Monday, December 6, 2010

Aloha to Nicola Cornick and Amanda McCabe

Nicola (left) and Amanda (right)

Today SOS Aloha hosts historical romance authors Nicola CornickAmanda McCabe and Laurel McKee.  Actually, Amanda and Laurel are one in the same.  Help yourself to a cup of tea and enjoy our intimate chat ....

Kim:  You both write for Harlequin on opposite sides of the pond. What was the path you took to become a published author?

NicolaI started writing romance when I was about 18 and over the years sent in several manuscripts to Harlequin Mills & Boon. I loved their historical imprint and couldn’t get enough of the books so I thought I would try writing one of my own. They rejected me three times, though, saying that there was too much adventure in my stories and not enough romance. I was determined to keep trying and eventually after 12 years they accepted True Colours, my first book.

Amanda/Laurel:  I started like almost all authors do, as a reader! I started young, when I found a box full of romance novels hidden in my grandmother's closet when I was 10. They were mostly old Barbara Cartlands, some Heyer and other Regencies, some Victoria Holt, and some old Harlequins with falling-apart covers. I spent the summer sitting on the closet floor reading book after book, and I was totally hooked! I also started writing when I was around the same age, little fairy-tales I would make into books. It wasn't until I was in college and looking for a way to escape the stress of finals that I tried to write my own romance novel...

Kim:  You both wrote in your bios that you have "menagerie of cats and dogs".  Do you incorporate pets into your stories?

NicolaYes, we’re both pet-lovers! I like to include pets in my books sometimes. Whisper of Scandal, the first in my current trilogy, features the most adorable Dandie Dinmont terrier called Max. He was based on my aunt’s pet dog, Becky, who sadly passed away a month ago. I like to think of Max’s character as a little tribute to Becky. She was a feisty little creature full of spirit and fun!

Amanda/Laurel:  LOL! I think the pets would like it if I had pets in every story. I do sometimes write them into plots. In my novella in The Diamonds of Welbourne Manor (Charlotte and the Wicked Lord) Charlotte has two Pugs, Oliver and Octavia, based on my own Pug Victoria. I had so much fun with that!

Kim:  Nicola wrote, "Genealogy is one of her passions and she has traced her family tree back to the sixteenth century by way of various poets, pirates and a link to the Earldom of Halifax."   Could you share an ancestor's poem? Or a great uncle's seafaring adventures? Do any of your ancestors appear in your books, even if by a different name?

Nicole:  I don’t have any of my grandfather’s poems, sadly. He was a very private person and destroyed a lot of his writing but I like to think that I inherited his love of writing even though I am hopeless at poetry and admire hugely anyone who can write it. My husband’s family is the one with the pirates; two Cornick ancestors were pirates in the 18th century and were captured, tried and sent to Australia. Their Cornick descendants live there still.   I think I am very lucky to have been able to research such a fascinating family tree. I recently learned that on my father’s side I am descended from Princess Nest of Wales. That thrilled me!

Kim:  Amanda, any interesting characters in your family tree? Do you use your family (or friends) to inspire characters in your books?

Amanda/Laurel:  I guess I do in that I like to watch and listen to people, and that helps me envision my own characters and write their dialogue in what I hope is a believable way. There's a family legend that an ancestor escaped from Ireland after the 1798 Uprising and made his way from Canada to the US, but I haven't been able to find confirmation of that! I definitely use stories I heard growing up about Ireland.

Kim:  Nicola has "lived" and studied history in England. Do you still research for your books?

Nicola:  All the time! Historical research is one of my favourite things. I love turning up little snippets of information and historical facts that inspire my writing.

 Kim:  According to Amanda's bio, she wrote her first book during algebra class. Hmmm .... how do you conduct your research for your UK set books when you live in America?

Amanda/Laurel:  I'm a research book-buying addict! I can't stop, even as my house fills with tottering piles of books. I especially buy books about history, particularly the UK and France. Researching aspects of history for my novels is one of my favorite things. (My next Harlequin Historical is set at the court of Mary Queen of Scots, so I'm deep into that era right now!). I also like to travel whenever possible and gather inspiration.

