Alchemy in my Handbag

As if by magic, I am presenting ‘Stone Circle’ by Kate Murdoch.  The novel is a rich historical fantasy about a young man’s coming of age, as he learns about magic rituals and alchemy. I have asked Kate to present and extract of her debut novel.  She has written to her readers about the book and her chosen extract.

Dear Readers,

I would like to present you with an extract from my debut novel, ‘Stone Circle’.  

It’s a story of magic rituals and rivalry in a 16th century Italian town.

The extract, selected from the middle of the book, is a scene where my protagonist, Antonius, is being initiated as a seer. It describes the ritual he must go through. 

It is a key scene in my book, because Antonius’s life is undergoing enormous change, and the ritual is a symbol of that. 

Romance, thrilling escapes and alchemy – what’s not to love?

Best Wishes,

Kate x

 

Extract

Antonius watched the blue and amber flames as they crackled upwards, repeating the same patterns into infinity. He felt his body move to the rhythms, and realised they all moved in tandem around the fire. The music, the flames, and the night were as much a part of them as the blood coursing through their veins. The pace quickened and they followed, twisting and turning with fluidity.

Antonius’s mind was clear and untroubled. At the same time, he watched Giulia’s russet hair swing across her back and the long line of her slender white arm as she moved with perfect grace. He felt the eyes of many upon him, but he was not afraid. It was a sense of being held in the embrace of the observation, as if he were returning to the home of a friend that was as familiar as it was strange. Glancing at Giulia, he saw she scattered herbs into the flames. His nose twitched as their combined scent wafted towards him—sage, elderflower, cloves, and others. Three crystals were then released into the fire—purple, white, and gold. Several loud cracks erupted into the air and multi-coloured sparks flew, with a hiss and a whine. In a low voice Savinus chanted. It was a mellifluous language he had heard during the rituals at the blue cave. He spread his arms in an outward motion, as if clearing away smoke.

More About the Novel

Stone Circle explores themes of class, rivalry and spiritual growth. It is a historical fantasy novel.

Is the ability to read minds a blessing or a curse?

Kate Murdoch

When Antonius’s father dies, he must work to support his family. He finds employment as a servant in the Palazzo Ducal, home of Conte Valperga. Sixteenth-century Pesaro is a society governed by status, and Antonius has limited opportunities. When a competition is announced, Antonius seizes his chance. The winner will be apprenticed to the town seer. Antonius shares first place with his employer’s son. The two men compete for their mentor’s approval. As their knowledge of magic and alchemy grows, so does the rivalry and animosity between them. When the love of a beautiful woman is at stake, Antonius must find a way to follow his heart and navigate his future.

Reviewers’ Opinions

‘Murdoch presents a delightful romance, feathered with light touches of fantasy. The development of her love triangle is gratifying, and even secondary characters offer stark dramatic moments…’ Kirkus Reviews ‘

‘Her characters’ interactions with each other and their individualities helped shape the book into something wonderful; at the same time she excels at pacing the story with her characters, all within a framework designed to help readers understand the world of seers and alchemy she has created.’ Readers’ Favorite

‘Kate Murdoch’s fabulous writing is full of vivid sounds, sights and scents that pull us into the scene, expressed in inspired word combinations that are a joy to read. A wonderful, entertaining book.’ Gail Cleare, USA Today bestselling author

Words about Kate:

Kate is a painter turned author who enjoys writing flash fiction and short stories when she’s not writing historical fiction. Her debut novel is a romance with an element of fantasy.  Kate became completely immersed in her Renaissance town and characters when writing the novel.  Kate found it difficult to depart from the world in her novel and this bodes well for a reader intent on escape. The best of luck to Kate with her debut novel.

 

Please see all my extracts at Book Extracts and my blog at jessiecahalin.com.

 

Coraggio (courage) in my handbag

Tuscan Roots

Angela Petch

 

 

 

 

 

On opening this beautiful book, I arrived in the ‘early morning sunshine at Perugia’, with Anna.  I sat back as she drove the Italian car and observed the way that the road ‘…cut its way through tobacco fields sprouting green shoots and [took] a mountain road joining Sansepolcro to Rimini.’  I admired the olive trees and waited as the ‘road climbed’.  It was impossible not to see the ‘lake glistening’ and to imagine the people sheltering in this setting during World War Two.

