Kate’s Wednesday hottie

Have we mentioned Aidan Turner yet? No? Why on earth not!

Let me give a brief description. He’s tall, he’s fit, he’s funny, he doesn’t seem to mind getting his kit off, he has gorgeous chocolate-drop eyes, and he’s Irish.

I first saw him in Being Human, as the century-old rockstar-like vampire Mitchell, and then in Desperate Romantics as a rockstar-like Dante Gabriel Rosetti. Do we notice a pattern here?

He’s currently in New Zealand, filming The Hobbit. Er, as a dwarf. Well, that should be interesting!

Kate Johnson’s secret obsession

Okay, it’s not really a secret. Everyone who meets me in a professional capacity looks at my feet before they look at my face, because I have a slight, and very well-documented, obsession with shoes. Last night at the Romantic Novelists’ Winter Party was no exception. I proudly sported the Irregular Choice shoes I bought for the launch of The Untied Kingdom: and you can see why, can’t you?

My Untied Kingdom shoes

My Untied Kingdom shoes

I absolutely love the opportunity to get dressed up and wear fabulous shoes, because if I’m honest, on a day to day basis my usual footwear is a pair of carpet slippers or my incredibly battered old brown boots (I love my old brown boots). But I’d like you all to imagine that I swan round looking like this all day instead!

Me and the lovely Lyn from Choc Lit

Me and the lovely Lyn from Choc Lit

Kate Johnson on judging a book by its cover

I’m looking through cover concepts this week for my next book, Run Rabbit Run. This is exciting, but also makes me nervous. What if the cover isn’t right for the book? What if it hinders, rather than helps sales? It’s a minefield.

I adored my cover for The Untied Kingdom, which I felt captured perfectly the darkness in the book, the sepia-toned landscape and tattered Union flag telling you about the background to the story and the silhouetted couple reminding you it’s also a romance. I really liked the silhouette, in fact, because it doesn’t force an image of the characters on you.

But what of Run Rabbit Run? It’s a hard one to find the cover for, because it doesn’t sit easily in any one genre. On the one hand, it’s a story about a girl accused of murder, on the run from MI5 and the CIA. On the other hand, it’s also about a dizzy blonde who misses her boyfriend. So the cover could go two ways: a dark, gritty thriller or a pink fluffy chick lit.

What do you think? Would you be more drawn to a pink girlie cover, or a dark thriller cover? Or are you, unlike me, able to not judge a book by its cover?

Kate Johnson in Your Cat magazine

It’s fair to say I’m a bit of a crazy cat lady. I’ve got four felines–I can’t say I own them, it’d be more accurate to say I’m their devoted servant. I call them the Pride. I show pictures of them to people, like normal people do with babies. I’ve told my parents they’ve got grandkittens.

So you can see how I’d be a natural fit for Your Cat magazine when I was asked to write a story for their August issue. I’ve realised, shamefully, I don’t put enough cats into my books–there isn’t a single one in The UnTied Kingdom, for instance. In fact, the only animals in it are horses, I think. And maybe a few fish nibbling Eve’s ankles. So the chance to write a story which had to include a cat was wonderful!

It’s called The Treasure of Lady Margaret, and it’s in the current issue of Your Cat. Here’s a picture of the magazine–and that’s Spike in the background. Isn’t he gorgeous?

your-cat-2011

Kate Johnson’s Wednesday Hottie

I recently discovered that if you Google for “Richard Armitage Shirtless”, my blog comes up as the fourth result. In fact, the first link that’s not a YouTube video. So it’s no surprise then who my Wednesday Hottie is…

I came a bit late to Armitage fandom, having somehow missed North & South (don’t worry, I’ve seen it since!) but it was the BBC’s Robin Hood that opened my eyes to his many delicious aspects. Those beautiful eyes. His lovely throat. You should see him with his shirt off. No, really.

See what I mean about him being shirtless?

See what I mean about him being shirtless?

So when I was writing Harker in The UnTied Kingdom, it was Richard Armitage who got the part. With a little of Guy of Gisborne’s ruggedness (okay, a lot of ruggedness), John Thornton’s repressed anger, Lucas North’s cool deadliness, and even some of Harry Kennedy’s charm, my rugged Northern soldier came into being.

Did I mention he played a soldier n Strike Back?

Did I mention he played a soldier in Strike Back?

