Monday, March 24, 2014

Guest blogger: Nina Harrington - why writing in more than one genre is a must for any author

I'm thrilled to have a guest blogger here today - Nina Harrington, who also writes for Harlequin, has just released her first romantic suspense title and is here to toll us all about writing in more than one genre. Take it away, Nina!

Thank you Kate for your warm welcome to your Blog. I am very happy to be here.

When I am introduced to someone for the first time, and they find out that I am a fiction writer, often the first question they ask is: ‘What kind of books do you write?”

I usually resist the temptation to say that my pen name is actually E.L. James and I am here in disguise, and instead reply along the lines of:

“I write series contemporary romance for Harlequin Mills and Boon. And single title romantic mystery. And romantic suspense. Oh, I mustn’t forget the science fiction young adult crime and techno-thrillers which I still have to edit. I am also currently working on a non-fiction book and …”

You get the idea.

Depending on the nature of the project I am working on that day, my answer is bound to confuse and send people away bewildered.

The kind and polite person was probably expecting a one word answer. Surely a writer only creates one type of book? One brand. One name. One kind of book. Simple.

But therein lies the problem.

Think about the books you have on your bedside table or waiting on your Kindle or other eBook reader?

Are they all the same genre or subgenre?

Mine aren’t. At the moment my bedtime reading choices are a detective novel, a middle grade fantasy adventure and a gardening manual to help me with my new raised bed. And I love that variety in my reading. It is so inspiring and entertaining.

I like to think of this way. Would you like to eat the same food every day of the week, every week of the year? No matter how delicious the food, and how nicely it was prepared, I would soon become bored and crave something different to experience and enjoy.

Exercising the same muscles every day is not good for the rest of the body and can make you very lop sided!

But writers seem reluctant to step over the barriers, for fear of ‘diluting’ their core brand and confusing their readers and getting lost on the way.

I find that readers are incredibly smart people – they can definitely handle the fact that an author can write in more than one genre or multiple sub genres.

James Patterson writes under the same name regardless of the genre. He respects his readers and knows that they will decide what they want to read that particular book.

Moreover, my experience has been that writing in a different style and in a different genre, really does make my creativity step up another notch.

My latest release, ‘Deadly Secrets’, is a crime novel with a romantic thread. Not only did I have great fun researching the location in the Ionian Islands, but I really enjoyed writing a much more plot based story and stretching those story craft muscles.

This was a story that simply refused to go away, despite all of my nagging about it not being a romance novel.

But one thing remains the same. It is still my voice telling the story. And there lies the key. As writers we have so many stories burning inside of us, waiting to be told and not nearly enough time to write them all. Don’t let those stories wither and fade because they don’t fit neatly into the genre you normally write. They need you.

‘Deadly Secrets’ by Nina Harrington – out now from all your favourite online stores.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

A few days as a princess...

It's not every day you get to be hugged by Darcey Bussell.

So I hope you'll forgive me for, um, running on about it just a little bit more.

The photo below is courtesy of the RNA - Darcey is giving me the trophy, and I've just given her a copy of my book Ballroom to Bride and Groom ;)

And if you want to see my acceptance speech (a bit overwhelmed and incoherent, talking way too fast, and trying very hard not to cry) then lovely Fiona Harper filmed it, and you can see it on the Mills and Boon website right here.

Yesterday, I had lunch with my local RNA chapter to celebrate, which was fabulous (not to mention scrumptious - a week like this, I am so allowed to eat polenta chips covered with parmesan and we can ignore the calories). The same goes for the coffee and the very small Italian almond macaroon (which I prefer to the French type) in Carluccio's afterwards with Caroline Anderson.

I've been thoroughly spoiled with flowers.

These ones are from Caroline Anderson (same colour roses as the ones in my wedding bouquet).

Delphiniums from my bestest cousin (she knows I love them).

Irises from my best friend (who knows how much I love them).

And then this morning my publisher sent me champagne, chocolates and roses (and note the cute little ladybird on the chiffon ribbon - that amused me highly and I'm sure that will find its way into a book).

I've also had an orchid from another close friend, flowers from DH, cards and tons of lovely emails and kind messages.

