Saturday Night Drinks with…. Nicola Pryce

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Well, folks, I can tell you that I am really ready for tonight’s Saturday Night Drinks (a day late due to technical problems yesterday, apologies), and I am delighted to be joined in my end-of-the-week wind down chat by author…. Nicola Pryce.

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Nicola, welcome to my humble blog and thank you for joining me for drinks this evening. First things first, what are you drinking?

Thank you, Julie. It’s very kind of you to invite me. I’d like a Sottish malt whiskey – a double please. Actually, could you put it in a hipflask as we’ll be taking it in our rucksacks? No, better still, let’s bring the bottle.

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If we weren’t here in my virtual bar tonight, but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?

Grab your walking boots and waterproofs, Julie. We’re going to watch basking sharks as the sun sets from a beach in the Outer Hebrides – we’re off to the Isle of Barra.

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That looks beautiful, let’s go right now! If you could invite two famous people, one male and one female, alive or dead, along on our night out, who would we be drinking with?

We’ll be sitting on a beautiful stretch of white sand watching the sun dip below the horizon – one of those balmy nights with not a single midge – and I’d like to invite Dorothy Kathleen Broster, author of some of my favourite books set in Scotland, to join us. Among many other fabulous books she wrote the incredibly romantic Jacobite trilogy, The Flight of the Heron, The Gleam in the North, and The Dark Mile which I absolutely adored as a teenager. 

They helped shape my love of history and literature and now that I write historical fiction, I’d love the chance to talk to her about her role as a Red Cross nurse during World War 1, her historical research, and her life as an author.

And as her books are about the Jacobite uprising of 1745, I’d like to invite Bonnie Prince Charlie so we can hear his side of the story. With Scottish ancestors, I was always rooting for the Jacobites and I have Bonnie Prince Charlie down as a romantic, rather dashing figure. 

So, let’s hope we’re in for a treat! Either way, I think it should make for a very lively evening and have us talking and drinking into the early hours.

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So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. What have you got going on? How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

I’m going to whisk you to another coast now – to Cornwall, 1793. 

For the past six years I’ve been writing a series of historical novels based among the ship builders and sea-faring communities on the south coast of Cornwall. It’s such a fascinating period of history; England is at war with France, an invasion is highly possible, and wheat shortages and food riots are causing disorder. China clay has just been discovered, naval ships await orders in Falmouth, and French prisoners cram into the already full prisons. 

It’s a period I love and a place I love. I came late to writing after a career as a nurse. I had always wanted to write, and five books down the line I’m still pinching myself that it’s happened! Never say never is now my motto.

My historical novels are standalone books, but they do follow in sequence. My debut novel, Pengelly’s Daughter, was published in 2016 and there are now five in the series, including the one to be published this November.

image1What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?

It’s difficult to choose between when I was picked up by my agent, when I was offered a publishing contract, and when I first saw my book in print. But really, I think my proudest moment was when a lady wrote to me saying she took my book out from the library and really loved it. To have my books in libraries is such a privilege.

My biggest challenge I think must be the same as with everyone – how to juggle the work/life balance. I’m a slow writer and I’m also a wife, mother, and doting grandmother so it’s always going to be a bit of a balance. 

What is the one big thing you’d like to achieve in your chosen arena? Be as ambitious as you like, its just us talking after all!

With such a wealth of books being published, I’d love it if my books were still being read in fifty years’ time. 

What a great ambition! What are you currently working on that you are really excited about?

Book 5, A Cornish Betrothal is out soon and I’m really excited about that. Each novel follows a different heroine and I’ve loved telling Amelia Carew’s story. 

I love to travel, and I’m currently drawing up a bucket list of things I’d like to do in the future. Where is your favourite place that you’ve been and what do you have at the top of your bucket list?

There are just too many to mention, but I think you may have guessed that the Outer Hebrides are on my mind at the moment, mainly because next year is our 40th wedding anniversary and we’re thinking of retracing our first holiday together. We had such an amazing time driving our little open-top red sportscar down the islands and camping on the white beaches with their delicate shells and turquoise sea. 

