Wednesday 27 October 2021

Welcoming a special guest - Anni Rose


As part of the blog hop tour for her new book,  Recipe for MrPerfect, fellow Choc-lit author Anni Rose is visiting today to talk a bit about the book and one particular aspect of her writing.

Thank you, Evonne, for inviting me on to your blog today to talk about Recipe for Mr Perfect.  

 It’s good to have you here – first, the inevitable question – what gave you the idea for the book?

People often ask, what comes first plot or character. I’d usually say characters for me, but the idea for Recipe for Mr Perfect came from a wedding I saw being photographed by someone else. It looked like an extraordinary affair and the photographer was being given a hard time. 

The idea of an office-based novel, where that office is facing an unsettling time due to a potential merger or takeover, had been playing around in my mind for some time and suddenly I had the idea for a main character. What if she was faced with the possibility of a career change, would she follow her head and continue as an accountant, or her heart and become a photographer. 

The other characters came quite easily, I’ve worked with some lovely people over the years and have always been fascinated by office dynamics. So, I thought it would be fun to look at office relationships between colleagues when they all find themselves in a difficult situation. You work with people for often eight hours a day, but how much do you really know about them?

There was one particular 'Character' that really stood out for me - Dudley, the Newfoundland dog, owned by hero Neil. I have a soft spot for Newfies as my cousin owned two. Very big, very heavy and great personalities They say actors should never work with animals and children, but writers know that readers love it when books include them, so I asked Anni if she would talk some more about Dudley and General Gordon, the cat, and other fur and feathered friends who have appeared in other books, or who might appear in books to come (Here's hoping) 

For me having grown up and lived with animals, they have always been an important part of my life. All of them have had such individual personalities, and have given me some really funny, or in some case downright embarrassing, moments. But they have always been important to me, so it seemed only natural for my characters to have pets and for me to include them in books.

General Gordon is very much based on a Siamese who turned up in our garden one day with worms and stayed (without the worms – we treated them). He had a miaow that sounded like a child in pain, pitched so loud that even with double glazing we knew when he wanted to be let in. Cat flaps were not for him, he liked to have the front door opened–often at four in the morning. And he would lie in the middle of the drive, looking for all the world like he was dead, which never ceased to be terrifying when you arrived home.

Then came Felix, who liked nothing better than sleeping on a laptop. My sister came into the kitchen one morning and said, ‘Aren’t you worried about your computer?’ I said, ‘No reason to be, he doesn’t know my password.’ She raised an eyebrow and said ‘Okay…but it does look like he’s changing your operating system.’ Felix has yet to feature in a book.

In Recipe for Mr Right, Adam’s dog is a border terrier – called Brutus. Very much based on a friend’s dog, known by all of us, as the “Border Terrorist”. On the ground, he was mild-mannered, happy to be petted. But you did have to tidy up and shut doors before Brutus came to visit, because he could be guaranteed to find the most inappropriate thing, pick it up and parade it like a trophy in front of the assembled party. We knew one friend’s ‘giving up smoking’ might not be going quite as well as she was making out when within minutes of arrival Brutus produced an open packet of cigarettes. Her, “I thought I’d thrown them all out” might have convinced us, if he hadn’t turned up two more packets in quick succession. But pick him up and it was like having your own personal shield. Brutus adored being cuddled and would sleep happily for hours in someone’s arms. Heaven help anyone who came too close, he would snarl and bare his teeth at them, often without opening an eye. It made trips to the vets interesting—“Okay, put him down and step away”.

In Recipe for Mr Perfect, we meet Dudley a Newfoundland, who is based on a Newfoundland, I once knew. Such a special dog, I had to include him in a book as a tribute to him. He was a gorgeous creature, sadly lost too soon, but like all animals had a real character. Dudley loved the social side of a walk rather than the exercise part and was always keen to say “Hello” to people, particularly if he thought they might be going back in the direction of the car. And, if he heard his name being called, he would come regardless of what he had to knock over to get to you.

The joy of writing is when you create characters and give them a variety of characteristics and so it is with animals, so later in “Recipe for Mr Perfect”, Dudley sits under a chair in a meeting… So, let me explain where the idea for that came from.

As teenagers we would often gather of an evening at a friend’s house, to listen to music or chat, and one of the attendees would often be Carla, a Saint Bernard, who had the habit of doing just that. She could manoeuvre herself under a chair and, bless her, would stay out of the way throughout, to the point you would be forgiven for forgetting she was there, but as soon as everyone was ready to leave, the person sitting above Carla had to get up first. She was poised like a coiled spring and would stand up at the hint of movement, sending both chair and person flying to our great amusement.

The same friend had a budgerigar called “The Fonz”, who one day laid an egg. This naturally caused us, and you have to remember, we were young, and pre-Google at the time, some concern. Was the “The Fonz” actually female? It was another friend who came out with the immortal line “Why don’t we teach him to speak and ask him?”

Actually, as a young child, I always believed budgerigars changed colour never mind sex. My grandfather always had a bird called “Joey”, who I remembered being green, but then one day he was blue. The explanation I was given was that budgerigars changed colour with the seasons. Something I was happy to accept until many years later Joey was green again and someone mentioned Granddad had left the front door open one morning when he was cleaning out the bird.

