Award-winning romance novelist India Grey...

Growing up as the only girl in a family with 3 handsome and competitive brothers, I learnt a thing or two about alpha males at a very young age. I also developed an early passion for escapist reading, which I suspect wasn't entirely coincidental.

At the age of around 13 I was wandering along the street in my verysmall home town when I saw a poster advertising the film Mutiny on the Bounty, and in a sudden flash of insight realised I'd been born into the wrong century.

Passion, danger, and men in tight breeches and billowing white shirts were disappointingly thin on the ground in late twentieth-century Cheshire. However, having suddenly identified what it was I wanted out of life, and being pragmatic enough (just about) to grasp the fact that time-travel wasn't an option, I did the next best thing and sent off to Harlequin Mills & Boon for their writers' guidelines so I could create my own, more romantic versions of reality.

My first book was written in a blue exercise book and featured a Scottish rugby playing hero and a heroine with violet eyes, just like Elizabeth Taylor. Having carefully studied the Mills & Boon guidelines I remember planning the plot meticulously and writing a synopsis that was in itself pretty much novel length, but I don't think the book ever made it beyond the first chapter.

Perhaps mercifully my romance-writing aspirations were set aside by academic demands at that point, and I later found myself at Manchester University studying English Language and Literature. On the very last night of my three years there I met and fell instantly in love with a man who fulfilled a spooky number of my romantic fantasies (though admittedly not the ones about tight breeches and billowing shirts).

Rushing headlong into marriage and babies, I kind of neglected to apply myself to a career, instead day-dreaming my way through a series of part time jobs (all of which I was notably awful at) which fitted in around the rigors of life with three small daughters, one husband, and a shifting population of cats, rabbits, guinea pigs and goldfish. In the midst of all this I would occasionally grab a moment to write odd lines of dialogue or ideas for novels on the back of a shopping list, but it wasn't until I had the astonishing good fortune to meet bestselling Mills & Boon author Penny Jordan that all my long-neglected dreams resurfaced and I considered actually writing something with a beginning, middle and end, and submitting it, which I finally did in April 2005.

The Italian's Defiant Mistress was bought by Mills & Boon in September 2006, fulfilling an ambition that had been with me for almost a lifetime. Which should, technically, leave me feeling restless and edgy and searching for the next challenge....

But funnily enough, it doesn't because I still can't believe my luck!