I had an email this week from a reader who has collected all my “Melchester” books, but couldn’t find Poppy Kavanagh’s story.
Poppy, for those of you who have been with me for a while – we’re talking 1998 here – was the glamorous, older sister of Dora Kavanagh, the heroine of HIS LITTLE GIRL, my first RITA nominated book and Fergus Kavanagh, hero of A SUITABLE GROOM (he married Veronica Grant, who first appeared in GENTLEMEN PREFER ... BRUNETTES). Are you with me so far?
Poppy and her husband Richard make a fairly brief, but important appearance, in HIS LITTLE GIRL, but it’s obvious that they have “a story”. So obvious that ever since this book appeared not just readers, but foreign offices of Harlequin have been emailing me wanting to know the title of Poppy’s story.
It happened again today -- nearly ten years on, people still want Poppy’s story – and, like the heroines in SECRETS WE KEEP, I’m going to finally share the secret of Poppy Kavanagh.
Back in 1997 I wrote a trilogy of books for the Scarlet imprint. The Beaumont Brides – Wild Justice, Wild Lady and Wild Fire. I was about a hundred pages into Wild Fire – Melanie Beaumont’s story -- when I realised that short of a research trip to the Balkans, I was never going to make 100,000 words with this one, so I shelved it, started again and three months later delivered the 100,000 words that became Wild Fire to Scarlet’s Kensington offices. Lunch with editor. Meeting at Society of Authors. Busy day.
So far, so good.
When I got home there was an appeal for ELOPING WITH EMMY by the end of the month – seven chapters, three weeks; I worked so much faster then! Then I wrote GENTLEMEN PREFER ... BRUNETTES. When I’d finished that I flicked through my ideas file – nothing grabbed me – and then I took out the 100 pages of mss that started life as WILD FIRE.
It had a really great opening
“Something woke Melanie. One minute she was sleeping, the next wide awake, her ears straining through all the familiar night noises of the countryside for the out-of-place sound that had woken her....”
There’s a break in. A hero on the run from the law. A sick child. It was a little edgy for Harlequin Romance, it was true, but hey, I like to live dangerously – and before I could stop myself I’d got out my blue editing pencil and set to work.
First I had to change the names. Melanie Beaumont became Dora Kavanagh, not an actress, but a wealthy young woman who’d been running aid convoys to the Balkans. Her actress half-sister Claudia became Poppy, a supermodel and the “face” of a cosmetic company and Claudia’s new husband Mac, became Richard (both of them in the security business – no point in making work!)
It all worked beautifully and before I knew it I’d finished HIS LITTLE GIRL. So you see, Poppy and Richard do have a book, which is presumably why they feel like such “real” characters, but not as Poppy and Richard. You’ll find them as Claudia Beaumont and Gabriel McIntyre in WILD LADY.
Oh, and if you’ve ever read WILD FIRE and wanted to find out what happened to Heather Archer Beaumont after she climbed down out of the trees, then you’ll find her masquerading as Nyssa Blake in HIS PERSONAL AGENDA – which was supposed to be WILD & DANGEROUS, my fourth Scarlet novel -- the one that was never published. But that’s another story.
So, for those of you who enjoy competitions, I’m offering a copy of HIS LITTLE GIRL (which didn’t get retail distribution the States so is harder to come by than later books) and a copy of WILD LADY (my last spare copy and its not new, I’m afraid) to those of you who can tell me the name of the new trilogy I’ve written with Barbara Hannay and Jackie Braun. And the name of all three books.
Email me with POPPY’S SECRET in the subject line and your answers and snail mail addy in the body of the email.
When Sarah Bradford, an expert on Princess Diana, was asked to review Tina Brown's new book on the princess for the Spectator, they refused to print it. The Guardian, however, were delighted to.
I've heard Tina Brown (pictured here) in innumerable interview over the last couple of weeks and in each one she dwells on the Princess's addiction to the novels of her step-grandmother, Barbara Cartland. Brain-rot fiction, are the words she uses. Well, Tina can do fine "brain rot" herself. In fact she writes the kind of purple prose that would make a Mills & Boon editor blush. Here's a taste from Sarah Bradford's review: --
"Tina Brown's uncertainty about her project is highlighted by her writing, which slides between self-consciously pacey modern schlock and sentimental drivel. Diana's mother, Frances, "looks flawlessly put together and crisp in her coiffed blond ripples. She wears a pale blue suit and hat, a string of fat, creamy pearls and gazes down with a proud smile into the big blue eyes of the gurgling baby Diana." Cut to Diana's pretty nannies. In America, Brown comments irrelevantly, "a Kennedy would be sleeping with help that looked as good as this". Eighteenth-century Spencer ladies used the picture gallery at Althorp for "morning power walks". You can take the girl out of the magazine, but you can't take the magazine out of the girl."
