Wednesday, September 3, 2014

THE MEANEST ROMANCE AUTHOR EVER

This post originally appeared on Blue Rose Romance, August 27, 2014:

THE MEANEST ROMANCE AUTHOR EVER!

Tell me, dear reader, do you think you could fall in love with someone without being able to see them? What if it was someone you’d met before, and didn’t like in the least—could you change your mind by sound, or touch, or scent?

Allow me to introduce Stephen Ives, the hero in WHAT A LADY MOST DESIRES. He’s honest, gentle, kind, and charming. As a diplomat and soldier, he has learned to use first impressions to make decisions about people and situations. He’s been trained to observe, and he’s used to being in charge. Without the honor and his ability to see, he has nothing left. Nothing. Nada. He’s completely broken.

Do I hate him? Not at all—I adore Stephen, and I think he deserves the best.
I’m not really mean—I rescue injured birds in my garden, even take spiders and icky bugs safely outside and release them when I find them in my house. I truly have a very soft heart, so please bear with me.

I’ve found that in the case of people who are set in their ways, who are very sure of themselves and are smugly content with their life just as it is, sometimes it takes a huge catastrophe to shake them out of their complacency and bring out the gentler, kinder qualities they already possess.

So I took a perfectly charming gentleman, sent him into one of the most brutal battles in history, wounded him horrendously, and tossed him back on the heroine’s doorstep. He already had a broken heart before the battle even started, poor thing, but I added blindness and even took away his honor when I had him accused of terrible crimes, including theft and cowardice. Worse, everyone he knows deserts him. I left him in languishing in the care of the one woman on earth he truly doesn’t like. Surely it can’t get any worse than that!

Of course it can! What if the loathed Lady Delphine St. James touched you gently in your blindness, mopped your brow, soothed your pain, quieted your nightmares, and did everything necessary to nurse you, all without a word of distaste? What if she was the only person willing to be honest with you, to describe the world to you, to be your eyes and your guide through the darkness, and to treat you as a man instead of an invalid? And how would you feel about her when she bullied and tricked you into action, appeared cruel in her methods until you finally understand that she’s using every ounce of her strength to help you? Could you fall in love with her then?

Now some of this meanness of mine comes from the fact that I am truly as blind as a bat, dear reader. Take away my powerful contact lenses, and the glasses that go on top of those for reading and driving, and I am mere points from legal blindness. As my prescriptions increased year after year when I was a teenager, I was afraid I’d eventually lose my sight entirely. I thought a lot in those days about how it would feel to lose the ability to see nature, or color, of the faces of the people I love. Thankfully, my vision has continued to be correctable, and I am very, very grateful for that. I will see my daughter as a bride someday, and look into the faces of my grandchildren, and see my husband’s smile long into my old age.

But back to Stephen, who unlike me must learn to depend on his other senses. Imagine how frightened he’d be! Gradually, though he’s surly and depressed and in pain, he comes to know Delphine by the sound of her footsteps, to be able to read her emotions in the tone of her voice. He begins to live for the scent of her perfume and the touch of her hand. He discovers she’s witty and intelligent when they talk or read together, and he feels her strength as she guides him along the paths in the garden he can no longer see. Her kisses are sensual explorations of taste and touch.

Ah, but you had to know any author as mean as me has yet more torment in store for Delphine and Stephen, don’t you? A lady like Delphine is bound to have other suitors, and family pressure to marry someone better than a blind and accused coward. I wondered what Stephen would do to avoid losing her. Would he betray his own sense of honor to keep her by his side, or do the right thing and let her go? And if she fled from him, betrayed, and chose the arms of another man, what would Stephen do to win her back, to prove to her that he truly is WHAT A LADY MOST DESIRES? And don’t think an author like me—and any heroine worth the name would make it easy for him!

Well, perhaps in the end I’m not so mean after all. Until the next book, that is.

I hope you enjoy WHAT A LADY MOST DESIRES! I love hearing from readers. 
 You can drop me a line by e-mail at leciacornwall@shaw.ca, or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lecia-Cornwall/14798145522651 Or visit my website at www.leciacornwall.com.


Monday, September 1, 2014

An exclusive excerpt from WHAT A LADY MOST DESIRES 

This post originally appeared on the Historical Romance On The Beach Facebook Tea Party on August 26, 2014



Welcome to tea! Let me pour you a cup of Earl Grey, and offer you a scone—with extra cream, of course—and some fresh raspberries from my garden. Does a summer evening get any better than this?

Isn’t it a little bit sad when summer comes to an end? I prefer to see it as a new beginning—I love these last, perfect days, and watching the summer turn golden and slip into fall.

I am delighted to announce that today is the official release day for WHAT A LADY MOST DESIRES! It’s now available everywhere, and I hope you’ll enjoy reading Stephen and Delphine’s story. He was one of the most challenging heroes I’ve ever written—stiff and formal, blind and wounded, and stuck with the company of a woman he dislikes. But love changes everything, and everyone, and Stephen is no exception.

Here’s another short, exclusive excerpt just for you, dear reader, to enjoy with your tea…

Stephen would have fallen if she hadn’t caught him. He felt the fragile frame of her body propped under his until he found his balance. God, she was so delicate—he’d crush her if he landed on her. She was feminine and warm too, and she slipped her arm around his waist, and held him safe, and he knew that she would not let him fall. There was determination in every inch of her. “This way,” she said, her voice breathy with effort. “Take the next step.”
He could smell the fragrance of her hair, remembered the dark gloss of it adorned with daisies. If he buried his face in it now, would it still smell of flowers? He walked forward, taking a shuffling step each time she did. His ribs hurt with every indrawn breath, his arm ached, and he felt weak and afraid. Her hip was pressed to his, and she waited for him to set the pace. “A few more steps,” she whispered.
“Where am I going?” he asked.
“Your bedchamber is in the salon off the library. Turn a little to your right.”
“My bedchamber, my lady?” he strove for a light tone, charm, but there was sweat trickling into his eyes from the effort of walking even such a short distance.
At last she clasped his hand, stretched it out, and he gripped instinctively, felt the soft wool of a blanket, the edge of the mattress. He turned, and carefully sat down. She let him go and stepped back. He felt cold where her body had touched his.
“There,” she said, breathless. “Rest now. Shall I read to you again tomorrow?”
He swallowed, and nodded. He didn’t want her to leave him. He wanted to draw her into his arms and hold her, feel the breath in her body, know he was still alive. Instead he stayed where he was, unmoving, and stared into the darkness.
“Then I shall see you in the library at ten o’clock, after breakfast.” She did not press him back against the pillow, or tuck him under the blankets.
“I’ll be ready,” he said. He listened to her retreat across the wooden floor, her steps light and swift, and imagined a deer or a colt. The door shut, and he felt as if another level of darkness had been added to the first with her departure.

For more excerpts, buy links, and information about the other books in the Temberlay series, please visit my website, at www.leciacornwall.com.








Wednesday, July 30, 2014

This is Clive (left) and Emma, also known as The Bookends. We adopted these siblings three years ago, and they are devoted to each other. Doesn't Emma have the face of a literary critic? Clive looks like Max from the children's cartoon Max and Ruby. 


This is me, with an advance copy of HOW TO DECEIVE A DUKE. Nothing is more exciting than getting that first printed copy in the mail from my lovely editor!



A photo taken by my son Griffin, me at my desk on a cold December day (2013)



An advance print copy of ONCE UPON A HIGHLAND AUTUMN (Summer 2014)

Once Upon A Highland Autumn Blog Posts

This post originally appeared on Fresh Fiction, June 17, 2014

THE HIDDEN SECRETS BEHIND ONCE UPON A HIGHLAND AUTUMN

It’s release day For ONCE UPON A HIGHLAND AUTUMN!

It’s a pleasure to be here at Fresh Fiction to share this day with you.

I also thought I’d share some of my deep, dark writerly secrets today, and tell you a bit about the story behind ONCE UPON A HIGHLAND AUTUMN.

ONCE UPON A HIGHLAND AUTUMN is the second book in the ‘Once Upon A Highland’ series, which began with Once Upon A Highland Summer. Each book in the series has a different magical theme, an otherworldly, mysterious edge. Highland Summer featured a pair of meddlesome ghosts, who return from the grave to see that their descendants find the love, fortune, and happiness they themselves missed out on. 

In ONCE UPON A HIGHLAND AUTUMN, it’s Megan MacNabb’s turn to be caught up by mysterious forces, this time an ancient curse.

ONCE UPON A HIGHLAND AUTUMN is actually two stories in one. Megan and Kit’s love story is interwoven with the tale of how the dreadful curse that lies upon Glen Dorian came to be, a tragic story of love, loss, and war, that is still awaiting an ending when Kit and Megan’s story begins, some seventy years later.

Now for one of my secrets: I’m a typical insecure, neurotic, introverted writer. I write half a book, then wail that it must be the very worst thing ever written in the entire history of writing—including grocery lists and misspelled ransom demands. My family has learned to roll their eyes and ignore me after nine books, and nine mid-manuscript panic attacks. By the time I reach the end of the story, I have a good cry (for some reason, no matter how many times I read them, or edit them, the endings of my books inexplicably make me burst into tears), and decide it’s really not such a bad story after all.

Writing ONCE UPON A HIGHLAND AUTUMN felt different—I loved the characters from the moment they stepped onto the page. Megan and Kit have incredible chemistry, the atmosphere of the ruined castle is wonderfully spooky and gothic, the secondary characters were charming and quirky and did not try to take over the story for themselves, and Mairi MacIntosh’s Culloden story made me cry.

I must admit I’ve always had a fascination with the Battle of Culloden. It began back in high school, when I saw a documentary about it in history class and cried. I visited Culloden Moor in 2009, and it is the saddest, most somber place I’ve ever been. I’ve always wanted to write about the battle and it’s tragic aftermath, so I took the make it part of Mairi’s story in ONCE UPON A HIGHLAND AUTUMN.

