Nicola here. Today it's my very great pleasure to welcome Sarah Mallory to the Word Wench blog. Sarah is a multi-published, multi-award-winning UK author of historical romantic adventure and a long time friend and fellow member of the Romantic Novelists' Association. One reviewer commented of Sarah's writing: "Sarah Mallory's Regency world is captivating, beautifully rendered and immensely atmospheric and I for one cannot wait for her next novel, to return to this wonderful world!" Fortunately for all of Sarah's fans, her latest book, Bought for Revenge, is available now!
NC: Sarah, welcome ot the Word Wenches! Please tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to be a writer.
I am a West Country girl, born and bred in Bristol but I moved to Yorkshire in 1989, were I now live on the edge of the Pennines – fantastic views and wonderful walks on the moors, so inspirational! I was always a storyteller and then I began to write them down, so I wouldn't forget them! My first novel was published in 1980 under the pen name Melinda Hammond – it would now be called a "sweet" Regency Romance. I had about a dozen books published before I was signed up by Harlequin, where I write as Sarah Mallory – they are still historical romantic adventures but the heat content is a bit higher now!
NC: I have several of your Melinda Hammond books on my keeper shelf, including Dance for a Diamond and The Belles Dames Club. I love them. I was intrigued to read that it was a street sign that first inspired your new book, Bought for Revenge. Please tell us more!
There is a little lane near my home called "Burnt Acres Lane." Every time I see this sign I wonder why it was given that name. I have not been able to find out any information about it, so I made up my own story, about a burned-out shell of a house, a tragic history and a man who returns to his old home, looking for justice. I have to admit it is one of my favourite books: I love Lucas, the tortured hero and Annabelle, the long-suffering heroine. Their trials and tribulations make the happy ending all the sweeter, I think!
When Lucas is at the very darkest point. He is alone in his house, it is the early hours of the morning and he is in despair. He has discovered the very worst news about how his parents died, he knows now that he has punished an innocent man and he has lost the love of his life. Then Annabelle appears… I won't say anymore, but I think Annabelle is truly angelic. She has tremendous strength of character and is a real match for Lucas.
It sounds wonderful and I am looking forward to reading it very much (It's on my reading pile for my holiday)! What’s your favourite part of writing a book, apart from seeing it on the bookshelves?
I love starting a new book – everything is possible and it's like having a huge box of toys where I can pick out anything I want. I love creating the characters, the way they look, how they behave and where they live. For me this is the most creative stage of the whole process.
What do you consider to be the qualities that make a good historical novel?
First of all, the history! I love a good yarn, but I do like the historical background to be correct. I try to recreate the time period accurately and make sure that the stories I write could have happened. The other qualities are the same for any novel – great characters and a riveting plot that grips the reader to the very last page.
What do you keep beside your computer when you’re writing?
I have a pinboard that I set up at the beginning of every new book with little details about my new story - pictures of actors, actresses etc who are lookalikes for my characters and a few costume pictures, too, for period detail. For Bought for Revenge there was also a local map, because I set the whole story in the area where I live – although I changed the place names to protect the innocent! The pinboard also has a basic synopsis, printed in small chunks so that I can make changes as I go along.
It's like an aide-memoire to keep me on track with my book. Then there is my beautiful dog, Willow. He is a whippet that needed a home and I adopted him about a year ago. He is a perfect writer's dog – we go out for a walk three times a day and the rest of the time he just lies around, sleeping.
Oh, and I always seem to have a cup of tea beside me, too!
Another writer who mainlines tea as she writes! A lot of us seem to do that. And Willow is the most beautiful dog. I'm hoping that one day soon my puppy Angus will lie sleeping next to my desk when I'm trying to work rather than busying around stealing stuff to chew!
If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?
An archaeologist! I was very tempted to go to university and study archaeology, but in those days it was a pretty unfashionable subject. There were a small group of us at school who wanted to do the relevant exams – including Ancient Greek, Latin and Ancient History – but in the end I decided against it. It is a slight (very slight) regret, which I shall probably get over one day by writing a romance about an archaeologist.
It's actually been quite a year for celebrations. In March it was our Ruby Wedding Anniversary – and I discovered that rubies can be quite, er, pink, which is perfect for a romantic novelist! Then this summer I celebrated my 60th birthday and the family bought me a flight in a Tiger Moth, to fly over the route used by the Dambusters when they were training for their famous raid. I grew up reading Biggles books and always wanted to fly in a World War I plane, and I guess this was the closest they could find. It was such a great experience, the team running the show were so enthusiastic and welcoming. I've actually put lots of pictures in my blog, http://onebellesstrategem.blogspot.co.uk/
NC: Congratulations! You are very intrepid! And of course you have been very modest and not mentioned that this year you were also awarded the UK Romantic Novelists' Association prestigious RoNA Rose Award - for the second year in a row - for your historical romance Beneath the Major's Scars. Many congratulations on that too.
What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever been given and what advice would you give to other aspiring authors?
"Don't get it write, get it written." Once the basic story is out of my head I can polish it up. My advice to aspiring authors? Write what you are passionate about and write the best book you can.
NC: Thank you so much for joining us today, Sarah!
"I mentioned earlier that I love the part in Bought for Revenge where Lucas is at his lowest ebb emotionally, but I'd really like to know which part of a book readers like the best. Is it the beginning, the excitement of setting off into a new story, or perhaps the point where the hero and heroine discover that they are in love?"
Sarah is giving a way a copy of Bought for Revenge to one commenter today!