own honesty.

    >>"And the moment we accept that we love, we are also forced to accept the possibility of that loss."

    I've had such proof of that this year when my DH was ill, my MIL died - and we evem lost 2 beloved cats. But throuhg all the sadness and the worry, I would never have traded that for a life never having loved - as a friend of mine says, when you fall in love you might as well hand your beloved a loaded revolver to point at you!

    And people think romance is 'soft and fluffy'!!

  11. Hi Tash! I think readers come to romance for the difficulties and the problems the characters go through - the more my H&h struggle the more they seem to like it! Of course with a romance there is the promise of the happy ending - unlike that true story which is heartbreaking - and yes it is true!

    It would have been a sad life afterwards - but also there would have been the knowledge that at least you were loved truly. Maybe one day I'll write it and give it a happy ending

  12. Hi Michelle - you give me such wonderful compliments and I'm so glad that the 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance has been helping you.

    Your comment
    >Do you struggle with writing romance? Regretfully, yes. I seem to do much better when the heroine is interacting with the antagonist than with the hero. Sigh ...

    intrigued me - it made me think that perhaps you have the wrong person as the 'hero' - or perhaps you need to have some of the characteristics of the antagonist in the hero. I always feel that I create my heroes as ambiguous charactres - that they cold be the antagonist . . . until they prove themselves to be the hero!

  13. Hi Ju! Congratulations again on your upcoming book - hope it's the first of many. I think that people forget that there are so many ways of showing you love someone - and that we're nbot all the same. I don 't happen to like red roses or chocolates, for example! But when my DH brough me a gorgeous Maine Coon kitten to fill the hole left after a beloved cat had died, I knew it was more valuable than all the diamonds in the world - to me!

    And when we're writing abot that sort of special loveing-someone -as-they-are sort of thing then I think writing romance is the best possible thing.

  14. Hi Denise! Thanks for holding the fort for me while the time zones adjusted! And thanks for inviting me here

    I'm honoured when so many people say they love the 12 Point Guide - I love the way it lets me help people who can't get to my workshops or my courses

  15. Hello Kat - I agree so strongly - love is a verb and it's not just saying sorry - and then that's done! Love is action - and as I said above, there are so many ways we can show we love - but the most real love is shown in finding and giving the way of love that the person most needs. Donkey poo or diamonds!

  16. Hello Maria - I haven't 'seen' you for a while so it's great to catch up. I'm glad my post resonated with you.

    (How was your mother's visit? I hope it was lovely)

  17. Hi Kate, Hello Denise!

    An awesome post. What you said above, ' when you fall in love you might as well hand your beloved a loaded revolver to point at you' is so true!

    Just today I was explaining to two young girls (Riya & Sonali, please don't mind!) that once you say to a lover, 'I love you' you give him so much power over you and your emotions. He'll take you for granted and you'll be powerless! SO they have to find that special someone to give that power to!

    Friends, another awesome interview of Kate has crept up while we were busy here! With another giveaway! At:

  18. So beautifully put Kate. It is also my idea of romance and the mediaeval gallantry. The donkey poo is just excellent.
    I love the sound of your roamnce titles. I'm particularly drawn to 'The Proud Wife'

    Thank you Denise for finding a guest poster with whom I can relate so well.

  19. Hi Kate,

    As the saying goes "Show don't tell" for authors, so too the same can be said of relationships!

    Hee hee, a brief kiss to head or hand in passing can mean as much if not more than full-on tongue sparring match. ;)


  20. That was a lovely story--and very romantic! Thanks for sharing, Kate.

  21. I have to be honest and say I don't read much romance. But I love romance. I love a romance that has fully rounded characters; where the romance is integrated into a fascinating plot. My favorite is A Delicate Finish by Jeannette Baker that I read a number of years ago. Now, after reading this excellent post, I suspect I wouldn't be disappointed with Kate Walker and would like to try one of her books!!
    Ann Best, Author of In the Mirror, A Memoir of Shattered Secrets

  22. Kate, you've just given me the biggest aha moment; thank you! The conflict and emotion have been too flat unless I had my heroine interacting with my "antagonist." But thanks to your advice, I'm going to do a rewrite that includes a more ambiguous hero and see if this does the trick for overcoming my roadblock--because if I can't feel the excitement, how will readers? Wishing both you and Denise a great day!

