Naw Interview with Lecia Cornwall

Lecia Cornwall

Lecia Cornwall is the author of Once Upon A Highland Autumn and several other historical romance fiction stories. She lives in in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies. Contact her here.

NAW: Tell us about your book ONCE UPON A HIGHLAND AUTUMN. How did you get the idea for it, and how long did it take to finish the book? What is it about?

ONCE UPON A HIGHLAND AUTUMN is the second in a series of books set in the Scottish Highlands. The stories follow the McNabb family, a brother and his three sisters. Once Upon A Highland Summer (Book #1) was Alec’s story, and ONCE UPON A HIGHLAND AUTUMN is Megan’s story. Once Upon a Highland Christmas (book #3) will be out in December this year.

Each book in the series has a bit of a paranormal theme (nothing blatant). In Highland Summer, a pair of meddlesome ghosts rise from their graves to help bring the love and happiness to their descendants, something they missed out in in their own lives.

In ONCE UPON A HIGHLAND AUTUMN, there’s an ancient curse upon Glen Dorian, and a mystery to solve.

In Once Upon A Highland Christmas, the theme is magic and a misadventure with a love spell gone wrong.

Most of my books take between three and six months to complete. ONCE UPON A HIGHLAND AUTUMN was written in just over three months.

ONCE UPON A HIGHLAND AUTUMN is two stories in one—the story of how the curse came to be laid upon the glen in the tragic aftermath of the Battle of Culloden. Mairi’s curse hovers over the glen for some seventy years, a spirit without rest, a story without an ending, until two very uncertain lovers arrive in the glen.

The main story—the romance between Kit and Megan, begins when Kit finds a lost letter in a trunk in England, and comes to Scotland to solve a mystery. But eager ladies, determined to bring the marriage-shy earl to the altar follow Kitto the Highlands, and Kit will do anything, even enter into a handfasting of convenience with a Highland lass, to avoid matrimony.

Megan McNabb will do anything to get out of marrying the English marquess her mother has chosen for her—even handfasting with an English stranger. But the curse that guards the glen tests Kit and Megan’s growing passion before it gives up its secrets, and they must prove their love is strong enough to pass the test.

NAW: What’s your favorite scene from ONCE UPON A HIGHLAND AUTUMN?

That’s a tough question—I must admit that this book is one of my favorites out of the nine books I’ve written to date! It’s not that I don’t love my other stories, just that this one has a special place in my heart. I love the scene when Megan and Kit meet in the ruined castle of Glen Dorian. He has a splinter and she pulls it out with hilarious consequences, but the curse conspires against them, and Kit must rescue Megan. I love the chemistry between Kit and Megan in this scene, and the spookiness of the ruined castle.

NAW: Tell us about your other works.

To date, I’ve written nine books (I can’t believe it’s that many!), all set in the English Regency era. My first book, SECRETS OF A PROPER COUNTESS, won the 2011 Reader’s Choice Award for best debut novel. That book was followed by THE PRICE OF TEMPTATION, and then a novella, ALL THE PLEASURES OF THE SEASON. While not officially a series, these stories are connected.

I began a new series with HOW TO DECIEVE A DUKE, followed by THE SECRET LIFE OF LADY JULIA, and WHAT A LADY MOST DESIRES, which will be released in September this year.

ONCE UPON A HIGHLAND SUMMER began my Highland series, followed by ONCE UPON A HIGHLAND AUTUMN. ONCE UPON A HIGHLAND CHRISTMAS will be available in early December 2014.

NAW: What made you decide to write a mix of historical romance? How much research did you have to do for your books? How did you go about it?

I have always loved history. I’ve read both historical fiction and non-fiction since I was a child. When I decided to write historical romance, I chose the English Regency for several reasons. It’s a very vibrant time period, with a lot of social and scientific changes happening. The Napoleonic wars offer a breathtaking military backdrop, along with plenty of smugglers, spies, and traitors, and there was the Regency itself, a mad king and his unpopular son. The Regency was also an era with a great many rules and expectations, and it’s such fun to write characters who must live within those rules, and still manage to break them whenever possible. And the fashions,for both men and women—who could resist such a perfect setting for romance?

My Scottish books come from a similar love for Scottish history. My husband was born in Scotland, and my children grew up listening to real stories at their Scottish grandmother’s knee. My son, now 22, wears his Kennedy kilt proudly.

To me, the Scottish Highlands are a place of magic and mystery, and Scottish culture is fierce and patriotic and yet kind and caring.

