Kate Allan

The online diary of Kate Allan, author

Saturday, April 30, 2005

Kate Harrison’s book launch party

A lively, glamorous bar in a smart part of the West End of London was the venue for the book launch party for Kate Harrison’s new book, The Starter Marriage.

Thursday evening and I’d met a friend for drinks first. With nonchalant confidence we informed the doorman we were here for Kate Harrison’s party. His frown turned to a smile and he withdrew his frame from the doorframe and let us past. The place was packed out. It was a basement room seemingly paint-effected in shades of fuschia with low lighting and the walls inset with tropical fish-tanks. It felt tropically hot. The barman put ice cubes in our glasses of white wine. I chatted to some interesting people from the BBC and a gentleman whose personal experiences had inspired the idea for the book.

Leaning up against the wall was a large poster for The Starter Marriage with its motifs of scattered roses. Animated conversations bounced between the bodies and blurred into the clink of glasses. Kate Harrison was charming and it was all over too quickly!

Best of luck with the book, Kate! I can’t wait to read it.

NB Guess what - Kate's also an authorblogger.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

And we have a winner!

Thank you to everyone who took the time and trouble to enter my very first blog competition. There were many super ideas, and it was actually very difficult to pick just one winner.

And so the winner is… drum roll… Nell Dixon.

The winning title is Manners and Morals which I think is a great title and would certainly work to give potential readers a clue that the story is something to do, or in the style of, or follower of, or from the school of Jane Austen.

Nell is also an authorblogger. Nell, please do e-mail me your address so I can send you a copy of The Lady Soldier.

I’m not able to use Manners and Morals for THE RAKE because it does not quite fit the story and the story’s themes, but the good news is that I do have a new title idea of my own which I think will work. Watch this space.

Authors in NW1
I went to an informal Society of Authors do on Tuesday evening, in the basement of a pub close to Marylebone in London. I had a scary moment as I recognised a lady, and she recognised me, and we couldn’t remember where until it came to her that it was at a film party last autumn. Since then we’ve both sold books and so it was great to catch up. Most people there were writing non-fiction or children’s fiction. When I said I wrote fiction, the question which came back straight away was ‘childrens or adult?
Not sure I’m up for introducing myself in future as a writer of ‘adult fiction’. I shall just keep saying ‘fiction’, I think.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Spring has sprung

Spring has sprung
The grass has riz


Spring has sprung because in Michelle Styles’s garden the ducklings have hatched.

Spring has sprung, but 320+ pages of a manuscript, currently known as THE RAKE, lie face down on top of my linen box. It’s waiting for a red pen to go through, with care, its slippery pages.
It’s also waiting for a title, I hope my competition will supply (enter now!)

Spring has sprung and McVane tries something fresh - she interviews not an author but
a reader of romance, Jorie. Jorie questions whether Georgette Heyer is a romantic novelist. Kate Allan says yes she is!

Spring has sprung resulting in Ants: 1, Kate Hardy: 0.

Spring has sprung and Shannon Stacey delivers in the opening line of a blog, what would be excellent opening line in a book:

After much debate, argument, and a first draft with a bushel of “rule” inconsistencies, I have no choice but to kill my hero.

Spring has sprung as The Lady Soldier book cover arrived on Saturday. Now, if only I had a scanner. (You can see the picture here of course but this is the bona fide cover). Meanwhile The Lady Soldier Amazon sales rank is at 24,530 meaning that there must have been a reasonable trickle of pre-orders post the initial flurry. Fingers crossed now that the people who read it first actually like it and tell all their friends!

NB Spring has not sprung yet in Pennsylvania.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Editing and Ruth Tomalin

I've spent about six hours editing THE RAKE today, and that's probably it. The story still makes me smile, and this is a good thing, I think. All I need to do now is print it out and go through it to do final line edits on paper. However, I've less than a ream of paper left, so there is not enough to do that and then also print out a clean copy to post off to Hale next week. So I'm off to the shops...

There's a new Rosemary Sutcliff blog started which has made me want to read the Eagle of the Ninth again. Except I think I loaned it to someone. It's one of the few children's books of mine which I've kept. I never had that many because I borrowed most of my reading from my school and local libraries. Next to it where it should be on the shelf is The Lantern Bearers, and The Children's Crusade by Henry Treece. There's also A Parcel of Patterns and Fireweed by Jill Paton Walsh. And then we come to A Summer Ghost by Ruth Tomalin. She knew my grandmother. I know, because the book is signed and I remember my grandmother talking about her. Looking up Ruth Tomalin on google I can only find out that she wrote several childrens books for Faber, and some biographies. And that she studied journalism in London immediately prior to the Second World War.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Very first blog competition!