While I was in Scotland, I bought a CD at Culloden (Songs and Voices of the Forty-Five), of Gaelic speakers singing about the battle. I’ll admit to sitting in the car listening to those songs, crying my eyes out, while I was working on writing ONCE UPON A HIGHLAND AUTUMN. Oh dear—Please don’t get the idea that I cry all the time, dear readers—just at the ending of my books, and over Culloden, and of course PBS’s Call The Midwife makes me cry with every single episode, and so does Camelot (yes, the musical). It’s just that even though I don’t speak Gaelic (alas), the emotion in the songs on the CD is so heartfelt, and knowing what happened to the Highlanders after the battle—well, there were waterworks. I wanted to convey that terrible sense of suffering and loss in my book.

Still, I wanted the story to come to a happy conclusion, even if it’s seventy years in the making, and takes a new generation to bring love and peace back to Glen Dorian. Sigh. Nothing beats a happy ending. And now I need another Kleenex …

I hope you love ONCE UPON A HIGHLAND AUTUMN, and that it makes you laugh far more than cry! Let me know what you think—I love hearing from readers. Visit me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pages/Lecia-Cornwall for up-to-the minute news, or send me an e-mail at leciacornwall@shaw.ca.

l

This post originally appeared on For The Love of Bookends, June 18, 2014

BOOKENDS AND OTHER CHARACTERS

Welcome, dear readers! I’m so happy to spend time with you here today.

file:///Users/leciacornwall/Desktop/IMG_4878.JPGDescription: Macintosh HD:Users:leciacornwall:Desktop:IMG_4878.JPGI thought I’d start by showing you my own Bookends. A few years ago, we adopted two black and white rescue cats, a brother and sister, and named them Clive and Emma. They used to sit on either side of my desk while I wrote, and earned the nickname “The Bookends”. This is a picture of them with two of my books, taken a few years ago. Clive is on the left, Emma on the right. While Clive has since discovered other interests, Emma still sits in her own sweater-lined box on my desk and supervises. You can see by the look on her face that she was born to be a literary critic!


People often ask me (odd, but true) if my cats help me create book characters. Um, no. I never ever use anyone I actually know in my stories, human or otherwise. Think how awkward that would make Christmas dinner and family reunions! I have five cats, and the closest they come to literature is the fun we have finding the perfect names and nicknames for them.

It’s the same choosing the perfect name for book characters, too. Sometimes the names are determined in a previous book, where the hero or heroine was a mere secondary character, and his or her name not critically important to the story. Then they get their own book, and a writer might wish she’d been more selective in picking their name in the first place.

Since ONCE UPON A HIGHLAND AUTUMN is the second book in a series, Megan’s name was pre-selected. The hero of Book #1, Once Upon A Highland Summer, has three sisters. I chose each sister’s name because it could be easily Anglicized as part of the plot. Their mother is determined her daughters will marry English lords, and live English lives, and never acknowledge their Scottish background again. She fears Englishmen will not appreciate ladies with Scottish names, accents, and habits, so she changes their names from Megan, Alanna and Sorcha to Margaret, Alice, and Sarah. As you can imagine, this creates a good deal of confusion for other characters, and fun for readers.

In selecting a name for the hero of ONCE UPON A HIGHLAND AUTUMN, I wanted something exceedingly English, dignified, and formal because that is how I originally thought he would be. I chose the name Christopher Linwood, the Earl of Rossington. But although Rossington is indeed an English lord with an old, grand and moneyed title, he’s an uncertain one, a bit uneasy in his role as earl, since he was not born to the title. He fought against his name when I started writing the book, and eventually became Kit instead of Christopher, and the diminutive fits him perfectly.

Have you ever had this happen? You ask the clerk in a shoe store for a size 9, and he comes back with a size 6 because he’s out of size 9. I find giving a character the wrong name is like trying to cram a size 9 foot into a size 6 shoe. Ouch. The right name—the sound and feel of it—is like that perfect pair of shoes that make you feel gorgeous every time you step out.

Places also need the perfect name. When I was little (one of those daftly imaginative kids who make up stories in their heads when they’re supposed to be learning long division), I wanted to grow up and live in a house with a name. I even chose one—Lostwithiel. It means ‘at the end of the wood’. Alas, none of my houses have ever been grand enough to warrant a name beyond the street address. To find the perfect name for Glen Dorian, the setting for ONCE UPON A HIGHLAND AUTUMN, I went through lists of Scottish places, animals and landscape features. Glen Dorian means The Vale of the Otters. Otters are playful, smart, rather shy, yet bold when they wish to be. I thought those characteristics described my hero and heroine well, and they also symbolize the spirit of the woman who laid the curse upon the glen, Mairi Macintosh, who still watches over the place.  

So what did I name the rest of my cats? There’s Ted, who came with his name. Second is Alphonse. Then there’s Tom, who arrived on a winter’s night. He was indeed a tom, and a charmer. I was writing another book when Tom arrived, and the hero of that story was Thomas Merritt, a suave and charming thief, and a bit of a tomcat himself. That described the cat, too, and the name stuck.

I hope you love ONCE UPON A HIGHLAND AUTUMN, and that it makes you laugh far more than cry! Let me know what you think—I love hearing from readers. Visit me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pages/Lecia-Cornwall for up-to-the minute news, or send me an e-mail at leciacornwall@shaw.ca.

l

This post originally appeared on the LIVE TO READ book blog on June 19, 2014

HERO WANTED: APPLY HERE

Welcome dear reader! How nice to enjoy a virtual cup of tea with you here at Live To Read today, and chat a bit about the inspiration behind choosing characters for ONCE UPON A HIGHLAND AUTUMN.

