The Pink Heart Society is delighted to welcome Harlequin/Mills and Boon writer Kate Walker. Take it away Kate!
My office was one of the reasons why we bought this house. It’s an extra room added on – made out of what was once the garage and turned into a separate living room for the Granny who lived there before us when she came to live with her son and his family. It’s to the left side of the hall, and you have to go through the kitchen to reach it, so it’s part of the main house, but separate from it which makes it just perfect for a work room as it’s private, quiet, and can be shut off if I need to. It also has a window facing the front so I can see the gate and anyone who comes to the house. That’s a big help if I decide I don’t want to be interrupted if the writing is going well.
Anyone who has visited me at home will know that the main pictures of the room don’t really give an accurate picture of what my office is like when I’m working – they are far too tidy! The truth is that these photos were taken when I had just reorganised the room, buying new bookcases to take the huge collection of books in here, and it looked so smart and – well, tidy! – that I recorded the moment for posterity. I can’t risk taking any newer photos right now because, as anyone who’s read my blog will know, we are currently having building work done on the house, with the wall between the kitchen and the utility room knocked down and a new kitchen installed – so everything that was in the utility is now piled into my office and I have to negotiate my way past the washing machine, the dryer, the hoover . . . to get to my desk. I’m told it will all be finished next week – but then they’ve been saying that for 3 weeks now. So you can see the tidy version.
The bookshelves by my desk are crammed with the collected editions of my own books. I have 60 titles published with Harlequin Mills and Boon now and there are translations into so many languages I’ve lost count – Italian, Japanese, Greek, Thai, Norwegian, Spanish. . . There are also the reprints of my backlist collected into By Request 3 in 1s so there’s a lot of books piled up there. Some of the shelves are double racked too. I keep trying to find places to donate my spare foreign editions – the local library takes some – but they keep arriving!
The shelves at the other side of the room – by the door - are my collection of special books. Books published by my husband who writes local history, the history of crime, true crime stories. And there’s my precious collection of first edition, some of them signed, by two of my most favourite authors who have influenced me as a writer and as a reader for years – Dorothy Dunnett and Mary Stewart.
On the bookshelf where the foreign editions are, there are more memories of friendships that my writing career has brought me. There’s a photo of my special friend Michelle Reid and a picture of the two of us together at the celebration for the publication of my 50th title, two silly ‘guardian angels’ , and at the top, the bees are there because , years ago, I was once a mentor to the eHarlequin writers’ group the Gonna Beez. They named me their Queen Bee and when the Babe Magnet and I were celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary at the RWA conference in New York, they gave us the Mr and Mrs Bee as a gift to mark the event.
I originally started writing on my very own ‘antique’ desk – a battered pine desk that my father gave me when I was fourteen and I’d said I wanted to be a writer. A writer needed a desk, he told me and he gave me that one. But these days it’s too small to take my computer, printer etc, so it’s upstairs in my husband’s office and I bought this L shaped desk when we moved in here. The desk has room for all the equipment - and usually for a cat or two. Up until September last year, the desk space was always taken by the beautiful Sid (A Cat of Superior Breeding) who walked into my life some thirteen years before and took it over. He knew he belonged with me and he was very rarely far from my side. If I was working, he was there, inspiring me. And taking up more than half the desk as he did so. Sadly, Sid died six months ago, and for a while the desk seemed too empty. But just recently Flora the Maine Coon has decided to take her place beside my keyboard and she doesn’t sprawl quite so much so there is more room. She is much more interested in trying to catch my fingers as I type though, and often her paw will land on the keyboard and the resulting &bs$*!?)X~# is always interesting. The blanket on the window sill in the tidy pictures is also a place where one of the Maine Coons – Flora or the younger red and white Charlie - will lie and watch the world outside.
The main surface of the desk is for work – computer, keyboard, note pads etc – and always a glass of water that gets refilled regularly as I write. The upper shelf has more personal things – family photographs, a chunk of rose quartz that is supposed to inspire thoughts of love, a little jade bear that my husband once gave me just because I loved it, a gold Maneki Neko, a ‘beckoning cat’ that brings good luck. There’s also a jade plant that’s not quite visible but would be just above where Flora’s head is in her picture! In the past I’ve been fascinated by Feng Shui and a living plant – particularly a Jade Plant – in this position – is meant to bring abundance. It’s also said to absorb toxins from the air, the computer, and so reduce pollution. This particular plant was taken from a cutting from a plant that was taken as a cutting from an original plant that my mother had in her home over twenty years ago, so it’s been with me a long time!
Oh – and talking of pollution, the other interesting – and intriguing thing about my workplace is that it is - or was – haunted. When we first moved into this house, as I said, this room had been used by the Granny who was a heavy smoked. She had died some years before the house went up for sale and so hadn’t been in that room for a long time, but all the same, I would often come into the room in the morning and smell the whiff of lingering cigarette smoke! As I’d given up smoking 3 years before, it was a little disconcerting. I couldn’t think how to get rid of it until – again at the time I was interested in Feng Shui – I read about Space Cleaning. So I ‘cleaned’ the room (you clap in all the corners and burn incense ) and for good measure I ‘told’ Granny that she no longer lived here, this was my room now and I’d look after it for her. Did it work? Well, there has been no more smell of cigarette smoke since then. So I can only assume that Granny took the hint! (Though there are some moments when the cats sit up at stare towards the door as if watching something or someone . . .)
Kate Walker’s latest book The Devil and Miss Jones is out now in Mills and Boon Modern and in Presents Extra on April 3rd. You can find out all her latest news on her Web site or her blog.