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Five Minutes With: Nicola Cornick, Chairman, The Romantic Novelists’ Association

Romantic fiction is a means to explore emotional truth through storytelling. Nicola Cornick explains the poetic license that romance provides in enabling conversations around social conventions, history and issues in relationships. We also discuss the significance of her historical novel, The Woman In The Lake, in the context of female empowerment and #MeToo.


The Woman In The Lake tells the story of two women who are determined to prevail despite the danger they face in their relationships. Image source: © Nicola Cornick / HarperCollins

You use romance as the poetic license to explain issues in society otherwise quite awkward to discuss openly. What are the possibilities that romance provides in your storytelling?

Romantic fiction is a means to explore emotional truth through storytelling. It’s a very broad genre and within that can encompass all sorts of novels from the entertaining and fun to those that tackle darker themes and issues across a huge range of relationships. Sometimes people can shy away from discussing relationships openly so it’s a way to access these more difficult emotional truths and to make them relatable.

And what are the constraints?

I’m not sure that there are any real constraints. Romantic fiction offers a happy or hopeful ending so that could be seen as a convention but within that there is huge scope for all sorts of ideas and discussion.

“The historical research is one of the best parts of the writing process… I never know what I am going to discover next.”

Whilst romance gives room for fiction to explore new topics, history provides a safe analogy for writers to shelter behind. But history requires intensive research. ‘Common knowledge’ or accepted accounts in history are not easy to bend around a fiction. How do you summon the energy and motivation to write a historical romance novel?

For me the historical research is one of the best parts of the writing process. As a trained historian I strive to make my books historically accurate but I also find so much inspiration in research that that in itself is motivating. I never know what I am going to discover next or what will spark the next book idea. That’s immensely exciting.

The Woman In The Lake. What can we, modern women yearning for empowerment in the age of #MeToo, read from your story?

A recent review of The Woman in the Lake on Stephanie’s Novel Fiction site summed this up beautifully, I thought:

“The Woman in the Lake… is a story about three women who against the odds and against the darkness that threatens to defeat them must find strength, empowerment and a way to prevail.” That is exactly what I set out to explore in my historical novels and I was so thrilled that the reviewer understood that. I think it’s very relatable theme for modern women too.

(Click here to read more on the review)

The Woman In The Lake is rated four stars by Stephanie’s Novel Fiction. The book will be released on 29 February 2019. Read the review.

You are going to be speaking at London Book & Screen Week in March 2019. Is that a sign that we will see more romance making it to the screen, like in the 70s and 80s (I am thinking of Arthur Laurents’ The Way We Were)?

I hope so! I’ll be discussing the enduring appeal of romantic comedy at London Book and Screen Week. It’s a fascinating topic. I’d love to see more romance of all different sorts on screen.

Can love save the world?


What book did you last read?

Mr Doubler Begins Again by Seni Glaister. It’s a beautiful, poignant study of kindness and overcoming isolation.

E-book, PDF or print?

Print. It’s still my favourite!

The Woman In The Lake is available in paperback and e-book on Amazon. Nicola Cornick will be speaking about the romance genre at London Books & Screen Week, in conjunction with London Book Fair 2019. Image source: © Nicola Cornick

About Nicola Cornick

 About the Romantic Novelists’ Association

London Book & Screen Week 2019