Why write?

I set off yesterday morning in the rain. The word obfuscation sprang to mind – the usual view across the mountain range was under cloud and I hoped it wasn’t an omen.

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Would I be able to track down what I was looking for? Or would time have obscured the memories? I’m researching my next Tuscan novel and down in the valley from us, in Pieve Santo Stefano, is the National Archive for diaries, where I was bound. I had requested to see three documents and spent the next three and a half hours poring over the words of two women and one man. They were all accounts of experiences during the Second World War, in occupied Italy. I have to say I felt like weeping whilst reading. But I smiled too at this glimpse of ordinary lives from the past.

There was a poem printed as a poster on the library wall. It’s hard to translate all the sentiment behind Bruno Tognolini’s lines (and I will write it out at the end of this blog in its original form for my friends who read Italian). He conjures a person called Giovanna and asks why she’s written her diary. The answer – “I wrote to wash clean, I wrote to clarify, to do and undo the past that’s yet to come and so that this never-ending world would remember me.”
As I drove home, thinking about the young man who had described his battle at Cassino, where “young men died five times… in this cemetery of men of eighteen to thirty years of age”, about the fourteen-year-old Italian girl who fell in love with her eighteen-year-old German soldier, whose tender kiss she never forgot, about the single mother who was forced into prostitution with soldiers to feed her child, I thought what a wonderful thing it was that these diaries had been bequeathed. Through their words, these people live on.
Then I started to think about the reasons why we like to read and why we write. There are infinite reasons and for me, the two are connected. I think most of us need narrative in our lives. I read to broaden my life, to be swept away, to connect with different places and emotions and to have fun.
Writing isn’t always fun, but most of the time it is. Hopefully, if I enjoy my writing then one or two readers will enjoy it too. If I manage to connect, and to create something worthwhile out of everyday ordinary moments, take readers to places they’ve never been, drag them into my dreams, then it’s worth the times when Amazon remove our reviews and when algorithms, keywords, metadata, social platforms and all that other jazz get in the way of putting ideas down on paper.
Incidentally, when I drove home, the sun had come out and I could see the view.

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Filastrocca del vento dei diari

I diari sono atlanti
Sono rose nei venti
Son brezze silenziose
Di cose, cose, cose
Bianche, lavate
In vento trasformate
Un vento fatto d’anime
Disciolto nello scrivere
Oramai senza traccia
Di colori,di essenze
Che carezza la faccia
Con le pure esistenze
Un vento trasparente
Di ore, di sere
Passate inutilmente
Meravigliosamente
In pagine leggere
Scritte, trafitte
Spianate in righe dritte
Di calendar vivi
Giovanna, cosa scrivi?
Ho scritto per lavare
Ho scritto per schiarire
Per fare, disfare
Il passato a venire
Per dire le mattine
Per capire perché
Tu mondo senza fine
Ricordati di me
Voi scrittori nel vento
O cugini, o fratelli
O perduto da tanto
Adorate sorelle
Quei diari sono un dono
Un perdono di eroi
Perché io so chi sono
Perché io sono noi.”
Bruno Tognolini, 2014

If you have a moment, it would be great to have your theories on why you read or why you write.

 

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Another Italian lover

Now, did I catch your interest with my title? I’m happily married, thank you, to a half-Italian, half-English gentleman, so I don’t need no lover… BUT, via social media, I have met another writer who has fallen under the Italian spell. Her latest book, “The Silence”, came out a few days ago and I caught up with her for a chiacchierata and a coffee… (work that one out for yourselves). Meet Katharine Johnson, who is published by Crooked Cat Books.

Katy,  both the books I’ve read by you are set in Italy and have a historical slant. How did your interest in Italy start?

In the 1990s I spent a month in Florence between leaving one magazine and starting on a new one whose launch was a bit delayed. While I was there I found out about a wonderful course at the university per stranieri at Villa Fabricotti, all taught in Italian. I went back to England, enrolled in evening classes to learn the language and started saving. A couple of years later my husband and I took a late gap year and came out to Florence to do the course. We had language lessons in the morning followed by lectures on art, architecture, literature, film, politics etc. In the late afternoon we had visits to galleries and at weekends visited other cities. After the course we travelled around the country and eventually bought a cottage near Lucca which we’ve been doing up ever since, but it has enabled us to spend a bit more time in Italy. 33434820_605630503134456_7538828370931351552_n[1]

Katy’s writing spot on the terrace of her Italian house

 I love the sense of place in both your books. How do you go about creating that? Do you carry a notebook around with you? Use photos? It’s always interesting to know how authors go about their writing.

Thank you – I wrote some of The Silence and The Secret in Tuscany which I suppose was cheating really as I had plenty of inspiration around me. I do carry notebooks with me and also get ideas when I’m walking the dog in England or swimming in Italy (I’m the boring person who ploughs up and down the pool instead of joining in the ball games.)

 

I don’t think that’s cheating at all! Are any of the characters in your stories based on real people?

No but I suppose we’re all the sum of our experiences or observations so they’re probably a jumble of bits of people I know and have imagined.

 “The Secret” revolves around a World War mystery. My first book has the same period as the background, so I was really interested to read another book set in war-torn Italy. What sparked off your inspiration for this story?

I grew up with pictures of my great uncle who had died in the war in Italy. All her life my grandmother was deeply affected by the death of her little brother. When she heard I was going to Italy she asked me to find his grave in Assisi which I did and I started reading up about the Italian Campaign. I used quite a bit of that research in my first book Lies, Mistakes and Misunderstandings which has some scenes where the main character Jack is fighting in Italy. But I was also interested in what it must have been like for the Italian civilians, soldiers and partisans during such a devastating and confusing conflict.

You are with a publishing company. Have you ever self-published? What would you say is the main advantage of being with a publisher?

Yes, my three books have been published by Crooked Cat Books. I haven’t self-published yet, mainly because I’m rubbish with technology but it’s something I’m looking into.

I know the feeling. I feel as though I thrash around, knocking into everything. But it is so necessary for marketing. Do you have a couple of writing tips you would like to share?

I don’t know if this makes the best commercial sense, but I write books I’d like to read. The nicest review I’ve had just said “I wish I’d written this.” I know that feeling – I’ve had it about lots of books but it was so lovely to hear someone say it about mine.

When you start writing you get bombarded by advice and it can get quite stressful trying to keep up with it all. I think it’s really important to engage with people and groups on social media, but juggling writing and promotion is really hard. I’ve found it’s best not to spread yourself too thinly.

Blurb
Love, lies and betrayal in wartime Italy. Two girls growing up in Mussolini’s Italy share a secret that has devastating consequences. Against a backdrop of fear, poverty and confusion during the Second World War friendship is tested and loyalties divided. But a chance encounter changes everything. The girls’ lives diverge when beautiful, daring Martina marries and moves into Villa Leonida, the most prestigious house in their Tuscan village while plain, studious Irena trains to be a teacher.
But neither marriage, nor life at Villa Leonida are as Martina imagined. And as other people’s lives take on a new purpose, Irena finds herself left behind.
Decades later a tragedy at the villa coincides with the discovery of an abandoned baby whose identity threatens to re-open old wounds. While Irena’s son is determined to get to the truth, Martina’s daughter is desperate to keep the past hidden.

Secret cover (1)

The Secret is published by Crooked Cat Books and is available in paperback £6.99 and kindle £1.99,  here:

Bio
Katharine Johnson likes writing about ordinary people in extraordinary situations. She’s passionate about old houses and the stories they have to tell. She grew up in Bristol and has lived in Italy. She currently lives in Berkshire but spends as much time as she can in the Lucca area of Tuscany. When not writing you’ll find her exploring cities, drinking coffee, playing netball badly and walking her madcap spaniel

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Other books by Katy Johnson: The Silence:  

Lies, Mistakes and Understandings

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Katy, I’ve so enjoyed meeting you – albeit virtually. I really hope we can properly meet up some day when you are over here in Tuscany. Good luck with your writing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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An “antipasto” for tomorrow

In anticipation of the main course tomorrow, here is my review of Katharine Johnson’s new release. As you all know, I love Italy, and I hugely enjoyed “The Secret”. Even the cover is characteristic.

