Estimated reading time:5 minutes, 50 seconds
Everyone has a story. In February everyone’s thoughts turn to love… but for best-selling novelistÂ Heidi Rice, every day has romantic power. Enjoy a special Valentine’s Day Q&A with the author of ‘Bedding Bad Boys’, ‘The Mile High Club’ and ‘So Now You’re Back’. Interview by Nicola Baird
Long time Highbury resident, Heidi Rice, has written more than 26 romance novels, becomeÂ aÂ US Today best-seller, and sold more than 2 million books since she left her job as a TV and film reviewer. If you haven’t yetÂ read any of Heidi’s racy books, 2017 is a bonanza year with four due out including February’s Vows They Can’t Escape set in the Bahamas, in March an ebook set onÂ a ranch in Montana, in July Summer At Willow Tree Farm and at the end of the year The Virgin Shock Baby. She’s also running a creative romance writing course online this spring.
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“Writing romance isÂ not a formula,” explainsÂ Heidi who is soon making me laugh when we meet at INK@84 – a rather fab bookshop on Highbury Park.Â Â “A romance novel is the story of the relationship with a positive outcome. It’s a character-driven story concentrating on internal conflicts,” she says giving me one of her longer novelsÂ So Now You’re Back. This isÂ a second chance love story between handsome Luke, who lives in Paris, and his ex Halle, who has a cake baking empire andÂ TV show, but has refused to talk to Luke for 16 years. Clearly a good example of Heidi’sÂ “aspirational and high fantasy” style. There’s also a lot of sex.
So, just how much has Islington shaped her love scenes…
Q: Has Islington been an inspiration to you when creating characters?Â
“I sometimes use aspects of people I know when creating fictional characters, maybe a snippet of their past, an experience they had that changed them, or I might model a minor character on someone Iâ€™ve met in passing â€¦ But ultimately, my main characters are fictional creations. Thatâ€™s because I need them to be authentic, believable, relatable, etc, but also complex, unique, multi-layered individuals who I know inside and out â€¦
“I try not to stalk people on Highbury Fields to avoid getting arrested. But I always like to imagine what is going on in houses â€“ especially if the inhabitants have been generous enough to leave the curtains open and the lights on â€“ doesnâ€™t everyone?!”
Q: Are there scenes in your books that have been inspired by places in Islington?Â
“Tons! I love using London and Islington as locations for my novels because I know it so well and I think itâ€™s a wonderfully romantic place. For example: I once had a heroine who managed a pub theatre in Islington which bore a striking resemblance to the Kings Head â€“ as luck would have it this allowed me to go to the real Kings Head to chat to the actual manager when doing my research.”
Q: Do you like Valentine’s Day?
“I think there is an element that is contrived and a little smugâ€¦ Romance is always more authentic if itâ€™s spontaneous IMHO. That said, if youâ€™ve got someone you love and you want to show them how much you appreciate them, thereâ€™s no harm in using Valentineâ€™s Day as an excuseâ€¦ [Just in case my husband is reading this!]
“It can also be terrific fodder for romance novelists like moi! Case in point: I wrote a novella recently where my heroine was in a Soho bar on Valentineâ€™s Night bemoaning what a crap night it is for anyone whoâ€™s single… So naturally, her friends got her drunk and persuaded her to chat up the hot brooding single guy at the bar, who just happened to be thinking the exact same thing she wasâ€¦ And lo and behold I had a great start to my storyâ€¦ Thank you so much, Valentineâ€™s Day.”
Q: Where’s fun for a romantic time in Islington?
- Get a sofa to share for a screening of LaLaLand (or any other feel-good, fun or sexy movie) at the Everyman Screen on the Green.
- Take a stroll through Clissold Park and have coffee and carrot cake at the cafĂ©. NB: Strictly speaking this is Hackney, but I like to be inclusive.
- Cod, chips and mushy peas on a Friday night at The Beach Hut in Highbury Barn is cheap, cheerful and deliciously decadent â€“ especially if you bring your own Prosecco.
- Share a carton of ice cream for two at Udderlicious on 187 Upper Street while sitting on their indoor swing. Sweet in more ways than one.
- Do the Monday Night pub quiz at the Tufnell Park Tavern â€“ a great way to discover all the things your date doesnâ€™t know but thinks they do â€¦
Q: What do you consider the power of the romance novel?
“Itâ€™s optimism and positivity. Romance novels are simply stories about relationships with a positive outcome â€“ and what could be more uplifting and empowering than reading about people falling in love?”
Q: Do your friends ever confuse you as an agony aunt?
“Thank goodness no one has ever used me as an agony auntâ€¦ * shudders * “
Q: What’s the best advice for finding Mr Right?
“So my lay personâ€™s advice for finding Mr Right would probably be donâ€™t go looking for Mr Right â€“ because thatâ€™s way too much pressure for him and youâ€¦ Just stay open and positive, be prepared to adapt and compromise if the relationship is worth it, and make sure to have fun, or whatâ€™s the point. (I find being with someone who makes you laugh can help with that). And maybe get some lessons from a flirt coach if youâ€™re floundering (something I learned about on this very blog, see interview here).”
- Buy any of Heidi Rice’s fab romance novels on Amazon here.
- Join a 7-week online course with Heidi Rice and learn how to write hot romance. Starts Feb/Mar with the Professional Writing Academy, see www.profwritingacademy.com
Over to you
If youâ€™d like to nominate someone to be interviewed who grew up, lives or works in Islington, or suggest yourself, please let me know, via nicolabaird.green at gmail.com. Thank you to Ruth for suggesting Heidi.
If you enjoyed this post you might like to look at theÂ A-Z Â index, orÂ search by intervieweeâ€™s roles or Meet IslingtoniansÂ to find friends, neighbours and inspiration. Thanks for stopping by. Nicola