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My latest blog posts

A rose by any other name…

Choosing names for the male and female protagonists in a novel is, I always think, an important element of the writing process. The right name conveys the character’s personality, wishes and dreams; the wrong name could hinder character development. When I write a novel, deciding names is one of the

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A sweet aphrodisiac recipe

The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, so goes the popular saying. Well, I think there’s a little more to attraction and love than that, but I do believe that certain foods and drinks act as aphrodisiacs for both men and women. (The word aphrodisiac, in case

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Writing: creator versus editor

I think all writers have two parts within: an editor and a creator. Often, the two work in synergy to produce writing you’re happy with. Sometimes, though, the two seem mutually incompatible. The creator, as I call it, is the part of me that’s inspired (by the muse, you could

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African beliefs: The afterlife

In my Burning Embers, Coral’s father, ‘The White Pirate’, has died leaving her the legacy of his plantation, Mpingo. Coral’s old yaha (nanny), Aluna, is a native African lady who subscribes to the legends and traditional beliefs of her home, Kenya. And we see in the book that she is

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The kindness of strangers

A stolen glance across a crowded train; a shy smile as you pass each other by on a windswept cliff path; a brush of hands as you reach for the same apple outside the grocer’s – you see a stranger, and you feel something. A connection forms as naturally as

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Burning Embers, the song

‘Egosurfing’, they call it – Googling yourself. It’s not something I had ever done before this week, but with my upcoming book I decided, one particularly gloomy afternoon, to browse the internet for mentions of myself and the book. And it was whilst looking at results for ‘Burning Embers’ that

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Favourite films: Legend of 1900 and August Rush

I love music, and I love films in which music plays an integral role.   Have you seen Legend of 1900? If not, I wholeheartedly recommend you do so (I understand it’s available in DVD format for a very reasonable price online). This is a life-affirming, heart-warming, touching tale told

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Le Jaguar

In earlier blog entries I have written of the poetry of Leconte De Lisle.  De Lisle writes with such passion of exotic locations and the beasts that stalk them, and as I wrote of the setting and the animals in Burning Embers, set in Kenya, I found myself often drawn

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Love at first sight?

I am, of course, a romantic at heart – what romance novelist isn’t? But in today’s fast-paced era of busy people hurtling around in their busy lives; of connecting to people via the internet and mobile phone more than face to face (even arranging dating online); of rising divorce rates

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A slice of summer

It’s a gloomy autumnal day here in Kent, so I’ve been cheering myself up by looking through pictures of this summer. Here’s a shot of our pool in Kent, where I do a lot of dreaming and writing.

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Kenyan recipe: Mango ice cream with pineapple rum sauce

Earlier this month I posted a recipe for delicious groundnut soup – a traditional dish eaten in Africa. But what meal is complete without a little something sweet to finish? In Burning Embers, the protagonist, Coral, savours the ripe, succulent mangos that are grown in the area surrounding her homestead

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Chasing rainbows

Yesterday, as I was sitting at my desk typing, I took a break to gaze out at the dark grey sky lit by a beautiful golden sun, and was rewarded by a stunning full-arch, vivid rainbow in the sky. Nature at its most beautiful. I gazed into the sky until

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The hunter and his prey

Africa, the setting for Burning Embers, is of course a country famous for hunting. Natives have hunted to survive since the earliest days of the continent’s inhabitation, and the vast array of large, dangerous wildlife there created a real pull for white hunters, keen to demonstrate their prowess by gunning

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Coral’s doppelganger: Twiggy

When I was growing up, one of my favourite pastimes was visiting the cinema.  My governess, Zula, bless her, was just as romantic as I, and would accompany me to see the latest love story on the big screen. When I was twelve, South Pacific was released, and I must

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Swahili love poem

In researching Burning Embers, I read a lot of books on aspects of African culture.  I was particularly fascinated by the stark honesty of many folk tales and proverbs of this area of the world – no euphemism and delicate delivery; often, the message is loud and clear. For example,

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Put the coffee on

How many cups of coffee does it take to write a romance novel? The answer, for me, is many indeed – but they must be of the very best beans.   In Burning Embers, which is set in and around Mombasa in Kenya, Coral is invited to stay at a

