Showing posts with label Romantic Novelists' Association. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Romantic Novelists' Association. Show all posts

Monday, 11 June 2012

Interview with Kate Lace - author of Cox

The writer Kate Lace (aka Catherine Jones) is a great friend of mine. We met years ago at a drinks party thrown by Piatkus Books (who’d just published our first novels). We talked 19 to the dozen all evening, and 15 years later, we do exactly the same every time we meet.

Kate has now written 14 novels (including The Chalet Girl and Gypsy Wedding) and two non-fiction books. She’s a former chairman of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, a quiz supremo and the best company I know. Her latest book, Cox, is a scintillating summer read about two rival rowers and is out on July 5 (review coming next month). The book promises “hot men in Lycra, thrilling races and plenty of steamy sex” – and yes, it delivers all three in classic Kate Lace style.

Kate kindly agreed to talk to House With No Name about writing, her favourite books and Cox.

Did you write as a child and did you always want to write novels?

Kate: Absolutely not! Never had any idea I could write and thought all creative writing at school was intensely boring and pointless. I did keep an excruciatingly awful teenage diary, which thankfully got lost in a house move.

You were a captain in the army before becoming a novelist. Did your army training give you the discipline to write?

Kate: I don’t know about the army giving me discipline but it gave me a huge fund of experiences and stories. I lived in loads of different places, including Cyprus and Germany and I learned how to do a bunch of weird and wonderful things from firing a heavy artillery piece to flying gliders. But I’ve always been quite self-disciplined. I was a terrible swot at school so parking my bum on a chair and just doing the work is something I’ve always be able to do.

Your first novel, Army Wives, was published in 1998. Can you tell me about the road to publication?

Kate: Actually, Army Wives was my third book although it was my first novel. I co-wrote my first book, about being a career officer’s wife, with a fellow army wife. For a self-published book, before the days of viral-marketing, Kindle and the internet, it did extraordinarily well. My co-author and I then co-edited a book all about getting on in other professions. It was all going terribly well but then the army posted her husband to Alabama and mine to Northern Ireland, and that was the end of that. So I decided to write a novel about army wives. It took me over a year to write and almost another two to find a publisher, but in this industry, luck plays an awfully big part. My book just happened to land up with an independent publisher starting a new mass-market paperback line. Right desk, right day, right book. 

Your new book, Cox, is a brilliant portrayal of the rowing world. How did you go about researching the novel?

Kate: Again, luck played a huge role. I’m friends with a family whose son rowed for Cambridge and I also happened to know a whole heap of army rowers. And even luckier, one guy used to cox for the army eight and is now a rowing coach. Between them they managed to straighten me out about the wonderful world of rowing. I expect I’ve still managed to get stuff wrong – but if I have, it wasn’t their fault

Cox has got a racy title and an even racier cover. What reaction have you had so far?

Kate: My mother is scandalised. (Wait till she reads it!) Almost everyone else thinks the whole thing is a hoot and most of my female friends seem to spend a rather long time staring at the cover model. I can’t imagine why. But I think I am sensationally lucky to have such a fab cover. I absolutely adore it.

How and where do you write?

Kate: It depends how hard I’m finding the writing. On days when it isn’t going well, the gardening beckons, the ironing pile looks inviting, I’ll even resort to housework. But on really good days I start at about nine and work through to five quite easily with just the odd pitstop for food, tea, emails and Twitter. When I have a deadline I try to do a minimum of at least 1,000 words a day and hope to achieve 1,500. My writing space is a revoltingly messy study – it’s total chaos – but I look out of a big window on to the front garden so I can see what’s going on. Now the kids are grown up I’m quite often alone in the house, which is bliss. When I started my first novel, I was having to move house six times in five years, with three children under five.  Life is much calmer these days.

Do you have any tips for writers working on their debut novels right  now? 

Kate: Yes, write it, put it in a drawer for several months, leave it completely alone and then read it. All the continuity errors, all those cups of coffee, pointless conversations, boring bits, plot flaws will shout at you.

What is your favourite novel? And are there any particular novelists who have inspired you?

Kate: Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford. There are some spooky similarities with my upbringing (mainly a totally barking family background) and it makes me laugh and cry. If I ever get picked for Desert Island Discs, that’s my choice. As for inspirational novelists – I am totally in awe of Jojo Moyes.

Cox by Kate Lace (Arrow, £6.99)

Friday, 6 January 2012

Friday book review - Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

A whole year has whizzed by since I reviewed the six books on the 2011 Romantic Novel of the Year shortlist. But I vividly remember reading The Last Letter from Your Lover by Jojo Moyes for the first time and predicting in a flash that it would win. Her heartrending tale of passion, adultery and lost love was “everything a romantic novel should be,” I wrote in my review, and sure enough a couple of weeks later it was declared the winner.

