If you could invite any five people to dinner who would you choose? An eclectic mix, I think. Placido Domingo, because I love his voice and I think he’s wonderfully romantic, plus he would have fascinating stories to tell. Pierce Brosnan, because what hostess doesn’t want a sublimely attractive James Bond at her dinner table? Jeremy Paxman, for all the experiences he could share of working in the BBC and interviewing a wide array of politicians. Rowan Atkinson, because he makes me laugh. The actress Emilia Fox, because I love her in Silent Witness.
If you could meet one person who has died who would you choose? Leconte de Lisle, a French Romantic poet of the nineteenth century. His poems are wonderfully descriptive and vivid – about wild animals, magnificent dawns and sunsets, exotic setting and colourful vistas. He was very well travelled, and I think, like all the Romantics, his perspective on the world would be most inspiring.
Night owl, or early bird? I’m certainly an early bird. Once it is light, I want to be up and enjoying the day; once it is dark, my body naturally seeks rest. I write well in the mornings, without distractions. I also love being outside in the early morning – catching the sunrise, walking across dew-soaked grass, greeting the cheery birds and breathing in the scent of flowers.
Please tell us in one sentence only, why we should read your book. Set against the exotic and captivating backdrop of Africa, Burning Embers is a compelling passionate tale that offers pure escapism and heart-warming romance.
Do you have any other books in the works? I have written a sizzling and sensual trilogy, a romance that is set in Andalucia, Spain, spanning a period that will take the reader from the 1950s to the present day. It is the passionate story of the de Falla family, some of which have roots in England, and their interaction with the gypsies. A tale of love, treachery, deceit and revenge, a rumbling volcano, set against the fierce and blazing Spanish land which is governed by savage passions and cruel rules.
I have also written a very romantic and touching love story set in Venice and Tuscany in 1979/1980. It opens with the Venice Carnival that has returned after a cessation of almost two centuries. It is a tale of lost but tender deep, ineffable love, dealing with its echoes and learning to love again.
I am now working on a trilogy set in Egypt, which will take my readers from 1945 to the present day, transporting them to a world of deep, ingrained customs and traditions, interesting though often cruel, and making them live through the various winds and storms that blew over this very ancient land.
What inspired you to want to become a writer? Stories and writing have always been part of my life. My father was a great raconteur and my governess used to tell the most fabulous fairy stories – I could listen to them for hours. When I was seven she and I came to an agreement: for every story she’d tell me I would invent one in return. That is how my passion for storytelling began.
At school I consistently received first prize for my essays and my teachers often read them aloud in class. As a teenager I used to write short romantic stories during lessons and circulate them in class, which made me very popular with my peers (but less so with the nuns!). In addition, since a young age I have kept some sort of a diary where I note my feelings, ideas and things that take my fancy (or not).
My grandmother was a published author of poetry and my father published a book about the history of our family, so writing runs in my veins. I guess I always knew that one day I would follow in those footsteps and forge my own path in that field – a subconscious dream which finally came true.
Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published. Looking at reviews that readers have written on Goodreads, Amazon and on book blogging sites after readingBurning Embers. I never dreamt I would have such positive reviews, and I’m delighted that so many have found that the book transported them to the setting, Kenya. My favourite callsBurning Embers ‘an epic romance like Hollywood used to make’.
If you could jump into a book, and live in that world, which would it be? Colomba by Prosper Mérimée, a nineteenth-century French writer. The book is about the Corsican vendetta, and I would love to experience for myself the beautiful island setting. To be a spectator as the story of murder, vengeance and cunning unfolded would be fascinating – so long as I was not a player in the tale!
What was your favorite book when you were a child? The Wind in the Willows, which my father used to read to me. It’s wonderfully descriptive, and I was enchanted by the adventures of Ratty, Mole and that naughty Toad. The quintessential English setting was fascinating to me, as I’d never travelled there. And I think, read aloud, the words had such rhythm and beauty that I was quite captivated.
What’s one piece of advice you would give aspiring authors? 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.
If you could choose only one time period and place to visit, when and where would you go and why? I think it would have to be Ancient Egypt. Because I grew up in Egypt, my heritage fascinates me – and of course this civilisation had a profound effect on world history. Science, maths, architecture, literature, art, politics – so many of the roots of modern societies were laid in Ancient Egypt. To see the structures and artifacts that now fascinate the world when they were created would be amazing.
