This is a picture of an author hard at work! Here I am enjoying the delights of glorious Sorrento perched high on its cliff, with the brooding presence of Mount Vesuvius in the background – a reminder of the dangers that lurk across the bay in Naples.
Sorrento is a town that I never wanted to leave. Its exquisitely beautiful buildings captivated me and I loved the way there were trees bearing oranges growing in abundance along the main shopping street. While the vast luscious lemons drew me irresistibly to the wonderful bottles of limoncello liqueur that flashed from every street corner.
I was there to research a setting for my new book, THE LIBERATION, but even I wasn’t prepared for what I found there. I stumbled on to workshops of the most superb inlaid woodwork. This craft is a speciality of Sorrento that I knew nothing about and it was a huge light-bulb moment for me. Yes, that was exactly what I needed! So I made my main character, Caterina Lombardi, a skilled craftswoman who was fighting to prove herself in a man’s world. But it was that skill that was to lead her into the twists and turns of a story of love and violence in post-war Naples.
The decision to include references to Sherlock Holmes in SHADOWS ON THE NILE was an easy one.
Once I had constructed my plot, I knew I needed one character to lay a trail of clues for his sister to follow. So I had to find a subject for these clues that would resonate with the reader.
Instantly the inimitable Sherlock Holmes leapt to mind. He is the supreme master of spotting clues and interpreting each stain on a sleeve or scuff on a shoe. Who else could conjure up such realities out of flimsy hints and fragile threads? I decided that Sherlock Holmes of 221B Baker Street was the perfect subject on which to base my own clues. Read More…
A tattered photograph. A yellowing piece of film. A tiny insignificant detail in a memoir. These are the stuff of pure joy to an author of historical fiction. My novels are set in the first half of the 1900s and sometimes finding precious nuggets of research gold can be a slow and painstaking process.
When I start to research a novel, it is a thrilling moment. Anything and everything is possible. I have no idea who or what I will meet along the way. Will I fall in love with my chosen location? Get swept away by the period? What political shenanigans were rife? How do I weave my characters into this factual tapestry? I get so engrossed, I am often side-tracked by fascinating details and wander off down blind alleyways. Delightful – but oh, so time wasting! Read More…
A STORY OF GREED AND GOLD
The reason that I felt drawn to set a story in the beautiful Bahamas was not just because I fancied a glamorous research trip! It was because of a car. Not any old car, of course. It was a glorious monstrous coffin-nosed Cord automobile produced in America in 1936.
More than twenty years ago my husband owned one of these magnificent cars and through the Auburn-Cord-Duisenberg Car Club he met an author called James Leasor who also owned a Cord and who wrote action-packed crime novels. But James Leasor had also published a non-fiction book about a strange real-life crime that interested him, and out of politeness I read it. It was called Who Killed Sir Harry Oakes? Read More…
The moment I heard about the extraordinary feat of the draining of Italy’s Pontine Marshes – the Agro Pontino – and the construction of the new towns in the 1930s, I knew I had found the perfect setting for my next book.
It was my husband who first drew my attention to this amazing project of Mussolini’s Fascist regime and I became fascinated by it. The scheme was driven by a risky combination of idealistic vision to create a brave new world and pragmatic political expediency to silence the unrest among the veterans of the Great War and give them employment. But it was the engineering expertise and the bottomless coffers that made it possible. I think it is debatable whether anything but a totalitarian state could have forced through such a vast project at the time. In 1933, at the peak of the work, 124,000 men were employed on it.