Originally from the North of England, Nicola resides in the Oxfordshire countryside. She is passionate about genealogy, reading and of course, period dramas. Since the publication of her first Regency romance by Harlequin Mills & Boon in 1998, Nicola has become a USA Today, Borders and UK Bookscan bestselling author. Nicola now writes for Harlequin HQN Books in the US and MIRA in the UK.
Nicola has a “second life” as a guide and historian working for the National Trust at the beautiful seventeenth century hunting lodge, Ashdown House. She is also a speaker on the history of Ashdown and the Craven family. We spoke to Nicola about her passion for genealogy, her passion for history in general and you will have to read to the end to find out who her historical heroine is…!
Author, Nicola Cornick
Historical Honey: You have a keen interest in Genealogy, and with the help of your mother, have managed to trace your family tree back to the 16th C. Can you tell us more about where the Cornick family came from?
Nicola Cornick: First I have to say that I can’t really take much credit for researching my family tree myself because I have so many relatives who did all the hard work whilst I was busy researching other things! My mother’s side of the family traced their ancestry back to 17th century Suffolk and my husband’s uncle followed the Cornick line back to the 16th century. Fortunately Cornick is a relatively unusual name but even so there were lots of different strands of the family to untangle. On the way he discovered all kinds of fascinating stuff including two family members who were transported to the colonies for piracy.
HH: Do you have any advice for people wishing to research their family tree; for example, where to start and what to do when hitting a brick wall?
NC: I think the first thing you need to do is to gather the biographical information you need about the first person you are looking for, a grandparent, say. Use their birth, marriage and death records to start building your family tree. You need to record the simple stuff first to give you a starting structure. From there you can work backwards with the details of their parents.
It can be incredibly frustrating to hit a brick wall and not to be able to progress any further. If the online records can’t help then perhaps local history societies might be able to shed some light. It’s always worth asking in case anyone locally has researched your family in a different context.
HH: Being passionate about history from a young age, you loved to watch costume dramas with your grandmother. What is your favourite costume drama of all time, and why?
NC: That’s a very tough choice indeed, but I think it has to be Poldark. It was one of the ones I watched as a child with my grandmother and so it has a special place in my heart for that reason alone. Then there was the wild, rugged Cornish setting and the impossibly romantic story. Plus there was Ross Poldark himself of course. What a hero! I had the pleasure of meeting Robin Ellis, who played Ross, once when I was still very young. I was completely star struck!
Poldark. Nicola’s favourite!
NC: There are so many things that I love about Ashdown. For a start it looks like a fairytale house! It’s stunningly pretty and stands in the most amazing location in the middle of a medieval hunting ground. Then there is the history; I love that it was built by William Craven, one of the most dashing and loyal cavaliers of all, whose story is now practically lost from history. It fascinates me that whilst some people remain famous long after their time, others disappear from sight. Part of our work at Ashdown is to keep the story of William Craven and his achievements alive. I don’t think I will ever get tired of researching the history of Ashdown House. There are too many intriguing mysteries associated with it!
The stunning Ashdown House, where Nicola works.
HH: Since the publication of your first Regency romance (by Harlequin Mills & Boon in 1998), you have won bestseller status. What advice would you give to budding authors?
NC: Well it took me 12 years to achieve publication so my first piece of advice is be persistent and believe in yourself. Write the best book you can and don’t write something just because it is popular. By the time you can see the bandwagon it’s already rolled. Write something you feel passionately about on a subject that inspires you (click here to purchase Nicola’s books).
HH: What are the main influences behind your writing, and do you think you will ever write a completely different genre?
NC: The first main influence on my writing is my love of history. I love the research element of my work. Reading and writing about history inspires me. There are also a number of authors who were very influential on me as I was growing up. In particular I think authors like Mary Stewart and Daphne Du Maurier taught me how powerfully words can be used to create a wonderfully vivid atmosphere.
I’m not sure if I will ever write a completely different genre because history in some shape or form is what I enjoy writing about. However I do have ideas for both historical fiction and non-fiction books and also for a book with several different interwoven historical strands. But I will always love writing Regencies!
HH: Your dissertation on ‘Heroes and Hero Myths’ earnt you a distinction. Who is your historical heroine/hero and why?
NC: I’m pretty profligate in my affections when it comes to historical heroes and heroines and have several! My chief historical heroine is Anne Boleyn. Not very original, I know! As a child I read through the set of golden books about the wives of Henry VIII and Anne’s story transfixed me. She was my very first heroine. She was witty and clever and she took power for herself at a time when it was more usual for women to be passive. I think that the injustice of her downfall also makes me fierce in her defence. I hate injustice in any form and detest the way that Anne was framed for crimes I’m certain she did not commit. It’s the same passion for justice that makes King Richard III my foremost historical hero.
HH: And finally…you are marooned on a desert island. Which three historical figures would you most like to be marooned with and why?
NC: I think you would need people who are resourceful as well as interesting so I would choose Horatio Nelson, Florence Nightingale and Prince Rupert of the Rhine.