I’m delighted to welcome Harlequin Historical Author VIRGINIA HEATH to Rakes and Rascals today for an exclusive interview.
Thank you for inviting me. I’ve been reading this blog for years, seeing all those big names in historical romance and being awed by them, so being asked to be on it is very exciting. So much so I might need to lie down…
Could you tell us where you were born and what it was like growing up there?
I was born just outside of London in a place called Hayes. I suppose it’s biggest claim to fame is it is right next to Heathrow Airport, so I grew up directly under one of the busiest flight paths in the world. Every morning at 11am, the ground would vibrate as Concorde took off. I know this was a great source of consternation for the locals, but I used to imagine it was an earthquake or a space ship coming to land. Even then I had a vivid imagination. Hayes was a nice place to grow up. Just around the corner from me was a quiet road called Pump Lane with the smoothest pavement you’ve ever seen. I have happy memories of roller-skating up and down that road. I probably wasted a quarter of my childhood doing that while making up stories in my head. It’s funny what you remember.
How would you describe yourself – temperamental or easy-going?
Most of the time, I’m very easy going. I have a very long fuse and years of teaching teenagers has made it even longer. But when my temper goes, it goes!
When it comes to food do you like sweet or savoury or both?
When I was younger, I used to have an enormous sweet tooth but as I’ve got older I prefer savoury. I’m a spice fiend. Curry, chillies, anything with a bit of a kick and I’m in food Heaven. I’ve never grown out of my love of cake though. Can’t beat a nice slice of cake and a cup of tea.
What is your most treasured possession?
That’s a really difficult question because the older I’ve got, the more I see possessions as simply stuff because people and memories matter more. However, I have always been a bit of a history nerd, and love nothing more than touching things from the past. Simple stuff, like coins or broaches, things people used in their day to day lives. I have a Queen Elizabeth penny, a roman broach, a Civil War musket ball- nothing of huge monetary value but things which evoke a sense of the past and get me wondering about the people who used them. I suppose my most treasured piece of the past is my mammoth’s tooth. It’s only half of a back molar, but the fact it once lived inside the mouth of an animal roaming Britain 20,000 years ago makes it really special. I often ponder that mammoth and the world he lived in.
If you could afford a second home anywhere in the world where would you choose and why?
The Turks and Caicos Islands in the Caribbean. I love the Caribbean in general, but Turks and Caicos are the most beautiful, so green and unspoiled, and Grace Bay is far and away the best beach in the world. The sand is like golden talcum powder and the sea is so clear you can see everything. My husband and I got married there, and he lost his wedding ring in the water. We hunted around for half an hour searching for it frantically then saw it glinting in the sun on the sea bed ten feet below. Fortunately, my daughter swims like a dolphin and was able to dive down and fetch it. I can definitely see myself staring out onto that beautiful beach while tapping away on my keyboard.
Finally, what has been your most embarrassing moment?
Oh dear, so many I’m not sure which to choose. However, this one still makes me cringe a quarter of a century on so…
In my early twenties I used to work for the BBC at the iconic Television Centre in London. It was a maze of a building, shaped like a donut, and I was forever getting lost. It was also a place where you regularly saw very famous celebrities, and it was not the done thing to acknowledge they were famous or approach them. As BBC staff, we were expected to maintain our professionalism at all times, and as I’m not usually a fan girl type, I found this remarkably easy. One day I had just done a huge pile of photocopying and was carrying it back to my office when Mel Gibson suddenly appeared around the corner. It was at the time of the Lethal Weapon films when he was a HUGE star and I was hopelessly in love with him. I was so surprised I squeaked then dropped all the paper all over the floor and immediately blushed to the roots of my hair at having been so stupidly and obviously overwhelmed.
I tried to style it out, by pretending I hadn’t seen him, being irritated at my own clumsiness, and went about gathering them up, but he came up alongside me and said, “Let me help you with that.” Of course, I said no, resolutely stared at the papers and wished the floor would open up, but Mel bent down and helped me anyway. And boy did he smell good. Being so close to the man of my dreams made me a bit wobbly- and I was definitely having a bit of a swoon although desperately trying to appear unaffected.
After the last piece of paper was back in my arms, I had to look at him to say thank you and he was grinning smugly from ear to ear. He knew I’d dropped them because of him. And he winked at me! I had no words. Nothing. So I just scurried away like an idiot with my face on fire. I still feel queasy at the complete and utter humiliation.
Thank you for taking time out to be here today and share these interesting facts about yourself, Virginia.
It was a pleasure, aside from recalling my Mortifying Mel Moment. I’m sat here cringing now…
If you would like to find out more about Virginia and her books, here are the links: