Kate Walker reveals all about her Returning Stranger
Posted by Anna Sugden Oct 22 2011, 1:13 am
I’m delighted to welcome back my dear friend and Lair favourite, Kate Walker. It’s wonderful that Kate was able to join us for this special celebration in our new digs and as part of the fun, she’s donating an extra-special prize for the treat winner today!
So, without further ado, I’ll hand you over to Kate.
Hello Banditas – it’s wonderful to be back with you. And specially great to be here when you’re relaunching the blog, the site – and celebrating with trick or treating to mark this special time. I’m so happy to be part of your celebrations and I hope the Bandits go from strength to strength in the future.
I said, in the Coming Attractions post, that I’d share with you about my new and rather special title The Return of The Stranger (Presents Extra October ) . I promised to let you know about the way that the seeds of this book were set in my mind when I was eleven and have been growing there ever since – and that literally is the case!
I’ve been telling this story in a few places across the internet – but it’s worth mentioning just once more because it’s so relevant to my latest book. In fact, if you take a look inside The Return of the Stranger you’ll see that it’s dedicated to a long ago junior school teacher of mine, Mr Grogan – who first told me that story of Wuthering Heights.
When I was eleven, I was at a very small junior school that was in an old building, where the wiring wasn’t very reliable. The school was in West Yorkshire where the weather was often wild, and storms could break over the hills with great drama and force. One day there was a huge thunderstorm, great flashes of lightning, and the lights in the whole building fused. We were sitting in darkness, with a lot of the girls getting scared and screaming when the thunder roared and the lightning flashed. (Not me – I have always loved storms and still do.)
To distract us from getting worried and while waiting for the electricity to be restored, the teacher — Mr Grogan — told us to sit quietly and he would tell us a story. The story he told was about a man who returned home to his farm, high on the Yorkshire moors, bringing with him an orphan gypsy boy he has found in the streets of Liverpool . The farmer already had a son and daughter, Hindley and Catherine — and the gypsy boy’s name was of course Heathcliff. This story was the beginning of the classic romantic novel — Wuthering Heights.
I never got to hear the end of the story that day, because the lights came back on before my teacher had got past the point where Heathcliff leaves the farm, to go and make his fortune. I never learned what happened when he came back — because it was obvious that he did come back — and I always wanted to know. But of course most of the story of Heathcliff’s revenge was probably not suitable for young children. My friends and I used to talk about the book in the playground and we would even play at being Heathcliff and Cathy ( I was always Heathcliff – no idea what that says about me!) My friends wanted to give the story a happy ending. They wanted Heathcliff to come home and be reunited with the love of his life. They wanted nasty brother Hindley to be defeated, Heathcliff and Cathy and everyone to live happily ever after.
But even as I went along with the game, that never quite satisfied me. I didn’t know it but at the time – age eleven – I was already starting to think like a novelist. Something about the story my teacher had told me didn’t add up to a happy ending – no matter how hard I wished that could be!
The story stayed with me and I wanted to know so much about it. It was some years later that I found a book on my mother’s bookshelf and, opening it, saw the names I remembered so well. I started to read and didn’t put it down until I had finished. It was an amazing story – but it never had the happy ending that I had hoped for. And of course as I grew older I saw Heathcliff’s behaviour in a much in a much less romantic light, but the impact of that first telling of the story stayed with me.
So when editorial suggested a special mini series –The Powerful and The Pure – where authors took the themes of classics of romantic fiction and recreated Modern/Presents romances from them I was thrilled to be asked to take part in it. Specially when I learned that the book they wanted me to work on was my own favourite — Wuthering Heights. I’ve had an amazing time looking back at this great book and honouring it by using it as the inspiration for my own Presents version of this amazing story. I’ve had to make changes of course – Wuthering Heights isn’t really a love story. It’s a story about passion and possession and power – so while all those other books in the series had happy endings already set, I had to create one for my characters. I also had to take wild, wilful Cathy and dark, dangerous Heathcliff and give them the happy ever after ending that Emily Bronte’s story never had.
I found it a challenge – but I loved doing it. I created the story I had always hoped for all those years ago. I didn’t copy or steal from Wuthering Heights, just used the basic themes that are in the book and created a romance that stands on its own. You don’t have to have read Wuthering Heights to enjoy The Return of The Stranger – you can read it entirely on its own and enjoy it. But for me it’s really been a dream come true. Looking back I think that my idea of romance hero was formed on that afternoon in the middle of a thunderstorm and I’ve loved that , dark, ambiguous, brooding, difficult, perhaps even a touch dangerous, sort of character ever since. And I’ve been able to change the story so slightly, add in the details that were needed – turn the original story of power, passion and possession into the love story that I always hoped it would be. It’s not Wuthering Heights – I could never claim to write something as powerful and stunning as Emily Bronte’s original but it’s an honouring of the original – and my own dream story combined in one.
What about you? They say that there are no original plots in the whole of literature – well, one Russian guy claims there are just 7 different plots and the rest are variations on those themes – so what classic romantic fiction novel would you like to update – or perhaps give a happy ending to? Gone With the Wind? Romeo and Juliet? Othello? Tristan and Isolde? Or can you remember the book you read that – or the story you heard – that made you realise that this was the type of romantic hero you loved and wanted more of? Was it proud Mr Knightley or patient Frederick Wentworth in Persuasion? Dark and dashing – and not quite trustworthy Rhett Butler ? Or perhaps a Quiet Gentleman in Georgette Heyer’s novel? I’d love to know if any story hit you quite as hard as Wuthering Heights hit me.
As part of our fabulous Trick or Treat promotion, Kate has very generously agreed to give our ‘Treat’ winner a copy of The Return of The Stranger and an exclusive Kate Walker tote bag. There is also a ‘Trick’ lurking, but don’t worry – our ‘Trick’ winner will be entered into that special Tricks Grand Prize drawing on Halloween.
Sadly, Kate’s trusty prize selector, the lovely Sid, crossed the Rainbow Bridge recently. But, before he left, he trained up his very handsome apprentice, Charlie. Charlie will have the task of picking the winners from today’s commenters.
To find out more about Kate and her books, please visit her website www.kate-walker.com
Don’t forget – everyone who signs up for our Newsletter will be entered into the Halloween drawing for a Kindle. Joining the Members Den was step one -but don’t forget to respond to the Newsletter Confirmation email (sent to the email address you used to join the Members Den) in order to complete the sign up and be entered!
Posted in Anna Sugden, Harlequin Presents Extra, Kate Walker, trick or treat, Wuthering Heights