I discovered Kate Noble’s books by chance – I got a batch of books sent to me by Berkley (thank you Berkley) and amongst them there was this mass market paperback called Revealed. I liked the look of it, I thought the title was intriguing and I thought the cover was pretty. I had never heard of the author before so I decided to give it a go. And holy guacamole! The book proved to be absolutely delightful; so much so it already has a safe stop on my top 10 of 2009. After I reviewed the book, I received an email from Kate Noble thanking me for my review and offering me a copy of her first book, Compromised. I have to tell you the truth, I squeeeeeed like a fangirl and said yes. That book proved to be very good as well and then it was settled: Kate Noble is an author to keep an eye on, folks!
It is with great pleasure that we invite you to read our chat with this new author who on top of being very talented, it is also funny and oh, so Very Cool – I mean, come on, she loves Harry Potter and Deadwood! (and the details of the giveaway are at the end of the post):
The Book Smugglers – Thanks for joining us for this chat, Kate!
Kate Noble: Thanks for having me! I’m so excited to be here, I discovered the Book Smugglers just this year and have been procrastinating to your reviews and Lost recaps ever since.
The Book Smugglers- Ok. Let’s get right to business, shall we?
Kate Noble: Yes, of course. None of this namby-pamby small talk for us. We are efficient, business-like individuals, who can type at the speed of sound with one hand while sipping on a crisp sauvignon blanc with the other… oh, I’m sorry, what were you saying?
The Book Smugglers: I read both of your books and what struck me the most is how they are unlike the majority of romance novels I read. The hero is not the BEST at everything nor is the heroine. Your stories so far have a degree of, and I am using this word in a VERY positive way, moderate actions and behaviour – is that intentional? Do you see yourself as someone who is writing something “different” in the genre?
Kate Noble : It was my first try; I didn’t know I broke the rules. Sorry, I’ll pay for the repairs.
Seriously, it wasn’t my intention to write something “different” within the genre. I just wrote the kind of story I like. I am aware that a huge part of the appeal of romance novels is fantasy and escapism, and a lot of authors out there play into that, having the hero be beyond what we readers meet/see everyday. Super rich, looks like Brad Pitt, dark brooding demeanour. Heroines who know kung fu and have perfect hair. And I have read and loved a lot of books like this. But at the end of the day, I had to spend a year with these characters when writing, and I wanted to them to be full, people I could have a conversation with. That meant the fantasy aspect had to fall away a little bit, because I honestly don’t know what I would say if I ever met Brad Pitt.
It was also important to me that these characters exist in the world I’ve placed them in – Regency England. Which means that moderate behaviour is necessary. Its one of the things I like best about the period. Small actions have massive resonance. Ignoring a proffered hand is akin to spitting on someone in the street. A single, spare look across the room has more meaning stuffed into it than a Charlie Kaufman film.
The Book Smugglers – speaking of being moderate – your heroes, they are both Beta heroes, the kinder, gentler kind who seem more real than the Alpha types. Why Beta heroes? Do you have a preference for those in your reading as well?
Kate Noble: Aside from personal preference (I always thought Molly Ringwald should have gotten together with Duckie, not Blane) both of my heroes are fairly beta probably because neither of my heroines are. Don’t get me wrong, both Max and Marcus can be aggressive, do-what-needs-doing men who when necessary, kick some ass, but the relationships they have with the heroines wouldn’t work if they didn’t have a little give in them. Gail and Phillippa both have a level of stubbornness and assertiveness that would make them ill suited for typical romance novel alpha males.
The Book Smugglers – Let’s talk about sex:
Kate Noble: Yes let’s! Waiter, more wine please!
The Book Smugglers: Your books also have less sex scenes than I am used to reading these days and they are more on the “warm” side of the heat scale. Are you happy with your sex scenes – do you feel any pressure to heat things up?
Kate Noble: Yeah, I write fewer sex scenes. But it’s like swearing. If you say f*@! every seventh word, it kinda loses its intensity. But when the time comes that you really really really need to swear (giving birth comes to mind) the words are gone, because you gave them away.
Case in point, I once read a romance novel (romance, not erotica – erotica’s its own thing) where the characters always had sex three times in a row. It was their shtick. This happened, oh, four times over the course of the book. So, twelve sex scenes. 20 pages per scene, that’s 240 pages of sex. 240 pages of euphemisms for penis and vagina, and only about 60 pages of character development/plot/backstory/etc. By the end of the book I was exhausted, but I couldn’t tell you a single thing about the story.
