Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Temptation Tuesday: Glossy Magazines

Did you think that Presents authors were born knowing all about those sophisticated lifestyles, and able to describe glamorous clothes, jewellery and homes purely from their imagination? Er - no - not this one anyway.

This Tuesday Kate Walker reveals a personal temptation that is one of her best research resources, a private indulgence, and the reason why - in her Dad's opinion at least - she has never truly grown up.

My eldest sister in nearly ten years older than me. This meant that when I was growing up in a small town in Yorkshire, she was out spreading her wings, living away from home. She worked in Oxford and then, much to my great envy, in London. She had a miniscule bed-sitter, really really miniscule skirts, an artist boyfriend who hung out with the Rolling Stones, drank wine and – she read magazines.

I think it was this last that really convinced me that she was grown up, sophisticated and completely different from the schoolgirl me studying for exams, forced into a school uniform day after day, knowing little to nothing about fashion or films or perfume or any of the things my sister wore/used/saw in her cosmopolitan world. In Yorkshire, my mother wouldn’t let those magazines past the door – even though this was before they dealt with anything spelled s-e-x and only occasionally had articles on gorgeous men. So when I went to stay with her in that tiny bed-sitter and she went off to work, I would try on her dresses, practice with her makeup – but only after I had raided her bundle of back issues of magazines.

She bought Honey every month so there was always a bundle of them beside her bed and I would curl up happily with them, dreaming of becoming as beautiful, sophisticated and knowledgeable as she was just as soon as I had read every last word of these. It never quite worked, but the appeal was there. I was hooked. Magazines to me meant relaxation, glamour, beauty - becoming a woman.

At some point, I managed to persuade my mother that Bunty comic wasn’t exactly the sort of light reading someone growing into womanhood needed and she reluctantly allowed me to start buying the ‘junior’ version of Honey. How much I wanted this can be seen when you realise that the magazine gloried in the name of Petticoat and meant that I had to go into the local newsagent’s, where a boy I fancied worked at the weekends, and ask him out loud, ‘Have you got my Petticoat?’ I managed it because I was addicted.

I still am. To me a treat is still a brand new copy of the latest edition of a glossy magazine. Almost any magazine – but it has to be glossy – and it must not be domesticated or ‘homely’. Not for me the Woman’s Owns of this world, or even the celebrity magazines like Hello or heat. I don’t want to know how to knit a poncho or how many children Brangelina plan on adopting this week. I want to browse through photos of clothes that I could never wear – or afford – learn about cosmetics that are going to work a miracle and turn me into Catherine Zeta Jones overnight or find out about stunning homes that look as if their owners never actually live in them. And no, the internet won’t do. There’s something about curling up with that shiny, glossy magazine that no screen, computer or TV can possibly provide.

I’ve grown up with magazines – Petticoat was discarded for 19 – then my own copies of Honey. Buying Cosmopolitan was a huge gesture of my freedom when I too left home and went to university. I learned a lot about s-e-x from that – much more than my mother would ever have wanted to know I had! And the magazine buying habit has stayed.

OK, I admit it, it’s grown.

Because now I can claim that reading magazines is research. They’re a justifiable expense, I can claim them against my tax. They contain information that I need to put into my books and all that time spent flicking through them is actually hard work!Way back in the beginning of my writing career, in the 1980s, when many books read like advertising – when the exact perfume the heroine wore had to be named, and the designer of her dress too, reading these magazines bulked out my minimal knowledge of these things. Then I would collect particular images, clothes, jewellery, houses, cars, foreign travel, and put them in a special file, ready to use for the next heroine, the next hero’s home.

Yes, I know I can do that now with the internet but it isn’t the same. Surfing the net doesn’t have the same sensual appeal. Perhaps it’s because surfing the net I’m not likely to turn a page over from a ‘ Glitter and Bling’ article and find that there is a very different one headed ‘I know how it feels to want to kill my kids’, right next to an advertisement photograph of an unbelievably beautiful couple in some gorgeous romantic place.

I’ve been given story ideas by magazines too – sometimes from the articles, sometimes just from the fashion ‘stories’. The USA covers of Her Secret Bridegroom and Desert Affair are images I suggested after seeing something similar in a fashion shoot in some magazine I was reading. And the plot of Rafael’s Love-Child came to me as I walked past a display in the supermarket of a magazine with a sexy male TV star holding his brand-new baby in his arms. That was a magazine I’d never bought until that day – but I snatched it straight off the stand without even thinking and that picture inspired me right the way through the writing of the book.

