It's always exciting to welcome a brand new author to the romance community, and today I'm delighted to introduce Ella Hayes with her debut book: Her Brooding Scottish Heir. Hi Ella, it’s wonderful to have you join us today. Can you tell us a little about your journey to publication with Harlequin Mills & Boon?
Hi Michelle, thank you for having me! There’s a bit of a story to my journey (which probably answers one of your questions below too).
I’m here now because I entered a competition that Mills & Boon were running in association with Prima Magazine in the UK. The #lovetowrite competition invited writers to submit an opening chapter and outline for either a “True Love” or “Medical” romance.
My friend, Sophie sent me a link to the competition and said I should have a go. I wasn’t sure about it to be honest. It had been years since I’d read a Mills & Boon romance… so the competition details sat on my desk for a week or two… and then suddenly I had an idea for a story! I wrote it and sent it in, not for a second thinking I had a chance. But a couple of months later, I had an email from M&B telling me I was on the short list! That’s a surreal moment – suddenly you catch yourself wondering about your chances of winning…and you keep telling yourself not to think about it. Anyway, about three weeks after that the phone rang. I was editing photos and I almost didn’t answer. (I screen calls because we get a lot of spam phone calls and I didn’t recognise the number.) I’m so glad I picked up! It was Bryony Green from Mills & Boon – when she told me I’d won the competition I almost dropped the phone! Her Brooding Scottish Heir is your debut romance. It’s no secret that I love the Romance line (Forever in Australia/New Zealand, True Love in the UK), but can you tell us what drew you to write for this particular line, and what it is that you love about it?
So, as I said before, I submitted to True Love because that was what M&B were looking for. (I couldn’t have written a medical without a lot of research.) I know a lot more about the True Love line now, and I think it’s a great fit for the kind of stories I like to write. I like emotionally intense stories that have a strong current of sexual tension, but I don’t want to write explicit love scenes. I admire writers who can do that, but I prefer to set things up then let the reader imagine the rest!Is there a particular incident or inspiration that led to the writing of Her Brooding Scottish Heir? And what’s your favourite scene in the book? Would you like to share a (shortish) snippet?
The answer is YES! When I was thinking about a story, I knew I wanted to write something set in Scotland, but Scotland has a low population and a lot of space (like Australia!) so romantic plot lines don’t automatically jump out at you. Then I started thinking about an artist I follow on Facebook/Twitter. Her name is Ellis O’Connor www.ellisoconnor.com When she was an art student in Dundee she used to model part-time and a few years ago, we were booked to do a photo shoot together so we’d connected on social media. In the end, she couldn’t make the shoot, but I carried on following her because I like her work. She’s written some great blog pieces about her isolated residencies in the Hebrides and Iceland, and really it was thinking about that that gave me the idea for my Irish heroine, Milla O’Brien. Milla is seeking refuge in an isolated Scottish bothy so that she can work on her portfolio – but she’s also running away from a broken engagement. She wants to be alone to lick her wounds but instead she meets Cormac Buchanan…
When I emailed Ellis to tell her that she had inspired my character she was shocked (in a good way). She’s thrilled about it, amused, amazed. We emailed back and forth a bit – I’ve sent her a copy of the book!
Favourite scene? Gosh, I love my characters to bits, so this is tricky! I suppose the first time they are physically close (but not wanting to be physically close) is a fun bit. Milla has gone over on her ankle and Cormac has swept her up in his arms to carry her back to the house…
‘You’re strong. Do you work at it?’
He stepped over an exposed tree root. He couldn’t very well dodge her question when she was fused closer to him than his own shadow. ‘I have to be fit…for my job.’
‘Oh, right—Sam mentioned it. You’re in the Army—a captain or something.’
‘Troop Commander—I’m in the Engineers.’ He wondered what else Sam had told her.
‘Well it’s lucky for me you’re so— Can I rest my head against you? It’s kind of hard, holding it away.’
She didn’t wait for him to answer but dropped her head against his. Her hair felt soft on his cheek, the clean scent of it filling his nostrils while her breath warmed his neck. He didn’t want to like it so much and lifted his head a little higher, ordering himself to ignore the sensory overload that was Milla O’Brien.
He felt her cheeks lifting into a smile. ‘I might have guessed you were a commander.’
‘When you ordered me to get my wheel fixed you were kind of bossy.’
He tried to stop the smile twitching at the edges of his lips. ‘It’s important to have a working spare.’
‘I know that. My father’s a motor mechanic.’
He laughed. ‘No surprise there.’
‘Not many girls I know can talk so knowledgably about air ratchets.’
That was such a fun scene! :-)
Who are your favourite contemporary romance writers (we’re all devout romance readers here so I’m just going to take it for granted that like the majority of us you love Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, and Georgette Heyer :))?
Hmmm. Dare I admit that I don’t read a lot of genre romance? I’ve just completed a Master’s in Writing Practice and Study at Dundee University (my first degree was History) so my reading over the past year particularly has been heavyweight stuff. However, I do love Jane Austen – Pride and Prejudice is a favourite – and I love The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller – more heartbreaking because it’s a true story! I recently read The Governess Game by Tessa Dare and I absolutely loved that! I was laughing out loud – she has a great voice and paints very likeable characters. I’ve got a few romance books on my Kindle, including Cotillion by Georgette Heyer. Now that I’ve been so thoroughly welcomed into the romance fold by the other Mills and Boon authors, one of my goals for 2019 is to read more romance – especially True Love and Historical. And finally, we love pets of all shapes and sizes here at the LoveCats. Do any furred or feathered friends share your life…or maybe you have plans for one to grace the pages of an upcoming book?
I’m afraid I have no furry friends! We used to keep chickens but now the kids have left home there’s no point – you just get too many eggs. One of my sons had a very comical hamster called, Spud – he was a nice little thing – sweet tempered but sadly they don’t live very long. My next book won’t be featuring any pets either – I feel like I’m failing miserably here – although this time the story is set in Italy, so there’s plenty of sunshine and lots of romance!
LOL, not failing at all! How can Italy, sunshine and romance fail? I adored Milla and Cormac's story and I'm looking forward to your next one. For anyone who'd like to grab a copy of of Her Brooding Scottish Heir, the buy links are below.
Ella, super-duper congratulations on your debut book! What do you think, folks? Does a romance set in the Scottish highlands -- in a Scottish bothy no less -- sound romantic or what? I've not been to Scotland, but I think a reading and writing retreat in the highlands sounds like a rather nice plan, yes? Join me in welcoming Ella to the romance community, and don't be shy -- if you have a question for Ella, ask away.