Friday, 30 September 2011

Craving the Forbidden - the lowdown

My husband is away on a work trip at the moment, so I was up with the lark (or the fat pigeon who lives, noisily,in the apple tree outside my bedroom window) this morning, determined to get on top of the pre-school routine. All went gratifyingly smoothly; scrambled eggs served up to the two daughters who wanted them, #3's packed lunch made (by herself, admittedly) dinner money found for the others, and I was feeling pretty smug as I drove home from the school run. Then I discovered that the guinea pigs were still shut in and sweltering in their eglu and I'd forgotten to brush my teeth. Oh well, almost there.

Anyway, moving swiftly on. The first I heard about the project that was to result in Craving the Forbidden and its sequel (In Bed with A Stranger, out in November) was when I went out for tea with my editor back in 2009. Over scones, champagne and a pot of Russian Caravan (we both agree that it's a crime to have to choose between champagne and tea so usually manage to squeeze in both) she asked if I'd be willing to be one of three of authors doing double-length stories. Given my tendency to write double the wordcount on every book, I'd agreed before she'd even finished the sentence - or told me that Lynne Graham and Penny Jordan were the other authors involved.

My excitement was tempered slightly by the fact that I was in the midst of my struggle to write The Book That Would Not Die (published eventually under the alternative title Her Last Night Of Innocence) but my subconscious decided to take matters into its own hands, and the morning after I got back from London I woke up with an extremely vivid scene in my head. It was set on a train leaving London and heading North (no prizes for guessing where you got that from, Subconscious) and was compelling enough to make me get out of bed and head straight for my computer to write it down. That was the starting point for the book, and over the following months as I wrestled with Cristiano and Kate, Kit and Sophie's story pieced itself together, bit by bit, in my mind. By the time I actually came to write it I had a notebook full of bits of dialogue and notes on scene ideas. Some of them never made it into the finished book, largely because I couldn't remember what they meant. What kind of scenes did I have in mind when I wrote 'beetroot' and 'doormat'??

The one thing that I hadn't quite got to grips with in my head when I started writing the book was the hero's character. I knew what he looked like...

...and I knew what kind of person he was ('distant' and 'disapproving' were the words written on the post-it notes on my computer screen) but I didn't really know why. At first I had him down as being an architect; precise and controlled, governed by rules and order. That was fine as far as it went, but there were still things that didn't fit and loose ends that wouldn't tie up, no matter how hard I yanked them. And then I realised that he wasn't an architect at all but a soldier and everything fell into place. Well, once I'd completely rewritten the first four chapters, anyway.

The course of the story changed dramatically after that, and took me down research routes that were fascinating, eye-opening and humbling, which is why I'm so thrilled to be involved in the Help for Heroes fundraising anthology. Kit Fitzroy is an EOD operative (that's Explosive Ordnance Disposal to the previously uninitiated, like myself) It's an extraordinary job, done by utterly extraordinary people - but there's more of that in the second book, so I'll talk about that next month.

Craving The Forbidden is almost entirely set in a hulking great castle on the Northumberland coast, based on an amalgam of Bamburgh and Alnwick and consequently imaginatively named Alnburgh. Usually I seem to set books in locations I can only dream of visiting but we'd had a great holiday in Northumberland the year before so this time all the research was conveniently done well in advance. Most uncharacteristically organised of me.

On the surface I suppose the conflict is staggeringly simple - always the best kind to work with, I find - and as old as the hills. The story is about the attraction of opposites - the spark between two people who come from different worlds and embody different values. Kit Fitzroy comes from a family whose name goes back to the Norman conquest and whose home has stood strong for four hundred years. Sophie Greenham has grown up on a painted London bus and has never stayed anywhere for more than a few months at a time. She's a bit-part actress and reinvents herself with every job that comes along, whereas Kit's identity seems set in the stone that forms Alnburgh's foundations. The idea of permanence makes Sophie shudder, but it's what keeps Kit going. All of that formed the background to the interaction between their characters and made it easy to write.

What was more difficult was managing the pace and splitting the story into two parts with a genuine, convincing absolute Happy Ever After promise at the end of the first one, and there were times at the beginning when I really did think I might have been far too hasty in saying yes to the project before thinking it through! But as I got further into the story, and into Kit and Sophie's heads, I forgot all about that and just let the story unfold until it reached its natural conclusion. Like Kit and Sophie, all I cared about was that moment and the future (ie book 2!) was a long way from my mind.

So, after that quick introduction to the book and its characters, I have some copies to give away. If you'd like to be in with a chance of getting one, email me via the website and tell me the name of your favourite holiday place. I'll pick five favourite holiday places out next week (and probably end up with a few more places on my Must Visit list...)

