I’ve been writing Medicals for a while now – actually, next month is the 20th anniversary of The Call (and, on the same day, my daughter’s 21st – where did that time go?). But the last Med I wrote… it’s the first book that’s gone so badly that I actually sent it in last week, not only late but with suggested revision notes!
I knew there was a problem when it took me a whole day to write what would take me an hour or two in ‘the zone’. I also knew that my characters didn’t want to talk to each other, let alone kiss each other. Nuh-uh.
The problem? The conflict! I agreed to write a reunion book. The problem with that is finding a reason for them to split up in the first that was ENOUGH of a reason, but a reason that could be overcome, say, five years later.
I didn’t get it right. (And I know it was the problem, because the one I started writing this weekend is sparkling and fun and I can’t wait to work on it.) I’ve suggested a restructure to my editor; and in the meantime I’m distracting myself with the new book and a wee bit of sewing.
I’ve said before that writing and sewing have a lot in common. This is my big ’favourite things’ sampler (220 stitches wide, 295 deep), which I finished last month (needs washing and pressing!). The border is fiddly and seemed to take for ever. That bottom layer, of slog, I wanted to do anything except sew! (Just like I wanted to do anything but write, on the last book…)
Are there any tropes that really don’t work for you, as a reader? What’s your favourite? (Mine’s friends-to-lovers – which is the one I’m writing now – followed by fake fiancee.)
It’s been a very weird year. But things are slowly starting to go back to normal, and I am so grateful.
I had the pleasure of meeting Caroline Anderson for lunch last week and it was so nice to catch up and brainstorm books (and lunch was very scrummy, too).
A couple of weeks ago, I actually got to sit inside our local theatre and see ballet on stage. I also got t see some Shakespeare at the cathedral – and Dippy the Dinosaur is on tour! (Lovely memories of visiting the Natural History museum in London as a child, and taking my own children there.)
It’s been wonderful to see people again. I got to meet my best friend in the botanical garden in Cambridge, and to hug her for the first time in 18 months (the hug we weren’t allowed to have at her mum’s funeral). The wildflower meadow was particularly lovely.
I don’t think I’ll ever take the lovely things in life for granted again.
What have you been looking forward to doing again?
Kate’s new duo is out later this month – twins, a transplant and weddings…
I was going to write something else today (ha ha, sewing related…), but events on UK media (social and otherwise) this weekend have made me so cross that I’m going to write a rant. (A measured one, but still a rant.) Even a cuddle with my lovely pooches (above) couldn’t restore my equilibrium.
“The worst kind of wimmins fiction” – that’s what I (and my fellow M&B authors) write, according to Jeanette Winterson, who burned her own books this weekend to show her displeasure at being compared to it.
Now. Firstly, she would’ve been consulted by her publisher and signed off the blurb and cover. Surely that was the time to say ‘no, I’m not happy’, not when they were printed? (This is what makes me think it was a badly thought-out publicity stunt, rather than the tantrum she later claimed it was. That, and the fact she sent a photograph to the media. If you have a tantrum about something, do you really send evidence to a newspaper?)
Secondly, there’s the burning of books. That always makes me think of Bebelplatz and also Fahrenheit 451. It’s really not OK.
Thirdly, there’s that dismissive swipe at a whole genre (one mainly written by women) AND by extension to its readers. And that is what really, really made my blood boil. Nobody has the right to sneer at other people’s choice of reading.
And just what is so wrong with romantic fiction with a happy ending?
I’ve had letters from readers who’ve told me that whenever they’ve had a really bad day, they reach for one of my books because they know it’s going to make them feel that the world is a better place. I’m very proud to have helped someone through a rough time. And, as a reader, I’ve done the same. When my dad had dementia (and visits were very, very hard emotionally) the thing that got me through it were books. Whenever life has been tough, I’ve lost myself in a book (often romance, precisely because of the happy ending) for long enough to let me cope again.
Making the world feel a better place: I happen to think that’s something to be celebrated, not sneered at.
So I want to do a shout-out to my M&B author friends. We include issues that women deal with on a daily basis – from divorce to infertility to miscarriage to bereavement to abuse, to being part of the sandwich generation caring for teenagers and elderly parents, and more. Our characters show that it’s possible to move on from the tough stuff to a happier place. That you can learn to trust again, to try again, to overcome the past and become who you want to be. That love will get you through. And if that message helps just ONE person… then it’s done something worthwhile.
I’m proud to write books like this, and to write them with other authors who do the same thing. And it’s inclusive. It doesn’t matter how old we are, what our skin colour is, what our nationality is, whether we’re gay or straight or somewhere else on that continuum. We’re all about love.
