Friday, November 01, 2013

A Date With Kate - The Old Ones Are The Best.

Last week, the Babe Magnet and I were in  Oxford.  This was part of our plan to mark  this very special year when we are celebrating  our  Ruby Wedding.  The plan is to do 40 lovely things -  things we both enjoy, or to find new experiences we’ve never tried, and to enjoy them.  We started with a family dinner on the actual anniversary day and have been working through a list ever since.

There seems to be an awful lot of theatre on this list. It’s not that we deliberately set out to find drama productions as part of our ‘40’- it’s just that there have been some really great productions staged since we planned this and we‘ve wanted to treat ourselves. There’s been   Gilbert and Sullivan in Huddersfield,  Othello and Private Lives in London – coming up is Cabaret, and a less cheerful  Ghosts – and last week we saw the wonderful Sadlers’ Wells revival of West Side Story.  We sat entranced, along with the rest of the full house audience, and watched the classic musical with complete delight. That was the viewer/the reader part of me enjoying myself  and refilling the creative well as I did. We went back to the hotel buzzing with delight.

But since I’ve come home  it has been that ‘creative’  part of me that  has been buzzing – just as it was when I saw Othello. Of course West Side Story has been taken from the Shakespeare play  Romeo and Juliet.  It has the same feuding  ‘gangs’  - the Jets and The Sharks instead of the families of Montague and Capulet, the street fights, the star-crossed lovers, the tragic ending.  The old story, taken and reset in a new environment, with  different problems, different backgrounds to the characters. The music is fantastic as well but it was the basic story that I was thinking about  so much.

I’ve written a ‘family feud ‘ story before – in the Konstantos Marriage Demand, the book that won Romantic Times best Presents Extra Award in the year it came out.  I had to give my hero and heroine a happy ending though – this is a romance. These theme (or tropes if you want to call them that) are the ones that appear again and again in all sorts of stories in all types of books. Sometimes the reflecti0on of a previous book is deliberate – as when I wrote  an homage to Wuthjering Heights in The Return of The Stranger or as Joanna Trollope,  Val McDermid, Curtis Sittenfeld, Alexander McCall Smith, are all reworking Jane Austen’s novels.  These old ‘classics’ are classics because the stories speak to us and we enjoy them so much, are moved by them , so that we want to experience them again and again.

That’s part of the success of the category romance, isn’t it?   We work on variations on a theme  and our readers want to read more of the same – but different. That’s what an author’s voice, her
personal approach to her plot, and most of all her characters,  are the skills that put a new light on an old story, rework an old tripe into something that can be enjoyed anew.   How many times have you read similarities in stories – but with a new individuality that makes it fresh and the author’s own.

I was thinking about this as I looked at the wonderful array of talent shown in the Top 50 list that has just been published for the So You Think You Can Write contest.  Themes that had been covered before, characters  that had been seen over again – but each story had its own freshness and style that made me want to read on.

I’m reminded over again that there are no really truly ‘new’ plots in fiction – it’s the characters,   and what the author does with them, how she tells her story, that is what makes a story work. 
So I’ve been looking at themes like jealousy and revenge, family feuds,  characters on opposite sides and things like that  - all of which prove that this ‘filling the well’ is not just enjoyment but vital  nourishment for a writer. We look at other stories  - in books, plays, ‘soaps’  or films and wonder ‘What if . . .’ How could I take this down a different path, make it work a different way?

That’s how stories start to grow. And that’s the answer I always give when I’m asked ‘where do you get your ideas from.’

I just had my 62nd book accepted and scheduled for publication. Where did I get the idea for that one? From my own family – a story that is part of that family history going back over 400 years! But I’ll tell you more about that later.  In the meantime I’m thinking of these old, tried and tested themes and wondering how I can make them fresh and new. It’s not the ‘trope’ you think of that makes your story original  - it’s what you do with it.

What about you? Do you have  a favourite theme  that you love to see in a story? Or is there an old story – Shakespeare, a ‘Classic’  or maybe even a Fairy tale that  you would love to see reworked, modernised, brought right up to date?  I’d love to know


Kate Walker’s new title, A Question of Honour will be published in Modern Romance and Harlequin  Presents in June 2014. Her most recent title was A Throne for The Taking  which came out in June 2013:

Alexei Sarova, the 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

But Alexei's tortuous past has changed him into someone she hardly knows. He blames Ria's family for his bitterness, and his help-when he offers it-comes with a price: he'll take his rightful place as King with Ria as his wife, until she produces a true-blood heir 


A Throne For the Taking  was  published in the Royal and Ruthless miniseries in both Harlequin Presents and Mills & Boon Modern.

Other up to date news and details of all Kate’s books can be found on her web site and in her blog.


  1. Hi Kate, so pleased you are still enjoying your 40th WA in such a great way. Great post as well. I like a "revenge" type romance myself. Caroline x

    1. Hi Caroline - we're having a great time with the 40 for 40! After all, you don't celebrate a Ruby Wedding often! I have to admit I love a great 'revenge' romance too - but you have to be careful just what you make as the reason for revenge.

  2. Hi Kate. How lovely you are still celebrating your 40th. I hope you have lots of enjoyment seeing the next plays as well.

    I like a variety of tropes. I will sometimes put down a book if I've just read something like it. Same goes for character names. I cannot read books back to back when they have a H/h with the same names. I am a little partial to love at first sight stories though.

    1. Hello Kaelee - I'm looking forward to the next set of plays we're going to see - if they're as good as the others we've already seen, it will be fabulous. I agree with you about the variety of tropes in stories - some can get over used (can I admit to not wanting too many 'secret babies'? Hmm - love at first sight - that's tricky but has so much potential.