My Latest Interviews
I am always happy to be interviewed. Here’s a short selection.
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Thanks for your interest. I do hope you enjoy reading it.
An Interview by Anne-Marie Ormsby — 9th November 2017
Anne-Marie: Continuing my look at authors and the inspiration behind their books – this week I was lucky enough to talk to Nicola Slade about her new book. There’s a touch of the Nicola Slade Picparanormal at work here and along with a historical mystery, I had to get involved and ask more about the background.
Anne-Marie: Tell us the basic premise of your novel?
Nicola: Freya Gibson, PA to Patrick Underwood, a best-selling novelist, inherits an old, run-down house from an unknown elderly relative. She falls in love with the house but waiting for her is an enigmatic letter from Violet, the elderly cousin, telling her that she must ‘restore the balance’ of the house, beginning by reciting a Latin verse. Freya does so, while wondering whether it’s a prayer or a spell.
She learns that Ladywell was known as a place of healing and the house begins to work its magic on her as she discovers family secrets that shake her foundations.
Woven into Freya’s contemporary story are echoes of the family through the ages and although the reader learns why things happened as they did in the past, Freya is unaware of the house’s history.
Anne-Marie: What or who inspired you to become a writer?
Nicola: My mother and grandmother were great readers and meals were always quiet as we all ate and read at the same time! I realised when I was very young that books came out of people’s heads and knew that was what I wanted to do.
Anne-Marie: Are your locations based on a real place? and do the locations hold any real life significance to you?
Nicola: In this book my fictitious town of Ramalley is based on Romsey, in Hampshire, a bustling market town between Winchester and Southampton and about five miles from where I live, so it’s a place I visit frequently. When I was small I used to visit an aunt who lived not far from the town and I’ve always loved it so I was delighted when we moved to Hampshire back in the 80s.
Anne-Marie: Did it take a lot of research for your locations and the historical aspect of the story line?
Nicola: I’m passionate about history so I mostly enlarged on historical events that fascinate me and I had a lot of fun reading up on them. The Lady’s Well — part of the history of the house – was inspired by the font at Mottisfont Abbey, a National Trust property not far away and I had a couple of interesting day trips to check out the Chalice Well at Glastonbury and the Wishing Well at Upwey in Dorset. I blogged about it here.
Anne-Marie: There’s a supernatural feel to the story, do you believe in ghosts?
Nicola: I’d like to! But I’m not sure though I do think some places have a distinct atmosphere. It’s not a spoiler to say that some people can smell flowers in The House at Ladywell even where there’s not a petal in the place!
Anne-Marie: What is your favourite genre to read and to write?
Nicola: I love historical mysteries and have written a cosy mystery series, The Charlotte Richmond Mysteries, set in the 1850s. I don’t like to read anything too gritty or gory and I do like a happy ending!
Anne-Marie: What are you working on next?
Nicola: I’ve written the first draft of a cosy mystery set in 1918, actually in the same fictitious town of Ramalley
as The House at Ladywell and I’m about to start on the serious revisions.
‘Three sisters struggle to keep the home fires burning but are hampered by wartime shortages, lack of money, demanding lodgers and a difficult mother. As though this isn’t enough, there’s a rumour that their late, unlamented father may not be dead after all and their lives are further inconvenienced by murder!’
An Interview by Angela Wren — 31st October 2017
Angela: Please welcome friend and author… Nicola Slade to my blog today. Thanks for being here, Nicola and I know how busy you are so tell me a bit about your latest book…
Nicola: It's a contemporary romantic novel interspersed with historical interludes so that the reader, though not the protagonist, learns the story of the ancient house and the family. It’s not exactly dual timeline because there are glimpses of several eras, and true to my mystery writing career, murder does raise its ugly head, though only in the historical past — no need for detective work! Here's the blurb…
A hare carved in stone and the scent of flowers in a house full of echoes — can Freya’s inheritance help her to leave the past behind?
