Meet romantic novelist, Virginia Heath

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I am delighted to welcome prolific romance writer Virginia Heath as my guest today.

  • When and where did your passion for writing begin?

Hard to say, as I think it’s always been there. As a child I loved to read and devoured books like they were going out of fashion. At school I had a talent for writing and secretly fancied myself as an author one day but never dared say that out loud because I came from a very working class, blue-collar background. Girls like me dreamed of working in an office, they most certainly didn’t write books! But I made up stories in my head instead so I suppose it spiralled from there.

  • When did inspiration strike for your successful Wild Warriners Quartet?

The old Hollywood musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers! I love it, especially the premise – seven down on their luck farmers living in the middle of nowhere, all in desperate want of a wife. The Wild Warriners is my homage to that glorious film – but I thought having seven brothers was a bit much so I settled on four. Like the original brothers, the series starts with them working their land themselves because they cannot afford to hire anyone to help them. Unlike the originals, the Warriners descend from the aristocracy, with the eldest brother Jack being an earl and they tend part of his sprawling but dilapidated country estate in deepest, darkest, dankest Nottinghamshire.

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  • Is Regency your favourite period of history or are there others you want to set your future work in?

I’m a proper history nerd – I used to be a history teacher – so I love most periods of history. However, thanks to Mr Darcy, I do have a particular soft spot for the Regency. I think it’s the tight breeches and boots.

  •  Your historical research is impeccable. However, you keep the hero and heroine attractive and the dialogue accessible, whilst giving a flavour that is true to the period. How do you achieve this?

It’s a delicate balance writing a historical. Purists want you to keep everything strictly within the period. Modern readers want characters they can relate to. I figure, no matter what the historical backdrop, people are people so my characters think a lot like we do now. My heroes aren’t misogynists and my heroines aren’t subservient doormats. That said, if you are going to write history you have to get it right. The world my characters live in is completely accurate and although I don’t write hither and thither, I make sure my characters don’t say modern phrases which will pull readers out of the story.

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  • You are a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association – what does the organisation mean to you?

When I first started writing, the only writer I knew was me. I had nobody to talk shop with. Nobody to guide me through the confusing world of publishing and all it entails. Joining the Romantic Novelists Association was a godsend! I’ve made so many friends and learned so many things. It truly is one of the most supportive and nurturing institutions which champions romantic fiction in all its forms and I cannot say enough good things about it.

  • What key advice would you share with aspiring writers?

Write the book! Forget manuals on how to write, don’t get bogged down in everything else to do with publishing; if you want to be a published writer it starts with a completed book. Join a writing group, allow other writers to critique your manuscript. Take their advice on board and be prepared to revise and revise those words until they are perfect. Oh yes – and develop a thick skin! If you are determined to be a writer, you’ll need it.

  • Each author has their own favoured way of working – would you share yours with us?

My books run between 80K and 90K words – that’s a pretty standard sized novel. If I want to publish four a year it means I have to be semi-disciplined. I don’t have the luxury of waiting for the elusive muse to show up. I’m not entirely sure I believe in the muse anyway because it’s my brain thinking stuff up, so I just need to make sure I get my brain in gear. I do that by having a routine. It starts with a cup of tea and a dog walk, I do about 30 minutes of social media or admin, then I take myself up to my office and read only the words I wrote the day before, editing as I go to get me back into the zone. Then I pick up where I left off. There is no magic to it really. I work every day, Monday to Friday from around 8am till 4ish with regular breaks and a long lunch. I stop when the alarm goes off on my computer regardless of where I am in a sentence. In fact, finishing mid-sentence really feeds the muse overnight and ensures I’m raring to go the next morning. I try not to work evenings or weekends unless I am up against a deadline. I also try not to write on holidays or breaks. It’s important to recharge the batteries.

  • What has been the highlight of your writing career to date?

My RONA (Romantic Novel of the Year) nomination in 2017. To be shortlisted was the most amazing feeling in the world. That said, seeing each book on the shelves in a bookshop never gets old either. I always go and visit a new book on publication day.

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  • What project are you working on next?

I’ve just finished my second series – The King’s Elite. It’s a quartet featuring four Regency spies, which has been huge fun to write. It’s been fascinating researching all the smuggling and shenanigans which went on and then weaving some of that into stories which are best described as romantic suspense with a dash of comedy here and there. I can’t ever seem to write a book without a dash of funny. The final book, The Determined Lord Hadleigh, comes out in June. Then, just for a change, I have a Victorian romance coming out early next year involving my first older hero and heroine. It’s called Lilian and the Irresistible Duke and it’s set mostly in one of my favourite cities – Rome. But this has Renaissance art and the Vatican as a backdrop rather than all the high jinks of smuggling. Right now, I am working on a new standalone story about a nerdy heroine who likes to dig up ruins, and a reclusive earl who is all done with life. It’s a RomCom Beauty-and-the-Beast meets Indiana Jones story. Or at least I think it is. I can’t plot, so I have no idea how it is going to turn out yet! As per usual, I really won’t know what sort of story it truly is until I write the words ‘the end’.

Thank you for taking the time out of your schedule to answer my questions.

Here are Virginia’s social media links:-

Website: https://www.virginiaheathromance.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/virginiaheathauthor/

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/VirginiaHeath_

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/virginiaheathwrites/

An Interview with Cindy Kirk

My guest this month is prolific American author Cindy Kirk. Cindy is a writer who loves romance and has written many special editions for Harlequin.

When did you first discover the joys of story-telling or writing your own stories down?

I’ve loved books and stories for as long as I could remember.  If I didn’t like a book’s ending, I’d make up my own.  The same held for movies or televisions shows.  For a long, long time I thought that everyone made up different endings.  I wrote my first “book” when I was thirteen.  It was a romance, of course, with a happy ending!  I let one of my teachers read it and I could tell she didn’t think it was very good.  It was a devastating blow to my young writer’s soul.

Which novels inspired you, or you would rate as your all time favourites?

LaVryle Spencer’s Bitter Sweet and Separate Beds; Susan Elizabeth Phillips’s Dream a Little Dream and Nobody’s Baby But Mine; Lisa Kleypas’s Travis Series, Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton Series.

Could you share your journey to becoming a published author with us?

I wrote five books, it was the fifth that sold, 3 years after I started writing in pursuit of publication.  The book that sold won a contest.  The first prize was a critique of the entire manuscript by Harlequin editor, Patience Bloom.  She not only read it, she bought it.  And 15 years later, she’s still my editor!

What advice would you give to a new writer who has not made it into print yet?

To continue to hone your craft.  When I started writing, I began attending regional conferences for writers. Every year I attend the Romance Writers of America‘s National Conference and soak in all the wonderful information on how to write a better book.

Why romance?

I love a happy ending!  Not only in books but in movies.  I want to cheer for the hero or heroine, see them become stronger, learn life lessons, then be rewarded.

How did the ‘Jaunty Quills‘ develop?

I was writing also for Avon (Harper Collins) when a group of Avon authors decided to get together and start a blog.  At the time I was the only contemporary author.  The group has morphed over time to include authors from all different romance genres and publishers.  It’s been fun every step of the way.

What is the essence of a Cindy Kirk novel?

It’s a fun, enjoyable read with a dash of humor.

What is next for Cindy?

More books in my Jackson Hole series for Harlequin.  A return to Harper Collins with a novella that will release in December 2014.  And, who knows? That’s the beauty of writing.

More from Cindy

An Interview with Nicola Cornick

Nicola Cornick - profileWelcome 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!

One Night with the Laird - US copyYou 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 LairdOne 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.

Thank you!
More by Nicola: