Today in the Library we have Virginia Heath, who has dropped in to say hello and to share some insights into their life as an author.
You are very welcome, Virginia, please introduce yourself:
I was born just outside of London and still live on the outskirts of the city. I am married to a wonderful man and have a daughter and a son, both in their late teens. For the last decade I have been teaching history to teenagers in a British secondary school. I loved teaching, but in the back of my mind I had always wanted to be a writer. When I hit the age of 46, I realised that if I didn’t do it soon then I probably would never do it at all. So I quit full-time teaching at the start of 2014 and worked part-time. On my days off I wrote. Then finally, last summer I gave up teaching for good and now only write.
Did you read much as a child? Are you an avid reader now? Do you prefer books in your own genre or are you happy to explore others?
I have always been an avid reader. There is just something about reading a book that is so immersive and I they are the perfect way to de-stress. I read all manner of books, from serious non-fiction to crime, but romance has always been my favourite genre. I have only discovered the joy of historical romances in the last five years, which is ironic considering I now write them.
Are you self-published or traditionally published?
I am thrilled to be published by Harlequin Mills & Boon. I have read hundreds of their books over the years and never imagined that I would become one of their authors.
Which genre do you write in and why?
My background as a historian lends itself perfectly to historical romances. At the moment I am writing Regencies. It is such a fascinating time period and a time of great technological and scientific change. However, the great divide that existed between the rich and the poor created huge political tensions which are rarely mentioned in Regency romances. Of course, there is also the turbulent wars between England and Napoleon as well as the continued animosity between the British and the former American colonies. It provides such a wealth of things to write about that I am spoiled for choice. However, I am not ready to pigeon-hole myself as solely a Regency author. I want to write in other time periods too and have a few ideas for something contemporary, perhaps involving a teacher…
Who has been the biggest influence on your writing?
It’s hard to narrow it down to one particular person, but I suppose the legendary Nora Roberts has to be up there. I love her romantic suspense stories in particular but almost everything she writes is brilliant. Having said that, I also love Dickens. He has a really funny way with words once you get into the language. And, of course, I love Jane Austen. Mr Darcy is the perfect hero. Flawed but honourable. I also adore Julia Quinn, Julie Anne long, Sarah Maclean and Tessa Dare. I like the modern, witty twist they put on regency romances and their books have definitely influenced my own writing.
Has your country of origin/culture influenced your writing?
I have always lived such a short distance away from London, therefore I feel comfortable writing about it. I love to travel though, and would really like to write some books set in America or the Caribbean during the early 19th century.
What part of the writing process do you find most difficult? How do you overcome it?
For me, it is the isolation. I am used to spending my days with a thousand kids in a school and all of the hullaballoo that goes along with it. Don’t get me wrong- I love the quiet and the lack of stress now but there are times when I just want to be around other humans! Fortunately, I have some good friends who I can lunch with or I visit my daughter at university. Weekends, I rarely write. I go off and have adventures with other human beings instead.
Do you have a favourite time of day to write?
Definitely the mornings. I am at my most productive between the hours of eight and noon. After that, the words do not flow quite as quickly. Writing after seven is forbidden- if I do, my brain will not shut down and I spend the night awake thinking about what to write next.
What is the best thing about being an author? And the flipside – what is the worst?
The best thing about being an author is being paid to be creative. I sit and think, plot and write about whatever I want to. How cool is that? The worst thing is the self-doubt that walks alongside all creativity. I will have a minor crisis of confidence every week and one major one about one third into every book! During that time, I convince myself that I cannot write, my words are rubbish and I will have to give it all up and get a proper job again.
Is social media an essential chore or something you enjoy? Which forum do you prefer?
Perhaps it will change, but it is definitely a chore and becomes a bigger one every day. I prefer Facebook to Twitter because it is less advertising, yet I believe that Twitter is probably the more useful of the two. I have just made my own website www.virginiaheathromance.com and I really love that because it is more me than the other platforms. I have made sure that people can contact me via a link, which is far more personal than the public forums and I can respond in kind.
If you weren’t an author, what would you be up to?
Probably still teaching and dreaming about writing a book someday during the never-ending round of afterschool meetings.
It’s the last day and the earth is facing oblivion – what book would you read?
If oblivion is nigh, then I think I would want to spend my final hours laughing, so I would choose The Moon’s a Balloon by David Niven. It is a hugely entertaining and hilarious autobiography which follows him from childhood to Hollywood.
Please tell us about your latest published work.
My debut novel, That Despicable Rogue, was released this month. It is about Lady Hannah Steers’ mission of revenge against a handsome, charming scoundrel, who has taken everything from her, including her beloved childhood home Barchester Hall. The loss of that house caused her brother to shoot himself and doomed Hannah to be exiled in the north, away from society.
In order to expose him, Hannah dons a disguise and applies for the position of Ross Jameson’s housekeeper and goes to live with him back in the house that she loves. Except, once she is working for him, all of her well-laid plans go pear-shaped.
That Despicable Rogue is available in paperback or kindle, and is available on Amazon and other booksellers, or directly from the Harlequin Mills & Boon website.
There is a taster chapter on my website www.virginiaheathromance.com so that you can try before your buy. There you will also find details of my second book, Her Enemy at the Altar, which follows in August and is also available for pre-order Amazon
If you would like to know more about Virginia and her work please check out the links below: