Give us a little bit about your background and when you first started publishing.
In my day job I’m an actuary and though I’ve always been a hopeless romantic, I started writing fairly late in life. The pivotal moment for me happened during a life painting course where our model was a physically perfect male specimen who looked like the perfect romantic hero! I was so inspired, I went home that night, opened up my laptop and just wrote, and wrote, and wrote.
I was fortunate to get a place in the UK Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme, through which I was given a critique of my first novel. The critique encouraged me to submit to publishers, but it took over three years of submitting to get an offer for that book. To keep myself from continually checking my emails for responses, I spent those years writing more books, which paid off as I managed to get another two publishing deals shortly after my first, one of which was with Dragonblade, for the London Libertines series.
Historical Setting Related:
Have you visited the places you’ve written about or just read about them?
- I used to live near London, so I’m familiar with the city where my London Libertines series is set. Though I now live in Scotland, I’m in London a lot on business. The hotel I usually stay at overlooks Hyde Park set among a row of beautiful Regency townhouses, so it’s a great location for soaking up the atmosphere. Being so close to the Highlands is a big help for writing Highlander romances and I’m fortunate enough to live a stone’s throw from a Medieval palace.
What interesting settings have you used (homes, battlefields, events in history, etc)?
- I’ll research relevant historical events, to make sure all the dates match up in my stories. For my Regency series I’ve made references to Whites club, popular card games of the time, and the Terrors in France. I’m currently researching the whisky industry and the impact of the 1823 Excise Act for my latest novel. The most interesting setting I’ve used is the Battle of Falkirk, and I had great fun researching the detail for that and writing the action scenes.
Why did you choose the particular period you write in? What is it about that era that speaks to you?
I write mainly in the Regency and Medieval periods. There were so many restrictions on women in those periods and I find it interesting to explore how a strong woman can survive and triumph in a world where she’s considered the property of others. And, ultimately, there’s something about a dashing gentleman strolling through Hyde Park, or a knight in armor fighting in a tournament, which I can’t resist!
What inspires you to create a certain character (give example)? Have you ever changed the character arc because it didn’t work with the storyline?
- I write my story line around the characters, so I’ll start with their character arc and work from there. It’s difficult to say where inspiration comes from, though I like characters who are misfits or outcasts in some way, either because they don’t conform to society or because they’ve made a mistake which has damaged their reputation. Some characters come to the fore unexpectedly. Alice, a secondary character in Hawthorne’s Wife, was only ever meant to appear in that book. She’s an aristocrat’s daughter who breaks off her engagement with a commoner in order to marry a duke, but the marriage is an unhappy one. After I finished writing Hawthorne’s Wife I couldn’t get Alice out of my mind. When I first created her as a character, I didn’t like her much, but I started to feel sorry for her and felt she was misunderstood. So I decided to give her a happy ending and a story all to herself.
Do you have a certain quirk in your writing process? Do the stars have to be aligned or do you have to have your favorite tea? Where do you do your best writing?
- I have to be disciplined and snatch short periods to write when I can, to fit around the day job. So I’m often found drafting in airport lounges and hotel rooms. But I also have a quiet corner at home where I work. I can cope with a bit of noise around me but I’ll get frustrated if anyone tries to speak to me when I’m drafting. Usually I’ll have a cup of Earl Grey tea beside the laptop and, if I’m at home, Twinkle, my pet boa constrictor, will be round my neck.
From all your books, who is your favorite hero and why?
- That’s such a tough question because I adore them all! The one I love most will always be the one I’m currently drafting. But I have to admit to a soft spot for Hawthorne Stiles, the hero in Hawthorne’s Wife. He’s first introduced near the end of the story in Henry’s Bride. Outwardly, he seems to be the strong silent type, but his stoic exterior hides a passionate heart.
Outside of your own genre, what’s your favorite genre?
- Though I write historical romance, I also love contemporary romance, particularly stories with a strong element of psychological thriller. And I’m also partial to a bit of gory crime!