Had I gone completely crazy that first day? To open the door, take one astonished look round, and decide on the spot that I would live there?
To fall in love with a house?’
When Freya Gibson inherits an old, run-down property she has no idea she is the last in a long line of redoubtable women, including the Tudor nun who built the house. Unknown to Freya these women, over centuries, fought with whatever weapons came to hand — deception, endurance, even murder — to preserve their home and family.
Freya falls in love with the house but her inheritance includes an enigmatic letter telling her to ‘restore the balance’ of the Lady’s Well. Besides this, the house seems to be haunted by the scent of flowers. In the past the Lady’s Well was a place of healing and Freya soon feels safe and at home, but she has demons of her own to conquer before she can accept the happiness that beckons.
Angela: Hmm, that sounds most interesting. And I believe you have brought with you one of your characters. So let's hear what Mary Draper, a secondary but important person who befriends Freya, has to say. Over to you Nicola…
Nicola: Good morning, Mrs Draper. You’ve probably had more to do with Freya than most since she arrived in Hampshire. Do tell us how you come to know her?
Mary: Call me Mary, dear. Freya’s cousin, Violet Wellman, the one who left her the house, was a friend of mine and when she died her solicitor asked me to keep an eye on the house and maybe drop in to see if Freya was all right.
Nicola: What did you think of her when you first met?
Mary: She’s lovely, dear, kind, friendly girl, I wish her cousin could have met her. She said she spent some time in America and she looks fragile sometimes, so I expect there was a man at the root of the trouble. Still, she’s been back in the UK for a couple of years now and she’s PA to that Patrick Underwood, who writes those best-sellers. I’m hoping he’ll come down to Hampshire to visit her.
Nicola: Freya’s house is very old, isn’t it?
Mary: It’s Tudor, dear, with some very unusual features but nobody knows who built it. Mind you, the family were there long before the house; Violet said there were family stories but they’ve been lost over the years.
Nicola: How do you think she’ll settle to life in a market town in Hampshire? And I believe the house is said to be haunted?
Mary: People say they can smell flowers even when there’s not a petal in the house. So yes, if the scent of invisible flowers means the place is haunted… Still, Ladywell once had a reputation as a place of healing so I think Freya will find it comforting. There’s a few family secrets to uncover before that happens though – and one of them will be shattering but it’s not my secret to tell — though I might give her a hint later. You know, Violet said the house was out of tune and she left Freya a letter telling her to ‘restore the balance’. Heaven knows how she’ll do that!
Nicola: I gather you’re embarking on an adventure of your own soon? Is Freya helping you with that?
Mary: How do you know that? It’s a secret and yes, I’ll need Freya’s help but I haven’t told her yet. Adventures aren’t just for the young, you know.
Nicola: Thank you for talking to us, Mary. It will be interesting to see how Freya copes with this shattering secret. Can you give us a hint?
Mary: My friend Violet always said that the house keeps its secrets, some old and some new, but I do know that Violet’s grandmother hinted about royalty in the family — way back in the past!
An Interview by Carol Westron — 6th September 2017
Carol: This month I’m interviewing another good friend and fellow Deadly Dame, Nicola Slade.
After writing children’s stories and short stories for women’s magazines, Nicola started her novel writing career with a romantic comedy.
Following this she turned to humorous cosy crime with two series, one Victorian and one contemporary, set near Winchester in Hampshire. Nicola’s latest book, The House at Ladywell is due to be published in November 2017.
It is a return to romantic comedy, however Nicola assures me that it has a few murders in it as well.
Carol: Your first novel, Scuba Dancing, was a romantic comedy. When did you realise that you wanted to ‘turn to crime’?
Nicola: My mother and grandmother were mystery fans so I was brought up reading Patricia Wentworth, Margery Allingham and co. Besides that, I’ve always been fascinated by graveyards and a lot of my early childhood was spent accompanying my Granny to ‘visit’ members of her vast family and check that their graves were tidy. I used to salvage flowers from the bins (and probably ‘borrow’ some from other graves) to put on the tiny unmarked graves of babies that had a morbid attraction for me. Add a passion for history and I was always going to end up writing historical mysteries!