People often ask me where I get my ideas—the checkout lady in the supermarket asked just yesterday. Sometimes the tone is slightly admonishing, full of unspoken shock—where on earth do you get those ridiculous ideas? That kind of question usually comes from relatives, who know I was properly brought up, but wonder how I managed to fall off the rails anyway.

But those aren’t the people I write my stories for—you are.

I’m never stuck for story ideas. Real life offers so much plot potential—even grocery shopping—so there’s always a story percolating in my brain.

My favorite challenge lies in creating characters that will be heroic, beloved, and intriguing. They must have flaws, and make terrible mistakes before they reach their happy conclusion. Why shouldn’t they suffer the uncertainties of life and love just like the rest of us? Or even more, since that’s what makes their story worth reading.

I have a questionnaire I fill out for the main characters in each story, like a job application, before I start writing. There are questions about their personalities, what events in their lives have made them the way they are, and what they really want out of life, and why they want this job. I’ll bet the checkout lady had to complete a similar application to get her job. It fixes in my mind who my characters are, how they will react to the difficult situations they’re going to face in a Lecia Cornwall novel.

Still, even with planning, there are characters that do their utmost to break the mold and shatter expectations. They go off script, again and again. Frustrating? Actually it’s my favorite part of writing—that moment when something happens that I (the writer) didn’t expect, and it changes everything. Breathtaking!

My hero, Christopher Linwood, the Earl of Rossington refused to behave as expected. I originally intended him to be the exact opposite of the heroine in personality and culture—stiff, formal, very English, and rather arrogant. But Kit wasn’t born into his title. He inherited it after the death of his father and older brother, and since he wasn’t raised to be an earl, he’s uneasy in the role. Kit, a diminutive of Christopher, suited him much better, and I found the inspiration for his mannerisms in a wonderful old movie—How To Steal a Million. Peter O’Toole plays a supposedly inept art thief, but in reality he’s a world-class expert on forgery. He’s shy, awkward and totally smitten in Audrey Hepburn’s presence, but he’s quick witted and ready to help her out of her predicament. That persona fit Kit perfectly, and I’m sure Megan McNabb, our heroine, would agree.

And a picture can be worth a thousand words—or even 85,000 words. Most of the time, in my mind, my main characters’ faces are blank, as if I am looking out through their eyes from the inside. I love the process of creating a visual storyboard to give readers a glimpse of the images playing inside my brain as I write, and how I imagine my characters might look (I do this after the book is finished). You can see my Pinterest Board for ONCE UPON A HIGHLAND AUTUMN at http://www.pinterest.com/leciacornwall/once-upon-a-highland-autumn-by-lecia-cornwall/

I hope you love ONCE UPON A HIGHLAND AUTUMN, and that it makes you laugh far more than cry! Let me know what you think—I love hearing from readers. Visit me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pages/Lecia-Cornwall for up-to-the minute news, or send me an e-mail at leciacornwall@shaw.ca.

l

Originally written for SOS Aloha, June 20, 2014

A TALE OF TWO STORIES (AND TWO BATTLES)

I love Scottish history. My husband was born in Paisley, near Glasgow, and my children (now adults) are passionate about their heritage. My son wears his Kennedy tartan kilt proudly, and family legend says that deep, deep, deep in the past, Robert the Bruce may have been a distant ancestor. Fun to think that might be true!

My own roots are English and Ukrainian, but Scots or not, the Highlands have always been a place of magic, mystery and romance for me. The landscape, the clan system, the traditions, the battles, the language, the music, the legends, and even the whisky (especially the whisky) … all add up to a fascinating culture filled with wonderful stories for a writer to build upon, and for a reader to fall in love with.

Kim, my gracious host at SOS Aloha, asked me to write a blog post about the anniversary of the Scottish Battle of Bannockburn, which took place 700 years ago, on June 24 1314. But there’s another battle in ONCE UPON A HIGHLAND AUTUMN.

In fact, ONCE UPON A HIGHLAND AUTUMN is a tale within a tale. It’s the story of Mairi’s curse, born of the tragedies that followed the Battle of Culloden. And it’s the story of Kit and Megan, who must find a way to end that curse some seventy years later. But let’s start with the battles.

Uh oh—I can sense your eyes glazing over, and you’re dreading the idea that a romance writer is about to tell you about two Scottish battles. Come with me, dear reader, and I’ll tell you why these battles have captured my imagination, and are worth hearing about. One was a beginning, a victory, the other a sad ending, and a great loss—like the stories in ONCE UPON A HIGHLAND AUTUMN.

I must tell you that I am not a historian—I’m a storyteller. I see stories within the facts, and the opportunity to create fictional characters against the backdrop of historical events. I read and research voraciously, and I love that part of the process almost as much as I love writing stories. I do my very best to ensure the facts included in my books are accurate, but the story and the characters are made up.

When I think about the battles of Bannockburn and Culloden, in my mind one battle marked the start of an independent Scotland, and the other marked the end of the same (if you are a professional Scottish historian, I’m sure you’ll write to me if I’m wrong in this opinion).

