Today it's my pleasure to welcome Beverley Eikli to my blog to talk about her latest book The Maid of Milan which is published this Friday.
Can you describe The Maid of Milan in 15 words or less?
Phew, that’s hard. But here’s my best try for now ;-)
A once-vibrant debutante’s error of judgment has condemned her to live a lie – preventing her from forging real love with her husband.
Can you tell us a little bit about your latest book The Maid of Milan?
The Maid of Milan is a psychological historical drama as much as a romance with a redemptive ending, about a once-vibrant debutante who made a terrible error of judgment four years before I take up the story. Unfortunately, my heroine, Adelaide has been condemned by her morally upright mother to live a lie - one which denies her the ability to forge real love with the husband she reluctantly married three years before.
I was thrilled with my first review which describes it as a combination of ‘Dynasty’ with its love triangle, drug addiction and lies, but written in a style reminiscent of Anthony Trollope’s ‘The Pallisers’ where ‘beneath the waving fans is gritty intrigue.'
There seems to be a bit of a theme with your books, or at least the books through Choc Lit, where the women marry men they are not in love with and the men try to earn their love. Was this deliberate or coincidental?
Goodness, it’s funny that you should have picked up something that I’m unconsciously guilty of. I know redemption is a theme that appears in all my romances, and I do sometimes wonder if I’m secretly trying to atone for something I did long ago. I don’t remember being any more awful to my younger siblings than most elder sisters, or doing anything too terrible in my life. And as for marrying men I’m not in love with, well, that’s something I’ve NEVER done! J I’ve been madly in love with my gorgeous Norwegian husband since we met around a camp fire 20 years ago when I was managing a safari lodge in Botswana’s Okavango Delta and Eivind was a bush pilot there.
All of your novels have been historical romances, have you ever considered writing a contemporary romance?
I’m actually about to send off my first one to the Choc Lit Tasting Panel, and am crossing fingers they’ll like it.
It’s set in 1960 in the African mountain kingdom of Lesotho, where I spent my early years and where my father was a District Commissioner in the mountainous region of Mokhotlong, regarded as the most remote outpost of the British Empire. He was later Private Secretary to the country’s first democratically elected Prime Minister Chief Leabua Jonathan when we lived in the capital, Maseru, so there’s lots of background on the Colonial Administration’s final years. Dad prosecuted many medicine murder and illegal diamond buying cases, which feature strongly in my story, while the actual plot revolves around a rough-and-ready bush pilot who’s forced to put his career as a potential jet pilot on the line as he tries to save the DC’s daughter from social and political ruin.
How long did it take you to get your first book published?
Only 23 years. :-) I wrote my first romance at the age of seventeen but I drowned the heroine on the last page and it took me a long time to work out why editors weren’t interested. In 2009 the penny dropped and my first three romances were published by Robert Hale. My last two, published by Choc Lit, are rather different, for although they are Regencies they focus much more on the psychological aspect of being a woman in an era where, through lack of power or legal rights, she was very vulnerable, being completely dependant on her closest male relative. I like to explore, given the different personalities of my heroines, how each seeks to attain, and then how she wields, the power she’s found in order to achieve happiness.
Do you have a set daily writing routine?
It’s very choppy, though I try to write every day and I try to get up early and make the most of the ‘quiet zone’ between 5.30am and 7am when it’s time to get the kids ready for school. Sometimes, though, if I’m too tired to make sense of editing, I’ll work on another story where I can just throw down the first draft (which I can do amidst noise and activity). Editing, though, requires total silence and careful concentration.
If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?
Never give up. I’ve been in a critique group for ten years and two of us are published while the other two are regular contest winners. It was awful when my friend ‘put down her pen’ when I could see she was on the cusp of the publishing deal she’d worked towards with such dedication for so long. Perhaps finding success with even her next submission. So, if this is what you want and you keep working towards it, I believe it’s only a matter of time… provided you’re still in the game.
When you’ve finished writing a book, do you treat yourself to a reward?
I always say I am, but I haven’t, yet. This time, though, I’m determined to reward myself with one of the beautiful rugs or blankets I eye off so enviously every time I visit Husfliden in Norway. We’re visiting family again this April so that’s on my shopping list: a beautiful Norwegian pure wool blanket.
Thanks so much, Sharon, for having me here today. :-)