Friday, 14 November 2008

Christmas Wishes, Mistletoe Kisses - Settings 1

My father loves sailing and when I was about 12 he bought a boat and moored it on the River Dart in Devon. Many weekends and holidays were then spent on the yacht. I can’t say I always appreciated the wet weather, anything above a force 5 wave, or some of the chores, but hey, I was a teenager, it was my job to whine about these things.

I did, however, love the scenery, the feeling of freedom that comes from sailing and getting to see things you never normally see from the road. Up the Dart, just above Greenway quay was one of these places. Just through the trees, you can see a lonely white mansion – just a glimpse, before the boat motored on and it disappeared from view. I always used to look out for the house, every time we came back to the mooring from a sailing trip, and wonder who owned the house and what it would be like to live there.

Years later I discovered the house was called Greenway and had belonged to Agatha Christie. That just made me even more intrigued. Then, a couple of years ago, I learned the National Trust had acquired the house and that the public could go and view the gardens. Next time we visited Devon, I was there like a shot, camera in hand. I knew I wanted to use this mysterious white house as a setting in a book – I just didn’t know which one yet.

The house was old and crumbling, when I visited in May 2007, although there are plans afoot to renovate the house and provide holiday accommodation in some of the upper floors! So I had to guess what it might be like inside and take some of my inspiration from the surroundings.

This was the perfect place for my WAG heroine, Louise, to come and hide out from the world when she’d finally ditched her cheating husband. The loneliness, the beauty, all seemed to match her mood. I knew at once that she would love to live there and I based her fictional home of Whitehaven on Greenway, although I did take a little license here and there. Not only is the house stunning, but the gardens and views across the river are wonderful too. Here are just a few of my favourites:

The hilly woods of 'Whitehaven'

The greenhouse where Louise and Ben first meet.

Inside the greenhouse.

View from Greenway looking towards Dartmouth & Kingswear

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Christmas Wishes, Mistletoe Kisses - Story Inspiration

The WAG is a twenty-first century phenomenon - WAG standing for “wives and girlfriends”. The term initially was used to describe women attached to famous sporting figures, mainly footballers, but in recent years the definition has broadened to include the other halves of just about any man who is rich and famous.

After hearing a young girl on television one day announce that it was her sole ambition in life to become a WAG, I was saddened. When I think of all the sacrifices women have made over the last century to ensure I am treated as an equal, have the right to vote and equal pay, it’s a bit of a shame that any woman would want be defined solely in terms of who her husband is, rather than try and make her own way in life.

I wondered what sort of background would push a young girl into seeking this kind of life for herself, and what would happen if she was suddenly catapaulted out of that role. Who is Mrs WAG when she’s no longer married? How is she going to feel about herself?

This is where my heroine Louise came from. She’s not a total waste of space and has long put up with an unhappy marriage for the sake of her son, but when she realises her husband is having yet another affair, she snaps and tells him she wants a divorce. Suddenly, she’s on her own again and not quite sure what to do with her life. To make matters worse, the general public seem to think her ex can do no wrong and that somehow the fact he’s been ‘playing away’ is her fault. She’s moved into an old mansion in the countryside to start a new life and lick her wounds, determined not to let any man close enough to hurt her again.

You can understand why she freaks out when she finds a stranger messing around with plants in her greenhouse. Ben Oliver is a green-fingered single dad who knew the previous owner of the mansion and promised to look after the gardens until a new owner came along. Unfortunately, the village grapevine hadn’t been working very well and he had no idea that day had come until he was faced with the wrath of Louise. And she's a pretty formidable force when roused!

Ben has his own reasons for steering-clear of high-maintenance women. His ex-wife left him to ‘find herself’, giving him custody of their daughter. Unfortunately, all of his ex-wife's plans to 'move on' seem to involve dropping Ben in difficult situations, but he keeps a lid on his anger for the sake of their daughter. Despite unfavourable first impressions, he and Louise strike up an unlikely friendship, bonding over the struggles of being a single parent. I wanted a really steady, ordinary guy for Louise - someone who was the complete antidote to her vain ex-husband.

The closest real life man I could find to my mental picture of Ben is actor Tom Chambers, who has stared in the BBC’s Holby City. How surprised was I to see he’s one of the contestants in this season of Strictly Come Dancing? There’s something quite disconcerting about seeing your down-to-earth hero strutting his funky stuff in sequins, but hey, I love the programme, so I’m not complaining!

Saturday, 8 November 2008

eBooks and other things

I succumbed! I went out and bought myself a Sony Reader, enough of an event to make me interrupt my blog silence (mainly due to impending deadline!)

Very excited to see two Mills & Boon titles on it, Margaret McPhee’s The Wicked Earl and my very own English Lord, Ordinary Lady – the one with the feisty pink-haired heroine and the stuffy English lord (see pic below!). Of course, mine now has more romance books on it, because I’ve just taken advantage of the 3 for 2 offer at the Mills & Boon website on eBooks and I’ve bought Liz Fielding’s latest, Wedded in a Whirlwind, as well as a couple of others.

You don’t even have to have a dedicated eBook reader to take advantage of eBooks, because you can download Adobe Digital Editions via M&B and read them on your PC! No more waiting for the postman! My books are on my Reader now and ready to enjoy. Or they would be if I didn’t have a book to finish… (pout).

The only problem is I won’t be able to take my Reader in the bath – I’m far too clumsy. And I have two puffed up books on my bathroom window sill to prove my point. So, for once, I won’t be in there so long as to make the water go cold and my toes go ‘frilly’ (as my youngest used to describe it) reading one of Liz’s books. Perhaps I can curl up by the fire instead. Yes, that sounds just about right on a drizzly November afternoon.

To coincide with the release of my latest book Christmas Wishes, Mistletoe Kisses, I’ll be blogging over the next few weeks about the inspiration behind the story.