This week, award winning historical romance novelist, Melinda Hammond shares her Inheritance Books.
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t making up stories, and had my first historical romantic adventures published in the 1980s by Robert Hale, in 2008 I began writing as Sarah Mallory for Harlequin Mills & Boon and now have over 20 titles published, most of them Georgian or Regency romances. I live in an old farmhouse on the Pennines, quite close to Bronte country and I keep hoping that some of their brilliance will rub off on me!
I used to live in West Yorkshire and visited the Bronte parsonage every time we had guests from overseas! It’s a very inspiring space.
Which book have you inherited from the generation above you?
I grew up in a working class household in the centre of Bristol. Money was tight but my father’s prize possession was his bookcase. It was filled with an assortment of books from the Bible to a complete set of Dickens. The books I loved most were the adventure books – The Count of Monte Cristo, Captain Blood, Tarzan, Biggles – I loved them all. When my parents died the books were shared out amongst the four of us, but most of the adventures books came to me!
When Rhoda asked me to nominate a special book that I had inherited, I went back to the bookshelf to see which one had inspired me most and the truth is, they all did, but there is one that is quite special, and Rhoda, I hope you don’t think I am cheating but I have decided to nominate a compendium. It is called The Favourite Wonder Book, and is full of stories and poems by such great authors as P G Wodehouse, A A Milne, Eleanor Farjeon, E Nesbit, Alexander Dumas, Oscar Wilde, Leo Tolstoy and many, many more. The date in this book is 1938 and my father bought it long before I was even a twinkle in his eye! I think it must have been bought for the eldest of my three brothers, who was born around then. It is quite a heavy volume with a beautiful blue cover of embossed leather and I always thought it very special. In those between-the-war days when this books was published there was no TV to speak of and very few books had illustrations – this one has over 300, but tellingly only 5 of them are in colour.
I loved this book, my parents used to read it to me, and when I was old enough I was allowed to take it carefully from the bookcase and to dip into it myself. This book has everything – stories of the wild west, re-told Greek myths, fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm and Hans Anderson, poems by Wordsworth, Shelley, Christina Rossetti and Longfellow, a stirring yarn called “An Alligator Hunt” by R M Ballantyne and even a couple of children’s stories by Charles Dickens! I read it to my own children when they were young and I still go back to it sometimes: whether I am in the mood for fantasy, romance, adventure or a thought-provoking poem I can still find something here to entertain me.
I love it because it is full of good writing – it doesn’t matter that much of it was written more than a century ago, the authors were all masters of their craft, and although the stories are aimed at youngsters they are none the worse for that. Good stories, well told, are ageless and it is what I aim for in my own writing.
I guess it is cheating a bit, but I’ll let you off! Which book will you leave to the generations below you and why?
There are so many – the classics that I grew up with, Georgette Heyer, who was my inspiration to write historicals and the Harry Potter books which I believe has encouraged a whole new generation of readers. There are also so many good new writers today that choosing just one is well night impossible, but maybe I will plump for my favourite Jane Austen novel. I discovered Austen when I was a teenager and had soon devoured every one of her books. I loved the fun and energy of Pride and Prejudice, the contrasting characters of Marianne and Elinor in Sense and Sensibility, but it is Persuasion that is my all-time favourite. It has a more mature, thoughtful mood about it, and I find Anne Elliott’s quiet eloquence quite heart-breaking. Quite simply it is a good story, well told.
Thank you so much for sharing your Inherited Books with me, Melinda. It was lovely to see you. Do come visit again soon!Melinda’s latest book Beneath the Major’s Scars (written as Sarah Mallory) is published by Mills and Boon and will be on sale in December. You can find out more about Melinda on her website (www.melindahammond.com), on Twitter (@SarahMRomance) or on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/melinda.hammond.77)