Every book I write requires some research, but I love that part of the writing process as much as I love creating plots, characters and stories. For the Highland series, I did a lot of reading about the clan system, Scottish folklore, and specific holiday and seasonal traditions. I also read as much as I could find about the Battle of Culloden, which is featured in the first two books.

NAW: Which authors have influenced you?

In romance, my very favorite authors are still Mary Balogh, Jo Beverely, Eloisa James and Julie Garwood. My all time favorite romance is A Knight In Shining Armor by Jude Deveraux.

I read a lot of historical fiction as well, and love Philippa Gregory, especially the Red Queen, and her Earthly Joys books.

ONCE UPON A HIGHLAND AUTUMN

NAW: Tell us about yourself. What do you do when you aren’t writing?

I have so many interests! I live with five cats, a chocolate lab, two university-aged children, and one husband, all of which keep me very busy. One of my favorite parts of the day is walking with my dog Kipper beside the beautiful Bow River. We both get a chance to think, breathe, and enjoy nature.

I love to garden, though plants that come to my house must be able to thrive on benign neglect and in Calgary’s harsh growing conditions. I was very excited to find Scottish heather at my local garden center this spring, which I brought home and planted for luck, and in honor of both our family heritage and my Scottish books.

I also love to cook, usually with my son, and we regularly try international dishes—Indian, Thai, Moroccan, Italian, Russian, Mexican, and Scottish, too.

I love to read, and I tend to have several books on the go at once. Currently I’m reading The Bloodletter’s Daughter by Linda Lafferty, and several research books for another writing project. My bedside table is piled high with books, and my iPad is full of book samples waiting to be read.

NAW: How important are the names of characters in your books? How do you name your characters?

I love the process of picking the perfect name! I think the name must fit the character, feel natural. In ONCE UPON A HIGHLAND AUTUMN, I wanted the hero’s name to be very English, very stiff and formal, to reflect his personality. I chose Christopher Linwood, Earl of Rossington. But he wasn’t born into his title. He inherited it when his father and older brother died, and he’s uneasy in his role as earl. I found that using the diminutive of Christopher, Kit, fit him much better.

I have a well-used book, The Character Naming Sourcebook, by Sherilyn Kenyon, which offers first names from every culture. I also use old phonebooks and even maps to come up with names for places, titles, and people.

NAW: Did you face any struggles early on? How did your first book get published?

I’m afraid my greatest struggle is usually with myself. I must admit that even now, when I sit down to write, I feel fear, and wonder if I can really do this. I know I can, but that kernel of doubt is always there. Once I start writing, I get sucked into the work, absorbed by it, and the words come and fill the page.

I began the process of trying to find a literary agent many years ago. I sent out my first two submissions, and received two rejections. Though I didn’t understand it at the time, they were good rejections—kind and encouraging, saying that my work had merit and just needed a bit of polish, but all I saw was the rejection part. I hid the manuscripts away and stopped trying when I should have kept going.

When I moved to Calgary from Ottawa in 2004, I joined a writing group, found critique partners, and gathered the courage to send my work out again. I entered writing contests for the feedback, and submitted to agents and editors regularly (this was in the days before self-publishing). I made a list of agents, editors and contest, and a rule—when a rejection came back, I had to send something else out within a week. It meant there was always something out there in the world, always hope that my dream of being published would come true.

I met my agent through a contest in 2008—one of the perks for contest finalists was a face-to-face meeting with the agent of their choice at a conference. Although the agent rejected my contest entry (which came in second), she asked to see something else. I received her offer of representation while I was away in Scotland on holiday in 2009. She helped me polish and submit my first book, and we received two offers of publication. That book became SECRETS OF A PROPER COUNTESS, published in 2011, just a few days after my forty-ninth birthday.

NAW: Name your five favorite authors.

Philippa Gregory (for making history sing. In the Red Queen, the heroine is extremely unlikeable, but the author still makes you want to follow that story to the very end)

Julie Garwood (For the wonderful sense of fun in her Scottish romances)

Jennifer Roberson (author of Lady of the Glen, and Lady of the Forest, both so beautifully written they make me sigh every time I re-read them)

Mary Balogh (For her wonderful characters, and the way she makes opposites work so well together)

Bernard Cornwell (For sheer adventure, and unforgettable heroes)

NAW: What are your upcoming projects?

I’ve just finished writing three books in the space of a year, all of which will be published in the second half of 2014. Phew! I am taking this summer to work on a new project of my very own, a historical fiction novel set in Paris in World War II.

I love to hear from readers! Please contact me by e-mail at leciacornwall{at}shaw.ca if you have questions or comments, and I will be most happy to chat.

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