1. Hi Janice, welcome to Amanda Writes. Please tell readers a little about yourself.
Hi, Amanda, and thank you for inviting me onto your blog. My name is Janice Preston and I’ve been writing emotional and sensual Regency romance for Harlequin / Mills & Boon for 4 years now. I love reading books that feature book-hopping characters and so that’s what I write – the majority of my books are set in the same Regency world and old friends pop up from time to time. Apart from my books and writing, I am a proud mum, stepmum and grandmother and I live in the English Midlands with my second husband and two cats.
2. When did you first realize you wanted to become a writer and what inspired your first book?
When I was 8 or 9 I told anyone who would listen that I wanted to be an author. I loved writing stories – and I was good at it, too, but I don’t think I ever truly believed that ordinary people like me could ever be a ‘real’ writer. Then real life got in the way, as it does for so many people, with the need to earn a living and raise a family. It wasn’t until my youngest child went to university that I finally had the time to write for my own enjoyment. Of course, the bug then bit me, and the more I wrote, the more I wanted to write.
My first book was inspired by… well, it was a bit of a cheat, if I’m honest! I knew a category romance had to focus strongly on the hero and heroine but I also faced the dilemma that, in Regency times, young girls were closely chaperoned. And so I created a reclusive hero who was injured and a heroine who had been widowed and was needed to nurse the hero. That way I was able to focus on their developing relationship without worrying about the strict mores of the time! (I can’t believe I’ve admitted that, lol). I’m pretty pleased with the result, though (Mary and the Marquis) and I’ve written plenty more conventional Regency romances since so I hope I’ll be forgiven.
3. Plotter or panster?
I’ve always claimed to be a pantster and I do enjoy writing into the mist. However, I have found with each book that I am doing a little more planning – if only to save writing myself into a corner, as I have done a few times. I still reckon I’m on the pantster side of the line, though.
4. What is the title of your upcoming release and can you talk briefly about it?
Lady Cecily and the Mysterious Mr Gray is my 10th book for Harlequin Mills & Boon and it is book 3 in my trilogy The Beauchamp Betrothals. It is a story of forbidden love and family loyalties that are strained to the limit when Lady Cecily Beauchamp, the sister of a Duke (Leo, Duke of Cheriton), meets a Romany at the wedding of her other brother, Vernon (Books 1 and 2 of The Beauchamp Betrothals follow Cecily’s brothers stories in Cinderella and the Duke and Scandal and Miss Markham). Cecily is wrestling with a dilemma following the marriages of both of her brothers and the attraction between her and Zachary Gray is all-consuming as he tries to help her decide her future. It sets Cecily on a collision course with Leo, in particular, who is desperate to save her from a huge social faux pas and from ruining her life.
5. What book is on top of your TBR pile?
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte. I first read this book before I was an author and at the time I much preferred it to the better known Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte) or Jane Eyre (Charlotte). It’s been chosen by my book club as this month’s read and I’m looking forward to reading it again and seeing if I still enjoy it as much.
6. How long does it take you to write the first draft of a story?
I find this incredibly hard to answer. I write very clean first drafts, so there isn’t much to do in the way of editing before I submit a book to my editor. But the reason the first draft is clean is because I tend to edit as I go, and I go back and forth over the text. All I can say is that I think I’m too slow and keep trying to write faster. To date, I have had 2 books a year published. With my current WIP I am trying hard to keep to a count of 1000 words a day which is fairly low and therefore do-able. If I can keep to that, it will mean ten weeks. But I suspect there will be a lot more editing to do so it remains to be seen if that speeds me up at all!
7. Have you ever been stuck with writer’s block? If yes, how do you deal with it?
For minor sticking points – eg if I can’t progress a scene – I find hoovering helps! Suddenly, a piece of dialogue will pop into my head or I’ll ‘see’ the scene unfold in my mind’s eye. If it’s a bigger block, I find brainstorming a particular plot point with my husband or a friend helps. What doesn’t work is sitting staring hopelessly at the screen hoping for a Eureka moment.
I am now also able to recognize when I’m being held back by my subconscious yelling at me that there’s a major flaw earlier in the book. Once I go back and fix that, I find I can move forward again. Until then, it’s as though I’m anchored to the spot.
8. What are you currently working on?
Unusually, I have 2 books on the go. The first is book 2 of my follow-on trilogy to The Beauchamp Betrothals. The trilogy is The Beauchamp Heirs and it is the story of Leo’s 3 adult children and how they find love. Book 1, Lady Olivia and the Infamous Rake, is out in September. Book 2, as yet untitled, is the story of Leo’s eldest son, and heir, Dominic, Marquess of Avon.
The other book is part of a continuity (a set of books that are linked but each of which is written by a different author) that the Historical team at Mills & Boon have asked me to write. I was involved in a continuity a couple of years ago (The Governess Tales) when I wrote the 4th and final book The Governess’s Secret Baby but this time I’ve been asked to write the first book, set in a castle in Victorian Scotland. I’m thrilled that the other three authors are my good friends from The Unlaced Book Club (a Facebook group) – Lara Temple, Elisabeth Hobbes and Nicole Locke. We’re having a lot of fun collaborating – each book will be set in a different era and the story will go back in time.
9. Any advice for aspiring writers?
Write the book! Keep going until you can write ‘The End’. You can edit it and make it better, but you can’t edit a blank page. I truly do believe that the one thing all writers have in common is perseverance.