If you could be one of the Greek gods, which would it be and why? I would be Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, beauty and pleasure, for obvious reasons!
What is your favorite quote? ‘We chase dreams and embrace shadows,’ by French writer Anatole France. The quote plays an integral role in Burning Embers, signifying the inner struggle of Rafe, the male protagonist.
Can you see yourself in any of your characters? All of the main female characters I write have a little of me in them. I think you write best when you write about what you know. InBurning Embers, Coral is very naive, and this element was based on my own naivety as a young woman. I was very protected as a child growing up in Egypt, and the big, wide world was something of a surprise to me when, in my early twenties, I began travelling!
Which authors have influenced you most and how? I have my governess and the French nuns, my teachers, at Notre Dame de Sion to thank for my love of books. Balzac, Stendhal, Theophile Gautier and Victor Hugo were my introduction to beautifully written romantic stories, which were to some extent a part of the curriculum, but which I also used to devour in my spare time. Le Père Goriot, Le Rouge et le Noir and Notre Dame de Parisare all wonderfully romantic tales which I have read again and again. I then graduated to the works of Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, the Brontë sisters and Jane Austen. Their stories all had fascinating heroes, wonderful yarns and settings, and the descriptions were so amazing I felt I was living and breathing the story. My favourite author of all is M M Kaye, author of The Far Pavilions and The Shadow of the Moon. Her fabulous descriptions transport you to a time and a place as if you are there and then. If you have not read her books, I do recommend them… pure escapism… pure romance. Seehttp://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1040250.M_M_Kaye
What do you do in your free time? I cook; in particular, I like using home-grown ingredients. I entertain family and friends; hosting dinner parties is a lot of work but immensely rewarding. Once a month I have a Discover a Country’s Cuisine Night for family or friends, when I cook a three-course meal featuring the specialty of a given country. I love to arrange flowers and when I have time I indulge in antiquing, rummaging in markets and bric-a-brac shops. I travel whenever possible, and wherever I am I take nature walks; I especially love to walk along the beach, as I grew up by the Mediterranean and the ocean feels like home to me. Finally, I read voraciously.
What’s your favorite season? Each season has its charm and weaves its special spell over me. I love the spring when nature wakes up after a long slumber. Everything seems brighter, the birds are singing again, the grass has a special fresh smell and the vegetation sparkles with new growth. I love the summers when the weather is warm, the fruit in the orchard and vegetables in the garden are glowing, ripe for picking, the sun is shining in azure blue skies and the butterflies and bees are making hay, enjoying the scent of flowers. I love the nostalgic poetry of autumn, with its kaleidoscope of russet-coloured leaves, the smell of damp earth as you walk and the light that has soft, melancholic colour that catches at your soul as the summer gradually blows away. Winter has also its special place in my heart with its warm aromas of cinnamon and spice, its carpets of snow, its dramatic storms and howling gales; a time when there is no better feeling than snuggling in an armchair in front of a log fire with a book.
Favorite places to travel? I loved my travels in Spain, Italy and Greece: such vivacious, passionate people, fascinating cultures and wonderful vistas – and their cuisines are delicious. My trip to Africa, which formed part of the inspiration for Burning Embers, was also memorable; I was most affected by the rugged beauty of the landscapes and close encounters with magnificent wild animals. I would love to go visit Hong Kong next to experience its culture and setting.
What is your favorite music? I love so many forms of music. My MP3 player has more than three thousand tracks on it, and I have some kind of music on constantly, while I write, while I cook, while I drive. I have music for every kind of mood; for example, when I am tired I find classical music wonderfully soothing, especially Tchaikovsky, whose notes take me back to childhood ballet and piano lessons. Recently I have been enjoying listening to film soundtracks, I think because the songs tell a story.
In your wildest dreams, which author would you love to co-author a book with? Jane Eyre has been one of my favourite books since I first read it in my youth because it is so wonderfully romantic and Charlotte Brontë has such a beautiful writing style. Were it possible, I would love to write with her. Though whether I would go back in time to write in her era or bring her forward to ours poses a dilemma. I think I would visit the nineteenth century and develop a romantic novel for that time, when there was more innocence and chivalry.
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Genre – Historical Contemporary Romance
Rating – PG13
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