Having just published my 25th book with Harlequin/Mills & Boon, I suppose I can now call myself an "established" writer, but the truth is that every book is a new challenge and I feel the same worries and anxieties about my latest book as I felt with my very first. I am also very pleased to say I feel the same excitement about planning each new story, when I have just the germ of an idea and have to think of settings and characters etc.
So where does one start? It can be anywhere, from a visual image that might eventually be a scene in the book (such as these Waterloo re-enactors, inspiration for A Lady for Lord Randall)
... or a visit to an ice house, like this one (below) at Stourhead, which inspired a scene from my Melinda Hammond Regency adventure, Winter Inheritance.
Then there are the characters. Often, their appearance is based on real people in the media, such as Rufus Sewell, or Vivien Leigh, but this is just to help me visualise the characters while I write, and their personalities can vary greatly – my heroes can be dark and moody or wickedly sexy, while the heroines vary from head-strong and spirited to the quiet but forceful type.
Places, too, are important. I set the opening scenes of The Duke's Secret Heir in Harrogate, which made it necessary to take a few visits there. Of course it is very different now from how it looked in the Regency, but there is still some evidence of how it used to be, if one looks closely.
For example, one of the old inns that was popular during the Regency was the Queen's Head (above) although it has now become Cedar Court, and there is also the Crown, in Low Harrogate (below), where my characters dance at the ball on a Wednesday evening.
Just now I am in the very pleasant position of planning my new book, so what shall it be, a military setting, or perhaps a comedy of manners set in Bath. What would you choose?
Melinda Hammond/Sarah Mallory