The other essential advice is to connect with other writers. In real life if possible –through organisations like the RNA (Romantic Novelists’ Association) or (RWA) Romance Writers of America – but at the very least online. Writing groups can be great, but I think aspiring writers need to carefully vet any group they join to make sure they are a good fit.
Love or Family – how can she choose between them?
Lady Cecily Beauchamp has always put her family first. Until she falls under the spell of the mysterious Zachary Gray—a man of Romany descent. Knowing her family will forbid their match, Cecily steels herself to do her duty and marry someone else. Only she finds herself irresistibly drawn to Zach as the spark between them ignites a passion neither can deny!
from Lady Cecily and the Mysterious Mr Gray
Mr Gray began to walk back across the grass towards the garden and regret swirled through Cecily. She followed him, hurrying to keep up with his long strides.
‘I am sorry. I did not mean to pry. I should not have questioned you.’
‘There you go again, with your “I should not have…”’ he growled.
He slammed to a halt and pivoted to face her with such suddenness that she almost cannoned into him. Her feet, still clad in her satin dancing slippers, skidded from under her and she reached out, clutching his lapels to steady herself. His arms came around her, hauling her close, and she found her cheek pressed to his chest, the steady beat of his heart thumping in her ear…far steadier than her own erratic heartbeat which flittered, soared and swooped.
His voice rumbled through her. His arms still held her captive, but they loosened a little, allowing her to tip her head back to look at him. His eyes flashed and a muscle leapt in his jaw as one hand slid lower and settled at the small of her back, fitting her snugly into the warm contours of his body. His breath caressed her skin as his free hand came up to cradle her cheek, his thumb drifting across her lower lip. Her breath quickened as his head lowered and, without volition, she rose on her toes to close the gap between them.
His warm lips were soft and smooth, exhilarating and yet soothing. She had only been kissed once in her life and the experience had been…forgettable. This…
She pressed closer, slipping her arms around his waist, revelling in the sensual glide of his mouth on hers, lost in the moment. She tensed as his tongue probed her lips, but he murmured deep in his throat, a calming sound, and she parted her lips and let him in. Their tongues slid together as he entered repeatedly, exploring her mouth, delicately and without haste. An unfamiliar sensation gathered deep in her stomach, a growing ache of yearning…of desire. She settled deeper into his embrace, his male scent surrounding her as her pulse ran riot and her toes curled with pure pleasure.
It was he who ended the kiss, lifting his lips from hers and drifting them across her cheek. He nibbled her earlobe, then traced the outer rim with his tongue as she tilted her head to ease his access. Her wits were reassembling but, although she was shocked by her wanton behaviour, she felt no shame. His hands framed her waist and lifted her, setting her away from him. She resisted the urge to seek again the heat of his body, the security of his arms.
‘That should not have happened.’ The wicked glitter in his eyes belied his words.
‘Should not?’ she teased, even though he was right. Of course it should never have happened. But she challenged him nevertheless. ‘Why not?’
He barked a laugh. ‘That, my Lady Perfect, is a foolish question.’ He raised his arm, gesturing at the night sky. ‘Let us blame the magic of the moonlight and come the dawn we shall forget it ever happened.’
‘Did you not enjoy kissing me?’
He reached for her hand, holding it in both of his, playing gently with her fingers. Then he raised it to his mouth and pressed hot lips briefly into her palm before folding her fingers over as though to hold his kiss in place.
‘I did.’ His voice was low. Sincere. ‘But you know as well as I that a boundary was crossed. Until that moment, we were indeed fellow guests merely talking. Now…our consciences know the truth, but it can never be revealed to anybody else. Ever. It would be the ruin of you, were it known you kissed a Romany.’
She knew he was right and she still could hardly believe she—who prided herself on always being ladylike and correct—had behaved so out of character.
‘Mayhap you are right and it was the effects of the moonlight,’ she said. ‘You were not thinking clearly. You were angry with me for prying into your life.’
Thea had already warned her that Mr Gray was a very private man. She should have taken heed.
He laughed. ‘That, sweet dove, was not an angry kiss. It was not a punishment; it was self-indulgence. I have wanted to kiss you ever since I first set eyes on you in the church.’
Her insides lurched and heat washed over her face at the thought that such a virile man—such an intelligent and thoughtful man—could look at her in such a way.
Janice Preston has been writing emotional and sensual historical romance for Harlequin / Mills & Boon since 2014. Although all of her novels are standalone reads, she loves to write books set in the same Regency world, and her stories therefore include many book-hopping characters.
Janice grew up in London with a love of reading and animals. She always loved to write stories but, as with many authors, real life got in the way—but she never grew out of the habit of making up stories in her head. When her two children both left home for university, she finally started to write those stories down, joining the Romantic Novelists’ Association in 2012. Luckily, Mills & Boon loved Janice’s stories and she finally realised her childhood dream of being an author and now gets to spend every day helping her characters fall in love.
In the past, Janice has worked as a dairy farmer, a police call-handler and a university administrator and she now lives in the West Midlands with her husband and two cats. She loves visiting her family and her gorgeous grandchildren and she enjoys reading, history (of course!), swimming, pottering about the garden when the sun is shining, and travelling whenever she can. She fuels her imagination with endless cups of coffee, is far too keen on unhealthy food, and is an expert procrastinator.