Thursday, 24 July 2008
Talking of which, I finished Viking Warrior Unwilling Wife on Friday when my husband was away-- which was good, because he does have an irritating habit of looking at me every three seconds when I'm coming to the end of a book I've raved about and saying 'Are you crying yet?' It's a fabulous story-- a beautiful, tender romance between two fantastically well-drawn characters, but also an edge-of-the-seat adventure. The emotional journey of the hero and heroine is set against a real journey which is fraught with dangers, and which challenges each of them to re-examine the things they thought they knew. I love Michelle's writing voice so much, and I particularly love the voice she gives to her characters-- the dialogue in this book is fast-paced and wry and totally credible, and made it very, very easy to fall in love with Vikar. (Even without the pervasive images of his green eyes, and the most beautifully depicted love scene in a cave. A cave with a waterfall. Oh yes.... Heaven can wait....) I was hopelessly slow in getting to reading this one, which came out in June. If like me you haven’t read it yet, make sure you put it in your suitcase this holiday!
So, today is packing and excitement-management day. Last night, sprawled on the sofa amid the chaos of waterproofs and fishing nets, drinking wine and wistfully watching gorgeous Francesco wander around the Parthenon we did feel fleetingly lazy and ashamed for not whisking the children off somewhere exotic and mind-broadening this summer. They, however, are boiling over with excitement at going back to the same place we go to every year and are busy writing lists of the order in which they want to do the usual things: the beach with the fossils, the beach where we always barbeque, fish and chips in the harbour and crabbing from the rocks. Last year we were lucky enough to be on a deserted beach when the Red Arrows were doing a display across the bay, so a repeat of that is featuring heavily on wishlists too. Mine included. I’d just finished writing Mistress Hired for the Billionaire’s Pleasure then, and was madly in love with Orlando, so to see the RAF in all their dashing glory was quite something.
This year I’m still deeply involved in the middle of a book, which isn’t quite so ideal in theory, but I’m actually really looking forward to having some time away from the non-stop madness here just to think and get to know my characters better. I'm crazy about the hero already, and it’s a bit like being a teenager again, marking the summers by different crushes. Way back then it was the summer of the Surf Instructor, or the summer of the Gorgeous Blond Boy in the Year Above; now it’s the summer of the RAF hero, or-- this year-- the summer of the Spanish Duke. It’s just as well I have a very understanding husband.
I'll be back in a week and a bit to pick a competition winner for my ever-expanding box of treats (to which an Audio CD of Sara Craven's Wife Against her Will, read by the lovely Michael Praed has just been added. Remember him? I used to pass interminable chemistry lessons dreaming of him, so I actually remember him a lot better than the periodic table, or how to balance an equation. That probably explains a lot...)
Friday, 18 July 2008
I hope you’ve noticed the rather glitzy little playlist I’ve added down there on my sidebar, which has on it a few of the most significant tracks for the book. This was a story that really seemed to lend itself to lots of music—I suppose quite naturally, since Rachel was a musician; certainly lots of the songs on the playlist are very piano-y. I had my ipod on constantly while I was writing, and kept finding more songs which fitted the story and the mood. However, the ones over there on the left were the core ones that inspired me and put me instantly into the world of the book (and still do, whenever I hear them!)
So, the final question is this: What instrument does Rachel play professionally?
(There’s a bit of a clue on the cover of the book, if you can make out what it is. I still think it looks like they’re standing by a broken down car...)
Here’s a quick recap of the other three questions...
What is Orlando’s profession at the start of the book?
What is Rachel’s signature scent?
What is the name of Orlando’s ancestral home?
And finally... 4. What instrument does Rachel play professionally?
Thursday, 17 July 2008
ANYWAY, this is all a rather long and rambling way of apologising for the fact that I didn’t manage yesterday’s post. Here, a day late, is a little bit of background about the setting of Mistress: Hired for the Billionaire’s Pleasure, (which is already available on Amazon!) and today’s question.
It was quite an indulgence writing a book that was set predominantly in England, and as most of it takes place in the depths of winter it was also a lovely change. I loved researching the settings for my previous books— Florence and Venice, and the sun-drenched south of France, but the contrast in the location alone made this book feel very different right from the outset. Easton Hall, Orlando Winterton’s grand ancestral home, is an important presence within the book, and is almost a symbolic extension of Orlando himself. When Rachel arrives there she is daunted by its size, and puzzled by the darkness and air of melancholy that fills its vast rooms, but gradually, during the brief time she spends there she makes her mark on the house and its wild grounds, revealing long-hidden secrets and starting to feel at home.
