Last night, the double-nominated and utterly lovely Kate Hardy won the prestigious RoNA ROSE Award for her charming Bound By A Baby. I caught up with her, post-champagne, to chat about RoNAs, ballroom dancing and the importance of challenging romance-snobbery!
1 Congratulations on your recent RoNA win! You’ve won before, of course, and this year two of your novels were nominated. Were you expecting it?
Absolutely not – it was a total surprise and I’m so thrilled!
2 What do you think makes Bound by a Baby so special?
It’s about second chances – and it’s about people learning to grow and change, overcome their past and fulfil their real potential. (And bits of it are set in Paris, which for me vies with Venice for being the most romantic city in the world – the bits of Paris I really like, too!)
3 Additionally, Emmy Jacobs is a strong woman, who has a career of her own. How important do you think it is to portray strong women in romance novels?
Very important – if either character is weaker than the other, then the relationship won’t be equal and it just won’t lead to a happy ending.
I like writing for both, for different reasons. With Cherish, I get to focus really tightly on the hero and heroine (and I also get to play with, ahem, different occupations – my next book out, Behind the Film Star’s Smile, has a police dog trainer who then starts to work for a film director). With Medicals, I get to do all the nerdy science that I love. So it’s the best of both worlds for me!
5 At University you specialised in Old English and Thomas Hardy – how has this influenced the way you write today?
Wulf and Eadwacer (from The Exeter Book) is the first love poem written in English (well, Old English) – so the theme of star-crossed lovers definitely influences my work. And Thomas Hardy – I think it’s fairly well known that he’s the reason behind my writing name. With Hardy, there’s a real sense of landscape, to the point where the landscape is actually a character in the book, and for me my settings are really important. I like to feel that although my book is a fantasy, it’s grounded in the real world. And this is where I have to admit that I’m a bit of a Method author – I like to get the details right! So with Ballroom to Bride and Groom I talked my husband into having ballroom dance lessons with me to help me get into the right mindset. (Two years later, we’re still dancing – and that was why it was an extra thrill that Darcey Bussell gave me the award!)
6 Romance is continually vilified, both in the UK press, and by society in general. Do you think it’s important to challenge people’s preconceptions of romance?
I think it’s a shame there’s so much snobbery out there, and really the nay-sayers are missing out on some excellent books. People enjoy films where people fall in love and have a happy ending – and that’s the sort of book I enjoy writing (and reading, too, though I do read other genres as well). Why challenge it? For the sake of my readers. I had a letter from a reader once that said when she’d had a bad day, she’d pick up one of my books and she’d come away feeling that the world is a better place. I love the fact that I can help people lift their mood like that – and for me it’s also paying it back, because in tough times I’ve found that a good escapist romance has really helped me coped.
7 What are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on a Christmas book for Cherish at the moment – with a heroine who loves Christmas and a hero who loathes it. And as he’s challenged her to prove that the magic of Christmas exists, I’m having a lot of fun!