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The story behind the story

Originally published:

"And that singular anomaly, the lady novelist I don’t think she’d be missed I’m sure she’d not be missed!" – W.S. Gilbert, The Mikado.

What would you do if someone dropped a note in your letterbox saying they wanted to film a movie at your house? This is the question that inspired Finding Dreams, my new standalone romantic mystery, out 1st March 2018.

Finding Dreams is a film within a book, and also a book within a book. Lizzie Greene is recently widowed, down on her luck, about to lose her house, when all of a sudden, she is offered a chance of a lifetime. A production company wants to make a film of a best-selling romance novel at her house. Too good to be true? Read it and see!

When I first began the novel, I had to decide what type of film would be shot at Lizzie’s down-at-heel old house, Tanglewild. I had in my mind something like Poldark – with dashing (shirtless) heroes, heaving horses, and precariously corseted bosoms – something fun, dangerous, romantic. In my previous books, I’ve often written about intelligent and literary heroines, who know their Jane Austen from their Jane Eyre, and their Poldark from their Polidari. This presupposes to a certain extent that the reader of my book has at least a passing familiarity with these true-life authors and tales. In the end, I decided it was best to create my own story and my own fictional author. Hence, The Lady’s Secret was born.

The Lady’s Secret is the book written by the fictional Phillipa King, a charismatic and glamorous author with a perfect life – on the surface at least. For me, creating Phillipa King was a bit like David Bowie creating Ziggy Stardust – channeling my own famous and successful author – a JK Rowling – for example. Lauded and successful – the woman that all of us authors long to be.

Creating Phillipa King provided an interesting insight into romance authors and the fiction they write. When I was growing up, one of my favourite authors was Elizabeth Peters, an American author of romantic suspense. There was an often-published photo of her and her Siamese cat – not the most aspirational photo, in my opinion. In contrast, authors like Jackie Collins, Jilly Cooper, and Barbara Taylor Bradford all seemed glamorous in themselves. In Finding Secrets, Phillipa and Lizzie discuss whether or not readers want their romances written by reclusive women with 50 cats, or by a sexy and glamorous authoress who might just be recounting steamy bedroom goings-on from her own experience.

The reality, is probably somewhere in between. For many of us authors, the day is spent trying to balance our cheque books, the school run, a day job, and a writing schedule of deadlines (that always seem to be looming). On the other hand, how lucky we are to get to live so many different lives, on our computer screens, at least. When writing Finding Dreams, I realised how it’s not so much the characters living in my head, as me living in theirs. Schizophrenic? Maybe. And some days, it can be difficult to switch gears and live in the ‘real world’. Let’s face it, it’s not the easiest thing to be in the middle of writing a love scene, and having a three-year old come in and need to use the potty. But such is the life of a romance author . . .

And I wouldn’t trade it for the world.


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