1. When did you find out you wanted to be a writer?

I started writing books about the same time I learned to read properly. I wrote short books and sold them to my mother. So even back then, while I was planning to be a doctor or possibly the President of the US, I saw the benefit of having a writing career. I also made homemade Happy Birthday cards, so I guess I could have found myself working for Hallmark Cards.

2. How did you fare with your first novel? Did you sell it straight away, or was it more of a struggle?

My very first novel was written after college and it didn’t sell. It was the 80s, and Passion’s Slave was (as I remember it) a pretty wild story about a woman who falls off a boat in the Seine and gets kidnapped by a sheik (of course) and spit on by a camel… Harlequin actually wrote me a letter and said they liked it and would consider something else by me, but by then I was already enrolled in graduate school.

My second novel was written when I was on sabbatical, many years later as a professor. This was Potent Pleasures and it did, indeed, sell straight away and went into hardcover.

3. Do you employ an agent, and if so, why?

I learned from my first book, above, that submitting novels by oneself means waiting months and months for a reply. Agents act as door-keepers. The editors turn to the manuscripts they submit first, since they know those books are already vetted. So when I decided to try writing again, the first thing I did was look for an agent, rather than a publisher. I sent out query letters with one chapter attached.

4. Can you deal with criticism?

I certainly have had a lot of it. My first book was absolutely deluged by criticism. I can’t say I like it, but I’ve developed a very thick skin. And it is definitely true that while one reader will write a heart-felt letter saying your newest is the best thing she’s ever read, someone else will write into Amazon and say it(s a prurient piece of wall-banging trash.

5. How do you research the background of a new book?

I have a research assistant and she does the research for me. I have a full-time job as a professor of Shakespeare, do I don’t have time to research in the regency period, which isn’t even my primary field as a scholar. That said, much of the details in my books are actually Renaissance, rather than Regency – all the poetry, for instance. I don’t need to research it, because I’ve been teaching and reading it for years.

6. You have studied in Oxford. Is that of any influence to your writing?

Perhaps in small details: I developed a love of rain and English flowers, an appreciation for the slowness with which Englishmen develop friendships and the steadfast loyalty they show to those friends they make. Research-wise, certainly the work I did as a graduate student has filtered into my work. For example, my second book, Midnight Pleasures, is based on a 1607 play that I first read while studying at Oxford.

7. In how far do you feel ‘linked’ to your heroines?

Every heroine has a bit of my personality in her, something that acts as a catalyst. Gabby, the heroine of Enchanting Pleasures, for instance, is a fibber and so was I, when I was younger. The book I just finished is called As You Desire; my heroine marries a man who has strong religious beliefs while she does not. I found myself in the same situation when I married my husband.

8. Can you tell us in how many languages your books are translated?

I think 7 or 8 now.

9. I am a member of a discussion forum, which has lots of Dutch and Belgian members. All of us like to read historical romance, but unfortunately not all of these books are translated into Dutch. Do you think that you and other Avon authors could put on some pressure to ‘persuade’ your publisher to have all of your books translated into Dutch?

Avon doesn’t have anything to do with my foreign sales – my agent handles them, through foreign agents. So my Dutch publisher was sent my books by a co-agent in Holland, and then when they decided to publish them, the transaction was handled entirely through my agent. My publisher owns only my English language rights, and not even for Australia and New Zealand. I have heard that my translator into Dutch is very poetic and a lovely writer herself. I guess what I am saying in a round-about way is that writers have no control over what happens in foreign editions, unless they write for Harlequin. Harlequin controls all foreign editions themselves, and gives their writers very wide coverage in many countries.

10. Would you care to share with us whom your own favorite writers are, or which books you love to read?

There are many: Teresa Medeiros, Loretta Chase, Christina Dodd, Lisa Kleypas, Connie Brockway. I also read a lot of contemporaries, including Jenny Crusie, Janet Evanovich and Susan Elizabeth Philips.

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© 2005 Nickie Fleming/Jansan