I grew up in a rambling house overlooking the Mediterranean. My earliest memories are of listening, enchanted, to fairy stories at the knee of my half-French half-Italian governess Zula. When I was seven we came to an agreement: for each story she told me, I would invent and relate one of my own. That is how my love for story-telling began.
Later, at a convent school, while French nuns endeavoured to teach me grammar, literature and maths, I took to day-dreaming and wrote short romantic stories to satisfy the needs of a fertile imagination. Having no inhibitions, I circulated them around the class, which made me very popular among my peers and less so with the nuns.
After I graduated with a BA in French literature, my international nomadic years commenced. I lived mainly in Switzerland, France and England, where I had friends and family, and during holidays I travelled to Mediterranean countries like Italy, Greece and Spain.
I met my husband in London at a drinks party: it was love at first sight, just like in the romance books that were my constant companions. He brought me to his large Georgian rectory in Kent, surrounded by grounds and forests. After my children were born, between being a mother and running a property business, there was little time for day dreaming, let alone writing.
Then, once my children had flown the nest, I decided after so many years of yearning to write, write, write it was time to dust off the old manuscripts I’d been tinkering with for a lifetime.
Today, I am living the dream: I write full time, splitting my time between my homes in Kent and in the South of France, where I dream up romances overlooking breathtaking views of the Mediterranean.
My first novel, Burning Embers, is a vivid, evocative love story set against the backdrop of tempestuous and wild Kenya of the 1970s, reviewed by one newspaper as ‘romance like Hollywood used to make’. My new novel, The Echoes of Love, is a story of passion, betrayal and intrigue set in the romantic and mysterious city of Venice and the beautiful landscape of Tuscany.
What inspires you to write?
Without a doubt my French governess and my father were the first motivators of my writing. Both were intelligent, charismatic, and flamboyant. They encouraged me to read, to travel, and to be inquisitive and interested in everything around me, which helped nurture and stretch my imagination. So now writing is my life.
Anything that touches me, creating an emotion, whether happy or sad, can trigger my imagination; but I think that environment and atmosphere are the most important elements for me. I believe that the setting in a romance novel is essential for establishing a romantic mood and transporting the reader to the fantasy world I am creating, to capture not only their attention but also their emotions. The reader must be able to see, feel, taste, hear, smell everything my heroes and heroines are experiencing, and I call upon all the senses to render an authentic ambiance. So it would be fair to say that countries have been my main source of inspiration. For me every country I visit is a new and exciting backdrop for the plot of a novel. I draw on the richness of its people, its sceneries and all it has to offer in the way of cuisine, language, and customs to create fabulous places where my characters can meet and fall in love.
Tell us about your writing process.
I have a very rigid routine which has served me well.
Before I write a book, I immerse myself in several months of research – visiting the country in which the book is set, watching films set there, listing to music and reading widely on history, folklore, culture and settings. Once, I even posed as a Spanish gypsy for an afternoon to immerse myself in the culture. I love this part of the writing process, because I learn so much and am then able to write from a place of grounded knowledge.
Then, I sit down and plan my book meticulously, chapter by chapter. The plan gives me the freedom to write without anxiety that the story or the characters will hijack me and force a deviation.
Finally comes the writing stage, which takes several months. I write every day. Writing is my life and also a job – a very enjoyable job. I wake up very early, so I get rid of my chores first thing. After my cup of passion fruit tea, in the morning I sit down at my desk at around 9.30 a.m. and work through the day with an hour for lunch. I reward myself in the late afternoon with a long walk in the countryside around my rectory in Kent or along the beach by my French home. This provides essential processing and daydreaming time for the next day’s creativity.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
My characters are very much alive for me. During the planning and writing phases of book creation I’m often to be found in something of a daydream – washing up or gardening in the real world while in my inner world I chat with my heroine or set a scene and watch it play out. It’s important to me that my characters seem vivid and real on the page, thus I do my best to really know them before I set pen to paper.
What advice would you give other writers?
First and foremost, write from the heart. Be true to yourself and don’t compromise to please the market. Markets change, fads come and go; your work will remain.
Research your facts thoroughly. A writer today has no excuse for not getting his/her facts right. Use all the tools available to you. Travel, internet, books, films, documentaries: they’re all there to enrich your experience and make your writing journey easier.
Plan your novel down to the smallest detail. This will make your writing so much easier and therefore so much more enjoyable. A plan is your map. Would you set out on a long journey by car without a map?
Read, reread and reread. Edit, edit, edit. Go through your manuscript again and again and edit it. I know that it will break your heart to delete a phrase or even one word you have spent time agonising on, but sometimes less is better than more. Not easy advice to follow, but in the long run it does work. If you can leave the manuscript alone for a few weeks and revisit it at a later date, reading it as if it were someone else’s, then that’s even better.
Do not get discouraged. Continue to write whether you think your work is good or bad. There is no bad writing. There are good days and bad days. The more you write, the better at it you get.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
Being published was a long-cherised dream I’d had since childhood, no doubt because members of my own family are traditionally publishered. So when I finally had the polished manuscript of my debut novel in my hand, I knew I would exhaust that avenue before considering any other. Happily, I was signed by publishers for both novels I have out so far, and I have very much valued the input and support that the publishers have provided.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
It’s bright! It’s an exciting time to be writing and publishing, with the growth of mediums of publication, formats and marketing streams – so many ways to marry up book and reader.
What genres do you write?
What formats are your books in?
Both eBook and Print