I only remember one “Joey” talking though. “Hello Joey” would generate the response “Who says you’re pretty”, much to the amusement of us girls. Talking of birds, I’ve been really lucky to have just read a preview of the lovely Helen Buckley’s fabulous new book, ‘Strictly Christmas Spirit’ which comes out on Tuesday and was delighted to meet “Rocky”, a talking parrot.

Then there were the horses, but you will meet them in book 3! Oh, and there’s the terrier with the penchant for shoe laces – Book 4! And Kevin the Great Dane – currently book 5.

My writing these days is done with the help, or lack of it, from Rocky and Brian, both of whom joined our family last year, following the loss of two elderly Labradors, Albert and Elvis, who could be quite vocal when he wanted something. Or would collapse theatrically sighing, if we met someone and stopped for a chat. More of them both in later books, I’m sure.

Anyway, as I was saying, Rocky, a Romanian rescue, came to us following an operation to mend two badly broken legs. He’d been hit by a car and left, barely alive, by the side of the road. He’s made a full recovery and loves nothing better than being chased or chasing others. And Brian, a Labrador, whose brains have still to arrive, but is happy to oblige with any chasing.

I should go now, walks are calling, Rocky has untied my boot laces and Brian is trying to feed me a ball, but rest assured there are still lots more animal stories to come.

Thank you, Anni. Many of these stories rang a bell for me. I had a blue version of Joey - he was a great talker and my dad taught him a number of rude words to annoy my grandmother when she looked after him when we were on holiday. A friend's Siamese used to play the same trick, but in the middle of the road - terrifying innocent motorists. I still recall Ajax, the Wolfhound, who belonged to a fellow student at university. Ajax would lie across the doorway of the lecture theatre, guarding the threshold and ready to send latecomers flying - yes, I speak from experience on that one. It's lovely to know that we will be meeting all these other 'characters' in books to come. Nice to have a sneak preview. 

In the meantime readers can enjoy Recipe for Mr Perfect. 

 About the book 

How do you know if you’ve found Mr Perfect or Mr Perfectly Useless?

Jess Willersey realised things with Martin weren’t perfect, but it’s still a shock when he leaves. Is she destined to a singleton lifestyle with only her cat for company, or could a certain hat-astrophic encounter with a handsome stranger at a rather unusual wedding signal a turning point?

At the same time, Jess’s best friends and work colleagues, Maggie and Sarah, are going through their own personal disasters – from shocking family revelations to dodgy dating app-related drama.
To top it all off, it seems that the handsome stranger won’t remain a stranger – and when Neil Jackson turns up at the friends’ offices with yet another bombshell, how long will he stay ‘Mr Perfect’ in Jess’s eyes?


Born and raised in Berkshire, Anni emigrated to Wiltshire six years ago, where she lives with her husband, sister, two dogs, a cat and Midge, the grey speckled hen.
Away from writing Anni can usually be found behind a camera, walking the dogs, enjoying one of her husband’s curries or sister’s bakery treats.
Book links:

Author Links:
Twitter: @AnniRoseAuthor
Instagram: anniroseauthor

Wednesday 20 October 2021

Artistic streak

 I make no secret of the fact that my books are escapism - that's why I write them and that's how I want the reader to enjoy them. It's inevitable that the things that I get pleasure from find their way into the books - sunshine, food, beautiful surroundings, glamourous locations - in the case of A Villa in Portofino that includes an artistic element, as the book feature both poetry and painting. 

Chatterton's birthplace.
with plaque.
The wicker figure was
an art installation 
I'm not a poet or a painter, so the depictions came out of my imagination. While I enjoyed creating my precociously talented boy poet, you won't find any of his verses in the book. I wouldn't dare. I hope no one is disappointed about this. I enjoyed fabricating the subject of heroine Megan's doctoral thesis, who is loosely inspired by Thomas Chatterton, who was born and lived his early life in Bristol. Chatterton was born in a house close to St Mary Redcliffe church in Bristol and was possibly buried in the churchyard there. He was only seventeen when he died in London of poison, usually said to be suicide but possibly an accident. He was greatly admired by the Romantic poets Byron and Shelly as a lost genius.

My poet - Cosimo - is Italian and while Megan's doctoral thesis concentrates on his poetry there is a considerable mystery surrounding the poet himself, who might just be connected to the villa. It's one of several mystery threads that I enjoyed concocting. 

Alcinda's paintings came right out of my imagination. It was a little uncanny how clearly I could see them - first the series based on the overgrown garden of the villa and then a new group using Gideon as a model. I've no idea where Alcinda came from as a character and the paintings are equally mysterious. The idea of the gallery where she exhibits arose from a visit to Portofino many years ago, when I bought a print from a gallery - a watercolour of the village, which I love, but nothing at all like the art that Alcinda produces. It was the start point though and Alcinda and her art grew from that. 

I wish her paintings did exist because the ones in my imagination are spectacular. But the verse and art that lives in the imagination always is. 