Now, I'd better go and clear up the mess from breakfast and apologise properly to the guinea pigs. Have a nice weekend everyone!


Rachel Lyndhurst said...

Squeeeek!! This all sounds so double-plus fab, missy. You're so clever, you know that?

I'm never going to be able to stop thinking about the 'beetroot' connection though. It's going to drive me MAD, wondering where it was supposed to fit in.Perhaps we can get you regressed or something, or squiffy on champagne until you remember. It wasn't anything to do with Julie Cohen's ice cream, was it?

Have a fabby weekend, India.


India said...

Don't think it was in the context of ice cream... but really can't remember what it was. Or doormat. Let's try the champagne thing next time I see you.

'Dungeon' was also there, and I do remember what I'd planned for that scene, but sadly it never made it into the book!

ros said...

A dungeon scene? *shudders*

Also, I only just noticed your dedication (these things are well hidden on the Kindle) - so sweet!

Lia said...

I've already readit and loved the story: can't wait to see where it goes next, since Sophie and Kit appear to have had their happy ending, but I will allow myself to be surprised on this one.

But I just have to say this... what a horrible coverpricture have they given your book! Basically the couple on the cover look just plain miserable and the female does not resemble Sophie at all!
Not sure if you have any saying in it, but I thought it was an awful cover picture for such a good couple (admittedly I prefer the Presents cover to the Modern cover most of the times anyway).

Kate Hewitt said...

I gobbled this book up as soon as it was released in ebook, and in the midst of my own writing deadline! Absolutely loved it, and cannot wait for part 2. Loved the castle atmosphere too, and the cold--very appropriate for the cold, windy September we'd had :) But now I'm waiting for you to post your thoughts about last night's Downton Abbey??

India said...

Oh yes Ros, I'd forgotten about that! I meant to include that in my post on the book. Thanks for the reminder - will have to do a special post, as my head is so sieve-like.

Lia thanks for the positive feedback on the story, and I agree wholeheartedly with you about the cover! I was looking on the M&B website the other day and I don't know if it's me being particularly self-pitying, but yet again I seem to have picked up the prize for most hideous cover of the month (and the one for the sequel is very similar and just as bad.) The Presents cover is much nicer in spirit - more passionate and romantic - though the man looks spookily like Prince. (That is the teeny-weeny bonkers pop star, rather than any hunky royal.) Hey ho. I must find out who you have to send chocolate to to get a nice cover.

Kate, you're so kind - thanks for being so nice about the book. I was desperately tempted to post about Downton but held back because I don't want to irritate people in places where season 2 hasn't started yet - felt a bit bad last week. Suffice it to say it's all moving rather fast, isn't it? Feels a bit like watching Formula One - exciting and glamorous and compelling, but a bit of a blur at times as storylines zip past, criss-crossing each other while you try to keep up. Every now and then a real jarring note is hit, but generally it's excusable because a great big juicy story is so much more fun than dry old accuracy. What did you think?

Sharon Kendrick said...

Obviously she thought she was behaving like a doormat and she went beetroot-coloured with shame (or is that too trite?)

Amazingly, I once had a job on a coloured and converted double-decker bus which "did" Europe in three weeks. I was the cook! O, the fun we had. Top Deck Travel it was called.....

This duo sounds intriguing.

India said...

Sharon, I find myself very much wanting to see photos of this bus trip! I spent ages poring over google images of converted buses (and think I might quite like one) so I'd like to see yours. Did you sleep on it too?

The beetroot was something to do with juice but I can't remember what. Which probably shows how interesting it was...

alexandra fox said...

I have loved your books since reading The Italian's Defiant of fashion & husband is a fashion photographer and his best friend, Kevin Carter was a pulitzer prize winner photojournalist so the story was very close to my heart...I swooned over Raphael and wished I was Eve...then read Mistress Hired for the Billionaire's ...i could feel his loneliness, the darkness inside and adored rachel who with her love and courage, brings light into his life...
Well, it goes without saying that I have read all your books and absolutely loved them. I have just finished reading your latest Craving the Forbidden and I was not disappointed. What a fantastic story and characters. Your settings...the train, the castle...awesome...the conflict...the attraction of opposites...i was really sad when i came to the last page...i wanted to read more about Kit & I was thrilled to hear about part 2...can't wait for it to arrive at my bookstore.
Keep on writing ...Love and romance i believe casts a spell over us all - it sings all those tales of love.

India said...

Oh wow Alexandra - thanks so much for that lovely, lovely comment; you've really made my day! I'm just about to switch off the computer and head away with the family for a few days, so now I'm going with a big smile on my face. Thank you xx