Wednesday, 22 September 2021

Living vicariously

 

One of the jibes thrown at romance readers by those who don’t approve of the habit – and sadly there are plenty of them around – is that books that promise a Happy Ever After are unrealistic – that readers are being encouraged to have impossible expectations, viewing the world though rose coloured glasses. Everything – including love – has to be serious and damned hard work.

My answer to that is why? Romance readers are just as aware that they are reading fiction as readers who enjoy horror or the hunt for a serial killer - but somehow those genres are considered more respectable. Murder trumps love any day. Just because a romance might be an idealised view of the world why can’t it be considered an aspirational example of hope and optimism – even if real life is often a triumph of hope over experience?

I never make any secret of the fact that I read for escapism and I write to offer that to others too. I can get plenty of real life off the ten o’clock news, I expect a book I read for pleasure to offer me something else.  Part of that escapism is the chance to live vicariously. The Riviera series – of which A Villa in Portofino is the latest - is about glamour and luxury as well as love and the scary suspense stuff.  I’m never going to be a millionaire, or married to one, never going to own a yacht or a villa in the South of France, my hotel stays are unlikely to be as luxurious as the ones I bestow on my characters, I don’t have designer clothes or jewellery or expensive art on my walls, but it’s great fun to imagine and indulge and doesn’t cost anything. It’s not just material goods; I can have sunshine, marvellous food, flowers and scent. It’s all part of the package. Writing the series gives me the chance to explore a lifestyle I’m never going to have in real life. I hope it give the reader the same opportunity. 


Tuesday, 21 September 2021

Publication day flowers

 Gorgeous. 




Publication day!!!

 At it's finally arrived. Publication day for the third in the Riviera series.


And there's a blog tour - catch up with me on these dates to find out more about the book.






Sunday, 19 September 2021

Wednesday, 15 September 2021

A Villa in Portofino - what's the connection to the war?

 

The plot of A Villa in Portofino begins in the Second World War – with a love story between a young Welsh girl and an Italian POW. It’s not a time slip or a saga, the war is just where it begins, an explanation for how my heroine Megan comes to inherit a fabulous if neglected villa and a massively overgrown garden in Italy. And if you could see my garden at the moment you’d have an idea where the ‘inspiration’ for that came from.

I wanted to explore the idea of family secrets and this was helped along by the numerous stories of ordinary men, and some women, who were only revealed to have done extraordinary things in the war after their death. The book does not have that kind of revelation in it, but I was able to use the dislocation of war to kick the whole thing off.

The other inciting inspiration was something I came across in my PhD studies. A tiny fact that I knew I had to use somehow. As the war progressed and more and more men were either called to the services, or to war work making armaments, labour for other things became scarce, not least in the Cardiff city graveyards. They even allowed women to become grave diggers – for the duration – which gives you an idea of the scale of the problem. The tiny thing I found was a report from the Cemetery Superintendent in October 1944 that he had secured the services of some Prisoners of War to work in the cemeteries for a week and was hoping to renew this arrangement. Like so many fragments, that was it – no further record of what the men were doing and whether the Superintendent got his wish, but the idea stayed with me. And of course it bloomed into a way for a good looking Italian boy to meet and fall in love with a young Welsh girl while she tended her aunt’s grave.

This is where the author’s imagination steps in. I don’t know if the POWs would have had the chance to fraternise like this, although relations between Italian prisoners and the local people seem on the whole to have been fairly good – this area of Wales had a previous history of migration, as witnessed by numerous ice-cream parlours. Eduardo would probably have been grave digging, not gardening as I have envisaged – although there were frequent complaints about the state of the grounds, so the gardening could have been true. I’m claiming artistic licence though – it might have been possible – and that was enough to give me the starting point of my story.

Megan does not find out the details of her great-great aunt’s elopement until quite late in the book, so you are getting a sneak preview.  And the love story between an Italian boy and a Welsh girl sets the scene for a brand new love story when Megan inherits and sets about restoring the villa and its garden.

 

Wednesday, 8 September 2021

Why Portofino?

 

Choosing a location for a new book is a strange and serious business. As my current series of escapist romantic suspense is the ‘Riviera’ series I do have some parameters to work on – although they can be stretched, as you will find when the current WIP hits the bookshelves.  But that is another story – literally. I have plenty of scope to choose from when sticking to the more orthodox interpretation, given that ‘Riviera’ can be French or Italian and that there are a number of spectacular locations to explore. I will admit Portofino was not high on the radar when I began playing with an idea for an abandoned villa, an overgrown garden and an unexpected inheritance. 

The place is gorgeous, no question. I say that on the basis of a brief visit off a cruise ship many years ago. The memory stayed with me – and yes, there is a reference in the book to a similar visit. This book has quite a lot of me in it. It would still not have occurred to me as a location, except that as part of an on-line festival that my publisher organised I did a fun twitter poll to let readers chose a possible location for the new book. I threw in Portofino on the basis of that memory and because I wanted a location on the Italian side of the border. I was confidently expecting Cannes or Monte Carlo to be the winner, but guess what?

At this point author sits down and thinks. The result – yes, why not? And I have to say I have greatly enjoyed it. Research visits were out of the question, but very strong memories and some really helpful video on YouTube made it come alive. I hope readers will enjoy it as much as I did.

Wednesday, 1 September 2021

Next!

 OK - the edits are done, unless the proofer comes back with something drastic. I hope not. I have a reasonably happy editor and a blank diary. Well - that's not quite true. I have a new manuscript that I want to get my teeth into, but I also have CHORES. Like dealing with whatever is making the floor in the kitchen stick to my feet, or my feet stick to the floor, whatever is your preference, and a mountain of ironing, not to mention cleaning and cooking. I have a new freezer on order and I have to eat the contents of the old one before they can deliver it, and there are bills to pay and I have blogs to write and other pre-publication stuff to deal with. 

So, it's going to be a while before I can re-acquaint myself with the WIP.

It's also September which for very personal reasons is my least favourite month of the twelve, and not just because it is the start of autumn and then all down hill to winter - cold and dark. 

But there is one bright spot - the chance to hold on to summer for a while longer. Publication day for A Villa in Portofino on 21st September. 

Something to look forward to. How am I going to celebrate? Not sure yet, but publication of my sixth book will still be an event, culmination of a lot of work - mine and the team at my publisher. Book seven might be on hold for the moment, but A Villa in Portofino is going to be a lot of fun in the meantime. 




And if you're holding on to summer don't forget this short story collection from Choc-Lit and Ruby authors, with proceeds to MIND.