Today, Wednesday 26th July, I'm helping Kate Hardy celebrate the publication of her 25th book, BREAKFAST AT GIOVANNI'S. This is such a lovely book, full of warmth, fabulous food, gorgeous Italians, but then Kate herself is full of warmth, always there to buck you up when you're feeling down.
Kate, I congratulate you on your Silver Book Anniversary, and at the rate you write, I'm looking for to raising the roof for your Golden Anniversary, five years from now!
And everyone -- check out the blog every day for the next 25 days -- there are books to be won!
Covers can be heaven or hell for an author. Sometimes we scream blue murder and our friends and family clearly thing we’re nuts. To them it appears perfectly okay. Only another author can ever understand that this cover that had been appended to a book that is like a baby to us, is ALL WRONG. That it does not fit our “vision” of what the characters are like. Sometimes has nothing to do with the story we wrote.
Titles can be like that, too.
THE SECRET LIFE OF LADY GABRIELLA, for instance, was a “marketing experiment”. Harlequin, aware of the snickers of derision that titles such as “The Gazillionaire Boss’s Virgin Mistress” (I just made that up!) evoke from people who just don’t “get it”, have been trying to ease back on those “hooky” titles.
It was a nice try.
To be honest I think it sounds more like an historical romance (and I’ve had half dozen titles of my own shot down for that very reason). Obviously that’s not going to be problem for anyone who sees the book on the shelf. But I do wonder about people who just see the title online and think “Okay, Liz has written an historical, I’ll come back when she’s thinking straight...”
I’d have called it THE SECRET LIFE OF ELLIE MARCH, which does all of the above, but is truer to the book, since Lady Gabriella is the “fantasy” – the secret life. But marketing, bless them, unable to quite let go, tried to sneak in the “princess”, just in case. It’s that wanting it all, thing. Innovative, new, fresh – but let’s stick in an aristocrat, just in case in all goes pear-shaped.
It was a kind thought, but it doesn’t work. As any Mills & Boon heroine could tell them, you have to be fearless. You may take a tumble – and in this case it’s the author that pays; no one sacks the marketing guy if the book doesn’t sell – but you have to be brave.
The reviews were great, everyone who read the book and wrote to me, loved it. But the jury is still out on sales figures and I’m afraid that the readers might just have been plain confused. The one thing that the great Charlotte Lamb taught me, is that you have to keep it simple. Let the reader know what’s going on. And that goes for the title, too. At least with “The Gazllionaire Boss’s Virgin Mistress” you can have absolutely no doubts!
But while titles are a continuing problem for both authors and marketing, there’s really no excuse for getting the heroines mixed up. Coming up in August is the Secrets We Keep trilogy I wrote with Barbara Hannay and Jackie Braun. I’ve already mentioned my confusion over the fact that my heroine, Belle Davenport, appears on my cover with long brown hair when, in fact, she starts out as a “bombshell” blonde and then has her hair cut and re-coloured to something more along the lines of “tawny”. Cut. So that would be short tawny.
Well, Jackie’s just received her October book. She was delighted with the cover – all three are very pretty -- except she couldn’t understand why her heroine has short, um, tawny hair. Probably only us authors will notice that somehow – in the art department – our heroines have switched places.
And in case you’re not already tuned into the fact that both Kate Walker and Kate Hardy are throwing blog parties (with prizes!) to celebrate the publication of their 50th and 25th book, respectively, do check them out.
ROME. Are you watching this? I’m loving it, but my enjoyment is being sadly undermined by the dh, who just sits there saying “No. This is wrong. It didn’t happen like this...” Honestly. As if. This is blood, sex and feuding females. Dallas (or do I mean Dynasty?) BC. On Wednesday he gets sent to bed early with Seneca.
