Name Janice Preston
Age Much older than I feel, which is another way of saying I can be very immature!
Where are you from
I was born in London and grew up in Wembley. At 18 I decided I wanted to work with animals so I took myself off to Devon to do 6 months practical experience on a dairy farm before going to agricultural college. I never did get to college. I met my first husband, a dairy farmer and that was it! We had two children, a boy and a girl, who are both now adult. My son is married, with a son of his own and another baby on the way, which I’m thrilled about. I now live with my second husband in the West Midlands, and through him I have acquired a stepson and a stepdaughter.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
Cinderella and the Duke is my sixth book for Harlequin Historicals / Mills & Boon, out on 1st July, the first book of 2 linked trilogies. The first trilogy is The Beauchamp Betrothals and the second book – Scandal and Miss Markham – will be out in October. I also have a novella which will be published in a Regency Christmas anthology, titled Regency Christmas Wishes, out in November. I am currently working on the third book of The Beauchamp Betrothals trilogy.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I loved to write when I was at primary school, and I longed to be ‘an author’, but I never actually believed it was achievable for an ordinary person like me! As an adult, I only began to write after my children left home for university.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Probably not until I saw my first novel on the shelf! Although I was a writer before that – in that I wrote stories – there was always that niggling suspicion that I was fooling myself.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
As I said before, it was after my children left home for university. I had more time to read and I rediscovered the novels of Georgette Heyer, which I had devoured in my teens. After I’d read all I could get my hands on, I turned to contemporary Regency writers and then one day I read a Regency romance and the fateful phrase ‘I could do better than that’ wandered through my brain.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I’m not a plotter, although I do a lot of work on the hero and heroine’s back stories, to make sure there is enough inner conflict to last the book. Neither do I write the first draft from start to finish without any editing (which is what writers are often advised is ‘the right way’). I tend to write two steps forward, one step back. It sounds inefficient, but it works for me. If something changes as I’m writing the story, I find it very hard to move on. It’s like trying to walk with strong elastic anchoring me to the spot. I push on and push on and the elastic stretches but I get slower and slower. In the end, I have to go back to alter what I’ve already written before I can progress. Now I have accepted that this is how I work and I’ve stopped worrying about what I ‘should’ do!
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
My first book is my only original title – it was called Mary and the Marquis. All my other titles have been changed by the publisher, including Cinderella and the Duke. My original title was Duke in Disguise, and they did use that in the tagline: Falling for a duke in disguise…
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
The importance of family is central to the story, in which the hero (a widower and father of three) learns to trust again, and the heroine, who sacrificed the chance of marriage for the sake of her siblings, overcomes the prejudices of the past.
In my writing I like to write strong heroines who will resonate with modern day readers.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
I do use bits and bobs of people and situations, but they are all knitted into a very different fabric from the original. Nothing would be recognisable as a real person or real life event, but every writer uses past experiences – including what they’ve read, or seen on TV or in films – to inform their work. How could we do otherwise? It is what we know.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
I read and enjoy many different genres. Obviously I have to include Georgette Heyer and Jane Austen, but the series The Morland Dynasty by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles also influenced me a great deal. The series follows the Morland family from the 15th century up to at least the Second World War (I have fallen behind – there must be close to 40 books in the series now!)
In other genres I like Stephen King, Kate Atkinson, JK Rowling… oh far too many to mention.
I wouldn’t say either were exactly mentors, but the Regency writers Elizabeth Bailey and Sarah Mallory were both influential in my journey to publication, for which I am very grateful.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest and who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
This is far too hard to answer – I am friends with so many great writers, some new, some not so new, that I couldn’t possibly pick out one.
And the same goes for the second part of the question. My favourite author is constantly changing. If I was pushed (and I know you want to!) I would say Stephen King because I still love his writing after first reading Salem’s Lot forty years ago. It terrified me J. And The Stand must be a close contender for my favourite book ever. I love the laid-back style that just sucks you in, his realistic dialogue and his characterisation.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
The Romantic Novelists’ Association
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Very much so.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
No – although no doubt if I read it through now I’d itch to change a word here and a phrase there. I’m a confirmed fiddler!
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
That would have to be at primary school, even though it took me so long to write seriously as an adult. I loved writing ‘compositions’ as they were called then, and I often got 10 out of 10 and had my work read out by the teacher. Thrilling for an 8 or 9 year old!
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Excerpt from Cinderella and the Duke
Note – To put this excerpt into context, it is from soon after the start of the story. The heroine, Rosalind, has just been accosted by Lascelles (the hero’s unsavoury cousin) in a quiet country lane. Hector (Rosalind’s dog) has rushed to her defence, growling and snarling.