Kim:  Nicola volunteers at the Ashdown House with the National Trust. Tell us about it.

Nicola:  I work as a guide and a historian, showing visitors around the 17th century house and telling them something of its history. It’s an awe-inspiring place to work, so beautiful and rich in history. We learn a lot from our visitors as well; they are often experts in art or architecture, fashion or jewellery. A lady came to visit a few months ago who was a lace-maker and was able to tell us all about the lace collars and sleeves in the portraits. It’s fascinating.

Ashdown House

Kim:  Amanda, what is your favorite place in England?

Amanda/Laurel:  That is such a hard question! I've loved everyplace I've been. One place I enjoy a lot is Bath, it just "feels" so very Regency! As Nicola knows, because she shares my Anne Boleyn fan-dom, I also love everyplace associated with the Tudors. And I could live in the British Museum!

Anne Boleyn's childhood home - Hever Castle

Kim:  Nicola is a Word Wench and Amanda is a Risky Regency.   I read them both every morning!  How did you become a member of these group blogs?

Nicola:  I’m so pleased you enjoy them, Kim! It was the lovely Anne Gracie who invited me to join the Word Wenches. I was hugely flattered and not a little in awe because I knew that alongside Risky Regencies, Word Wenches was one of the most influential history and writing blogs around. The other Wenches welcomed me with their characteristic charm and I absolutely love being a part of the blog. We’re all history nerds and it’s always fun to chat with like-minded people!

Amanda/Laurel:  I can't even remember for sure! A few years ago at an RWA conference, I was having margaritas in the hotel bar with Megan Frampton and Elena Greene, two of the other founding Riskies. We then went to eat mashed potatoes (as you do after drinking margaritas!) and decided we needed a forum to share our love of history and books and crazy things like fashion and good-looking actors. Voila, a blog! It's been a wonderful journey.

Kim:  Tell us about your current series and upcoming books.

Nicola:  The Scandalous Women of the Ton is a six part series featuring heroines who break societies rules in various ways. Joanna, the heroine of Whisper of Scandal, outrages the ton when she decides to travel to far-flung places. In One Wicked Sin, Lottie is cast out because of her scandalous love life and in the new book, Mistress by Midnight, Merryn actually works for a living, something that was considered beyond the pale! I wanted to show the many and different ways that women could be scandalous in the Regency period – and that it takes a very special hero to match such feisty heroines.

Amanda/Laurel:  The Daughters of Erin is my debut series as Laurel McKee! It's about the 3 Blacknall sisters of Dublin and their hunky heroes, set around the tumultuous history of Ireland. And Duchess of Sin is book two, Anna's story as she finds her dangerous, dark Irish duke (and gets into a lot of mischief in the bargain!). I had so much fun with this story, as it's set at Christmas. And nothing is more fun than an Irish Christmas!

Kim:  What's next for NicolaAmanda, and Laurel?

NicolaI’m currently working on book 4 in the Scandalous Women of the Ton series. It’s out in August 2011, it’s called Notorious and it features a heroine who breaks hearts for a living!

Amanda/Laurel:  Book 3, Lady of Seduction, will be out in June 2011! It's the bluestocking Caroline's story, and I loved her so much. We also meet her hero on Duchess of Sin, though he's not very heroic in that story (I always love a villain-into-hero tale). And Amanda's next book is out in March 2011, The Shy Duchess (duchesses are everywhere lately!)   For more information, excerpts, and a fun contest, you can visit my website at

Nicola and Amanda also have Christmas anthologies available!  For more information, including excerpts, check out Nicola's website and Amanda's website.

Mahalo, Nicola and Amanda/Laurel, for joining us in virtual Hawaii.  In honor of their visit, let's give some books away!   Mary Gramlich, the Reading Reviewer, is offering her review copies of:
- Nicola Cornick's MISTRESS BY MIDNIGHT.

