Michelle Willingham

Regencies aren’t the only way Historical Romance can be Risky, which is why we invited Michelle Willingham to be our guest today! Michelle took a risk and set her books in Medieval Ireland! And her first book, HER IRISH WARRIOR, was scooped up by Harlequin Historical and released this past May.

Michelle graduated summa cum laude from the University of Notre Dame and earned a graduate degree in middle-school education. Michelle actually enjoys teaching hormonally charged sixth graders who ask her fascinating questions such as, “Your hair looks weird. Did you dye it?”

Critical acclaim for Michelle’s debut book and first book in the MacEgan Brothers series!

“…In romantic fiction, a happy ending is expected, and it’s delivered in this excellent, plot-driven, page-turner of a book.”
-4 Stars, Romantic Times Magazine

“Historical romance at its best, Her Irish Warrior will please any reader who is lucky enough to purchase it.”
-5 Stars, Cataromance

1) First things first–tell us about your new book!

THE WARRIOR’S TOUCH is the second book in the MacEgan Brothers series. It’s the story of an Irish warrior, left for dead, who is healed by a woman from his past. The story involves both physical healing, because Connor’s hands are crushed, and emotional healing from a broken relationship. The heroine Aileen has to feed, dress, and bathe the hero, which made for some very sexy scenes! It was inspired by the Beltane ritual described in the book THE MISTS OF AVALON by Marion Zimmer Bradley. Ireland has such rich, evocative traditions, that I thought it would be wonderful to play upon the story of a man and a woman who become lovers on a mystical night of secrets. The hero Connor MacEgan does not know the identity of the heroine when they first share that night together…and it has quite a few consequences for them, years later when the story opens.

2) You’ve created a unique niche for yourself with the Irish medieval settings. What was your inspiration? What is it about the time and setting that makes you set your books in it?

I first visited Ireland in the summer of 1993 and felt an instant connection with the country. After visiting countless castles and ruins, I couldn’t understand why I had not seen many romances set in medieval Ireland. Scottish medievals are always popular, so I thought I would try to build my own world with Irish medievals. And there’s something very appealing about sexy, Celtic men who would lay down their lives for the women they love. I visited the country again in the summer of 2006, one month before I sold my first book in the MacEgan Brothers series, HER IRISH WARRIOR. By visiting12th century castles and traipsing around the countryside with an archaeologist who showed me ringfort ruins, I was able to add more texture and detail into the books.

3) What are some of your favorite research sources? Have you discovered anything unexpected in your travels and reading?

My “bible” was a two-volume set called A SOCIAL HISTORY OF ANCIENT IRELAND by P.W. Joyce. It provided a lot of the daily life information that I needed. I’m also a member of a listserve called Early Medieval Ireland, through yahoogroups. They are comprised of Irish scholars, authors, researchers, and archaeologists. It was through this group that I met an archaeologist who was willing to take me around to some of the sites when I visited Ireland. As for anything “unexpected,” I was surprised at how much freedom native-born Irish women had in the medieval age. They could marry and divorce at will, keeping any possessions they brought into the marriage. The most surprising fact was that the Catholic church was not yet under Vatican control in the 12th century which meant priests could marry and have children!

4) Tell us what’s “risky” or different from the norm about this book! (You might have noticed we’re all about “riskiness” here, LOL)

I think what makes THE WARRIOR’S TOUCH unique is that it’s a medieval book that doesn’t take place in a castle. It’s an intimate story of a warrior and a healer, and most of it is set in the privacy of her home within the ringfort. Because of his injuries, the hero must rely completely on the heroine in the beginning of the story. He’s incredibly frustrated at having his warrior skills taken away, and while he’s trying to train and rebuild his former strengths, they fall in love.

5) Tell us what’s next for you! Any booksignings or appearances coming up?

I am doing a series of booksignings in the Tidewater, Virginia area. The first is Sunday, September 2nd from 1:00-3:00 at the Newport News Borders. Then I’ll be joining a group signing in Williamsburg at the College of William and Mary Bookstore on September 15, also from 1:00-3:00. The last signing is September 29th from 2:00-4:00 at the Newport News, VA Barnes and Noble. After that, I’ll likely collapse into a heap!

In addition, the third book in the MacEgan Brothers series, HER WARRIOR KING, is the story of Connor’s brother Patrick and that will be released in January 2008. Right now, I’m working on another Irish medieval for Harlequin Mills and Boon, tentatively titled SLAVE TO HER DESIRES. It’s about a warrior sold into slavery who earns back his freedom through woodcarving.

Also, I’d like to give away a signed copy of THE WARRIOR’S TOUCH to one lucky reader. All you have to do to enter is post a comment below and tell me what you enjoy most in a historical romance! I’ll draw a name tomorrow and notify the winner via e-mail. Thanks so much for having me and feel free to drop by my website: www.michellewillingham.com!

(Michelle joined Amanda and Diane in Colonial Williamsburg this August for dinner at the historic King’s Arms Tavern)

About diane

Diane Gaston is the RITA award-winning author of Historical Romance for Harlequin Historical and Mills and Boon, with books that feature the darker side of the Regency. Formerly a mental health social worker, she is happiest now when deep in the psyches of soldiers, rakes and women who don’t always act like ladies.
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