Okay, Listen Here

Okay, Listen Here

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Heat. The Good Kind.

Okay Listen Here is proud and honored to have Katharine Ashe as our guest blogger today. Katharine lives in the wonderfully warm Southeast with her husband, son, two dogs, and a garden she likes to call romantic rather than unkempt. A professor of European history, she has made her home in California, Italy, France, and the northern US.

RT Book Reviews awarded her debut historical romance, SWEPT AWAY BY A KISS, a “TOP PICK!” review, calling it “a page-turner and a keeper.” Please visit her at www.katharineashe.com

Everyone please welcome Katharine to Okay Listen Here:

I’ve been thinking about heat. Various kinds.

I am a Yankee, a transplant to the south and a very happy one indeed. (Thank you, lovely hosts, for inviting a northerner onto your southern ladies’ blog!) I love hot sun and blue skies and baking temperatures, and even sweat. Yes, sweat. Doesn’t sound very southern-lady feminine, does it? Sometime during my college years in North Carolina, a friend told me real ladies don’t spit and they don’t sweat. They glow.

But any northerner who has lived amongst southern women and come to know them a bit understands the Steel Magnolia thing. Southern women are strong. Incredibly tough. They have to be to hold up in this weather—like Cheryl defending her animals from the heat wave! And, beneath their sunflower-colored linen dresses and wide brimmed mesh hats, they sweat.

All women sweat. But southern women don’t complain about it. They climb right up on that sizzling tin roof and make something of it.

Then there’s another kind of heat I’ve been thinking about lately. Spice.

The other day I ate a plate of Goan pork that blew the top of my head right off. My husband cooked it, doubling the Indian spices but not the meat for some unfathomable reason (bless his heart). It was an amazing experience. A full-body trauma. I’ve only once before tasted food that hot, in a Thai restaurant in Oxford, England. Sitting at the tiny table decorated with white cloth and a bowl of chicken apparently prepared by the Devil, my mouth flamed. To be expected. Then everything else did too. My throat contracted. My chest burned. My eyes—like emergency firefighters—welled, spilled, then streamed, seeking to put out the blaze and failing miserably.

This lasted for a full half hour.

I did not consider it a negative experience. On the contrary.

Why? Because in those moments I was fully, thoroughly, devastatingly alive. No longer safe in my usual routine. When I ate that diabolical chicken, the heat was part of the flavor, and I enjoy flavors. The more colorful, the richer, the more complex my experiences of life, the happier I am. Life is to be savored in all its glory—the tender and strong, sweet and sharp, vulnerable and powerful. The mild and scorching hot.

Which brings me to the kind of heat I’ve mostly been thinking about. The heat of passion. I read and write romance because of this heat.

I’m not talking about love scenes, by the way. I am talking about passion for life.

I adore romance novels—any novels—in which the characters seek out life, longing for more than The Everyday, more than they’ve been given, more than they even think they can bear. They ache for the extraordinary and refuse to rest content until they have found it, whether that something is the top of a mountain, a more just world, the love of another heart, or an unbreakable bond with their god.

No noble goal can be reached without great effort. Such effort takes courage. It takes determination. It takes a heart and soul willing to weep on the way to triumph. To get a little damp. And a little hot. Ask any mountain climber if she sweats while striving for the apex. I bet she’ll say heck yeah.

So you see, when I think about heat—and it’s mighty hot these days in the southeast—I think... life.

From a steaming cheese pizza to a sun-coated beach, a hunky actor to a sizzling romance novel, what’s your favorite hot stuff?


  1. Katharine,
    Thanks for joining us today. I love this blog!
    Your point about feeling so alive while eating your dinner prepared by the Devil is a great one.

    I absolutely agree that no noble goal can be attained without great effort. I think that as writers struggling to be published we sometimes lose sight of the fact that we are really working to achieve our dreams which is noble, indeed!

    Oh, the hot I like best is a steamy, sizzling Alpha Male in a well crafted story.

    Thanks again for a great blog. It was a wonderful way to begin my day!

