We are DELIGHTED to be joined on today’s blog by Maya Blake, who tells us more about her forthcoming books and writing journey so far!
You write for the Mills & Boon Modern series, which whisks readers away to a world of glamour and luxury with lots of sexy, seductive heroes. What’s your favourite thing about writing Modern romances?
Mills & Boon Modern is primarily pure, escapist fantasy. But to me it’s more than that. I grew up with books but found myself drawn to Mills & Boon because of the depth of emotion I discovered within the pages. No matter what was happening in the world, I knew I could be transported to a world where love would eventually win. As a Black British woman of Ghanaian descent, did it bother me that most of the characters were Anglo-Saxon? A little bit, but that’s the beauty of books and the power of the imagination. I began to weave my own stories in my head, perhaps even transposed myself into the heroine’s shoes. And after I was lucky enough to become an author for Mills & Boon, I strove to be as global as I could with my own characters—I’ve written everything from Chinese to Arabian to Brazilian to Ghanaian heroes and heroines.
I think of myself as a global author, and I give myself the freedom to explore characters from all racial backgrounds. Mills & Boon is a global brand, after all, and I’m proud to be published by them.
Can you tell us a bit about how you started writing for Mills & Boon?
I discovered my first Mills & Boon in my older sister’s wardrobe when I was 12 or 13. I’m ashamed and a little upset (since it proved life-changing) to say I don’t remember the title. The moment I reached the end I knew I was hooked for life. I started devouring every Mills & Boon I could get my hands on and the late, great Penny Jordan quickly became one of my favourite authors. Cue a few years later and I came across an article she wrote. In it, she gave a key piece of writing advice to aspiring authors that totally resonated with me, which was that, if you’re reading a story and you find yourself writing a version of it in your head or imagining a different outcome to the storyline, then you’re probably a writer. It was as if she’d reached into my brain. I’d been doing that since I was about 7 years old. With that adventurous door thrown open, I started writing my first novel at 16.
What was the inspiration behind your new book, Reclaimed For His Royal Bed?
Most of my plotlines stem from a ‘what if?’ perspective. Just before Christmas 2020, I was scrolling through twitter and saw a tweet about guy who’d been totally ghosted by a woman he was hopelessly in love with. I began to wonder what that would feel like. Then I thought, why not elevate it by a 1000%, Mills & Boon style? What if the guy in question was a king? What if I gave the heroine a stirring, life-changing reason for ghosting said king? Of course, most of my characters morph and take on a life of their own once I start writing and this one was no different. My heroine is mixed race and my hero is from a fictional European kingdom so immediately, I knew they would have to face issues of race and palace politics about her suitability to be a queen. It wasn’t until I was done that I realised at the back of my mind, I was dealing with current racial issues in my book and finding my own way to giving my diverse characters their happy ever after.
How did you turn your dream of being an author into reality?
As mentioned above, I attempted my first book at 16. Alas, I had zero writing craft and no one had mentioned the challenges of powering through a first draft so I gave up very quickly. Almost two decades later, after returning to work after having my second child, I attempted to alleviate missing my children by immersing myself in writing something escapist (yes, while sitting at my day job desk!). Three months later, I’d finished my very first book! Excited beyond measure, I sent it off to Mills & Boon only to receive a very polite rejection.
I didn’t give up.
A few more rejections later, I started getting more constructive feedback from editors which helped my writing. I polished and polished and received a substantial ‘revise and resubmit’ letter in 2011. But I was in the middle of writing another story that I was more excited about so I put the “R&R” request on the backburner. Only to be contacted by the editor six months later asking whether I was interested in resubmitting the manuscript! Cue lots of panic. I confessed I hadn’t done the “R&R” but told her about the new book I was working on. She forgave me for not revising the one she wanted me to and asked me to send the new one.
She emailed me back early the next week and asked if she could call me. She called on 12 April 2012 with the news that she loved my Formula One driver heroine and she wanted to buy my book! It was a dream come true and I haven’t looked back since!
Could you tell us more about writing challenges you have faced and overcome?
I’ve been lucky enough to have an editor and publisher who will let me write whatever I want as long as I deliver on the Mills & Boon Modern reader promise. And as we move towards seeing mainstream acceptance of diverse characters in books, I’m even more blessed to be published with Mills & Boon. My only challenge is writing fast enough!
What does your writing routine typically look like?
I’ve given up on a set routine because I’ve discovered that every book wants to be written differently (my latest one wanted to be written only at night!). That said, I write with Scrivener and am able to set myself daily writing goals. A good day is when I get to my office by 9:30am and hit and exceed my writing goals by 4pm. I’m also easing myself back into dictating my stories using a dictaphone, so that’s an exciting writing curve which keeps me on my toes!
What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
Write what you know DON’T know. Don’t be afraid to explore your boundaries. That’s where the rough diamonds are hiding.
What are some of your favourite romantic films/tv shows? Any recommendations?
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING
PRETTY WOMAN (because what’s this movie if not the epitome of Mills & Boon Modern???!)
What’s in your TBR pile at home?
The list is way too long to name but here are a few:
THE THURSDAY MURDER CLUB by Richard Osman
CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE by Tomi Adeyemi
THE GILDED ONES by Namina Forna
THE KING MAKER by Kennedy Ryan
THE IDEA OF YOU by Robinne Lee
THE NEXT WIFE by Kaira Rouda
HOMECOMING by Yaa Gyasi
ARCHANGEL’S SUN by Nalini Singh
(Re-reading) BECOMING by Michelle Obama
Last question! Flowers or chocolate?
Umm, is this even a question? Haha! CHOCOLATE. ALWAYS! That said, my husband gave me 12 blood red roses for our wedding anniversary last week and they’re ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS! <3
Reclaimed for His Royal Bed by Maya Blake is out next month. Pre-order your copy here.