• Preparation for the Isle of Wight Literary Festival

  • hammockI am about to present two of my books at the Isle of Wight Literary Festival. One for adults, set on the Island called The Gentlemen Go By and the other, for children, called The Jade King and the Animals of Destiny. I was interviewed recently. I set it all out here, including their questions, all of which has been helpful in concentrating my mind in preparation for my talk to the Literary Festival. This is to take place on Thursday, 15 October at 6pm. I am nervous but very excited!

    1) So, first, tell us about your book.

    I have published five books so far. My latest one is entitled The Gentlemen Go By. It is an historical novel – partly romance, partly suspense and is set at the time of the French Revolution but in England, not in France, although the fact that the Revolution is happening is completely relevant to the story! It is based on the doings of a real-life character – a smuggler – who lived and worked on the Isle of Wight. However, apart from making sure of the historical accuracies and references at the time, that is all that is real. The rest is very much my own imagination.

    2) What began the process for this book?

    Why did you have to write it? I have always been very fond of Kipling’s poem, A Smuggler’s Song. My mother used to read it to me when I was a little girl. The title of the book comes from the refrain in that poem. I had discovered the doings of the real-life smuggler and on re-reading the poem one day, it got me thinking I could tie the two together and I did. Once I have an idea for a story, I simply have to write it. It is an absolute compulsion.

    3) Did you always think you were going to be an author?

    No, but I always loved writing. I started writing plays as a child as I wanted to be an actor, and indeed became one and still am to this day. I went to one of the top London drama schools and I have worked in the theatre always. Some years ago I formed my own theatre company and wrote plays for us to perform. Later, I turned to writing novels as well and I love it.

    4) What books/authors have influenced you the most?

    The writing of Daphne du Maurier undoubtedly influenced me most. She is a genius. She also didn’t stick to one genre, either and neither do I. I have found the courage to dodge between different genres because of her particular example in this regard. Some of her books are set in her own time, some in the past and some in the future. She also wrote wonderful short stories some of which became full-length films (‘The Birds’, ‘Don’t Look Now’ etc). Some of her full length novels have also been made into films or for television, notably ‘Rebecca’ and ‘Jamaica Inn’. She was the daughter of an actor/director and all her stuff is very visual too and I like that. I very much try to make people “see” my novels in their mind’s eye as well as read them. Another writer I admire is John Galsworthy. His ‘ Forsyte Saga’ is a stunning piece of writing. I also like CP Snow, Philip Pullman, C J Sansom, J K Rowling (her Cormoran Strike books for adults are wonderful!) and best of all, William Shakespeare – the greatest writer of all time. Several of my novels could be turned into films or plays. This has been noted by many people who read them, not just me.

    5) What do you enjoy doing when you aren’t writing or promoting a current book?

    Going to the theatre, dining in good restaurants, having dinner parties with my friends and their families and, most of all, having my family all around me.

    6) Social media?

    I am on Facebook (both as a writer and a personal page, too), Twitter and Linked In. I also have an Author Page with Amazon.
    Now just a bit of fun stuff.

    7) People might be surprised to know I like….

    Snakes! I love them but no, I wouldn’t have one as a pet. I think that would be cruel.

    8). What is the last book you read?

    “The Princes in the Tower” by Alison Weir (research for another book!)

    9). What is the last movie you’ve watched? Was it at the movies or at home?

    Some Like it Hot (for the umpteenth time!) I watched it on a plane.

    10). If you could be any fictional character from any book, who would you be and why?

    I would like to be the heroine of my latest novel, “The Gentlemen Go By”. He name is Lady Sophia Catesby and she falls for the hero who is the die for – handsome, charismatic, sexy, naughty, dangerous and he… Well, you read it and find out what he’s like

    11) Is there anything you would you have done differently in your life?

    There is something I would have done differently in my life but it’s too important to me to share with anyone except the tiny handful of people who already know it.

    12). Anything else you’d like to include/mention?

    I have looked like Elizabeth Taylor all my life, although of course she was a generation, nearly, older than myself. Several times I’ve been thought to be her. Once, while I was shopping in Harrods, I left the swimwear department and went down to the Food Hall. I stood beside someone in a queue, two women, in fact, who excitedly told the salesman that Elizabeth Taylor had been spotted in the store buying swimsuits, they had been told. He glanced at me and looked suddenly surprised. I quietly put my finger on my lips and walked out into Knightsbridge! What he said to the two ladies, I’ll never know but I knew I could not spoil an occasion for them! I was also mistaken for her on a plane once, as I was flying, alone, to meet my husband in Barbados. Several people thought they recognised me and one of the stewardesses as she came up to me said, “Elizabeth…” I turned and said, “Yes?” After all it is my name and I didn’t realise anything about the rumour at that point. She told me it was believed Elizabeth Taylor was on the plane (I have to say I was flying in the front of the plane. I don’t think anyone would have thought I was her if I’d been at the back, to be honest any more than anyone would have thought I was Elizabeth Taylor if I’d been spotted in Asda). I said I wasn’t her but it was too late. Someone had radioed on to Air Traffic Control in Barbados and I was met by a reception committee of girls singing me a welcome to the island. I stuck dark glasses on my nose, smiled politely as I descended the steps to the tarmac and said nothing and disappeared into the In Transit lounge in as dignified a manner as possible! Once again, it was too embarrassing not to enlighten those who thought they’d recognised me. It doesn’t happen any more, of course, as bless her heart, she is no longer with us though people often remark I look like she did.

    Come and see me at the Isle of Wight Literary Festival and see if you think I looked like her!