  2. Katharine, my dear, I lived in North Carolina for eleven years and in that time I learned that southern ladies never sweat. We "glisten."

    Favorite hot stuff? Lately I've been thinking about Matt Bomer who plays the wickedly handsome con man and thief on White Collar. He looks remarkably like the hero in my current WIP.

    Love your SWEPT AWAY BY A KISS!

  3. Pain -- Lets you know you're alive! Recently, I have been more alive than I want. LOL!

    I love hot food and the ensuing torture - runny nose, watering eyes, groping for bread. My husband, an Italian who hates spicy hot food, simply does not understand. The anticipation and subsequent burning is all part of the fun!

    As for hot - even though he is older than my father - Sean Connery. As my Bigmama would say: "If that man were on the street, he'd better be finding a tall telephone pole to shimmy up; I'd be right after him." Something about a man in a kilt...

    Seriously, as I have grown older (drat), I do find more enjoyment in the simple things - a beautiful sunset, sitting with my husband and sharing a silent moment and yes, even the antics of my animals. Life is precious in all its ups and downs. I try to take the time to enjoy it.

  4. Katharine, we're so flattered that you agreed to join our blog today! Thanks for being here. ;)

    I love everything about your post. There isn't any way to feel more alive than making homemade salsa with really hot peppers, without using gloves. Beware! Do not, I repeat, do not do this! One slight touch to the eye or the mouth and you feel more alive than you EVER wanted to be. I believe it took nearly one long hour of being alive for that 'aliveness' to go away. ;D

    I'm reading your book now and can't put it down. Fabulous writing! Undeniable passion! The passion for life, the desire to move forward, to find that 'thing' that will fulfill the soul and make life better, or, at the very least, satisfying. This is what drives my stories. I'm enamored with this kind of passion most of all.

    "No noble goal can be reached without great effort. Such effort takes courage. It takes determination. It takes a heart and soul willing to weep on the way to triumph. To get a little damp. And a little hot. Ask any mountain climber if she sweats while striving for the apex. I bet she’ll say heck yeah."

    What a great motivational exerpt! If you don't mind, I'm going to hang on to this and use it to light my path.

    Katharine, how long have you been writing and can you talk a little about your journey getting SWEPT AWAY BY A KISS to publication?

  5. Hi, Katharine! I loooove hot food. Kimchi, vindaloo, spicy Pho, jambalaya, whatever. Love it.

    I also love a wonderfully passionate romance. When the emotion is hot, the story is smoking -- even if the sex is tame. Hot emotion. Yeah, love that stuff.

    And now I'm off to work on my emotional sheikh and his lady.... Oh, and it's nice to see you here. These are some of the nicest Southern ladies you ever want to meet. :)

  6. Welcome, Katharine! That is an absolutely beautiful cover! Love it.

    The only thing I like about a hot day is a cool swim. :)

    Love, love, love your description of both southern women and romance heroines. Very motivational.

  7. Stephanie, isn't it the truth--both what you've said about noble goals and sizzling heroes! :) Many thanks for having me on the blog today.

    Mia, Matt Bomber, yum! Thanks for your kind words about Swept Away By A Kiss. :)

  8. Oh, Cheryl, I'm so sorry to hear about the pain-alive connection in your life these days. There's something truly lovely about the simple pleasures. In fact, just the other day, sinking into a steamy bubble bath, I was thinking the very same thing. Then I reached over, dried my hand, and picked up the novel I'm reading full of spies and pirates. ;) Thank you so much for inviting me to blog with you today!

  9. Wow, that was ... intense. (Note to self: Get Katharine Ashe's new book.)

    Yes, I love heat too! I grew up in south Alabama without air conditioning, so I can take the heat! LOL!

    Your post reminded me of what it takes to be a published writer these days. You can't be afraid of hard work and intense criticism! And I love intense romances, where the hero and heroine are so right for each other they can hardly stand to be in the same room with each other. That's why I love Regencies. They are FORCED to be calm and cool and polite and fashionable in spite of the heat between them.