On arrival at Rofelle, I found my way through the tangle of ivy, listened to the river rushing past the stones and opened the large wooden door to the mill.   The paint was peeling, but the knocker of the lion’s head stood proud; as if to announce the courage of Davide, Ines and their parents.  I opened the door to enter the past, with Anna, through the letters and diaries.  It was wonderful to meet Anna’s mother, in the diaries, but painful to discover that her ‘heart began to shrivel a little each day…’ during her traumatic life.

I stopped at the mill ‘hidden in the folds of the Alps of the Moon, where the sun sets from the jewel red skies behind misted blue peaks.’ Anna’s mother once lived in a mill, and she explains ‘…the old building in ruins, crumbling into nothing seems to mirror what I am leaning of Mamma’s past.’ The Mill is ‘fragile’ and is a symbol of lost history and lost dreams that could be rekindled by the new generation.  Sitting on the steps to read the letters and diaries, I sensed the ‘breeze that dances on the river’.  Listening to the ‘sound of the river and distant sheep bells’, I could feel the loneliness of Ines. I am sure I heard the voices of the German soldiers who would have bathed there, and the whispers of the POWs and partisans hidden in the mountains.

I was completely spellbound by the characters and the clever structure of this novel.  ‘Tuscan Roots’ is a beautifully written novel examining cultural differences, the impact of war and the risks that ordinary people will take.  I was intrigued by the details of post war Britain, but wanted to stay in Italy. The contrast between the two settings and cultures reinforces Ines’ emotional landscape.  The patchwork of history and the present are sewn together effortlessly with Angela’s distinctive prose.  How much do we really understand about our grandparents and parents’ experiences?  Such a poignant message is presented:

‘We should not bury our memories, even if they are painful, even if mistakes were made in those times, which causes us anguish…we must learn from them.’

I discovered Anna’s history, trusted her observations and understood her pain.  I was very fond of the vulnerable, innocent Ines who demonstrated incredible bravery. The descriptions of the setting rooted me to the novel, and made me understand how it bound Ines to her homeland.  I pondered the way that a landscape can remain untouched throughout the generations but people leave clues about the place’s history.  The author examines how war changes circumstances and the simple things that we take for granted.  I was in awe of the people who made sacrifices for others during the war, in Italy. The romance of the setting presents the reader with the hope of love.  The romance in the novel is wonderful, natural and tender. Angela’s writing style is captivating.

The food prepared by the locals, in the Italian Apennines, transcends time and bridges the gap between the generations.  I enjoyed ‘the stuffed zucchini flowers, little squares of crostini topped with spicy tomatoes, liver pate and a creamy relish made from dandelion flowers, roasted bay leaves topped with ovals of melted cheese.’  Food is prepared to celebrate feasts, to welcome people into the home, to celebrate family occasions and to woo.

This novel evokes the senses and leaves the reader firmly fixed in Tuscany.  Not the tourist’s Italy, but rural, down to earth Italy – ‘this landscape feels lived in’, and the author breathes life into ‘the ghosts from the past’.  The story of the POW and partisans provide another dimension to this story, and I was impressed with how this was skilfully woven into the story.

Read Tuscan Roots, and you will not want to leave the romantic beauty of ‘indigo blue mountains’, or the ruins of Il Mulino (The Mill).  You will be impressed with the bravery of the Italian community during the war, and you will not want to leave the blossoming romance. I highly recommend this book!

 

Please see all my reviews at Books in Handbag and my blog at jessiecahalin.com.

Will I need space for a broken heart in my handbag? 

Now and Then in Tuscany

Angela Petch

 

 

 

 

 

‘In my heart there was a storm that needed to break and my heart hurt like thorns on the wild rosa canina growing in the hedgerows…’

If you embark on this journey of discovery then be sure to prepare some delicious crostini, in advance, as you will not be able to put the book down….

This is a story of love wrapped up in an insight into rural history and customs of Tuscany. Meet ancient craftsmen and farmers, of Montebotolino, and marvel at the tenacity of their families; see how they survived difficult times.

The history of Giuseppe, a farrier and a cobbler, is completely absorbing.  Giuseppe was born at the beginning of last century.  His naivety leads him down some challenging paths, but this shapes the man, and ‘suffering begins the journey to wisdom.’   I found myself wanting to shout at Giuseppe and send him in the direction of love; the loves story is beautiful.

