Wednesday, 1 October 2014

All my main protagonists are fictional but I do use some real historical characters in the background.

Interview with Nicola Cornick 
by Agnes A. Rose

Nicola Cornick is a USA Today bestselling author. She writes witty and passionate historical romances. She studied History at London and Oxford and she was awarded a distinction for her dissertation on historical heroes. Nicola has “double life” as a writer and guide at the stunning 17th century hunting lodge, Ashdown House. “Romantic Times” has described her writing as emotional and sexually charged and “Publishers Weekly” has 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 writing, reading, history, music, wildlife, travelling and walking with her dog.

Agnes A. Rose: Nicola, thank you so much for accepting my invitation to this interview. Welcome to my blog! At the beginning could you tell us a bit about yourself because some of my readers might not know you?

Nicola Cornick: Thank you very much for inviting me! It’s a pleasure to be here.
I’ve been writing since I was a child but it took me a long time to realize that I wanted to be a writer as a profession. For years I worked in a University, organizing exams and award ceremonies, and wrote in my spare time. Finally I decided to give up my administrative job and write full time and I’m very glad I did. It’s a huge privilege to be able to do something I love as my job!

Agnes A. Rose: You are very interested in history. I suppose that exactly for this reason you started to write historical romances. You are the author of many novels. More than thirty of your books have already been translated into Polish. Do you remember your debut novel? Was it difficult to publish it? What the book is about?

Nicola Cornick: I remember my debut novel very well. It was called “True Colours” and I had been writing and revising it since I was in my teens. I submitted it to Mills & Boon twice before it was accepted. They turned it down at first because it was really an adventure story rather than a romance. It featured a dispossessed nobleman who had become a highwayman. I think in those days I was very influenced by Georgette Heyer! Anyway, after 12 years of writing and re-writing the manuscript was finally accepted and it was published in 1998.

Agnes A. Rose: You write Regency historicals. Could you tell us why you decided to choose this part of English history? What is so interesting about this era that you want to put your characters in the early 19th century?

Nicola Cornick: I find the early nineteenth century a fascinating period of history. The world was on the cusp of huge change, politically, industrially and in so many other ways. I love the extreme contrasts in the Regency period. At the top of society there is all that glitter and elegance yet underneath it is a volatile mix of crime and poverty. It gives an author a very broad history on which to draw for ideas and inspiration. I also love the idea that society had very strict rules that governed behaviour. It’s great to look beyond the rules for the emotions that were beneath.

Agnes A. Rose: Are all of your protagonists fictional or maybe some of them are the historical ones?

Nicola Cornick: All my main protagonists are fictional but I do use some real historical characters in the background. Lord Sidmouth, the Home secretary, has a cameo in a number of my books.

Agnes A. Rose: What inspires you to write? I do not think about history, but I mean the storyline.

Nicola Cornick: Great question! I think I look for parallels between the past and the present. So for example I wrote one book about a girl who won the Regency national lottery and another about a man who was a “celebrity.” I love looking for the similarities and differences in the lives of people then and now.

Agnes A. Rose: How do you do your research for your books? How much research is involved in each type of work that you do?

Nicola Cornick: The research is one of my favourite parts of the job. I like my stories to be as authentic as they can be so I spent as much time as I need checking the detail. Usually I will plunge into a story and research the bits I need as I go along but if I know I’m going to be writing about something specific that I need to look into more deeply then I will do that first. So in my latest book, Claimed by the Laird, I was writing about whisky smuggling in Scotland and I needed lots of specific detail. I went to a museum to study a reconstructed whisky still and I read lots of accounts of the smuggling trade and then I dropped that information into the story as and when I needed it.

Agnes A. Rose: You have probably been asked about this a million times, but in spite of that I am going to ask you one more time. Is there a secret to create a bestseller?

Nicola Cornick: I really don’t know the answer to that and wish I did! I think that sometimes you can hit on an idea that strikes a chord with readers and they love it and then word spreads about a book. But I don’t think there is a “formula” for success or would all do it! I think you need to have a strong, individual writing voice and you need to be passionate about what you write, and your readers will respond to that.

