Monday, July 6, 2009

IN MY ROOM

“There’s a world where I can go and tell my secrets to In my room…”


My guest today is Rita Award nominee, Nicola Cornick. She not only writes Historical Romances, but has fabulous inspiration working for National Trust Ashdown House, a former Tudor hunting lodge, located in Berkshire. Of course, we Americans picture a hunting lodge as much more rustic than the reality of the Dutch styled mansion with a hundred steps


Nicola shares some pictures and some thoughts on finding our special place to write.



Yes, the Beach Boys had it right. It’s the place where I do my dreaming and my scheming when I’m plotting out my books and developing my characters. Then inevitably I do my crying and my sighing when I’m approaching a deadline and the book stubbornly refuses to write, or my characters go off in a direction very different from the one I had planned. So My Room is a very special place.

I imagine we all have “Our Room” where we write or read, or a place that is special to us, indoors or out. It’s a place that inspires us or a place we visit to do our dreaming. Until last year “my room” actually doubled up as the kitchen as well. This was a minor detail – the fact that the rest of the family used it for cooking, eating, chatting and dropping their stuff everywhere was slightly irritating at times but space issues mean that a lot of us have to write when and where we can and I was no exception.

Then, at the beginning of last year, I got my own room. It’s beautiful and I love it. It’s now been colonised by the cats as well, but hey, we all have to share sometimes. So I thought I would walk you around it and tell you about a few of the things that provide inspiration and feed my writing dreams.

Well, first of all there are my bookshelves. When I put them in I thought there would be masses of space on them. But somehow my books have expanded to fit the shelves available. These are my research books, mainly for the Regency period, but some other historical non-fiction as well. I’ve had an absolute ball collecting my reference books and I add to them all the time. One of these days those shelves will go straight through the floor because they are groaning under the weight of so many books! Research is one of the things that I love about being a historical author. I grab a book from the shelves, intending to look up something specific, and I read some other fascinating snippet and off I go at a tangent… I get some of my best story ideas that way. I remember once I was researching shopping in the Regency period and I saw a reference to lottery tickets and that gave me an idea for an entire book! There is everything on these shelves from the history of beards to the history of belly dancing.

On the wall to the left of my desk is a framed poster of the cover of my first single title historical, Deceived. I did my first book signing at the RWA Conference in Atlanta a few years ago and they let me keep the poster as a souvenir. My husband had it framed for me to celebrate the publication of my first book for HQN. It’s enormous and one night it fell off the wall with a huge crash and almost squashed the cat who used up one of her nine lives. The poster is a wonderful reminder of how lucky and privileged I feel to be writing Regency historicals for HQN but it’s also a bit daunting. On those days when I sit at my laptop and absolutely no ideas come and every word feels as though it’s been weighted with lead I see the big book cover and think: “I’m an impostor!” A lot of people tell me that they feel like that about their jobs sometimes; those moments when we all question whether we really know what we are doing. The moments that you hope doctors and pilots don’t have. With writing the whole process seems so reliant on nothing more tangible than intuition and imagination sometimes. Jo Beverley recently called the writing process “alchemy” and there is something magical and mysterious about it. Sure, there is craft and skill and structure, lots of hard work and many other components, but in my experience writing is also taking risks and going with what feel right – oh, and a large dose of luck, of being in the right place at the right time with the right book.

On the other wall is a black and white photograph of the gardens at Ashdown House. Like a lot of people I wear two hats – I write and I also work for the National Trust for England and Wales, showing visitors around an historic house. Ashdown is another of my passions, a stunningly beautiful seventeenth century hunting lodge that provides me with a great deal of inspiration. Simply walking up the magnificent oak staircase makes me feel as though I have been transported back in time. On a more practical note, working at Ashdown also gets me out of the house and meeting real people. Being a writer is a wonderful job but I also find it quite a lonely one sometimes. Talking to people, listening to them, answering questions about Ashdown and simply getting out and about is another great way for me to find story ideas.

On my desk is a peacock feather quill pen to remind me that I am a writer of racy Regency historicals. The peacock quill pen recently featured in a very hot and sexy short story I wrote for Harlequin! Well hey, sometimes you need to remind yourself that you write hot books when you also have to taken the rubbish out, hang up the washing, go to buy groceries…

Finally there is the view from my window. Strictly speaking it’s not in my room but it is very inspiring as well as distracting (all those comings and goings in the street outside!) Concentration and self-discipline can be a big issue for me as a writer! But it’s also lovely to have the countryside on my doorstep. When I’m wrestling with my plot and can’t make any headway I’ll go out and walk the dog, hoping that exercise and fresh air will help. Usually I can walk off the writer’s block.

I hope you have enjoyed this peek into my room. Do you have a special place you go to read or write? Where do you gain ideas and inspiration? What are the mementoes that you keep about you to remind you of the things that are important in your life?