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Sweet nothings

If, like me, you have a sweet touch, you’ll appreciate a shop dedicated to nothing but delicious, melt-in-the-mouth flavours that transport you back to the carefree days of childhood. The window of my local sweet shop looks like this… Can you blame me for wandering in for a humbug or

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The setting for Burning Embers: Mombasa

My novel Burning Embers is set in Mombasa in Kenya, on the east coast of the African continent. Because my book is a novel, not a travel or history guide, there is little room there to explore the many facets of this interesting town. So here I provide some nuggets

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Favourite poems: La Jungle

In an earlier blog entry (29 September) I introduced you to the poetry of Leconte De Lisle, a nineteenth-century French poet who has inspired my writing with his vivid, evocative imagery. I have always been a descriptive writer; I enjoy imagining how a setting looks, sounds and smells and then

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African proverbs: “A good name is better than riches”

In an early blog entry I explained that while researching my book, Burning Embers, I read a lot about Africa – including books on proverbs. In any culture, proverbs are a poetic and memorable way to impart wisdom. I’ve decided to run a series of book exploring a proverb in turn,

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A riveting read

Confession time: one of my hobbies is reading dictionaries. Certainly not as comforting and engaging as a romance novel, but it’s amazing what you learn when you read a few pages.  

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Respect your elders?

In Burning Embers, Coral is reunited with her former ‘yaha’ (nanny) Aluna when she comes back to the childhood home she left in her youth. There is, at once, an interesting dynamic between the two women – one white, naive, young and wealthy who has grown up chiefly in England;

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Music to write books by: Fausto Pappeti

I love music: it has such power to move, to affect, to inspire. When I write at my desk, I often have music on in the background – carefully selected to reflect the mood of the particular chapter I’m writing. In Burning Embers, as well as running a prosperous plantation,

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African recipe: Groundnut Soup

Food has always been a rich source of pleasure for me; I have wide-ranging tastes and enjoy the thrill of sampling a new cuisine. I subscribe to the school of thought that believes a direct connection exists between stomach and heart: an intimate meal between characters comprising succulent, delicious food

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It’s romance, but what kind? Deciding the genre for my novel

I’ve recently been involved in an interesting discussion with my publisher, Omnific, about what genre my upcoming novel Burning Embers fits into. My book is a love story, so categorising it as romance is no problem; but what sub-category within which to situate the book?   The list of sub-genres

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Inspired by nature

The bay at St Tropez on a wild and stormy day – little wonder that after seeing this tempestuous, magnificent power of nature I went home and added a storm to the chapter I was writing.

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The perfect man…

Last month the Guardian reported on an interesting survey undertaken by the Festival of Romance, an international convention on romantic fiction. They interviewed 58 romantic novelists to find out what qualities are important in a man. These were the results: The perfect man, according to romantic novelists (% agreeing), is:

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The poetry of Leconte De Lisle

The seeds of inspiration for the verdant setting of my novel Burning Embers were sown way back at school when I was introduced to the flamboyant poetry of Charles-Marie Leconte De Lisle, better known as simply Leconte De Lisle, who was the leader of the group of French poets called

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Through a child’s eyes

‘Write about what you know’ is the advice given to any fledgling writer, and it’s certainly wisdom I have tried to take on board in my development as a writer. The action in my novel Burning Embers begins on a cruise ship bound for Mombasa. Coral, the protagonist, is gazing

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Favourite places: Dover Castle

The nearest town to my home in Kent is Dover. I love spending afternoons wandering around the magnificent 12-century Dover Castle which stands majestically above the White Cliffs for which the town is famous.

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My latest blog posts

Transcending the pages: fiction as visual art

Once upon a time, books were books, only books. Then along came the motion picture, and books – for so long the foundation of culture – were the obvious source of inspiration for films. Frankenstein, A Christmas Carol, A Tale of Two Cities, Rip van Winkle, The Assommoir, Uncle Tom’s

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Shopping the Venetian way

Last time I visited Venice, it was a research trip for my novel The Echoes of Love. I wanted to firm up descriptions of the setting, and so I walked in my characters’ footsteps, seeing the city through their eyes. But of course, I could not resist just a little

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Navigating the ‘spaghetti streets’ of Venice

