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.
Morning Michelle and EllaReplyDelete
Fabulous post Ladies and hug congrats Ella on winning the contest and the release of your first book, I have heard a lot about this book and it is on my must get list, can't wait to read it.
I love Scotland and would one day love to visit there one day, hence I love stories set in Scotland so I can armchair travel, do you live there or have you visited there?
I love armchair travel too -- it means I get to avoid those 20+ hour flights! ;-) And knowing how much you love Scotland, I expect you're going to adore Ella's debut. :-)
Hi Helen and Michelle,Delete
Thanks for your congratulations! If you read HBSH, I hope you enjoy it! I live in Scotland, about 30 miles north of Edinburgh! The book is set on a Highland Estate called Calcarron (fictitious of course) but I based Cormac Buchanan's family home loosely on Ardverikie Estate (you could Google it). It's about an hour's drive away from me so I should really go visit!! I hope you get to Scotland one day! Remember your raincoat and wellies!!
Your book has just downloaded onto my kindle I do love these one click buying sprees now to get to it asap
Hah! Me too. One-click is too tempting. I have an enormous "to read" pile on my Kindle, as well as a million other titles in paperback. Replying with my real name because otherwise I appear as "unknown"!! Please let me know if you enjoy the book. It's always so lovely if readers enjoy what you've written!Delete
It's so lovely to have you here today, Ella. :) Congratulations again on your debut. I adored the Scottish setting of HER BROODING SCOTTISH HEIR. Makes me want to pack up and set straight off for Scotland. I'm so glad your friend Sophie sent you the link to the Prima competition! I'm quite certain the world needs more Ella Hayes books. :-)ReplyDelete
Ah Michelle, thank you for having me. You are very kind. As a debut author, it's lovely to hear that my little story is making readers happy. Thank you.ReplyDelete
We're delighted to have you come visit, Ella! Debut books are special, and they should be celebrated. :-DDelete
Hi Ella and Michelle, what a wonderful post. So enjoyed reading your road to publication story, Ella. I love Scotland. I used to work for Guinness (they owned a lot of whiskey brands) so spend quite a bit of time at Gleneagles - such a lovely place.ReplyDelete
Guinness? You worked for Guinness, Jen? Do you know how jealous you just made me!!! ;-)Delete
It is an amazing job, Michelle. Flew all over the world doing amazing things.Delete
Hi Jennifer, I don't seem to be able to reply as Ella so having to use my real name! I'm glad you enjoyed the post! I'm not far from Gleneagles actually, although I haven't actually been to the hotel, even in my capacity as a wedding photographer! That was the one that got away. xDelete
Welcome, Ella, to the LoveCats blog and more broadly to Romancelandia. I enjoyed meeting you through Michelle's interview and am now convinced I need to read your book. I have a whole day, and two nights, in Edinburgh at the start of a (too) brief UK holiday in March. I know this will entice me into a longer visit, which is a good thing.ReplyDelete
Ella, you mentioned a photo-shoot and editing photos so I imagine you are a photographer. Yes? I should visit your website to find out more!
Hi Bronwyn, thank you for your warm welcome. If you read my book I hope you enjoy it. There's a lot of real life Scotland weaved through the story! Edinburgh is a fantastic place. I love it and go a few times a year, esp to the book festival! Yes, I'm a photographer - you'll find me on Google. Actually need to update my website because I'm not shooting weddings any more... another thing to do once I've finished the new book!! Have a great time in Edinburgh!! xxDelete
Isn't it fun to welcome a new romance author into the fold, Bron? :-DDelete
Ella, huge congratulations on your debut book and welcome to the LoveCats!ReplyDelete
I'll have to look out for your book now. I love the idea of a heroine running away to somewhere isolated in Scotland and meeting her hero. Sadly most of my time in Scotland has involved rain and lots of it but there were some sunny days and lots of good memories too. Thanks for sharing the snippet from the story - what a lovely pair of characters!
Hi Annie, Thanks so much! I have to say I love Cormac and Milla - you never forget your first time I guess!! I live just north of Edinburgh and I have to say, we've had drier years of late, and milder winters. I love going further North but I don't love the midgies! I wrote them out of the story, otherwise the scene on the jetty in the last chapter would have been rather different. They bite like crazy!! xDelete
You might have to show me your Scottish holiday snaps sometime, Annie. ;-)Delete
Hi Ella, so lovely to see you here at the LoveCats as a fellow True Love author! We all love a "call" story, and to win a major writing competition to be published really is something! Congratulations on your debut. I have been to Scotland a few times over the years, and couldn't help but notice the handsome men! So I do like a Scottish hero!ReplyDelete
Thanks Kandy! There are some braw boys in Scotland, that's for sure but it takes a certain kind of physique to wear a kilt well! I'm lucky that I get to work with some lovely male models now and again... one of them is def going to be in a book one day... Thank you for such a lovely welcome to the family of romance writers!Delete
Isn't it exciting to have another Forever / True Love / Romance author in the world, Kandy? :-)Delete
Hi Ella! Welcome to the LoveCats and to category romance - we're all huge fans so you have an inbuilt audience :-)ReplyDelete
Interestingly, I have just come off an all day binge wathc of the 4th season of Outlander so this post was very on point :-)
I have been to Scotland quite a few times - love it and we have plans to spend a significant birthday for me in December in a cottage in the Shetland Islands to try and see the Northern Lights! We've not seen much of northern Scotland- only as far as Eilean Donan in the west (4 times!) Never been to Inverness. So I want to spend a couple of weeks poking around all the northern areas and end up in John O'Groats!
Your book sounds like excellent pre-reading! One-click!
That sounds super-exciting, Amy! But I'm thinking you better rug up warm for the Shetlands in December.Delete
I love that One-click!! Interestingly, the working title of my book was Northern Lights!! We get the lights around here occasionally but I always find out the next day when the Facebook posts go up!! One day I will see them here for myself. I've never been to the Shetlands, but I've been over the sea to Skye and Mull, and years ago, when I worked in TV, I had a documentary shoot on Papa Westray in the Orkneys! I hope you enjoy your trip when it comes and have a wonderful "significant" birthday celebration!ReplyDelete