Thank you to Jane Dunning for agreeing to feature on my blog – here are a few reading and writing secrets which she shared with me.
I asked Who was your favourite childhood author or book and why were they a favourite? ……and wasn’t surprised at all to find yet another Enid Blyton fan!
I absolutely loved Enid Blyton books, in particular The Famous Five and The Secret Seven series. One that stands out, though, from ‘the adventure’ series, is The Valley of Adventure where four children find themselves in a valley, full of bad guys, and no way out… I’m not sure now whether Kiki the parrot had travelled with them… Hopefully not, as she would have given them away for sure…
When did you start writing and when and what was your first publication?
I started writing after I retired and when, what I thought was a great story, came into my head! I was pet-sitting in Provence when the climax of a story came to me. The rest of the story built from there. The work started life as a screenplay but then I realised I had far too much to say and, anyway, it takes forever to write a screenplay! I published Thirty-five Minutes from St Tropez in 2012. It’s an e-book, a family saga where most of an extended family live in Provence and Monaco. I loved writing it, because it meant I could escape to St Tropez, Juan-les-Pins, Monaco or a host of other Provençal towns as I researched or checked my memory of this or that. Great part of the world to escape to Jane!
So coming right up to date………..Which authors do you currently enjoy?
I tend to read books set in France or Italy, both countries I love, although France edges ahead somewhat in the preference stakes! I enjoy works by Carol Drinkwater, Victoria Hislop, Helen Pollard Patricia Sands, Fiona Valpy and Deborah Lawrenson. I am also interested in WW2 and have enjoyed Sebastian Faulks’ books in the past.
Do you have a ‘usual’ writing timetable and a special place that you write in? What is on your desk or what is around you as you write? Perhaps you enjoy the view from your writing window?
If I am at home, I will work in our study but am not at all disciplined as I am easily distracted by social media. My desk is very tidy with just the laptop, a desk lamp, a printer and a wonderful framed photo of the hugely photographed Abbaye de Sénanque near Gordes – the abbey with the glorious lavender that appears each summer, creating a purple carpet against the old Provencal stone. If I am away, perhaps on holiday or pet-sitting, I will probably work at the dining room table. I’m writing this in Provence, so I have a wonderful view of a stone terrace, a twinkling swimming pool, umbrella pines and the misty Luberon hills. Sounds idyllic Jane!
Can you tell readers something about your latest book please?
My latest book is the sequel to Thirty-five Minutes from St Tropez. Called Stolen Summer, it follows on from where my first book left off but has a feeling of danger running through it. In a nutshell, my main characters’ idyllic life on their vineyard has been shattered by an unhappy grape-picker who causes them fear and worry that affects the whole family.
What are you working on at the moment?
Apart from formulating ideas for a third novel in what will become a series – I’m not ready to let go of my characters just yet – I am promoting Stolen Summer. I have been astounded how different it is from 2012 when my first book was published – there are so many books and book bloggers out there, it’s a real learning curve to try to get my book noticed in the millions that are available. I think my third book will involve the same characters but I would like to build in a WW2 French Resistance link. I have some ideas of how to do this and am looking forward to getting something down on paper! Good luck with that Jane and we look forward to hearing more about this soon.
What are your usual methods of research when planning a new book?
As my books are set in Provence, I follow blogs and Facebook Pages. Some examples are Dockwalk.Com as a couple of my characters work on a superyacht, Mirabeau en Provence Wine to help with life on a vineyard, along with other vineyard websites for more detail. My characters who live in Monaco are very well-off and have met Monégasque royalty so I check what Prince Albert and Princess Charlene are up to now and again. Now that I’m on Twitter, I read Riviera Radio news every day and that sometimes leads to ideas to add to my trusty notebook. Most of my research is internet based but I also read novels set in WW2 such as The Death of Jean Moulin by Patrick Marnham.
….and finally any tips for aspiring writers?
I’m not sure I’m really qualified, but one thing I have learnt is to listen to those critiquing your work and write, have critiqued and edit two books before publishing the first.