This time, I think we’ll take bikes and stay in bed and breakfasts along the way. The scenery is breathtaking, and I can’t wait to go back – with both rainproofs and sun cream in our backpacks! 

This isn’t my photo, but it’s what we have in mind to do.

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Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself that people might not know about you.

I was born in Denver, Colorado, and spent my childhood in Baghdad.

Wow, if we ever meet in person, I would love to hear about your Baghdad childhood. Books are my big passion and central to my blog and I’m always looking for recommendations. What one book would you give me and recommend as a ‘must-read’?

I’m going to go for A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. So many books have been influential in my life and though it affected me greatly as a teenager, I recently re-read it after a visit to Brooklyn and it seemed even more powerful the second time round. It’s a profoundly moving novel which charts the childhood of Irish immigrant Francie Nolan and her family in the slums of Brooklyn from 1902 until 1919. The women have nothing, but their words of wisdom are priceless. Do read it if you have not already done so.

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The Nolan family are first-generation immigrants to the United States. Originating in Ireland and Austria, their life in the Williamsburg slums of Brooklyn is poor and deprived, but their sacrifices make it possible for their children to grow up in a land of boundless opportunity.

Francie Nolan is the eldest daughter of the family. Alert, imaginative and resourceful, her journey through the first years of a century of profound change is difficult – and transformative. But amid the poverty and suffering among the poor of Brooklyn, there is hope, and the prospect of a brighter future.

So, we’ve been drinking all evening. What is your failsafe plan to avoid a hangover and your go-to cure if you do end up with one?

Ah, well, when you get to my age you know to make one drink last the whole evening! But my cure for hangovers was always pints of water before I went to bed and a small hair of the dog at about 11 o’clock the next morning!

After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?

I think you might have guessed this … We’ll be up bright and early and on our bikes heading along the coast road for a pub lunch. It’s alright, I’ve checked the weather forecast and it’s going to be glorious sunshine. We’ll have a swim, then head back to our bed and breakfast and have freshly caught fish grilled on a BBQ for supper. 

Then another ride on Sunday morning, followed by another dip, a yummy lunch, and then we’ll spend the afternoon reading D. K. Broster’s The Flight of the Heron.

That sounds perfect. Nicola, thank you so much for joining me, it has been absolutely delightful.

Nicola Pryce is author of five books of historical fiction set in Cornwall, including the latest book A Cornish Betrothal, which will be published on 5 November. You can buy copies of all of Nicola’s books here.

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Cornwall, 1798.

Eighteen months have passed since Midshipman Edmund Melville was declared missing, presumed dead, and Amelia Carew has mended her heart and fallen in love with a young physician, Luke Bohenna. But, on her twenty-fifth birthday, Amelia suddenly receives a letter from Edmund announcing his imminent return. In a state of shock, devastated that she now loves Luke so passionately, she is torn between the two.

When Edmund returns, it is clear that his time away has changed him – he wears scars both mental and physical. Amelia, however, is determined to nurse him back to health and honour his heroic actions in the Navy by renouncing Luke.

But soon, Amelia begins to question what really happened to Edmund while he was missing. As the threads of truth slip through her fingers, she doesn’t know who to turn to: Edmund, or Luke?

Nicola Pryce trained as a nurse at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London. She loves literature and history and has an Open University degree in Humanities. After a fulfilling career as a nurse she qualified as an adult literacy support volunteer and lives with her husband in the Blackdown Hills in Somerset. She and her husband love sailing and together they sail the south coast of Cornwall in search of adventure and it is there where she sets her books. If she is not writing or gardening, you will find her scrubbing the decks.

Nicola is published by Atlantic Books. Pengelly’s Daughter is her first novel, then The Captain’s Girl, The Cornish Dressmaker, and The Cornish Lady. A Cornish Betrothal will be published in November.

Nicola is a member of the Historical Writers’ Association and the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

You can find out more about Nicola and her writing on her website and via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

Next week I will be joined for Friday Night Drinks by PR, Helen Lewis, so please do join us then.

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