(Now I'm going to give myself ten minutes to look at the website and dream of Orlando before getting back to work! It's my reward for the stresses of yesterday...)
Tuesday, 15 July 2008
Because of Orlando's sight problems it was important to me that Rachel should have vivid red hair, but beyond that I didn't really focus too much on what she looked like-- in the book much more emphasis is placed on her voice and her evocative rose scent. I chose the name Rachel simply because I liked it and it suited her, so it seemed rather spookily satisfying when during my endless hours of research/ cyber-stalking in the early stages of writing the book I came across pictures and clips of James D'Arcy in An American Haunting. opposite gorgeous redhead Rachel Hurd-Wood. The film was dire, but although she's a good few years younger than my heroine, I'd found a face that seemed to fit the girl in my head.
Answers can be submitted via the website contact form. You can answer each question as it comes along, or wait until Friday and answer them all-- whatever you prefer. The closing date will be August 3rd, when I get back from holiday and can pick a winner for my growing collections of goodies. So far these include one of the fabulous Mills & Boon centenary posters (see here...) and some luscious rose-scented treats that Rachel would just love! (Oops. I think I just gave away the answer to today's question...)
Monday, 14 July 2008
A few years ago I was struck down by a nasty virus called CMV which, amongst other delights, can cause long term visual problems. As a result I now have an annual field of vision check, and it was during one of these, and while I waited anxiously for the results, that the seeds of the book were sown. Thankfully, my test results were clear, but as a commited hypochondriac by then I'd already visited the scenario that they wouldn't be... that the news would be bad... and that's exactly the situation in which Orlando finds himself as the book opens. He's just been diagnosed with a degenerative sight condition called Stargardt's Macular Dystrophy. To a fighter pilot in the RAF this news spells instant professional death. To a man who is used to excelling effortlessly, to being a leader, a hero, the personal outlook is hardly more positive and Orlando's charmed, privileged life begins to unravel.
When I was writing the book I had a post-it note stuck to my computer monitor that had the words COURAGE and HEROISM written on it. (At least it started off being stuck to my monitor, but it kept falling off. One day while I was driving to pick the children up from school I found it stuck to my elbow.) These were the themes of the book, and completely contrasting ways in which Orlando and Rachel percieved these concepts provided the starting point for the conflict between them and the journeys they each had to make in order to get their happy ending.
Orlando was so lovely to write, and I fell quite ridiculously in love with him. That combination of phenomenal strength and private vulnerability is well established and hugely powerful, and provides endless romantic/heroic potential. It was a role to which lovely James D'Arcy-- on whom I've had a whopping great fangirly crush for ages-- was perfectly suited, and I joyfully embraced the opportunity to pin pictures of him all over my office and post photos here at the slightest excuse. As I'm sure you all remember...
I was very lucky in that a friend of one of my brothers is a pilot in the RAF, and he was fantastically generous with his time, providing loads of information in answer to my questions (even replying to my emails from the beachside bar when he was on holiday!) and often inadvertently informing the plot with the things that he told me. The book is dedicated to him.
Tomorrow I'll be back to talk about the woman who arrived suddenly and unexpectedly in Orlando's life, shattering his self-imposed exile and forcing him to confront things that really, he'd rather have left unconfronted. Like the fact that one glorious encounter doesn't necessarily get someone out of your system. And courage isn't simply a matter of defending your country...
Sunday, 13 July 2008
Wednesday, 9 July 2008
2. Translations of my first and second books into Spanish and Portugese. New covers, and great new titles. Innocencia Oculta... how fabulous is that? (Have had enormous fun opening them on random pages and trying to work out which bit I’m reading, but even though I know the books inside out it’s surprisingly hard! Since I’m obviously never going to be able to sit down and skim read through them, if anyone would like a copy just drop me your address via the website and I’ll get one off to you.)
Monday, 7 July 2008
Wise words. I have therefore spent the day methodically finishing up all the weekend's leftovers. These included a third of a lovely Waitrose Balsamic onion and cheddar quiche*, the remains of Saturday night's roast beef, the last two brownies from the batch that I took to my library talk in Macclesfield, and four cold roast potatoes*.
Never let it be said I shirk my social responsibilities.
(*eaten standing by the open fridge, and therefore calorie free)
Tuesday, 1 July 2008
Yesterday, once I’d done my thousand words (1194 actually—how keen am I?) I started work on the Great Website Update, and that’s why this morning I have a sore shoulders, a slight hangover and have had only four hours sleep.
And it’s still nowhere near fully functional.