Sunday, 24 December 2006

Silent Night

...and a silent Christmas for me. I've lost my voice. My husband didn't have to look quite so pleased, did he?

At least he did until I whispered to him that he would have to do all the chatting tomorrow when the family (mine) arrive. But then, since they are related to me, it is highly possible he may not be able to get a word in edgewise. I'm the quiet one in the family.

Anyway, Merry Christmas and I'll be back posting again after the festivities.

Friday, 22 December 2006

Christmas Madness

Yes, the season of complete craziness is upon us. So busy. Kids are overexcited. Husband is doing late shifts, so I've hardly seen him.

The other night my evening meal consisted of Sauvingnon Blanc and large amounts of Bombay Mix. Says it all, really.

Thursday, 21 December 2006

Settings: the final showdown

Last in my list of settings for Blind-Date Marriage is the theatre mentioned in the final chapters. I used a real theatre that I have performed in myself (that sounds very grand, but it year upon year of dancing competitions when I was a school girl). Back then it was called Lewisham Theatre, but now it's called The Broadway Theatre.

It's a lovely art deco building that looks a little lived in and I thought it was just the right location for the charity show - a not too-posh-local theatre that hosts shows by local dance schools, pantomimes and acts that were big names a couple of decade ago. I can't seem to post any pictures, but follow the link and you'll get an idea.

Sunday, 17 December 2006


Uh-oh. I’ve been tagged by Donna.

No, no - you don’t need the darkened room and the bare light bulb swinging menacingly from the ceiling. Call off the rottweilers and I’ll answer the questions, I promise!

Four jobs I’ve had:
Dance teacher
Video editor
Church administrator

Four places I’ve lived:
Even when I was at college, it was on the other side of London.

Favourite foods:
Salmon – any way, any how.
Lamb (especially curry)
Roast beef

Four movies I could watch over and over:
The Mummy
The Breakfast Club
Strictly Ballroom

Four TV shows I enjoy:
Grey’s Anatomy
Gilmore Girls
Strictly Come Dancing/Strictly Dance Fever - although I am in a huge strop since Emma Bunton got kicked off last night. She was clearly the best dancer in the competition.

Four places I’ve travelled:

Four places I’d like to visit:
The Great Pyramid
New York

Four websites I visit daily:
Various blogs
Yahoo groups (to read my email loops)
At the moment, Amazon, to see how BDM is doing – even though I know amazon sales rankings are not that accurate and can be manipulated. Can’t seem to stop myself.

Four people tagged:
Ally Blake
Liz Fenwick
Jessica Raymond
Kate Hardy

Tuesday, 12 December 2006

Settings: a wonderful date come crashing to the ground.

Jake and Serena spend an idyllic date wining and dining and end up with a trip on the London Eye, (If you follow that link, have a look at the virtual tour) a kind of huge ferris wheel on the banks of the Thames. At the top it's 135m tall and it feels as if you are floating high above the London skyline. None of the surrounding buildings even come close in terms of height.

I thought I was being sooooo original when I used it, but since then I’ve seen it popping up in romances all over the place.

I’ve been on the eye twice and I loved every second. A glass pod carries you up into the sky on the banks of the river. Just opposite are the houses of Parliament and you can clearly see Buckingham Palace and St.Paul’s Cathedral. It might not look very high when you are down on the ground, but considering the tower of Big Ben starts to look titchy and seagulls flying down by the river are only tiny specks of white, looks can be deceiving.

I decided a private pod, a trip at night with the lights of the city sparking like diamonds, would be the perfect setting for a romantic encounter. What could go wrong?

Sunday, 10 December 2006

Settings: First Kiss

Next on my list of settings in Blind-Date Marriage is Greenwich Park. My grandmother—Nan, as she liked to be called—looked after me and my sister a lot when we were little and we used to jump on one of those lovely old red double-decker buses and find fun things to do all over south London.

Greenwich Park was a favourite, mostly because it has fantastic grassy hills which are great for rolling down. From where I live you have to cross Blackheath to get to the park which looks like this. I always find it odd to be driving through residential areas and shops one minute and suddenly it all melts away and all you can see is flat, green grass. But the Thames is not far away and the high ground of the heath dips sharply to meet the river not long after you enter Greenwich Park.

There is a fantastic view of the city from the top of the hills. I love the fact I can be sitting in a grassy meadow, the wind blowing the leaves on the branches above my head, and over the other side of the river there is a completely different landscape: glass and stone and steel.

This is where Jake and Serena have their picnic, a little spot called “One Tree Hill”, although it must have been named that a long time ago, because there are plenty of them there now! You can actually see a high-rise council estate from this point, but Ellwood Green (so named because my husband was watching the Blues Brothers when I was wondering what to call it) is a completely fictitious place, although based and bits and pieces of real locations.

