Welcome to Nicola Cornick who writes our first blog post for 2015.
Thank you very much for inviting me to the RNA Blog today. It’s a great pleasure to be here!
It was with something of a shock that I realised in 2013 that I had been writing Regency historicals for fifteen years. From the publication of my first traditional Regency, True Colours, by Harlequin Mills and Boon in 1998, I have had a wonderful time living in an alternative historical world. Along the way I have changed from a UK to a US publisher and now back again. The stories have become longer, more sensual and have ranged in setting from the ballrooms of London to the Highlands of Scotland to the far north of the Arctic.
It’s been an amazing time but for more than ten of those fifteen “Regency” years there was something else that I also wanted to write, a book with paranormal elements where the past and the present are entwined, and secrets and mysteries from centuries past are brought to light. I’d been promising myself for years that one day I would write this story but it always got squeezed out by contracts and deadlines until last year I thought that if I didn’t stop and write it now, maybe I never would.
I work as a guide and historian at the National Trust house Ashdown Park, a place with a rich and vivid history that has given me so much inspiration. It was a given that if I wrote a timeslip book then Ashdown and its history would take centre stage. So I started to plan a book set at Ashdown with three intertwined stories. One takes place in the 17th century and involves Ashdown’s owner, the Earl of Craven and Elizabeth, the Winter Queen, to whom it is rumoured he was secretly married. A second strand of the story is based on the notorious love affair of the 19th century Earl of Craven and the courtesan Harriette Wilson, and there is a contemporary thread revealing the connections that link the characters through the centuries.
When I first started to write the book (as opposed to it being a collection of ideas in my head) I also started to have dreams in which I took on a series of ever more bizarre challenges (organising a competition for racing pigeons was one!) I felt scared. I had doubts. I think that maybe I was afraid deep down that I didn’t know how to write something so different. It was exciting to have the time and space for this new project but it was also disorientating because suddenly, after years of promising myself that this was the book of my heart, I actually had to prove it. I had to write it.
With three intertwined stories the book required a lot of planning, a detailed structure and a complex plot, three things that have never been my forte. My books usually arise out of the characters or from particular historical events. I get an idea and write off into the blue. This time, though, I was mixing fact and fiction and also mixing three time periods. When I tried to plan in detail my brain froze up so in the end I did what I always do and just plunged straight in and waited to see what happened. The whole book was a very, very steep learning curve as I struggled to create three stories that were individually compelling yet also wove together to create a much bigger canvas than anything I had ever written before. It was also a huge amount of fun!
Now the book is written and I am revising it to layer in some more character depth and texture, smooth out the wrinkles in the plot and tighten the pace. At the moment the most difficult thing to decide upon is the title – something suitably historical and a tad mysterious! Please look out for the book coming in September from MIRA Books – by which time it will definitely have a name!
Thank you, Nicola for writing such an informative piece.
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