I never wanted to be a writer. My earliest fantasies were about being a nurse (courtesy Lucilla Andrews) or living on a vast outback cattle station with a man who wore a hat and dusty boots (fantasy copyright Lucy Walker). The nurse fantasy was crushed early on - everyone told me I'd be a terrible nurse because I'd argue with the doctors - but I held on to the dream of Australia, and eventually I did go and work as a cook on a cattle station in north-west Queensland, an experience that provided the inspiration for a number of outback romances from Woman at Willagong Creek to Outback Boss, City Bride.
I was born in Ghana, and my first memories are of Africa. Before I was six I had been to Tanganyika and South Africa, followed by Papua New Guinea and later Oman, where I acquired an enduring love of deserts, not to mention a very bad case of itchy feet. In my gap year I washed dishes and worked on a sheep station in New Zealand before coming home overland from Kathmandu via India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and Turkey.
After graduating from the University of Edinburgh with a degree in French, I did a secretarial course, which was the most boring thing I have ever done and easily the most useful. I had no idea of a career, and writing never crossed my mind. All I wanted to do was to travel, and I embarked on a series of lowly, temporary or short-term jobs that kept my options ever open: production assistant at the Open Air Theatre in Regent's Park, research assistant at Egon Ronay, waitress, TEFL teacher in Jakarta, outback cook, secretary, interpreter on an expedition in Cameroon with Operation Raleigh, foreign newsdesk secretary at The Observer …
In between jobs, I've been to the Sahara in Algeria, hiked down the Grand Canyon in Arizona, crossed the Simpson Desert and been to Jordan and Oman's Musandam Peninsula. Then there have been trips to Egypt, Kenya, France, Belize, Turkey, Sri Lanka, Spain, Italy, Greece … Many of these countries have featured as settings in my books in one way or another.
A book can change your life. One day I read Sharon Penman's The Sunne in Splendour, and I thought: 'I know, I'll do a Ph.D. in medieval history.' Mad. But once I'd decided I wanted to go back to university, I had to find a way of funding myself.
Like everyone else, I'd heard about Mills & Boon. Like everyone else, I assumed they were easy to write. I'd always been good at writing. Hadn't I knocked out poems on the school bus? Hadn't my essay about our cat, Sooty, been read out on BBC radio for schools? I was practically a writer already. Ergo, I would knock out a book, M&B would hand me a fat cheque, and I would be able to pay my university fees. Easy.
Er, not so easy, as it turned out. I had three rejections before A Sweeter Prejudice was accepted just before Christmas 1989. I wrote four more books before rashly selling my flat in London and moving to York to do that Ph.D. I did no research at all about my prospects. I would absolutely not recommend this approach to anyone starting out as a writer, but on the other hand, if I had known how uncertain the whole business is, I would probably have given up before I'd even started.
I knew nobody in York. I bought the first house I saw, and I live here still, with the city walls and the Minster at the end of the street. For the next few years I divided my time between writing romance and researching how people in medieval and early modern York disposed of their rubbish (it's more interesting than it sounds, honest). I finally completed my Ph.D. in 2004.
More recently I have started writing mainstream 'time slip' novels which combine my research with everything I had learnt about writing over the years. Time's Echo is to be published by Pan Macmillan in 2012. I now juggle a number of different identities (romance writer, author, editor, tutor, historian), which makes for an interesting life at times. You can find out more about my other work at www.pamelahartshorne.com.
Now I spend most of my time in York, where I live with a cat called Douglas and the uncertainties of a long-distance relationship that is so on-and-off-and-on-again that I never know whether to mention it or not … I'm often asked how I can write romance when I've never been married (a bizarre question, I know), but trust me, I know a lot about relationship problems and can sympathise fully with my heroines in their search for a happy ending!
Although I started writing for money, the more I write, the more interested I am in how romance works and why. One of the things I like most about being a romance writer is making connections wit readers around the world. Over the years I have developed a profound respect for the romance genre, and am proud to be part of the romance writing and reading community. It's true, I still yearn sometimes for those wide horizons, and I head for them whenever I can, but it's my books that do the real travelling now, and they have gone further than I ever could.