And that definitely deserves to be celebrated.
Kate’s latest duet – about two doctor brothers and a kidney transplant – is available in August, and can be preordered now.
Some years back, I tried to talk my editor into letting me write a plague book. Archaeologists working in London in an area that would be dug up for a tube line (all right, the London Cross-Rail) and finding a burial pit, and the plague… My editor did the usual ‘hahaha – no. I know what you’d do with it and it is NOT a romance’, so I had to rethink. Hence Plague Squirrels – aka my working title for ‘It Started with No Strings’.
That particular year, I won the RoNA Rose at the RNA Awards (for Bound by a Baby).
It was a strange, exciting year.
This year has also been a strange, exciting year. Strange because – well, the pandemic we’re living through is quite close to what I’d envisioned with my original plague book. Exciting, because this happened at the RNA awards last month. (Although it’s not a medical, I reckon Meds reader would enjoy my scientist heroine. And you get to learn lots of exciting facts about butterflies. And glass. And there’s a matchmaker from beyond the grave. Hence the title of ‘A Will, a Wish, and a Wedding’.)
When you’re a prizewinning author, your editors are all happy with you and they say yes to your ideas, right? So, all happy and bouncy, I pitched the idea of Bridgerton meets House. A Regency doctor hero whose older brother dies so he has to become the duke. The heroine is a bluestocking and can help him in his work. All the medical advancements of the age. Lovely super-duper ground-breaking medical romance – right?
Editor: ‘hahaha – no.’
So it’s back to the drawing board. I haven’t quite sorted out the new outline yet. But I’ve been doing a lot of plot-stitching, and this kit happened to be the spit of my elder spaniel. (22,000 stitches or so. 16 shades of brown. Well, with a bit of white.) Once the framer’s open again, I’ll take it in to be sorted out. Or I might wait and do a second picture, with the pattern based on a picture, because my younger spaniel insists on equal treatment! (He turned one last week. I made him a special doggy birthday cake. As you can see… it went down well! Battersea Dogs’ Home recipe, with mashed potato icing…)
It’s been a strange year. But I’m grateful for my family who live with me, the dogs, the friends who kept me sane, and for the readers who’ve read my stories and kept me working.
How’s this year been for you?
Kate’s latest book is Surprise Heir for the Princess – it isn’t a Med and she didn’t manage to sneak a dog into it, but if you love the film Roman Holiday, have ever wondered how you can get privacy in an age where everyone has the phone and the internet in their pocket, and you love sandy beaches or bluebell woods or starry skies, then you might enjoy it 😉
At this time of year, certainly in the northern hemisphere, it’s dull and cold and a bit miserable. Add lockdown to that, and family members (and those of people v close to me) not coming out the other side of Covid… and I think we need to seize the bright moments and hold on to them.
For me, apart from my family (and how grateful I am that I can FaceTime my daughter 200 miles away in Manchester and brainstorm essay stuff with her), that’s flowers and dogs. Here are the daffodils on my kitchen windowsill from this morning. And my beloved spaniels Archie and Dexter, whose waggy-tailed welcome in the morning is the perfect start to the day.
And today is particularly bright. Not just because I’m picking up my birthday pressie from DH this afternoon, 10 days early (let’s just say it’s cross-stitch related), but because the shortlist for the RNA Awards 2021 is out – and I’m on it with my 90th book, ‘A Will, A Wish and a Wedding’!
I’m delighted to say that our Scarlet is also there with me, with ‘Cinderella and the Surgeon’ (Yay! – congrats to one of my besties) – and congratulations to everyone on the lists. Romance definitely makes the world go round.
Usually, the ceremony means we meet up for lunch with the editors, and we sit having a catch-up with tea (oh, all right, pink bubbles) before the awards do itself, this year it’s all virtual. We’ll be toasting each other with bubbles on the night. And there are plans for an author meet-up post-lockdown so we can celebrate it properly. Even if it’s next year, we’re doing it because it’s important to celebrate the joy. Life is for living, and – as the title of our blog says – love is the best medicine.
What are the bright moments you like to hold on to?
It’s going to be a strange holiday season, this year – whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Eid. (I know not all the dates line up, and if I’ve forgotten to include something then I apologise wholeheartedly and please let me know.)
Usually, I have ‘Christmas’ every single weekend in December, with various family members and friends I won’t get to see at Christmas itself. This year, thanks to lockdown rules, there’s nothing, and it feels very strange. So instead of choosing silly ‘secret Santa’ presents to have after pudding with ‘Christmas dinner’, I’m giving money to charity (and I’ve also agreed with my two closest friends that we’ll support charity rather than give each other presents this year).
