So, the cheese and pineapple cubes were oddly satisfying. Stress-levels had reached critical point by the time I finally returned home from the supermarket with my tinned pineapple chunks and rubbery mild cheddar, but the half hour it took me to spear them with cocktail sticks was fabulously therapeutic. Am not really a fan of the cheese-and-tropical-fruit combination myself, but have to admit there's something about eating bitesized bits off a cocktail stick that makes you consume stuff you wouldn't usually bother with. Am wondering if it might be a good way to get the children to eat sprouts and Christmas pudding this year.
Anyway, pineapple and cheese on sticks don't actually feature in Powerful Italian, Penniless Housekeeper so I'd better move on and get down to business. Just to re-cap, this was the book I started writing this time last year, when I was still a bit shell-shocked from the bleakness of Tristan and Lily's story and in need of some light relief.
I can't remember when or how I first came up with the idea of a book about a thirty-ish single mother enduring the ordeal of her younger, prettier, more successful sister's wedding but I do know that, with it's slightly larger cast of characters and inherently rom-com tone, I originally thought it would make a good Modern Heat. However, after Tristan and Lily this was exactly what I wanted to write, so gave the basic premise a few significant tweaks and indulgently steamed ahead.
From the outset the book had a very different atmosphere from the ones I'd written before and to reflect this I needed a hero who was a little bit unusual, a little less hard and handsome and polished than his predecessors. If you remember I was initially thinking of casting a young and brooding Marco Pierre White in the role, but unfortunately he failed to grasp that he was merely there for visual guidance and his immensely strong character and flat Yorkshire vowels kept imposing themselves onto the character of Lorenzo to an unacceptable degree. I’m afraid in the end he had to go and Keanu Reeves, in his battered, grey-streaked and world-weary forties very admirably took his place.
Lorenzo Cavalleri is an Italian film director who, from humble beginnings, has achieved huge commercial and financial success and been married to an actress widely acknowledged as the most beautiful woman in the world. The trouble is, none of this has brought him any happiness. As the book opens he is newly divorced and getting ready for the release of his latest film - a sexed-up blockbuster about the life of sixteenth century scientist Galileo, starring his ex-wife and the pretty-boy actor with whom she had an affair during filming. It is Lorenzo’s darkest hour, and he is forced to confront the creative cost of his success. In a desperate attempt to regain some glimmer of artistic integrity and self-respect he travels to Oxfordshire to check out the locations for a project he has wanted to do for years; a film of a little known, lyrical book by a dead poet called Francis Tate.
If the book has a theme I guess it would be authenticity. Lorenzo works in an industry which is all about artifice, but he is a man who prizes authenticity above all else. When he meets Sarah he is knocked sideways by her artlessness and while she might see herself as pitifully unsophisticated, to Lorenzo she is a breath of fresh air and someone who can restore his faith in life and women as well as giving him back his creative vision.
One of the things that sets this book apart from the others is that, for me, it’s very much Sarah’s story. Usually when I start planning and writing a book the hero is the most dominant presence in it, the character that dictates the mood and the action, but I felt very much when I was writing this one that it was all about Sarah. And of course, Sarah represents all of us. I think more than any other heroine I’ve written she is the most grounded in reality and embodies the most recognisable bits of myself and my friends, which made her very easy and hugely enjoyable to write. It also made me really, really want to create a strong and worthy hero for her - a man who would understand her buried sadness and appreciate her generous, curvy beauty.
(Not much to ask, is it?)On that wistful note I'd better go and join the queue at the post office. Back on Thursday with music and a competition question.