Timeless Stories, by Kate Walker

by Kate Walker, author of The Good Greek Wife? (Harlequin Presents Extra, October 2010)

When my editor called me to ask if I would write a book to be part of the new Greek  Tycoons miniseries,  I was intrigued, excited,  wondered how this was going to work.  Because what she wanted from me was not just a  story about  a modern Greek Tycoon – the sort of alpha Presents  hero who is so very popular with our readers  – but something slightly different. She wanted  a Greek Tycoon whose story was taken from the ancient Greek Myths and then brought very much up to date and turned into a Modern Romance – a Presents type of story.

I’ve written several Greek heroes. Looking back over my backlist, I’ve found six of them, starting with Constantine’s Revenge which had my very first ever Greek hero – and that’s a book that has been one of my very best sellers.  I loved writing him – he was full  of strength and  arrogance, dark, powerful   and dangerous (to my heroine’s peace of mind at least!)  and I enjoyed giving him that ‘hubris’ – the sort of  excessive pride that would usually cause the downfall of the hero in the ancient Greek tragedies. It certainly almost caused Constantine’s downfall as he came close to losing the love of his life because  of it.

All my Greek heroes have been like that – strong, proud, determined men  but a little blind when it comes to matters of the heart. It’s what makes them fascinating to write, and really enjoyable to read in other authors’ books.  Very like the ancient Heroes (these heroes need a capital H)  of Greek legends.  So  it didn’t surprise me that the editors had thought that they were the type of men who would inspire great Presents stories.   Those characteristics  make a great hero at any time – whether back in classical times or now in  a very  Modern setting.  Heroes like Hercules,  Achilles, Jason – and the man I chose to inspire my story Odysseus or Ulysses, the king of  Ithaca  who was the one who came up with the idea of the Trojan Horse. ( This bit of the story meant that I had some very difficult research to do – studying the film Troy starring Brad Pitt, Eric Bana, Orlando Bloom,  Owain Yeoman – and , of course Sean Bean as Odysseus – and using it to give me inspiration. It’s a hard job but someone has to do it.) He was not just a warrior, but a clever man too.

A king, a warrior and a practical thinker – that would have been enough to get my imagination working. But then  there was  the rest of his story  – after Troy – when Odysseus  struggled to get home, went missing for ten years. A man who goes missing for years and whose wife waits at home, never knowing if he is coming back or not. That was just the inspiration I needed. It was a story that worked whether  it was set in ancient Greece or brought right up to date  in the 21st century. The sort of story that fitted perfectly into the  Presents line–up.    Because that, for me, is one of the great – the greatest  – things about writing for Presents. The stories we create are timeless, they have elements that appeal to all times, all ages.  Our heroes are heroes for now and all time.    And the themes  and emotions that we write about – passion,  revenge, lust, anger, longing  – and of course, most important of all, love,  are emotions that intrigue and appeal to readers  no matter what century – or what country – they live in.

And it was as I was writing this story that I got a new insight into why Presents  romances are so consistently popular and have been for so long. The emotions and the passions that the authors write about are truly the ‘classic’ emotions – feelings that are as old as time and never change fundamentally, no matter what era or place the book is set in. Whether the hero is an ancient Greek warrior or a Modern Greek Billionaire, the central core of the story – that love conquers all – is always essentially the same. And that’s what makes a classic love story. And a classic love-story is what I hope I”ve created in A Good Greek Wife?

My ‘Odysseus’ – Zarek Michaelis – isn’t a king but  a Greek shipping magnate who went missing for two years after an attack on his boat (the Troy). And like the original, when he returns he find that his wife Penny (Odysseus’ wife was called Penelope) has new suitors, all wanting to take over the kingdom (or in this case the company) he owned. So he has to prove himself to his wife and she has to prove that she has stayed faithful and loving all the time he has been missing. They have to get to know each other all over again and rediscover the love that had brought them together in the first place. UK readers certainly seemed to have loved it as  A Good Greek Wife? has  sold out fast since it was published here in July. Now it  will be out in Presents Extra in the Greek Tycoons  mini series  on October 12th.   I hope you’ll find it a ‘classic’  too.

What about you? Do you love a Greek Hero – the sort of man who would inspire a ‘shout line’ like the one for this mini series – Legends are made of men like these? Who are your favourite Greek Presents heroes and which are the books you most remember?

