Award-winning novelist Kate Parker was a 2008 Golden Heart® finalist. Her entry, Moss Square, finaled in the Historical category. She finaled again in 2009 with another entry in the same category, The Art of a Lady.
Kate has always been fascinated with history but never more so than the day she was playing a board game with her children and a question came up about an event at which she had been present. It was in the history section! This just proved to her children that Kate was a historical figure. As in ancient.
Those children have grown up and had children, making Kate a proud grandmother. After a career that included hospital microbiologist, EMT, and telecommunication technician, Kate has retired to the back of beyond amid the swamps and beaches of eastern Carolina. She lives with her delightfully supportive husband, who doesn’t mind helping with housework while she writes romances set in a bygone era with her elderly, demanding retriever by her side. When she’s not writing, she and her husband enjoy cruising along nearby rivers and creeks in a small motorboat, walking on the beach, and traveling.
Join me as we learn more about Kate and her journey to publication.
Kate’s Journey Begins
•As is the case for many a romance writer, you were an avid reader of the genre before you began writing your own. When did you make the transition from romance reader to romance novelist?
Ten years ago, my husband was injured in an industrial accident that left him unable to work, volunteer at our local fire department, or do many of the ordinary tasks of everyday living we take for granted. Trying to keep my own spirits up while helping him cope, I began to read romances. The hope that resonates at the heart of every romance spoke to me. Soon, reading romances led to trying to write romances.
Try is the operative word here. A male friend at work read about Romance Writers of America® in the local paper and suggested I join. The talks at meetings and on-line classes have been a great boost to my writing over the years.
•Your recent contest successes have been in the Historical category. However, I understand you didn’t start out writing period pieces. What types of stories were your first ones, and why did you switch from writing them to writing Historicals?
After several years of writing the worst contemporary romantic suspenses imaginable, I switched to writing my favorite: historical romance laced with espionage and homicide. Something clicked, and I began to final in contests.
•You aren’t just a romance novelist. You’re also a scriptwriter. Please tell us about your experience in this area?
Beside historical romances, I wrote a script that was performed during my town’s Civil War Ghostwalk. There’s nothing like the thrill of hearing your words performed by costumed actors. So thrilling, I saw it twice! In this case, the two ladies were first time performers, and they did a wonderful job.
•You’ve entered a number of contests and been a finalist several times over. In 2006, you heard from Harlequin. Your entry finaled in their Ultimate Reunion contest. Hearing that news must have been quite a thrill. How did you react?
When Harlequin announced the winners and runners up on their website, they specifically mentioned my entry as being imaginative. Not only was seeing my name on their website a thrill, but they’d given me the first clue as to what I do well. Who expects the ultimate reunion short story from a romance publisher to be an attempted murder? I do twists and the unexpected well, and building them into romances is a strength of mine. Now, I needed to work on the craft of writing.
•It wasn’t long before you added another gem to your contest contestant’s tiara, one many romance novelists would like to have. You took first place in the highly respected Maggie, sponsored by the Georgia Romance Writers. What did this win mean to you? And how many times a day did you peek at your lovely Maggie medallion in the weeks following your win?
I was present when they called my name, and my thank you speech was the worst ever! Another lesson I learned was: if you’re up for an award, write an acceptance speech. I wore my Maggie medallion that night and everywhere I went for many weeks.
•Good news continued to come your way. On March 25, 2008, a day which will long be remembered by all 64 Pixie Chicks who finaled in the Golden Heart that year, your phone rang, and it was an RWA® board member telling you the good news that Moss Square had finaled. Was your excitement most evident by the volume of a squeal, the distance between you and the ground as you jumped for joy, or the length of an attack of the giggles?
When the phone beeped for an incoming call while I was on the phone, I just knew it was the Golden Heart. I hung up on my mother’s stockbroker! Each of us kids takes a part of her care, and dealing with him is one of my jobs. He didn’t get a call back for hours. My poor husband was in another room, and my screams scared him. My flying leap into the room frightened him even more. And then I had to call and email everyone I knew.
•Finaling in the Golden Heart was so much fun you decided to enter the next year. And you finaled again, this time with The Art of a Lady, admitting you to the 2009 class of GH finalists known as the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood. How did the news affect you when you received it the second time?
Fortunately, I was in the same room with my husband when I received the second Golden Heart call, so he knew why I was screaming after I hung up the phone. And both calls were from Terri Brisbin. I love her!
•You’ve been writing for over ten years. That shows tenacity. How do you keep yourself motivated and moving forward over the long haul?
