Welcome to my blog, Nicola. I must confess that your childhood interests me. I have visited many stately homes and heritage sites over the years and the idea of going to school in the dower house of C18 Harewood House fascinates me. Was this where your love of history and academic research began?
Thank you very much for inviting me to visit today! It’s a pleasure to be here.
I think I was very lucky to go to school in an 18th century house! It was definitely inspirational. There was a very grand staircase, a beautiful “winter garden” where we took our art lessons and lots of old nooks and crannies to explore. The house was surrounded by parkland too so we could run wild in the grounds and we could tell each other scary ghost stories on the dark winter evenings! I think that being in such a historic atmosphere intrigued me and sparked my curiosity; I wanted to learn about the house and its past occupants and from there my love of history developed.
Could you tell us about the work you do at the National Trust’s Ashdown House?
I’d love to! I work as a guide and historian at Ashdown House, a stunning 17th century hunting lodge in Oxfordshire. I show people around the house and give them a guided tour telling them about the history of the house and the Craven family who owned it. It’s a fabulous, romantic-looking place and the history is rich and romantic too! I also do lots of research into the history of the house. I’m learning about it all the time and the more I discover the more fascinating it becomes. We’ve just found some secret tunnels leading off from the wine cellar!
Your first Regency novel was published in 1998. What is it about this era that appeals to you so much?
I’ve always loved the Regency era as a writer and a reader. Like so may readers I started with the books of Georgette Heyer and their wit and the beautiful way that Heyer evokes the era really enthralled me. I love the elegance and the manners and the fascinating contrast between the outward show and the intense emotions that may be hidden beneath the surface. One of the challenges for a writer is to find a way for those emotions to be expressed within the constraints of the behaviour of the time.
How did your breakthrough into publication happen?
I had a long journey to publication. My first book, True Colours, was twelve years in the writing because I was also working full time and could only snatch short periods of time to write. Mills & Boon rejected my first attempt as having too much adventure and not enough romance. I re-wrote it twice more before they finally accepted it.
Who or what was your biggest inspiration in becoming a fiction author?
There have been so many people who have inspired me. The writing of authors such as Mary Stewart and Daphne Du Maurier fired me with the desire to be a writer when I was in my teens. My teacher, Mrs Chary, inspired in me a huge love of history and for that I will always be grateful to her. I always knew that it was historical fiction that I wanted to write. The other big influence was my wonderful grandmother, whose collection of historical novels I devoured and with whom I watched costume dramas on a Sunday night!
You are an enthusiastic traveller on a world-wide scale, but for your latest series you have headed north of the border and changed period for The Lady and the Laird, One Night with the Laird out this month and the final book Claimed by the Laird, which will be published next year. What triggered this change in location and direction?
I do love travelling and have been lucky enough to visit some amazing places all around the globe. One of my favourite places, though, is Scotland and I have wanted to set a book there for years. It was fascinating to research Scotland in the early 19th century and see the similarities and differences in politics and culture compared with south of the border. It was huge fun to write the Scottish Brides trilogy!
What is next for Nicola?
I have lots of exciting plans for next year. There are several new Regency ideas I’m going to be working on, plus a book inspired by Ashdown House!
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions and for sharing some of your unique experiences with us.
More by Nicola: