Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
Firstly, many thanks to Pam for inviting me to visit. It is a thrill to be here! Do help yourselves to wine and cake and join us in the Drawing Room.
I love history, both as a reader and an author. I’m also – confession time! – an incurable romantic. Even as a small child, I loved writing – and dreaming – and once wrote my ‘news’ in the flower-edged squares of my bedroom wallpaper! I discovered Georgette Heyer’s Regency novels when I was aged about eleven, setting me on a lifelong love of the era. While I fear that august lady’s talents are far above my reach – we can but aspire, as a friend quite rightly once said – I strive always to be the very best I can be and live up to the Queen of Regency’s magnificent legacy. I like my readers to walk beside my characters and experience the world they inhabit.
I currently have seven books in my back list as myself: A Sense of the Ridiculous, An Improper Marriage (novels); Treasure Beyond Words, Copenhagen’s Last Charge (novellas); The Middle of the Day (short story); Beaux, Ballrooms and Battles (Anthology with other authors) and my newest release, Devil’s Hoof, which is a Shape Shifter Romance. Writing as Vandalia Black, I also have an anthology of Vampire Romance short stories, Vampires Don’t Drink Coffee and Other Stories.
I live in a beautiful part of the UK and when I’m not tramping the grounds of English country houses, either figuratively or physically, I can be found looking after my ponies and mobile mousetraps, maintaining the ‘estate’ or taking long walks with my dog. When I have time, which doesn’t seem to be very often these days, I enjoy watching historical dramas and, of course, curling up with a good book
What type of books do you prefer to write?
In many ways, my spiritual home is the nineteenth century, if not in a practical sense – I live in jodhpurs, adore hot showers, electric kettles and the microwave, and would hate never to have heard Il Divo! Yet I love the courtesy, the manners, the gentler pace of life, the furnishings, the grand houses and, of course, the horses. Mechanical horsepower is inordinately useful, but there is something about the real thing – the smell of leather; the jingle of bit and harness; the evocative aroma of the horses themselves (yes, I was one of those little girls who thought ‘they’ should bottle l’eau de cheval). I am a big softy too, so it was probably inevitable that I should write romance. My Regency stories are traditional romps – light-hearted and witty (I hope), with bags of emotion and feelings. No doubt GH would not approve, but I trust the reader will. My Welsh stallion Shape Shifters are contemporary and a bit more raunchy, though nothing is graphically described.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
My latest book is Devil’s Hoof, the first novel in the stand-alone Welsh Boys series about a family of horse Shape Shifters. The series centres on the ‘bachelor herd’ of the Swift family – in other words, the sons, cousins, brothers and half-brothers who are unmarried/unattached. In the wild, the young colts are ‘kicked out’ of the main herd into a bachelor group.
The story was inspired by a conversation I had at my author group when I was explaining the devastating effects of the equine ailment, Laminitis. The idea of a man stricken with a similar complaint sprang from that discussion. Man and the horse are far more alike in structure than you might think.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
None I dare admit to! Seriously… no, I don’t think I have. I don’t wear a Regency bonnet when I’m writing historical or a wisp of net for Paranormal. I am methodical (sounds better than slow) and can’t ‘dash the story down’. Sometimes, if the right word doesn’t spring to mind, I have to find it before I can go on. That way I can usually do fewer drafts. If I am stuck for a moment, often something like putting the kettle on will undo the knot. I do a rough plan, but then just sit down and write, seeing the story evolve in my head like a film… at least until my characters start deciding I’ve got it all wrong!
What authors or books have influenced you?
When I was about nine, I read a book called The Gauntlet, a time-slip set in medieval Wales. I have never forgotten it and I suspect it started my interest in historical fiction. I also adored the historical works of Antonia Fraser, especially those about Robin Hood. Then I discovered Georgette Heyer and she has had the most influence on me. Her books are timeless, irrespective of era. No matter your age or mood, there is a novel to suit you. I treasure my collection of Elizabeth Chadwick novels and have enjoyed works by Jane Austen, Barbara Erskine, Dick Francis, Beatrix Potter, Enid Blyton, Jean Auel, Amanda Ashley, J.R. Ward and many more. I particularly love Elizabeth’s descriptive skills. In writing terms, I owe much of what I have achieved to my writing mentor, author Sue Johnson, who is wonderfully supportive and encouraging.
What are you working on now?
I have a to-do list a mile long! I have two novels of my own to proof for print; an editing job for a client; a half-written novella to complete for Christmas; a non-fiction work about horses to polish and, looming on the horizon all-too-fast, a project for a novel which I can’t say much about at the moment! Oh, and I have been asked by readers to hurry up and write the next Welsh Boys novel (can I say that?!)
Do you have any advice for new authors?
Write every day, even if you can only manage a few minutes. It will build into something. Once written, put it away for a bit so you return to it with fresh eyes. Be prepared to rewrite, rewrite and rewrite again.
Read, read, read. If writing historical fiction, immerse yourself in the era. Learn how people behaved and talked in that time; prevailing customs; clothing, furnishing, settings. Get someone versed in the era to read it, particularly if writing about a country you are not born to. Nothing throws a reader out of a story faster than poor research and anachronisms. My personal bugbear (apart from equine errors) is a Regency which is no more than a modern story with barely a gown or a bow thrown in. Do your homework!
N.B. If writing Regency, read Georgette Heyer! She invented the genre (Jane Austen was writing about her own time.)
What are you reading now?
‘Not a lot,’ is the short answer! I am trying to read Elizabeth Chadwick’s The Summer Queen, but haven’t had the time to get into it yet. I always seem to be reading for work these days!
What is your favourite part of the writing and publishing process? Why?
It might just possibly be the cover. I do my own covers and love being able to use my artistic side without requiring any talent to do so! As far as the writing goes, though, I do love creating characters and watching their journey to love and happiness. I told you I was a softy.
If you were going to be stranded on a desert island and allowed to take 3 or 4 books with you, what books would you bring?
Only three or four? Oh, dear. A good choice would be a book of spells, wouldn’t it? I don’t suppose an omnibus edition of Jane Austen’s works would be allowed, either… In no particular order, then: The Greatest Knight by Elizabeth Chadwick, Venetia by Georgette Heyer, The Valley of Horses by Jean Auel and The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne. Next week it might be a different four.
Author Websites and Profiles
Social media links
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00I04PYPE
Amazon Author Page (US): http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00I04PYPE
Web links to buy her books
Heather is a lovely person, though I only know her virtually. I met her in the Facebook group, Marketing for Creatives. She is always willing to lend her expertise and recently helped me re-work a book cover. Please find her online, and give one of her books a read!