    And I love that you study European history. My first book is set in medieval Germany, and it comes out next Friday!!! OH MY! I love saying that.

  10. I should say, I love that you are a PROFESSOR of European history. Awesome.

  11. Marquita ValentineAugust 26, 2010 at 9:08 AM

    Katharine, thanks for sharing the link on facebook. I enjoy finding the time to follow your blog trails, lol!

    I love hot-rods. Seriously, give me an American Muscle car over the latest BMW...or SUV. The sound of the engine, which I must confess I know nothing about, revving give me a thrill second only to...well, you know! ;p

  12. Katherine, thank you for inviting me onto your blog today! I just love all your posts every week and am so glad to be here. Thanks also for your kind words about Swept Away By A Kiss. I'm thrilled you are enjoying it!

    Like so many of us, I've been writing since childhood. I penned my first full-length romance novel (a contemporary YA, though no one called it that at the time) the summer I graduated from college (um, too long ago to name the date ). My first historical romance emerged from reading tons of Regencies. Bursting with my own ideas, I just had to get one on the page! At that time I was working on my PhD in History, and got busy becoming a professor and having a family.

    I began seriously working toward publication about five years ago. Shortly after that I rewrote Swept Away By A Kiss almost entirely. It was the second historical I'd written and in the meantime I'd learned a lot about the craft. Although I continued to learn as I wrote a few more novels (and occasionally rewrote), all did not go entirely smoothly. About a year and a half ago I was just about ready to throw in the towel and call it quits on trying to get published (although I'd never stop writing stories), when a wonderful agent contacted me to tell me she'd fallen in love with my book. A month later Avon bought my trilogy, and I've just signed a contract for a second series with Avon. Passion for love stories drove me through the ups and downs of it all, and continues to. :)

  13. I grew up in North Carolina, sans air conditioning, and went to college in NC too. So I'm curious about which institution of higher learning you attended.

    I like spicy food to a point, but when you need a fire extinguisher beside your plate, you've crossed that point. LOL! I have learned, though, there's nothing like good, spicy salsa to clear out your head when hay fever season strikes.

    Congrats on the "Top Pick" from RT!


  14. Lynn, now I'm hungry!!! I'll have to find some great Korean or Indian restaurant for lunch. ;) I completely agree with you about the emotion. I love incredibly sensual romances, but a book can have every anatomical description of sex in the world and not be sexy at all if the emotion isn't powerful. "And now I'm off to work on my emotional sheikh and his lady...." Sounds fabulous!

    Hi, Danniele. You've got me thinking about the glorious possibilities in extremes--sultry days and cold pools. I'm writing a winter scene right now, the heroine beneath a draping canopy of snow-touched branches, the hero coming toward her with heat in his gaze... Yum!

  15. Melanie, how exciting! Congratulations on your release next week!!! You must feel fabulous. Perfect: "where the hero and heroine are so right for each other they can hardly stand to be in the same room with each other." Absolute yumminess! :)

    Marquita, LOL! The big, muscly war horses in medieval romances do pretty much the same thing for me. ;)

  16. Marilyn, thanks! Oh, lordy, no air conditioning? My first summer after college at Duke--when I was writing that YA--I lived in Durham in a tiny solarium of a rented house. A room originally intended as a screened in porch and is no longer screened but walled is not a good place to live through a North Carolina summer, no ma'am. But, perhaps not coincidentally, that book was the first sexy book I ever wrote. ;)

  17. Katharine,

    Thank you so much for blogging with us today. Being southern is more a state of mind than geography and I declare you a southern woman. Nobody could understand heat and passion so thoroughly and not be.

    It's the extremes in life that make us feel the most and appreciate the moderate. I believe I have a happy marriage because we like each other. (Not to be confused with being alike. We are not.) Love is grand. The high of being in love is grand but it will kill you if you keep it up for long stretches of time. But if you like each other, that's what gets you through to falling in love over and over again.

    I like hot food but I am more a fan of wasabi and ordinary horseradish than jalapeno. I like my Mexican and Indian food medium but I can eat sushi with my nose running.