One of the many charms of the city of Venice, setting for my romantic novel The Echoes of Love, is its unique map: this is a city of waterways cutting among myriad winding streets that form something of a daunting labyrinth for the tourist. Not in Venice will you find

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Maya Angelou in quotations

I was sad to read this week of the passing of the great American writer and activist Maya Angelou. Readers of my novels and followers of my Twitter feed will know that I am something of a collector of quotations, and over the years several of Maya’s quotes have been

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Ode to the notebook

If there’s one shop, other than a bookshop, in which I can lose all track of time (and spend a near fortune!) it’s a stationer’s. Notebooks in all shapes and colours and sizes and designs, lined up on shelves, just waiting to be filled, to paraphrase William Wordsworth, with the

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To sleep, perchance to dream…

Recently, I’ve been thinking about dreams. To be a romantic is to be a dreamer. And so to write romance is to write of dreams. The dream is integral to the romance novel. No wonder, then, that a search for the word dream’ in my latest novel, The Echoes of

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Favourite artist: Botticelli

No doubt you’ve heard of Sandro Botticelli, the Italian Renaissance painter whose works include The Birth of Venus. Certainly, his artistic style has long been admired and a point of reference in creative circles; in The Echoes of Love, for example, I write of a beautiful landscape: ‘Botticelli must have

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Book review: Risking It All by Lucy Oliver

From the blurb: Beneath bomb-filled skies, Head Radio Operator Lynne Cecil takes the safety of her RAF pilots seriously. They’re England’s last defense against the Luftwaffe. But too many pilots die on her watch. The top brass harass her for answers, but her team is giving their all. Devastated by

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Writing maps to guide you through the writing process

I confess, I have a real passion for book- and writing-related gifts. If I’m not giving the gift of a book itself, a gift that celebrates the love of the written book is the next best thing. So I quite often find myself on literary gift websites, looking for some

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Bookshops of the future: Exclusive boutiques?

Bookshops, sadly, are in decline. According to an article published in the Guardian in February: ‘The number of independent bookshops gracing British high streets has fallen below 1,000 – a third fewer than nine years ago’ and ‘more than 500 independent outlets have shut since 2005’.Beyond the UK, the story

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Venice Preserv’d

Ah, Venice: setting of my latest novel, The Echoes of Love. Going to Venice and experiencing its beautiful architecture and inspiring culture? Wonderful – but out of reach for many due to the constraints of distance and expense. Going to Venice and experiencing first-hand its history, its days as the

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My latest blog posts

An algorithm that predicts bestsellers?

In the past few weeks a non-fiction book has taken the publishing world by storm: The Bestseller Code: Anatomy of the Blockbuster Novel. Written by a former literature lead researcher at Apple and an associate professor of English, the book has a compelling blurb: What if an algorithm could predict

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Paella: Preserving a national dish

If there is one thing I know about the Spanish – having visited their beautiful country many times and set my most recent fictional works, the Andalucían Nights trilogy, there – it is this: they are fiercely proud of their culture and heritage. That pride extends to cuisine, it has

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Thoughts on the exposure of Elena Ferrante 

In the past week, book news has been dominated by a single story: that of the unmasking of notoriously private Italian author Elena Ferrante. In case you have missed this story, here are the basics. Elena Ferrante is the pseudonym of an Italian novelist. In the past few years, her

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Cadiz cathedral: ‘the ship of souls’

‘A pile of rocks ceases to be a rock when somebody contemplates it with the idea of a cathedral in mind.’ So said one of my favourite French writers, Antoine de Saint-Exupery. I love architecture, and of course as a writer and a romantic I love places that are alive with symbolism

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Writing from the heart

A question I am asked often in interviews is this: ‘What advice would you give to a new or aspiring novelist?’ My response is always: 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.

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A soul bared: The flamenco guitarist

In my new book, Legacy, the male protagonist Ruy is of mixed heritage – he is part gentleman, part gypsy. His gypsy roots are very important to him, and one of the ways in which he connects to these roots and participates in the gypsy community is through music: he

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Writing conventions: bridging between the old and the new

Any seasoned writer will tell you that writing ‘rules’ abound. Over the past hundred years or so, it has become de vogue for renowned writers and impassioned grammarians to publish ‘rules’ by which others should, they are certain, abide. Sometimes, these rules have merit – for example, Elmore Leonard’s ‘Try

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