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Ask Nicole...

Here are answers to questions that readers frequently ask me. If you don't see the answer to your question, then just e-mail me. I love to hear from readers!

DO YOU EVER PLAN TO WRITE WOLF'S STORY, THE THIRD BOOK OF YOUR ROCKY MOUNTAIN TRILOGY?

I definitely intend to write Wolf Logan's story to finish my Rocky Mountain Trilogy that began with THE OUTLAW and THE HEART BREAKER. But Ballantine wants me to wait till the market for Westerns is stronger. A few years ago, a large part of the reading public quit buying Western romances, so Ballantine wants me to write Regency historicals for the time being. I have Wolf's story all worked out, and I'm eager to tell it, I promise. It's just going to be a while longer. I hope Wolf will be worth your patience.

WHERE CAN I BUY COPIES OF YOUR OLDER BOOKS?

All the Notorious books (published by Ballantine) are still in print and can be ordered from your local bookstore or on-line bookstores such as www.barnesandnoble.com or www.amazon.com. My older books are out of print (those published by Avon Books, Harlequin Historicals, and Zebra Books). But I own the rights to all of them, and Ballantine plans to reprint three of them: THE LOVER, THE WARRIOR, and LORD OF DESIRE. THE LOVER is now scheduled for April 2004, and the other two will probably be out in 2005. Ballantine is still figuring out how they want to market them. Meanwhile, you can try several www. on-line sites that specialize in used books to find used copies of my backlist. Just write me and I'll send you a list of some good places to start your search.

IN THE BACK OF THE PASSION, THERE WAS AN EXCERPT FROM "THE ENCHANTMENT." DID YOU EVER WRITE THAT BOOK?

Sorry about the confusion, but there is no book called The Enchantment. Book 3 of my Notorious series, about the Lucian, the Earl of Wycliff, came out in November '01. Ballantine changed the title from The Enchantment to DESIRE because they wanted a sexier title to go with the book.

I LOVED THE SECONDARY CHARACTER, LORD CLUNE, IN THE SEDUCTION? WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO HIM?

I'm so glad you like Clune. And yes, absolutely he has his own story. He's actually the hero of Book 5 of my Notorious series, THE PRINCE OF PLEASURE. In THE SEDUCTION he was Jeremy Adair North, the Earl of Clune, but readers liked him so much that I included him in the next three Notorious books, THE PASSION, DESIRE, and ECSTASY. And since Jeremy and Clune didn't seem much like a romance hero's names to me, over the course of the next three books, I gave him the nickname Dare, and promoted him to marquess, so he's now Lord Wolverton. Dare is one of my favorite heroes because he's so wickedly, charmingly outrageous. His is a reunion story with the woman who once broke his heart and set him on the path to being a rakehell.

DO YOU PLAN TO WRITE ANY MORE BOOKS IN THE NOTORIOUS SERIES?

Dare's story, THE PRINCE OF PLEASURE, is Book 5 of my Notorious series and the final one for now. I have Gray's story all plotted out because I fell in love with him and because I think he deserves happiness. (Gray is Brynn's brother in DESIRE and he's in hiding in Scotland under a death threat until/if Caliban is ever apprehended.) For now I'm moving on to my Paradise series, but I do plan to get back to Gray someday.

WHAT WILL YOU WRITE NEXT?

After my Notorious series, I'm starting a new Regency series called Paradise, set partly on a wonderful island in the Mediterranean. I'll still be writing about dangerous rakes and bold adventurers (and the women who win their hearts!), but for now I want to offer jaded romance readers something a little fresh and different. And the new setting gives me myriad opportunities for interesting plots during the Regency era that can't usually be found in the strict English/London social setting.

ARE YOUR BOOKS AVAILABLE IN HARDBACK?

All my Ballantine books can be purchased in hardback through the Rhapsody and Doubleday Book Clubs. Check out these on-line sites: www.rhapsodybookclub.com and www.doubledaybookclub.com

WHY DID YOU START WRITING ROMANCES?

That's an easy one. Stress! I've always been a voracious reader, but I honestly never ever expected to become a writer. After earning a degree in civil engineering, I spent eight years working as an engineering manager for Procter & Gamble, making Pampers diapers and Charmin toilet tissue. I started writing as an escape from my high-stress job, and over the years taught myself to write essentially from scratch. What kept me going, I think, is that I simply love romance - a love I credit my mother with instilling in me. I was ten years old when she started reading Pride and Prejudice and The Scarlet Pimpernel aloud to me. I soon graduated to Mary Stewart and Victoria Holt. The romance that started my career, however, was Laurie McBain's Tears of Gold. I stayed up all night devouring that book and afterward began dreaming of writing my own stories.

WHEN WASYOUR FIRST BOOK PUBLISHED? HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE EXPERIENCE?

My first published book was a Regency historical, VELVET EMBRACE, and it took me over four years of part-time writing and rewriting and enduring crushing rejections. So you can imagine I was ecstatic when Zebra Books bought it in 1985. I was in my office, working on my next manuscript when I got the call. And for about twenty-four hours after that, I was dancing on the ceiling. The only feeling that has ever come close was making the New York Times bestseller list the first time.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ASPECT OF BEING A ROMANCE NOVELIST? LEAST FAVORITE?