Now for my 30-second history lesson:

The Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 was a great victory for the Scots, and a turning point in the Scottish Wars of Independence that led to Scottish sovereignty. The Scots defeated an English force nearly twice the size of their own, and won English respect at last, though full independence took another ten years to achieve.

The Battle of Culloden took place on April 16, 1746. Did you know it was the very last land battle fought on British soil? The aftermath was so brutal, so shameful, that to this day the English regiments who fought there do not include Culloden among the battle honors listed on their regimental colors. The battle ended the Jacobite rebellions, which began when the Stuart Kings of England and Scotland were deposed and replaced. Bonnie Prince Charlie Stuart came to Scotland, his ancestral homeland, to raise an army on behalf of his father, in hopes of reclaiming the throne. It was a romantic adventure, complete with a handsome prince, an army of heroic Scots, and a stirring patriotic cause. They almost won.

At Culloden Moor, in less than an hour, the government forces smashed the Jacobites. Prince Charlie rode away, took ship for France, and never returned. For the Highland clans, it was the beginning of the end of their way of life. After the battle, government troops enforced the Pacification of the Highlands, destroying the rebellious clans by wholesale killing, burning, and looting. Highlanders were murdered, arrested, transported, executed, or left to rot in prison. Under new laws, passed in London, wearing of the plaid was forbidden, as was the speaking of Gaelic, and the playing of bagpipes.

There now, the history lesson is over. For the very keen among you, there’s a list of some of my favorite historical resources below.

I visited Culloden in 2009, and I have never been to a sadder, more somber place. There’s a legend that says birds will not sing as they fly over the battlefield, and although I can’t remember whether I saw birds there, I do remember the incredible silence.

In ONCE UPON A HIGHLAND AUTUMN, I created Connor MacIntosh, a Highland laird in 1746 who is determined to remain neutral and keep his clan out of the fighting. Connor meets an English army officer a few weeks before Culloden when his wife’s young brother invades the English camp on a dare. When the lad slips away to Culloden Moor to watch the battle, Connor goes to rescue him. The English officer saves the lad, but Connor disappears, leaving his young wife to wait and wonder. Alone and afraid, Mairi MacIntosh lays a curse upon the ones who have taken her husband, driven her family into the hills, and burned her home: Glen Dorian shall suffer no one to live within its walls again until true love—the only force strong enough to withstand such adversity—returns there.

The second story—the romance—begins seventy years later, when Kit Rossington discovers a letter in an old trunk in England that draws him to Scotland to solve Mairi’s mystery. In Scotland, he meets Megan McNabb, a lass bent on finding the ending to Mairi’s story for an entirely different reason. But the curse is strong, and the pretense of a handfasting of convenience will not satisfy Glen Dorian’s restless spirits. Love, and only love, will do the trick.

I must admit I love this story—it’s one of my favorites, out of the nine books I’ve written to date. I hope you enjoy it as well—and if you’re a Scottish historian, forgive me for taking liberties. I do so with the greatest love and respect for Scottish culture.

A few of my favorite Scottish history resources:

Culloden, book by John Prebble

A History of Scotland by Neil Oliver (book or BBC DVD)

Battlefield Britain (The Battle of Culloden) BBC TV, with Peter and Dan Snow

White Rose Rebel a novel by Janet Paisley, about the real-life Jacobite heroine Colonel Anne MacIntosh

I hope you love ONCE UPON A HIGHLAND AUTUMN, and that it makes you laugh far more than cry! Let me know what you think—I love hearing from readers. Visit me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pages/Lecia-Cornwall for up-to-the minute news, or send me an e-mail at leciacornwall@shaw.ca.

l

The following interview with New Asian Writing took place in June, 2014

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 Kit to 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.


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 hearing from readers. Visit me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pages/Lecia-Cornwall for up-to-the minute news, or send me an e-mail at leciacornwall@shaw.ca.

 l




This post originally appeared on Fresh Fiction, June 17, 2014

THE HIDDEN SECRETS BEHIND ONCE UPON A HIGHLAND AUTUMN

It’s release day For ONCE UPON A HIGHLAND AUTUMN!

It’s a pleasure to be here at Fresh Fiction to share this day with you.

I also thought I’d share some of my deep, dark writerly secrets today, and tell you a bit about the story behind ONCE UPON A HIGHLAND AUTUMN.

ONCE UPON A HIGHLAND AUTUMN is the second book in the ‘Once Upon A Highland’ series, which began with Once Upon A Highland Summer. Each book in the series has a different magical theme, an otherworldly, mysterious edge. Highland Summer featured a pair of meddlesome ghosts, who return from the grave to see that their descendants find the love, fortune, and happiness they themselves missed out on. 

In ONCE UPON A HIGHLAND AUTUMN, it’s Megan MacNabb’s turn to be caught up by mysterious forces, this time an ancient curse.

ONCE UPON A HIGHLAND AUTUMN is actually two stories in one. Megan and Kit’s love story is interwoven with the tale of how the dreadful curse that lies upon Glen Dorian came to be, a tragic story of love, loss, and war, that is still awaiting an ending when Kit and Megan’s story begins, some seventy years later.

