Tuesday, 25 April 2017

The Durrells and Corfu


The Durrells are back on Sunday evening TV, bickering and creating mayhem against the heavenly backdrop of Corfu. Simon Nye’s adaptation is gorgeous escapism, much as the island was for the real Durrells in the years before the second world war. And the tales it spins are about as misleading.

Some years ago I became so fascinated by the family, and elder brother Larry in particular, that I wrote a novel inspired by his traveller’s life – and four wives along the way. I loved Gerard Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals from the moment I opened it aged about eleven. It was the funniest book I had ever read, and Gerald’s vicious yet loving lampoon of writer Larry sparkled in a glittering sea of hilarious set pieces, the 'diminutive blond firework' by turns pompously literary and infuriated by marauding beasts and insects.

But as ever with the Durrells, the truth was never allowed to get in the way of a good story. As sister Margo once said: “I never know what’s fact and what’s fiction in my family.”

To read more, please hop over to Katherine Sunderland's BiblioManiac blog. This is the opening of a guest post I've written for her.
I'm still fascinated by the Durrell family, their books, adventures and the truth behind the stories, and have recently read and thoroughly enjoyed Michael Haag's The Durrells of Corfu. It's a great overview of their real lives, with some poignant new photos that have never been released before, though it doesn't reveal much of the darker, and possibly most fascinating aspects of their stories. Still well worth reading if you're loving the TV series, and I bet you'll want to find out more...

Tuesday, 11 April 2017


I don't feel like writing at the moment, not even - as must have become obvious - on the blog. I'm quite content just wandering, pottering, faffing about. And very lucky, it has to be said, that I am able to do just that when I want to.
In Bonnieux the other day, I caught sight of this magnificent wisteria behind a gate, through an archway. It looked intriguing so I stopped. For a brief moment I wondered who lived in the house and how long that bottle had been there in the courtyard. Another time, I might have considered whether it might make a setting for a scene in a novel, but I just took a photo because it was pretty and left it there.
Have I run out of steam? Does there come a time when a writer feels there's no more to say for a while? A few too many crass online reviews? "Meh." "No. Just no." "This book uses words that are literally not in the dictionary." (At least that one gave us a laugh.) I don't think it's anything to do with that. I'm someone who believes passionately in freedom of expression, and will defend to the end the right of reviewers to be mean if that's how they feel. There are enough other readers who do like my novels, which redresses the balance.
I've long thought that the reason for writing and reading novels is to try to make sense of the world. Each of my novels has contained some personal issue that I've been grappling with, though usually this has not become apparent, even to me, until some time afterwards. There's no equivalence in the plot. The manifestation is more like those dreams of places and people that don't seem to look like they do in life.
But in the case of the last novel, issues of identity and loss were all too close to the surface as I was struggling to write it. There was no time to process my emotions. They were raw and real and ever-present as I wrote through the winter that saw both my parents pass away within four months of each other. Over the book, the word "deadline" hung with a bitter, macabre irony.
Writing this now, I think I've realised what my silence is saying. "Give me a break."

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Amazon Daily Deal

Thrilled to say that 300 Days of Sun is one of the Deals of the Day on Amazon UK today! You can download to your Kindle for only 99p, and you have until midnight to do so. Please do spread the word to anyone you think might enjoy it! Click here for the deal page on Amazon.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Special Deal news

March 21st - traditionally the first day of Spring, and this year, a boost for my novel, too. The Kindle edition of 300 Days of Sun is an Amazon Daily Deal in the UK for one day only at a great price drop. You can check the Amazon page on the day for the deal, but it's a fantastic chance to pick up a bargain for your e-reader. 
This novel was selected as one of the Great Group Reads for National Reading Group Month in the USA last October, and has done well in Portuguese translation, too.

I've had some lovely reviews on Goodreads recently, so if you hop over there you can get a feel for the book. Here are some of my favourite ones:
"More of a mystery than I was anticipating but not in a bad way! Captivating at times with good plot twist."
"The writing itself is wonderful, the descriptions of Portugal are absolutely mind blowing, more than once I looked online to see just how close to reality they were and was not disappointed, the reader really is transported to Portugal whilst reading this, sadly once you close the book you are back at home.
  The characters were interesting and well developed, their predicaments compelling and really captured my attention. An impressive historical fiction novel with mystery, suspense, romance and wonderfully descriptive settings."

"I wish more fiction readers knew about Deborah Lawrenson, she really is a great novelist. Her books always have great detail of place and time, revealing the amount of research Lawrenson must do. I enjoyed this one for various reasons: a unique locale (Portugal), a believable &relatable narrator, WWII historical fiction backstory woven into contemporary tale, true crime suspense, and an interesting ending. Jo's story and Alva's story were both so compelling, I didn't want to put the book down!"
If you are intrigued about 300 Days of Sun and can't wait for March 21st, you can find it wherever you are via this Amazon link.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Historical fiction anthology

Where do works of historical fiction find their starting points? How are those seeds refined into story? What are the gifts and challenges of using the past as source, and how can both be most inventively addressed? Where does historical accuracy end and fictional power begin? How do authors today make a given moment in history compelling to contemporary readers?

These are the questions posed by Stories of Inspiration: Historical Fiction Edition edited by publishing industry veteran Suzanne Fox, and I was delighted to contribute an essay.

Fox has collecting insights from both established authors and new voices and charts the often surprising journey from an original point of departure to a finished work of historical fiction, spanning the genres from literary fiction to mystery, romance, and more.

Stories of Inspiration is available from Amazon UK, Amazon USA and other good booksellers.

Friday, 27 January 2017

On the radio

Heads up: I'm on London's Resonance FM radio tomorrow at 2.30-3.30pm, speaking with Jude Cowan Montague about her new novel for readers of all ages, Young Hitch: Forbidden Flames. It's a great read, introducing the famous film director as a mischievous eleven-year-old boy in his native East London.
Young Alf Hitchcock lives in a world of his own in the bustling streets of Limehouse where his family runs a fishmongery and fried fish business. He smells of smoked haddock and is bullied for it, his father treats him as a nuisance, and the boy loves to escape into the new-fangled picture palace that stokes his already over-active imagination. So when he stumbles into a real-life story of life and death, what will he do?
Writer, poet and film archivist Jude is the resident host of The News Agents show, but this time I'm delighted that she invited me to ask the questions. We'll discuss the inspiration for the book on the streets of East London and the early days of newsreel, the background to the Sidney Street siege in 1911, Hitchcock's life and work, and the nuts and bolts of writing bio-fiction, trying to unpick and understand an established character.
Jude's own blog has some atmospheric and informative background posts: Young Hitch, Geek, Misfit and Anti-hero.

Friday, 6 January 2017

Lavender - off the beaten track

When the lavender is harvested in Provence at the end of July, a heavenly scent is carried on warm evening breezes. Alerted by the first wafts of perfumed air, from our terrace we can sometimes see the smoke rising from the other side of a small ridge. The distillation has begun.
In the small purple fields woven into the landscape of the hills around the town of Apt in the Luberon, the stills are sometimes placed in the very fields where the flowers have been grown. In this part of Provence lavender farming is a far cry from the huge commercial concerns of Sault and Valensole, more like smallholdings tended in the traditional way.
If you would like to read more, please hop over to the web magazine Perfectly Provence, where I've written a guest post. For those of you who love the South of France, and haven't discovered this site yet, you are in for a treat!
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