***


Nicola Cornick studied history at London University and Ruskin College, Oxford, where she wrote her dissertation on heroes and hero myths. It was a tough subject but clearly someone had to tackle it and Nicola took it so seriously that she passed with distinction. She has a “dual life” as a writer of Regency historicals for Harlequin HQN Books and a historian working for the National Trust. A double nominee for both the Romance Writers of America RITA award and the UK Romantic Novelists’ Association Romance Prize, Nicola has been described by Publisher’s Weekly as “a rising star of the Regency genre.” Her Regency trilogy “The Brides of Fortune” is available now and there is an excerpt on her website at: http://www.nicolacornick.co.uk/extract-the_undoing_of_a_lady.htm

28 comments:

Nicola Cornick said...

Hi Sia and everyone and thank you very much for inviting me to join you over coffee today. Actually I'm a bit of a tea addict so I'll be indulging my love of a good brew! It's lovely to be here.

margaret blake said...

I have only two things to say - I want that room and the view!
Lovely blog, Nicola - Eddie (my cat) says hi to that cool looking fellow superior creature!

margaret

~Sia McKye~ said...

Welcome to Over Coffee, Nicola. There is a nice hot pot of tea just for you. Be sure to check out the selection of muffins and scones.

I'm fascinated with your 'day job' working for National Trust. The rich history that is part of these houses...like a doorway into the past.

Nicola Cornick said...

Thanks, Margaret, and my best wishes to Eddie! Thank you for the welcome, Sia. Those scones and muffins sound very tempting!

Yes, working for the National Trust is fascinating. I get so many story ideas from visiting historic houses and the best thing is that I can count it all as research! On Saturday we had living history re-enactors in seventeenth century dress at Ashdown. It was the first time I had seen carriages on the drive and people dressed as cavaliers and roundheads walking around the house. In some ways it was very odd - like stepping straight back into the past. Normally we have to let our imaginations supply the people but there was a gentleman doffing his plumed hat and bowing and addressing me as "my lady!"

Chelle Sandell said...

My love of reading first began with my favorite aunt's obsession with historicals. Everytime I went for a visit, I came home with a bag of books. I absolutely love escaping into a different time period!! I don't have a specific place to call my own when I write, just wherever and whenever I can squeeze the time.

Kat Sheridan said...

Nicola, I just have to say the cover photo above is simply gorgeous! And what a wonderful day job to have! All that inspiration around you every day! And congrats on having the room of your own. I'm still working on the kitchen table, but one of these days...I'm also envious of the book collection. I'm working on historical romances as well, and am on of those people who would find a book on the history of beards to be fascinating! Thank you for sharing some insights and lovely photos with us! Sia, be a dear and pass some coffee please. *Somebody* kept me up chatting last night! LOL!

Nicola Cornick said...

Hi Chelle! I love hearing how family members have inspired a love of reading or writing, or a particular interest. How wonderful to have an aunt who could supply you with so much fabulous reading matter! In my case it was my grandmother who was obsessed with costume dramas and historical novels who fired my interest in history. She was always the first to read my books too.

Nicola Cornick said...

Hello Kat! I'm glad there's someone else out there who thinks that the history of beards would be worth reading! It's a great book, really it is!

Sun Singer said...

I also share my room with cats. Like your room, my bookshelves are creaking under the weight of books. What happens in a writer's room is hard to describe, but the room contains clues. That's why it was fun taking a quick tour of yours.

I've also been active in preservation efforts, so I liked the photo of Ashdown House. Keeping it standing and on view to the public are great passions; but I imagine the inspiration you get there is more than enough compensation.

Malcolm

jrafferty said...

Hi Nicola. Good post. I'm a huge Beachboys / Brian Wilson fan, so your quotes find a ready audience with me, plus they are apropo. I think as writers we all do need that special place, though I do a lot of my writing on the road as well. Your bookshelf looks well used. Thanks for telling us about the places where you write and work. Quite colorful as viewed from this side of the pond.

James Rafferty

~Sia McKye~ said...

Kat, I haven't a clue what you could mean. *sly grin sliding the coffee over to Kat's shaking hand.

James, I now have that Song stuck in my head, lol! It's all Nicola's fault.

Nicola Cornick said...

LOL, Sia! Sorry about that! Once you get those songs in your head you can't get them out!

James, I like the idea of you doing a lot of your writing on the road. That sounds very cool!

Hi Malcolm. I'm very glad you liked the look of Ashdown. It is a stunning house. Very hard to preserve physically, though, as it's made of chalk and is literally washing away. A couple of years ago they opened up the original quarry from which it was built to repair it. I liked that - continuity with the past.

VA said...

Nicola I really like your cover art. Reminds me of a peacocks feather itself. Horrid sounding creatures, but just lovely to look at. Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed your excerpt. Follies are a particular favorite of mine, imprisonment in one sounds humorous.

I'll take tea since we're just about to round the clock into afternoon. Might as well have a scone too. Oh, and you're husband's framing of the poster was sweet.