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Comments ( 25 )
  1. Gail
    October 8, 2010 at 11:17 am

    The story of Odysseus and Penelope is one of my favorites, even if the Presents line as a whole isn’t. (Sorry, I’m more of a Special Editions girl.) But because I love this story, I’m going to give this book a whirl. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Abby Green
    October 8, 2010 at 11:58 am

    Kate, this was indeed a classic story of the most pure form, and what an inspired idea to update the Greek myths! I loved reading about Zarek and Penny, and when he arrived back into her life with all the force of an atom bomb..a hot emotional and intense read! It’s just a shame I can’t go back and experience it for the first time again. When’s your next book out? 😉
    xx Abby

  3. Tweets that mention Timeless Stories, by Kate Walker at I (Heart) Presents -- Topsy.com
    October 9, 2010 at 12:52 am

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  4. Christina Hollis
    October 9, 2010 at 1:40 am

    Abby’s right – A Good Greek Wife? is definitely one of those books you really wish you could come to fresh a second time. A real keeper.

  5. Sarah Morgan
    October 9, 2010 at 4:29 am

    I find it really hard to watch Troy because I can’t bear the bit where Eric Bana is killed – I’m always yelling ‘noooooooo’ at the screen. On the other hand all those half naked men provide some compensation 🙂

    I’ve been addicted to Greek myths for years and read them as bedtime stories to both my sons, so when I first heard you talk about The Good Greek Wife I was excited and intrigued. I loved this book so much Kate, you injected so much passion into the story, and I loved all the subtle references to the original tale – so clever.

  6. Sharon Kendrick
    October 9, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    I love dark, powerful men, so yes, a Greek hero fits the bill perfectly.
    Can see how much fun (as well as hard work!) you had in creating this story of timeless passion, Kate.

  7. Kate Walker
    October 9, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    First of all – sorry to be late coming to answer everyone. I was a way in Yorkshire for a couple of days, running a workshop and although I tried to log in the site wouldn’t recognise me. I’m back now though – so let’s see if this will got through!


  8. Kate Walker
    October 9, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    Phew! Made it this time – so – what I wanted to say was, Abby – thank you – you say the loveliest things. I love the idea of Zarek’s return exploding into Penny’s life with the force of an atom bomb. A great image. You should be a writer 😉

    My nextr book – that’ll be Macrh 2011. It’s called The Proud Wife (I think my editor is on a ‘wife’ kick with titles! 😉 )

  9. Kate Walker
    October 9, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    Christina- thank you.There is such a special delight in knowing that my fellow authors like a book – and to have you say that for you it’s a keeper is such a compliment.

  10. Kate Walker
    October 9, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    I totally understand, Sara – that was the great thing about rewriting the ‘Troy’ story – I didn’t have to kill anyone off. (Though I was tempted with Zarek’s stepmother!) Passion – well, it was easy to put passion into Zarek and Penny’s story, After all, they had been apart for two years so their coming back together was bound to be – in Abby’s words – explosive! As for the references to the original story, I keep getti9ng emails from readers who say ‘found another one’! as they read it. I love the fact that it can be read as an echo of the original of just on its own.And I’m thrilled you enjoyed it so much

  11. Kate Walker
    October 9, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    Hi Sharon – sometimes it just has to be a Greek hero, doesn’t it? Of course with this story I had to create a Greek Hero to match the ones of long ago. And you’re right it was both fun and hard work – creating a modern story in which, even thought ‘Troy’ meant something else in this story, the same elements were there. And yes, there was a lot of hard work in the research! 😉

  12. Anne McAllister
    October 9, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    I loved Zarek’s story. It is so fundamentally honest and strips down to the essentials what good love stories are all about. He is one of your best heroes, Kate. And Constantine wasn’t bad, either!!!! I might just have to go re-read him when I have the current book sent in.

  13. Kate Walker
    October 10, 2010 at 2:13 am

    Hi Anne! You see – Constantine keeps coming back in whenever I talk about Greek heroes! I’m always intrigued by what different readers find in particular heroes to make them like them – or, as you say in your post – see them as ‘one of the best’. When you have so much experience of heroes as you do, Anne – mine, yours and everyone else’s – it’ s a special honour to have Zarek give the the accolade ‘one of the best’. Thank you!

    And it is those ‘essentials’ that make a love story for all time – whether now or back in Ancient Greece, isn’t it?

  14. Sally Quilford
    October 10, 2010 at 2:46 am

    The Good Greek Wife? was my entry back into the world of Mills and Boon. I’ve read about a dozen or more novels since from various authors – I do love an alpha hero – but I keep coming back to The Good Greek Wife? as my absolute favourite of them all. I shed tears in some parts, especially when Zarek tells Penny what happened to him whilst he was away. Some people think Mills and Boon is all sweetness and light, hearts and flowers, yet there’s real darkness and depth in Zarek’s suffering at the hands of the pirates.

    And whilst it’s based on a Greek myth, it’s also very current in its treatment of high seas piracy, which has been in the news a lot recently. So yes, Kate, the stories are timeless.