Last night the dd and I were having one of those long, end of day chats. We talked about pot roast, the fact that Subliminal Girls are getting "air time" on Radio One, and books. We always talk about books. We also talked about the difficulties of both music and publishing business. How tough it is. And I suddenly remembered Stevie Morgan who, back at the beginning of this new century, wrote a book called FLY AWAY PETERabout love, and loss and moving on that I loved so much that after borrowing it from the library, I bought my own copy. In hardback. How often does an author move you like that?
I went in search of Stevie this morning. There were just three books (all of them a pleasure a to read) and a short story. Nothing since 2002, no website and Google threw up no articles, no photograph.
I recall Katie Fforde telling me once that Stevie's publisher just hadn't got behind her and as a result sales had not been good. Okay, not everyone can get on Richard & Judy and sometimes word of mouth just doesn't take off and these days you have one, maybe two chances before a publisher decides you're not a commercial proposition. But it makes me sad when someone who gave me such pleasure to read just disappears.
I’m not exactly enthusiastic about the honours system but once in a while someone gets a gong that makes me want to stand up and cheer to the rafters and this weekend the news that Ian Botham has finally been honoured, put the biggest smile on my face.
The man was always a do-or-die school-boy sporting hero, but he’s a lot more than that. He visited a hospital, saw children suffering with leukaemia and decided to do something to help and since then he's raised more than £10 million for research with his "walks".
Sir Ian Botham is a hero to his backbone and I wish there were more like him.
THE PURPLE SHOE BOOK
The “purple shoe” book revisions are in and I can exclusively reveal that it’s going to be called THE BRIDE’S BABY and will be in a store near you sometime next spring.
KATE’S 50TH BOOK Kate Walker is celebrating her 50th book with a blog party. There are guest bloggers galore – I’ll be turning up there sooner or later – and each visitor is offering a chance to win a book. All you have to do is drop by, answer a question – nothing to tax the brain, honestly -- and who knows, it could be you.
Somehow, in the mad rush of finishing one book, starting another and dealing with revisions for the "purple shoes" book -- pretty much what I expected (I know, I know, so why didn't I do it the first time...) -- I've managed to squeeze in a "treat" read. BREAKFAST AT GIOVANNI'S is by the delightful Kate Hardy.
It has just about everything -- but for me the Italian food was a big turn-on! I'm not sure why Kate is writing for Modern Extra. She has that wonderful tender touch which makes her a shoe-in for "Romance". But then, of course, she does do true sensuality so very well.
This is nothing to do with my books, anyone's books, or even me. My dd's partner is a member of the group SUBLIMINAL GIRLS (the name is ironic -- they're all very much blokes -- note the hairy legs!).
The GIRLS are a rock band and today they're launching their first single, BURNING KOKO, on a major label (and no, I can't remember what it is but that MySpace link will tell you everything you need to know and even let you listen to the record I think -- I only have dial-up, so it's a treat I have to forgo :).
We all know just how tough any kind of creative business is, so I'm wishing them every success.
Today is the day when I have to do all the things I've been putting off. My accounts are top of the list -- oh, joy.
Think of me when you're all out having fun!
I also have to order flowers for two lots of birthdays. (June is the busiest month in our family -- we have four big birthdays!) I've been online to do this at least three times and it's still not done.
Then I have to get to grips with the sheikh novella I have to deliver by the end of August -- except I haven't got that long because the book after that is due at the end of October.
The good news is that the plot fairy visited yesterday in the unexpected guise of the dh. He doesn't usually take much interest, but he's always more interested in the sheikhs since he's trodden the ground, so to speak, and at one time spoke Arabic very well. It's been a long time since he's had any practice but he came up with a terrific idea for a plot -- once I'd managed to get him off the crashed helicopter scenario. And his "crashed car" opening was so similar to the one I used in THE SHEIKH'S GUARDED HEART, that I could almost believe he'd been reading it. But how likely is that?
Once we'd got the transport out of the way and he began seriously putting his mind to the task he came up with something really excellent. Now I just have to get it out of the realms of Tomb Raider and into the guise of a "Romance". And find suitable names for both sheikh and heroine -- which can take days. It's so much easier when you a character from a previous book, which is what happened with THE SHEIKH'S UNSUITABLE BRIDE -- out in January.
In the meantime, I've posted my article, THE SHEIKH AS HERO, that I wrote for a German magazine, here.
Briefly, on another subject -- I can't access My Space to do anything other than add friends -- it says something unintelligible about add-ons and then shuts down my browser. So for everyone who left comments there in the last couple of days, THANK YOU!