The Dames are pleased to welcome author Hannah Fielding this week. Hi, Hannah, we’re glad to have you with us. Tell us about your latest book, Burning Embers.
Burning Embers is a contemporary historical romantic novel set in Kenya in 1970.
Coral Sinclair, a young and fiery English photographer, is on her way to Kenya, the land of her birth, to take ownership of Mpingo plantation, a legacy from her recently deceased father.
Handsome and charismatic Rafe de Monfort, a mature French widower and owner of a nightclub and the Whispering Palms plantation, holds a dark secret deep in his heart.
The two meet on board the ship that is taking them both to Kenya, and Coral feels an immediate attraction towards this stranger.
Once in Kenya, Coral discovers that Rafe is her closest neighbour, but she is warned off him by her old nanny. Gossip has it that Rafe is a notorious womaniser who counts among his mistresses Morgana, the dusky night club dancer, and Cybil, Coral’s stepmother with whom it is believed he was having an affair – an affair that might have contributed to her father’s death.
Yet despite herself, Coral finds herself falling in love with this man who shows her only kindness.
What is she to think when a witch doctor tells her that Rafe killed his heiress first wife and that he is now pretending to care for her simply to get his hands on Mpingo? When beautiful Cybil says that Rafe has been her lover for over ten years and Morgana assures her that Rafe will never be hers? What is the secret in Rafe’s past that colours his every move and makes him more vulnerable than Coral could ever imagine?
In this evocative and passionate story set in 1970 against the vivid and colourful backdrop of rural Africa and its culture, the seemingly doomed lovers are sent down a destructive path wrought with betrayal, passion and greed. Will love overcome all obstacles and prevail at the end?
Wow, that sounds great and I’m putting it on my TBR list right now. Can you share a little bit about what you’re working on now or what’s coming next?
I’ve written a sensual trilogy set in Andalucia, Spain, spanning a period from the 1950s to the present day; a touching romance novel set in Venice and Tuscany, Italy, that explores the echoes of love; and I’m now working on a trilogy set in Egypt, the land of my birth – a world of deep, ingrained customs and traditions, interesting though often cruel. No doubt you can spot the common themes in my writing: epic, deeply felt love stories set against exotic backdrops.
All of these books will be published in due course, and I very much enjoy the publishing process and hearing from readers of my books. But for me, being a writer is not about publishing. It is simply about writing – writing from the heart the books that I most want to read. As the great American writer Toni Morrison said, ‘If there’s a book you want to read and it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.’
That’s one of my favorite quotes about writing—much better than “write what you know.” I feel like Ms. Morrison gives the author the permission to write what they want which to me is much more exciting that writing what you know. Promotion is a big – and usually the most hated – part of being a writer. Can you share a little bit about how you promote?
I promote myself through my website, on which I write between two and four blogs a week and I review books. I also do interviews and guest posts, which are then posted on my website so that my readers can learn more about me, together with my readers’ reviews, which I so value. You will also find me on Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads.
Here is where you can find me:
My website: www.hannahfielding.net
Goodreads (for reviews of Burning Embers): http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5333898.Hannah_Fielding
Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com (for reviews of Burning Embers)
Between two and four blog posts a week? You’re obviously much more disciplined than I am! I’m lucky if I get one! How long have you been writing?
Stories and writing have always been part of my life. My father was a great raconteur and my governess used to tell the most fabulous fairy stories – I could listen to them for hours. When I was seven she and I came to an agreement: for every story she’d tell me I would invent one in return. That is how my passion for storytelling began.
At school I consistently received first prize for my essays and my teachers often read them aloud in class. As a teenager I used to write short romantic stories during lessons and circulate them in class, which made me very popular with my peers (but less so with the nuns!). In addition, since a young age I have kept some sort of a diary where I note my feelings, ideas and things that take my fancy (or not).
My grandmother was a published author of poetry and my father published a book about the history of our family, so writing runs in my veins. I guess I always knew that one day I would follow in those footsteps and forge my own path in that field – a subconscious dream which finally came true.
What a wonderful story about your governess and it’s lovely that you’re following in your grandmother’s and father’s footsteps, so to speak. Tell us a little bit about where you live.
I am lucky to live half of the year in England and the other half in France.
My 19th-century Georgian house in Kent, England, is a couple of miles away from the sea and from the rolling countryside around DoverCastle. I love my house in Kent because it’s my home: the place I always return to, where my children grew up and where I have spent my happiest years. In summer the weather is temperate and balmy, just as I like it; and the garden, with its orchard and its giant beech trees, is a picture postcard. The autumn and winter months bring their own charm. In autumn, when the leaves of our trees turn the vibrant colours of yellow, orange, amber and even crimson, I sit under one of those trees, breathe the pure air and gaze in peaceful silence at the amazing view or go for long walks in the countryside conjuring up my romantic plots. When it snows, the landscape changes yet again and the views of my village under the snow are breathtaking. At that time, there is no better feeling than snuggling in an armchair in front of a log fire with a book.
