We are delighted to have Lucy Morris on our blog today. Lucy, what was the inspiration behind your book? Can you tell us a little about it?
‘A Nun for the Viking’ was my second contracted book with Mills & Boon and when I signed the contract for my debut ‘The Viking Chief’s Marriage Alliance’ I honestly had no idea what my second book would be.
I mulled over the kind of hooks that would grab my attention as a reader and I have to say the idea of a Viking breaking into a nunnery to snatch his bride was pretty inspiring! The story developed from there, as my heroes are always big softies underneath, so I decided it would be an arranged marriage between a Viking and a Frankish noble woman. Similar to the arranged marriage between Princess Gyda and Rollo in ‘Vikings’. I love the story behind the creation of Normandy, how the Viking’s were given it in exchange for peace and protection. Then in 1066 it was the same dynasty that conquered England for the final time. It’s fascinating!
How did you decide on the names for your characters and the setting for your book?
I find names so tricky and usually find them on the internet to be honest – searching the baby name finders! They even have old norse names on there!
Jorund I got from the baby name generator, and I also liked how it went well with his surname Jötunnson which is the name for the giant’s in Norse mythology. Jorund is a giant even by Viking standards! I loved that after I picked it I noticed it was name used in both ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘The Witcher’ which I’d not noticed until afterwards!
My giant needed someone who was both his opposite and his equal. Which is where I came up with the diminutive Amée whose fiercely loyal but also very sweet and kind. Her name means beloved and is an old latin name used in Francia at that time. I love how her name fits with the story because both my characters have hard relationships with their fathers and their self worth but find love and understanding in each other.
How long did the book take to write? How much re-writing do you do?
A Nun for the Viking -4-6months with a structural edit from the publisher.
What is your writing day like?
I have two children (7 and 5 yrs), so I get up and get them ready for school. After school drop off, I return home and go straight to my office with tea (the first of many). I honestly can’t function without tea.
I always start with writing in my planner my ‘To do List’. I love a ‘To Do List’, I write down everything I need to do that day including chores and personal stuff. But my top priority is usually to write at least 1,000 words. I’ve been using the ‘tomato method (as I call it)’ also known as ‘Pomodoro technique’, which is working solidly without distraction for 25mins with a 5min break between until you get your ‘task’ or in my case 1,000 words completed. I also light a candle sometimes because I like the smell, but also because I heard it can instinctively open the creative side of your brain…not sure if it does but it’s still nice to have.
If I’m not in the ‘flow’, I’ll finish my 1,000 words and work on promo, do chores and personal admin etc next. I try to break up my day with a bit of exercise, (still trying to lose the ‘baby’ weight – LOL!), I really like swimming at the moment and go twice a week. I also like walking and sometimes do a bit of yoga.
I’ll then go back to my office after lunch and try to work a bit more. I aim to write a minimum of 5,000 words a week but sometimes I work weekends as well if I’m not pleased with my progress or on deadlines etc…yeah, I work a lot on weekends!
Then I pick up the kids from school and I’m usually busy with them for the rest of the day and too shattered in the evenings to write anymore. Before the kids went to school I used to write during nap times and the evenings, AND work part time – but honestly I’ve no idea how I did that! I much prefer my work/life balance now.
Without giving too much away, what was the hardest part of the book to write?
The middle is always tricky for me, and I really have to write a skeletal draft first which tells the ‘story’ before I can go back and fully develop my characters and toughen up my ‘saggy middle’. My first draft is usually around 40,000 words and it’s always a hot mess that makes me wonder about my life choices. But eventually I get there, and all the threads come together in the end.
When did you realise you wanted to be an author?
I wanted to be an author as a child, just after my ‘wanting to be an archaeologist’ stage (turns out you have to get muddy – I wasn’t a big fan of that!) and before my ‘wanting to be an actress’ stage (also not the best choice). But I was really put off by my english teacher at the time, who ripped apart my creative writing and kept telling me my grammar and spelling was terrible, with zero comment on the creativity of my stories except to ask if I’d plagiarized them!
I wonder now if he was just surprised by the content. I may not have been able to spell, but I read widely even at a young age. My stories were not about unicorns, more about myths and legends, with a lot of sinister stuff thrown in! I probably freaked him out!
It wasn’t until high school that I dared to write anything creative again and this time I had a lovely teacher. But I’d already written myself off as ‘not good enough’ to write as a profession. When acting didn’t work out (LOL!). I got an admin job at a magazine publisher instead.
Then life got in the way – as it does. I had my children and it made financial sense for me to give up work. But I was going a little mad at home and wanted something ‘just for me’. I thought I’d give creative writing a go as it was the perfect creative outlet for me. I wrote during nap times and evenings. I joined Twitter and suddenly I realised there were a lot of people just like me who also loved doing this crazy hobby and it wasn’t totally mad of me to want to pursue it professionally.
So, I did!
