Since I began my publishing adventure in April 2012, I have published five novels. What a journey that has been, for me and for my characters. Together, we have been to so many fascinating places – in England, in Italy, in Spain and in Kenya.
Today, I’m offering you a glimpse of just a few of the places I have featured in my books. I hope it will give you a sense of what my writing is all about: transporting readers to beautiful, inspiring locations around the world.
The Masai Mara, Kenya: Burning Embers
The Masai Mara National Reserve is a vast game reserve in Narok County, Kenya, where visitors can see so many wild animals in their natural habitat: lions and leopards and cheetahs and zebras and wildebeest and the Thomson’s gazelle. In Burning Embers, Coral and Rafe have a spectacular opportunity to view the Masai Mara from on high, with a hot-air balloon ride:
Gradually the mist had lifted, and the sun burst forth, a ball of fire radiating the sky with unnaturally incandescent hues. Coral was reminded of the strident brushwork and wild colors of the Fauvist paintings that filled her mother’s gallery, which Coral had always loved. The scene was now set for the show to begin: the drama in which the broad, breath-taking landscapes of Africa were the stage and the animals the actors.
And such actors! They see everything from elephants to impalas to antelopes to hippos to flamingos to buffalos to giraffes. And what of the lion, the monarch of the wild? That beast proves elusive, and so they take to the ground in search of the perfect shot. Little do they know the close encounter they will then have with a very dangerous big cat…
Piazza San Marco, Venice: The Echoes of Love
Napoleon called St Mark’s Square in Venice ‘the drawing room of Europe’. Certainly, it is always busy, because it is so popular with tourists (and with pigeons, I may add!). They come for good reason: to see the stunning Byzantine architecture of St Mark’s Basilica, its imposing Campanile bell tower with gold archangel Gabriel weathervane, and the early-Renaissance clock tower. They also flock to the oldest coffee house in the world, Caffè Florian, whose clientele has included Balzac, Goethe, Casanova, Lord Byron, Proust, Stravinsky, Rousseau and Dickens. Here’s a glimpse of the square as featured in my novel:
The two bronze giants on the top of the San Marco clock tower beat out one o’clock on a sounding bell. Venetia hurried towards her destination, in the midst of the great streams of people who came flooding from all directions in the sunlight, bringing with them the myriad buzzing and humming of the international world. For once, as she walked along, she was not admiring the Doge’s Palace which shut out the sky with its great façade supported on a double tier of arches, or the renaissance front of the Library of Saint Mark where she spent many winter afternoons reading and researching. She crossed the great square with its Campanile towering above, the graceful shaft flecked with the shadows of passing clouds; the severity of the sober red brick of the bell tower made the main edifice of the Church of San Marco look almost fairy-like with its wealth of white marble lace-work and golden mosaic. Hundreds of pigeons crooned and strutted round her, glorious in their opal plumage, as she crossed the broad square.
The Alcázar, Seville, Spain: Indiscretion
The Moors from North Africa ruled parts of Andalucía for 800 years (between the 8th and 15th centuries), and they left their mark, most especially in architecture. My favourite example is the Alcázar, which Alexandra and Salvador visit in Indiscretion:
Alexandra was dazzled by this palace straight out of One Thousand and One Nights, with its vast rooms covered in glazed tiles. Never before had she seen so many marble columns, arabesques, arcades, galleries and cool, echoing corridors. They walked through the silent gardens covered in clouds of roses, laden with the pungent scents of myrtle hedges and the sweet balmy breath of orange blossom.
It was the history of the palace that most interested me when I explored it for Indiscretion. Its first occupant was King Pedro of Castille who, legend tells, fell in love with a woman called Maria. Her response: she burned herown face, thus putting an end to the accursed love that her beauty had inspired.
Alexandra does not find this story, related by Salvador, remotely romantic. But in this atmospheric setting, will she be seduced by the legacy of her Spanish background and the man who is revealing it to her? Certainly, the Alcázar is a stirring, atmospheric place that demands drama. And indiscretion?
Running of the Bulls, Pamplona, Spain: Masquerade
Pamplona, the capital of Navarre, is a beautiful city that is known internationally (thanks largely to the writing of Ernest Hemingway) for a single event: the Running of the Bulls. In Masquerade, when my heroine Luz receives an invitation to the town’s Festival of San Fermin, of which the Running of the Bulls forms a part, she at once accepts:
In all Luz’s visits back to her country she had never been to the Pamplona bull-running festival and although bullfighting was not to her taste, the renowned Encierro was the centre of an exciting celebration where the whole town took to the streets in a colourful riot of music, dancing, eating and drinking that enveloped the place in a joyous party atmosphere. It would do her soul good to be among such high spirits, she decided.
The Running of the Bulls is a very old tradition, in which six bulls are let loose in the old quarter of the town’s streets and people attempt to outrun them before they reach the bullring, a distance of 825 metres. In Masquerade, the gypsy Leandro is one of the runners.
The Encierro lasts only two and a half minutes or so, but so much occurs in that time. It is what Hemingway called a ‘wonderful nightmare’. Especially if, like Luz, you are foolish enough to slip through the safety barrier and get caught up in the action…
Las Ramblas, Barcelona: Legacy
In my latest book Legacy, the protagonists, Ruy and Luna, meet as strangers in the big, bustling, vibrant city of Barcelona. Luna happens upon Ruy playing flamenco music in a back-street bar while wandering down the street at the heart of the city, Las Ramblas. Why deviate onto that back street? A combination of being infused by the upbeat spirit of Las Ramblas and wishing to escape the clamour!
She stood, taking in the scene. The brightly lit promenade, adorned with plane trees, was seething with a river of people.
As she joined the cosmopolitan throng, it felt like all of the action – Barcelona’s entire nightlife – was centred on this wide, tree-lined street, from cosy traditional Spanish bars and restaurants to clubs lit up with neon. The hubbub was indescribable. Although seventies disco had become largely a thing of the past back home, it seemed to thrive in Barcelona and the pulsating music reverberated in the warm night air. Decaying movie houses, abandoned garages and long-closed vaudeville theatres had all been turned into colourful nightlife venues.
Luna could barely take in the staggering parade of diversions. There were booksellers, souvenir stands, flamenco dancers, clowns and acrobats. A dozen street performers, painted bronze or white like statues, wowed the crowds in a fantastic array of costumes, some standing or sitting, others moving in jerky mime. Luna found them somewhat eerie and, unlike other tourists, didn’t stop to take their photograph.
My next destination…?
Greece is next on the list for a literary visit, and I am also writing books set in Egypt and Ireland. Are there any other locations you’d love to see in my fiction? Where in the world inspires you?