Meet the author who created a piping hot novel in her Paris kitchen

Ally Bunbury 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a privilege to meet Ally Bunbury, at The Grand Hotel, Brighton, while I was on holiday.  Ally managed to escape from a project in London to chat about her debut novel. She arrived looking very glamorous in her favourite long sleeved, leopard print dress. She also wore her pearl earrings that were a present from her husband, Turtle. I experienced handbag envy when I noted the gold Longchamp clutch bag. Ally was a little self-conscious and shy at first, but she soon relaxed and lit up when she talks about the characters in The Inheritance.

Ally commented that her character, Gilda, would adore the Grand Hotel and we drank some Bolli in her character’s honour.  A man was playing jazz on the piano as we sipped the champagne in the conservatory as we looked at the sea.  Finally, we commenced out chat about Ally’s debut novel, The Inheritance.  The book is a celebration of romance, country houses, inheritance and celebrity. It a perfect book for the readers who like to indulge in Jackie Collins and Jilly Cooper.

Jessie: Tell me about your glamorous book

Ally: The Inheritance is about an Irish girl named Anna Rose, who goes to work in London for the fabulous “PR Queen” Gilda Winterbottom. At an absurdly opulent party hosted by the Hollywood actress, Sofia Tamper, Anna meets George Wyndham, a dashing art dealer and heir to his ancestral estate in Scotland. Anna and George very quickly fall in love only to find themselves cornered into an impossible situation involving the ravishing but utterly spoilt Sofia, and with his inheritance under threat, George is forced to make a terrible choice. The story takes place in London, Paris, Ireland, Scotland and LA.

Jessie:  Capture your review with an extract from the novel.

Ally: ‘Turning away, Anna felt deflated at having lost what she thought might have been a chance with George. Then, seeing crystal photograph frames on a sideboard, documenting Sofia’s life, sun- kissed on a super-yacht, looking divine in a slinky dress at some sort of debutante ball, she had a reality check. Sofia was famous for being an IT girl who partied around the world; Anna couldn’t even begin to compete.’

Jessie: Your book is an entertaining peek into another world.  The story narrative sparkles with surprises and mischief.  I enjoyed writing the review but what have the reviewers said about The Inheritance

“Pitched as The Devil Wears Prada meets Bridget Jones this sparkling debut novels embodies the best of both.”

“A rollicking yarn.”
– RTE Guide

“With threads linking the London party scene, Anglo-Irish family life and a sprawling Scottish estate … there are private jets and Porsches pitted against old money and family tradition. The elite are up to their usual tricks, with sex, booze and back-stabbing aplenty.”
– The Irish Times

“Delicious escapism.”
– The Irish Examiner

“Jane Austin spiked with a dash of Made in Chelsea.”
– The Irish Independent

“This is a perfect indulgence read.”
– Sue Leonard

Jessie: Why should I put your book in my handbag? 

For delicious escapism.

Jessie: Why did you start writing? 

Ally: Sometimes the best moves are sporadic, and stepping off the London treadmill to live in Paris during my late twenties was one of them. My father had been ill for many months and when he died at home in Ireland, I needed head space that I couldn’t possibly have found if I had stayed in my PR job, no matter how much I loved it. A close friend suggested I should move to Paris and rent her apartment and I jumped on the opportunity, even though I had no idea what I would do there. And it’s hard to explain, but when I walked into my pretty Parisian kitchen, bright yellow with tall windows, I was felt utterly compelled to write. I sat down at the rustic wooden table and began writing, and as the days went on, I played the saddest possible music, from La Boheme to soulful jazz, and I can remember tears pouring down my face as characters discussed their lives, made choices, had dramas and found love. It was purely therapy and that was how The Inheritance began.

Jessie: Do you have a special writing place? 

Ally: At the kitchen table in my house, looking out onto the Irish Wicklow Mountains.

Jessie: Do you feel different, now that you are a published author? 

Ally: I feel like the stars aligned, whilst I wrote The Inheritance, and a number of conversations with my close friends (which includes my husband) made my book happen. The feeling of people being behind you, holding you up, really can make good, and even great things happen. I had always known the power of friendship was strong, but before The Inheritance came to be, I hadn’t realised just what a difference self-belief, due to others belief in you, can make. After ten years of marriage, and the arrival of two gorgeous daughters, now that I have started writing again I feel as if a strong flame has been lit inside me and I couldn’t be happier about it.

Jessie: How do you use social media to support you and are you a member of any forums?

Ally: I now Tweet, Facebook and Instragram – and I really enjoy it, though it does take discipline not to get too distracted by the news feeds!

Jessie: How do you manage to find the time to write when you run a PR business? 