When we sell the film rights, Mr Armitage, you’ll be getting a call from me…

Kate Johnson on the Royal Wedding

Well, what else could I possibly talk about today! I’ve been watching the live coverage since about half past nine (chivvied by my mother, with her cries of, “You’re missing people arriving. The Beckhams! The BECKHAMS!”) and I’m totally swept away by the romance of it all. Kate’s–sorry, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge’s–dress was perfect, elegant and classic, setting a trend for brides for years, I’m sure. My house is festooned with Union flags, on tablecloths, bunting, and even my Demon Puppy has one tied bandanna-style around her neck. We’re not street-partying here, but we’ve planned a family party instead. And yes, there’s champagne. Oh boy is there champagne!

royalwedding1

The bottle isn't really sideways, but WordPress has decreed this is how it shall be displayed.

I’ll confess to being particularly delighted with all the bunting, flags and general Union flag paraphernalia around. There really couldn’t be better timing for someone with a Union flag on the cover of her book! I bought Royal Wedding decorations as an excuse to have them at my book launch…or is that the other way around?

he-observer-launch-photo

Oh, and I couldn’t fail to mention my book launch footwear either (even if I’ve no idea why WordPress has uploaded them upside down!).

tukshoes

They were the right way up at the launch. At least, I don't remember walking on the ceiling...

I’m feeling the urge to go and write about a wedding now…

Kate Johnson on coming out of your shell

It’s probably not much of a surprise if I say that most authors are pretty introverted. After all, our job includes–nay, demands!–many hours of solitary work, usually from home, without colleagues calling us up or passing by our desks, without watercoolers or ladies’ loos for gossiping. For my own part, I spend many hours a day at my computer, not just writing but blogging, researching, answering emails and Tweeting. What on earth authors did before social networking I’ve no idea–without it, I’d go insane! Well…you know. More insane.

But occasionally we have to come out of our shells and take part in the Real World. On Saturday I did this in the nicest possible way, by attending a Romantic Novelists Association meeting, going out to the pub and attending a fellow member’s book launch. On Wednesday I’m doing this in the scariest way possible, at least for me: a live phone interview with BBC Cambridgeshire.

On Air

Now, I’m assured that the DJ with whom I’ll be chatting, Sue Marchant, is absolutely lovely, and after all it’s not quite like a Newsnight grilling, is it? But for someone who rarely even speaks on the phone if she can help it, a chat with a stranger is pretty daunting–especially when it’s going out to half of East Anglia, as I recently discovered (the same show is broadcast on BBC Essex, Suffolk & Norfolk). Oh, and of course you can listen to it from anywhere via the BBC website.

So…yes, it’s making me a little apprehensive. But it’s something I’ve got to square up to, and it can’t possibly be as terrifying as I expect, can it? (Can it???) As my American friends say: Just put on your big girl panties, and deal with it!

Kate Johnson’s birthday party

It’s a funny thing, but I don’t know what normal people say when they’re wished a happy birthday. I always reply, “Happy St Patrick’s Day!” My brother replies, “Merry Christmas!” We’re not mad, that’s just when our birthdays are. And because I’m a generous soul, and I want you to celebrate with me, here’s my present to you: The Untied Kingdom book trailer.

For me, therefore, birthdays always involve Guinness. It’s physically impossible to be born on St Patrick’s Day and avoid the Guinness. People buy me pints of it without even being asked. I don’t mind, I quite like the stuff, but it doesn’t go so well with birthday cake. Speaking of cake, I have to share with you my favourite cake from the last few years:

Yes, I was a fully grown adult. And yes, David Tennant was delicious.

I’ll also share with you my favourite birthday present. It’s a present that comes with a tale, as well as two tails. Five years ago I was having a bad year, pet-wise. In the space of twelve months I lost three cats to cancer and a dog to heart failure. I was pretty miserable. By the time my birthday rolled around, I wasn’t expecting much. And when my parents gave me a card that said, “We owe you one cat,” I thought they meant a fluffy soft toy, which is sort of a tradition since I was a little girl.

But no, they meant a real one. A kitten, more specifically. Of course, when we went to see the litter, I couldn’t possibly choose between boy or girl so…well. That’s how Sugar and Spike ended up being my best ever birthday present!

Sugar & Spike, greeting my old cat Tinker for the first time

Sugar & Spike, greeting my old cat Tinker for the first time

Now tell me: what’s your best ever present? Tell me, and you could win a copy of The Untied Kingdom.