    Oh, Sean Bean as Odysseus… I may have to go away and think about that for a while…

  15. Kate Walker
    October 10, 2010 at 3:19 am

    Hi Sally – great to see you here. I love the thought that The Good Greek Wife? (I keep forgetting to put in that ? and have to go back and insert it!) – so glad it was your entry back into the world of Mills & Boon. I know that feeling – my own ‘re-entry’ book was Witchstone by Anne Mather and it’s always been a special book for me. I’m a mean, nasty author and I love to think that I can reduce my readers to tears – that’s such a compliment – thank you.

    The pireates were one of those coincidences that sometimes happen in writing. I had read up on Odysseus and his voyage back and decided I would bring in the modern day pirates – and then when the book was published they were suddenly so very current again.

    Oh yes- Sean B as Odysseus – I thought that might … interest you 😉

  16. Chris
    October 10, 2010 at 9:45 am

    Hi Kate,

    I’m not sure if your book is out here yet. I was going to go look tomorrow but after having read Abby and Christina’s comments about wishing they could read it afresh for the second time I might just have to go on the hunt for it now! Love a tall dark Greek hero!


    Waves to Daisy.

  17. Kate Walker
    October 10, 2010 at 11:35 am

    Hello Chris! I was just thinking about you. I owe you an answer to an email. The official publication date for The Good Greek Wife? is October 12th when the Presents EXTRA appear middle of the month. But of course Amazon – and I suppose plenty of other stores – have the book available already. I hope you find it. And I’d love to know if you thought it a keeper like Abby and Christina

  18. Chris
    October 10, 2010 at 11:58 am

    Hi Kate,

    Don’t worry about responding to my email. You’re waay to busy I understand that. I pretty much see where I’m going wrong with things and what I need to work on, but thanks anyway.

    I’m sure your book will be a keeper. Just off to see if I can find a copy before picking my husband up from the airport.



  19. lidia
    October 10, 2010 at 7:31 pm

    Kate, “The Good Greek Wife?” is definitely a keeper. I loved the way Penny kept coming up with new “ideas” to prevent the rest of the family from taking over Zarek’s company. Is your next book tied to this one in any way?

  20. Kate Walker
    October 11, 2010 at 1:32 am

    Hi Lidia – you’ve just made my day. I know that you are such a long term reader of Presents that to have yoj describe a book as a keeper is a real compliment, Those ideas that Penny kept coming up with are a modern version of the Odysseus story where his wife Penelope kept putting off sujitors by coming up with tricks – including weaving a burial shroud for her elderly father in law and then unpicking it every night – but I tried to think of something rather different, and that fitted more with the modern version.

    I’m so glad that you enjoyed it

  21. Kate Walker
    October 11, 2010 at 1:38 am

    Oh PS to Lidia – sorry – I forgot to answer your question! No, The Proud Wife isn’t connected to The Good Greek Wife? in any way – except for that ‘Wife’ word in the title 🙂 The hero in my next book is Sicilian, not Greek. I hoep yuo’ll like that one too.

  22. Maurine
    October 11, 2010 at 10:31 am

    Hi Kate, looking forward to reading this. Back from the dead stories are always interesting and especially when the hero is a Greek god! I just read an old Michelle Reid book, The Purchased Wife, and Xavier was half Greek and fabulous!

    Lynne Graham had a Greek hero in The Contaxis Baby which is one of my all time faves.

    Good luck with the book!

  23. Kate Walker
    October 11, 2010 at 10:36 am

    Hello Maurine – Back from the dead stories are some of my favourites but they can be difficult to pull off. I think that was what attracted me to the story of Odysseus. That sense of a whole new beginning that was possible. I hope you enjoy Zarek’s story when you read it. he might not be quite a god – but he’s definitely a Hero 😉

    And for me, Michelle Reid’s heroes are always fabulous

  24. Michelle Reid
    October 12, 2010 at 6:22 am

    Hi Kate,

    I’ve sailed from the Greek island of Kaphelonia towards Ithaca and watched her rise up out of the soft still morning mists like a fabulously mythical enchanted island, so it’s easy to imagine how your Odysseus must have felt when he finally sailed home to his Penelope.

    A wonderful concept, Kate, and as you said, a timeless romance worthy of your fabulous modern take.

    As for your question about my favourite Greek Presents Hero; well it has to be your Odysseus, Zarek Michaelis in The Good Greek Wife?!


  25. Kate Walker
    October 12, 2010 at 8:53 am

    Oh now Michelle has gone and made my day! Another of my favourite authors saying that my Odysseus/Zarek is her favourite Greek hero – I’m going to be smiling all afternoon at my keybaord now.

    Michelle, I love the image of the island of Ithaca rising out of the morning mists when you sail towards it – now if only I’d known that when I wrote the book! You describe it so beautifully – you should be a writer, you know! 😉