Monday, 11 April 2022

An Interview with Nicola Cornick


By Marilyn Forsyth

At the end of last year I applied for, and was successful in gaining, a mentorship through The History Quill with international best-selling dual timeline author Nicola Cornick. I cannot praise both Nicola and The History Quill enough. I learned so much with the help of this lovely lady and, to cap it all off, she agreed to this interview.

Welcome to our blog, Nicola. We’re delighted to have you here. What is one ‘must have’ when you’re writing?  

A cup of tea, English Breakfast for preference, no matter the time of day.

Can't beat English Breakfast! What was your big break in publishing? 

My big break came when I had been writing for 12 years and the historical editor at Harlequin Mills and Boon sent me a page of revision suggestions for a manuscript that I’d sent in and encouraged me to resubmit it. That was True Colours, my first Regency romance.

Wow! 12 years! Persistence does pay off. What do you think are the key ingredients for a great historical novel? 

A great story to tell, an immersive historical world and characters who are authentic to their time but are dealing with timeless themes we can all relate to.

Which historical novelists do you like to read? 

Susanna Kearsley, Anna Campbell, Diana Norman and Daphne Du Maurier to name only a few of my favourites!

How lovely to see our own Anna Campbell there! And I love Susanna Kearsley, too. What is your favourite historical period to write about? 

It’s hard to choose but the seventeenth century in England just edges in as favourite. The Civil War period gave women more freedom and opportunity as well as creating enormous emotional conflict. It’s a fascinating period to write about.

What inspired the story of The Last Daughter

Link to buy (Aus)

I love exploring real life historical mysteries. The Last Daughter was inspired by the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower during the reign of Richard III. It’s a complicated time period that has interested me for years.

Such a beautiful cover! And the Princes in the Tower remains a fascinating mystery. Can you tell us more about the story? 

The Last Daughter is a dual time story set in the present and the 15th century. Serena Warren returns to the village of Minster Lovell in Oxfordshire to try to find out what happened when her sister Caitlin disappeared ten years before. In doing so she uncovers a family mystery that links her to the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower five hundred years before. The historical part of the book tells the story of Anne, wife of Francis Lovell, the closest ally of Richard III, who is drawn into a plan to protect the princes.

I am so looking forward to reading this! Who would you cast as your main characters? 

Jonathan Bailey from Bridgerton would make a brilliant Francis Lovell, and Catriona Balfe would be a perfect Anne.

Gorgeous pairing! I adore Catriona! What challenges did the book pose for you? 

Writing dual time books is always a challenge for me as I am a pantser by inclination and having to intertwine two time periods requires a lot of planning. The Last Daughter was also hard because it was written during the pandemic when I was finding it difficult to concentrate and was also dealing with family issues. I was also trying to fit a huge swathe of complex history into a comparatively short word count and I had to edit heavily.

I have absolutely no idea how a pantser can write dual timelines, and yet you do it so brilliantly. I greatly enjoyed The Phantom TreeWhat are you working on next?

Link to pre-order (Aus)

I’m currently revising my next book, The Winter Garden, which will be published in October. It’s another dual time book, set in the present and at the end of the Tudor era/beginning of the 17th century and it looks at the women behind the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. We hear a lot about Guy Fawkes and Robert Catesby, but what role did their female relatives play in the story and how did it impact on their lives? I enjoyed exploring that.

Ashdown House Oxfordshire.

Research is one of my favourite parts of writing about history. Any advice for aspiring/emerging historical fiction writers? 

For any writer, I’d always suggest writing about something you feel passionately about. Your love for your subject will shine out.

Excellent advice that I've tried to follow! 

Love to Love my family and friends for their generosity, kindness and support.

Love to Laugh at the antics of my 8-month-old puppy!

Love to Learn more about history all the time.

Thanks so much for joining us, Nicola! 

If you have a comment or a question for Nicola, she would love to hear from you!

BIO: Nicola Cornick is an international bestselling and award-winning novelist who has written over thirty historical mysteries and historical romances in a career spanning twenty years. Her books sell in over twenty-five countries, have been translated into many languages and been published in multiple formats including e-book, audio and manga. She currently writes dual time fiction for Harper Collins HQ. She is historian and guide at the National Trust 17th century Ashdown House in Oxfordshire.

 In her spare time Nicola is a guide dog puppy walker.

The gorgeous Baden, guide dog.