Help! I need a title.

I have a title for THE RAKE (oh, and the good news is that Hale want to see the full manuscript) but I need a better title. Titles are vital to try and optimise. A great title will help a book sell. Simple as that.

I need a title that’s either a play on words of the title of a Jane Austen novel, or something else well known about Jane Austen. A title that will make someone think, ‘ah… Jane Austen?’

The rules are simple. E-mail me your ideas for a title, and I’ll pick the best. Your e-mail can contain as many title ideas as you like. Maybe you’ll see your title in print. At the very least I’ll be sending the winner an advance hardcover copy of The Lady Soldier, which I’ll try my very best to get to you before publication date of 31st May so you can read it before everyone else!

The closing date is Tuesday 26th April, midnight BST.

E-mail me from here, with ‘Blog competition’ in the subject line.

Please do not post your title ideas here. Doing so will invalidate your contest entry.
In entering the competition you agree to grant me exclusive and in perpetuity licence to let me use the winning title for THE RAKE across all media and geographies.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Mavis Cheek

I was lucky enough today to be invited to lunch with some lovely ladies, including author Mavis Cheek. Her latest novel, Patrick Parkers Progress, looks fascinating. She talked a little about Patrick Parker, how she felt allowed to write such a character after writing some nice men (because he is by all accounts a rather nasty piece of work) and some of the reader feedback she’d had.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Scottish winge

My name, as you may have gathered, is Kate Allan.

Now, it's not the most unique name in the world. Granted. However, it is Allan with an 'a'. A Scottish surname, e.g. as in the place Bridge of Allan etc.

Allen with an 'e' is largely an English surname. Perhaps the origin is Breton? I dunno... But it's a different kettle of fish.

Anyway, I know my Allan ancestors were in Scotland, and from at least the 15-hundreds (when parish records on microfiche begin) were in Lanarkshire, and wrote it Allan.

However, I'm referenced on a lot of blogs as Kate Allen. Does it bother me?

Sadly, yes.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Will The Rake sink or swim?

I was having a bit of a reorganisation of my hard drive yesterday (as you do on a Sunday) and started reading a manuscript I wrote first half of last year. Known to the public as THE RAKE I'd queried it with half a dozen US publishers last July, and been encouraged by getting personal feedback from HQN and Avon. As to the other four US publishers... zip. And it's now 9 months later.

On reading THE RAKE I found it really wasn't as bad as my memory was telling me. It is a Regency romance. The strongest straight romance I'd ever written. (Only one little kidnapping, highwayman incident and a couple more pieces of high jinks and trickery... ok, so it's more like the stuff I usually write!) It was inspired by the story of Jane Austen. Dear Jane was unlucky in love, so I wanted to create a lady novelist who had a similar disadvantaged background but to whom things turned out a little differently.

So, the upshot is that I posted a partial this morning to Robert Hale.

I know their Regency lists are very full, and they are more biased towards romantic adventure and gothics on their Regency list than straight romance, but... well, I'm a fatalist. And I also very much trust John Hale's judgement.

Sometimes an author can't judge her own work, and she has to send it out to see if it sinks or swims. So, I wait with interest to see what happens to THE RAKE and whether the story is strong enough to cut the mustard. I enjoyed writing it anyway, and it's a comedy. But I think it's especially difficult to get comedies taken seriously.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Why historical fiction?

The wip's shaping up heartily and I've written, so far, 4,000 words. Not bad for a week.

Unfortunately I'm going to stop for now as I have my column for Solander, the magazine of the Historical Novels Society, to write. I'd like to try and define what draws writers and readers to historical stories. If you're reading my blog chances are you like historical fiction, so you can help.

Why do you write / read historical fiction? Why, really? Do you read historical non-fiction as well? What other types of fiction do you read, and how does it differ from historical? Do you read all kinds of historical fiction? Or only specific sub genres?

Friday, April 15, 2005

Can't win them all

Well, the Radio 4 piece on Georgette Heyer went out this morning but I'd been edited out. Only a very short sentence from me, of such little import not to count whatsoever.

C'est la vie.