Wednesday 13 October 2021

Three women

 Last week, looking at the family surrounding Megan, I pointed out that the book had a strong female presence, although many of those characters only appeared in the background. I thought this week I'd look at three women who actually appear on the page. 

First off has to be my heroine. On the surface Megan is quite reserved, independent and self contained, although the reader sees below that surface and knows her uncertainties. Her cool demeanor is her protective armour. She has adapted to the knowledge that she has no close family, and the discovery that she had an aunt that she might have got to know is distressing and fuels her need to uncover the details of Olwen's life. Her academic qualifications are quite new, and she hasn't yet grown into them, or got used to having them. During the course of the book she develops as her own woman, and understands that this is what she is doing, which is important. She is very clear sighted and analytical, which I attribute to her academic training. Under Gideon's influence a warmer, more relaxed persona gradually appears as she reaches out to him and to make friends in her new home. It was lovely to watch her emerge as she falls in love - although she is careful about admitting that is what is happening. Gideon is the perfect man to bring out the best in her - able to let her unfold into her full potential.

Alcinda - friend to both Gideon and Megan.  Where she came from I have no idea. She just walked off the page at me and that was that. She behaved to me exactly like she did to everyone in the book! Exceptionally talented artist, moody drama queen, self confident, opinionated, bossy, volatile, with an unexpectedly perceptive and empathetic side to her nature. Or maybe it's not so unexpected, considering her artistic talent. She's a powerhouse, all surface emotion and a good foil to Megan. When she arrived on the scene I knew she was one of those supporting characters who might be in danger of taking over the book, but she never actually did that.  Maybe I'm better at keeping control of my personnel than I realise. 

Gabriella - my villainess. There was never any doubt that it would be a villainess, although when I started the book I was not going to identify her, making her one of several possible candidates surrounding Megan. That proved far too complicated and anyway she was not having any of it. She was much too entitled and conscious of her position and importance to let me hide her away. I had a very clear idea of a woman in her fifties, trapped in a time warp of what she considered to be good taste and correct behaviour.  She never considers anyone's wishes but her own, but she an isolated and rather lonely figure. Had she succeeded in taking the villa from Megan I'm not sure what would have happened to her, once she lost the driving force of her obsession. 

Three very different women. I enjoyed writing all of them.   

Wednesday 6 October 2021

Full supporting cast

 A Villa in Portofino was complicated book to write. Managing five generations of a family got very hectic and my editor and I went round in circles several times trying to figure out how many 'greats' were needed in the relationships. Not sure I'm going to be doing anything like that again in a hurry. 

Backstory was important in the book too, as part of the plot. Heroine Megan knows next to nothing about her Great - Great Aunt Olwen (her grandmother's aunt) who has left her the villa of the title, but she is keen to find out. I had a lot of complicated unravelling to do as she puts together the story - clues and red herrings and imperfect memories - the kind of thing that happens in a lot of families. Like doing a jigsaw puzzle, where a lot of the pieces are sky, and at least three come from a completely different box...

The other thing about those five generations was that there was no room for all the back stories - Megan's parents and her grandmother could only really have walk on parts where explanation was needed to move the story on. It wasn't until the book was finished and I was at the copy edits stage that I began to wonder again about all those people I had created in order to give Megan's life a framework. There was never any place for detail of that kind in the book, so I had a collection of somewhat ghostly figures, the supporting cast who were essential to the plot, or to making Megan who she was, or both. They all gave me very strong impressions of their chief character traits though - enough to clearly make their impact on Megan's story, despite appearing only briefly on the pages. 

The great great grandfather, whom I christened the patriarch - he never had a name - was very much of another era, a man of decided views who had been through two world wars and expected to rule his household and be obeyed in all things. Rosalind, Megan's grandmother, was born in 1949 - a teenager in the swinging sixties, the first of her family to go to university and have a career - I was very certain of that- although for reasons of plot she also has a baby - Megan's mum - at the age of twenty two, so the career would have probably been on hold for a while. A strong woman who had probably lived a full and interesting life, but to Megan was simply Gran - the person who represented love and home. I  like to think her strength has had a subtle influence on Megan and the subsequent decisions she makes about the villa and her new life, although she may not be fully aware of it. Megan's parents came over as rather feckless in respect of family matters - more interested in their careers as archeologists than in their daughter, although her choice of an academic career was surely influenced by them, and maybe some of her insecurities - striving for their notice and approval? Looking at it now the men in the family, great-great grandad aside, are pretty nebulous. The story comes down through the female line - which didn't really occur to me when I was writing it. It's a book with a strong female presence - including having a villainess rather than a villain. 

The weight of complex family history had a part to play for hero Gideon too, and for of my villainess, Gabriella. Unlike some authors I never set out to have a 'theme' as such, although books do sometimes acquire them behind my back. I did know that family history would be a vital part of A Villa in Portofino, but now it is completed that sense of family is much stronger than I anticipated, so it looks as if the theme that the book chose for itself is family. Maybe the friend who told me that I had written a romantic suspense family saga was onto something.