‘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 out over the Indian Ocean in the silvery light of the moon, contemplating her life and the choice she has made in returning to the land of her birth, Kenya. There, captivated by the beauty of the ocean before her and struggling with the emotions stirred by her homecoming, she is comforted by a tall, dark, handsome stranger: Rafe.
Ah, the rich fantasy of youth. Several times before the age of seven my parents, my sister and my governess, Zula, travelled by boat to Genoa, and then from there my parents would leave us in Switzerland with Zula and travel for a month. I loved those boat trips. Like Coral, I used to gaze at the sea and lean overboard – to Zula’s horror! I was fascinated by the intense blue colour of the Mediterranean. It still catches at my heart strings, and when I am writing in my home in France, the vivid azure before me brings colour to the words I write.
My childhood is a rich source of inspiration for me. Because the female protagonists in my books are often just on the cusp of womanhood, and are therefore naïve, I find that thinking back to how I saw the world as a child helps inform my writing of these women. Their childlike wonder and appreciation of simple things like the blue ocean adds to their appeal to the male protagonist – their innocence, their beauty, their passion for life.