Sláinte!

Kate Johnson: The things we do for books

Thursday last found your scribe in some very interesting situations, such as watching teenagers pose for photos with Vanilla Ice (apparently it’s something to do with Jedward. Surely Ice Ice Baby was before any of them were born?), listening to witches sing, and investigating medieval bridges. But the most interesting, and unexpected, place I found myself was a hundred and forty feet above the Thames, taking pictures of fire exits. Why? Well, you’ll have to read The Untied Kingdom to find out. Of course, what made it especially interesting is the fact that I’m completely and utterly petrified of heights. Did I say ‘interesting’ there? I meant terrifying!

Tower BridgeThe view from the top!

See, just to prove I’m not lying, here’s the view from the North Tower. That tiny, insignificant collection of turrets is actually the Tower of London. It is really high up there!

Kate Johnson on Those Three Little Words

So, the other week I was incredibly excited to book tickets for Much Ado About Nothing at Wyndhams Theatre, not least because it’s starring David Tennant and Catherine Tate. But also because Much Ado is my favourite Shakespeare play. Heck, it’s one of my favourite plays, full stop. And it’s a funny one (literally), because what I love about it is not the main plot about the romance between Hero and Claudio, and how the evil Prince John tries to derail it, but the side plot about Beatrice and Benedick and how they seem fated to bicker their way into old age without ever confessing their true feelings for one another.

And one of my favourite scenes in the play is where Beatrice and Benedick confess their love for each other. It comes after Hero’s wedding has been ruined, and Benedick chances upon Beatrice weeping. Instead of sparring with him she lets out her true feelings—sorrow, anger, frustration–and Benedick can’t contain himself any longer. “I do love nothing in the world so well as you,” he tells her. “Is not that strange?”
It’s one of my favourite declarations of love. We, the audience, knew it all along, and deep down so did Beatrice, but Benedick’s found it pretty hard to comes to terms with. Even better is her response: after stammering her way through half an agreement, half a refusal of her feelings, Benedick coaxes and teases her until she cries, “I was about to protest I loved you.” “And do it with all thy heart,” Benedick says.
Beatrice replies, “I love you with so much of my heart that none is left to protest.”

There, that’s a bit of a showstopper, isn’t it? I still haven’t found anything to better it, either on stage or screen or in a book, although a few memorable declarations that spring to mind include:

Andrew Lincoln and Keira Knightley in Love, Actually, where he writes his feelings on a series of giant flashcards. “To me you are perfect, and my withered heart will love you until you look like this,” whereupon he shows her a picture of an Egyptian mummy. Bittersweet, poignant, funny, and ultimately hopeless, because she’s married to his best friend.

The Doctor and Rose in The Satan Pit episode of Doctor Who: About to throw himself into the lair of the Devil, the Doctor shouts over the intercom, “If they get back in contact–if you talk to Rose–just tell her…tell her…oh, she knows.” Since they’ve spent the entire series dancing around each other, we all know, too. At the end of the series, faced with the prospect of never seeing him again, Rose says simply, “I love you.” To which the Doctor, displaying that charm we all fell in love with, replies, “Quite right too.”

Spike in Buffy the Vampire Slayer: He tells Buffy he loves her several times, but it’s this one, from the penultimate episode, that’s so perfect. “I’m not asking you for anything. When I say I love you, it’s not because I want you, or because I can’t have you. It has nothing to do with me. I love what you are, what you do, how you try. I’ve seen your kindness and your strength. I’ve seen the best and the worst of you and I understand with perfect clarity exactly what you are. You are a hell of a woman. You’re the one, Buffy.” To which Buffy replies, “I don’t want to be the one,” and Spike, displaying charm to equal the Doctor’s, answers, “I don’t want to be this good-looking and athletic. We all have crosses to bear.”

And finally, from the first romance novel I can ever remember reading, Nicholas and Dougless in A Knight in Shining Armour by Jude Deveraux. Nicholas, a sixteenth-century nobleman, has been transported through time to fall in love with Dougless, a twentieth-century American, and he’s just about to—extremely unwillingly—be sent back: “I love you,” he whispered. “With all my soul I love you. Across time I will love you.”

I think I actually cried when I read that the first time. Of course, I was thirteen.

What are your favourite declarations of love in fiction? Do you think it’s necessary for characters to say those three little words or can they, like the Doctor and Rose, know it without ever being told?