Monday, September 26, 2011

Stories that Never Leave You - by Kate Walker

When I was eleven, I was  at a very small junior school that was in an old building, where the wiring wasn't very reliable. The was in West Yorkshire where the weather was often wild, and storms could break over the hills with great drama and  force.  One day there was a huge thunderstorm, great flashes of lightning, and the lights in the whole building fused.  We were sitting in darkness, with  a lot of the girls getting scared and screaming when the thunder roared and the lightning flashed. (Not me - I have always loved storms and still do.)

To distract us from getting worried and while waiting for the electricty to be restored, the teacher - a Mr Grogan  - told us to sit quietly and he would tell us a story.  The story he told was a bout a man who returned home to his farm, high on the Yorkshire moors, bringing with him an orphan gipsy boy he has found in the streets of Liverpool . The farmer already had a son and daughter, Hindly and Catherine - and the gipsy boy's name was of course Heathcliff. This story was the beginning of the classic romantic novel  - Wuthering Heights.

I never got to hear the end of the story that day because the lights came back on before my teacher had got past the point where Heathcliff and Cathy fight, and Heathcliff runs away,  to go and make his fortune. I never learned what happened when he came back - because it was  obvious that he did come back - and I always wanted to know.  But of course most of the story of Heathcliff's revenge was probably not suitable for young children.

But the story stayed with me and I wanted to know so much about it.  It was some years later that I found a book on my mother's bookshelf and, opening it, saw the names I remembered so well. I started to read  - and didn't put it down until I had finished. It was an amazing story - but  it never had the happy ending that I had hoped for. 

I've read Wuthering Heights many times again and again since that day. I've studied it at school and at university  and never tired of it. It's a story that never really leaves my imagination, specially as the place I grew up was so close to Haworth village where the Bronte sisters  lived and where Emily Bronte  wrote Wuthering Heights in the parsonage there.

So when editorial suggested a special mini series where Presents Authors took the themes of classics of romantic fiction - Jane Eyre, Emma, Pride and Prejudice - and Wuthering Heights, I was thrilled to be asked to take part in it.  Specially when I learned that the book they wanted me to work on was my own favourite - Wuthering Heights. I've had an amazing time looking back at this great book and  honouring it by using it as the inspiration for my own Presents version of  this amazing story. I've had to make changes of course - Wuthering Heights isn't really a love story. It's a story about passion and possession and  power -  so while all those other books had happy endings already set, I had to create one for my characters. I also had to take wild, willful Cathy and dark, dangerous Heathcliff and give them the happy ever after ending that Emily Bronte's story never had.

I found it a challenge - but I loved doing it. I created the story I had always hoped for all those years ago. I didn't copy or steal from Wuthering Heights, just used the basic themes that are in the book and created a romance that stands on its own. You don't have to have read Wuthering Heights to enjoy The Return of The Stranger - you can read it entirely on its own and enjoy it. 

Last week I was back in Haworth village, talking to The Bronte Society about writing The Return of The Stranger. I met a lot of people there who had never been able to get the story of Wuthering Heights out of their minds too - and I was trilled to find that so many of them felt that way about Return of The Stranger too They loved this modernised, Presents version.  (I'm going to be sharing some of my pictures of Haworth on my own blog soon - and on the I Heart Presents blog at the begining of October.)

Oh yes - and they loved the cover too. I've posted the Presents Extra cover of The Return of the Stranger because that's the one that will be in the shops in October - but I have to share the UK cover with you as well - because  . . . . well - look at it! It's fantastic - isn't it?

I hope you enjoy The Return of the Stranger as much as they all did.


  1. Hi Kate, what a nice post. Almost makes me want to read Wuthering Heights... while i have never gotten around to it it's definitly a classic. I just wanted to say that your post bought the memories flooding back about being read books when I was young at school. The first one was the Silver Sword and the second was about Christopher Columbus. I was 8 and 9 when our teacher read those and when I think back to school - those are my memories :)

  2. Hi Kate,

    The Return the Stranger had your own blend of brooding but oh, so adorable hero and this new twist with a happily ever after for this classic tale is so masterfully done!

  3. Hello Tash - since I have been talking about The Return of The Stranger, I've met a lot of people who haven't read Wuthering Heights but always felt they should! It's a classic - and some people love it (like me!) but some people loathe it -it depends if you find it too dark and cruel. I had to get rid of a lot of the cruelty to be able to give my Heath a happy ever after ending

  4. Hello Nas - and thank you. I'm glad that you felt I kept the 'brooding' in the story - but it did have to have a twist added to make sure of that happy ending. Thank you for you lovely comments

  5. Thanks Sonali - great to see you here