I'm delighted to introduce to the Banditas hugely talented historical romance writer and altogether good egg (keeping the British flavor) Nicola Cornick. Nicola writes for Mills & Boon Historicals, Harlequin Historicals and HQN and her main area of interest is the Regency period.
Nicola, welcome to the Romance Bandits. Can you tell us a little bit about your early life as a writer and your journey to publication?
I think my earliest foray into writing was when I was about ten and created an imaginary kingdom called Ibazania of which I was, naturally, the queen! I had all kinds of magical adventures there and recorded them in an exercise book that my mother still keeps. I suppose I should be grateful that she doesn’t bring the book out to show visitors – as far as I know…
But despite starting to write quite early on, it took me years and years and years to get published. That probably sounds familiar to a lot of people. I wrote my first Regency romance, True Colours, when I was eighteen and spent three years revising it over late night cups of coffee with friends at college. Even now some of them remember James Mullineaux, the hero. I hope it’s because he was incredibly attractive but maybe it was just because they had to put up with him “living” with us for three years. I submitted the book to Mills and Boon and it was rejected. It took me another ten years, lots of revisions and two more submissions before they accepted it.
Strangely enough, I was dreaming about Ibazania only a week ago – perhaps I should set a Regency series of there!
You're clearly a great Regency enthusiast. What do you think lies behind the perennial appeal of this period in English history? Why does it particularly appeal to you?
Hmm, I’ve often tried to work out the appeal of the Regency period and it’s one of the things I love discussing with people. Clearly, whilst the sight of Colin Firth in a wet shirt and breeches is a splendid thing, it can’t be held completely responsible for the popularity of the Regency in books, films and TV.
Jane Austen’s books are timeless classics, of course, and some of the film and TV adaptations have been superb. I think there’s also an appeal in the rigid social structure and the rules governing courtship and marriage – and how far those rules might be bent or broken.
For me the appeal comes from the huge contrast that there was in society between the glitter and glamour of the Ton and the poverty and hardship that there was in other ranks of society. Writing about the house parties and the balls and the fabulous frocks is great but it’s also good to have the gritty side of life to research and that also provides wonderful story ideas.
You've got a great backlist, Nicola. Do you have any particular favorites among your books? Why?
Well, first of all I’m glad you like the backlist! Thank you. It’s difficult choosing favourites, isn’t it, a bit like having to choose between my pets! I can honestly say that I was madly in love with the heroes of all my books. I’m very free with my favours in that respect. In terms of favourite books, though, I have a particular soft spot for The Penniless Bride because it is a “happy book,” a rags to riches fairy story, which I think still manages to be emotionally intense as well as fun and entertaining. I also loved researching the history of chimney sweeps for that book. It was fascinating.
I loved The Penniless Bride. A real fairytale but with your exemplary grip on historical reality. Another book of yours that I particularly enjoyed was Lord Greville's Captive which was set during the English Civil War in the 17th century. Clearly, other people agreed with me as LGC was nominated for several awards. Were there any particular challenges or rewards in writing about a period other than the Regency? Do you have any plans to write more non-Regency books?
Lord Greville's Captive is another book that is close to my heart because I had wanted to write it for so long. I love the period of the English Civil War because it was a time of such intense experiences and emotions. There was huge physical danger, the potential for betrayal and redemption, heightened passions and intrigue, all of which appeal to me as a writer of romance. It was also fun to read up on and research a different time period, and because I work in a seventeenth century historic house I had lots of visual history – buildings, paintings etc to draw on. The drawback was that I had to plan in more research time than with my Regency books since I didn’t have as much detailed knowledge of the period, but that wasn’t exactly a hardship.
I don’t currently have any plans to write other books outside the Regency period except for one very special project. I’ve written a book set in the Edwardian era as part of the Harlequin Mills and Boon Centenary celebrations for 2008. It’s called The Last Rake In London and comes out in March 2008. The hero is a descendent of the Kestrel family who featured in my Bluestocking Brides Regency series. My grandmother is 99 years old and a true Edwardian lady, so the book is dedicated to her.
Your current HQN release is Lord of Scandal.I thoroughly enjoyed this story about celebrity and scandal in the Regency. Can you tell us a little about this book?
I first became interested in celebrity in the Regency period when I studied the appeal of heroes for my MA dissertation. It was a tough assignment but someone had to do it! Amongst others, I studied Horatio Nelson and was fascinated to realise that he was a celebrity as well as a war hero. In Lord of Scandal Ben Hawksmoor, the hero, is a man who has built a celebrity persona for himself. He’s one of the Prince Regent’s set of dazzling, dissolute characters, a gambler and a rake. But the real Ben is very different – a dark, complex character who is attracted to the heroine, Catherine, because she is open and loving and the opposite of him in so many ways.
What are you working on now?
I’m currently writing the second book in a Regency series called The Brides of Fortune for HQN Books. The series kicks off with Unmasked in July 2008. I’m pretty excited about Unmasked because in Nick Falconer it has one of those historical heroes I love – principled and honourable but sexy as hell into the bargain! Marina, the heroine, is more than a match for him. She has some deep, dark secrets to hide and is determined that Nick is not going to seduce them out of her no matter how hard he tries!
QUESTION AND PRIZES: Lord of Scandal is all about glamour and glitz and Regency celebrity. Which actor do you think looks the best in historical costume - or a wet shirt and soaking breeches! The prize is a signed copy of Lord of Scandal plus some luxurious pampering treats from the Jane Austen Centre in Bath.