    Of course, I wouldn't subject my dining partners to a runny nose. I would discretely keep it in check with my linen handkerchief.

    I'm off to make cheese straws for Melanie's book signing.

  18. Jean, I am truly honored! Wow. And LOL, linen handkerchief. Southern women are true ladies, indeed. :) Thanks for having me on your blog today.

  19. "About a year and a half ago I was just about ready to throw in the towel and call it quits on trying to get published (although I'd never stop writing stories), when a wonderful agent contacted me to tell me she'd fallen in love with my book. A month later Avon bought my trilogy, and I've just signed a contract for a second series with Avon. Passion for love stories drove me through the ups and downs of it all, and continues to. :)"

    Katharine, that's inspiration for all of us. :) Thanks for sharing your journey. Just goes to show every writer that there never is a reason to give up because that just might be the time when fate starts knocking on the door.

    When success came, it came with a bang, didn't it? Congratulations! Avon is a great company, especially for an historical writer. Can you tell us a little about what to expect in the future? What is your trilogy about? Your new series?

    You mentioned you love reading Regencies but you teach Medieval History. What led you to write about Regencies instead of the Medieval era?

  20. Thanks, Katherine. I'm thrilled to be with Avon. :)

    The ocean ties the books of my trilogy together! The second book, Captured By A Rogue Lord (April 2011), features a rakish earl with a Robin Hood complex--a pirate who donates the swag to charity. He began his roguish life with less-than noble intentions, but a lovely minx on the trail of smugglers is determined to discover if he's the real hero of her dreams.

    Book three stretches far across the British Empire and back again with the story of a gentleman on the edge of polite society yet more powerful than anyone dreams, and a breathtaking lost love rediscovered.

    I write Regencies for two reasons. First, I adore them, especially for that quality Melanie described, the rules of society that mustn't be broken and yet cannot mask the passionate love of a hero and heroine destined to unite despite the odds. Second, I sold the Regency first! I adore the Middle Ages, and I've written medievals and time travels as well. But Swept Away By A Kiss caught the attention of my fabulous agent, so Regencies I am a'writing for the time being!

  21. Oh! By the way, I'm looking for a title for my trilogy! In October I’ll post a contest to my website in search of a stunningly great series title, and I’ll keep it open until I find a winner. Readers who would like first crack at submitting entries can sign up for my newsletter now (via my website), and I’ll send them details a few weeks before the contest goes live online. I cannot wait to see what everyone comes up with!

  22. Oh, I love creating titles, Katharine. Count me in! I'll sign up for your newsletter right away;)

    I feel we are kindred spirits. I write pirate Regencies too. :D I'm a sucker for romance when it involves pushing society's boundaries to the limit. There is something very passionate about two people who dare to love each other against all odds. Though that can be said for contemporaries too, the rigidity and judgment of peers presented even greater conflict when reputation was everything.

    What inspired your series? And do your stories come with/after research or before? Thanks! :)

  23. Jean Hovey, you are just too cute and sweet. That's what I was going to say even BEFORE I saw that you were off to make cheese straws for my book signing! I liked what you said about you and your hubby. You two are the cutest couple.

  24. Katharine--My writing partner and I do a bit of genre hopping. We love best the thing we are working on. I'm going to sign up for your newsletter right now.
    Ahhh, Melanie and Kathy. Y'all are sweet! Cheese straws done.

    Now, where but in the south would you hear this?
    I want to watch Peyton Manning play football tonight but I have to go to a Junior League function.

  25. Oh, perfectly put, Katherine. We're kindred spirits, indeed. :)

    With each book, the romantic dynamic between the hero and heroine usually comes first for me, along with a general setting and a few scenes. Then a big flurry of research. Then a few chapters to really dig into the story, then a bunch more research as thing speed up. After that I continue researching depending on the need, to work out plot points or what have you. But always for me the romance comes first. The history is just an excellent perk!

    Jean, LOL!

    You ladies are such a delight to chat with. And you've given me the major munchies. Now I'm combing my cookbooks for a cheese straw recipe...