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)
Interesting blog, it makes the waiting for your books to come out in the UK all the harder. Soon, soon, I know…
Good luck with the signings,
So glad to *see* you again! I was so sorry to miss you in Williamsburg.
I picked up Warrior’s Touch last night–can’t wait to get into it! I love that it was partly inspired by Mists of Avalon. Such a great book.
Hope you are feeling well!
The book sounds great. It’s wonderful that you could travel to Ireland and get a good feel for the country. My favorite thing about historicals is the time period is so romantic.
Great blog. I am so jealous. You got to go to Ireland and I didn’t. Good luck with the book signing and I can’t wait to read The Warrior’s Touch.
Official good morning to you, Michelle! We are so happy to have you with us!
Carol–Soon enough the books will hit the UK! It will be December for Her Irish Warrior and May 2008 for The Warrior’s Touch. I hope they keep the same covers, but you never know.
Hi Deb! Hope you like the book. 🙂 Thanks for the good wishes–I’m feeling great as I enter third trimester.
Anonymous, I think you can get away with a little more in historicals, because the time periods are so diverse. I love them.
Hi Kimberly! Thanks for the good wishes on the book signing. I’ll be back this evening to respond to more comments. And hope that you get a chance to visit Ireland someday. It’s a gorgeous country.
Hi Diane! Thanks for hosting me!
Great interview!! Your books sound awsome and I’m really curious for Slave to her desires.
Have fun at the booksigning in Newport! 😀
Hi Michelle 🙂
There are so many things I like about historicals, but being transported to a different time and place tops the list.
Wow Ireland! How fun.
I find that histoticlas are true romance books. They almost always have a wonderful happily ever after, and in the end that is what I want out of the romance that I read.
Informative blog which gave me insight into your writing. Congratulations on this great novel. I love historicals for their history and the vivid descriptionsof the locale which I find fascinating.
Historicals are my favorite. I too like the idea of going to another time and place. In that way you can also think differently – emotionally. You don’t have to be locked into thinking with a modern mindset lol.
Welcome, Michelle! My very first romance book was medieval and that’s what got me hooked. I scoured the shelves for any book in that genre. I still love them today. Ireland is a place I would love to visit some day.
I think you have a winner with the cover on The Warrior’s Touch. He’s calling out to me. lol
Hi Michelle glad to see you here today! I have the first book in the series and I’m looking forward to the rest. I like reading Historical romances because they take me away to different places and to people who I wouldn’t normally be able to see. Good luck on the release.
Welcome to RR, Michelle! It’s so nice of you to take time for start-of-schoolyear craziness to visit with us! 🙂
Stephanie–thanks! I just got back from the booksigning. I think it went pretty well. 🙂
Bonnie and Chantal–what I love is that I can choose the time and place that fits my mood.
KimW–I absolutely love the cover for Connor’s book. He has a great back, don’t you think?
Hi to Anne, Catslady, and Tetewa! Thanks so much for stopping by today. What are some of your favorite time periods?
Ammanda–thanks for having me!
If anyone has questions they want to ask, fire away! 🙂
The thing I like most about reading historicals is the coming together & just the time period. Your books sound great.
Hi, Michelle! I loved hearing about your book and how you put your real-life travels together with your writing. I always go to a historical when I need to escape the ordinary and your books sound like ones to have around.
Didn’t we meet on H/S Subcare? I haven’t been there for a while but I think we were both waiting/gathering good news about the same time. And good luck with your school year — 4-6th graders were my first venture with teaching and I enjoyed the years with them. I also taught kindergarten, a change in height and content taught but many similarities.
This is my second school year not to be in a classroom and it’s very strange — I’m learning to adjust, though. (I decided to focus more on my writing.)
Hi Michelle, I read your first book and now am anxious to read this latest. I’m a big fan of historicals, especially medievals, going back to a time much different than ours, and I also like those involving druids and magic. Nice to see one set in Ireland, not many as you say. I hope we see more medievals again next year, thy are my favorites.
Will be watching your site for more on that new book you’re working on.
I love historicals ~ they are some of my favorite books to read. I like reading about the different time periods.
Hi to StacyS,
Tessa–yes, we met on Subcare. What are you working on now?
Pam–I’m so glad you enjoyed my first book! Hope you like the others as well. 🙂
The winner of the blog drawing is comment #12! Kim W–e-mail me your mailing address (michelle At michellewillingham.com) and I’ll send you the signed book. Congratulations, and thanks to all who participated! I had a great time…wish I could have spent a little more time with you. 🙂
Congrats Kim W! 🙂
Hey Michelle, hope you had a good book signing yesterday. I love historicals, especially all of the rich details that authors research to make the background and storyline so much better. And that even though they are set before modern times, the women in the books can be just as fierce as the men when it comes to fighting for what they love and believe in. Hope everyone has a great day today.
Hi, Michelle! I may miss you but wanted to give you a quick answer. Just sent in my second Harlequin Everlasting Love manuscript, due out in 2008. My first was out in May of this year. Subcare was a great inspiration — need to get back there.
Happy Writing and Reading!
Michelle, I couldn’t make it here in time, but congratulations to you on your new release!!