Carol: After Scuba Dancing you moved into historical crime with Murder Most Welcome and have now written three books featuring the young Victorian widow Charlotte Richmond. What appealed to you about the 1850s Victorian period that you selected?
Nicola: Again, the passionate love of history, combined with practicality. I initially wanted to write a book like the Georgette Heyer Regencies that combine romance with mystery: The Reluctant Widow, The Quiet Gentleman, The Talisman Ring, etc. However, the Regency period is well–covered already so I turned to the large number of Victorian novels I was brought up on — best–sellers, Charlotte M Yonge and Mrs Henry Wood. Their first books came out in the 1850s and that period appealed.
Carol: How do you set about your research for your historical novels?
Nicola: See Q2! I dive into my old and much–loved favourites for rhythms of speech, social history, clothes, manners and — occasionally — a plot idea or three. They’re well out of copyright so I’m sure they don’t mind!
Carol: Charlotte Richmond is a very lively and unconventional Victorian heroine with many secrets in her past. When you started Murder Most Welcome did you already know what she was like and how she would turn out or did she develop as you wrote?
Nicola: I knew she was called Charlotte and I knew she was a young widow because the original title of the book had leaped into my mind as, ‘What Will Become of Poor, Dear Charlotte’ — too long, of course, for my eventual publisher. The trouble was, I had no idea why she was ‘poor’ or what, indeed, was to become of her so I had to feel my way. It came as a shock to realise she was an Australian and how to get her from there to Hampshire? The Indian Mutiny of 1857 sprang to mind and gave me Spring 1858 for the date when she finally arrives in England.
Carol: You chose the surname of one of Jane Austen’s heroes for Charlotte’s neighbour, Mr Knightley. What characteristics of Austen’s hero inspired you to do this and what characteristics do you feel the two Mr Knightleys share?
Nicola: Emma has always been my favourite Jane Austen novel — I ‘did’ it for A Level English Lit, which, surprisingly, didn’t ruin it for me! Even then I loved the decency and stability Mr Knightley offered, as well as the way he took no nonsense from Emma and I realised that Charlotte needed someone just like him. I made things difficult by providing him with a wife who was initially meant to die in the first book; like Charlotte, though, I loved Mrs Knightley and couldn’t do it!
Carol: In your Victorian series you occasionally introduce real historical people to interact with your fictional characters. What challenges are there in doing this?
Nicola: The easiest real person to tuck into the story was Florence Nightingale (The Dead Queen’s Garden). Her family lived at Embley Park, near Romsey, so it was plausible that they would be on visiting terms with Charlotte’s in–laws about 12 miles away, just outside Winchester.
Sending my heroine to Bath (Death is the Cure) in 1858 was an interesting exercise, not least because mid–19th century Bath was very different from the city Jane Austen knew. Shabby and slightly down–at–heel, it was still a place for invalids and that suggested a guest house for visitors come to take the waters. There is a young girl in the story and at a concert I suddenly thought of a famous historical writer who might easily have been in Bath — and there he was, a tall young mathematician from Oxford, with an interest in photography and an easy manner with little girls. He even makes a note when Charlotte tells the child to ‘curtsey when you’re thinking, it saves time’.
In the same book, there’s a very famous – or notorious – fictitious heroine, now an old lady, who arrives in Bath on a quest that leads her to Charlotte and embroils both of them in a dangerous situation.
Carol: Your central protagonist for your contemporary series is Harriet Quigley, a retired headmistress. Superficially, Harriet is a very different protagonist from Charlotte Richmond, but I suspect they have certain character traits in common, not least an insatiable curiosity. Am I correct in thinking this?