That said, I am very happy with my sex scenes, because they are what are right for the characters. They serve the story, the arc, not the scene. Sex is not the point of the book, sometimes it’s not even the emotional climax (insert ‘climax’ joke here) of the story. But it’s an integral part. And thankfully, my agent and editor seem to be happy too, because they have never once asked me to insert (insert ‘insert’ joke here) more hot-and-heaviness. And as for them being ‘warm’ and not explicit, that’s a stylistic choice… I try to keep my language as close to period as possible (although I know I fail abysmally at times) and most authors from the early 19th century didn’t go into the mechanics of the reverse cowgirl (except possibly Sade – I’d have to check.)
I apologize if the preceding paragraphs are disjointed – all this talk of sex got me flustered.
The Book Smugglers– One thing that I noticed that was present in both Compromise and Revealed is the commentary on High society in England circa early 19th century. How do you research for your books?
Kate Noble: Um, I read a lot?
Reading is the vast majority of my research into the time period. I have shelves and shelves of books on British nautical history, British social history, the history of the British press, the history of the British horse stable… but have you ever noticed the more things change, the more they stay the same? The conniving courts of medieval Kings become the aristocratic social hierarchy of Georgian and Regency England becomes the knickerbockers and four hundred families of Victorian New York becomes Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan being spotted at Thor and having their spats via twitter.
It’s not that difficult to imagine what it was like then because at its core it’s not that different now.
The Book Smugglers: Both your books were first released as Trade Paperback instead of mass market paperback. How did you feel about this decision? Do you see that as an attempt to market your book to a wider audience? Did you discuss this with your publisher at all?
Kate Noble: When I first signed with Berkley, the intention was to have me publish in mass market only – then a couple months later I received a call saying they wanted to try me in trade, with a mass market reprint a year later. Berkley, and a lot of other houses, were starting to dip their toes in trade publishing at the time, and thought since I’m new, and my books are a little longer-than-average-romance-length, I would be a good candidate. I was still fairly green publishing-wise, so I didn’t have a lot of experience with trade, most of what I’d buy was mass market. But I thought, what the heck, you’re only new once, when else am I going to be gutsy with my career? And trade has proved to be a growing format – heck Nora Roberts’ latest is in trade. (I see it in the store all the time, and it tempts me. But Nay! I cannot buy any more books until I read down the pile!).
So yes, I am very happy with this decision, because not only can I
spot my book from ten paces away on the shelves, but it gives the book a longer life (what with the reprint a year later) and my mom is happy because she can read the type (three words: coke bottle glasses. This is my future, people.)
The Book Smugglers– in the end of your latest book, Revealed, there is a hint of more adventures to come re the French spies in England (without spoiling too much), do you plan to pick up things were you left off?
Kate Noble Hmm. Um. I will say this: The French spies may have to go underground a little while and regroup. But – we will see Byrne Worth again.
The Book Smugglers- can you talk about how you decided to become a writer and why you write romance?
Kate Noble: I was always that kid who wanted to be told a story. This translated into a crippling addiction to books and television, but it also made me want to be involved in the storytelling. I worked in a book/movie store in high school, and entertained a fantasy of being a Disney animator for a while (though now I suppose it would be Pixar. But how cool would it be to work at Pixar? They get to decorate their offices any way they want!)
I went to school for Film. But I was sucktastic at directing, picking camera angles, holding the boom mike, etc… but I was good at writing the script. That’s when I really started playing with characters, scenarios – not even for school, just for kicks. When you block out a chapter for fun, you know you’re hooked. Its funny, most people come to movies from books, I came to books from movies.
And I write romance because… I love it. It’s what I read on rainy days, sunny days. It’s the kind of story that’s going to keep me reading late into the night.
The Book Smugglers – How was your path to publication?
Kate Noble: It was fairly out of the ordinary, from what I’m told. Although it seemed pretty normal to me. I wrote a book (what is now Compromised) and after entering chapters in RWA contests (which helped a great deal, and if nothing else, taught me how to take criticism and rejection) and revising and revising some more, I queried agents via snail mail. Twenty queries later, I got a bite from the Jane Rotrosen Agency, and they asked to see the whole book, and signed me. The fact that I got an agent off of a snail mail query is the out of the ordinary part, according to people who know more than I do. More revisions, and about nine months later, I was signed to Berkley with the estimable Cindy Hwang.
From writing the first sentence of the first book to publication was about four years.