Now for one of my secrets: I’m a typical insecure, neurotic, introverted writer. I write half a book, then wail that it must be the very worst thing ever written in the entire history of writing—including grocery lists and misspelled ransom demands. My family has learned to roll their eyes and ignore me after nine books, and nine mid-manuscript panic attacks. By the time I reach the end of the story, I have a good cry (for some reason, no matter how many times I read them, or edit them, the endings of my books inexplicably make me burst into tears), and decide it’s really not such a bad story after all.

Writing ONCE UPON A HIGHLAND AUTUMN felt different—I loved the characters from the moment they stepped onto the page. Megan and Kit have incredible chemistry, the atmosphere of the ruined castle is wonderfully spooky and gothic, the secondary characters were charming and quirky and did not try to take over the story for themselves, and Mairi MacIntosh’s Culloden story made me cry.

I must admit I’ve always had a fascination with the Battle of Culloden. It began back in high school, when I saw a documentary about it in history class and cried. I visited Culloden Moor in 2009, and it is the saddest, most somber place I’ve ever been. I’ve always wanted to write about the battle and it’s tragic aftermath, so I took the make it part of Mairi’s story in ONCE UPON A HIGHLAND AUTUMN.

While I was in Scotland, I bought a CD at Culloden (Songs and Voices of the Forty-Five), of Gaelic speakers singing about the battle. I’ll admit to sitting in the car listening to those songs, crying my eyes out, while I was working on writing ONCE UPON A HIGHLAND AUTUMN. Oh dear—Please don’t get the idea that I cry all the time, dear readers—just at the ending of my books, and over Culloden, and of course PBS’s Call The Midwife makes me cry with every single episode, and so does Camelot (yes, the musical). It’s just that even though I don’t speak Gaelic (alas), the emotion in the songs on the CD is so heartfelt, and knowing what happened to the Highlanders after the battle—well, there were waterworks. I wanted to convey that terrible sense of suffering and loss in my book.

Still, I wanted the story to come to a happy conclusion, even if it’s seventy years in the making, and takes a new generation to bring love and peace back to Glen Dorian. Sigh. Nothing beats a happy ending. And now I need another Kleenex …

I hope you love ONCE UPON A HIGHLAND AUTUMN, and that it makes you laugh far more than cry! Let me know what you think—I love hearing from readers. Visit me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pages/Lecia-Cornwall for up-to-the minute news, or send me an e-mail at leciacornwall@shaw.ca.

l

This post originally appeared on For The Love of Bookends, June 18, 2014

BOOKENDS AND OTHER CHARACTERS

Welcome, dear readers! I’m so happy to spend time with you here today.

I thought I’d start by showing you my own Bookends. A few years ago, we adopted two black and white rescue cats, a brother and sister, and named them Clive and Emma. They used to sit on either side of my desk while I wrote, and earned the nickname “The Bookends”. This is a picture of them with two of my books, taken a few years ago. Clive is on the left, Emma on the right. While Clive has since discovered other interests, Emma still sits in her own sweater-lined box on my desk and supervises. You can see by the look on her face that she was born to be a literary critic!
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People often ask me (odd, but true) if my cats help me create book characters. Um, no. I never ever use anyone I actually know in my stories, human or otherwise. Think how awkward that would make Christmas dinner and family reunions! I have five cats, and the closest they come to literature is the fun we have finding the perfect names and nicknames for them.

It’s the same choosing the perfect name for book characters, too. Sometimes the names are determined in a previous book, where the hero or heroine was a mere secondary character, and his or her name not critically important to the story. Then they get their own book, and a writer might wish she’d been more selective in picking their name in the first place.

Since ONCE UPON A HIGHLAND AUTUMN is the second book in a series, Megan’s name was pre-selected. The hero of Book #1, Once Upon A Highland Summer, has three sisters. I chose each sister’s name because it could be easily Anglicized as part of the plot. Their mother is determined her daughters will marry English lords, and live English lives, and never acknowledge their Scottish background again. She fears Englishmen will not appreciate ladies with Scottish names, accents, and habits, so she changes their names from Megan, Alanna and Sorcha to Margaret, Alice, and Sarah. As you can imagine, this creates a good deal of confusion for other characters, and fun for readers.

In selecting a name for the hero of ONCE UPON A HIGHLAND AUTUMN, I wanted something exceedingly English, dignified, and formal because that is how I originally thought he would be. I chose the name Christopher Linwood, the Earl of Rossington. But although Rossington is indeed an English lord with an old, grand and moneyed title, he’s an uncertain one, a bit uneasy in his role as earl, since he was not born to the title. He fought against his name when I started writing the book, and eventually became Kit instead of Christopher, and the diminutive fits him perfectly.

Have you ever had this happen? You ask the clerk in a shoe store for a size 9, and he comes back with a size 6 because he’s out of size 9. I find giving a character the wrong name is like trying to cram a size 9 foot into a size 6 shoe. Ouch. The right name—the sound and feel of it—is like that perfect pair of shoes that make you feel gorgeous every time you step out.