Link to buy The Last Daughter paperback:

Monday, 14 February 2022

10 Valentine's Day Gifts for Writers

by Enisa Haines

Ⓒ Enisa Haines

It's Valentine's Day today, the day we can tell the people most important to us they are loved. What to gift them? We all love a dazzling bouquet of fragrant red roses, chocolates temptingly displayed in a heart-shaped box, a teddy bear or a sparkling piece of jewelry, but gifting our loved ones something unique, something more personal, shows how much they mean to us. And if our loved ones are writers here's a list of gifts that will let them know how very special they are.

1. Paper roses

Buy here

If your writer loves flowers then a rose made to order from the hand-cut pages of a preloved copy of their favourite novel, each petal shaped by hand, will be sure to inspire.

2. Journal

Buy here

For writers who love to write by hand, whether to jot down ideas for characters, settings, conflicts or plots, or to write the complete story, journals with inspiring cover illustrations like the one above are gifts they'll treasure.

3. Feather Quill or Fountain Pen

 Buy here

What better way to inspire writing by hand than to hold a feather quill like those used by beloved authors of long ago.

4. Week/Month/Year Planner

 Buy here

Organising a week or month or year is a great way for writers to then focus on writing and keep track of their progress and other goals such as manuscript submission and book publication dates.

5. Online Writing Course/Writing-Editing Software/Creative Tools Subscription

 Buy here

Whether a beginning writer or a successful author with multiple books published, mastering storytelling is the common goal. Ways to achieve that include enrolling in online writing courses, enlisting the aid of writing or editing software or subscribing to online sites such as One Stop for Writers that provide creative tools.

6. Noise-Cancelling Headphones

 Buy here

If background noise is distracting then noise-cancelling headphones are just what a creative muse needs.

7. Kindle-Unlimited Subscription

 Buy here

Every writer loves to read so the gift of a digital subscription to accessing millions of books is one they'll be grateful for.

8. Writer's Clock

Writer's clock - Enisa Haines

When immersed in writing, writers often lose track of time. With a special writer's clock, they'll always know the time for the next task.

9. Ergonomic Chair or Coccyx Seat Cushion and Lumbar Support Pillow

coccyx and lumber support - Enisa Haines

Writers can spend hours seated at their computers, often with bad posture that leads to sciatica, lower back or tailbone pain. Sitting in an ergonomic chair will alleviate pressure on the coccyx/tailbone, relieve sciatic nerve pain, support the back's curve and provide healthy posture. If the budget doesn't allow for a chair, then a coccyx seat cushion and lumbar support pillow giving the same benefits can turn a bad chair into a good chair.

10. Writer's Retreat

Getting away from the responsibilities of daily life to a place where focus is solely on writing is every writer's dream. Time away at a writing retreat surrounded by other writers inspires motivation and lets creativity flow. 

Writer's retreat - Enisa Haines

Would the writer in your life like one of these gifts? Or is there something else they'd love to receive? 

Love to love: writing by hand. My creativity loves it too!

Love to laugh: romantic comedies are always fun.

Love to learn: for all things writing, One Stop for Writers is the subscription to have!

Monday, 20 December 2021


 Well, hello my darlings, long time no see! I'm delighted to be back with you and chatting about my absolute favourite thing: CHRISTMAS BOOKS! Christmas is tremendously special for me, and combining the love of the season with romance is a complete winner. I've got ten special books to share, so I'm going to dive straight in.

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DEAR SANTA by Debbie Macomber is a lovely way to kick off your festive reading; I always enjoy her Christmas books. How many of you remember writing letters to Santa when you were little, with a wish list? How many wishes came true? Lindy Carmichael's just had her heart broken - then her mother gives her all her old Santa letters, and Lindy realises sometimes Christmas wishes do come true, with a little help from you-know-who. No, not Voldemort, of course I mean Santa!

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Fancy a cowboy for Christmas? Don't we all! Vicki Lewis Thompson gifts us the scorching novella It's Christmas, Cowboy, and we do need to pop this in our Christmas stocking. With the always-poignant trope of second-chance-at-love, old school friends Tucker and Lacey reconnect. And boy howdy, do they ever! This is fast and furious, so if you've only got a short break, choose this.

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And speaking of cowboys - ranchers - ranch builders Kelly Hunter's Must Love Christmas is totally fabulous, one of my 5 star reads this year. Seth Casey is such a dream hero, strong and rugged and sexy and capable and, well, also nice. Madeline is the rich girl who owns the ranch he wants to own, and she says no to his offer to buy it. I thought this might degenerate into a fight (sorry Kelly, I should've known better), but they're both so heroic it turns out to be a heart-grabbing romance. The scene on Christmas Day here is enough to move even the stoniest of Christmas scrooges (sniff). 

