NAW Interview with Nicola Cornick

Nicola Cornick

Nicola Cornick is a USA Today bestselling author and writes Regency historicals for HQN Books and MIRA. She studied History at London and Oxford and was awarded a distinction for her dissertation on historical heroes.

Romantic Times has described her writing as emotional and sexually charged and Publishers Weekly have called her a rising star. She is a double nominee for both the RWA RITA Award and the RNA Love Story of the Year.

Nicola lives near Oxford and loves reading, writing, history, music, wildlife, travel and walking her dog. Visit her here.

NAW- Tell us about your book, Claimed By The Laird. How did you develop Lady Christina MacMorlan character?

I had planned the Scottish Brides series to be the stories of three sisters, starting with Lucy, the youngest, and ending with Christina, the eldest. I knew Christina was going to be very different from their sisters who were both accredited beauties, and that she would generally be considered to be the “old maid” of the family. From there it was a short step to imagine the secret life that someone like Christina might have; she ran her father’s ducal estates so I knew she would be capable and practical but it was fun to give her a hidden side as the ringleader of a very successful smuggling gang. I liked the idea that no one in her family knew what she was getting up to because they only saw the side of her character that they wanted to see, that of the dutiful daughter.

NAW- Tell us about your forthcoming book, Secrets of the Winter Queen. How did you get the idea for it? What is it about?

Secrets of the Winter Queen is a book I’ve been wanting to write for over ten years. I work as a historian at Ashdown House, a 17th century house in Oxfordshire, and it has a fascinating and romantic history.  The research I did into Ashdown’s history led me to Elizabeth of Bohemia, the Winter Queen, who was the daughter of King James I. I wanted to write a fictionalised account of her life and her connection to William,1st Earl of Craven to whom she was said to have been secretly married.  The story developed as a historical romantic mystery taking place in three different time periods, the 17th century, the 19th century and the 21st century.

NAW- How long do you take to finish a book? How do you decide the titles for your books?

I used to write a book every 6 months but now that I am writing historical fiction set in three different time periods I need much more time to research and develop a more complicated plot so I generally take 9 months to a year to write my books. It’s a wonderful luxury to have the time to research the history really thoroughly.

Choosing titles is difficult. Sometimes a title presents itself and it’s a great fit for the book from the start. Other times I’m waiting for an inspired title idea to come to me whilst I’m writing. Most of the time, though, I discuss it with my editor and we come up with something that conveys the essence of the story.

NAW- What drew you to the romance genre?

I like the fact that the best romantic fiction has emotional truth at its core. I think it’s a wonderful way to explore all the important questions around love and relationships.

NAW- Do you carry out extensive research before you write? Take us through your writing process.

I’m not a planner by nature when it comes to my writing so I usually come up with a character, a plot idea or a setting that I want to explore and plunge straight in. That was fine when I was writing Regency historical romance because I had quite an extensive background in the genre and so didn’t need to do research before I began unless it was for a very specific event or background subject.  I would usually research as I went along. However I found that when I switched to historical mystery it required both a great deal more research and also a lot more intricate plotting to make a story work across three different time periods. So for a change I had to research my historical framework first and also plot out the sequence of events in each of the different eras. Then I started writing and continued to research alongside. I also had to go back and re-plot several times as the story changed as I wrote it. I imagine this will be my writing process in future but I am looking forward to seeing how it will develop as I get more experience with historical mystery.

NAW- Tell us about your publishing journey. How did you become a writer?

For 15 years I worked as a university administrator and wrote as a hobby alongside my day job. It took me 12 years for Mills & Boon to publish my first historical romance. They rejected it twice and I revised it and carried on working on it over the years because I was determined to get it published but I didn’t have much spare time to write in. Once I was published I had two strokes of luck. The first came when my books were selected for publication in the US and so reached a wider audience. That was when I was able to give up my office job and write full time.  I think it was then that I regarded myself as a fully-fledged author. Then when Harlequin was setting up a new mainstream imprint I was starting to write longer Regency historical romances and these were acquired by HQN. I’ve worked hand and been very lucky and consider myself very fortunate indeed to be able to do a job I love.

NAW- Tell us about your other works.

I’ve mostly written historicals set in the Regency period. I like to take unusual historical events such as the Frost Fair of 1814 and the London Beer Flood and explore them as part of my stories. I’ve also written a book set during the English Civil War and another in the Edwardian period but Regency was always my first love.

NAW- Tell us about yourself. What do you do when you are not writing?

Well, at the moment I am staying in a cottage by the sea and taking my dog for long walks along the beach! I love being in the outdoors, whether it is working on my garden or walking in the countryside. I work as a volunteer for various charities in my spare time, including training service dogs, doing wildlife conservation, and doing the work I mentioned at Ashdown House. I also love to travel.

NAW- Please name your favourite writers. Are there any who you’d like to name as an inspiration?

So many wonderful writers have inspired me over the years.  Amongst my favourites are Daphne Du Maurier, Mary Stewart and Susanna Kearsley. Sarah Morgan is also a favourite author of mine.

NAW-What are you currently reading?

I’m currently reading “In The Blood” by Steve Robinson.  It’s a genealogical mystery and combines all my favourite elements of a thriller with a fascinating historical mystery.

NAW- What will you be working on next?

I’ve almost finished Secrets of the Winter Queen and after that I have a Regency Christmas short story to complete. My next big project is another historical romantic mystery set in the Tudor period, which I’m looking forward to very much!


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