The sharp voice sounded above Hector’s growls and the silence was sudden and absolute. Amongst the confusion, Rosalind had failed to notice the arrival of three more riders. Her nerves strung tighter. Even Hector could not withstand four men if they were intent on harm. She grasped his collar, more for her own comfort than by the need to restrain the dog, for he had responded to that autocratic command and now stood, mute but alert, his gaze locked on to Lascelles. Rosalind concentrated on breathing steadily and maintaining her outward calm, despite the tremble of her knees.
‘How much further back to the Manor, Anthony?’
It was the middle of the three—chisel jawed and broad-shouldered, with a haughty, aristocratic air—who spoke, his voice clipped. He sat his huge bay with the grace of one born to the saddle, his mud-spattered breeches stretched over muscled thighs, his gloved hands resting casually on the pommel. The hard planes of his face were relieved by his beautifully sculptured mouth, his eyes were an arresting silvery grey under heavy lids and straight dark brows, and his hair, glimpsed under his hat, was very dark, near black.
Rosalind’s racing heart thundered in her ears as her palms grew clammy. She swallowed past a hard lump in her throat and raised her chin, still fighting to hide her panic.
‘A mile or so down there.’ Lascelles pointed with his whip.
‘In that case let us proceed. It is getting late and I for one am tired and hungry. If you really wished to spend your time on that sort of hunting, I suggest you should have remained in London. I’ve no doubt the quarry there is less well protected.’
With that, his gaze swept over Rosalind, who experienced an instant tug of attraction despite the arrogance of his perusal—he had not even bothered to glance at her face. His indifference as he viewed her muddy boots and shabby attire stirred her resentment, but his words, and his tone of voice, had reassured. Surely this was not a man to turn a blind eye to a woman in jeopardy?
Then the man’s attention moved to her face. Rosalind sensed a subtle shift in his bearing as his silvery eyes narrowed, boring into hers with such intensity her insides performed a somersault. She felt a blush creep up her neck to her cheeks. Despite her aversion to his kind, she could not deny his magnetism. Try as she might, she could not tear her gaze from his, even though the slow curve of his lips in a knowing smile made her blood simmer.
The spell he cast was broken when Lascelles, who had finally brought his horse under control, manoeuvred it between Rosalind and the other men, blocking her view of all but the man on the right of the three, who had removed his hat to reveal thick, brown hair and chocolate-brown eyes.
‘You three ride on to the Manor,’ Lascelles said. ‘I won’t be long: I simply wish to reach an understanding with the charming Mrs Pryce.’
The brown-haired man threw a look of disgust at Lascelles. ‘Leave her alone, Lascelles,’ he said. ‘I’ll wager there are willing women aplenty around here, but she don’t seem to be one of them.’
‘Ah, but therein lies the attraction, my dear Stanton. I find I enjoy a spot of resistance in my wenches—it adds spice to the chase and makes the ultimate reward all the sweeter, don’t you know?’
He made her skin crawl. How dare he talk about her like this, as though she were not even present? Wench indeed.
Lascelles swivelled his head, assessing Rosalind with his chilling black gaze and a humourless smile. ‘And I always do get my reward, you know,’ he added.
‘Get him out of here, Stan.’ Quiet words, spoken with menace, by the man with those hypnotic silver eyes.
Stanton spurred his horse alongside Lascelles, jostling the other man’s horse so it faced in the direction of Halsdon Manor as Rosalind sidestepped out of their way, tugging a still-alert Hector by the collar.
‘Let us go, Lascelles. You lead the way.’ Stanton shot an apologetic look at Rosalind as he rode past her, tipping his hat.
But Lascelles, with a snarl, hauled his horse round to confront the remaining two men.
‘You have no right—’
His venom was clearly directed at the silver-eyed man, but it was the third man who kicked his horse into motion. He was handsome, with green eyes and chestnut-coloured hair, and bore such a striking likeness to the first newcomer and, to a lesser extent, Lascelles that Rosalind could not doubt all three were related.
‘Don’t be a fool, man,’ he muttered, placing his hand on Lascelles’s forearm. ‘You know how Leo feels about such matters. Leave well alone.’
Lascelles hesitated, his lips a thin line, his brows low. Then he gave an abrupt nod, wheeled his still-fretting horse around and followed Stanton down the lane. The green-eyed man hesitated in his turn, glancing at the man called Leo, who ignored him, his attention still fixed on Rosalind. The other man shrugged, raised his hat to Rosalind and gave his horse the office to proceed.
Leaving Rosalind facing Leo.
She met his gaze, suppressing the quiver that chased across her skin as he looked deep into her eyes—his expression impassive—for what seemed an eternity. Finally, goaded, she tilted her chin and raised her brows.
‘I am grateful, sir.’
His lips flickered in the ghost of a smile and he tipped his hat as he nudged his horse past Rosalind.
‘Good day to you, madam.’