Right in the centre of the park on the top of the hill is The Royal Observatory, and a little path below it is where Jake and Serena share their first kiss. Here is the ‘kissing gate’ that Jake gets deliberately stuck in so he can spend more time squashed up against Serena.

And here is the little brass strip in the path that marks the point where the Greenwich meridian – zero degrees longitude – passes through London. I can’t remember a trip to the park where I haven’t stood with one foot on either side of the line, half of me in one hemisphere, half of me in another.

Saturday, 9 December 2006

Cataromance review

I was all set to blog about Greenwich Park, but I'm going to have to interrupt myself to post about the review for Blind-Date Marriage on Cataromance. I got five stars!

Here's a snippet:

Blind Date Marriage is simply divine! Warm, witty and engrossing, I devoured this book in one sitting! Fiona Harper has got this wonderful ability to make you fall in love with her gorgeous characters and you will be rooting for them and cheering them on till the very end.

Fiona Harper has written an absolutely fantastic debut novel! Vibrant, moving and emotional, Blind Date Marriage has established Fiona Harper as an amazingly talented writer who is set to be one of the biggest names in romantic fiction!

For the full review go here.

Thursday, 7 December 2006

Scene and setting

I’ve blogged about Jake and Serena and how they met. Over the next few days I'm going to post about the places in my Blind-Date Marriage. I always love seeing authors’ inspiration for settings and finding out if they match the pictures in my imagination.

Here’s a pic of Jake’s flat. I love these tall, red-brick Victorian apartments. Of course, I'd need to sell a kidney and probably a couple of limbs to afford one in London...

And this is the sort of house I envisiged Serena and her father living in - although in my imagination, the stairs were on the other side and there was an ivy-covered path leading round to the back door.

Dreaming up locations for books is great, because there are no mortgages and the only limit is my imagination. I happily trawl through property web sites looking for inspiration - even if I have to remind myself I house-hunting for my characters, not for myself.

Wednesday, 6 December 2006

I'm everywhere today!

If you want to know a bit about my rollercoaster journey to publication, visit the fabulous Pink Heart Society today where I am featured on Writers' Wednesday.

Also, I've discovered that Blind-Date Marriage is being featured on the read with the hostie section of eHarlequin's message boards this week. If you've read it and want to natter, pop in and say what you think.

Monday, 4 December 2006

Now what?

So, I have a hero and a heroine. Now what? They had to have a reason to meet, a reason for their very different worlds to collide. And sometimes the oddest things provide inspiration.

When my editor asked if I wanted a dedication in Blind-Date Marriage I didn’t have to think too long. When I emailed it to her she responded by saying it was “strange, but nice”. It reads:

For the unknown man I soaked while driving through a puddle.

One rainy October morning I was driving along a road I know, but don’t use very often. Since the rain was heavy, puddles were collecting near the kerb and I drove through one not realising how deep it was. As my tyres hit the puddle a spray of water a good four-feet high flew into the air and soaked a poor man passing by.

I felt awful, but chickened out of stopping to apologise as I was on my own and didn’t want to aggravate an instance of ‘puddle-rage’. At the same time I was scolding myself for my cowardice, my brain was whirring.

What a great way for my hero and heroine to meet, I thought. What if she was brave enough to stop? Where would they both have been going? And before I knew it I had an idea for the opening of my story. The location changed and so did the car, unfortunately, but the basic nugget of the idea was in place.

Friday, 1 December 2006

Heroine inspiration

Serena in Blind-Date Marriage is a bit of a contradiction. This picture from a fashion spread was as close as I could come to pinning her down.

She’s got a slightly unusual, boho style and Jake thinks she looks like a “bean sprouts and tofu kind of girl”. But if he thought that meant she wasn’t looking for a traditional relationship, he was sorely mistaken. Her unusual background has led her to crave the soap-commercial family life more than other girls.

That was my starting idea for Serena – a girl who might look unconventional on the outside, but inside wanted the fairytale so badly she could taste it. Just the right kind of girl to attract a commitment-phobic accountant with a gift for jumping to conclusions.

I like creating heroines who don’t fit the mould, whether that’s because of the way they dress or the way they look or think. Maybe it’s because I used to like being a little different myself.

As a teenager, I didn’t rebel much, only in what I wore by becoming what was labelled a ‘goth’. Most of my gothic friends were intelligent and sensible and it was okay visit art galleries together to look at pre-Raphaelite paintings and show each other our depressing poems. I look back now and wonder how I didn’t realise how pretentious we were sometimes, but I suppose that is the joy of being young: knowing everything except yourself.

Here’s a picture of me trying to look moody at the tail end of my gothic phase. I do have one where I have a six-inch Mohican and blue lipstick (I was going to a Siouxsie and the Banshees concert, I think), but thankfully, I couldn’t find it.

While I am nothing like Serena – she’s much braver emotionally than I will ever be – her personal style owes a little to my teenage love of dangly jewellery and long, swishy skirts.