Agnes A. Rose: Is there any type of writing you would like to explore in future? If so, what is it? Why?

Nicola Cornick: I would love to write historical non-fiction because history as an academic subject fascinates me and I’d like to study it more. I enjoy adding a mystery or crime element to my books so I can see myself writing crime novels one day. But historical fiction is my first love.

Agnes A. Rose: I am sure that you meet your readers to promote your novels and talk to them about your books. I am very interested to find out what is the greatest compliment a reader could pay you?

Nicola Cornick: I love meeting readers and chatting about books and writing and history. These days I “meet” a lot of them online on Facebook and Twitter as well as my blog and it’s great. I’m always thrilled when someone tells me that they stayed up until 3am to finish one of my books. Being told that your stories are so compelling someone can’t put them down is a huge compliment.

Agnes A. Rose: How much of your week is devoted to writing? What do you enjoy doing when you are not writing?

Nicola Cornick: I start writing early each morning and work until lunchtime. In the afternoon I deal with emails and promotion and then, if I have time I will go back to write some more later. I do try to stick to a schedule because I was used to working from 8.30 until 5 when I was in an office and I like to have that structure. When I’m not writing I will take my dog for long walks in the countryside.

Agnes A. Rose: I know that authors usually dislike the question about their own favourite book, because it is difficult for them to indicate the only one. But you have written so many novels that I think that you must have the novel which is very important for you. Which one is it? Why?

Nicola Cornick: It is a really difficult question to answer because I think most authors like different books for different reasons. I love those of my books that have unusual backgrounds such as The Notorious Lord, which has an archaeologist for a hero.  I love the Scottish set books because Scotland is such a wonderful place to write about. Often it’s the characters that make a book special to you. My all time favourite is probably “Desired” because I loved the strong heroine, and the hero was everything I believe a hero should be.

Agnes A. Rose: Who is your first reviewer? Do you have the person who reads your novels before you send them to your agent?

Nicola Cornick: I don’t have a reader who sees my books before they go to my agent and editor. Instead I tend to discuss my books with a very close friend who is also a writer. We meet up several times a year for what is essentially a day of in depth discussion of our current manuscripts and we help each other out throughout the writing process.

Agnes A. Rose: Since you write Regency historicals, I wonder if you sometimes want to go back in time and live in the era of the Regency. Maybe do you have your favourite individual you would like to meet there? 

Nicola Cornick: I’d love to own a time machine and go back to certain historical eras, but only to visit to see what it was really like. I enjoy my home comforts too much to want to live in a time before there was proper heating and medical treatment and sanitation and all the things we can take for granted now.

Agnes A. Rose: As I mentioned above you are also a guide at the stunning 17th century hunting lodge called Ashdown House. Could you tell us something more about this part of your work and about this wonderful place?

Nicola Cornick: I’ve worked as a guide and a historian for the National Trust at Ashdown for the past 12 years. I love the house; it’s stunning architecturally and has such an interesting history. My favourite aspect of the work is meeting the people who come to visit and sharing that history with them. It’s one of my greatest passions.

Agnes A. Rose: What can your readers in the world expect in the nearest future?

Nicola Cornick: I’m not sure whether my Scottish Regency series has been released yet in Poland but if not I hope it will be out there soon and that readers will enjoy the books. I also have some Regency short stories that will be coming out in the next year. The books I am currently working on are set in three time periods, the present, the 17th century and the Regency, so it’s something a little bit different. It has romance, history, mystery and just a touch of the paranormal! I’m really excited to be writing it.

Agnes A. Rose: Nicola, thank you once again for this conversation. I wish you further success in your writing. Is there anything you would like to tell your Polish readers?

Nicola Cornick: Well first I would like to thank my wonderful Polish readers for all their support for my writing over the years. I appreciate it very much. And also I’d like to say that I think the Polish editions of my books have some of the most beautiful covers. I hope one day to come back to Poland and meet some of my readers. That would be awesome. Thank you!

If you want to read this interview in Polish, please click here.

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