Mary posted reviews of Nicola's and Laurel's books on her website

To enter the book giveaway,

1.  Leave a comment about Nicola, Amanda/Laurel, and your favorite historical place in England.

2.  Make sure I know how to contact you - send your email to

3.  The giveaway is open only to US and Canadian readers.  Comments are open through December 9 for the book giveaway.


Kim in Hawaii

Like Amanda, it is hard to identify one favorite place in England.  Both the National Trust and English Heritage offer a wide range of historical sites, including stone circles, restored manors, and distinguished gardens.  But you know I'm  a sucker for crumbling castles, so my all time favorite is ....

... Tintagel Castle hugging the Cornish coast.  Actually, its two parts on separate cliffs with many steps connecting them.  It is called "King Arthur's Castle" and it even has "Merlin's steps" leading down to a seaside cave.   Check it out for yourself at English Heritage.

Tintagel Castle


  1. Hi Nicola!!! It's me one of your fan girls waving to you from Wheaton, IL!!!! Amanada, I've read some of your books and have really enjoyed them, I can't wait to read you Laurel McKee books!! My favorite historical place in England would be Convent Gardens.

  2. I absolutely adore the Tintagel Castle too!! There's just something about it that is so stunningly beautiful =)

  3. Hi Danielle! Thanks so much for dropping by. It's lovely to see you here!

    Casey, I agree - Tintagel is such an amazingly atmospheric and beautiful place.

    Thank you so much for inviting us today, Kim. It's a pleasure to be here!

  4. That's a beautiful tea party! My favorite place in England is Dover Castle. It showcases history from different periods.


  5. Great interview! Without a doubt, the Tower of London!


  6. Thanks for the giveaway. I've already got 'Duchess of Sin'. To be honest, I don't have a favorite place in England.


  7. Ooo, I'm hungry for a tea sandwich! Like Amanda, I love Bath!


  8. I'm already a fan of Nicola, Amanda, and Laurel, although I haven't read their new books yet.

    My favorite place Stonehenge!


  9. I've never been to England, but do especially enjoy books set in Cornwall, so I would probably love to visit Tintagel Castle.

  10. Hello Kim Nicola, Amanda, and Laurel, great blog today, Both of these ladies are new to me I certainly would enjoy reading both.
    I have to go with Tinagel Castle too I love the stories about King Arthur & Merlin I have 4 books by different authors about Arthur & his round table love them.
    Have a wonderful day ladies.

  11. Sarah, Bath is one of my favourite places too. I'm lucky that I live just down the road from there! The Tower of London is an amazing place, Dorothy. So much history within those walls. I'm loving all these places everyone is choosing!

  12. Ann, is one of those four books by Mary Stewart? I loved her Arthurian books!

  13. Hello there everyone. What a great interview. I've never been to England but I would love to visit. It's just so fascinating to read about. I would love to visit all over. I would really like to see Bath though.

  14. Wow! so many great books! I would love to get to read them


  15. I am a great fan of Nicola's books so it was nice seeing her on the blog today!

  16. I love that Nicola and Amanda/Laurel include animals in their books!
    I've never been to England, so don't have a favorite place.

  17. So good to see you guys here, Nicola and Amanda! Really haven't been to England but would love to try boating sometime. I hear it's the best :)

    Can't wait to read all the great books!


  18. Hello everyone!! I'm late popping in here today, but I'm happy to see so many people enjoy England. :) (I've never been to Tintagel Castle, but it is definitely on my list...)

    And it was wonderful to get to meet Nicola in Bath a couple years ago and have tea at the Pump Room! Even if we weren't wearing our Regency gowns

  19. Great blog today! I love Nicola and Amanda's books. If I went to England I would want to visit Stonehenge =)

  20. The places you've included in your post are beautiful! I've been to London back in 1991, and I truly don't remember much, except that it stunk like New York City. We took a Jack the Ripper tour at night that was nothing to write home about. :) I did enjoy looking at the country side when we took a train up north to visit Campbell land in Scotland. I do have a fondness for soccer and follow the EPL - that would be my favorite part of England. :) Plus, I'd love to visit Newcastle. How can a place that makes such awesome beer be bad. :)

  21. Thanks so much, Jessica, and huge thank you to Kim and to Laurel and to eveyone for such a fun time on the blog!