04 October 2009

Guest Author: Michelle Willingham

This week on Unusual Historicals we're welcoming Harlequin author Michelle Willingham! She's the author of five books and two novellas, which have been translated into seven languages. Her first novella, "The Viking's Forbidden Love-Slave," was the number one bestselling e-book on eHarlequin.com. Today she's stopped by to celebrate the release of TAMING HER IRISH WARRIOR, set in 12th century Ireland. Here's the blurb:

When did Ewan MacEgan grow to be so overwhelmingly strong and disarmingly sexy? He intends to wed Honora St. Leger's demure sister--but why should that matter to
her? Honora would rather wield a sword than a mending needle and, as a widow, she knows there is little pleasure in the marriage bed...

Ewan MacEgan has set his sights on a wealthy bride but, tantalizingly, he finds himself drawn to the forbidden Honora! One touch and he is longing to awaken her sensuality, for he suspects she will be as passionate in bed as she is on the battlefield!

What made you decide to write books set in medieval Ireland?

When I visited Ireland on a trip in 1993, I sensed an unexpected connection to the country. From the moment I set foot upon the green fields, I felt like I was coming home. And when I stood on the parapets of a castle, I knew that I had to set a book in medieval Ireland.

I returned in 2006, just before I sold my first book. The research trip helped my Irish warriors truly come to life. As I walked through the different stone chambers, I could imagine the men training, their swords echoing within the inner bailey. I took endless photographs of artifacts and architecture, and my husband thought I was insane for photographing brooms, pallets, and even peat fires!

Tell us about your newest releases.

TAMING HER IRISH WARRIOR is the fourth book in my MacEgan Brothers series. It tells the story of Ewan MacEgan, the youngest brother. Readers might remember him as an awkward teenager in my earlier books, but he has definitely grown up as one of my favorite heroes...not to mention how sexy and strong he is now! I gave him a heroine, Honora St. Leger, who is an incredible swordfighter herself, and that caused some fun competition and tension between them.

When I was writing TAMING HER IRISH WARRIOR, I was asked to do a connecting story for Harlequin Historical Undone! "The Warrior's Forbidden Virgin" shows a lot of the off-scene moments from Taming, and tells the story of the secondary characters, Lady Katherine and Sir Ademar. Both stories stand on their own, however, and you don't have to read one to understand the other.

Still, it gave me the chance to write a bigger book, and to try some new things. The character of Sir Ademar is a virgin hero, which I'd never done before. He's the strong, silent type who has trouble speaking to women, and I absolutely adored writing him. I only wish I could have put the two stories together to do a full-length medieval book!

Which authors influenced you the most?

LaVyrle Spencer was, and still is, my favorite historical author. Her amazing characterization skills captivated me when I was growing up, and she was a true inspiration. I also adored historical books by Jude Deveraux, Johanna Lindsey, Julie Garwood, and Judith McNaught.

What's next?

I've written a free online daily read at eHarlequin, starting November 9th. "Voyage of an Irish Warrior" is tied into my MacEgan Brothers series and features a few cameo characters from TAMING HER IRISH WARRIOR and HER WARRIOR KING.

I also have a short story in The Mammoth Book of Time Travel Romance called "A Wish to Build a Dream On," available in the UK on October 29th and in December for the U.S. It's about a woman who time travels from the 21st century and is swept away by an Irish warrior who holds the cursed power of knowing the exact moment his loved ones will die.

Then in January, I have a Victorian trilogy coming out from Harlequin. "An Accidental Seduction" is another Harlequin Historical Undone! short story, and this time it's a direct prequel (with the same hero and heroine) for my February U.S. book THE ACCIDENTAL COUNTESS, which releases next month in the UK as a hardback library edition, and in January for the paperback edition.

Why did you switch from Irish medieval romances to Victorian romance in 2010?

I think it helps to keep your writing fresh when you challenge yourself to write in different time periods. I had been watching the movie The Bourne Identity when it occurred to me...wouldn't it have been fun if Jason Bourne discovered he were married? And if you were his wife and your husband went missing for three months and had no memory of you, how would you feel? The story idea seemed to fit the Victorian era best because THE ACCIDENTAL COUNTESS is basically Cinderella meets The Bourne Identity.

Another fun element was that the heroine loves cooking, so I had the chance to research Victorian recipes, which was great fun. (No such thing as low-fat!) It was the most intense mystery-romance I've ever written, uncovering what happened to the earl during the missing three months and who was trying to kill him. Quite honestly, I had no idea "whodunit" until the very end of the book--and the answer truly surprised me!

In March, the hero's sister gets her book. THE ACCIDENTAL PRINCESS is a secret royalty story, inspired by The Prince and the Pauper. Two men look exactly alike--but who is the prince and who is the illegitimate son?

Thanks so much for letting me visit, today! I'm offering up a free download of "The Warrior's Forbidden Virgin" and a signed copy of TAMING HER IRISH WARRIOR to two lucky commenters! Just tell me what's your favorite historical time period to read? What's your least favorite and why?


You heard the nice lady! Leave your comment or ask Michelle a question and you'll be entered in a drawing for free goodies! Void where prohibited. I'll select the winner at random next Sunday. Best of luck! And thanks to Michelle for stopping by!

Cover Art used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises Limited. All rights reserved ®and T are trademarks of Harlequin Enterprises Limited and/or its affiliated companies, used under license.