This weekend, however, we were able to collect our daughter from university so she’s home for Christmas, and I am so very grateful for that.
We’ve decorated the tree (a smaller one this year, because it’s the pup’s first Christmas – given that he trashes the shrubs in the garden, I can see him pulling a larger tree over), put lights on the Christmas reindeer, and fairy lights and Christmas pot-pourri on the dresser (and that bottle is sparkly light-up gin!). So it’s starting to feel like Christmas. Christmas Day may or may not be just for the four of us, but I’m grateful that we can at least have that.
May your holidays, however you celebrate, be happy. What are you doing differently this year, and what are you grateful for?
Kate Hardy’s latest book, Forever Family for the Midwife, is out now — about a male midwife and his second chance at a happy-ever-after.
I’ve just rediscovered an old hobby – cross stitch. I used to do tapestry when I was a student (great for train journeys!), and embroidering with my mum. And then career, work, professional exams and children got in the way…
Now, I’ve also found that counting things is a good way to keep worries out of my head and let my thoughts percolate in the background. Sometimes that’s been at the gym, sometimes it’s been ballet class (thankfully on zoom, though it isn’t quite the same), and it occurred to me that a good way to help me think (and stop me spending too much time playing Boggle online) would be to go back to cross stitch.
And the bug’s caught me! These are some of my recent makes.
It was super-helpful during revisions – gave me something to do while I was sulking (!) and also gave me that thinking space I needed. It’s a lot like what I do with a book. Unpick things where it’s gone wrong, add more detail and some highlights. It’s amazing the difference a strand of floss can make! So on the left you have the ‘wee Hieland coos’ before the outline was added, and on the right the finished version with a fringe/shaggy hair, eyes, nose and the thistles. Same with writing: a little tweak here can make all the difference…
I can’t knit or crochet, mind. Just sew 😉 Do you do cross-stitch or embroidery? Are you a knitter or hooked on crochet? What’s your favourite thing you’ve made?
Kate’s latest book – starring a male midwife – is out in October.
For me, it started when I had a ‘funny feeling’ the day before the UK went into lockdown, and insisted on the 5-hour drive (each way) to grab my daughter from uni and bring all her stuff home on the Monday. We managed to stop at McDonald’s for coffee and something to eat halfway home, literally half an hour before they closed for months – and a few minutes after we got home we had the notification that we were all on lockdown.
A week or so later: daughter and I both had a high temperature and no sense of smell… (No tests available, but we’re pretty sure we had a mild dose of Covid.)
The following six weeks, I struggled to write a single word, because writing a medical romance about a male midwife felt so insignificant and pointless when I looked at what was happening in the world. The only thing that got me through was early morning dog-walks to find the sunrise. (Spectacular, in my part of the world! No filters.)
Our pup Dexter (booked in February when it was confirmed that the pup’s mum was expecting) was born in lockdown, but thankfully restrictions eased so we actually got to meet him the week before he came home with us, and he’s been a total joy (see my personal blog for the Pipsqueak Posts – videos, pictures, and some things that might make you laugh). He’s become best friends with his older half-brother and he’s 18 weeks old now (seen here from his first day here through to last week).
My husband was working throughout (his job can’t be done at home and he’s classed as an essential worker). I managed to finish my medical romance. We also found a bluebell wood just up the road (ha, only took us 26 years of living here) and a field of poppies, and made a container vegetable garden (with varying success – it had to go behind chicken wire as our garden ‘helper’ kept harvesting things well before they were ready!).
I’ve had the joy of doing zoom calls with family and friends, and I’ve been grateful for facebook reading groups and meeting people who love books and dogs as much as I do. My weekly ballet class has moved online (with a ‘zoom coffee’ after) – which is as good as it gets in the ‘new normal’. But I’ve really missed theatre and live music seeing friends for coffee, and having a ‘plotwalk’ in the gorgeous medieval city where I live. So many wonderful things have been cancelled; I just have to believe that we *will* find a way to get it back. (The same as my son *will* get to take his driving test, which has been cancelled twice, and my daughter *will* get back to university. I think lockdown really has been hardest on the 16-24 age group.)
