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My latest blog posts

Favourite poems about the ocean

The ocean was my first love. I grew up in a house overlooking the sea, and it was a constant source of inspiration to me growing up. There is something so breathtakingly beautiful about the water – the power of its motion; the glorious colours, changing daily; its constancy; its

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Ship of dreams

The harbour, a short walk from my house. In the evening after a good day’s writing I go to a little cafe outside the harbour where there is a soft sea breeze and relax as I watch the boats and passers-by.

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Letting go in order to move forwards

Feeling love, in many ways, is easy. Letting go in order to really, truly give your heart is harder. In my novel Burning Embers, Rafe is a man who is haunted by his past. He is unable to let go of a difficult situation in which he found himself and

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Writing on paper

The modern writer has a choice: paper or PC? Of course, PC is the most practical – but does it, I wonder, help or hinder the creative process? Wherever I go, in my handbag I keep a small notebook, so that when an idea walks into my mind I can

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One of my hideaways

A small municipal garden not far from the house looking onto the most fabulous sea views splashing over the rocks. I sit in the shade of the pins parasols (the umbrella trees) and think out my most romantic love scenes. I usually have the place to myself, especially in the spring and

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Marriage in romance novels

I’ve been reading romance novels since I was a young girl, and years ago, in more traditional times, the happy ending at the end of a book was wrapped up in marriage. Either the hero proposed to the heroine, or, usually in an epilogue, they stood at an alter and

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Love is a temporary madness

One of my favourite quotes about love is from the book Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernières: “Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides. And when it subsides, you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have so

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Recipe: Kenyan chicken coconut curry

Curry calls to mind India; coconut curry calls to mind Thailand. The following recipe, however, is a traditional Kenyan one from the East Coast – the kind of meal that the characters in my novel Burning Embers may well have enjoyed, cooked by their local staff. I prefer a mild

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The mimosa tree

A mimosa tree in my grounds in France. They flower all over the French Riviera. Some towns celebrate La Fête des Mimosas, and chariots adorned with mimosa flowers and branches parade through town.

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Absence makes the heart fonder…

… Or so the popular saying goes. Heathcliff and Cathy. Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy. Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler. Jane Eyre and Mr Rochester. Pip and Estella. Dexter and Emma (One Day)… Romantic stories throughout the history of literature are peppered with the prolonged separation of lovers, which serves

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Blending fact and fiction

This week journalist Jonathan Freedland, who writes thrillers under the pen name Sam Bourne, has published an article called ‘Why the Facts Really Count in Fiction’. In the article, he explains that he takes great care in his writing to ensure that his books are as factually correct as possible.

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When the hunter and the prey join together

In researching my book Burning Embers, which is set in Kenya in the 1970s, I read a lot of African materials – legends, fables, proverbs, poems, songs – so that the traditional tribal culture with which the protagonists’ modern, more westernised world overlaps was authentic. I was particularly interested in

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Favourite film: Charlie St. Cloud

Most of my favourite films are romantic classics from previous decades – like Gone with the Wind. But I do occasionally watch a more recent film, and a friend recommended I watched the 2010 film Charlie St. Cloud because she had seen it and thought it would strike a chord

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Inspiring music

Regular readers of my blog will know that I’m passionate about music across many different genres, and I often use music as an inspiration for my writing. So I was delighted, this week, to read an article in The Huffington Post on ‘lit-pop’ – songs inspired by literature. The fourteen

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St Maxime by night

My local town in the south of France. The reflections of the lights remind me of the phrase from the song ‘On My Own’ in Les Miserables: ‘All the lights are misty in the river.’ (Though of course it’s the ocean!)

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Love is . . .

Happy Valentine’s Day! The most wonderful day of the year for a romantic like me. Do you remember the comic strip ‘Love is . . .’ by cartoonist Kim Casali? Now, I’m not a regular reader of comics of course (not enough words for my liking), but this strip caught

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The journey towards maturity

In most novels, the central premise of the book is that the main character(s) goes on a journey. Usually, that journey is at least partly experienced within the character – so spiritual, emotional, intellectual. In Burning Embers, both of the main characters, Coral and Rafe, go on such a journey.