Places also need the perfect name. When I was little (one of those daftly imaginative kids who make up stories in their heads when they’re supposed to be learning long division), I wanted to grow up and live in a house with a name. I even chose one—Lostwithiel. It means ‘at the end of the wood’. Alas, none of my houses have ever been grand enough to warrant a name beyond the street address. To find the perfect name for Glen Dorian, the setting for ONCE UPON A HIGHLAND AUTUMN, I went through lists of Scottish places, animals and landscape features. Glen Dorian means The Vale of the Otters. Otters are playful, smart, rather shy, yet bold when they wish to be. I thought those characteristics described my hero and heroine well, and they also symbolize the spirit of the woman who laid the curse upon the glen, Mairi Macintosh, who still watches over the place.  

So what did I name the rest of my cats? There’s Ted, who came with his name. Second is Alphonse. Then there’s Tom, who arrived on a winter’s night. He was indeed a tom, and a charmer. I was writing another book when Tom arrived, and the hero of that story was Thomas Merritt, a suave and charming thief, and a bit of a tomcat himself. That described the cat, too, and the name stuck.

I hope you love ONCE UPON A HIGHLAND AUTUMN, and that it makes you laugh far more than cry! Let me know what you think—I love hearing from readers. Visit me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pages/Lecia-Cornwall for up-to-the minute news, or send me an e-mail at leciacornwall@shaw.ca.

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This post originally appeared on the LIVE TO READ book blog on June 19, 2014

HERO WANTED: APPLY HERE
Welcome dear reader! How nice to enjoy a virtual cup of tea with you here at Live To Read today, and chat a bit about the inspiration behind choosing characters for ONCE UPON A HIGHLAND AUTUMN.

People often ask me where I get my ideas—the checkout lady in the supermarket asked just yesterday. Sometimes the tone is slightly admonishing, full of unspoken shock—where on earth do you get those ridiculous ideas? That kind of question usually comes from relatives, who know I was properly brought up, but wonder how I managed to fall off the rails anyway.

But those aren’t the people I write my stories for—you are.

I’m never stuck for story ideas. Real life offers so much plot potential—even grocery shopping—so there’s always a story percolating in my brain.

My favorite challenge lies in creating characters that will be heroic, beloved, and intriguing. They must have flaws, and make terrible mistakes before they reach their happy conclusion. Why shouldn’t they suffer the uncertainties of life and love just like the rest of us? Or even more, since that’s what makes their story worth reading.

I have a questionnaire I fill out for the main characters in each story, like a job application, before I start writing. There are questions about their personalities, what events in their lives have made them the way they are, and what they really want out of life, and why they want this job. I’ll bet the checkout lady had to complete a similar application to get her job. It fixes in my mind who my characters are, how they will react to the difficult situations they’re going to face in a Lecia Cornwall novel.

Still, even with planning, there are characters that do their utmost to break the mold and shatter expectations. They go off script, again and again. Frustrating? Actually it’s my favorite part of writing—that moment when something happens that I (the writer) didn’t expect, and it changes everything. Breathtaking!

My hero, Christopher Linwood, the Earl of Rossington refused to behave as expected. I originally intended him to be the exact opposite of the heroine in personality and culture—stiff, formal, very English, and rather arrogant. But Kit wasn’t born into his title. He inherited it after the death of his father and older brother, and since he wasn’t raised to be an earl, he’s uneasy in the role. Kit, a diminutive of Christopher, suited him much better, and I found the inspiration for his mannerisms in a wonderful old movie—How To Steal a Million. Peter O’Toole plays a supposedly inept art thief, but in reality he’s a world-class expert on forgery. He’s shy, awkward and totally smitten in Audrey Hepburn’s presence, but he’s quick witted and ready to help her out of her predicament. That persona fit Kit perfectly, and I’m sure Megan McNabb, our heroine, would agree.

And a picture can be worth a thousand words—or even 85,000 words. Most of the time, in my mind, my main characters’ faces are blank, as if I am looking out through their eyes from the inside. I love the process of creating a visual storyboard to give readers a glimpse of the images playing inside my brain as I write, and how I imagine my characters might look (I do this after the book is finished). You can see my Pinterest Board for ONCE UPON A HIGHLAND AUTUMN at http://www.pinterest.com/leciacornwall/once-upon-a-highland-autumn-by-lecia-cornwall/

I hope you love ONCE UPON A HIGHLAND AUTUMN, and that it makes you laugh far more than cry! Let me know what you think—I love hearing from readers. Visit me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pages/Lecia-Cornwall for up-to-the minute news, or send me an e-mail at leciacornwall@shaw.ca.

l


Originally written for SOS Aloha, June 20, 2014

A TALE OF TWO STORIES (AND TWO BATTLES)

I love Scottish history. My husband was born in Paisley, near Glasgow, and my children (now adults) are passionate about their heritage. My son wears his Kennedy tartan kilt proudly, and family legend says that deep, deep, deep in the past, Robert the Bruce may have been a distant ancestor. Fun to think that might be true!

My own roots are English and Ukrainian, but Scots or not, the Highlands have always been a place of magic, mystery and romance for me. The landscape, the clan system, the traditions, the battles, the language, the music, the legends, and even the whisky (especially the whisky) … all add up to a fascinating culture filled with wonderful stories for a writer to build upon, and for a reader to fall in love with.

