We caught up with award-winning Mills & Boon Historical author Melissa Oliver to chat about her spellbinding debut novel, The Rebel Heiress and the Knight, as well as its enchanting sequel in the Notorious Knights miniseries, Her Banished Knight’s Redemption. Read on to find out more about Melissa’s writing journey!
First of all, huge congratulations for winning the RNA’s Joan Hessayon Award for your debut novel, The Rebel Heiress and the Knight! We’re incredibly proud. What was it like to win that award during such strange times?
Hello, it’s lovely to be here!
Thank you, I was over the moon to win this prestigious industry award for my debut. It was so unexpected, especially since, The Rebel Heiress and the Knight was amongst twenty-one contenders for the award, from every spectrum of the romance genre but yes, during such strange times, as you say. We were unable to meet at the annual RNA presentation of the award at the York afternoon tea, so this had to be held remotely on a zoom presentation. I had made a nice cup of tea, waiting to cheer the winner when the lovely Katie Fforde announced my name. I was so shocked that initially, I thought it was a mistake but then had to quickly pull myself together to make a coherent speech, which sadly it wasn’t. I must have said the word ‘fabulous’ about seven times!
Could you tell us a bit about your journey to becoming a published author?
Like many authors the journey was uncertain with many ups and downs. In my heart, I knew I wanted to write novels and in particular – historical romance. I made myself learn the craft and kept pushing myself to write the stories I would want to read. Every time I was knocked back, I would just get up and keep going. Last summer, I was lucky enough to have a one-to-one with a Mills & Boon editor, Charlotte Ellis, at the RNA conference where I received valuable feedback on the first few chapters that I had sent (for The Rebel Heiress and the Knight). After sending back revisions, I was asked for the full manuscript and then waited….and waited some more. Eventually I got ‘the call’ last November. It really was a dream come true!
What advice would you give to aspiring romance writers?
Not to give up! To keep going, by learning and honing your craft. Read lots of books from the particular line you’re interested and finally, write your story. It’s so true that a page of writing can be shaped and edited but there’s nothing to be done with a blank page.
Her Banished Knight’s Redemption is set two years after the first book ends and features Sir William (Will) Geraint – the gorgeous best friend of Hugh de Villiers, the hero from The Rebel Heiress and the Knight.
What was the inspiration behind Her Banished Knight’s Redemption?
I wanted to give Will and the lovely Lady Isabel de Clancey a thrilling, rollercoaster story filled with romance, passion mystery, and adventure.
Will is quite embittered and different from the affable, easy going knight we first meet in the previous book and is now living in exile in France as a sword-for-hire. He goes on quite a journey in this book as he escorts the Isabel back to England where they’re forced to work together to discover the secrets of their past. There’s even a medieval treasure hunt to uncover.
What do you enjoy about writing historical romances?
I love reading and writing historical romance set in all periods of time but in particular the medieval era. There’s a real immediacy about some of the real- life turbulent and even dangerous events from that time that serve so well as a back-drop to vividly romantic stories. For a writer, there are endless possibilities.
How would you describe your ideal romantic hero?
Someone with integrity, honour and stands by what they believe in but also has a really good sense of humour and is kind, caring and incredibly passionate.
What do you do in your spare time when you’re not writing?
I love exploring new places, visiting castles, old houses and museums. I also love going on long walks or bike rides in the countryside with my husband and three daughters. We’re getting a new puppy this Christmas – a gorgeous golden cocker spaniel called Mr Darcy (I know…) – and cannot wait to take him on our walks.
What are you currently reading?
I’m an avid reader and love nothing more than curling up on the sofa with a really good book and yes, which is invariably a historical romance. However, I’m currently doing research for my next book, so I’m knee deep in factual books. I’m reading the very excellent; ‘Medieval Women – a social history of women in England 450-1500- by Henrietta Leyser. It’s fascinating stuff!
Thank you so much for having me here. I absolutely loved writing Will and Isabel’s story in Her Banished Knight’s Redemption. It was a real joy!