Ally: The major difference between writing in Paris, and County Carlow, where we now live, is that I am now a mother, and I also run my own PR business, so writing a book in ‘my own time’ is certainly challenging – especially when a room of one’s own is the kitchen! However, having worked in a large open plan office during my PR agency days held me in good stead, as I find I can sit down and write when the children might play Twister or built an obstacle course for their hamster, Mr Nibbles. And if there is one piece of advice I’d like to pass on about writing a book, it is this – ‘If you want to write a book, don’t watch television.’ And it does require discipline, as sinking into a deep sofa to indulge in Netflix after a long day, can be unbelievably tempting, but once you get into the habit of instead settling in behind your lap top with a glass of wine or a mug of steaming tea, it is another form of relaxation.

Jessie: Where did you get the idea for the new novel and did you plan the entire narrative before commencing? 

Ally: I begin with a central character and build the bricks from there.

Jessie: Do the characters ever surprise you and take over the story? 

Ally Bunbury

Ally: Gilda wrote herself … literally … the works sprang from my fingertips before I could even give them any proper thought. She is such a fast, pacy character. I am currently working on my second novel and really enjoying it. I’m at the delicious stage of creating character detail and as it is a love story, I am feeling quite dreamy on a daily basis. The title is yet to be decided and it will come out in June of next year.

It was a delight to spend a gloriously sunny afternoon with Ally in the beautiful hotel. Ally was completely at ease in the glamorous environment and smiled at me when I insisted on capturing the setting in a photo.  Ally didn’t have time to stay as she had to get back to another celebrity party to rescue one of her clients.

A few words about Ally…

Born in 1976, Ally Bunbury was brought up with her three sisters, and a menagerie of animals, in County Monaghan. Following a serendipitous encounter at a dinner party, Ally landed a dream internship with a PR agency on New York’s Fifth Avenue, which, in turn, led to a flourishing career in London and Dublin. Ally now runs her own PR company and continues to create dynamic media campaigns for her clients. She lives in County Carlow with her husband, the historian, Turtle Bunbury and their two daughters, Jemima and Bay. From their house, overlooking the foothills of the Wicklow Mountains, Ally wrote her debut novel, The Inheritance .  She is currently working on her second novel.

 

 

Please see all my author interviews at My Guests and my blog at jessiecahalin.com.

 

Meeting historical novelist and his scoundrel ancestors

John Jackson

 

 

 

 

My phone guided me through the ancient streets of York to meet, historical novelist, John Jackson.  I could not resist stopping to watch to the occasional street entertainer, and was very distracted by the outdoor market.  Although, the air was unseasonably warm, I could sense Christmas creeping around the corner. Some of the stalls were crammed with Christmas jumpers, wrapping paper and the sort of decorations that would tempt the Christmas magpies.  Tempted by the bakery, I had a cursory glance through the window then moved on towards Ye Olde Shambles Tavern. 

Finally, I felt the uneven cobbles beneath my feet, and the heels of my boots struggled to grip the ground, it was obvious that I had reached the famous medieval street.  I reached a building that would have looked at home in a museum.  Outside the building was painted black and the window reminded me of a shop one would imagine in a Dickensian novel.  My imagination had taken me to the wrong era, but having researched John’s book, my mind was full of history.  Instantly, John greeted me with his warm smile and welcoming manner.  He was looking very relaxed in his cords and checked shirt.

John:  Welcome to York!  I have taken the liberty of buying you half a pint of Shambles Tavern Stumbler.

It was a straw coloured beer with a pleasant hoppy finish.  It was served cool but not cold.  We also had a complementary plate of sandwiches and crisps.

Jessie:  Thank you, John. It is great to be back in Yorkshire.  Sorry, I’m a little late but I got distracted with Shambles Market. 

John:  No problem, it is so easy to get lost in the history of York.  The Shambles is rumoured to be the best preserved medieval street in the world.

Jessie: I didn’t know that – thank you.  You certainly do adore your history.  I was reading about your historical novel on the train and it looks so tempting.  It was fascinating to discover your novel is based on your family history.

John:  Ah yes, I started to research my Family Tree fifty years ago.  I was lucky to find transcribed letters from my great, great grandfather on one side of the family, and on the other I found that my great great grandmother was related to the Rochforts of Belvedere, in Ireland.  I had to research this treasure and along the way, I came across some juicy relatives – and a story that was crying out to be told.

I found a booklet titled ” Some Celebrated Irish Beauties of the Last Century”, and the first chapter was about my book’s heroine. I couldn’t pass this story by. In my eyes it was crying out to be told, even though the original story would need a very different treatment.

I ended up writing the story of what I would LIKE to have happened.

John saw me looking at his novel peeping out of a rucksack.  He held up the front cover with pride.

John:  It was a great moment for me when I received the physical copies of the book.  I am totally delighted with the front cover. It’s a portrait of Robert Rochfort, and it hangs in Belvedere House in Mullingar. The management of the house (an Irish National Monument) were extremely helpful in allowing me to use the image.

Jessie:  It is like the front cover for a classic, historical novel – perfect for the genre.  Can you capture the essence of the book in a couple of sentences?

John:

You can’t choose who you lose your heart to!

Love can be the only thing that keeps you alive.

Jessie:  Wow!  You have already hooked me into the novel.  

I picked up the book and searched for a key sentence on the blurb.  The blurb is succinct and deliciously tempting. I read from the blurb on the book, hoping that John would tell me more.