Plus an interview with the local paper, and I'm off to talk to Stephen Bumfrey at BBC Radio Norfolk tomorrow.

I am enjoying having a few days as a princess (though I can't ignore the fact that the tumble dryer has been noisy for a month, spitting out bits for a week, and is threatening to blow up by the end of the week - so it's off to John Lewis at the weekend to sort out a new one - LOL, this is life going back to normal!).

Thank you to everyone who's been spoiling me and sharing the joy.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

RNA Awards 2014

Monday 17 March 2014 has to rate as one of my best Mondays ever.

Forgive me for running on a bit (and posting a gazillion pics), but I'd like to share the whole day, warts and all.

I'd been so looking forward to the RNA Awards do - I'd been thrilled to be shortlisted again for the RoNA Rose prize, and not just with one but TWO books! Better still, some of my best writer friends had been shortlisted with me, and I couldn't have been on a shortlist with nicer people. (It didn't matter who won. We were all going to cheer each other on. We'd all been shortlisted before and we were just going to have a wonderful day together and enjoy every second.) I was looking forward to seeing other RNA friends that I hadn't seen for ages, too.

And, thanks to the Kate Unlardy project, I had enough confidence to wear a dress - the first time I've worn a dress since my wedding day, 22 years ago. And, cough, the tiara. (It's sparkly and awesome. And I love it. And yes, I am a toddler on a sugar rush.)

Monday morning actually started with a bit of a panic. I'd painted my nails the night before and thought I could get away with just one coat. In daylight... Oops. Rushed to get ready, added a second coat, and it was just about dry when my taxi arrived.

Anyway, I caught the train in time, met Caroline Anderson halfway there, and we talked all the way to London.

Our editors had arranged to take us to lunch in the Massimo restaurant in the Corinthia Hotel. It's so easy to find - you just walk out of the tube station at Embankment and it's there in front of you.

And what a beautiful building.

 I fell in love with this light installation in the lobby lounge. (Yes, that is going to appear in a book at some point.)

The room was just gorgeous.

And we met lovely Liz Fielding for coffee. (This is Caroline and Liz in the lounge.) 

They did coffee art just for us. (The biscuit was cinnamon, and very nice too.)

Then the editors started walking past, so we went to join them and met up with Louise Allen and the late Joanna Fulford's husband. I had some fabulous news over lunch - my sixtieth Mills and Boon (aka Plague Squirrels) has been accepted. (Real title is 'It Started With No Strings' and it's out in October.) Oh, and at this point we started on the prosecco...

Lunch was fabulous. I had the burrata to start with (kind of like mozzarella, with a slightly softer middle) with vegetable caponata.

Then fillet of hake on a bed of lentils and giroles (chanterelle mushrooms - and it tasted even better than it looked). 

And, because I read menus backwards and the editors and my writer mates all know me very well, there was a bit of teasing because everyone knew exactly what I was going to choose for dessert - panna cotta with blood orange jelly. (I am still trying to work out how they got the top bit to fizz. Must experiment.) And the ricotta doughnuts were still warm. (Ultra nommy.)

Certain people couldn't resist the tiramisu with espresso jelly.

Then it was time to go across the road to One Whitehall Place and have our photographs taken. (First stop: loos, to check hair and lippy for the officialphotographs - nice to see Janet Gover and Henri Gyland.)

I love the staircase at One Whitehall Place. I know I've posted a similar pic before, but I really do love this staircase!

This is the room for the reception before the do.

And I got to see my fabulous mate Milly Johnson with her great new hair.

Shortlistees for the RoNA Rose having an official photo (ltr Liz Fielding, Louise Allen, Caroline Anderson, me, Brian Croft for Joanna Fulford).

And we met up with Emma Fraser, who'd been shortlisted for the RoNA Epic. (ltr Louise Allen, Caroline Anderson, Emma Fraser wearing IMPOSSIBLY high heels, me, Liz Fielding)

We had an interview with the Buena Vista book club. (Lovely people.)

Another visit to loo (because you wouldn't be able to change your mind once you were in the awards do!). This time, met up with lovely Fiona Harper and India Grey.

