Nicola Pryce has popped in today to tell us about her love of Cornwall and her Cornish novels
Hello Nicola, and welcome to Write Minds. First off, do you see yourself in any of your characters?
This reminds me of how I used to read Pride and Prejudice through the eyes of Elizabeth but I’m now so definitely Mrs Bennet! I love my older lady characters and though I would love the elegance, grace, wit, and forcefulness of my very exacting French dressmaker, Madame Merrick, I feel I’m much more like Mrs Pengelly, the boat builder’s wife whom she employs. Unfortunately, I’m not like Mrs Munroe, her talented cook who bakes prize winning pastry – but I’m working on it.
Tell us about your setting and why you chose it?
My books are set in Fowey on the south coast of Cornwall, though I call it Fosse. We’ve been sailing into Fowey for twenty-five years and I love the town and its surrounds. The two opposing towns, Fowey and Polruan, guard the river mouth and are both quintessential Cornish harbours with lanes that rise steeply from the quayside and houses huddling together against the fierce winter gales. Some of my books are set in Falmouth, Truro, Bodmin, the Moor, and the River Fal where we also sail. The Cornish Lady is set in Trelissick House and A Cornish Betrothal in Trerice.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I love the research aspect of writing historical novels. I usually have a theme I want to explore. Each book centers round different aspects of the history in Cornwall, 1793-1800 and a lot of my information is gleaned from academic papers or books written specifically about the subject. We are so lucky having google at our fingertips! However I can’t get my head into my characters until I can prove something happened at exactly the time I want it to happen, to a group of people I want to represent, in a specific place, at a specific time. That gives me the authority I need. For example, in A Cornish Betrothal, I have a lady herbalist, a young physician, and others on the infirmary committee which has been called to raise funds and approve the design of the New Infirmary in Truro. Imagine my delight when I found the actual minutes of the committee meeting held in 1790 in the Records Office in Truro. All the records and archives are now housed in Kresen Kernow in Redruth and I have enormous fun making sure I have proof of what I’m going to include in my books. It’s not always easy to read some of the handwriting though, even armed with a huge magnifying glass.
But how long to research? I could honestly spend too long, so I try to curtail myself. Probably, on average, I will spend three months researching, seven months writing, and two months catching up with the cobwebs and the weeds.
Do you have a favourite writing place?
Believe it or not, I’ve written each of my books in a different place. Once I’ve finished writing a book, it’s as if I have to move on. I just can’t write another in the same place. It’s very strange. I wrote my first book at the kitchen table, my second at the dining room table. The third was written in my daughter’s bedroom and the fourth in my son’s. By the time I was writing my fifth book my grandchildren were older so I could move the cot out of the back bedroom to make an office. Now, writing my sixth, I’ve turned my desk to face the opposite wall and that seems to have done the trick. Any more books and we’ll have to move house. And no, my new office is never usually this tidy!
What do you find the most difficult part of writing process?
Not the idea of the story, nor the characters; not the planning nor the research, but actually putting the words onto the page in the right order! I seem to be terribly slow and often re-write whole pages several times. They say you shouldn’t edit while you’re writing but I feel compelled to do so. My favourite bit of writing is editing which is why I can’t resist it. I suppose one good thing about doing that is that when I finally write The End it’s almost ready to go to my agent. Oven ready, as Mrs Munroe would say.
Other than writing what else do you love to do?
Did I mention my grandchildren? I love nothing more than sewing, gardening, and messing about in my kitchen. I particularly enjoy walking coastal paths and visiting National Trust houses. I love reading though if I’m writing I find it hard to have another voice in my head. I’m very much looking forward to my Christmas present which I understand is going to be a doll’s house to make and furnish.
Thank you so much, Francesca and Elaine for inviting me onto your lovely blog. I’ve so enjoyed answering your questions. The history and inspiration behind my books can be found on my website https://nicolapryce.co.uk/ . My latest novel, A Cornish Betrothal, is published this November
A Cornish Proposal
Eighteen months have passed since Midshipman Edmund Melville was declared missing, presumed dead, and Amelia Carew has mended her heart and fallen in love with a young physician, Luke Bohenna. But, on her twenty-fifth birthday, Amelia suddenly receives a letter from Edmund announcing his imminent return. In a state of shock, devastated that she now loves Luke so passionately, she is torn between the two.
When Edmund returns, it is clear that his time away has changed him – he wears scars both mental and physical. Amelia, however, is determined to nurse him back to health and honour his heroic actions in the Navy by renouncing Luke.
But soon, Amelia begins to question what really happened to Edmund while he was missing. As the threads of truth slip through her fingers, she doesn’t know who to turn to: Edmund, or Luke?
Available on Amazon
About Nicola Pryce
Nicola Pryce trained as a nurse at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London. She loves literature and history and has an Open University degree in Humanities. She’s a qualified adult literacy support volunteer and lives with her husband in the Blackdown Hills in Somerset. She and her husband love sailing and together they sail the south coast of Cornwall in search of adventure. If she’s not writing or gardening, you’ll find her scrubbing decks.
Pengelly’s Daughter is her first novel, then The Captain’s Girl, The Cornish Dressmaker, and The Cornish Lady. A Cornish Betrothal will be published in November.
Nicola is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and The Historical Writers’ Association.
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