On today's plus side I had a storming idea for the wip. Prompted I think by feeling so tired that I was pushing my mind to stay awake on my train home. And therefore my imagination was spinning.

And McVane, another Brit blogger, picked up Writing Magazine.

Scary stuff.

I think it'll be when people buy my books and then write and tell me that I'll freak out a little. So far I'm in my own little world that tells me that no one apart from friends I personally bribe are going to buy the thing.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Small worlds and nice covers

It was nice yesterday evening, before I went to bed, to have a chance to actually read Writing Magazine, and see Diane Parkin, who visited this blog this week, writing about possible markets for freelancers in there. There was also a small piece on Mary de Laszlo, who has a book just out with my publisher Robert Hale. Speaking of Robert Hale authors, I visited Amanda Grange’s website and the cover of her book out out this month, Lord Deverill’s Secret, is gorgeous. I think it must be the same artist who did The Lady Soldier. I must try and find out.

Today the Romantic Novelists Association announced the winners of its major awards at the annual posh lunch at The Savoy. Not that I was there. I was in the middle of tearing my hair out as I was trying a draft a business paper for work against a fast ticking clock. Winner of the major award was The Good Voyage by Katharine Davies. The cover’s nice, but I was hoping to read a review or two on amazon to find a bit more than the blurb. Can't find a website either.

Winner of the Romance Prize is Liz Fielding. Liz is also shortlisted for RT and RITAs prizes which are the main awards for romantic fiction in the US. I was lucky enough at last year’s RNA conference to attend Liz Fielding’s workshop on novel openings and it was cracking stuff - like the start of one’s novel should be.

On the subject of great covers, new publisher Transita seem to be giving their authors the kind of book covers I like. I'm not their demographic because Transita is supposed to be only for women over 45, but I love the cover of Susie Vereker's Pond Lane and Paris - probably because it looks like a painting. And there are two words in the blurb which decided my purchase choice - Nancy Mitford.

So basically I'm reading it.

To be honest, most of the novels so far on the Transita fiction list look, well, largely interesting.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005


Radio 4:
The journalist called today to check something and said that they were planning to put the Georgette Heyer piece out on this Friday's Women's Hour. I can't wait to hear what I sound like on the radio. Not too bad, I hope. You don't have to be in the UK to hear it as Radio 4 is available digitally from the BBC website.

Society of Authors:
I had a letter yesterday confirming I've been elected to the Society of Authors, and with the latest copy of their magazine, The Author enclosed. I shall try and get to their next London party. It all feels kind of historic and awe-inspiring to me that I should be allowed to join such an august organisation, founded in 1884, who's first president was Lord Tennyson.

I've started the new wip! I find I have to have a title I'm happy with from the start. Something that kind of encapsulates the whole book. And I do, so I'm happy there.

I have to also have a generic title to refer to it in public, there not being copyright on titles and all that, so I'm going to refer to it as ASSASSIN as this is one of the key characters. It's basically a crime/thriller and I haven't written this genre before so the plan is to write the first 50 pages, and then query it. Nothing ventured...

So BIRDS goes on the backburner for now.

I doubt I shall make much progress this week as I'm currently busy editing some features for Solander, the magazine of the Historical Novels Society, which I must finish by the weekend.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, 1811

Online is the Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (Or A Dictionary of Buckish Slang, University Wit, And Pickpocket Eloquence). Published in 1811, it looks a great resource BUT be warned that there' s a history of this type of publication, from Robert Greene's 1592 pamphlets which claimed to reveal the life and cant of rogues in the lower orders - the so-called 'connie-catchers' (con merchants).

The Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue is of course supposed to be a humorous pastiche (Read the preface and consider that kind of thing is still being published today e.g. Chav! A User's Guide to Britain's New Ruling Class.)

However, much of the slang it contains is genuine. Cross-reference to be sure. And ignore any entries marked 'cant'. They've been lifted from previous work of this type, originally dating back to Robert Greene.

Here are some phrases in the dictionary which are genuine Regency slang and I rather like:

to kick up a dust - make a disturbance
to cut - renounce acquaintance
Dutch comfort - cold comfort
fobbed off - decieved with false pretences
Hackney writer - one who writes for attornies or booksellers
nettled - provoked, out of temper
nicknacks - baubles, or curiosities
kettle of fish - when a person has perplexed his affairs
footpads - foot robbers
in pickle - in a salivation
pig - a police officer
quack - a pretender to skill in physic
a quid - a guinea
ramshackled - out of repair
Welch rabbit - bread and cheese toasted
wild-goose chase - a tedious uncertain pursuit
Hobson's choice - that or none

Saturday, April 09, 2005

All's fair in love and war

'They say all's fair in love and war and it has certainly been a winning combination for a writer from St Albans,' writes Caroline Grant in this week's Herts Advertiser.