Jessie: The blurb says, ‘Based on real events, Heart of Stone is a tale of power, jealousy, imprisonment, and love, set in 1740s Ireland.’ Please tell me more about this captivating story.

John: I don’t want to give too much away, obviously. Fortunately, it is a time that is past. We behave better now – or at least differently. I can reassure you, though – you really WILL be captivated by the story.

Jessie: I can see that there has been an awful lot of interest in your book online.  Everyone seems to love the fact that the story is based on your own family.  What do the reviewers say?

John:  For me, the fact that my wife loved the book was such a great reward.  Here are some of the reviews from Amazon:

‘A brilliant book, found it hard to put it down!’ By Mum’s the word

‘I thoroughly enjoyed reading Heart of Stone. I found it hard to put down from the first pages onwards.’ By Rebecca H Stevens

And from Goodreads: ‘Utterly loved the book, fantastic read and loved it very much…’ by Gwessie Tee.

Jessie:  I am impressed with the way that you are tempting me to read the book – very clever.  Come on now, can you read an extract.

John took a sip of his beer then picked up his book.  He had already marked some passages and took a couple of minutes to select the extract.

John: Mary felt the warmth of his lips on her fingers; the sensation caused her to feel a glow deep within her. She looked up and into his eyes. They seemed deep enough to drown in.

Jessie:  Well, I wasn’t expecting that level of intrigue in such a short passage.  Who is Mary, she sounds as if she is in trouble?

John: She is, but doesn’t know it! She is my 5 x Great Grandmother, Mary Molesworth and the daughter of an Irish peer. She is Robert’s new wife.

Jessie:  How did you develop the characters in your novel.  Did you have clues about the characters’ personalities in your research?

I started with what was actually known about them and worked from there. I found that easier than I expected, possibly because they are – initially – “broad brush” characters.

Jessie:  It must have been quite a journey to write this book, and it must have been difficult to leave the characters behind. How did you feel when you had finished writing your book, and did you miss any of the characters?

John: Writing “The End” was both the best and the worst of sensations. I was delighted to finish the work; but it was also like saying goodbye to some old friends.

I would like to have written more about the enigmatic Mr Stafford. He knows everything.

Jessie: Who would you like to read your book and why?  This could be another author, someone famous, a friend or a member of your family.  

John: Most of all, I would like my friends to read it. There is a lot of “me” in Heart of Stone.  My wife has already read it, and, happily, loved it.

Jessie: Why should I keep your book in my handbag?

John: It entertains (I hope), and it reaffirms the old tenet of “Never give up! Never lose faith!”

What is the last sentence written in your writer’s notebook?

From my next book: (Working title “Strange Bedfellows”. He never felt the blow that felled him, but, as his assailant kicked him viciously in the ribs and back, he could feel himself slipping into unconsciousness. A disembodied voice spoke into his ear as he lay there. “Stay away from here. We don’t want your kind.”

Jessie: I have just read a wonderful blog post from you where you explain how you have marketed your book.  It was thorough and I have shared it with others. What is the biggest challenge for an author?

John: For a NEW author, realising that you might have a good tale to tell, but you really need to learn how to tell it! Writing is a craft, and it behoves us to do it well, if we believe in our story.

Jessie: What is the best advice that you have received as a writer?

John:  Don’t give up!

Jessie:  You certainly don’t seem like the sort of person to give up.  Your novel sounds like a labour of love. It must be wonderful to get an insight into your ancestors.  I searched for Belvedere House, one of the settings, it looks magnificent.  I was intrigued by the Jealous Wall.  Does this feature in the novel? Tell me, did you visit Belvedere House in Ireland? 

John: We did indeed. I HAD to check to see if I had made any major mistakes in my draft. Fortunately, I hadn’t. Belvedere and the Wall are impressive. They both feature heavily in the novel.

As expected, John was great fun to interview.  He is such a warm character and very clever at presenting clues about his book.  I wish him the very best of luck with his debut novel.

About John…

After a lifetime at sea, I am now retired, and have turned to writing fiction. An avid genealogist, I found a rich vein of ancestors, and suddenly realised just how much material there was for any number of books. Most people throughout history have led boring, humdrum and frequently brutally short lives, but on my family tree, there were a good number of real characters. Some were total scumbags, and lots did “interesting things.”

A chance meeting with some authors led me to turn his efforts to setting down some amazing stories. John is a keen member of the Romantic Novelists Association and the Historic Novel Society and an enthusiastic conference-goer for both organizations.

I was brought up on Georgette Heyer from an early age, and, like many of my age devoured R L Stevenson, Jane Austen, R M Ballantyne, and the like. These days my tastes run towards Bernard Cornwell, Simon Scarrow, Liz Fenwick, and Kate Mosse.

Contact details:

Website:  john42hhh.blogspot.co.uk

Twitter: @jjackson42 

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/johnjacksonauthor/

 

 

Please see all my interviews at My Guests and my blog at jessiecahalin.com.