Kim, my gracious host at SOS Aloha, asked me to write a blog post about the anniversary of the Scottish Battle of Bannockburn, which took place 700 years ago, on June 24 1314. But there’s another battle in ONCE UPON A HIGHLAND AUTUMN.

In fact, ONCE UPON A HIGHLAND AUTUMN is a tale within a tale. It’s the story of Mairi’s curse, born of the tragedies that followed the Battle of Culloden. And it’s the story of Kit and Megan, who must find a way to end that curse some seventy years later. But let’s start with the battles.

Uh oh—I can sense your eyes glazing over, and you’re dreading the idea that a romance writer is about to tell you about two Scottish battles. Come with me, dear reader, and I’ll tell you why these battles have captured my imagination, and are worth hearing about. One was a beginning, a victory, the other a sad ending, and a great loss—like the stories in ONCE UPON A HIGHLAND AUTUMN.

I must tell you that I am not a historian—I’m a storyteller. I see stories within the facts, and the opportunity to create fictional characters against the backdrop of historical events. I read and research voraciously, and I love that part of the process almost as much as I love writing stories. I do my very best to ensure the facts included in my books are accurate, but the story and the characters are made up.

When I think about the battles of Bannockburn and Culloden, in my mind one battle marked the start of an independent Scotland, and the other marked the end of the same (if you are a professional Scottish historian, I’m sure you’ll write to me if I’m wrong in this opinion).

Now for my 30-second history lesson:

The Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 was a great victory for the Scots, and a turning point in the Scottish Wars of Independence that led to Scottish sovereignty. The Scots defeated an English force nearly twice the size of their own, and won English respect at last, though full independence took another ten years to achieve.

The Battle of Culloden took place on April 16, 1746. Did you know it was the very last land battle fought on British soil? The aftermath was so brutal, so shameful, that to this day the English regiments who fought there do not include Culloden among the battle honors listed on their regimental colors. The battle ended the Jacobite rebellions, which began when the Stuart Kings of England and Scotland were deposed and replaced. Bonnie Prince Charlie Stuart came to Scotland, his ancestral homeland, to raise an army on behalf of his father, in hopes of reclaiming the throne. It was a romantic adventure, complete with a handsome prince, an army of heroic Scots, and a stirring patriotic cause. They almost won.

At Culloden Moor, in less than an hour, the government forces smashed the Jacobites. Prince Charlie rode away, took ship for France, and never returned. For the Highland clans, it was the beginning of the end of their way of life. After the battle, government troops enforced the Pacification of the Highlands, destroying the rebellious clans by wholesale killing, burning, and looting. Highlanders were murdered, arrested, transported, executed, or left to rot in prison. Under new laws, passed in London, wearing of the plaid was forbidden, as was the speaking of Gaelic, and the playing of bagpipes.

There now, the history lesson is over. For the very keen among you, there’s a list of some of my favorite historical resources below.

I visited Culloden in 2009, and I have never been to a sadder, more somber place. There’s a legend that says birds will not sing as they fly over the battlefield, and although I can’t remember whether I saw birds there, I do remember the incredible silence.

In ONCE UPON A HIGHLAND AUTUMN, I created Connor MacIntosh, a Highland laird in 1746 who is determined to remain neutral and keep his clan out of the fighting. Connor meets an English army officer a few weeks before Culloden when his wife’s young brother invades the English camp on a dare. When the lad slips away to Culloden Moor to watch the battle, Connor goes to rescue him. The English officer saves the lad, but Connor disappears, leaving his young wife to wait and wonder. Alone and afraid, Mairi MacIntosh lays a curse upon the ones who have taken her husband, driven her family into the hills, and burned her home: Glen Dorian shall suffer no one to live within its walls again until true love—the only force strong enough to withstand such adversity—returns there.

The second story—the romance—begins seventy years later, when Kit Rossington discovers a letter in an old trunk in England that draws him to Scotland to solve Mairi’s mystery. In Scotland, he meets Megan McNabb, a lass bent on finding the ending to Mairi’s story for an entirely different reason. But the curse is strong, and the pretense of a handfasting of convenience will not satisfy Glen Dorian’s restless spirits. Love, and only love, will do the trick.

I must admit I love this story—it’s one of my favorites, out of the nine books I’ve written to date. I hope you enjoy it as well—and if you’re a Scottish historian, forgive me for taking liberties. I do so with the greatest love and respect for Scottish culture.

A few of my favorite Scottish history resources:

Culloden, book by John Prebble

A History of Scotland by Neil Oliver (book or BBC DVD)

Battlefield Britain (The Battle of Culloden) BBC TV, with Peter and Dan Snow

White Rose Rebel a novel by Janet Paisley, about the real-life Jacobite heroine Colonel Anne MacIntosh

I hope you love ONCE UPON A HIGHLAND AUTUMN, and that it makes you laugh far more than cry! Let me know what you think—I love hearing from readers. Visit me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pages/Lecia-Cornwall for up-to-the minute news, or send me an e-mail at leciacornwall@shaw.ca.


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The following interview with New Asian Writing took place in June, 2014

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 Kit to 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.


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 hearing from readers. Visit me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pages/Lecia-Cornwall for up-to-the minute news, or send me an e-mail at leciacornwall@shaw.ca.