I also managed to write a True Love/HQ Romance, which was accepted last week. And I did my first ever Facebook Live, which was fun – though what I didn’t say was that I was suffering from a weird itchy rash and trying very hard not to scratch my shins throughout. Raised, bumpy, non-blanching and coalescing… Getting an appointment to see someone has been challenging. Phone triage (even with photographs) has been hopeless. The words ‘non blanching rash’ seemed to be met with ‘la la la, I can’t hear you’. Thankfully I got the good practice nurse, last time round, and he listened to what I was saying. It’s not contact dermatitis – I always wear long trousers for dog walks so I haven’t brushed against anything; no changes in toiletries/detergent/food. Not shingles, as it’s one-sided. Antihistamines, corticosteroids, antibiotics and anti fungals hadn’t touched it. It’s nothing to do with my underactive thyroid; and I’m not developing diabetes (recent annual blood tests are all in normal ranges). We’re going for a diagnosis of ‘idiopathic pruritic purpurae’ (cough – and you can bet this is going in my next booK!). Thankfully, now I’m heading towards the end of week 3, strong antihistamines and very strong corticosteroid cream seems to be helping – and cold compresses are my best friend. Could it be a Covid rash? Because I’m using the Zoe app, I was invited to have a test at our local drive-in centre. (Mask + closed window = very tricky for a deaf person… We improvised a lot with sign language!) The test was negative. So who knows?
I’m just about to start my next medical romance, a duo about twin doctors which involves a kidney transplant. But this month my 90th M&B hits the shelves – and I had a lot of fun researching butterflies for it. So if you like the countryside, architecture, butterflies and a bit of a weepie with a happy ending, then hopefully you’ll enjoy this.
Stuffed aubergines (serves 2 – and the leftovers serve 2 for lunch the next day)
Olive oil spray
1 x 400g tin chickpeas, drained
1/2 a large courgette (zucchini), diced
1 bell pepper, deseeded and diced
1/2 a red onion, peeled and diced
5 cherry tomatoes, chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
About an inch of red chilli pepper, deseeded and chopped finely
Pinch of cinnamon
Cut the aubergine in half, and scoop out most of the flesh (leaving enough to make a ‘cup’ and hold its shape, around 5mm); spray with oil, place skin-side down on a baking tray and make at 180C for 20 mins.
Meanwhile, add boiling water to the couscous and leave to soak.
Spray a little oil in a pan, add the garlic and chilli and sauté for 30 seconds.
Add the rest of the veg (not the chickpeas!!) and sweat for 15 minutes until softened. (You might need to add a little water to stop it sticking.) Add the cinnamon.
Stir the veg and the chickpeas into the couscous.
Use half this mixture to stuff the two aubergine halves, cover loosely with foil and bake for 20 mins. Serve with veg of choice (or salad).
Use the other half of the mixture as the base of a salad for lunch the next day.
Firstly – thank you from the bottom of my heart to our key workers, the ones who look after the sick and make sure we’re fed and keep us safe. We appreciate you.
Lockdown is a strange world. I’m super-lucky because (a) both kids are home with me (eldest finished uni, youngest just started so we had a 400-mile round trip to Manchester to get her because I had one of my ‘funny feelings’ – and then lockdown was announced that night). I live literally five minutes’ walk from open fields and woodlands, so I get to take my dog out at the crack of dawn and watch the sky become beautiful. I’ve been taking bits of birdsong on my phone and posting them on Facebook so people who can’t get out can hear/see it (sadly, I can’t post them here because WordPress seems to think that 6 seconds of birdsong means ‘file too big’!); and I’ve taken my proper camera out as well as my phone and caught some beautiful sunrises.
I’d like to share a couple of the pics here from three different mornings (the sun on the lefthand pic was actually a deep crimson, but the camera only picked that up behind the trees). I live on the outskirts of Norwich (roughly in the middle of the big bump above London if you look at a map of the UK), and it’s my favourite place in the world.
And then, of course, there is my BIG NEWS – those of you who follow me on Facebook know all about my beautiful Archie, and I’m thrilled to say that last weekend Archie’s half-brother was born (this was his dad’s last litter before retiring, so I went into nag mode the second our breeder told us, and Gerry finally agreed on the day after my birthday that we could have a pup – I’ve been excited about this ever since!). So meet Dexter – he’ll join our family at the beginning of June (or as soon as lockdown allows after then). Pre-lockdown, the plan was to go over and meet the pups and the pup would choose us, but in these strange days we had to do it by photographs. What settled me was seeing all the pups together – one all squished up in the middle just caught my eye and I thought, ‘he’s ours’. We know the mum’s dad as well, and our breeder tells us that the mum is an absolute sweetheart, so we know we’ll have a pup with a gorgeous temper like Archie. We can’t wait to meet him!
Stay safe, everyone, and keep looking for the joy – it’s still out there. And I hope that when this is all over the good bits will stay: keeping in closer touch with our family and friends, and being kinder and more considerate. Love to you all, Kate xxx