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different outcome.”
After ten years, one might think I could be called insane, writing day after day, month after month without the trappings of success. But even overnight successes take a very long time, if you look at all the practice and hard work success takes. And what I’ve done is not the same thing over and over. It’s been many lessons, each one crafted and learned from, in ever-improving stories.
•Sounds like you have a realistic outlook and a wise approach. What are some of the lessons you’ve learned during the past decade?
I prefer to visit the settings of my books if at all possible, in part because I love to travel.
I love scouring original documents and searching reference books for interesting tidbits. The Art of a Lady revolves around the Russian-French military accord signed in January 1894, which was the first of the alliances that set the stage for World War I. One story I’m working on now involves the arms race of the 1890s between Germany and Britain. I’ve found studying the political and economic history of the times is as necessary to develop a realistic romance as is studying costumes and architecture.
Kate’s Writing Process
•What does a typical writing day look like for you? Or is there such a thing as a typical day? 🙂
Exercise first, then put my butt in the chair and work. At least that’s my dream typical day.
•Since you write Historicals, there are lots of details to be nailed down. Do you usually perform your research up front, or do you verify facts as-needed?
On the first draft, if I hit something I need to know, I stop and do my research. I find it saves time on rewrites to have the details correct.
My favorite research was a trip to England last summer with my youngest daughter. We visited the National Railway Museum in York where I learned I had to throw out two chapters in my latest story because train cars had changed design and my story was no longer accurate. We also visited Buckingham Palace (See photo above), and a number of other sites that will give me ideas for years to come.
Kate’s Journey Continues
•What are you working on now?
Currently, I’m polishing up two new manuscripts set in the gay nineties and entering them in contests. Hopefully, one of them will lead to my big break.
Four Places Kate Would Like to Set a Story,
Where She’s Not Set One So Far
~ Jerusalem during the Roman occupation: When I was in elementary school, our church provided comic books for the kids to read during the sermon. This was long before children’s sermons and junior church were invented. These comics contained a serialized illustrated story about Paul, Timothy, and a boy of eleven or twelve who went about converting the people of the generic eastern Mediterranean and were constantly chased by Roman soldiers. The boy left town in a basket over the town wall at least once every six months. Exciting stuff in my young, imaginative mind, and I devoured that week’s episode long before the sermon began. I would love to write something in that time period that excites others the way that story thrilled me as a child.
~ England and France in the nineteen thirties and forties had so much tension and drama going on with the political situation. Invasions and threats of invasions. Political refugees from Eastern Europe. Internal politics and turf warfare within and between government departments. Secrets and spies. All fodder for good stories.
~ Medieval Spain before the Inquisition. Three groups rubbed shoulders with all the inherent tension of mortal enemies as neighbors. Moslems, Jews, and Christians, each with their traditions, bodies of knowledge, and prejudices, created a complex world. Caroline Roe has written an excellent mystery series set in one corner of this world, but there is much more to explore in this time and place.
~ Eastern Carolina at 1900. I’ve always liked this period. It was the last time, from the 1880s up to the beginning of World War I, when the people of the US and Britain believed life could be dramatically improved through science and good works. It was the end of unbounded optimism. At that time, Eastern Carolina was prosperous and hadn’t sunk into segregation. An interesting time and place in a beautiful area.
A Place Kate Would Like to Visit
~ Anywhere in the past – I’m a time traveler at heart. Imagine any time and place in the past with drama, pageantry, and a clash of civilizations, and I would like to travel there. Central Asia under the Mongols. Byzantine Constantinople. Roman Palestine. Western Europe before the Second World War. The wonderful thing is, I can travel to any of these places with a well-written book.
Kate’s Question for You
•I’ve enjoyed having you as my guest, Kate. You gave great answers to my questions. Now it’s time to see what your guests have to say, so go for it.
What is your favorite time period in the past to read about, and why?
Kate has generously offered to give away a $15 Barnes and Noble gift card to one of her visitors. To enter the contest, just leave a comment for Kate by midnight Pacific time on February 2, and your name will be entered in the drawing. Be sure to include your email address when prompted in the comment box.
I will draw the winner’s name on February 3, post it here, and send an email requesting a mailing address, which I will forward to Kate.
Congratulations to Kate’s winner, Vivi Andrews!
Offer Void where prohibited.
Open to US and Canadian residents only.
Odds of winning vary depending on the number of entrants.
Learn More About Kate
Visit her group blog ~ The Ruby Slippered Sisterhood