I picked up a copy in town earlier this morning. This was the result of Monday's telephone interview.

I received a lovely e-mail out of the blue from someone in the Historical Novels Society thanking me for mentioning the society in my interview for Writing Magazine, and I've also received an e-mail from someone I met at the Napoleonic Fair:

He writes, 'Just read your extract, excellent stuff!!! It will certainly be a "can't put it down," book. You have definately captured the essence of the time in your writing.'

Btw, I have the first chapter of The Lady Soldier as an e-mailable .pdf. If you would like a copy, please drop me an e-mail through my website.

This week been shockingly busy with the proper job and I really must spend some of today doing something of no merit whatsoever and try and break out of this time-guilt habit whereby I feel I should be doing something productive 24/7. I bought some DVDs from Woolworths and intend to fit at least two films in today.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Writing Magazine

I went to my writer's circle this evening and three ladies all said, 'Kate! What a surprise!' and 'Kate! On the cover!' and other things, and I was a bit stumped for a bit, until Writing Magazine*, which came out today, was mentioned.

This was an interview I did after chatting to the journalist Gillian Thornton,at an Ottakar's bookshop event. She lives quite near me, but we hadn't really met before. So we got talking, and to me it shows the power of getting out and about, and not just sitting at home thinking, 'I'm a writer, they can come to me,' (because they won't).

Anyway, back to being assailed. How did I feel? Answer: scared.

I'm now getting used to people asking me at parties the kind of questions an author might be expected to be asked. But having people read about you, and mention it to you, when you haven't seen the publication, is, well... simply strangely disconcerting.

* On sale in WHSmiths now, and all that.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Georgette Heyer for Radio 4

Yesterday I took part in a panel discussion to set up a feature which Radio 4's Woman's Hour are doing on Georgette Heyer. It'll probably be broadcast next week, so watch this space. I'll post as soon as I have the transmission details.

I've not done such a thing for Radio before so it was very interesting. There were four of us in the discussion and we talked about why Georgette Heyer is still so popular today, and why she was such a great, and perhaps somewhat overlooked, writer. It was interesting to see how Radio gets recorded. We had to go back and repeat things we'd said that were not clear, or if talk overlapped.

It will probably get edited down to 5-10 minutes, and will be the lead-in to the rest of the feature involves an more in-depth discussion about Heyer by Margaret Drabble.

We were all very positive about Heyer, but then... I hold her in very high regard and think she's been enormously influential, and most authors I speak to seem to feel the same.

At the International Napoleonic Fair on Sunday, several men confided to me that they very much enjoyed reading Georgette Heyer.

Well, I can't think how anyone could not enjoy her.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Time to be honest

I'm not actually enjoying writing BIRDS.

The fact shows by the fact I'm hardly writing it. It's not even a grit-teeth-cos-its-got-to-be-done kind of feeling. It's just... a lack of passion in becoming involved in the story.

I managed to catch up today with a reporter from one of the local papers. We had a short telephone interview. She'd seen my Kate Allan and Jennifer Lindsay websites and so was well prepared to ask questions.

I wasn't prepared to hear my honest answers about why I wrote.

I enjoy it, and I want to entertain. Yet I am writing a story about misery.

Why did I start writing BIRDS? Well, I was strongly recommended by a literary agent to write sagas. There is a gap, perhaps, at the moment in that market. The rewards are financially viable.

At the moment complex emotional analysis is too mentally and physcially exhausting. My characters in BIRDS all have big problems, and I'd rather be flippant and dashing.

Knew those redcoats would be a bad influence.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

A most agreeable day

I'm aching. Getting home after today's first skirmish into the world of author event marketing, and having a glass of Cabernet was bliss. I've been on my feet all day. No time even for lunch.

There at 9.30am to set up. I had a long table onto which we put a cloth and then my leaflets, order forms and excerpts, trying to arrange them to look pretty. The doors opened at 10am, and my talk on 'Researching the Regency... and lady soldiers,' was at 11am (the written version will be up on www.jenniferlindsay.com soonish).

