I’ll admit that when I sat down to write today’s Date With Kate, the one thing that was running through my mind was the word ‘Help!’ And if I’m
So I’ve written blogs about writing my first royal romance, about kings and queens in history, about the black sheep hero. . . I’ve done interviews, with some fascinating questions – and I’m all blogged and interviewed out. (If you missed any of these blogs and inter views then check out my blog – the links to them all are still there. There’s still one to come about weddings – and I’ll be linking to that one too.)
So – there I was with a PHS blog to write and an empty brain. Not a single idea. I did have one a week or so ago, but I foolishly forgot to write it down and life has been so hectic ever since that it just evaporated. (Which is the reason why all writer should carry a notebook with them at all times, but that’s a topic for another blog .. . hmm – better note that on down!). But the other thing I had to do today was something that was really rather special and, when I look back at it, important for me as a person and as a writer. And so I thought I’d tell you about that.
What I had to do was to perform the official opening of the brand new book shop set up to raise funds for the local hospice. I actually opened the other hospice shop nearly ten years ago – it was scary when I realised how long ago it was! - and I was honoured to be asked again. I am a huge admirer of the hospice movement, of the care and help they provide when people need it. My sister works in a hospice, friends have, sadly, needed the help they can provide. I try to support them in any way I can. So that was one important part of today.
As well as opening the shop, I could also take along some signed copies of my own books for them to put into their raffle prize selection. And I gave another selection to the hospice manager to take back to the hospice with her, for the patients or their families- or the staff – to read.
And that was what reminded me of one of the things we often forget when we are writing, creating stories and imaginary worlds for people to enter and lose themselves in. That losing themselves can often come at a point where the escape is so truly needed that anyone who thinks of dismissing romance - or any other popular genre – as ‘escapism’ really hasn’t got the idea at all. The manager I spoke to told me about patients who were desperately ill, their last days closing round them, whose family members would sit and read to them so that they could share the story together. (I actually know of a friend whose elderly mother loved my books and who used to read them aloud to her in her hospital bed. I always thought that was exceptionally generous of her considering some of the scenes she had to read aloud !)
With the opening ceremony performed, the ribbon cut, the Babe Magnet and I could have a look around the shop and – yes, you guessed it - he at least found two books he wanted to take home with him. At least he was taking home fewer titles that we’d actually donated! For me, the impact was of seeing those bookshelves – yards and yards of them – all filled with books of so many different styles, genres, types. Every single one of them had been read – and hopefully enjoyed.
It made me realise over again just how important storytelling is. It’s an ancient art - Storytelling predates writing, with the earliest forms of storytelling primarily oral combined with gestures and expressions. Rock art may have served as a form of storytelling for many ancient cultures. Ancient people painted symbols from stories on cave walls as a means of helping the storyteller remember the story. People have used the carved trunks of living trees and other media such as sand and leaves to record stories in pictures.
With the advent of writing and the use of stable, portable media, stories were recorded, transcribed, and shared over wide regions of the world. Stories have been carved, scratched, painted, printed or inked onto wood or bamboo, ivory and other bones, pottery, clay tablets, stone, palm-leaf books, skins (parchment), bark cloth, paper, silk, canvas, and other textiles, recorded on film, and stored electronically in digital form. Oral stories continue to be committed to memory and passed from generation to generation, despite the increasing popularity of written and televised media in much of the world.
All those hundreds of years, those hundreds of thousands of people listening to or reading stories. Wanting to know ‘and what happened next.’ Sometimes, when I’m at home, at my desk, I forget that what I’m writing can go out into the world, to so many different people, into so many different countries.; It can brighten a day, add to relaxation, help a reader through a difficult time, distract from danger, comfort someone who is sick, create sharing - provide escapism. And that’s without considering what the effects that the actual production and sales of these books can have.
And this has little to do with ‘literature’ or reading ‘quality’. Only this week, the new Children’s Laureate Malorie Blackman rejected the idea that reading ‘transient vampire books’ like the Twilight series instead of ‘transcendent Victorian novels’ such as Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre as the education secretary claimed was somehow bad.
“I don’t agree with Michael Gove,’ she said. ‘The point is that they are reading. ‘
I couldn’t agree more. It was the attitude I had when I was a child- when I read anything I could get my hands on . When I was at university – ditto - as a children’s librarian. It’s why I love writing – and reading romance – it’s why I’ve been a member of the Pink Heart Society from the week it was formed. Reading needs to be popular – and popular novels contribute to that.
Today was one of those special little side-lines from my main job of writing romance novels but it brought hope to me in so many ways the importance of storytelling and of reading for everyone, of both sexes, of all ages – in happiness and difficult times. I know stories have been such a vital part o my life from the moment my mother first started telling or reading them to me as I settled down in bed at night - to now when I write my own for so many other people to enjoy (I hope) while avidly grabbing at the stories other people write for me to read. Some people I may never ever know are out there, reading my books , in whatever sort of circumstances they’re reading, to relax and be entertained, or whatever they’re escaping from – I’m just happy and proud to be part of such an ancient and long lasting tradition – one I hope will continue for years – centuries – to come.
Kate's latestr hero is Alexei Sarova, that black sheep prince who has to face up to a new and unexpected destiny with his heroine Honoria Escalona (Ria) as the woman he wants as his queen.
A kingdom's safety...
Betrayed by those she loves, Honoria Escalona must now face the only man capable of bringing stability to the Mediterranean kingdom of Mecjoria. A cold, hard man who once called her his friend... Alexei Sarova-the true King of Mecjoria.
In exchange for her happiness
A Throne For the Taking will be published in the Royal and Ruthless miniseries in both Harlequin Presents and Mills & Boon Modern in June.