Once, growing up back home in Yorkshire, I didn’t have enough cash for a brand new copy of some gorgeous, glossy magazine that was calling to me from the newsagent’s window, just begging me to buy it, I asked my Dad if he could sub me the amount I needed. With a resigned smile, he handed over the cash, telling me that when I gave up drooling over actors or pop stars and no longer spent so much money on magazines, then he would know that I had finally grown up.

Well if that’s the criteria for being grown up, then I’m sorry Dad, I haven’t managed it – in fact I’ve probably regressed and got far far worse. But at least these days I can claim that it’s all research – it’s part of my job and I love working so very, very hard!

So what about you? Do you have a magazine habit? Are you addicted to Cosmo, to Hello - or even to the knitting patterns in Woman's Weekly? Share your favorite magazine reading and you could win a prize. I have a copy of my Presents novel - The Greek Tycoon's Unwilling Wife and a Kate Walker bookbag for the commentator whose name Sid the cat picks out when I get him onto prize selecting duty tomorrow.

The Greek Tycoon's Unwilling Wife is available now in the UK and America. Kate's next book is Spanish Billionaire, Innocent Wife which is published in M&B Modern in March and Harlequin Presents in June.

For more information and all the up to date news, visit Kate's web site or her blog


  1. Hey KAte,

    I looooove glossy magaazines! I'm a big collector of "In Style" and refer to my back copies all the time for inspiration for heroers, heroines, and outfits which inspire me a huuuuge amount.

    I also collect the Best Dressed and Sexiest issues of "Who" magazine which is the Aussie version of "People" in the US.

    They're tax deductible too which is fantastic!!!


  2. Hi Kate, I grew up with parents much the same as yours. No sexy glossy magazines were allowed in the house. I moved out of my parents house, and got my first apartment at the age of 21. I could finally buy all the sexy girl magazines that I wanted.

    My first purchases were Cosmo and Glamor magazines. Although I've outgrown Glamor, I still pick up a Cosmo whenever I'm at the grocery store checkout. I guess some things you never outgrow.

  3. Kate, I lerve magazines and they have to be glossy and weighty and filled with beautiful things which I cannot afford but which my characters can. (And with beautiful pictures.) I find inspiration for stories, for scenes, for details.

    My current favourites: GQ, Tatler, Marie Claire.

    The only downside is I find it verrrry difficult to rip into the big, beautiful glossies when I'm collaging. I'd love to keep them all whole and yet they usually have the images I need.

    Great post!


  4. OOh Kate,
    gorgeous magazines! My addiction started at my auntie's farm. She had a drawing room, open fire, leaded windows, chintzy chesterfield sofas and Jackie magazines.Piles and PILES of them saved over the years by her grown up daughters. It was utter bliss, I spent a whole week in there one easter!
    I currently have 2 carrier bags of gorgeousness resting near the other TBR pile(yes that one)just crying out to be read. But we do share, they get passed round the whole family and then onto the nursing home/doctors/vets. Couldn't possibly put them in the recycling bin!(I do snip out the odd 'research item' though).
    One of my favourites is 25 Beautiful Homes and aftershave adverts are quite amazing these days aren't they?
    And tax deductible too? Golly, the temptation..!

  5. Oooh, yes. And I have to compliment you on your generosity, too, as I can recall a couple of occasions when you sent me a glossy mag with HUGH in it after you'd finished. Or maybe you had a second copy! Anyway, you know I share the addition (to mags and to Hugh) and much appreciate the generosity.

    I've got a subscription to THE ENGLISH HOME as well as picking up glossy fashion mags. You don't need TEH as you've got them all around you!

  6. I love magazines and over time have been addicted to
    Country Woman (great recipes and crafts;
    Victorian magazine(gorgeous decorated rooms;

  7. Magazines have always held a fascination for me. When I was young I would gaze at the array and pine for these lovely covers and stories. The photographs and clothing would transport me but I could never buy them. Now I can and I am selective and enjoy them even more.

  8. When I was in my 20's I used to buy Cosmo, Vogue and all the glamour magazines. These days I have friends with subscriptions that pass bags of them on to me every month. My guilty pleasure is the gossip magazines: People and US are my favs. I love looking at the stars all glammed up. I'm also addicted to home decorating magazines.