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I recently read “The Silence” by this author and really enjoyed it, but “The Secret” is on another level. If I could have given it 6 stars, I would have. There are many facets to the story and the clever time-switches between the present day and past add to the layers of secrets that stretch back to occupied Italy during the Second World War. I strongly believe that we need to understand our past, in order to understand the present and cope with the future, and Katharine Johnson voices this through Carlo, whose mother (Irene) is on the fringes of dementia. He wants to know what happened in her past. “It’s our memories that make us what we are,” he says. It becomes almost an obsession to know his mother’s secrets locked in her heart – much to his wife’s annoyance – for Cass and Carlo have a busy restaurant to run and he is distracted. He gives Irene a tape recorder and, after she has worked out how to use it, her memories pour out. This is such a clever way of writing the flashbacks.
And so, we are taken back to “that blurred line between the past and present”, and for Carlo, “the ghosts from five decades ago shifted at the corners of his vision.” I know Italy well and have studied that period of the war for my own writing, and this is one of the many reasons I appreciated this story. Because Johnson’s descriptions of that time and, indeed of present day Italy, are vivid and accurate. And yet, she writes with fantasy too. It isn’t simply a documentary about war-torn Italy. Yes, we learn of the fall of Mussolini and how hard it is to know whom to trust in the climate of divided political beliefs. And she gives us deeply moving and tense pictures of a massacre and images of German soldiers ruthlessly hunting for partisans in the village. I smelt the fear through her words. Afterwards, “the cries must have stopped at some time, but she (Martina), already knew she’d never stop hearing them,” and “human beings turned to a heap of rubble.” Martina is a complicated character and thoroughly believable. If she wasn’t complex, then the blur between truth and lies would not work as well. Throughout the story, I never knew what the truth was going to be. There is a clever line near the beginning of the book about present day tourists in Italy: “what they saw wasn’t a lie – just another truth.” And I felt that could apply to the layers of events in the book.
Elena, the mother of Martina’s missing husband, is another extraordinary woman. In her grief, she sits at the piano, “monstrously fragile, staring into space… the notes resounded through every room, drowning out the whispering in the chimneys.”
I love this author’s writing. Congratulations, Katharine Johnson and thank you for a wonderful story.

 

“A domani” – see you tomorrow, when I’ll chat to the author.

 

 

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Along the way

I own a little book of Calm, packed with mindfulness and relaxation techniques.
Yesterday, I opened it up at the “Smell the Coffee” exercise. We can’t be calm if we are always rushing from one thing to the next. (Guilty!) So, I decided that when I went up to our little town of Badia Tedalda that morning to buy a few provisions, I would appreciate the small things. To get perspective.
It made me realise how many facilities we have here, although we tend to go down to the city of Sansepolcro, half an hour’s drive away, for a bigger shop. Badia Tedalda has a population of 400 and serves an outlying area of 1,400 inhabitants. I love the way the clock on our town hall has stopped at ten to two. It slowed me down. IMG_4881

Let me share with you a mosaic of the characters and sights of this morning. I started at the greengrocer, where lovely Cinzia displays her still life of fresh vegetables to tempt me.

 

We also have an interesting butcher who writes poetry in his spare time. He invited us to lunch in his restaurant next Sunday and promised to share a few lines. Then, there is Cristina, a young grocer with a trained singing voice who performs at local festivals. Meet our hairdresser, who not only keeps the locals’ hair trim and sorted, but also arranges pizza evenings out, if she feels somebody in particular needs cheering up. There’s a primary and middle school with a view over the Apennines to die for, as well as a great scholastic reputation. Apart from a doctor’s surgery, there is a Chemist whose surname is Salvati (save yourself, or the saved ones). That always makes me smile. A bank, post office, restaurants, a bar (where we smelt and drank the coffee) and an ironmonger who also sells amazing home-cured hams and cheeses.

 

It is a pleasant experience to buy from these little shops. I enjoy the different personalities of the owners. Some of the shopkeepers were too shy to be photographed – Olga, the hairdresser, was wearing her curlers… so I let her off, but not before she proudly showed me the vegetable garden she had planted on this, her day of. My namesake, Angela, who runs the newspaper/knick-knack/haberdashery/gift shop refused, so I teased her, telling her I would display the fresco of the angel whom she resembles, painted on the ceiling of our local church further up the mountain.
I walked back down the hill, opting for a short cut along the vecchia strada, the old road, where I always feel the history, wondering how many mules and peasants must have travelled the same route in the past and I tried to imagine their conversations and concerns.

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At the hamlet of San Patregnano, I turned down the alley named vicolo corto e stretto, meaning short and narrow. But my world felt wider because I had taken time out to appreciate it.

