Welcome to the Author Spotlight, Noelle, and congratulations on the recent release of ‘Honor’s Debt ’! Can you give us the blurb, please?
On a quest to make amends for a long-ago indiscretion, Honor unexpectedly discovers the one thing she’s been missing in her life.
Honor Quirk arrives in Ireland excited—and a bit anxious—about meeting up with the estranged family of her late great-grandmother. The welcome from the residents of Robinhill Farm, Dermot and Bryan, is confusing and far from comforting. One is warm, the other aggressive. The outwardly antagonistic Bryan makes it very clear he doesn’t want her there, branding her a gold digger.
Dermot, on the other hand, is delighted to meet her.
But Honor is no pushover and stands up to Bryan, letting him know that his bad attitude and trail of baggage have nothing to do with her. Despite their confrontational and hostile relationship, an undeniable attraction to each other creeps insidiously into the house on Robinhill Farm. They both desperately try to stifle the sparks, but living under the same roof makes it impossible. Unable to cope with the turmoil of living with Bryan, Honor runs away, straight into the arms of a charming newfound friend, Sean, who offers her a home—and love.
Shattered, Bryan finally takes control of his irrational belief that all women are evil, and fights to bring back the woman he loves. But is it too late?
Your novels are set far and wide across the world: Cambodia, Italy, Brisbane, Ireland, and China. How important is location, and how important is it to describe those locations and cultures accurately?
I love selecting places I’ve been to, and fallen love with, for my stories. I set my heroines, and sometimes my heroes, in unfamiliar surroundings as I believe that we behave differently when we have to deal with new challenges—such as solitude, language, social mores, and cultures—than we do when we are in our comfortable hometown environment. There’s something about the human psyche that suddenly bursts into life, blooms if you like, when there’s a prospect of something new and different. We are more open to change when everything around us is fresh and exciting.
Apart from personal experience of places, I undertake research to ensure I give the reader an authentic taste of a place or culture. When other languages are involved, or even slang, I always enlist the help of someone from that place to check that I’ve got it right. I visit restaurants, cook authentic meals—I even did a course in Italian language for Rosamanti. But it’s the visits to the place that are the best way to pick up the aromas which will add spice to your tale, to spot the blossoms that will decorate your story, to get to know the people who your readers will fall in love with, and to infuse the story with all the elements of the senses.
Do you have a favourite location/culture, or part of the world?
This is a hard question. But to pick one, I would go with the Antrim coast of Northern Ireland. There’s a little seaside village there called Carnlough that is just beautiful and I’d like to set a story there.
You write both contemporary and historical romance. What are the best parts of each?
I’ve only written one full length historical to date – Stone of Heaven and Earth. It’s not romance although it’s a bittersweet love story. Research is the best part. That and bringing characters to life so that you feel you know them. I love doing research as much as my dogs love liver treats. Can’t get enough of it. But even writing contemporary romance, there still needs to be a degree of research to ensure that the setting, time, and the way the characters behave, are accurate.
‘Stone of Heaven and Earth’ is set during the period of 1914-1929 in both Brisbane and China. How did you go about researching historical accuracy for this novel?
This book is based on fact so I had some basic major plot items to begin with, and some primary documents such as letters and photographs. I contacted the head of a study conducted by Bristol University in the UK whose specialty is one of the major areas of interest in my book. He was very helpful, gave me lots of information and resources. I travelled to China and spent time there trying to piece together the story whilst dealing with the massive changes that have occurred in China since the beginning of the last century. I had two eye witnesses too, but sadly they both passed away a few months ago. The bits of the story I couldn’t validate, I made up, ensuring they are historically accurate in the political climate of the day.
Your heroines are mature women and heroes who usually don’t know they are ready for love. What is it about this combination that inspires you?
For many people, love the first time around doesn’t work out. There’s a good chance it will work out the second time around, mainly because people are older, wiser, and find the right person. Putting my heroines in a different, challenging, or even dangerous setting, can set off a series of inner changes. The light bulb moments when they change tack and move forward in another direction. In fiction, the hero happens to be there at exactly the right moment, and he too discovers that change can be a good thing.
Of all the characters you’ve created, do you have a particular soft spot for one?
Oh yes. Pietro Lombardi from Rosamanti is my ultimate hero. He’s not alpha, not particularly rugged – in fact he’s a chef, he sings while he’s cooking, he sings love songs to his pet goat Geraldina, he doesn’t mind shedding a tear when something moves him, and he’s beautiful on the inside as well as outside.
What has your path to publication been like? How important is it for writers to learn their craft properly?
My first published book, Let Angels Fly, was accepted by US small digital-first publisher, Etopia Press. They’ve since published a further three books of mine. Honor’s Debt, which released on November 13th, was contracted by Secret Cravings Publishing. They’ve also bought books two and three of the Robinhill Farm series. I’ve learned so much since my first book. When going through publisher edits, I add my repeated errors/styles to a list and in each successive book I check for those. It’s vitally important to learn from the editors and try to never repeat the same things book after book.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve received?
Join organisations such as the RWA; go to conferences; network with peers; and do as many courses as possible.
When you’re not writing, what would we find you doing? How do you relax?
I’m always writing, or editing, or blogging, or networking with other writers on social media. I retired last Christmas from a lengthy career and now I’m a full time writer and I take it seriously. I relax by playing in my veggie garden, walking my little dogs, and I spend quite a lot of time with my five very small grandchildren.
Could you give us a sneaky peek at one of your favourite parts of ‘Honor’s Debt’, please?
Here’s an extract from Chapter 5 of ‘Honor’s Debt’ – Book 1 in the Robinhill Farm Series.
The sound of a noisy vehicle coming to an abrupt stop outside made them both look up.
“That’ll be himself now.” Dermot stood, the smile that seemed to so easily grace his face suddenly gone. He went to refill the kettle then, as if on impulse, turned back to look at her. “Now, don’t you go worryin’ about Bryan, okay?”
The kitchen door opened and a shadow fell into the room. Honor glanced up to see the doorway totally filled by the silhouette of a tall, muscular man wearing dark clothing. His features were impossible to see, but a shiver rippled its way up her spine as the hulking figure oozed bad vibes in her direction. He didn’t move, just stood there.
The room seemed to tremble as his deep, resonant voice entered the small space of the kitchen.
“So, if it isn’t the crazy English tourist who can’t drive. I take it you’re lost now, and asking for directions.” He paused and his dark gaze flicked from Dermot’s to hers, obviously taking in the scene before him. “Well, if this isn’t a picture of perfect domesticity. Bacon and eggs?” His mocking tone stung and he stood, still blocking the doorway.
She glanced at Dermot whose face showed no trace of the relaxed, affable man of a few minutes ago. Instead, he looked at her for a second then over at the man in the doorway.
“Oh won’t ye come in now Bryan. Come and meet Honor.” Dermot reached over and picked up another cup and saucer from the sideboard behind him and placed it on the table. His voice was somehow different. “There’s still another cup in the pot.” He picked up the teapot and swilled its contents around, then poured it into the empty cup. The air in the kitchen had suddenly got very cold.
Slowly, the hulk in the doorway moved and entered the room. She gasped as she recognized him. The jet-black, short-cropped hair and beard, the strong jawline, those black eyes…now she understood what he meant about the mad English woman. A shiver ran through her as she realized that things had, all of a sudden, taken a turn for the worse. Ill-humor darkened his face, his eyes smouldered with disdain, and his countenance was most unfriendly. She took a deep breath and, even though her knuckles under the table were white from squeezing, her voice came out strong.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you at last, Bryan.” She extracted one hand and held it out to him, hoping he wouldn’t notice the slight tremor of her fingers. A flash of uncertainty showed in his eyes, ever so slightly. Good, he’s not as tough as he’d like to think.
His large paw reached out and took hers to give it an almighty squeeze. She couldn’t tell if the pain was meant to be a punishment, or whether he always shook hands like that. Whatever it was, it was certainly a different welcome from the warmth and affection she’d received from Dermot. She stared at his long fingers, the dusting of black hairs on the back of his hand and his olive skin.
“Here, Bryan.” Dermot handed him the cup and saucer. Bryan released her hand and wrapped it delicately around the fine china. The man’s a litany of opposites, she thought, vacillating from harsh to gentle in a heartbeat.
“Can I cook you some breakfast?” Dermot’s friendly smile was back. Honor breathed a sigh of relief and took a sip of tea.
Bryan pulled out a chair and sat down opposite her, staring at her with a mixture of loathing, curiosity and familiarity. Dermot busied himself at the gas range and the sound and aroma of bacon sizzling on a hot pan once again filled the small kitchen.
“Honor.” His voice, deep, almost a growl, sounded like it came from way down in his boots. “I’m truly sorry about your car. I’ll pay to have it fixed.” There was no doubting the sincerity of his words. Relief swept through her. She glanced at Dermot who, although curious, seemed obviously pleased that Bryan was now being sociable.
Her shoulders relaxed slightly. “Those narrow roads are really something, aren’t they?” She held his black eyes with hers, never blinking. “I appreciate your apology, but I think the insurance will cover it.”
A deep frown transformed his face. Did she imagine it, or did he glower at her now? Maybe he’s not used to women standing up to him, she thought.
Dermot broke the awkward silence as he placed a plate, piled high with shiny, steaming bacon rashers and fried eggs, in front of Bryan. “I’ll make ye some toast.”
Bryan’s eyes held hers as he responded. “Thanks, Derm. I could eat a horse.” A small sigh escaped his lips and he broke the intense gaze and turned his eyes to the meal before him. He grabbed the knife and fork and attacked the food.
The kettle on the gas hob began to whistle, the toaster popped, and the telephone rang. Honor, breaking her fixated stare at this brutish man, snapped into action. She grabbed the teapot, whisked off its woollen jacket and took it over to the kettle. While she busied herself adding tea leaves and filling it with boiling water, she glanced back over her shoulder. Bryan shovelled food into his mouth as though he hadn’t eaten in weeks. Dermot chatted on the phone, something about a delivery of lucerne bales. She placed the now filled teapot on the table, grabbed the toast and placed it next to Bryan.
He looked up at her and again their eyes held. This time, though, she noticed that some of the fire had gone out. In fact, he appeared tired. Exhausted. There were fine lines etched at the corners, near the place where his thick, dark brows ended and his beard began.
“Your eyes. You have Dermot’s eyes.”
She stared, unblinking, as his deep voice resonated in her ears. It was as though he had two personalities, she mused. For some strange reason, she felt a surge of tenderness for this aggressive, bad-tempered, beast of a man.
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Thank you for taking part in our Author Spotlight, Noelle!
Thanks so much for having me, Sarah.