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A bird’s eye view

Oh, to be a bird – to soar high above the land, to glide on thermals – majestic, graceful. But best of all, to get that inspiring, awesome perspective over our world that’s afforded by a view from above. The colours, the textures and the sense of cohesion are just

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Snow!

This week the snow hit our home in Kent, blanketing the world with soft, silent whiteness. Here are some pictures I took.

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Favourite film: Immortal Beloved

As regular readers of my blog have no doubt gathered, I adore music and it often forms the basis of my inspiration for my writing. Classical music is a particular favourite – when a song has no lyrics, it frees my mind to imagine the accompanying words; and of course

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Bewitched, bothered and bewildered

A sinister undercurrent running through my book Burning Embers is fuelled by native African culture embodying voodoo magic, witchcraft and evil intent – all under the auspices of the witch doctor. The protagonist’s former yaha (nanny), Aluna, is a big believer in all that is supernatural, and she stirs in Coral seeds

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The cost of love?

When browsing through a newspaper, I’m always drawn by articles about love and romance, whether love stories or commentary on the current state of romance in the country. So this week I was intrigued to read reports in the national press of a survey commissioned by Match.com to investigate the

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Drawing upon the seven core stories

Every writer tries to be original in her writing – otherwise, what interest is there for the writer and the reader? But some writing experts believe that it is not possible to be original when it comes to the fundamentals of the story – the bare bones, if you like.

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Censorship and writing

Writing is about expression. A writer must be free to be herself. Without constraint. Placing rules on a writer simply hinders the creative process. To paraphrase Shakespeare, ‘at the length truth will out’. But through the years many regimes have censored books whose contents they deemed to be outrageous, sacrilegious,

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The importance of the sun

Light is essential to my life. Light, to me, is life itself – it’s what gives me energy and strength and creativity. The long winter months are hard, but I get through them by taking long walks in the countryside with my beloved dogs, and by keeping the house well

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Author photo shoot

In preparation for the launch of my new novel, Burning Embers, and my author website, a professional photographer came to my home in France to do a shoot. It was great fun, and I thought I’d share my favourite pictures from the day with you here.

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Breaking down Burning Embers

Any writer will tell you that good writing involves using a varied vocabulary, but of course in a novel certain themes are paramount and we bring these to the fore by touching on them often. A friend recommended that I try a word frequency checker as a fun exercise and

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My latest blog posts

Big Brother is watching what you read

Although some staunch defenders of print books remain, many of us have accepted the ereader as an appreciated item in our technology collection. Personally, I still read a lot on paper, but I find the ereader useful for reading on the go. I have several hundred books in the archive,

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A Christmas Feast by Katie Fforde

Christmas is a wonderful time of year, of course, but a busy one, and if you’re an avid reader like me, you can end up feeling a little bereft come the New Year: what happened to the time to yourself you dreamt of when you would curl up and get

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The Great British post box, as beloved by Charles Dickens

I have finally finished writing my Christmas cards; each year it seems to take a little longer. I very much enjoy the whole process: selecting cards, handwriting messages, stuffing and addressing envelopes, attaching stamps. But the best part is walking to the village post box, a long-standing cherry-red pillar, and

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Lost love letters: the next 50 Shades?

What’s hot in publishing right now? A book called The Passion of Mademoiselle S. The rights to the book have been snapped up by major publishers in the UK, the US, Australia, New Zealand, France, Italy, Holland and Brazil. Mademoiselle Simone, author and protagonist of the non-fiction work,must be delighted,

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Writing for your target reader: yourself

Here is a golden rule of writing: Always write with the reader in mind. It means you should know exactly who your target reader is, and write for them. Rebecca Woodhead made a superb case for this in her article ‘Social Studies’ in the January edition of Writing Magazine (I’ve 

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The thinking behind book titles

The cover of a book must be beautiful, the blurb must be compelling, the first page must pull the reader in and make him or her want more – but above all, the title must be perfect. In no more than a few words the author must: Showcase his or

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The Prince Who Loved Me by Karen Hawkins

From the blurb: Prince Alexsey Romanovin enjoys his carefree life, flirting—and more—with every lovely lady who crosses his path. But when the interfering Duchess Natasha decides it’s time for her grandson to wed, Alexsey finds himself in Scotland, determined to foil her plans. Brainy, bookish, and bespectacled, Bronwyn Murdoch seems