 

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A chat by the river

Perhaps I could have had my chat with author, Helen Christmas, in a London pub,  in Shoreditch, the kind of venue in her first novel. But, I’m in Tuscany, so I spirited her over for an espresso in the mill and we caught up indoors. There was a light drizzle – maybe it helped her relax and feel more at home. Anyway,  we had a great session. We are both members of CHINDI authors, based in Chichester, now spreading its membership of indie authors wider, thanks to the internet.

I started off by asking Helen when she started writing.

Writing has always been a passion of mine. Born with a vivid imagination, I have always loved dreaming up characters in my head; such was the process that inspired ‘Same Face Different Place.’ I came up with the idea while wandering along the beach with my dog one day in the summer of 2010. I was thinking about the decades – the changes I had seen throughout the 70s, 80s and 90s… and somewhere in the midst of those thoughts, I imagined a murder mystery and at the heart of the story, a troubled teenager in London who falls foul of some very dangerous people. Once I started writing it in 2011 there was no stopping me. The story evolved into five books which took seven years to complete, but I loved every minute.

I have only completed the first book (“Beginnings”), and was taken aback by the rawness and violence of some scenes. You’ve been likened to Martina Cole, which you must be pleased about. Her books cover quite difficult aspects of the crime world. Is there any subject you wouldn’t touch on?

I’ve read quite a few of Martina Cole’s books but there came a point when I found them too violent. There were some horrific killings and I don’t like scenes of torture or child pornography, it’s too nasty and plays on my mind.
The most evil character in my own story (first introduced in Book 2 Visions) is a dangerous psychopath who enjoys frightening people, though I avoid graphic scenes of violence and sex.

I’m reading “Visions” at the moment and, although there are scenes of psychological bullying, I relaxed more into this book than your first. Maybe I’m a scaredy cat… I’m particularly enjoying the descriptions of the countryside locations and buildings.  I know you’ve talked to other writers about location. This is an aspect of writing that really interests me – how it influences our writing –  and I know, like me, you take lots of photos in researching your books, so can I have a peep at them?

Much of the series is set in and around London and I have loved visiting some of the places from high rise tower blocks in Bethnal Green to the Old Bailey, near St. Pauls. Then one amazing co-incidence arose when I decided my male character, Jake, (at the heart of the conspiracy and romance) was a Dutch-born musician. I chose Nijmegen as his homeland which I have visited only once. But in summer 2011, friends of my husband’s from Nijmegen invited us to stay in their house for a week to look after their cat. I was ecstatic!

I love Holland. When I was in my twenties, I worked near Amsterdam for a year and spent most weekends visiting other places. Do you have any more pictures? The cities are so leafy-green and, although it’s a densely populated country, you don’t get that impression, do you. When you visited, did it change any of your ideas for the plot?

This time, I took many photos and made notes. I don’t think I have ever deviated from my original plot but from this trip, I decided that Nijmegen would feature a lot more throughout the series, which it did. There are detailed chapters set in the city, in Book 3 Pleasures and the final book of the series, Retribution. It is a beautiful place and the people are wonderful so I like to think I’ve done it justice.

A lot of these snaps are on Instagram. I’m on there too and I see your fab photos but I’m not sure I use it properly.  I admire the way you navigate social media.  The trailer you produced the other day was stunning and you casually said you’d put it together on the train back from London… I need to book you for a lesson, Helen – I’m such a beginner in this area.  How did you learn how to use social media? And Instagram in particular.

I started using Instagram when I ordered a new smart phone. It is such an easy app for sharing my best photos and I even have an Instagram feed on my website. Like twitter, you can feature a timeline in a side bar, so the content is continually refreshed. I have noticed more and more authors using Instagram to show images of their books but I personally prefer not to do this too much, otherwise it just becomes another vehicle for advertising (which I already do enough of on Facebook and Twitter). I like my Instagram feed to look colourful with vibrant pictures that inspire people. I am a big fan of architecture which makes Instagram a great place for showing off my London photos.

Right – when can I book you? I didn’t even realise you could feed to a website.  Do you think your writing aspirations changed in the time it took you to write your series?

Not really. I write for pleasure, not to make money, so I don’t have a lot of respect for those who think that writing a book will make them rich. I get more of a buzz when someone tells me how much they have enjoyed my book, even more so if I get nice reviews. I also think that as authors, our books represent our own take on life. For example, I enjoy simple pleasures. I cannot stand greed or people who are power hungry. Supporting strong communities where people show each other kindness is the moral message in my fiction.

