Today I am very excited to be discussing writing romance with the winner of the 2020 RNA Joan Hessayon Award… Melissa Oliver.
Tell me a bit about the type of books you write and where you are in your publishing journey.
Hi Julie, thank you for having me on your blog.
I write historical romance for Harlequin Mills and Boon, with the first series; the Notorious Knights set in early 13th century England.
So far, I have written three of the books, with my debut published last summer, the second out at the end of this month and the third coming in the summer of 2021. I was ecstatic that my debut- The Rebel Heiress and the Knight won the prestigious RNA Joan Hessayon Award for 2020. Honestly, getting that first publishing deal as a new writer was an incredible feat in itself but to win the award was really the cherry on top and something I will always treasure.
Romance is a glorious genre that celebrates love in all its various forms, examining the connection between two people through the prism of time, or a contemporary back-drop. Whether it’s with comedy or tragedy, mystery & adventure- there’s always a great pay-off at the end in the happy ever after or happy for now- which can only be a balm in these troubled times.
What inspires your stories?
Anything and everything! I’m attracted to the medieval era at the moment, as there’s a certain immediacy about real-life events from that time giving my books a sense of heightened intensity (I hope) blending romance, emotion, conflict, intrigue even a little humour and at times, mystery & adventure.
I really enjoy incorporating real historical events and people through the narrative at key moments. So, reading a lot and I mean a lot of factual books is key to getting a sense of the period in an attempt to capture the essence of the time. Having said that, my characters are the real driving force of my books. I need to know everything about them- who they are, what they are doing and where they want to go before I even start a book.
Who are your favourite romance authors, past and/or present?
Ooh, that is such a difficult question and really does depend on my mood. My favourites’ include; Georgette Heyer, Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Milly Johnson, Jilly Cooper, Marian Keyes, Sophie Kinsella, Mary Balogh, Meredith Duran, Mimi Matthews & Lisa Kleypas. I know I’ve probably missed out a few but this list can be quite flexible and ultimately changeable.
If you had to pick one romance novel for me to read, which one would you recommend?
Katherine by Anya Seton. A vividly compelling historical romance. One of my absolute favourites.
Katherine comes to the court of Edward III at the age of fifteen. The naïve convent-educated orphan of a penniless knight is dazzled by the jousts and the entertainments of court.
Nevertheless, Katherine is beautiful, and she turns the head of the King’s favourite son, John of Gaunt. But he is married, and she is soon to be betrothed.
A few years later their paths cross again and this time their passion for each other cannot be denied or suppressed. Katherine becomes the prince’s mistress, and discovers an extraordinary world of power, pleasure and passion.
Which romantic hero or heroine would you choose to spend your perfect romantic weekend with? Where would you go and what would you do?
We recently got a lovely cocker spaniel puppy named Mr. Darcy, so I am going to go with Lizzy’s other half. Mr. D would escort me on a whistle-stop tour through Regency London. From Gunter’s tea shop for an ice, to a horse ride down Rotten Row, then a hop and a skip to Almack for a dance and finally to Vauxhall Gardens which was pretty magical, by all accounts.
What is your favourite thing about being a member of the RNA? What do you think you have gained from membership?
A sense of community as well as the amazing support and friendships built over the last few years of being a member. Added to this are the fantastic events such as the Winter Party and the Summer Conference, where I met my lovely editor from Harlequin Mills and Boon at the industry one-to-one meetings in 2019. There’s still so much to learn for me, so it’s quite reassuring being a member of the RNA, knowing there’s a wealth of knowledge out there.
What one piece of advice or tip would you give to new writers starting out in the romance genre?
I would say not to give up, if you’re serious about becoming a writer. It can be tough and sometimes quite lonely dealing with rejection and keeping that self-doubt at bay. So, do your research, hone your craft, enjoy what you’re doing but above all, write the book you have always wanted to write.
Tell us about your most recent novel.
Her Banished Knight’s Redemption is the second book of the Notorious Knights series and is set in 1218. It features Sir William (Will) Geraint – the gorgeous best friend of Hugh de Villiers (the hero from The Rebel Heiress and the Knight– book 1 of the series.)
Will is quite embittered and different from the affable, easy going knight we first meet in the previous book and is now living in exile in France as a sword-for-hire. He goes on quite a journey in this book as he escorts the lost heiress, Isabel de Clancey back to England where they’re forced to work together to uncover the secrets of their past. There’s even a medieval treasure hunt to discover.
There was quite a bit of research to do on this book. From the history of the Knights Templar, to the Tour de la Lanterne in La Rochelle- the only tower that would have been erected at that time and not the one that stands there today, to the herbs and plants used to treat various maladies. I loved writing this book and wanted to give Will and the lovely Lady Isabel an exciting story filled with romance, passion mystery, and adventure.
A lady’s need for protection
A knight’s chance for redemption
Exiled Knight William Geraint answers only to himself. Yet, a mission to reunite lost heiress Lady Isabel de Clancey with her family is Will’s chance to finally atone for the torment of his past. With every rushed mile, their intense attraction becomes dangerously thrilling. He swore to protect Isabel not seduce her, but their desire for each other could threaten the redemption he’s worked so hard to achieve…
Her Banished Knight’s Redemption is out 21 January 2021 in UK & Australia and 26 Jan in US and you can pre-order your copy here.
About the Author
Melissa Oliver is from south-west London where she writes historical romance novels. She lives with her lovely husband and daughters, who share her passion for decrepit, old castles, palaces and all things historical.
Melissa is the WINNER of The Romantic Novelist Association’s Joan Hessayon Award for new writers 2020 for her debut, The Rebel Heiress and the Knight.
When she’s not writing she loves to travel for inspiration, paint, and visit museums & art galleries.
Connect with Melissa:
Facebook: Melissa Oliver Author