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Rebecca Raisin is a new-to-me author this year, and I read the two books loosely linked to Flora's Travelling Christmas Shop and loved them: Rosie's Travelling Tea Shop and Aria's Travelling Book Shop. Both were terrific, especially the latter (it's about books!). I couldn't resist the third one, set in the most fairytale of all places at Christmas: Lapland! I'm not kidding. With reindeer and snow and hot chocolate and omigosh the food, and Christmas trees and, cough, Connor, a bit of a Christmas grinch. Flora's about the sort that out, quick smart. This is a gentle romance, and it's sparkly with tinsel and glitter and everything Christmassy.

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From Lapland to Edinburgh! I discovered Jenny Colgan last year, and she combines warm humour and romance with festive fun and food: a complete reader seduction. When you add in the booky setting for The Christmas Bookshop, it's winning all the way. At first I wasn't sure if I was going to like Carmen: she was aimless and a bit thoughtless. When her mother and sister foist her into a pretty hopeless destined-to-fail job at the bookstore, it takes a while for Carmen to shine. But, happily, shine she does, and just in time for Christmas. The romance is a little bit different, and the quirky characters totally capture your heart. 

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Sweet Christmas Secrets is a stunning anthology with ten festive Regency stories written by ten Aussie authors. Kudos to them all! I had a fabulous time reading my way through the lushly romantic stories. Every one is just long enough to sit and enjoy as a mini break in-between all your Christmas busyness. They each feature a letter and/or a secret, and there are many misunderstandings and broken hearts before we get our happy ending. What a Christmas bliss bomb.

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While we're in Regency mode, treat yourself to the charming novella A Christmas Love Redeemed, by fan favourite Alison Stuart. It's a second-chance-at-love story, and it's simply lovely. Another one to enjoy with a quick hot chocolate and a fruit mince pie. Our hero is French (swoon) and the heroine English, so that leads to high tension when the hero is caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. Such a special treat.

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Who can resist the two sweet cherubs on the cover of Their Yuletide Healing? Not I! This is another new-to-me author, Mindy Obenhaus, who writes for Harlequin Love Inspired, a series where faith is a main element in the books. Have to say, faith and Christmas sort of go together, and also reconciliation and forgiveness and healing. Here the town Scrooge suddenly finds his guarded, lonely heart invaded by these two little foster kids and their foster mom. Just. Beautiful. 

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It truly is a pleasure to read another Christmas story from Sarah Morgan, and The Christmas Escape is marvellous. And, again, shock, off we go to Lapland! Is the Universe telling me something? Do I need to book an escape to Lapland? (Yes. The answer is obviously yes.) It's not just snow and the cold and festivities, however. This is a deeply moving story of a little family in crisis, of reconciliation, and a zinger do-I-hate-you-or-love-you? romance. (Spoiler: love. The answer is obviously love.) 

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I've been told the cover of Trisha Ashley's book One More Christmas at the Castle is all glittery and gorgeous, so it almost seemed sacrilegious to read it on my Kindle. I wanted all that razzle dazzle in my hands, sigh. But any which way you read this book you'll love it. You'll also put on weight just reading about the lavish food, oh my. I have no idea how these characters stayed trim. All that walking in the snow? An elderly widow invites a few key people from her family and friends - and the Heavenly Houseparty catering company - to mastermind her last Christmas at the castle (bit sad). The burning question is who will inherit, but I kept getting distracted by the Christmas cake and cheese straws and...never mind. Not one but two romances here, so terrific, and a fabulous cast of characters. And I'm not going to mention decorations or the food any more. Although there was the mulled wine and the A wonderful book that happily wallowed in Christmas from beginning to end, and it made me happy. I now want to live in a castle and have Heavenly Houseparties cater for me, forever. Enjoy.

So that's my little list. Happily I have many, many more also ready to go, including my annual reread of the classic A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. If you click on the link you'll see I've indulged in a very special new edition. 

Merry Christmas, dear readers. May your festive time be merry and bright, and I hope Santa brings you some wonderful reading.

Do stay safe and well, and hug your precious ones tight.

Loads of love from Miranda xxx

Love to love: Christmas! Everything and all things Christmassy!

Love to laugh: I'm a bit like Cassandra Samuels, I love funny Christmas movies.

Love to learn: What are you reading? And some last minute hot tips for the Christmas stockings? Please tell? Pop it all in the comments. below.