Where were you born, Mary? I was born in Glasgow, in south west Scotland.
Interesting. My husband has roots in Glasgow. His mother was born in Bathgate. What do you like most about where you live now? It’s quiet and peaceful and two minutes walk from a beautiful beach! I’ve moved around the country a bit, studying and working, and finally ended up in a village on the Scottish east coast.
What’s your favorite season? Summer. Well, I say that because I love the sun, but in Scotland there isn’t always much difference between the seasons I like cold, sunny days, too.
What is the worst job you ever had? Working on the cake counter in the food hall of a large department store. I know! I should have loved it, since I love cake, but I was thrown in the deep-end one Saturday afternoon. The place was heaving; no one had any time to tell me the prices of any of the cakes and none of them were labelled. I was so nervous my hands shook and I kept mangling the cakes with the tongs when I tried to lift them. I was traumatized. Put me off cakes for – oh – at least a month! Inhuman!
Have you had any unusual or noteworthy occupations? I used to read old books for a living. It was a lovely job, part of a project analyzing the subject matter of early printed books. Some of the books, we had to read on microfilm, but sometimes I got my hands on actual 16th century books, and that was wonderful!
What is your feeling about social media? Love? Hate? Beneficial? Love and hate, I suppose! I love the way it enables contact with other readers and writers, and I’ve made some wonderful on-line friends. But I hate when I feel I have to post something and I’ve really nothing to say except “want to write, need to write, no time for this!!”
Do you like animals? Yes, I love animals, especially dogs, but I’ve had loads of pets over the years: several dogs and cats, a budgie, three hamsters, and now, a small, mad pug/Jack Russell cross (known as a jug)
What do you enjoy most about being a published author? The best is hearing from readers who’ve enjoyed my books. That makes everything worthwhile, and certainly justifies living in my own little world with all those imaginary voices in my head – which is the other thing I love about being a writer.
How do you deal with writer’s block? I tend to leave it and go and do something else for a while, until I know what to write next. If that doesn’t work, I’ll sit down and make notes about where I want the story and the characters to go. If I’m part way through a story, I find reading it over from the beginning often refocuses me.
Where do you find inspiration for your stories? Everywhere. A lot of it comes from history, of course, but there has to be that something extra that sparks a general interest into an obsession for me. The spark is often really trivial, it just sets me thinking in a different way. For example, An Endless Exile grew out of a physical description I read at random about Hereward the Wake having eyes of different colours! The hero of A World to Win developed from a man I spoke two words to on a Romanian train – he had one of the most interesting faces I’ve ever seen J. A Prince to be Feared changed from a vague desire to write a story set in Vlad Dracula’s reign, to a need to write it about the man himself, because a few lines in a biography about his land improvements made me look on him in a completely different way. Vienna Waltz was inspired by reading about the popularity of masquerade balls at the Congress of Vienna – lots of possibilities for fun, mischief, mistaken identities and intrigues of all kinds.
I must tell visitors that An Endless Exile is one of my favorite books. The kind of story that stays with you long after you’ve read it. Tell us about your latest release. Vienna Waltz is a light, fun Regency romance – my humble tribute, if you like, to the late, great Georgette Heyer.
Here’s the blurb:
“In 1814, with Napoleon finally defeated, the great and the good of Europe descend on Vienna to plan a lasting peace – and to dance.
Ejected from her home on the death of her father, Lizzie Gaunt – along with her gaggle of siblings and a large, unruly dog – finds herself in Vienna with her diplomat uncle. But Lizzie is determined not to remain dependent upon her aunt and uncle for long. After witnessing a daring theft, she recruits the unusual thief to carry out her plan – which should hurt no one except her father’s heir, the vile Russian cousin she’s dubbed Ivan the Terrible.
However, Lizzie’s simple scheme is soon complicated by a wounded Austrian spy, a formidable English matron, a masked Russian rakehell from the Emperor’s masquerade ball, and a mysterious villain selling information that could ruin the Congress before it properly begins. And then there’s Cousin Minerva’s romantic difficulties, and Cousin James’ gambling debts to sort out.
While Vienna dances, Lizzie tries to solve everyone’s problems, and ends by falling disastrously and dangerously in love.”
Is it part of a series? If so do you enjoy writing series? Yes, it’s the first book of The Imperial Season series. All the books will be set during the Congress of Vienna (the Imperial City!). It’s my first series, so I’m really looking forward to it, especially catching up in little ways with previous characters.
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01L0ZXUI2
(At the Emperor’s masquerade ball, although there for quite other reasons, Lizzie finds herself waltzing with an attractive, masked stranger…)
“Sometimes I wish I were a man and able to adventure about the world. Though I doubt I’d have made a very good soldier.” She sighed. “Women are so hemmed in with respectability. Unless they wish to be ostracized.”
“It isn’t fair, is it?” he sympathized. “I’ve behaved badly all my life and no one has ever ostracized me.”
“What did you do?” she asked, intrigued.
He laughed. “I can’t tell you that.”
She found herself returning his smile. “Because of my respectability?”
“And what’s left of mine.”
“But I’m the one intruding on the Emperor’s ball. Here, you are the respectable one.”
His breath of silent laughter seemed ridiculously familiar, but she couldn’t catch the memory.
“I never thought of that,” he said solemnly. “I shall tell all my friends. So tonight, the adventure is yours.”
Reminded of the true purpose of the evening, she cast another rather guilty look around the riding school, searching for anyone who might possibly be Johnnie. Some plainly dressed man, hiding a hint of scruffiness beneath an all-enveloping domino. The trouble was, all the men she could see, wore their cloaks open, or even dangling off one shoulder like her current dancing partner.
“Who are you looking for?” he asked. “Perhaps I can help.”
“I doubt it.”
“Then it isn’t really your aunt.”
“Not just my aunt,” she said cautiously.
“I sense an intrigue.”
She let out a peel of laughter. “Don’t be ridiculous. I don’t intrigue!”
“Why ever not?” he asked outrageously. “It’s one of the more fun and comfortable forms of adventuring. I suppose it comes down to respectability again.”
“I suppose it does,” she said with a twinge of regret. “Though to be honest, I’ve never yet encountered a man I wished to intrigue with.”
“Mademoiselle, you cut me,” he mourned, drawing her hand with his to his heart in mock injury.
She laughed. “No, I don’t. We don’t know each other at all.”
“That is a large part of the fun in intrigue.”
“I suppose you have a great deal of experience in that area,” she allowed. Behind the mask, she was sure he was a handsome man. He was certainly charming in some indefinable way she couldn’t help liking.
He said, “I suppose I do.”
Catching an unexpected note of genuine regret in his voice, she peered up at him more closely.
He drew in a sudden breath. “Don’t do that or I’ll kiss you in the middle of the ballroom. Too blatant for intrigue.”
“And for respectability,” she scolded, although she felt a flush rise through her body to her cheeks as her wayward mind wondered how it would feel to be kissed by a masked stranger. This somewhat unconventional masked stranger who continued to gaze down at her, a faint, incomprehensible smile playing about his lips. She wanted, suddenly, to look away, but refused to give in to such cowardice.
Rather breathlessly, she said, “You should know I have no intention of either.”
She lifted her chin. “Kissing or intrigue.”
His lips curved. “You could try one and if you liked it, move on to the other.”
Laughter caught at her breath, perhaps in shock. “No, I couldn’t. You’re forgetting the respectability.”
“But I thought you wanted an adventure?”
“Not like that,” she said with dignity, although she may have ruined the effect by adding, “And certainly not with you. I suspect you’re far too risky a proposition.”