Well said!  That’s quite a timely piece of advice for me at the moment. And I would add we shouldn’t lose our enjoyment in writing. There can be too many pressures, if we’re not careful. Let’s lighten the mood and move outside as the sun is out again. What book would you have loved to write and which three characters from any novels would you invite for dinner? What would you dish up? Food is so important in Italy!DSCN2840

I have a great love of Ken Follet’s ‘Pillars of the Earth,’ which was written in Medieval times and a wonderful story ,but I probably get along better with characters who are more modern. I adore all the Harry Potter books and would have loved to have written those. So I think I might choose Sirius Black, along with Ron and Harry and serve up traditional fish and chips in beer batter, followed by sticky toffee pudding. I’m sure they would like that very much!

Ha ha! I can’t imagine tucking into sticky toffee pudding here in Tuscany! Let’s have some ice cream instead… It’s been great getting to know you better, Helen. I wish you everything you want for your books and that you continue to write to your heart’s content.  Arrivederci!

More about Helen and her books

I am an avid reader and writer, with a passion for good stories. I’m lucky to be living in an idyllic 17th Century thatched cottage with my husband, Peter, where we run our own web design business from home. We share our cottage with a fluffy white cat called Theo and a border collie called Barney and as we live near the sea, I enjoy taking him for walks along the beach (where the idea for my book series began.) I trained in marketing and graphic design and worked for a number of different companies before my husband and I decided to go self-employed. We both love long country walks, good food and films.

About my Books

‘Same Face Different Place’ is a combination of a mystery crime thriller and romantic suspense.

Beginnings, the first book of the series is set in the criminal underworld of 1970s London and the start of a mystery thriller that rolls across four decades. Sixteen year old Eleanor is the key character, a girl whose father is forced to go on the run. This puts her in danger until she meets someone who has even more to fear. Dutch born musician, Jake, is the only witness to a suspicious scene, on a day a British MP is killed in a car bomb explosion. The press blame the IRA but only Jake has some notion of who the real killer is and as a result, they send a hit man after him. Eleanor and Jake tumble into a passionate love affair, soon after their escape and are desperate to get out of London to Jake’s homeland, Nijmegen, in Holland.

The next book, Visions, (set in the 80s in rural Kent), is a suspense filled psychological thriller. The pace hots up again in the 3rd book, Pleasures, where we see the return of organised crime in a terrifying race for justice. In this story, the younger generation grow up into the adults they become in the final book, Retribution, which concludes the series throughout the 90s. I have enjoyed reflecting the mood of each decade by depicting the politics, fashion, TV and music as can be seen on my Pinterest boards.

Links

Helen’s blog, for more information about her books.

Download Beginnings:

Social Networks:
Facebook
Twitter: https://twitter.com/SFDPBeginnings
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/helenxmas/same-face-different-place-beginnings-book-1-by-hel/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/helenchristmas7/

helen-barneyHelen and her dog, Barney.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Tuscan garden

Good old Cicero! An Italian friend made me a bookmark with flowers from her garden and used his words: “If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.” I would add family and friends to that, but it’ll do.

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We’ve been semi-taming our garden here in Tuscany for about eight years now. I say semi, because neither of us like a “parks and gardens” type design. Our plants have mostly been begged, borrowed or stolen (the latter in the form of seeds). My clever husband has made containers from recycled floorboards or lengths of surplus wood; we’ve purloined baskets and pots from skips or bins, or nature, in the form of hollowed-out tree trunks. Our challenge is the very cold winters (it can descend to -15 degrees) and quite hot summers (sometimes 40 degrees). So, my philosophy is to go with nature and plant what we see growing around us. Thus, I have mixed wild flowers with the more typical garden species and, in many cases, I prefer the wild. Field scabious is one of my favourites and I love the way it mingles and towers amongst my other plants, like a purple mist. We also have to contend with wild boar, who love digging up the roots of orchids that appear in our wild meadow. Porcupines love bulbs, so my heart is in my mouth about my lilies. But… these animals lived here before me and, hopefully, will live here after I’m gone.

We are at the beginning of the summer season, so there isn’t a huge amount of colour quite yet. But I have sneaked in a couple of snaps from last year in June. When I’m not writing or doing house stuff, I’m pottering outside and trying to dream up more planting schemes. I hope you enjoy my garden tableau. If you like, I will update you on progress through the summer months.

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Addendum

I wanted to show you a film made by our young friends but the link won’t work for me. So, if you are interested, look up their Facebook page, “Al ritmo delle stagioni” to see what they have captured. Or try this link to watch a number of their videos

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Wandering…

I enjoy striking up conversation with strangers. You never know where it might lead. Yesterday we did our first shop down in the valley in Sansepolcro and I picked up a punnet of artichokes. I love eating them but haven’t ever prepared them myself. First, I asked a younger woman how to cook them. “They’re so fiddly,” she replied, “I don’t bother.” An older lady looked nervous when I started to ask her, but we parted great friends after she’d given me her method, a small crowd having gathered round in the meantime to chip in with their recommendations. So Italian! The artichokes turned out well, by the way and – yes – we’re back in Italia for our six-month Italian adventure. IMG_4445

It’s a shame when old traditions and methods are forgotten. What will happen when all our elderly friends finally say goodbye? Evelina, 90 now and poorly after an operation on her leg, wants desperately to return to her home village this summer. But she is in a wheel chair and her stone house is impractical for a disabled person. We will go and visit her occasionally down at the seaside where she moved many years ago for work. But it won’t be the same as sitting by her hearth up here in the mountains, listening to stories about our neighbourhood. A young couple has arrived up in Rofelle with the desire to live a simpler life. Let’s hope that Tommaso and Alessia will bring new ideas to our area. They’ve written about their new life away from the city in a fabulous book and, for those of you who read Italian,  here is the link. 

They write that they haven’t given up on technology and they are able to continue with their jobs they’ve studied so hard to achieve. They simply wanted to leave the frenetic city and find a new rhythm to their lives. It’s not an easier life they’ve chosen; not an idyll. They still have material problems, but they have elected for a simpler pace in the country to better understand themselves.
And they’ve managed to capture some amazing shots of animals – Maurice was tempted by their films and has bought himself a remote wild-life camera. He hopes to film wolves, wild boar and porcupines that wander along the river beneath our mill. Watch this space.

I realise I will sound like a brat, but I find it hard to adapt when we embark on our “transhumance” and leave the UK for six months. Our car is always laden to the roof with a variety of things that we seem to find necessary at the time: packets of tea, because Italian tea is too weak; cartons of books, because life without reading is unthinkable (and a Kindle is NOT the same, although I now own two); items for the house that we don’t really need, if we are honest; new walking boots; my writing paraphernalia; a chest of drawers and beautiful linen inherited from Maurice’s mamma; empty jars for our garden produce… and on and on. There wasn’t even room for a baguette when we stopped in France.
These two periods are so different and, although I miss my family and am a little homesick at first, it is good to have this change and switch to Italian mode. Life in our valley is very tranquil. There is no traffic, just the sound of the river, birdsong, the mewing calls from buzzards in the thermals and the occasional sharp bark from a roe deer in the woods. There is time to slow down or be busy with what we enjoy; time to write without interruption; time to get to know each other again. For, despite being together for more than forty years, there is still a lot to learn.
But first of all, we have to tame our rampant garden: weed the beds, mow the grass, plant out new schemes, prepare Il Mulino for our first guests arriving in two weeks’ time. Hopefully, the next photos will show a difference. Speak to you soon!

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Celebrating fellow authors

My fellow author friend from CHINDI wrote a thought-provoking first novel  (“Crazy over You”) and now she is celebrating the release of her second, her Ruby Fiction debut, The Purrfect Pet Sitter. So,  I’ve invited her on my blog to tell me more about her novel, and where the action of her story takes place. I love travelling, as you know, and I think we are going to pop down to France at some stage. 

The Purrfect Pet Sitter is a romantic comedy that will appeal to readers who believe in the intensity of first love and who know that sometimes, all you need is a second chance.
It tells the story of twenty-nine-year-old Lisa Blake who suffers a loss that causes her to re-evaluate her life, return to her hometown and start over as the purrfect pet sitter. But with her ex-best friend, her first love and a mystery man to contend with, Lisa has to discover how to move forward when the things she wants most are affected by the  decisions of her past.