For me, the novel unlocked secrets of the enchanting holiday destination.  I have often wondered who had once walked along the ancient tracks, and who once lived in the ancient dwellings that nestle in the mountains.   As the title suggests, the reader delves into rural Tuscany as it is now and as it was back then at the beginning of last century. The reader has the privilege of meeting characters from the different generations and has more knowledge than the characters:  it is satisfying to fit the jigsaw together.  Indeed, there is a cleverly crafted narrative, in which there are emotional parallels in the lives of the characters from the past and the present.

Giuseppe’s grandson, Francesco, and his English wife, Anna have turned the ancient houses into holiday lets. Their son, Davide, encounters some of the emotional challenges of childhood that Giuseppe, his great-grandfather, had to face. Alba, Giuseppe’s great-granddaughter, faces choices about education very different to her great-grandparents.   Whilst Giuseppe’s grandson Francesco and his wife face different daily routines; this reminds us of how life has changed. However, the tenderness between the couples from both generations is crafted skilfully, and there is an exploration of love.

Life, in Montebotolino, was hard at the beginning of the last century.  Yet, the people had to make the most of nature’s larder, and the peasant food is so tempting.  It seems that the working people, from the past, shaped the menus in contemporary Italy, sadly many of their homes have been left empty as their lifestyle was too difficult. The charm, and majestic beauty of the Tuscan landscape is still there to seduce the modern traveller.  Fortunately, we can still see:

‘Cypress tree lined twisting white ribbon roads up hills towards impressive stone buildings…trees like stakes holding down the land.’

This story takes the reader beneath the surface of the magical holiday destination, associated with a paradise for the eye and the belly.

The transumanza is the Italian term for transhumance, the traditional twice yearly migration of sheep and cows from the highlands to the lowlands, and vice versa. The word literally means “crossing the land”. Ref:  Wikipedia

 

Please see all my reviews at Books In Handbag and my blog at jessiecahalin.com.

 

A big Yeehaw from the would-be cowgirl author!

Lottie Phillips 

 

 

 

The Little Cottage in the Country

 

 

 

 

 

 

During my holiday in Sussex, I managed to meet up with Lottie to discuss her delicious new book, The Little Cottage in the Country.  Lottie cycled out to the holiday cottage on a vintage red bicycle.   I had spent the morning setting up a temporary Books in Handbag Chat Room.  Lottie arrived on a gloriously sunny day wearing cropped jeans, a Gingham shirt and cowboy boots. Her beautiful book was peeking out of a fabulous leopard print handbag.  As soon as I opened the door, I was greeted with Lottie’s big smile.  She removed a tempting parcel of pastries that she had bought from the local bakers in the village.

The intense summer sun sent us inside the cottage. We drank a beautiful blend of coffee, as we savoured the freshly baked cakes.  Eating the cakes delayed our conversation a little.  The plump dried fruit enhanced the sweetness of the pastry and the oozing custard was divine.  Lottie walked around the holiday cottage and admired each detail.  The space, in the tiny holiday cottage, had been designed thoughtfully to create a sense of home.

Lottie handed her beautiful book to me, and we noted how the colours of the cover blended perfectly with the room. The book could have been photographed, in situ, as part of a magazine feature.

Jessie:  The book cover looks more delicious than the cakes that we have just eaten.  Please tell me what the book is about.  I challenge you capture the flavour of the book in a few sentences.

Lottie: Anna Compton thought that moving to the countryside, leaving London and her past firmly behind her was the perfect solution.

But very soon she’s chasing pork pies down hills, disguising her shop-bought cakes at the school bake sale – and trying to resist oh-so-handsome Horatio Spencerville, who just so happens to be the Lord of the Manor…

Jessie:  Well, the book sounds like the perfect escape for me.  What have other reviewers said about the book?

Lottie:

‘It’s funny, witty and well -paced book that I highly recommend you to select as your summer holiday read! Fabulous debut!’ (Sparkly Word)

‘Highly recommended as the perfect summer read and I guarantee it will have you chuckling in no time!!’ (Karen Mace, Amazon Reviewer)

‘Loved it. I laughed my way through it!’ (Donna Orrock, NetGalley reviewer)

Jessie:  The reviews sound brilliant.  I’ll open a bottle of wine so that we can toast your success. Come on, read me an extract from the book that will tempt a reader.  Lottie’s eyes sparkled with mischief as she started to read the extract.

