Exploring Love and London Susan Mac Nicol

Behind the Scenes with the Prolific Romance Author

Susan Mac Nicol discusses her inspiration for the Men of London series, the influence of Benedict Cumberbatch on her writing, and her experiences in both novel and scriptwriting.

Susan Mac Nicol is a name that romance readers hold dear, known for her ability to weave steamy, sexy, and fun contemporary romance stories. With a knack for suspenseful, gritty, and dark themes, her work remains consistently entertaining. Beyond her role as a prolific author, Susan is the Editor in Chief at Divine Magazine, an online entertainment e-zine, and holds memberships with both The Society of Authors and the Authors Guild in the US. Her talents extend into screenwriting, where she has earned accolades for scripts based on her own published works.

In our exclusive interview, Susan delves into the inspiration behind her beloved Men of London series, which brings the vibrant city of London to life through diverse and captivating stories. She shares her journey of transforming admiration for Benedict Cumberbatch into the character Bennett Saville in Cassandra by Starlight, offering insight into the challenges and triumphs of adapting a story from screenplay to novel. Furthermore, Susan opens up about exploring the quirky and intriguing world of London’s fetish community in Welcome to Fetish Alley, ensuring authenticity and sensitivity in her depiction of this unique subculture.

We also discuss how her award-winning scriptwriting experience influences her novel writing, especially in terms of dialogue, pacing, and visual storytelling. Susan’s versatility spans across genres, blending contemporary romance with elements of romantasy, suspense, and emotional depth. She reflects on balancing these diverse elements to create stories that resonate deeply with readers.

Finally, Susan’s love for theatre, live music concerts, and horror films serves as a wellspring of inspiration for her storytelling and creative process. From the grandeur of Phantom of the Opera to the psychological thrill of Stephen King’s The Stand, her wide-ranging interests continually fuel her creative spirit. 

Join us as Susan Mac Nicol takes us on a journey through her literary and personal adventures, offering a glimpse into the passions and experiences that shape her writing.

Your Men of London series features diverse and captivating stories set in the vibrant landscape of London. What inspired you to create this series, and how do you approach crafting the unique tales for each instalment?

I’m a lover of London and I thought it would be wonderful to create stories based around London and introduce the readers to the vibrant city I love. It has so much to offer, and by seeing the city through the eyes of these different men as they look for love and a relationship, I believed it would create a world for people to escape into, especially as my reading audience tends to be people in the US. I wanted them to go on an adventure with me to see this part of the world. I’ve been to every place I use in the book, including – ahem – Hampstead Heath where I believe Mr Cumberbatch swims in the heath ponds. No ulterior motive there then… 🙂

Cassandra by Starlight was inspired by your admiration for Benedict Cumberbatch. How did your fascination with him influence the creation of the character Bennett Saville, and what challenges did you encounter in adapting the story from screenplay to novel?

Oh there’s such a story behind the creation of this novel. I am obsessed with the man to the point that my readers and friends send me anything they find about him, knowing I’ll love it no matter what. I was so keen on him that I decided I wanted one of my own. The only way to do this was to write a novel where he, (aka Bennett Saville) featured in his own story. I modelled Cassandra on me (being a woman ten years older) and then I could express my fantasies and desires in the story using Cassie as an unwitting alter ego. It was wonderful. When the opportunity came to write a pilot episode for a film festival, I did so and won the award. It was the first time I’ve ever done any screen writing and it was a learning curve. As a novelist I tend to be rather wordy, so condensing my words into short, pithy screen writing proved much a challenge. I was told that if I could get my screenplay green lighted, Benedict’s casting agent (who I was in touch with at the time) would see if the divine Mr Cumberbatch fancied the role, because he was wanting to do something romantic! I was even on a local radio station with another Cumberbatch loving presenter, while we discussed everything Benedict.

Welcome to Fetish Alley introduces readers to the quirky and intriguing world of London’s fetish community. What drew you to explore this setting, and how did you ensure authenticity and sensitivity in depicting this subculture in your writing?

I am very fortunate to have met many wonderful people in my time writing gay romance, or as we call it, Male/Male romance. My connections with some of these individuals allowed me to do the research (as some of them are in the BDSM and fetish scene)  and find the best ways to portray the characters to their very best. This series is less about the Fetish scene and more about the writing of detective stories and romance set in a backdrop of a very special fetish club and with some rather unique appetites. It was huge fun learning about this world and I do hope I represented it with respect and sensitivity. One of my books, Saving Alexander, which features BDSM,  is actually recommended by a therapist in the US as a book to read and understand the torment of a traumatic past and abuse.

As an award-winning scriptwriter, how does your experience in scriptwriting inform your approach to writing novels, particularly in terms of dialogue, pacing, and visual storytelling?

My editor has a way of bringing me down to earth when she rings me up and tells me, “Sue, you aren’t being paid by the word for your books, so less wordy, more show and tell, please.” Script writing gives you this discipline to say something that in a novel may be a scene, but yet in a screenplay is merely a sentence. Of course, the positive side is you have the film director’s and the actors vision of how the scene will play out, so this alleviate the writer from too much exposition and description. Dialogue is also one of my favourite things to write, so script writing allows me to release that energy I have for my characters to verbally communicate.

Your writing spans genres from contemporary romance to romantasy, with elements of suspense, grit, and darkness woven throughout. How do you balance these diverse elements to create stories that are both entertaining and emotionally resonant for readers?

I’m a huge reader and I read a variety of genres, from MM romances, to Urban fantasy, to dystopian novels and anything else that takes my fancy. The diversity I see in these stories brings me a solid grounding in the genre to develop the knowledge to create my own worlds and characters with a different twist. I’m a BIG believer in research for my next series called Monarchs of Magic, so I went to Scotland to scope out the valley the book is set in, and spoke to some wonderful Highland locals about their experiences. I’m also very much into realism, and love to factor in real life emotions and experiences into my books. I think this is what makes my stories resonate because people can identify with the experiences and the characters.

In addition to writing, you’re also a fan of theatre, live music concerts, and horror films. How do these interests influence your storytelling and creative process, and do you draw inspiration from specific experiences or moments in these activities?

The best show I ever saw in London was Phantom of the Opera – three times. The sheer magnificence of the music, the captivating lyrics, and the incredible storytelling made me want to create something similar. I may not have done an Andrew Lloyd Webber, but I do think I’ve created worlds and people within them that people love to read about and identify with. I’m a very visual person, so watching live acts on stage and theatre really stimulates my creative spirit and the muse becomes animated and tells me to get the hell to work. As for horror books, my favourite writer is Stephen King and his novel The Stand was the benchmark against which I compared every horror novel I read thereafter.  I adore horror films, but not slasher movies, only the real psychological terror invoking productions that make you sit on the end of your seat, and which have a chilling finale.

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