We love celebrating new Mills & Boon authors by sharing their journey with aspiring romance writers and readers. We are thrilled to be joined on our blog this week by new Historical series author, Lucy Morris. Her debut novel The Viking Chief’s Marriage Alliance is out on May 27th.
First of all, congratulations on your first Mills & Boon Historical, The Viking Chief’s Marriage Alliance! What was it like to get the call saying we’d like to publish your book?
Thank you, I’m so excited to be published by Mills & Boon Historical.
The ‘call’ was wonderful. My editor Linda Fildew arranged a zoom meeting with me to discuss my manuscript. I hoped it would be some detailed feedback, or possibly even the much coveted ‘Revise and Resubmit’ request. I was flabbergasted when she offered me a two-book contract. I couldn’t sign it quick enough!
Could you tell us a bit about your journey to becoming a published author?
Sure! Writing has always been a hobby of mine — even as a child I used to write plays or poems. But I only took it ‘seriously’ over the past few years. I started off by joining twitter and some writing communities, finding beta readers and like-minded friends. Then I joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme in 2019. This really focused me, and helped me get where I am today. ‘The Viking Chief’s Marriage Alliance’ was the third book I’d completed, and my second book to go through the New Writers’ scheme.
I experimented with my first two books, basically finding my voice and the genre I wanted to write in. Both those early books were science-fiction/fantasy romances. In fact, my first book was about a Viking space pirate! It was a terrible book, but finishing it gave me the confidence to keep going. I enjoyed the world building aspect, as well as including Viking myths and legends. That’s when I realised, I should write what I love to read…Historical romance.
I was a little nervous at first. I worried I needed a PhD in history to even be considered! But after speaking with a Mills & Boon Historical author, I was reassured that I could do it – even without an academic background. All I really needed was a love for the genre, a good story, and the willingness to research.
In 2020 due to the pandemic, I was made redundant from my front-of-house job at my local theatre. I was lucky, I didn’t rely on my job to pay our family’s bills, but it was still sad to say goodbye. I decided to use my free time to focus on editing my manuscript and submitting it. I was determined to get a contract and to finally make the leap from hobby to career!
First stop on my list of potential publishers was of course Mills & Boon Historical. It felt as if all my stars had aligned at once, when I saw the ‘Warriors Wanted blitz’, which mentioned Vikings as a desired sub-genre. I then managed to get a one2one at the RNA conference with Linda Fildew, an editor with Mills & Boon Historical who loved…wait for it…Vikings!
I was so chuffed when during our meeting she said that she’d not only liked my first chapter, but had also checked my Blitz submission to read the first three chapters as well. She requested the full manuscript during the one2one, and I immediately sent it. A couple of months later she emailed me to arrange ‘the call’.
What advice would you giving to aspiring romance writers?
Find your cheerleading squad. Find beta readers, chapter groups, associations like the RNA.
Writing is a solitary art, but succeeding is only possible with feedback and a community to help you improve, and discover opportunities.
I met my beta readers Leonie Mack and Lucy Keeling on twitter. They are awesome writers who’ve helped me improve my writing and supported me during those difficult rejections. We all started off as unpublished and now we’ve all got book deals, it’s fabulous! And, a sign of our friendship is that along the way we’ve only ever been happy and supportive of each other’s achievements.
Joining the RNA was also instrumental in my success. It gave me opportunities in training and contacts that I would never have had on my own. Also, because of the friends I made there, I met my writing group Essex Writers who helped me avoid some rookie mistakes in my historical manuscript, e.g. too much back story, starting at the wrong moment, etc.
Lastly, write what you love and keep writing. Very few people get their first book published but plenty get their second, third or even their hundredth book published. It can happen!
What was the inspiration behind your new book, The Viking Chief’s Marriage Alliance?
It was a few ideas that came together all at once. I knew I wanted to write in the Viking era, and I found the area of Danelaw fascinating (much of England was under Viking rule – hence Danelaw, with Jorvik (modern day York) being its capitol. This fixed my setting and date which is always a good place to start.
The image of a shipwreck, illuminated by a burning tree on a clifftop popped into my head and I thought how wonderful that would be as the start of a book. Then I began to imagine who was shipwrecked and who might save them. That’s where the idea for my pampered princess, Gyda and my no-nonsense hero Thorstein came in.
The rest of the plot evolved from there.
What do you enjoy about writing historical romances?
I could never see myself writing anything other than romance…I always long for a Happily Ever After in any story. Historically, I imagine ‘Happily ever afters’ were harder to come by for most people, because of the conflicts of the age. So, when I write one for a couple who have everything against them, it’s even sweeter because of it. I also love the variety of conflicts and adventures you can have in an historical which you can’t always have in a contemporary. It’s pure escapism and I love it. It’s like travelling to a new world, one you could never experience otherwise.
We love a Viking romance! What drew you to writing about Viking characters in particular?
I’m a huge fan of the TV shows ‘Vikings’ and the ‘The Last Kingdom’, I love the atmosphere and drama. I also loved reading the myths and legends of the Vikings as a child.
The sagas are filled with magical characters and incredible creatures. But there’s also a familiarity to the stories. A sense that they’ve been lovingly passed down from hearth to hearth for many years. It’s as if they’re not a religion, but instead a series of lessons, or cautionary tales on how to live your life. The Norse Gods behave very much like normal people. They loved and hated with equal passion. They could be both beautiful and ugly, have petty grievances and jealousies, as well as plenty of humour and mischief. They made mistakes, and weren’t perfect. I love how ‘human’ they are.
I guess I enjoy making the Vikings (who are a dramatic and familiar image in all of our minds) more human, while also celebrating what made them so fascinating in the first place.
How would you describe your ideal romantic hero?
Honourable, strong and just a little bit brooding.
What do you like to do in your spare time when you’re not writing?
I spend time with my kids, bake, watch historical dramas and documentaries. I love visiting castles (Warwick and The Tower of London are favourites with my family).
I also can’t wait for more restrictions to ease. As I miss drinks with my friends— where we tell each other our own daily sagas with plenty of laughs.
Last question! What are you reading at the moment?
I read two books at a time these days. This is because I’ve recently started using audible. Which is great because I can ‘read’ while I clean the house or exercise. It also reduces the amount of time I spend looking at a screen (which I do a lot of now that I write while my kids are at school). Mostly I listen to historical non-fiction (for research), but currently I’m listening to Maggie O’Farrell’s ‘Hamnet’ which is beautifully written and evocative.
However, I still like to actually read a book. Especially when I fancy eating a chocolate orange in front of the fire. The one I’m currently reading is an advanced copy of Virginia Heath’s ‘Never Fall For Your Fiancé’ which is a brilliantly funny and romantic Regency that reminds me of Bridgerton.
Get your copy of The Viking Chief’s Marriage Alliance by Lucy Morris now!