Lottie: ‘The conversation with Diane did not go according to plan: somehow (and Anna blamed the one bar of signal and not the fact she had polished off most of the Merlot).

Jessie: How did you feel when you had finished writing your book, and did you miss any of the characters?

Lottie: I was bereft! I missed Anna, Linda and Diane more than words can say! They were incredible fun to write and had taken on a life of their own. In fact, between you and me, they’re still here * taps head * so watch this space.

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. 

Lottie: Anyone who needs a giggle and a feel-good book! Though if someone is able to put a copy in front of Graham Norton or Miranda Hart then my dreams would come true…

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

Lottie Phillips

Lottie: I’ve had people tell me this book should be available on the NHS. If you are ever feeling a bit down, in need of a pick-me-up, reading even a paragraph of this book should hopefully put the spring back in your step. Call it a handbag-sized natural remedy… And who doesn’t love to read about a hunky Poldark fellow like Horatio?

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

Lottie: It’s about the novel I’m currently writing and it reads: Tom, Hawaiian shirt, good-looking, makes dinner, OTT

Jessie: What is the biggest challenge for an author?

Lottie: Oh, tough one. I would say the biggest challenge is self-discipline… Twitter is fantastic as I can chat to my readers but, equally, it is amazing how much time I can waste posting GIFs…

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

Lottie: I’ve had so much advice from so many wonderful people but the best piece is this: don’t ever stop writing (and reading), practice really does make perfect.

Lottie is….

…a rubbish baker but still harks after the cosy kitchen scenario where she expertly shows her child how to make the perfect cupcakes (with no mess and not one bead of sweat in sight)…

…obsessed with interior décor…

…in love with Country and Western music and wine (preferably together). One day she will go to Nashville, wear suitable cowgirl attire, swig beer with a sexy nonchalance and be an expert in line dancing (obvs).

Lottie stayed chatting into the evening.  It was a great treat to find someone who also admitted that they enjoyed County and Western music.  We sat in the garden listening to various tracks on my iPlayer as we finished a couple bottles of wine.  Lottie is great fun and that bodes well for any reader of her new novel The Little Cottage in the Country. Who doesn’t want to live in a Little Country Cottage?

 

 

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

 

Celebrating a slice of Italian history in my handbag

Angela Petch is an author of historical fiction, and she has written two wonderful novels set in Tuscany.  I completely lost myself in both novels. ‘Tuscan Roots’ and ‘Now and Then in Tuscany’ are based on her research into her husband’s family and his family’s region.  Angela and her husband live in Tuscany for six months of the year, thus her novels are written in the heart of the setting and culture. Angela’s intelligent and vivid style of writing is perfectly balanced with cultural and historical information. 

The ebooks of ‘Tuscan Roots’ and ‘Now and Then in Tuscany’ have been snapped up by Endeavour Press.  Angela has published short stories in People’s Friend and PRIMA magazine, and she won the Ip-Art short story award in 2008.

I simply adore Angela’s books and feel as if I have discovered a writer whose work will become classics.  I asked her to introduce the extract of ‘Tuscan Roots’ to prevent me from waxing lyrical for pages and pages. 

Cari lettori (Dear Readers),

It is 1944 and in a remote corner of German-occupied, war torn Italy. Ines, an eighteen year old Italian country girl is helping the partisans hide an escaped British POW. Meeting this young man will change her life forever.

There are two time threads weaving through “Tuscan Roots” and this extract from the story set in the past introduces Ines and Norman – two main protagonists. The diary extract is being read by her daughter, years later.

Saluti,

Angela

Presenting the extract:

“Rofelle, September 8th 1944

The inglese was still asleep on the planks above the cows. The nights were chilly and the animal warmth and dry hay made a comfortable bedroom – much better than mine. I have to share with nonna and she kicks and tosses at night. She snores like the pig we used to fatten for Christmas. There have been no pigs this year. The Germans have ‘requisitioned’ ours and everybody else’s in the area. ‘Pigs eating pigs,’ we muttered amongst ourselves.