  9. Hi Kate!
    I remember in high school I loved Glamour magazine and read it through college. All that wonderful stuff out there that could someday be mine. Nowadays I am not so into those magazines. I prefer the ones on decorating and gardening but my daughter reads Cosmo and you should see my husband's face when he sees the cover.

  10. Hi Ally - sounds like you do your reserach much as I do. I like the sound of those 'Best Dressed' and 'Sexiest'issues - specially the Sexiest - that would involve some really hard research - it's a tough job but someone's got to do ti . . .

  11. Madeline - your story sounds so familiar. I know just how you would have felt. And perhaps that's why we've never outgrown the pleasure of those mags!

  12. I do enjoy certain magazines which I find intersting so I subscribe to them. I limit myself to a couple of my favorites. Magazines are meant to tempt and they do a good job of it. Many are enticing but I can resist now.

  13. Hi Bron!
    >>they have to be glossy and weighty and filled with beautiful things which I cannot afford but which my characters can.

    Oh yes! That's the whole point isn't it? I remember I once did a talk and when I asked for quesions, one lady asked how I fitted in my high class social life! She was pretty disappointed that I said I got so much from magazines and the rest from my imagination.

    I've never collaged - I suspect I would have that same problem of not wanting to rip into them!

  14. Rachel - your carrier bag situation sounds like the one I have here in my office - the TBR pile as well.
    Your auntie's farm plus fire plus magazines sounds like total bliss to me - I think I bought this house for the open fire so I could read beside it.

  15. I love reading articles from my favorite magazines. Magazines look so appealing with their beautiful artwork. My biggest indulgence would be the travel magazines which always look wonderful.

  16. My magazine to devour is a tad bit different from the rest of you. I am a National Geographic addict, in fact my brother gives me a subscription every Christmas. But then I've never cared about beautiful clothing or makeup.

  17. My choice of magazine would have to be the luscious cooking magazines that feature wonderful spreads, recipes and delectable meals. Utterly irresistible.

  18. Sorry everyone - yesterday got away from me as you'll see on my own blog - but I'm catching up now

    Anne McA - ah yes, the glossy magazines plus Mr Jackman - an embarrassment of riches. I have had some pretty strange looks when I've bought 2 copies of exactly the same magazine so as to send on to you. But I love to share with my special friends.

    I suspect I would enjoy THE ENGLISH HOME - I'm sure the homes displayed are somewhat grander than chez Kate

  19. Robyn your magazine selection sounds like it would appeal to me but I've had to give up on the crafts magazines as I just don't have the time to work on anything now. I used to do lots of embroidery - and collect 'samplers' so the Victorian magazine would be something I'd love

  20. Anne - I agree with you - I used to look at the magazines on the shelves longingly but now that i can buy I select carefully. I'm not a great fan of the 'celebrity' magazines.

  21. Cat - how great to have friends who'll share magaazines with you. I love times in the doctors' waiting room - or the dentists - when I can sneak a peep at mags I wouldn't normally buy. I think I'd be in real trouble if friends passed on more to me - and I admit that I'm not very good at sharing until they're well out of date.

  22. Maureen I think we all go through phases of which mags suit us at the stage we're at. When my son was small - before I was published - I bought lots of homemaking magazines and collected knitting patterns and recipesAnd oh yes, I remember the covers of Cosmo - and they're just the same now!

  23. Hi Ruth - you're right about magazines enticing - they promise to make you look wonderful and show you so many different designs for homes and rooms that you'd go crazy if you wanted them all. So I give them to my heroes and heroines!

  24. Petite - I agree with you about travel magazines. They're the ones I use to reaearch the places my heroes live if they're Greek, Spanish etc. I love looking through them and finding him the perfect place to live.

  25. Ellen - National Geogrpahic is a fabulous magazine to read - my father used to get that. I loved to look at it when he had it but these days I just don't have the time

  26. Oh Diane - I wouldn;t dare look at the cookery mags! They'd tempt me to eat too much. And I'll admit that I don't have time for learning new recipes and baking - just once in a while

  27. And the winner is -

    I finally got Sid to cooperate in picking the winner (we had to stop Flora from running in a grabbing all the crunchies - see my blog for pix of her!)

    Anyway, appropriately enough, the winner is CAT SCHIELD

    Cat - please email me
    katewalker @ ntlworld.com and send me your postal mail address and I'll organise your prize

    Thanks to everyone else who posted