INTERVIEWED BY DEBS CARR
I reviewed Nicola Cornick's latest book last Thursday on Women's Fiction Thursday. Today, Nicola has kindly answered a few questions that I put to her about her books and her writing process.
1. For your latest book, Whisper of Scandal, which is set in the gossip-ridden world of Regency London, you travelled to the Arctic as part of your research for the character Lady Joanna Ware. Can you tell us a little about your trip and what you were able to glean from your visit?
The trip was the most fabulous experience! Although with the internet you can research just about any location from home these days I wanted to get a feel for the atmosphere of Spitsbergen because it was so unlike anywhere I’d been before. So we set sail on a small ship around the island and had some terrific adventures, hiking up glaciers, seeing polar bears close up in the wild and getting to talk to people about what it was like to live in such extreme conditions. I picked up lots of fascinating detail that I was able to put into the book and really got a feel for the place. Plus it was great to be able to research the history of Spitsbergen on the spot.
2. When writing historical novels, do you find it difficult to keep the sense of the era throughout the novel and how do you go about writing the characters’ voices as they spoke so differently then as opposed to how we speak now?
I enjoy creating a sense of time and place in my books, which I hope conveys strongly the era I’m writing in. I do this through all the little background details and the dialogue. But I am aware that I’m writing for a modern audience and so I adapt some of the aspects like language for a modern ear. I don’t write like Jane Austen or Georgette Heyer, for example, but I do try to make sure my characters sound authentic and that there are no anachronisms in the language or the setting.
3. I was wondering how long it took you to write the first draft of Whisper of Scandal and how many drafts of your books you produce before you feel they’re ready for publication?
It took me about 9 months to write Whisper of Scandal. I’m not a planner when it comes to writing so I don’t write a first draft all the way through. I tend to have a vague idea of where the book is going and set off on the first few chapters. Then, once I’ve got more deeply into my characters heads, I’ll go back to the beginning and polish it before I continue. Once I have a complete draft I will usually revise it three more times before I am satisfied with it.
4. What’s your favourite part of writing a book, apart from seeing it on the bookshelves?
I enjoy the revision process very much. Once I have a first draft I love going through the book adding depth and detail, really getting to grips with the characters, tightening the pace and putting more romance into the story!
5. Can you tell us a little about your journey to becoming a published author?
When I was eighteen I started writing a “highwayman romance.” It took me about three years to complete. I’d always loved reading historical romance so when it was finished I sent the book in to Harlequin Mills & Boon, who published so many of the books I loved. They rejected it and advised me that the intrigue element outweighed the romance. I rewrote it but they rejected it again outright this time! I kept on writing, very much as a hobby, alongside my full time job in an office. On my third attempt Mills & Boon sent me a very constructive revision letter. That book eventually became my first published historical romance, True Colours, and it had taken twelve years from first draft to publication!
6. Finally, what piece of advice would you give to an unpublished writer to help them towards publication?
In general terms I would advise an aspiring author to have faith in themselves. It can be a long, tough journey to publication and it’s hard to keep going if you get lots of rejections but you need to believe in yourself.
Specific advice for historical romance authors: devise a plot that grabs the reader from the start and doesn’t let them go, create characters that readers will really care about and make sure that there is sizzling chemistry between your hero and heroine!
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions Nicola.
You can buy your copy of Whisper of Scandal here