Friday, 20 June 2008

Behind the Scenes: Saying Yes To The Millionaire - Chp 4

Fern and Josh’s first clue is this:

Make your way to Berwick Street market. There you will find ten stalls with the Secret London logo on them. Two teams may work on each stall. Your team must sell £30 worth of fruit and veg in order to receive your next clue.

Berwick Street is a crowded little road lined with fabric shops, many selling material for saris. Incense wafts out of the fabric shops and mixes with the smells of fresh produce on the market stalls that line the pavement. I seriously wouldn’t consider buying electrical goods from some of the ‘geezers’ manning the stalls. Ever seen the comedy show ‘Only Fools And Horses’? Nuff said.

Next stop is Speakers’ Corner, an area at the edge of Hyde Park. On a Sunday, people can exercise their right to free speech here. Some of the 'speakers' make sense, some are out and out nutcases. It’s normally empty on weekdays (see photo), but for the purpose of the book, I invented an extra session complete with a baying crowd drawn by the radio coverage of the contest.

The following clue is a little more complicated and Fern and Josh find themselves back in Trafalgar Square and start hunting for a Turner painting – The Hay Wain:
It's housed in the National Gallery. I actually spent a day navigating Fern and Josh's route and working out which rooms they would end up in following their clues. The area of gallery that is closed in the book was really blocked off on the day I visited. Things are going fairly well until Fern starts to find her stride in the race and realises that they’re not only barking up the wrong tree, but in the wrong gallery looking for the wrong painting. Josh is so impressed, he plants a kiss on her, and that’s where things start to get complicated!

Next stop is another gallery – the Tate Britain. Fern and Josh discover they painting they are actually looking for is this one:

Which leads them to another paining, one of my absolute favourites – Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose by John Singer Sargent. I swear, when you stand in front of it, those paper lanterns really seem to glow. And I could stare at the frill details on the girls' dresses for hours...

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Behind the scenes: Saying Yes To The Millionaire, Chp 3

The starting point for the Secret London treasure hunt that Fern and Josh take part in is Trafalgar Square.

The National Gallery (more about that later!) flanks the whole of the north side of the square and you can see down Whitehall to the Houses of Parliament if you stand with your back to the gallery. (See if you can spot 'Big Ben' in the photo above. The name Big Ben actually refers to the bell inside the tower, rather than the tower itself, but who's splitting hairs?).

Nelson’s Column towers over the square, with grand stone lions flanking the base of this famous general's monument. It’s a popular place for outdoor meetings and rallies and I thought it would be a great location to start and finish the race. In fact, if you look in the photo below, there are railings and a stall set up right where I'd pictured the race starting.

Here’s the entrance to the tube station on Trafalgar Square, connected to Charing Cross by a long underground tunnel. Unfortunately, Fern’s brain has short-circuited and she’s forgotten that their next destination is in the opposite direction…

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Behind the scenes: Saying Yes To The Millionaire, Chapters 1 & 2

Right! The current book is IN! So, as promised, here is some of the background to Fern and Josh's story, Saying Yes To The Millionaire.

First of all, let me introdice you to my hero and heroine. Fern Chambers is a risk analyst, who is happy with the fact that the most daring thing she does on a regular basis is try a new flavoured syrup in her decaff latte. But her best friend challenges her to say 'yes' to every question she is asked for a week, and because her friend is promising money to her favourite charity, Fern accepts.

Enter Josh Adams, the boy next door. Or he was the boy next door, now he's the successful owner of a travel company and he's back in town for a bit. What a pity Fern discovers the teenage crush she used to have for him doesn't seem to have worn off. Josh is a daredevil, a wanderer, and he's looking for some excitement before he dashes off to some far-flung place. He discovers that there's a charity treasure hunt going on in London that weekend and decides that Fern is the perfect partner. Poor old Fern has no option but to say YES!

They first meet again when Fern is doing a bungee jump near the banks of the Thames. If you want to read about their first meeting click here and you can read the short excerpt on my website. There used to be a large crane set up near Battersea Park that was used for bungee jumps. It's not there anymore, but I invented a site somewhere near the Thames Embankment. There's always something being demolished or built somewhere in London and my imaginary crane was set up on a brown-field site awaiting development.

After the jump, Fern and Josh take a walk along the Thames Embankment, which runs along the river from Battersea Bridge to Blackfriars Bridge. It was built in the 1860s on the foreshore of the Thames to provide a road and walkway on the surface and room for a new sewage system and underground lines underneath. The views walking along here are some of the prettiest in London and I am totally in love with the large black lampposts with grotesque round-headed Victorian fish wound round them.

If you look carefully on the front cover of the book, you can see that the artist has used this setting. Looking at Fern and Josh on the cover, they're a pretty good match for the people I pictured in my head too!

I have another reason for liking the Embankment, a much more personal one. It was sitting on a bench there, many moons ago on a chilly October evening, that my husband proposed to me, and I still think it's one of the most romantic places in the world!