Nicola: Oh, yes — curiosity and a sense of humour with a tendency to laugh at entirely inappropriate moments. Charlotte says of herself: ‘I have few ladylike accomplishments…Sadly, the ability to do quantities of mending, to cook a good plain dinner and to shoot a marauding crocodile as I once did, is not appreciated in Polite Society.’ Harriet is calm, clever, much-respected in her profession — and nicknamed Boudicca by her students in acknowledgement of her all-seeing eye and swift, but fair judgement. In Harriet’s third adventure (The Art of Murder) there are hints of a connection between my two protagonists.
Carol: You are a lady who has travelled extensively and yet you have set two cosy crime series in similar parts of Hampshire, near Winchester, and it is clear that you have a great affinity with this area. What is it about this part of the country that sparks your creative imagination?
Nicola: Winchester, as the former capital of England, is full of history; you only have to walk through the town to be aware of the ancient glories. I live about six miles away so it’s the perfect place to combine a spot of research and shopping!
Carol: Returning to the Harriet Quigley series, you have achieved fame — or possibly notoriety — in the CWA by being the author with the most unconventional murder weapon in your first Harriet Quigley book, Murder Fortissimo. Could you tell us a bit about the inspiration behind that?
Nicola: To be honest, Carol, I’ve no idea how I thought that one up! I started writing it with a vague idea of victim, murderer and motive, but the method was vague. I did know I wanted to include an Oompah Band because I knew someone who played in one and the murder method — and weapon — was suddenly irresistible.
Carol: Not wishing to be outdone by her 21st century rival, in The Dead Queen’s Garden, Charlotte Richmond fends off an attacker with an artificial leg. Do you feel you have now reached your imaginative limit regarding extraordinary weapons or is there more to come?
Nicola: I don’t have anything in mind at the moment, but I think the answer to that has to be: Watch this space!
Carol: Whatever the genre or time period, humour figures strongly in your work. Have you ever written anything that does not have that strong vein of humour running through it?
Nicola: I don’t think I could, because humour is so much part of the human experience, but I don’t write jokes, as such. I prefer natural humour as it arises from ordinary situations in which — as in real life ‘cheerfulness keeps breaking in’.
Carol: As well as being a writer you’re an artist, and you used your knowledge to good effect in The Art of Murder. Tell us a bit about your recent art exhibition.
Nicola: Ever since Scuba Dancing was published my husband has framed each book as they came out so that we have a procession of them all the way up the staircase wall. My younger daughter suggested I should display them throughout August in the gallery café of a local cinema — the Harbour Lights, in Southampton — with some paintings as ‘window dressing’. I had a lovely phone call from a visitor to the cinema wanting to buy a painting. His wife had painted all her life but ill–health had put a stop to her creative hobbies; however, she had fallen in love with my sunflower picture when they went to see a film.
Carol: As well as writing and art have you got any other hobbies and interests you’d like to tell us about?
Nicola: Some years ago a friend and I decided to enlarge on our interest in Victorian glass and china so we started having a stall at various local antiques fairs, specialising in glass, pretty china, and my favourite, English blue–and–white transfer ware. Expanding families and my writing eventually made us give up though we still have boxes of the things we couldn’t bear to sell or give away, so who knows? I certainly can’t resist buying the occasional gem, just in case …
Carol: Last, but by no means least, tell us about your latest book, The House at Ladywell, which will be published on 14th November by Crooked Cat Books.
Nicola: I’m back where I started, not with a sequel to Scuba Dancing, but a romantic novel set in the same town — a fictional version of Romsey, another of my favourite haunts, half–way between Winchester and Southampton. Interspersed with the romantic thread there are historical interludes so that the reader, although not the protagonist — learns the story of the ancient house and the family. It’s not a dual time line because there are glimpses of several eras and of course there are a couple of murders! I don’t think I could write a book without killing off at least one character but these deaths occur in the historical parts so there was no need for detective work.
If you enjoyed the above and would like to see earlier interviews you can catch up on my Interviews Archive page.[Top of Page]