The Book Smugglers – Are you happy with writing Historical Romance or do you have plans on diversifying?
Kate Noble: I love historical romance, and I can’t imagine a time when it won’t be a part of my life. But there are a couple stories in my head that are contemporary and sci-fi — maybe one day I’ll play around with them.
The Book Smugglers – Who are your major writing influences? Which authors do you love?
Kate Noble: Well, lets just get the Jane Austen thing out of the way, shall we? Love her, love her books, read Pride and Prejudice when I was fifteen and have been waiting for Mr. Darcy ever since. But the thing I love most about her writing is how you are immediately plopped down into the middle of her world. Every character, every nuance, every shade is real. I’m reading and enjoying a lot of Elizabeth Gaskell these days, but that’s one aspect her writing lacks.
Other influences/loves: J.K. Rowling. I will probably never write a children’s book or one about a school for wizards, but I’m in awe of her imagination. Also her powers of description are amazing. Reread the section of the first one where she describes the banquet food for the first time. I get hungry just thinking about it.
The first author I started reading religiously was Amanda Quick. When I discovered Julia Quinn I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. Witty comeback heaven. And I was addicted to the Elizabeth Peters Amelia Peabody series.
And since I’m such a huge movie/TV geek, I’ll give you some screenwriters: Billy Wilder, who wrote everything from Sunset Boulevard to Sabrina to Some Like it Hot to The Apartment. He was prolific, zany, cynical, and full of heart. And David Simon. Specifically, his television series the Wire. Talk about creating and showcasing an entire world, from every angle. The good guys aren’t always good and the bad guys aren’t always bad – it’s all about the choices we are given, and the ones we make. Honorable mention goes to David Milch for the Shakespearean dialogue of Deadwood.
The Book Smugglers: If you were stranded on a desert island, what five books would you bring with you?
Kate Noble: Only five? Who’s gonna make that choice, Sophie?
1 & 2. Pride and Prejudice, and Persuasion by Jane Austen – the first because it’s her most entertaining work, and the last because it’s her best. The agony of the what-ifs of life!
3. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling – my fave of the series.
4. The Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook – because I’m stranded on a desert island, so no one will be bringing me margaritas.
5. I’m trying to think of something important and interesting for the last one, but truth be told, I’d probably grab whatever book is currently atop my TBR pile. You gotta leave some things up to chance, right?
The Book Smugglers – other than the sequel to Revealed, do you have anything else planned?
Kate Noble: After the sequel to Revealed, there will be the sequel to the sequel to Revealed. Then, and only then, will I be permitted to sleep.
The Book Smugglers: We Book Smugglers are faced with constant threats and criticisms from our dear significant others concerning the sheer volume of books we purchase and read—hence, we have resorted to ‘smuggling books’ home to escape scrutinizing eyes. Have you ever had to smuggle books?
Kate Noble: Being significant other-less, I have no one putting limitations on the number of books I can have… however, I do live in New York City, where rents are high and square footage is low, so my main constraint is just how much stuff I can fit into my place.
Now, last year was my first RWA National conference, in San Francisco. I had an incredible time, but the most exciting part for me was when I discovered the free book situation. Every house had a couple hours where their authors signed and gave away free books.
I went a little nuts.
By the time I came out of my frenzy, I had amassed somewhere in excess of 100 pounds of books. I had to have them shipped home, I couldn’t smuggle them in my luggage – not only would I have gone over weight restrictions, the zipper wouldn’t close.
When the books arrived at my apartment, I looked at the boxes and realized my TBR pile was now to the ceiling, so I did a very painful sorting, where I decided to give away about 2/3 of what I brought back (most to libraries, some to my sister). The remaining 1/3? Well, it’s been about 10 months since the conference, and I’m still nowhere near the bottom.
What am I gonna do this year?
So that’s it folks. I hope you enjoyed reading this interview as much as I did. A big thank to Kate Noble for agreeing to it!
Now for the giveaway:
Thanks to the generosity of Berkley and Kate Noble, we have 2 copies of Compromised and 2 copies of Revealed to give away! All you have to do it to leave a comment on this post telling me which one would you prefer. To help you choose you can read my review of Compromised here and of Revealed here. Contest runs till Sunday noon Central and is open to everyone. And to make things a bit more different this time, since I want to spread the Kate Noble love around the net: if you blog about the contest, you get another entry (just post the link to your post in the comments as well!). That’s it: good luck and we will announce the 4 winners in our Sunday Stash.