Between 12noon and 2pm was the main rush of people, so I was stuck behind my table, taking some pre-orders for the book, but mostly chatting to people and trying to give out the excerpt (people were reluctant, not realising it was free). After it got quieter I had some time to go around the fair myself and meet some interesting people, especially from the re-enactment societies, and learn things. I got to handle some of the replica weapons used in the Sharpe TV series, and also picked up an excellent looking book on 1806-7 Poland campaign. (One day my Polish Napoleonic story will find itself!)

I was interested to meet Mick Crumplin, Honoury Curator of the Royal College of Surgeons, who has advised on the surgery in Master and Commander, and to author Allan Mallinson, and who gave a lecture which everyone seemed to be bowled over by on Napoleonic surgery. Unfortnately I couldn't make his lecture but did get a chance to see his fascinating display of original artefacts and surgical instruments. Shudder.

Photos below.

Redcoats can't wait to get their hands on The Lady Soldier
(c) K Allan

Flanked by the 95th Rifles
(c) K Allan

At the International Napoleonic Fair
(c) K Allan

Writing the d*$% book is only the start

185 ish copies of giveaway excerpt - check!
550 ish copies of A5 teaser leaflet - check!
100 ish copies of A4 order leaflet - check!
1 copy of vague talk plan - check!
1 empty printer ink cartridge - check!
6 colour posters - check!
1 digital camera - check!
10 ish pens - check!
1 pair of scissors - check!
1 stapler - check!
2 tablecloths - check!
1 pile of business cards - check!
Head screwed on - check!

Ok, better get some sleep then before the morning and the big day.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

The women who bring you love

In the post this morning a rather dark and blurred photocopy of some pages from the Newcastle Journal's Culture magazine - a copy of the cover with the teaser, The women who bring you love, and three pages from inside - a long feature on members of the RNA's Border Reiver's chapter, including Michelle Styles, Benita Brown, Gwen Kirkwood, Margaret Carr, Erica Yeoman and Anna Lucia.

'First novel co-written with fellow RNA member Kate Allan', Tamzin Lewis writes in her profile of Michelle Styles, 'is published by Robert Hale in May. It's under the name Jennifer Lindsay, a combination of the two women's middle names.'

Along with the feature, in a competition to win ten copies of Benita Brown's The Captain's Daughters and ten copies of The Lady Soldier. I wonder how many people will enter the competition?

'Romantic fiction is a multi-million pound business embracing chick-lit, saga, comedy, historical novels, regency romps and classic bodice rippers,' writes Tamzin Lewis. 'Jilly Cooper epics, Joanna Trollope aga sagas, Carole Matthews comedies and Mills and Boon monthly romances all fall under its heart-shaped umbrella.'

I'm missing the RNA London chapter meeting today, unfortunately, because a frantic week at work means I'm behind and must get things ready for tomorrow.

Friday, April 01, 2005

The Lady Soldier is an amazon fast seller!!!

I posted this post first at 1.57pm this afternoon in deep shock / surprise because I'd looked at The Lady Soldier on amazon.co.uk and it had a sales ranking of 1,268! What?! Shock that it had a sales ranking at all - it's only just gone up on amazon after there was some delay with Robert Hale's fiction catalogue - and double shock to see it with such a high ranking.

Research into amazon sales ranking showed that the top 10,000 sellers are updated hourly on past 24 hours sales. Ok.

Then I remembered I'd e-mailed some close friends yesterday to let them know the book was up on amazon now. And a friend had e-mailed me back to say that he'd ordered it. The first sale I was sure and I e-mailed him to say so. Thanks, old friend! :)

Then author Kate Walker was kind enough to inform me that Thursday and Fridays are slow amazon sales days - hence just a few sales can produce these spikes.

In the meantime I e-mail Michelle. Maybe it's an April Fool but she has to see the amazon ranking... quick! It's a mirage maybe, any moment it might disappear.

Now, I am at work trying to do a million and one things before the week draws to a close, and the next thing is that the sales ranking has gone up to 835!

So this is one day in the UK on one online bookseller, but my book, based on pre-orders has made it into the top thousand amazon fast sellers. What?!

And then Michelle reminded me that the Newcastle Journal's Culture magazine came out this week with their interview of Michelle Styles, co-author of The Lady Soldier, and also the competition to win copies. Can't wait to read the article!

So... the spike explained. I think.