Here’s the dilemma: You’ve written a smouldering, passionate romance novel. It’s set in 1970. Is it a historical romance novel, or is it too recent? Is it contemporary romance novel, or is it too much in the past?
For me, Christmas is synonymous with a trip to the theatre – to watch a ballet, a play or a fun pantomime with the children. This year, sadly, the theatres are closed. But you can still see a wonderful London show…
Music has such power to express romantic feelings: as the French novelist Victor Hugo wrote, ‘Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent.’ Here are my top five romantic pieces of classical music – inspiration for my latest novel, Concerto, the love story of a pianist composer and a music therapist.
The day I first visited Cádiz I just knew I must situate a love story there! The Moors compared the city to a ‘dish of silver in a bowl of blue’, so vivid are the colours there. It is a lovely city; the most beautiful in Spain, I think, and so today I want to introduce you to it briefly.
Classic literature endures for a good reason: it’s powerful and beautiful writing. But in our modern era, the language of these books can make for challenging reading. So should we translate classic literature into modern English?
‘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?
‘Aida felt a familiar thrill of anticipation as she crossed the wide veranda and went through those hospitable doors; she’d enjoyed many happy times in this old hotel. Shepheard’s was an institution, holding its own unique place in the affections of all who knew and loved Egypt…’
‘I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.’ So declares the heroine of my favourite work of English literature. Jane Eyre was published in the 1840s, yet a century later still a woman has to assert her right to independence in a man’s world…
The beautiful landscapes of Upper Egypt, where I grew up, are so vividly etched into my memory. The Nile, of course, is at the heart of the landscapes, and one of the most romantic views is of traditional felucca sailboats gliding on these timeless waters.
The new Bibliotheca Alexandrina is a treasure of my birthplace: Alexandria, Egypt. Not only is it beautiful and significant in and of itself, but it commemorates the Great Library of Alexandria built in the 200s BC, one of the most important libraries of all time. How could I fail to be inspired by such devotion to books?
‘Englishwomen in morning cottons, French and Italian girls in summer dresses, young Egyptian women with black abbas wrapped around their heads, men in tweeds or long white kaftans, a majestic sheikh in richly embroidered silks’ – welcome to the melting pot of 1940s Cairo.
‘Mute witnesses to centuries of history, presiding over the graceful shadowy sand hillocks of the Arabian Desert and dark clusters of palm trees, towering up into the clear sky.’ The pyramids of Giza – what better backdrop for the first kiss of Aida and Phares in my novel Song of the Nile?
Beautiful Ancient Egyptian jewellery features in my new novel, Song of the Nile. Thanks to the gifts of her father, a keen archaeologist and Egyptologist, Aida has a huge collection of magnificent pieces: earrings, necklaces, bracelets, arm bands and headpieces dating back as far as the Hellenistic period.