Signore,’ I whispered.

There was no response. His face was long and pale, blond curls fell over his forehead which was bound with a dirty cloth. Blood had oozed and crusted onto the material. He was like a big baby.

Signore!’ I said it louder this time. There was still no response. I put the bowl of pasta down and gently shook him.

He opened his eyes, shouted and grabbed me round the neck. I pummelled him with my fists, I could hardly breathe. ‘Let me go, leave me alone!’ I shouted.

And then he recognised where he was and dropped his hands from round my neck. ‘Scusi, scusi. Sorry, signorina.

‘You nearly knocked over the food.’

I was shaking and rubbed my neck. His grip had hurt me. The cows below seemed to sense something was wrong and they mooed and stamped their hooves.

(Extracted from Ines’ diary. Chapter 10 “Tuscan Roots”)

More words about the book from Angela:

Tuscan Roots’ is a story of two women living in two different times. In 1943, in occupied Italy, Ines Santini’s sheltered existence is turned upside down when she meets Norman, an escaped British POW. In 1999, Anna Swill and, their daughter, starts to unravel accounts from assorted documents left to her after her mother’s death. She travels to the beautiful Tuscan Apennines, where the story unfolds. In researching her parents’ past, she will discover secrets about war, her parents and herself, which will change her life forever…

What do the reviewers say about ‘Tuscan Roots’?

It is indeed noteworthy that the ‘Tuscan Roots’ has received over fifty reviews!

“A wonderful read – it is a great combination of a true account and fiction that I truly couldn’t put down” (Elizabeth Pepper – Amazon) ;

Tuscan Roots is so much more than a literary take on ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ with its credibly fleshed-out characters, glimpses of life in war-weary occupied territory and dreary post-war London and a plot that keeps you on your toes but is never too convoluted – it’s a love letter to Tuscany.” – Ingenue Magazine. ;

“The way Angela has managed to capture in great detail the amazing natural beauty of this area and the culture of the Tuscan people is incredible.” Amazon Reviewer.

“If you love Italy, you will love this book. If you love history, this novel will show you an aspect of WW2 you may well not have encountered before. Angela Petch brings Tuscany to life; the customs, the people – you can taste the food, smell the wild flowers, see the scenery.” Amazon reviewer

Angela is a natural writer and describes herself as a ‘little bit nosey and always looking for stories’.  This piqued my interest and made me wonder how she had managed to weave such a beautiful story.

The inspiration behind ‘Tuscan Roots: A tangle of love and war in the Italian Apennines’

Tuscan Roots’ is my first novel and I wrote it for my lovely Italian mother-in-law who was ill at the time. She helped me with so many stories from her own life and allowed me to use them. I hasten to add that, although much of the book is factual and based on research, some of the story is fiction.  I missed the characters and so I wrote a sequel so I could mix with them again. Some of the main characters make a reappearance in “Now and Then in Tuscany” and …I am currently working on the third part of my Tuscan trilogy and the younger characters will tell their stories in this.

I cannot wait for the third novel in this series!

See my review of Tuscan Roots.

Angela’s contact detail:
Website: https://angelapetchsblogsite.wordpress.com
Twitter:@Angela_Petch
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AngelaJaneClarePetch/
Email:angela_maurice@hotmail.com

 

Please see all my extracts at Book Extracts and my blog at jessiecahalin.com.

 

Meet the author whose characters make her leap out of the bath

Adrienne Vaughan

 

 

 

I had just parked my car, at Chartwell House, when Adrienne Vaughan arrived in Scarlet O’Hara, her ancient red soft-top. She was accompanied by Winston and Wellington, adorable Cocker Spaniel brothers.  The dogs were very friendly and happy to get out of the car, following a long journey from Leicestershire. Laughing as the boys bounded off to sniff out the venue, Adrienne removed an over-sized tweed cap to reveal unruly chestnut hair. Her vintage Harry Hall hacking jacket adorned with an elegant horseshoe brooch was perfect. The chocolate moleskin jeans with suede ankle boots, silk shirt and classic pearls completed the striking outfit. Adrienne looked very elegant, with ‘a touch of Hollywood glamour’, and she could have stepped onto a set of Dynasty, with ease. (I love this, my sister and I adore the Collins sisters, wonderful, talented, hardworking girls. Jackie was such a heroine of mine.)

