These past months have been a difficult time for us all. Whatever our circumstances, we have had to deal with a great deal of change, of anxiety and of frustration over restrictions to our liberty. Alongside being patient and compassionate (for oneself and for others), our greatest tool for coping with the stress has been to be in the moment. Not dwelling on yesterday. Not fretting about tomorrow. Just breathing and being in the present time.
Regular readers of my blog will know that I love to travel. Exploring new cultures is the main appeal of course, but also… I adore the duty-free shopping! I often arrive at my destination with a new perfume, and my trip feels all the more special for it. Later, when I am back home and I smell that perfume, I am transported across the world to Egypt or Greece or Italy. Truly scent-sational!
‘The dappled sunlight filtering through tree branches – is there a word for that? The seeds of a dandelion drifting on the breeze – do we have a word for that? Should we?…’
Recently, a memoir caught my eye. Published in February this year, Sounds Like Titanic by Jessica Chicceh Hindman is an account of her time playing the violin with a professional ensemble in New York City. Only she didn’t actually get to play the violin – none of the members of the
‘Solitude is fine, but you need someone to tell you that solitude is fine.’ So wrote French novelist Honoré de Balzac. For me, this quotation perfectly encapsulates the difficulty of our time in lockdown. We may appreciate the simpler, quieter life, but at the same time we ache to share the time with
‘The title is such an integral part of any novel that I write. It’s the cornerstone, essentially. From the title flows the work. Thus, the title fits…’
In my novel Concerto, the heroine, Catriona, is a music therapist who is hired to work with a client who is depressed. Umberto was once a celebrated pianist composer, but since he lost his sight he has turned his back on the music that is his great passion. Once, Catriona
‘Reading is a passport to distant lands. From the comfort of your armchair – or your bed, or your window seat, or your garden bench – you can visit the Himalayas or the Grand Canyon or the Pyramids…’
‘There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophy… Is the shore at Lake Como haunted, and if so, by whom? And why: what tragic secret has been buried there?’
‘Two cafés with long and prominent histories, Café de Flore and Les Deux Magots in Paris: inspirational, fascinating and a chance to brush shoulders with the ghosts of the greats…’
‘Studies have shown that bibliotherapy is especially powerful for alleviating anxiety and depression, which makes reading so important for us all right now as we are trapped in a bubble of worry, fear and isolation. Reading is an act of self-love; it is a way to make yourself feel better…’
‘The best romances offer an opportunity for readers to learn about something new, such as an interesting occupation or a place. In my own romances, I take readers to fascinating locations around the world, like Lake Como and Venice and Cadiz, so that my books are like a passport to travel from the comfort of your own home…’
‘In these difficult times, the act of reading can transport us away from a world that feels dark and threatening and grant us a reprieve from our worries. When we read we connect to people. We are not alone…’
Setting is everything for my fiction, not just the backdrop of the story but where I write – where I dream up the first meeting of two people destined to be soulmates, or a first kiss shared on a moonlit beach, or a sunset framing lovers walking off into their happy-ever-after…
‘Oh, the power of a good screen adaption of classic literature to awaken the romantic sensibilities! I can’t tell you how many afternoons since I have sat on a shady bench and gazed at the pond in the grounds of my home in Kent, indulging in a Darcy-esque daydream…’
If you are interested in the decorative arts, you’ve no doubt heard of Tiffany glass. Today, I’m sharing with you a little about this beautiful glass of the Art Nouveau and Aesthetic movements. Don’t forget that you can win a Tiffany-inspired vase in my Sunday Special giveaway!
Over the past few months, as a ‘Sunday Special’, I have given away my novel Indiscretion, serialised in chapters. I had such a wonderful response that I’ve decided to run another Sunday Special – a giveaway with exquisite and unique prizes worth more than £150. This giveaway is open to EVERYONE, so don’t miss your chance to win a wonderful gift from me to you.
‘Love consists of this: two solitudes that meet, protect and greet each other…’ I love poetry, its ability to capture and convey a sentiment in so few words; and for me, the more lyrical, the more beautiful. That is why I love the poems of Rainer Maria Rilke.
Museum, for me, is another word for sanctuary, paradise. I suppose, growing up in Alexandria, Egypt – home of the original Musaeum (‘Institution of the Muses’), founded in the third century BC – it is inherent in me to have a fascination with these places. Over the years I have lived in Britain, it has been such a pleasure to explore its museums. Here are some of my favourites.
Lockdown, quarantine, distancing – these are all words, and experiences, that equate to some level of isolation. None of us have found this time easy, for to be separate from each other is to deny the basic human need for connection and company. Perhaps the novelist is better suited to being alone and apart than others. Perhaps not…
Art is a great source of inspiration for my writing, and so I am very fortunate that my French home is located on the Riviera, which has attracted so many wonderful artists. Here is a look at the stunning scenery, the vibrant Mediterranean colours and the beautiful light of the Cote d’Azur, as encapsulated by the artists who fell in love with this special place.
A question I’m commonly asked is: ‘What advice would you give an aspiring romance writer?’ I don’t claim to be an expert on the subject – really, who is? – but the following outlines some of the lessons I’ve learned on my journey from being a little girl who dreamed of writing romance to being a grown woman who really does write romance, every day.
Music is at the heart of my latest novel, Concerto. The hero, Umberto, is a pianist composer who has lost his sight, and consequently his will to compose and play. Enter music therapist Catriona, who will have her work cut out trying to guide this stubborn and depressed man back to the piano, where he belongs.
Classic, vintage, timeless, shabby chic – whatever you call them, antiques can be truly beautiful and soulful. They connect us to those who have come before, who have lived different lives. The writer in me is fascinated by the stories inherent in antiques: who once wore this necklace, read this book, took plates from this dresser, admired this glass bowl?
‘Maybe you could become my muse … what d’you say?’ So says the hero of my latest novel, Concerto, to the heroine. Umberto is a pianist composer set for superstardom; Catriona is his young and naïve neighbour who dreams of being an opera singer. The idea of being a muse… well, who wouldn’t be flattered? But does it mean living in the shadow of genius?
‘A girl should be two things,’ said Coco Chanel: ‘classy and fabulous.’ Certainly, this is the ethos I have in mind when I write the heroines of my novels. One of my favourite aspects of characterisation is to consider the heroine’s style, and I must confess I am a big fan of dressing them to impress!
‘I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.’ So wrote Jorge Luis Borges, and I quite agree. What is truly wonderful about this idea is that paradise is within our reach! We each have the ability to create a little haven at home, with a home library.
My latest novel, Concerto, is set on Lake Como, Italy, a place so beautiful the composer Franz Liszt described it as ‘a spot blessed by heaven’. Today, I’m sharing with you some of my favourite views of the lake. Don’t forget my Sunday Special offer: if you sign up to my newsletter, you’ll receive my ebook 8 Must-See Tourist Attractions Around Lake Como for free!
Venice, setting of my novel The Echoes of Love, is famous for being the City of Love – but did you know it’s also known for lace-making? Not only is Venetian lace so intricate and beautiful that it’s a work of art, but there’s a romantic legend that tells us how this lace originated…
Once I have chosen the setting for my next novel, I do my best to learn all about this place: its history, its culture, its cuisine, its scenery. But my favourite research of all is into the stories of the place: its myths, legends and fairy tales. So it was with my novel The Echoes of Love…