What was your journey to publication?
I wrote a couple of books, both science fiction romances. The first being about viking space pirates! It’s still unpublishable, and shall happily remain in a drawer for all time. But, completing it gave me loads of confidence and through Twitter I learnt about the RNA and it’s New Writers Scheme. I applied and sent my second book (a sci-fi romance) off to be critiqued under the scheme. The feedback was great and I found my writing group and cheerleading squad through my participation in the scheme and the RNA’s social events.
After entering a load of Blitz’s and Twitter pitch contests where you send partials to agents/publishers. I came to the very accurate conclusion that you really do have to write a book in its entirety and fully edit it before sending it off to publishers/agents! I decided that I should really try and write what I love to read, not what’s the current ‘twitter pitch contest’.
This was hard for me as I’ve always loved Sci-fi and historical romance. But I have no academic background in history so dismissed it as an option…again, don’t let your lack of confidence be your worst enemy! A friend I’d met through the RNA encouraged me to take the plunge and give writing an historical romance a go – what’s the worst that could happen? So, I set about researching my favourite historical era…Vikings!
I wrote my Viking romance aiming it at my dream publisher Mills & Boon Historical. My writing group and critique partners were fantastic and kept me going throughout. It was my second NWS submission and I used the report to improve it further.
Then it seemed as if all my stars had aligned at once, when I saw the ‘Warriors wanted blitz’, which mentioned Vikings as a desired sub-genre. I then managed to get a one2one at the RNA conference with Linda Fildew, an editor with Mills & Boon Historical who loved…wait for it…Vikings!
I was so chuffed when during our meeting she said that she’d not only liked my first chapter, but had also checked my Blitz submission to read the first three chapters as well. She requested the full manuscript during the one2one, and I immediately sent it. A couple of months later she emailed me to arrange ‘the call’.
Which fictional character(s) would like to invite to dinner? What would you like to talk about?
Ahh I’ve been asked this before, and I’m afraid my answer is very sentimental. I lost my mum in the autumn of 2020, so I’d invite my mum and my characters Gyda and Thorstein from ‘The Viking Chief’s Marriage Alliance’. That way my mum could get to know them. I’m so glad she was alive to learn about my publishing deal, but she passed away suddenly and never got to read my book (I’d insisted she wait until the final version). I’d love to spend a bit more time with her and for her to meet my characters, I think she’d have liked them. Plus, Thorstein is pretty hot so not bad eye candy for dinner!
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Find your cheerleading squad. Find beta readers, chapter groups, associations like the RNA.
Writing is a solitary art, but succeeding is only possible with feedback and a community to help you improve, and discover opportunities.
I met my beta readers Leonie Mack and Lucy Keeling on twitter. They are awesome writers who’ve helped me improve my writing and supported me during those difficult rejections. We all started off as unpublished and now we’ve all got book deals, it’s fabulous! And, a sign of our friendship that along the way we’ve only ever been happy and supportive of each other’s achievements.
Joining the RNA was also instrumental in my success. It gave me opportunities in training and contacts that I would never have had on my own. Also, because of the friends I made there, I met my writing group Essex Writers who helped me avoid some rookie mistakes in my historical manuscript, e.g. too much backstory, starting at the wrong moment etc.
Lastly, write what you love and keep writing. Very few people get their first book published but plenty get their second, third or even their hundredth book published. It can happen!
Can you tell us what you are working on now?
Currently, I’m writing a trilogy, which is exciting! I’m calling it the ‘Shield Sisters’ trilogy and it’s about three sisters who are shield maidens and it’s set all over the Viking world. The first book follows Valda who is known as ‘the blade’, and follows her journey to Istanbul (known as Miklagard in old Norse). It’s going to be full of adventure and excitement, with a merchant hero who is afraid of commitment!
As a little girl, Lucy Morris was obsessed with myths and legends. She regularly escaped into the adventures of her imagination, with characters who were strong and fierce. Now fully grown she finds she can’t forget the stories plaguing her mind and has to write them down. A book by Lucy Morris will sweep you away on a historical adventure filled with vivid characters haunted by their pasts. Her books will have you flying through her pages, desperate to reach her characters passionately romantic happily ever after.
She lives in Essex, UK, with her husband, two young children, and two cats. She has a massively sweet tooth and loves gin, bubbly and Irn-Bru. A member of the UK Romantic Novelists’ Association, she was delighted in 2020 to accept a two-book deal with Harlequin after submitting her story to the Warriors Wanted submission blitz for Viking, Medieval, and Highlander romances.
Writing for Harlequin Historical is a dream come true for her and she hopes you enjoy her books!
About the interviewer.
Catherine Lawless lives in Hertfordshire with her husband, daughter and their three border terriers. She writes novels, journals and children’s books. Catherine’s career started out as a singer/songwriter in a rock band. She toured extensively throughout Europe and the UK before settling down and following her childhood dream of writing books.