My favorite is getting to indulge my passion. It's hard to describe the mental and emotional exhilaration I get from writing. I guess what I find most satisfying is my total absorption in my work. Sometimes I can write for two hours and think only ten minutes have gone by. And meeting a difficult challenge is satisfying. After hours of pulling out my hair, finding just the right words or finally making a scene work gives me a definite sense of triumph. There are few greater thrills than writing. For me, it truly is a passion.

As for least favorite, I would have to say revisions. I hate them! And I don't like that it takes so long to see my work come to fruition. I can be up to two years from the time I begin a book until I actually see it in print.

HAVE THERE BEEN ANY EMBARRASSING MOMENTS SINCE YOU BECAME A ROMANCE AUTHOR?

The most embarrassing has to be the time Jay Leno pretended to read from my book TOUCH ME WITH FIRE on the Tonight Show as part of his Romance Writer's skit. I wanted to say, "Wait a minute, I didn't write all that gosh-awful purple prose!"

WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR INSPIRATION FOR YOUR BOOKS? WHEN YOU'RE PLANNING A NOVEL, WHAT COMES TO YOU FIRST? PLOT, CHARACTERS, OR SETTING? HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN A PARTICULAR IDEA IS WORTH PURSUING?

For me, finding inspiration is kind of like daydreaming. I almost always start by picturing a vivid scene between the hero and heroine (which could be anywhere in the book) and figure out how they got to that point. The most critical element in my stories is the romantic conflict. Once I hash that out, I'll create characters and build a plot to support it. And ideas need to "feel right" to me. I have to have the gut instinctive reaction that "Yes! This works!" I also try to focus on writing sexy stories and plots that lend themselves to a lot of love scenes, like marriages of convenience, since spicy books are what I like to read.

WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO READ? WHAT OTHER ACTIVITIES FOSTER YOUR CREATIVITY?

You probably won't be surprised to learn that I like spicy, emotional romances with strong heroes and good conflict and sharp-edged wit. But I don't need sizzling sex when I read as long as the sexual tension is riveting. Actually many of my favorite romances are traditional Regencies and Gothics. And to escape from my work, I usually turn to thrillers.

For fostering my creativity, I make myself go sit or lie in a quiet place and let my mind wander - a sort of enforced daydreaming. Almost invariably my subconscious will kick in and ideas start flowing. I'll start seeing scenes and hearing dialogue and working out problems. And sometimes I'll pick up the phone and call one of my writer friends, screaming "Help!" Talking out problems often helps me come up with solutions.

YOUR NOVELS FEATURE VERY STRONG, COMPLEX CHARACTERS. WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE OF THE HEROES YOU'VE CREATED? FAVORITE HEROINE? WHY?

That's like being forced to choose your favorite child! I suppose my firstborn characters in VELVET EMBRACE will always have a special place in my heart. And the characters in my least known book, TENDER FEUD (Scottish Highlands), were the easiest and most fun to write because of the natural sparks between the hero and heroine. Also, I might be a bit prouder of three heroes -- in LORD OF DESIRE (desert sheik), THE SAVAGE (Native American), and THE WARRIOR (medieval), probably because those books were the most challenging to write; larger in scope than some of my other romances, with more historical depth and with life and death issues at stake. Plus they were brand new time periods for me then, which I enjoyed researching. But I have a decided partiality for alpha males who get their comeuppance, so almost all my heroes are favorites. I usually create my heroines to play off/match my heroes, so they evolve to fit what works best for the story.

DO YOU PATTERN YOUR HEROES AFTER YOUR HUSBAND?

Nope. My husband is a wonderful beta male - sensitive, caring, clever, loving. Trouble is, he wouldn't make very good fiction because there's just not enough romantic conflict in our relationship (usually!) Most of the alpha heroes I write about deserve a hard kick in the family jewels, and no woman in her right mind would put up with them in real life. But they make for grand romance.

YOU WRITE SOME OF THE HOTTEST ROMANCES IN THE BUSINESS. WHERE DO YOU COME UP WITH THE IDEAS FOR YOUR LOVE SCENES? DO YOU FIND THEM DIFFICULT TO WRITE? ARE THERE ANY SPECIAL CHALLENGES YOU FACE WHEN WRITING VERY SENSUAL ROMANCES?

When I'm asked how I do research for my love scenes (usually by non-romance-readers who expect a titillating answer) I reply, "You don't have to kill someone to write a murder mystery. You just need a good imagination." But actually, I do research of sorts by occasionally reading erotica, which a writer I admire once advised me to do. And no, writing love scenes aren't difficult for me. Trying to make them good, however, is darned hard!

Some of the challenges I face? Keeping love scenes fresh and different after having written over two hundred of them for previous books. Making them romantic rather than simply sexual. Keeping the scenes well motivated - having a good reason for them to be in the book. And keeping the sex appropriate to the times and characters.... It's not always easy to make "hot" work right. But my readers (and my publisher!) have come to expect a certain level of sensuality from me, so I try hard to deliver.

I always, however, strive to make those scenes an integral part of the story. And during the actual writing, I focus on the emotion and sexual tension and growing relationship between the characters, not just the sex and sensuality. Lovemaking between two people may not be unique, but if I've done my job right, their relationship most assuredly is.

HOW COULD I WRITE A ROMANCE NOVEL OF MY OWN?

My best advice is to join Romance Writers of America. They've been invaluable to me and will be able to answer your questions and help you get started writing romances. You can find them on-line at www.rwanational.org.




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