What makes you write a book based on a legend such as Lady Godiva?
The legend goes that Lady Godiva rode naked through the streets of Coventry, covered only by her long, flowing hair. You may have seen her portrait, even if adorning a box of Belgian chocolates. She begged her husband Lord Leofric of Mercia to lift a high tax on her people, who would starve if forced to pay.
Lady Godiva (or chocolate!) must have been in the back of my mind when I was doing some research on the word lady in my academic life. The legend of Lady Godiva grabbed me and didn’t let go until I had written a version of Godiva’s story.
Will you use a legend or a myth in the same way again?
Naked: A Novel of Lady Godiva is the first in an historical fiction trilogy that brings back the story of a ‘Legendary Lady’ to tell it from her point of view and twist her tale. I’ve already written the second Lady of Legend story and will be revealing her name very soon … A clue is: Lost voices. Lost lore. Lost love.
Let me know if you got it right!
Can we expect to see more historical fiction from you? How does it compare to writing contemporary romance?
There are two Legendary Ladies to come after Lady Godiva in NAKED.
I also have a pair of Harlequin Historical romances being published. They explore the passion beneath propriety in Victorian London. The first (coming in November 2015) is called Enticing Benedict Cole. It’s about an artist, a lady and a secret love.
Writing historical fiction takes me into another world more than writing contemporary romance. It’s hard to come back sometimes.
Do you enjoy researching your books? Or is it a chore?
I like research. I’m an academic as well as an author, so that’s lucky.
Would you make a point of visiting each major setting in a book? Or are reference books and websites sufficient?
I try to visit major settings. Sometimes I’ve visited them many years before and they’ve stayed in my mind, so they’re easy to bring to life. I was born in Scotland, my husband is English and our daughter was born in London. We lived in the UK for many years so the landscape is well known to me.
In Western Australia, there’s natural beauty in far flung places, so it’s always an adventure to visit locations. But my most extravagant research trip was made when Black Diamonds was accepted by Harlequin. It’s all about truffles, and my husband and I were so thrilled we threw caution (and savings) to the wind and got on a plane to attend the famous Truffle Mass in the south of France.
Where does social media come in your working day? Is it something you enjoy or a necessary part of your job?
Social media is a big part of the job. I work with a friend whose area of academic research is social media, in order to keep learning and keep up.
Your website has a special page to welcome book clubs to your work. Do you find you get a warm welcome in return, when you visit in person or virtually?
I’ve been invited to book clubs and am always delighted to take part. On the web page I’ve made some delicious serving suggestions to go along with reading NAKED.
Is there a message you want readers to take from your books?
Do you have a favourite place/time for writing?
I love to write outdoors. Western Australia has a warm climate and I often write on a big table on our deck, beneath the shade of a peppermint tree. There is an old Scottish Bardic saying: “Well do I write, under the greenwoods”. I hope so.
What makes you choose unusual settings and subjects for your books (truffles, rare birds, rare orchids)?
One of the first pieces of fiction writing advice I received was to use my senses, so I decided to ‘romance my senses’ in my own backyard, by exploring the region where I live.
Black Diamonds is set in the world of delicious truffles, and Western Australia is a wine and truffle region, so that was no hardship. Yum! Next I explored the extraordinary birdlife in Broome, which became the gorgeous coastal setting for Hide and Seek. The third in the series is Wild Flower. It features tiny, rare orchids that bloom on Australia’s southern ‘rainbow coast’. The other location for Wild Flower is Singapore, where I used to lecture, and now stop to see the orchids too.
I’ve been thrilled by the reaction here in Australia. A truffle company has given away an e-copy of Black Diamonds with every purchase from their 2015 harvest and I’ve been invited to do a signing of Hide and Seek at the Bird Observatory in Broome. I’d love to sign books from a bird hide!