Jessie:  Wow!  I love your vintage clothes.  The brooch is stunning, where did you get it from?

Adrienne:  Thanks! the horseshoe brooch was a gift from my husband, we attended the Derby as special guests of the organiser, he had a ‘good day’ as they say and the brooch has seven lucky diamonds embedded in it, I love it.  I found the classic pearls for £10 in perfect condition, in their box in a charity shop in Lutterworth.

Jessie:  What about the handbag?

Another collector’s piece bought for me by my mom in Dublin in the 1980s, when I first started working on magazines, it’s a ‘folded’ mag, called Papa Razi.

Jessie:  I did expect you to be wearing a scarf rather than a hat.

Adrienne: Only the Queen can wear a headscarf with real style, although when I had my gorgeous dressage horse Marco, myself and the rest of the girls ALWAYS wore headscarves in honour of the Queen’s birthday

As we walked towards Chartwell House, we admired the lily pond reminiscent of Monet’s Garden.  Stopping to take photographs, we took it in turns to keep an eye on the dogs but they were very well behaved.  I carried a vintage picnic basket as we searched for a suitable spot to chat.  Finally, we found a beautiful place in a walled garden.  Wrought iron chairs and tables were arranged on a patio area with a stunning view of the garden.  There were archways of roses and flowerbeds crammed full of flowers – a perfect setting for a romance novel. 

Adrienne placed my vintage Bronte tweed blanket on the table while I started to unpack the picnic.  I had prepared some homemade scotch eggs, coleslaw and sourdough bread. I had also made a fresh tomato salad with tomatoes from my greenhouse. I opened two bottles of Guinness as a nod to Adrienne’s Irish heritage.

Jessie:  I assume that you like to drink Guinness.

Adrienne:  I’m very proud of the fact I was brought up in Dublin 8 which is where Guinness HQ is based, but I must admit it’s not my tipple. I do love Irish whiskey, however and recently discovered one called Writer’s Tears … perfect! The food is great.  How did you know that this would my favourite picnic?

We were so absorbed in the food, drink and the setting that we almost forgot about the interview. Adrienne is lively, fun and incredibly easy to chat with.  Authors love to talk about their work so I prompted Adrienne by removing her book from my bag.  The book is entitled The Hollow Heart and has a wonderfully tempting image on the cover.

Jessie:  Summarise your book in two sentences.

Adrienne: Investigative journalist, Marianne Coltrane uncovers a devastating travesty of justice and with more than her career at risk, takes off to the west of Ireland to save her sanity. There, she meets Ryan O’Gorman, an actor seeking sanctuary from the media and a very dangerous fiancée. What can possibly go right?

Jessie:  I haven’t read the book so could you read an extract to tempt me?

Adrienne:  … the whole episode confirmed one thing; he was the love of her life, but love of her life or not, she would never play second fiddle to Hollywood, his career or anyone else besides.

Jessie:  I know that your books are very popular.  Let’s face it who wouldn’t like ‘romantic suspense with Irish roots and a touch of glamour.’ What do the reviewers say about your book?

 ‘The story is just wonderful, moving from the cut-throat world of investigative journalism, through glamour, glitz and mayhem, and on to the perfectly-drawn setting of Innishmahon, where it continues as a very moving love story with an uncertain outcome and a gripping tale of the lives of a cast of characters I really took to my heart.’ Welsh Annie, Top 500 Reviewer

‘Completely compelling from start to finish. Thoroughly enjoyed this novel, so many different depths and very unpredictable. Not your average romantic story, twists and turns throughout which leave you surprised until the very last page.’ Amazon Customer.

‘This book had me laughing, crying and hoping things would turn out right. If this is the author’s first book, things bode well for the next one.’ L.A. Topp

Jessie: How did you feel when you had finished writing your book, and did you miss any of the characters?

I missed them all, desperately! Luckily my husband had read the manuscript, so when I told him I was busy plotting my next book he looked at me askance and asked, “Why? The Hollow Heart ends at a beginning. Go back, so we can find out what happens next.”

So I did … genius! Except A Change of Heart was so difficult to write I nearly threw myself off the nearest bridge. Luckily again, I have an earth angel, the historical novelist June Tate, my mentor, she managed to haul me back from the brink – all’s well that ends well.