Research is often more fun than writing, at least for me. At some point do you revaluate your collection of reference materials and whittle it back down or are you more of the compulsive hoarder, squirreling away books for eternity?

Helen Ginger said...

I took over our guest room (although I have to give it up when guests actually show up). My husband built shelves in the closet. Lots of shelves. Like yours, they're now full and overflowing. But I have a nice view of trees, birds and lots of visiting animals, like deer, squirrels, rabbits, roadrunners, etc. Can be distracting, though!

Helen
Straight From Hel

Nicola Cornick said...

Thank you, VA, it is pretty, isn't it. The covers look really lush in the flesh (or rather, in the paper). I agree, research is huge fun though it can be very distracting. That's part of the fun though, I suppose. When I'm researching my non-fiction book about Ashdown I murmur to the family that I'll be gone twenty minutes and then I don't emerge until after several hours. I think they're used to it now. And I'm afraid I am a compulsive hoarder. I find it very hard to throw books out. Whenever I claim I'm going to do it my husband fetches a shoebox for me to put them in.

Nicola Cornick said...

I love the sound of the view from your window, Helen! And I wonder how many of us have overflowing bookshelves?

Magdalena Scott said...

Hi, Nicola and Sia! What a lovely blog, and the pictures are wonderful.

I write contemporary romance, but I live in an *old* house so I had to smile when you mentioned the possibility of the floor giving way under your bookshelves.

I'm fortunate to have a sitting room where I do my writing. I have my writers' reference volumes here, a comfy chair and side table (for tea OR coffee), and a fireplace. There's a birdfeeder just outside the window, so I have "visitors" all day.

Since my stories are generally set in small towns, I can get inspiration just by walking a couple of blocks to our little downtown. Amazing what goes on...

~Sia McKye~ said...

Me, me! I have overflowing bookshelves and books stacked nearby on the floor. Hubs complains I need a room the size of the town library but I'd probably have it full and overflowing in no time.

Helen, My windows in my office also look outside. I have birdfeeders and squirrel feeders, humming bird feeders. Pasture borders my yard so I can see my horses when they come up and love the symphony of the birds. Cool, you have Roadrunners! Um, do they come with Wiley Cycote too? :-)

~Sia McKye~ said...

Magdalena, I like your setting too. My bookshelves are on concrete floor with nice carpeting on it. I don't worry about the floor, but the poor shelves tend to have problems.

I love your cat in the corner of your bookshelf Nicola. Mine spend lots of time in my office with me too. Downside? When they want attention, my keyboard is a fascinating spot to hang out, preferably positioned so I can't see the monitor or use the keyboard...

Nicola Cornick said...

I like the sound of your writing space too, Magdalena. I find the distractions outside the window, whether wildlife or human, absolutely riveting! Isn't it strange how cats know exactly where is the most inconvenient place to position themselves?

Adina said...

Wonderful post, I had to read it twice to get the imagery well anchored in my senses !
I do not have a special writing room myself but now I am eager to get one...My husband will be busy for a while , that's all I am saying :)

ptbertram said...

We all need a special place so we can be whoever we want to be, not just what other people want us to be. Looks like you created a wonderful place for you and your feline friends. Hmmm. Hunting? I don't think so. Hunting lodge? Oh, yes! Another wonderful place.

aries18 said...

I write in the living room, with a view of the pasture beyond, in the front. A nice view of my back yard in the back and of course, the requisite on dog and two cats lounging nearby at all times.

I love being in the midst of things and can easily tune out whatever is going on around me. I usually write during the day as no one is home but me and the 'critters'.

Your room sounds lovely and your day job is 'to die for'.

Thanks for giving us a peek into your world, your creative endeavors and your room.

Sia, you bring the best of the best to us! Thank you.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Wanda, darling, I do try. And I also love Nicola's day job. When I visit Europe, I'm going to go visit her and let her give me a tour.

Pat, I am not buying a hunting lodge/mansion, so forget it, lol! but I loved it, I had to do a virtual tour of some of the National Trust homes. It's kinda like eating Lays Chips, you can't eat just one...

Judi Fennell said...

You win! Your window-view is better than mine and I'm jealous! In a totally good way! :)

Nicola Cornick said...

LOL, Adina, good luck with getting that special room! Sia, your blog has such lovely and interesting visitors. I now have an image of all those different working spaces with roadrunners and pastureland and wildlife and animal companions... Thank you all so much for sharing these with me.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Nicola, thank you for being my guest Over Coffee. Loved the glimpse into your life and loved the pictures.

I do have some wonderful visitors and I'm glad they were able to meet you.

Thank you for the lovely card as well.

Sisters-in-Sync said...

Hi Nicola,

Great post. I'm still searching for "my room". But I have visions of how it will be and your post inspired me to get there sooner rather than later.

Right now? My room is any place the volume is down to at least a dull roar!

Barb