She watched him go. Unfamiliar sensations swirled through her, provoking a sense of loss she could not begin to explain. Unbidden, her hand lifted to her chest. There, outlined beneath the wool of her gown, her fingers sought and found the oval shape of the silver locket made for her by Grandpa for her sixth birthday. Her most treasured possession, representing her father’s world, and her only link with his side of the family. Her mother had severed all links with the Allens after Papa was killed.
The gentleman riding away from her was of the world that had moulded her mother: a world of entitlement ruled by strict codes of behaviour and an unshakeable belief in class—a world that neither accepted nor acknowledged Rosalind and Freddie, even after their widowed mother had been welcomed back into its folds.
A hateful, unforgiving world that Rosalind wanted no part of.
But the emotions those silver eyes of his aroused in her paid no heed to reasoning. Those emotions picked her up and tossed her around until her head whirled as giddily as her stomach. Those emotions hinted at possibilities—they raised the promise of pleasure, disturbed a desire for the touch of a man’s hand and lips.
And not just any man.
She should be shocked at herself for such scandalous thoughts, but she was intrigued. Never before in her thirty years had a man aroused such feelings in her breast. Those eyes. They penetrated, seemingly, into her soul and, for the first time in her life, she had the inkling of an understanding of passion.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I’m an inveterate procrastinator so just getting stuck in is a constant challenge!
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
No, although I did recently visit Worcester to check out some locations for Scandal and Miss Markham. I also like to visit National Trust properties when I get the time, to get the feel of those spectacular country mansions my characters inhabit.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
The Harlequin Art Department, based in Toronto.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
The first draft. Once I have words on the page, I quite enjoy the editing but the first draft is tough.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
It’s the same thing I learn from every book I write and that is to keep going and ignore the negative voices in my head that tell me it’s rubbish. Invariably, when I read it back, it’s better than I feared.
Fiona: If any of your books was made into a film who would you like to play the lead
For Cinderella and the Duke, I couldn’t cast the hero better than the model Harlequin used on the front cover!
Normally, though, I do have actors in mind when I’m writing (in my current wip my hero is modelled on Aidan Turner – it’s no hardship imagining him whilst I’m writing!) I’m not so good at casting the heroines, though. But in my third book, Return of Scandal’s Son, I had a very strong vision of a young Daniel Craig as the rugged hero, Matthew, and Julia Roberts, with her wide stunning smile, as the heroine, Eleanor, so I’ll plump for them (particularly as the couple on the cover looked nothing like them L)
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Never give up, and never believe you’re too old to start – you have a wealth of life experience to offer. Also, be open to constructive criticism.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Just… thank you very much! If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t get to keep exploring my Regency world (most of my books are set in the same world and therefore have common characters. I’d hate to have to abandon it!)
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak. It is a book club read, and I’m still not sure what I think of it (I’m about 25% through it).
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Apart from Janet and John books at school, I should imagine it was Enid Blyton. I read from a young age, so Noddy or something similar I would guess.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Laugh – watching animals in You’ve Been Framed type of TV shows.
Cry – I’m guaranteed to get a lump in my throat any time I see a woman giving birth on TV. It doesn’t matter if it’s fictional or real life, it sets me off.
Fiona: Is there one person pass or present you would meet and why?
Jane Austen. I could learn so much about everyday life in Regency times, plus she had a wicked sense of humour.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
This question stopped me in my tracks. It’s not something I’ve ever thought about but – having been forced into thinking about it – I don’t think I want a headstone! I should like my ashes scattered off a cliff somewhere.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
I don’t get much time for hobbies, but I read (obviously!), I enjoy gardening and I swim a couple of times a week. I visit stately homes and gardens when I can and it’s not great for my image but I do enjoy playing Super Mario Bros on the Wii!
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Currently it’s Broadchurch (just finished as I write this) and Masterchef. Coronation Street is a perennial favourite, but I don’t watch other soaps. My favourite show of all time was West Wing. I enjoy Strictly when it’s on in the winter.
Films – I rarely go to the cinema, although I do enjoy going so probably should make more of an effort! I love a good disaster movie and I enjoy rom coms, but really I like films in all different genres – it depends on my mood and how much I’m willing to concentrate.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Food – Roast chicken. Chocolate. Fresh bread and butter.
Colours – any autumnal shades
Music – I enjoy an eclectic mix, from Led Zeppelin to Paul Simon. My teen favourite was Roxy Music.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I did it! When I was young I wanted to work with and breed animals, and I became a dairy farmer.
Now, my choice would probably be working in a museum or for the National Trust, or owning and running an independent (and profitable!) book shop.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
Website – www.janicepreston.co.uk
Universal Amazon link to Cinderella and the Duke – http://mybook.to/CinderellaAndTheDuke