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.  

Meryl Streep. She’d read it and decide she just has to play Miss MacReady in the movie. Great! Because Meryl has the wherewithal to make that happen, and by the time it does, she’ll have roped in Pierce Brosnan to play Father Gregory and Aidan Turner to play Ryan. I already have Bill Patterson ‘signed up’ as Marianne’s gruff Scottish editor Jack. And as for Marianne, well, I’d leave that to Meryl. Though, of course, I haven’t really given it much thought, Jessie, as you can tell.

Why should I keep your book in my handbag?

It’s pure escapism and can be read as quickly or as slowly as you wish. First read, it’s a pager turner, a gripping, roller-coaster of a story that moves right along. The second read is more layered, with descriptions becoming more vivid and the reader’s emotional connection to the characters deepening – well, that’s what I’ve been told, which is extremely flattering and a bit humbling too.

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

‘In the first glimmerings of daybreak, with the deathly moon merging its last candlelight in the blueing east, they walked slowly back.’ Sadly, not my work, but an excerpt from Demelza by Winston Graham. I’m late to discover this wonderful author, who allegedly described himself as ‘the most successful author no one’s ever heard of.’ He writes like a dream. I’m always jotting things down that I hope will inspire me to be a better writer.

What is the biggest challenge for an author?

In what today is an extremely crowded, shouty, ‘look at me, I’m the next best thing’ marketplace, I would say visibility. The Americans – brilliant marketeers – call it ‘discoverability’ – meaning how do authors find their readers? It’s more difficult for an indie author – like me – but still hard work even for those with publishers behind them who, at least, give them a shove onto what they hope might be the right platform. We’re very grateful to people like you, and indeed all book bloggers/reviews/flag wavers, without your support most of us would sink without a trace.

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

‘Never, never, never give up!’ Winston Churchill and ‘Write Crap!’ Julie Cohen. I know Julie slightly better than I know Winston, obviously.

As Winston Churchill is one of her heroes, Adrienne asked to meet at Chartwell. Following the chat, we packed up the picnic and went on a tour of Chartwell.  The interior of the house was bathed in light and so inviting.  It was a joy to see Churchill’s painting.  However, we were both struck by the atmosphere of the informal dining room overlooking the garden. There was a glint of mischief sparkling in Adrienne’s eyes as she looked around the room, and I could tell that she was imagining a dinner party.

Jessie:  Who would you invite to dinner?

Oscar Wilde, of course and because we’ll have two Winstons – Winston Churchill and Winston the spaniel, I’d ask the author Winston Graham – to make three, we won’t forget any names that way and my other fave Agatha Christie – our cat is named after her (because we never know who she’s going to kill next!).

I’d be very quiet though, in total awe of all these ‘greats’ and might not be able to eat any lunch at all!

Have look at this.  I love this picture with one of my heroes, Oscar Wilde, in Merrion Square Park, Dublin. I climbed up to give him a Christmas kiss and there, stamped across his laconic smile was a perfect print of pink lips. Someone had beaten me to it!’

Adrienne is:

… a writer of romantic suspense with Irish roots and a touch of Hollywood glamour.

… always leaping out of the bath to write down what her characters have just said to her, they do pick their moments

… is desperate to be able to write faster, but a book is like a painting, it’s not finished till it’s finished and only the author/artist knows when.

Adrienne: Thanks for the chat and the food – it’s been a fun day.  I loved the Guinness but want to leave you with a bottle of Writer’s Tears to drink when you get home.  I hope you’ll raise a glass to the release of my next book, Scandal of the Seahorse Hotel, which is currently being considered by a number of well-known publishers.  The cover reads, ‘Every summer has a story, but how can one secret ruin so many lives?’

Adrienne was great company and made me laugh throughout the interview. She was forever telling a great yarn so effortlessly and with great humour.  I predict that her books are very entertaining.  I wish her every success with her new release.

You can contact Adrienne Vaughan at:

Website: www.adriennevaughan.com

Twitter:@adrienneauthor

Facebook: Adrienne Vaughan

 

List of novels written:

The Hollow Heart

A Change of Heart

Secrets of the Heart

Fur Coat & No Knickers (Short story collection)

 

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

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.