Snippets from a Writer’s Life

It’s a cliché because it’s true, the older you get, the faster life whirls you by, and since the pandemic changed the world, I feel like we are travelling at warp speed. I had barely touched down from my fabulous trip to Barcelona with my mum and sisters, and I was off on another trip ‘down south’ a mixture of business and pleasure

As ever, my sister Catriona was my Airbnb host, and for the Henley Literary Festival, she came along to provide moral support and take pictures. (There’s video footage over on Instagram and Tiktok if you’re interested.) Sarah Ferguson and I had been invited back to Henley to talk about our working relationship, our friendship, to share a bit more insider knowledge about our first book, HER HEART FOR A COMPASS, and a little tiny bit about our new book, A MOST INTRIGUING LADY.

As I always am at any public appearance, I was quaking in my shoes (actually my very nice shiny boots) and as ever, being with Sarah very quickly sent my nerves packing (or at least allowed me to get them under control). Our interviewer this time was Jessica Jonzen, and she really ‘got’ our book which allowed us to talk a bit more frankly than we had before about some of the themes which run through it. The audience asked some really great questions too, and I was very pleased to see that a good number of them came from men. Of course (!) I took the opportunity to step up on my soap box a little bit and question why men didn’t read romance. Of course, I hope that I persuaded some of them to try it out. Did I succeed? If I only persuaded one, then I count that as a victory.

As you know now from a previous blog, the cover of A MOST INTRIGUING LADY for both the UK and North America editions has now been revealed, and a date set. Sarah Ferguson and I spent some time together making some videos which will be coming your way over the next few months, where we talk about the book and our collaboration. I know I keep saying it, but we really do have fun together, and having had a sneaky peak of some of the pics and videos I’m pretty sure that is obvious, but you’ll be able to judge for yourselves soon.

The weather in the south was utterly lovely, lots of sunshine and blue skies – a stark contrast to back home where the gloomy grey and torrential rain of autumn had set in. I had a fabulous few days on the coast staying with my friend Peter, who is the most perfect host, and who has a champagne fridge that is matchless. There was a castle theme to this visit, with trips to Dover, Deal and Walmer Castle, which I’ll blog about separately.

I particularly loved the gardens at Walmer, and even managed to find some mistletoe growing wild in the orchard, which is my excuse now for a blatant bit of promo, and a reminder that my Christmas duet with Bronwyn Scott, UNDER THE MISTLETOE is out now!

Peter treated me to a birthday dinner at Rock Salt in Folkestone, which has to have one of the best views of any restaurant in the UK, and which makes the most of the local produce – fish especially, of course. We had lunch a couple of days later at their ‘baby’ restaurant, Little Rock, right on the beach, eating outside in October – what a treat. We also reconstructed the walk that Lily, my heroine from HIS RUNAWAY MARCHIONESS RETURNS does right at the start of the book (which will be released in March). A lot more on that coming soon too, but my thanks to Peter for his due diligence in preparing the route that day.

Back at my sister’s, where her precious cat Simba is now so used to me he actually condescended to sit on my lap (though only once) the two of us managed a rare day out together (not even Simba was invited) to visit Eltham Palace.

Wow! Or should I say, daaaarling, utterly fab-you-luss. An art deco piece of perfection inside a castle! You’ll recognise the interiors from countless period films and television series, including Poirot, I Capture the Castle, Brideshead and Bright Young Things. I have always adored the Roaring Twenties, and this place made my inner Flapper yearn to get dressed up and wander about with a martini. Once again, more on this coming soon on the blog here.

Another birthday lunch in an OTT classic French bistro near Piccadilly Circus, with snails, rabbit and oysters on the menu made this a pretty perfect day.

A combination of my visit to Eltham Palace and the release of a new book by one of my favourite authors, Lucy Worsley, has meant that I’m revisiting Agatha Christie’s books, funnily enough. Worsley’s excellent bio is very readable, and it reminded me of so many classics that I devoured in my late teens and early twenties, me and my mum passing the books back and forward between us, and competing to see which of us guessed whodunnit first. I remember some of the plots in my decades-later re-read, but not all, and despite several cringe moments at the attitudes embedded in the writing, I’m loving the escapism.

Thanks to my sisters for the birthday collage

And what about ‘real’ life? My big birthday came and went almost without notice, because I’d got rid of all the age-angst beforehand. I achieved my goal of being slicker at 60 than I was at 59, but weight-wise and fitness-wise that’s a journey I’m continuing with. Writing-wise, I’m having a bit of a sabbatical to re-think and re-calibrate. I love writing, I can’t imagine not writing, but I feel like now is the time to push myself a bit. What that means though, I have no idea. I have the rights returned to me of several shorts that were published under the Harlequin Historical imprint. I’m going to re-write those (some will take a lot more re-writing than others) and use them to put my toe in the water of self-publishing, simply because that’s something I’ve never done. I am assured by so many writing friends, not least my coffee companion from the other side of the Clyde, Mairibeth MacMillan, that self-publishing frees you, creatively. I’m hoping that proves true. But that’s not all I’m planning. There’s so much more I want to do, some of it in the pipeline already (secrets, secrets) some of it lurking in my head waiting to be dug up, examined and explored – now I sound like an archaeologist rather than a writer, harnessing my inner Agatha Christie maybe (I wish!).

For the rest, I’m knitting up fingerless gloves for various sisters and nieces to help cut down on the heating while they work from home, and I’m sewing. Oh, I love my sewing. Having kept my promise to myself to always wear my own creations when I’m ‘on stage’ with Sarah Ferguson, I’m running out of outfits, so I’m making some more. And with another trip south looming this week, and a stockpile of castle videos to make sense of, I reckon that’s more than enough for now.

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