We caught up with Modern author Kali Anthony to discuss her new book, Revelations of His Runaway Bride. Read on to find out more about the inspiration behind the book, as well as Kali’s journey to becoming a Mills & Boon author!
Thank you! The call was one of the most exciting things that has ever happened to me. I frankly can’t remember much of it because I was beside myself. But my editor sounded excited too, which made the conversation even better. I tried to write down what was said, but I only managed to scribble “two book deal” and the rest of it is now lost to me. All I can say, is that it was a thousand times better than you expect, and a once in a lifetime experience. Plus, it was lovely to hear my editor’s voice so now when I read her emails, I know what she sounds like. Though one tip for international calls, as mine was; there’s a time lag so you’ll end up speaking over one another in the chaos and thrill of it all!
Could you tell us a bit about your journey to becoming a published author?’
At fourteen I started writing my first romance, which I stopped because I realised the concepts were too adult for me. That story does not survive, which is a GOOD thing!
I gave up writing for many years, whilst studying and working. Life seemed to get in the way of what I considered to be a “hobby” though my love for the romance genre never left me. I always thought, “One day I’ll write a story.” That time came when my mum was diagnosed as terminally ill, nine years ago. She grabbed me by the shoulders and said, “Kali, you need to write.” I realised life was too short to wait, began writing the next day and have been writing ever since.
I always knew I wanted to write for Mills and Boon Modern. My first submission was rejected with some generous comments, so I hoped I was on the right track. Revelations of His Runaway Bride is the second book submitted which after a round of revisions, was accepted!
What advice would you give to aspiring romance writers?
The first, is to find your tribe. Writing can be a lonely business and you really need people who understand you, to keep you going when things get tough. You also need friends who understand that you have voices in your head who constantly talk to you (without thinking you’re crazy!)
The second piece of advice is to finish the book. I’ve heard of some writers having drawers full of the first three chapters, and nothing else. I understand that it can feel like a waste of time to write a whole book, when there’s no guarantee anyone will end up contracting it, but in my opinion you need to learn to write a beginning, a middle and an end. That only happens by doing.
The lessons I learned, ploughing through the dreaded “saggy middle” of many a story, leave me pretty confident that whilst I might get stuck, with a lot of thought and a little help from my writer friends, I can find a solution and get to a satisfying happy ending for my characters. I wouldn’t have been able to do that without lots of practice.
What was the inspiration behind your new book, Revelations of His Runaway Bride?
Around the time of my wedding anniversary a few years ago now, I wondered about writing a story where the heroine must marry someone she doesn’t want to. I couldn’t imagine facing that situation. The idea also posed a great challenge. Especially in making the hero a person the heroine could ultimately love, even when he refused to set the her free. It seemed like such an unforgivable thing to do.
When I started writing, the story leaped from the page. Christo and Thea were such vivid characters they took over my life for a good long while. Then as I was editing the manuscript, I discovered I had a half-brother and my father passed away, which mirrored the characters’ journey. Life in those moments, truly imitated art. Those emotions ended up in Thea and Christo’s story, and the book felt all the more real because it had happened to me. For this reason they’re two characters closer to my heart than many others I’ve written to date.
What do you love the most about writing romance stories?
I love the characters’ journey. Taking a person who’s broken in their own way, and showing their progression from hurt to healed, all because they want to be able to love honestly and fully.
The happy ending in a romance is a given, but the hero and heroine’s path to achieving that happy ending can be such a wrench to write, and yet my greatest satisfaction. It’s a joy to finally see your characters happy, loved and loving well. Living their best life, in spite of all the hurdles.
It’s only then, that I feel I can let them go.
What did you enjoy about writing for the Mills & Boon Modern series in particular?
I love the exotic locations and the glamour. You can really let your imagination run wild on setting and lifestyle. It’s a total escape, and what fantasies are made of.
More importantly for me though, is that the emotion is high in the Mills and Boon Modern series, and you must dig deep into your characters’ lives; what drives them and especially figuring out their deepest vulnerabilities. It’s such a challenge mining the hero and heroine’s secret hopes and fears. They surprise you some days, and that’s a thrill all of its own.
Another thing I love, is the fabulous team who surrounds and supports you. They help you strive to get the best for your characters and story. As an author, you can’t ask for more than that.
How would you describe your ideal romantic hero?
My ideal romantic hero is someone who has an innate sense of honesty and integrity, even if they’re making difficult and unpopular decisions. A hero needs to be a man who will do what he says he’s going to do. They should also have a strength, upon which the heroine can rely. I also love my heroes to have an intensity and single-minded focus. For the heroine, it must feel like she’s the only woman in the room, even if that room is full of supermodels. I have to say, there’s a little bit of my husband in every hero I write…
What do you do in your spare time when you’re not writing?
I love painting and sketching, particularly birds and flowers. To relax, I garden. My children want to learn how to grow their own food. It’s exciting because I have a vegetable garden on the footpath/sidewalk and share the produce with my neighbours, who put in requests for their favourite vegetables and flowers. It’s a community effort.
As a family, we enjoy travelling into the country and walking through the bush. We have so many rainforests close to where I live, that weekend bushwalks are favourite activity all year round.
I also collect vintage clothes. The forties is my favourite era, think Ingrid Bergman and Katherine Hepburn, but my oldest piece of clothing is a walking cloak from the 1890’s. And yes, I wear it all. My husband always says he’s never sure who’s going to answer the door when he comes home!
What’s in your TBR pile at home?
I haven’t been reading as much as usual, so my TBR pile is growing! The next four on my list are Contracted to Her Greek Enemy by Annie West (ALWAYS a Mills & Boon Modern for the win), One Kiss from the King of Rock by Ainslie Paton, Marrying His Runaway Heiress by Therese Beharrie, and Take a Hint Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert (on pre order). Each of these authors is an immediate “one click” for me. I don’t even look at the blurb, it’s just me reaching out with grabby hands for all of their books!
Can you give us a hint about any upcoming projects you’re working on?
My next story started with the quote, “Heaven hath no rage, like love to hatred turned.” I’m fascinated with what drives those kinds of strong emotions in a character. Unsurprisingly, it’s a revenge tale but also has shades of Romeo and Juliet. With a happy ending. Promise!
I also have an idea for a story based on the fairy tale, Rapunzel. That one is on the drawing board as we speak. The fun of a manuscript is how it evolves over time, so who knows how it will turn out!