Monday, May 07, 2007

Birthday Girl

Mitch and I (and Gunnar and Micah and The Prof) want to extend birthday greetings today to our very dear friend Kate Walker.

I've made many friends in the time I've been writing, and all of them have enriched my life in many and varied ways. I could spend lots of blogs celebrating them, and it's not a bad idea. I think I'll have to do that.

So let me begin with Kate.

She has been writing for Harlequin Mills & Boon almost exactly as long as I have. I think our first books came out within a few months of each other -- and she's celebrating the publication of her 50th book next month.

I didn't know Kate personally until Barbara McMahon got the Mills & Boon authors' loop going. It was a cut-and-paste effort that Barbara put together every evening from emails we sent to her during the day. It was our first online effort at communication with each other (pretty much to the dismay of our publisher who, at the time, frowned on authors spending a lot of time communicating with each other when their time could be more profitably (literally) spent writing books).

But there were other advantages to doing it -- we got to meet friends and, in some cases, virtual soulmates -- other women who sat in their offices and wrote books about imaginary people all day. We weren't all alike by any means, but we often had a lot in common. And we talked via email and asked and answered questions.

It was when I asked a question about castles in England that I began to get to know Kate. I was querying not for a book, but for one of my sons who was intrigued by castles. And Kate, who had a son just a bit older (a year and a day, in fact) knew the answer. She had a lot to say about good castles to visit. She even suggested that if the son in question came to England, she'd see that he got to them.

As it happened, the son didn't get there, but his parents did. And Kate and her husband invited us to come stay a few days with them. I'm sure they wondered what they were getting into. I mean, we'd met online, but never in person (except a 'hello, how are you?' at an authors' day in London five years before). So it was with a certain amount of anxious "um, is this a good idea?" that we turned up at the local railway station to be met by Kate and her husband.

The question, Is this a good idea? lasted perhaps 30 seconds. Maybe less. And by the time we'd had a cup of tea in a local hotel, it was clear that it was a Very Good Idea indeed. Kate and I had tons to talk about. We finished each other's sentences.

And the husbands? They didn't finish each other's sentences. They talked right over the top of each other. They talked and talked and talked. They both taught university level English courses. They didn't talk to anyone who understood their passions all year long. Now they had found each other. They never shut up.

Over the past six years, Kate and her husband and The Prof and I have met up in various parts of the world. We have not only done London and Sydney and Auckland together, we have done Millom and Hurst Green and Bole. We have prowled the cemeteries of Aighton, Bailey and Chaigley. We have trundled up and down Lincoln's Steep Hill. We have eaten amazing fishy delights (well, Kate and I have) in Coogee Beach and have had one of the best Thai meals I've ever eaten in, believe it or not, Millom.

Last February, while The Prof, sadly, had to teach, the other three of us, accompanied by Nancy the cat slayer, went to Ireland. We visited garden centers and castles and had tea every 5o kilometers whether we needed it or not. We navigated narrow country lanes in pitch black rain storms and downed Guinnesses in memorable Irish pubs. We slogged through rain to see donkeys who never appeared, we did research on Irish country houses and closed a restaurant with Abby Green and Jimmy Nesbitt. We made memories that will last all of us a lifetime.

That's what friends are for -- Being there. In person. On the phone. In an email.

That's Kate.

She writes brilliant, emotional books that are, to me, like drinking whiskey neat. They are so concentrated, so vivid, so intense that I don't know how she does it. I get exhausted just reading them. I couldn't begin to write them (I'd be an emotional wreck). But Kate does it because she must -- and because she can. And every one of them is a gift to readers everywhere.

Sometime next month I get to write a piece in celebration of Kate's 50th book on her blog. So I will have to save a few things to say there. But in the meantime, let me just say, "HAPPY BIRTHDAY, KATE! You are a dear and wonderful friend."


Blogger Kate Walker said...

Aaah thank you! You're making me blush. I treasure our friendship.

I'm just so glad that you asked the castle question And the 'is this a good idea' feeling only really lasted until you smiled!

I never expected the Profs' non stop talking though

We've been to some great places together haven't we - where next? And can Sid come too?



07 May, 2007  
Blogger Christa said...

Happy Birthday Kate

07 May, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I actually have a tear in my eye...lovely post Anne, and happy birthday again to Kate...
x Abby

07 May, 2007  
Blogger India said...

Wonderful post for a wonderful person, Anne! Happy Birthday Kate!

08 May, 2007  
Blogger Lee Morrison said...


08 May, 2007  

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