Then it was time to go in to the Gladstone Library for the ceremony.

Gorgeous room. Gorgeous table.

As you can see, we were having a very nice time indeed and ther eight have been champagne involved...

Darcey Bussell was presenting the awards - introduced here by lovely Katie Fforde. There might have been a tiny bit of fangirling going on at our table, at this point ;) (Apols for rubbish picture quality for the next couple. My camera did not like the lighting!) 

First up was the RoNA Rose. Our book covers were shown (greedy Kate gets two).

And from here it gets a bit incoherent and blurry, because Darcey took the card out of the envelope. 'And the winner is...' I was all ready to cheer.

I really was NOT expecting her to say 'Kate Hardy'.

I squeaked, 'OMG - did she just say me?' Caroline, Liz and Louise checked I didn't have lippy on my teeth and my hair wasn't all over the place, took my name badge off (because romantic novelists are the nicest people in the world and believe that you look after your own - I am very, very proud to be part of that kind of organisation because RNA members are awesome). And they reminded me to take the ballroom book out of my bag so I could give that to Darcey.

This is the real warts and all bit. What it's like to win an award and what goes through your head while you walk up to the stage.

OMG. This is really happening.  I hope I don't fall over the steps and make an idiot of myself - maybe the heels were a mistake. Remember to suck the stomach in so you don't look like a postbox on stage. OMG. I'm going to meet Darcey Bussell. She's beautiful. What a lovely smile. She's so tall and thin! OMG - Darcey Bussell's giving me a hug and a crystal star - I actually have a trophy, for the first time in my life!!!!

What I actually said (this is warts and all so I am REALLY cringing, but I hope you're all laughing along with me rather than at me) - I'm so thrilled to meet you. You're my favourite judge on Strictly by miles, and I brought you my ballroom dance book and I hope you'll enjoy it. 

She gave me the trophy and a hug. There were photos. And then I had to make a speech that I hadn't actually prepared, so it came totally from the heart. I don't actually remember much of what I said, and I was crying at this point. 

In fact, this is the official picture of the total wreck that was Kate Hardy (thank you to the RNA for the pic). So totally overcome that she committed the cardinal sin of looking down so the double chins showed! :)  (Darcey all smiley and composed, Jane Wenham-Jones I think might have been saying, 'BREATHE!', and me all incoherent :)

(Do you want to know why Oscar winners cry? It's so thrilling and humbling and overwhelming, and you don't quite believe it's happening, and I will never mock them again for being gushy because I was the same.) I do remember saying that I wasn't expecting it, I was so thrilled, and thanking the readers, the judges, the RNA and Mills and Boon. I also remember making my editor stand up to take a bow (on the grounds that your book isn't just yours - you need an editor to remind you to put the stuff that's in your head on the page and not leave it in your head, and I think every writer in that room knew what I meant!).

Back to the tables, collecting the Betty Neels rose bowl on the way (I get custody of this for a year, and my name engraved on it with the year - it's almost next to my name from 2008). Lots of hugs on the way. And I'm so humbled that people are genuinely pleased for me. I was offline while I was in London and came home to literally hundreds of emails and texts and tweets and FB messages, and you're all so lovely and it's so much appreciated.

So - the rest of the awards - and I'm sorry to say I was still in such a daze that I didn't take pics.

Contemporary romantic novel - Veronica Henry
Epic romantic novel - Jennifer McVeigh
Historical romantic novel - Christina Courtenay
Romantic comedy novel - Milly Johnson
Young adult romantic novel - Imogen Howson

Overall Romantic Book of the Year - Veronica Henry

Achievement awards to Dr David Hessayon and Helen Fielding (great speeches from both).

More photos. (Me with Darcey and the other award winners. Pic again courtesy of the RNA - thank you - LTR Christina Courtenay, Imogen Howson, Milly Johnson, Darcey Bussell, Helen Fielding, Veronica Henry, me, Jennifer McVeigh)

And then it was time to go home to my best friend's for a much needed cup of tea.

So that was a super-exciting, super-glam day in the life of a normally rather scruffy middle-aged mum of two.

And I am totally, totally thrilled.

And still not quite believing that this has my name on it.