For the other half of the year I live in France, in Ste Maxime on the southern coast of Provence in the county of Var. My house there is a mas and has a completely different feel to it than my home in England, being modern with stone floors and flimsy voile curtains. I love that part of France because of its wonderful warm weather, the brilliant colours of its vegetation, the Mediterranean sea with its ever-changing blues that range from sapphire to turquoise, its golden sandy beaches, its array of fresh fruit and vegetables, the variety of the local fish you find at the open air stalls in the market place and its happy-go-lucky, friendly people. For me Ste Maxime spells sun, blue skies, a swim in the sea, lazing under an umbrella on the beach with a book and a picnic, and writing in a room with a wide picture window overlooking the amazing ocean. Heaven! For photographs of French home, visit my website: http://www.hannahfielding.net/?page_id=16.
Two beautiful and I’m sure, inspiring, places to live. What is your strongest area in the creative process?
I think my strongest area in writing is my descriptive style. I try to convey to the reader every detail my imagination is conjuring up, so I pay keen attention to the setting. I carefully describe sights and sounds and smells and tastes and textures. All the senses are involved, so that the reader can form a clear picture of the environment in which the plot takes place and grasp a better understanding of the characters and their reactions. I am careful to use the right word and I am always looking for the nuance that will best describe what I am trying to say. This could be due to the rigorous language training of my French education. The nuns at my school, and later my teachers at university, were very strict about style.
Since childhood I’ve loved writers who really paint a scene in your mind, and I knew when I started writing romance that I wanted to transport my readers to the time and place in which I situate the story.
I love a good descriptive author voice because it tends to make the book so much more meaningful and enjoyable to me when I read. Where do you find inspiration for your writing?
Countries more than people have been my main source of inspiration. For me every country I visit is a new and exciting setting for the plot of a novel. I draw on the richness of its people, its history and all it has to offer in the way of cuisine, language, and customs to create fabulous places where my characters can meet and fall in love. So I can say that my books are born of my travels; of poking around in back streets and cafes; of meeting locals and exploring landscapes – and, of course, of reading extensively on cultures.
I’m not much of a traveller, I’m more of a homebody, but I envy you the opportunity to soak in different people and customs and create a story from them. How do you classify yourself as a writer?
I am romantic, passionate and imaginative, therefore I write romance novels, and that is also the genre I most enjoy reading. Though the story is always fiction, the background is thoroughly researched and detailed, and the story is mostly set in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s – times I find to be very romantic.
Due to the 1970 setting, my publisher was confronted with a categorisation dilemma when publishing my debut novel, Burning Embers. In the end, we settled upon “contemporary historical romance” as the genre.
“Contemporary historical romance;” how great that you and your publisher came up with that! Any good suggestions for overcoming writer’s block?
One of my favourite quotes about writer’s block is this: “Biting my truant pen, beating myself for spite: ‘Fool!’ said my muse to me, ‘look in thy heart, and write.’”
― Sir Philip Sidney
I have two ways of dealing with writer’s block.
The first one is patience. If you sit there in front of a blank page – and I’ve done that, sometimes for as much as a couple of hours – the muse eventually takes pity on you and visits.
The second one is to get into my car and drive to a place that has inspired me in the past. That also usually works. It might be a garden overlooking the sea, a meadow carpeted with wild flowers if I’m searching for a setting for a love scene, or a cafe bustling with people where I can find the description for one of my characters.
I love that quote from Sir Philip Sidney! When you’re writing, who’s in control, you or the characters?
Definitely me; I am extremely disciplined in the planning of my plot. I have a rigid routine which has served me well. Having researched my facts thoroughly, I plan my novel down to the smallest detail. Each character is set and will react according to the plot and the plan I have decided upon. Planning ahead, I have found, makes the writing so much easier and therefore so much more enjoyable. I use my plan as a map. I never set out on a long journey by car without a map, and the same applies to my writing.
That’s one of the few times we’ve gotten that answer. Most of the authors we’ve interviewed on here are, as I am, “pantsers.” Even when I take the time to write an outline, I usually give into my characters and let them guide me along. Where did your inspiration for Burning Embers come from?
Burning Embers began not as a story, but as a vivid landscape in my mind. The seed of the ideas was sown many years ago when, as a schoolgirl, I studied the works of Leconte de Lisle, a French Romantic poet of the 19th century. His poems are wonderfully descriptive and vivid – about wild animals, magnificent dawns and sunsets, exotic settings and colourful vistas. Add to that my journey to Kenya and the enthralling stories of a friend of our family, Mr Wangai, and it was impossible for me not to be inspired, and when I put pen to paper, Burning Embers was born.
I have had some of Leconte de Lisle’s beautiful poems translated. You can find them on my website at http://www.hannahfielding.net/?cat=7.
A French Romantic poet and a trip to Kenya—that sounds fascinating. What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?
Apart from the obvious tools that modern life offers to the author today, I think a writer should be armed with what I call the 4 Ds:
Desire to write.
Dedication to allot the necessary time and effort to your project.
Discipline to keep to strictly set rules.
Determination to succeed.
I agree, a writer needs every single one of your Ds. Thank you so much for joining us today, Hannah. We hope you’ll come back and visit often!