Carol's new cover

 

The novel is largely set in and around Littlehampton, in West Sussex on the south coast of England. This part of the country has a good mix of town, countryside and seaside, enabling me to incorporate those landscapes into the book – ideal for a pet sitter who is frequently out and about.
While writing, drawing inspiration from the local area, I also wanted to ensure that the places visited would be recognisable to readers no matter where they lived – the local bar, the doctor’s surgery, the parent and toddler group – the mainstays of towns and villages everywhere.
And, just as every town has that one person who seems to know everything that goes on, Lisa’s town has Harold Martin. He is a man in the know, and whose meddling has far-reaching consequences for Lisa.
However, not all of the action is local. One of my favourite parts to write (and research) sees Lisa visiting her parents in France. For this setting, I chose the village of Samoëns. We often holiday there as a family but to research this part of the story my husband and I made a special trip during a snowy January. It was a lot of fun. I spent mornings snowshoeing and attempting to cross-country ski, and my afternoons writing.
Samoëns is in the Rhone Alps region, with beautiful chalets set amongst the mountains. It is the place Lisa goes in the hope of reconnecting with her family but with secrets to be revealed, surprises in store, her mum acting out of character and a lot of catching up to do, Lisa’s life takes an unexpected, but not unwelcome turn.

Carol skiing

You say you regularly holiday in Samoëns, in the Rhone Alps region of France, is this somewhere you would recommend others to visit?
Yes, the scenery is breathtaking, with beautiful mountains and stunning lakes. The people are friendly, and the atmosphere is very relaxing. And should you ever find yourself in Samoëns, then a trip down the road to Sixt Fer A Cheval is also a must. The mountains are formed in a horseshoe shape, meaning you are surrounded by spectacular views on all sides. It is beautiful in summer and winter, as is the waterfall Cascade du Rouget, also close to Samoëns. In the summer my husband, children and I stood in front of it unable to hear ourselves over the rushing water and getting soaked by the spray. In winter my husband and I hiked up to it and stood at the foot of the waterfall that appeared completely frozen in time. The only sound the occasional crack and pop coming from the curtain of ice. Stunning!

Thank you Carol and congratulations on the publication of The Purrfect Sitter, I have it downloaded and look forward to reading it. 

The blurb:
Introducing Lisa Blake, the purrfect pet sitter!

When Lisa Blake’s life in London falls apart, she returns to her hometown rebranding herself as ‘the purrfect pet sitter’ – which may or may not be false advertising!

But being back where she grew up, Lisa can’t escape her past. There’s her estranged best friend Flick who she bumps into in an embarrassing encounter in a local supermarket. And her first love, Nathan Baker, who, considering their history, is sure to be even more surprised by her drunken Facebook friend request than Lisa is.

As she becomes involved in the lives of her old friends Lisa must confront the hurt she has caused, discover the truth about her mysterious leather-clad admirer, and learn how to move forward when the things she wants most are affected by the decisions of her past.

Buying Links:

From Amazon:

From Kobo:

From Ruby Fiction

And if you want to watch the trailer:

watch here:

About the author:
Carol Thomas lives on the south coast of England with her husband, four children and lively young Labrador. She has been a playgroup supervisor and taught in primary schools for over fifteen years, before dedicating more of her time to writing. Carol is a regular volunteer at her local Cancer Research UK shop. She has a passion for reading, writing and people watching and can often be found loitering in local cafes working on her next book.

Carol writes contemporary romance novels, with relatable heroines whose stories are layered with emotion, sprinkled with laughter and topped with irresistible male leads.

Website and Social Media Links:
http://carol-thomas.co.uk
http://facebook.com/carolthomasauthor
http://twitter.com/carol_thomas2
https://www.pinterest.co.uk/carol_thomas2/
https://www.instagram.com/carol_thomas2/

Blog:
http://carol-thomas.co.uk/blog

Read my review of “Crazy over You”

 

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Chindi Events at the Littlehampton Festival – July 2018

Dates for your diaries, folks.

Rosemary Noble's Blog

The Ghost Tour Book has arrived and we are all set to take bookings for events for the Littlehampton Festival.Ghost tour book I have to say that when I first mooted the idea, I didn’t know what I was taking on but thanks to terrific help from other Chindi members and the wonderful Heather Robbins for laying it all out, I hope we have a winner with the ghost tour.

Check out our events below.

Monday July 16th 7.00pm. Littlehampton Baptist Church Hall, Fitzalan Rd.

Welcome to the world of Crime writing, where the mystique is brushed aside and we open the door to becoming a self-published author. From action thrillers to psychological suspense, we unravel the secrets of getting fiction into print with tips on research, character development, plot structure and cover design. Tickets £5 – Disabled Access

Tuesday July 17th 7.00 p.m. Ghost Tour of Littlehampton

CHINDI network…

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