I’m really pleased today to welcome Tora Williams on my blog. We’ve known each other since meeting a few years ago at Romantic Novelists’ Association meet-ups, and in that time we’ve seen each other go from would-be authors to published authors.
Tora’s debut novel Bound to Her Blood Enemy is available to pre-order now on Kindle now, and will be published on 25th June 2018.
Over to you, Tora…
- How long have you been writing? Can you tell us a bit about your journey to publication?
When I was a child I was always making up stories in my head (others might call it daydreaming!) and I wanted to be an author. But real life got in the way and I only started writing seriously in about 2010. I soon realised that I was obsessed with providing my characters with happy-ever-afters, so I focused on writing romance. In 2013 I was lucky enough to get a place on the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme. As part of the scheme I was able to submit a manuscript every year for assessment, and the feedback I got really helped me improve. The support from friends I’ve made through the RNA has also been invaluable, and they kept me going each time I got a rejection. Then in January 2018 I finally got the longed-for email from The Wild Rose Press saying they’d love to publish Bound to Her Blood Enemy.
- Why are you drawn to the Mediaeval period as a setting for your fiction?
My family used to holiday in Wales every year, and when it was too wet or cold to go to the beach (i.e. most of the time!) we would visit castles. I always used to make up stories in my head about the people who might have lived there. I especially remember sitting in a window seat in Goodrich Castle, wishing I could travel back in time to see what it was like in Mediaeval times. Then as a teenager I discovered authors like Edith Pargeter and Sharon Penman, and my love of that period was sealed
- What opportunities and difficulties does the era present for you as a writer and for your stories?
The main difficulty I find is that there are very few contemporary records of what day-to-day life was actually like. Most history books focus on people and events, but although that’s important for me to know as an author, I also need to know stuff like what clothes they would have worn, what they ate and drank, did they wear underwear (trust me, when you write romance you need to know about underwear). I often get so swallowed up in research, it takes up all my writing time.
The advantage of writing about the twelfth century is the abundance of conflicts that make a great background. My novels are set in Shropshire and the Welsh Marches, which means I can write about the conflict between the Normans/English and the Welsh. Then there’s the Anarchy, so there’s the potential to have characters divided by loyalty to one or other faction. I get so many ideas from this period it makes it hard to settle to writing one book at a time!
- Do you have writing habits – such as always getting up early to write, or writing in the evening? Or do you write when the mood takes you? Are you a plotter or a “pantser”?
I keep changing the time I write. If I’m battling through a first draft I try to get up early and write a thousand words before I get on with the day job. Otherwise I work in the afternoon and evening. I’m not very good at sticking to routines, but I do try and write most days. I wish I was a plotter—I’ve tried, but it just doesn’t work for me. I’m not a complete pantser, though. I do have a firm idea of my hero and heroine’s goal, motivation and conflict, how they meet and their black moment.
- Do you have a particular place where you like to write, or do you happily write anywhere?
I prefer to write at home, but I’ll happily settle in whichever room is warmest at the time. I did try writing on the train once but got very self-conscious when I realised someone was reading over my shoulder, so I avoid writing in public places now. I have to write on a computer, though. My brain doesn’t seem to function using pen and paper. Seriously, I’d write my shopping lists on Scrivener if I could.
- Where did the idea for Bound to Her Blood Enemy come from? Was it a particular historical event you had read about, or historical figure, which sparked off the story in your mind?
The first thing that came into my mind was an image of my hero, Huw. He was wearing a cloak with the hood pulled up to cover his face, and he was generally looking very suspicious (but hot). So I started to wonder what he was doing and why he seemed to be hiding. Then it hit me that he was a spy, and the opening scene popped into my head, of him being unmasked by my heroine, Matilda. Of course, then I had to work out where they were, what they both wanted, and the plot grew from there.
- Which authors do you read?
How long have you got?
I do love historical romance (obviously) and particularly enjoy books by Janice Preston, Virginia Heath and Jenni Fletcher. I like contemporary romance, too. I try not to read so much historical romance when I’m writing a first draft, but I’ll devour medical romances and chick lit. Then there are my old favourites that I’m continually rereading, like Jane Austen, Wilkie Collins, Alexandre Dumas, Lyndsey Davis, Tolkien, Iain Banks, Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, Rosemary Sutcliff, Sharon Penman, Ellis Peters/Edith Pargeter…stop me when you get bored.
As for non-fiction, I read a lot of travel books. My absolute favourite is Clear Waters Rising by Nicholas Crane. Then there are the books I read for research. I’m currently reading Castle by Marc Morris, which is fascinating. And I’m always dipping into writers like Gerald of Wales and William of Malmesbury to get my head into the past.
About Bound to Her Blood Enemy
Norman heiress, Matilda Comyn is desperate to escape her grasping guardian and reclaim her inheritance. After a lifetime of being let down by men, she wants to rule her lands on her own terms. She can’t escape without help and battles her mistrust when compelled to join forces with a Welsh spy.
Huw ap Goronwy has a rival claim to Matilda’s castle and has sworn a blood oath against the Comyns. When his king rules they must marry, he struggles to reconcile his attraction with his need for revenge. But they must form a truce if they are to seize their castle.
Risking capture and death, they will only succeed if Matilda learns to trust, and Huw allows his love for Matilda to overcome his need for revenge.
About Tora Williams
As a child Tora permanently had her nose stuck in a book and dreamt of one day becoming an author. However, the business of everyday life soon got in the way and it wasn’t until she was in her thirties that she rediscovered the joy of creative writing. For a long time, she wrote purely for pleasure, but in 2010 her old dream of becoming a published author resurfaced and she started writing novels. History has always fired her imagination, and it seemed natural to set her novels in the medieval castles she used to enjoy exploring on childhood holidays in Wales and the Welsh Marches. She was offered her first publishing contract with The Wild Rose Press in 2018.
Previous jobs include civil engineer (her first graduate job was working on a sewage treatment project), maths teacher and education consultant. Probably the most exciting job she’s had was teaching in a school on the edge of the Kalahari Desert in Botswana.
In her free time, when she can drag herself away from reading, she enjoys walking and cycling. She lives in Shropshire in a house that doesn’t contain nearly enough bookshelves. She’s a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Society of Authors.