Jojo’s new book is out this week and she’s done it all over again. By the time I got to the last few pages of Me Before You, I had tears streaming down my face and very smudged mascara. Not a good look, especially if you’re sitting on the train.

While lots of writers stick to familiar territory in their novels, Jojo surprises her readers every time. In the past she’s written about everything from brides travelling to meet their husbands after the Second World War (The Ship of Brides) to a businessman planning a controversial development in a sleepy Australian town (Silver Bay).

Her latest is the story of Will Traynor, a hotshot city financier whose life is shattered in a road accident. Quadriplegic and confined to a wheelchair, he can’t do anything for himself and doesn’t see any point in life. He’s miserable, sarcastic and quick to take his frustration out on everyone around him, especially when his mother hires the sunny-natured, crazily-dressed Louisa Clark as his new carer. But surprisingly, the pair gradually form an unlikely friendship – a friendship that changes both their lives.

In less skilful hands, this novel could have been downbeat and utterly unconvincing. Jojo herself admits that given the “controversial subject matter” she wasn’t sure she’d find a publisher (actually, she was wrong - publishers were so keen that a raft of different companies bid for it.)

But in fact it’s an uplifting, wonderful read – a believable love story that makes you laugh, cry and think about a person’s right to live or die.

Me Before You is going to be one of the most-talked about books of the next few months. It’s been chosen as one of Richard & Judy Spring 2012 Book Club reads and many are already predicting that it could be as big as David Nicholls’ One Day. I reckon they could be right.

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes (Michael Joseph, £7.99)

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Romantic novelists Katie Fforde and Kate Lace at the Chiswick Book Festival

I adore literary festivals. So I was over the moon when the organisers of the Chiswick Book Festival asked me to chair a talk on romantic fiction by bestselling writers Katie Fforde and Kate Lace. The session was called My Big Fat Summer of Love (an amalgam of their two latest titles – Summer of Love by Katie Fforde and Gypsy Wedding by Kate Lace) and covered everything from how they began their illustrious careers to their own favourite romantic novels.

The pair, who are great friends, were fun, informative and inspiring. They’ve both chaired the Romantic Novelists’ Association in the past (indeed, Katie is now president), and several members of the audience were so enthused that they came up at the end and asked how they could join.

The writers began the afternoon by telling the audience about their roads to publication. Kate Fforde said that when her children were little she had a “serious Mills & Boon addiction" – one book a day in fact – and decided to have a go at writing one herself. In the end she wasn’t published by Mills & Boon but it was a fantastic way to learn her craft. She hasn’t looked back since her first novel, Living Dangerously, was published in 1995. She also praised the “hugely supportive” RNA. Meanwhile Kate Lace began writing as a young army wife with three small children, first writing for an magazine for army wives, then non-fiction, including Gumboots and Pearls about life as an army wife, before turning to fiction.

They also discussed exactly what makes a good romantic novel. Katie reckons that the key is to create “a believable love story,” and stressed that the happy ending must be “credible,” while Kate said that there must be some “grit in the oyster.” When it comes to planning novels, Kate said she knows where her books are going to start and finish, but doesn’t tend to plot everything in advance. Katie reckoned that if you plan too much, you’ve already told the story and “sort of lose interest.”

They both start work early – Katie is on Twitter at the crack of dawn but then concentrates on writing for the rest of the day. Kate works from 9am till The Archers starts at five past seven. Kate said that “scary deadlines” keep her nose to the grindstone, but Katie emphasised that it's important to take time to think about her characters and where they are going. Sometimes her best ideas emerge when she’s gardening or cooking.

They’re both voracious readers, but asked about their own favourite romantic novels, chose utterly different titles. Katie adores Georgette Heyer while Kate reckons Tolstoy’s War and Peace is the “absolute best love story” she’s ever read.

Finally, the two writers gave us a tantalising hint of the treats we’ve got in store. Katie’s next book is called Recipe for Love and is set in a TV cookery competition (it will be out next year) and she’s currently researching another one set in the world of antiques. Meanwhile Kate is busy writing about the glamorous world of rowing. Watching handsome, Lycra-clad rowers in action, she added, is no hardship at all.

PS: Actress Isla Blair is one of the loveliest people I’ve ever interviewed. I spent a day at her house years ago with a stylist and photographer for a Country Homes & Interiors profile. The following session at the Chiswick Book Festival featured Isla talking to her son Jamie Glover, the actor and director, about her new book. A Tiger’s Wedding tells of her childhood in India during the last days of the Raj and I can’t wait to read it.
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