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The hunger for the untold story

Type ‘untold story’ into an Amazon and the search engine returns more than 8,000 results. The phrase is frequently coupled with a title to create a marketing hook: ‘Read this book and you’ll get another angle on the story.’ Marketers know that the ‘untold story’ subtitle sells books, and so

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Annotating the first edition

Have you heard about the ‘First Editions: Redrawn’ auction? It will take place at Sotheby’s in December and will raise funds for the charity House of Illustration, which runs an educational and heritage centre in London. What’s very special about this auction is the lots: 38 editions of classic children’s

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Preserving the residences of literary greats

The blue plaque scheme in the UK is one of my favourite historical initiatives. It began in London, launched in 1867 by the Royal Society of Arts, as a means of connecting sites with people of historical interest. The first plaque was unveiled at 24 Holles Street, Cavendish Square, the birthplace

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‘Start with a bang’

Here’s a piece of advice commonly given to writers: Start with a bang and you won’t end with a whimper. It’s frequently attributed to the poet TS Eliot, but in fact he didn’t give this guidance; he attributed it to an ending, not a beginning, at the close of his

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His Island Bride by Maxine Sullivan

From the blurb: When JaceJardine is asked to return to his family’s island resort after years spent in the city, he knows Wedding Belles Resort must be struggling, but when he arrives he finds the business on the brink of financial ruin. The solution? A big wedding and happy marriage

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The dream of being a writer: What does it really mean?

The phrase ‘dream of being a writer’ is a common one that dates back a long way. Remember Josephine March in Louisa May Alcott’s 19th-century Little Women series? She ‘dreamt of being a writer’. But what exactly does that mean? What is the dream exactly? Once upon a time –

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Reading: A social activity?

Reading is often assumed to be a quiet, sedentary, solitary pursuit. If you want it to be that – if you want some peace, a sit-down, a break from socialising with others – then reading can certainly be an activity for you and you alone. But in fact, reading has

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Genre-specific book stores

The idea that the conventional book store is in trouble needs no introduction. Digital publishing, book discounting by giants like Amazon, the shift from high-street shopping to online shopping: these, and other reasons, have seen many book stores close in the past few years. Those that soldier on are forced

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My latest blog posts

Inspired by the oracles of Ancient Greece

When I was in my early twenties, I visited a fortune teller. I entered her room sceptical; I left it… intrigued. To this day, this intrigue permeates my stories, in the form a soothsayer character in each novel who attempts to guide the heroine on her path in life. These

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‘New gladness in the sunny air’

  Happy New Year! I wish you peace and fulfilment in all you do in 2018. Have you woken up with that wonderful feeling of having a clean slate – a brand-new day ahead full of possibility and promise? I hope so. But more than that, I hope you can

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The Christmas goblins of Greek folklore

We are into the Twelve Days of Christmas (the Twelvetide), that period between Christmas Day and the Twelfth Night before Epiphany. For most people worldwide, it’s a time of feasting and merriment as we celebrate the Nativity. But for the people of Greece, it is also a time to beware… goblins!

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Love Came Down at Christmas

Happy Christmas! I hope that wherever you are, your day is filled with warmth and joy – and most of all with love. ‘Love be yours and love be mine, / Love to God and all men,’ wrote English poet Christina Rossetti. Here, to inspire your Christmas Day, is her

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8 things to know about the Acropolis, Athens

In the bottom drawer of my desk, I keep a scrapbook, within which I have pasted mementos of my travels. The book falls open on a particular double-page spread, and on those pages are photographs of an ancient site beneath a starry sky, and a ticket stub for an open-air

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The legacy of Pandora’s box

No doubt you’ve heard the term ‘opening a Pandora’s box’ before. It’s used to express that an action that may seem small or inconsequential may in fact create lots of unforeseeable difficulties and heartache. ‘Be careful, Oriel,’ I could tell the heroine of my new novel, Aphrodite’s Tears. ‘Taking that

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Epic stories of Ancient Greece: The Iliad and The Odyssey

“There is the heat of Love, the pulsing rush of Longing, the lover’s whisper, irresistible – magic to make the sanest man go mad.” So reads the epigraph of my new novel, Aphrodite’s Tears. As the book title suggests, mythology is a key inspiration; hence I chose this quotation from

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