  23. Hi Nas

    I wish I could take the credit for the loaded revolver quote but it was a friend of mine who wrote as Sophie Weston for M&B - but it is a very good line - and I think you are right to explain to your young friends - when we're young and emotional we often rush in where angels - and wiser people - fear to tred.

  24. Hello Madeleine - and thank you for visiting my personal blog too. Do you want to know a coincidence? The lady in the donkey poo story was alse called Madeleine!

    I hope you do find some of my romance titles and that you enjoy them. I just had the thrill of knowing that The Proud Wife is nominated as Best Presents Extra 2011 in the Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice awards - colour me thrilled!

  25. You've put that really well Francine - show don't tell. So many people can 'say' the words - but they never act in a way that shows/proves it.

  26. Hi Jennifer - I'm glad you liked that story - it really is true. And although it doesn't have the classic happy ending it is a story that shows love - a love without the big glamorous gestures that some people seem to thnk are what's needed when sometimes it's the smaller quieter things that truly matter. And the thinking about the other person more than ourselves

  27. Oh Ann you have paid me such a compliment - thank you, I'm honoured! I'm truly glad that my post spoke to you - we can't all enjoy every one of the same books, it would be a boring world if we did. I wold love to think that you would enjoy my romances and find my characters fully rounded. It feels like a real responsibility though, in case you don't!

    But thank you so much for the lovely comments

  28. I'm so glad my comments sparked off the new ideas in you Michelle - when I read your first post I was thinking that was how I would have approached the writing block you'd hit - so I'd be really thrilled if it works. You are so right about feeling the excitement - do let me know if it works. I have my fingers tightly crossed for you

  29. What a lovely story! Actions do speak louder than words!

  30. I find it doesn't have to be a grand gesture to get my heart beating a little faster :) Sometimes, it really is just a thoughtful gift or words of support that make our day that little bit brighter...

    Lovely post as always!

  31. Thank you Romance Reader - it's tru about actions speaking louder than words. I know several very tongue-tied men who still prove their love by so many things they do - and others who mnake florid declarations and the way they behave says the opposite!

  32. Hi Xandra - I totally agree - the effect of some gesture or word or smile isn't the size of it but the way that it makes us feel special and has been chosen to do just that.

  33. Don't whatever you do get off your 'soapbox'. This was a superb post.
    One year for Father's Day we gave our Father a trailer load of manure: he reckons it's the best gift he ever got.
    So, I can totally relate to love being more than grand gestures & wild declarations of undying devotion.


  34. Hi Kate, You've really bottled the formula for us. Loved the story. This type of romantic always gets me teary. Wonderful post. Congrats!

  35. Hi Kate,
    This is a wonderful post. Thoughtful gestures go such a long way than token 'gifts.' Consider this RT'd on twitter ;)

  36. Hello Pratima - thanks for dropping by

  37. Oh Mary - thank you. I'm glad you liked the post and I didn't sound too much as if I was on my soapbox! I love the fact that your Father got his tralier load of manure - it's woderful when a gift is just right for someone - no matter what it is!

  38. Hi Summer - I'm sorry I made you teary - but in a nice way. Real life romance always has that slightly 'teary' edge doesn't it? Because it's so important to us - to love and be loved in return

  39. Hello Christy - and thak you. I'm glad that you enjoyed the post and I so agree - it's the though that goes into the gesture that means so much more than any gift - however expensive - that could be meant for just anyone

  40. Awesome post Denise and Francine
    And welcome to the RFW's Kate!
    I get very bored with stories that are all about flowers and hearts - as Kate said to truely get into a story the reader needs to know what is at the heart of the characters, and having the hero/ine doing everything they can for the person they love and to convince them of it.
    Awesome, and very inspiring!

  41. I'm glad I can catch up on some of these post. If you don't know, I've been sick.


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