It’s Spring!!!

Welcome to my monthly newsletter for March 2024

If you a purist about these things, then you will no doubt want to tell me that Spring doesn’t start until the 20th of March and that’s fine. You can stick with that date if it pleases you, but I prefer to slice my year into four neat quarters, one for each season. And so my Spring starts on 1st March and that was Friday – so we’re well and truly off!

Where have I been?

Syracuse, Sicily

February sneaked by, didn’t it? I made a trip to Wells-Next-the-Sea as is my wont and managed to catch an unseasonably warm day between the rain showers which was nice. But my most interesting explore was my research trip to Syracuse in Sicily.

Here’s a map in case you, like me, weren’t entirely sure where it is – Syracuse, I mean, not Sicily. ‘Long legged Italy kicked poor Sicily right in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea.’ I assume you learned that at school too. Anyway, I digress.

I have been researching locations for the new book. Part of the story will be set in Sicily in the 1980s and as that was the last time I was there myself I thought it a good excuse to hop on a plane and go and see how the place has changed.

A lot, is the answer and I’m still digesting all that I saw and how it sits with my 1980 memories. (If you want to see a holiday snap of me in Selinunte in 1986 then click here.) But for the purposes of my book research, the trip was very useful and with my usual blend of artistic licence (ie twisting the truth to suit me) and imagination I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to write a convincing scene or two.

Images show street scenes from Sicily

Sicily unchanged.

On our last day we had torrential rain. The Sicilians seemed very shocked by it and rushed about between each other’s cafés shaking their heads and peering at the sky ominously. Obviously we Brits have grown gils this winter so we were fine in the deluge.

Despite my gadding about across Europe, the book, currently titled A Question of Loyalty, is actually going to be mainly set in Ripon in North Yorkshire so you can expect some photos from there over the coming months. It’s a lovely and quite tiny city and also has the added bonus of being a little more accessible from Ilkley than Sicily is.

What am I writing?

Actually, I’m beginning to feel like a fraud. I know I call myself an writer but I haven’t written anything new since October. But we are nearly through this fallow period – thank goodness. The copy edits on the new Imogen Clark book have landed in my inbox and once I get those out of the way then it should be plain sailing to my August deadline. I’m positively giddy at the prospect of getting stuck into something new.

In other news, there’s still no cover to share with you for Table for Five, which is Izzy’s new book and will be out in June. (If you’re new around here then I should explain that I also write light-hearted fiction as Izzy Bromley.)

My publishers and I had a last minute change of heart on the cover design so a little more patience is required by us all. However, I can now share the book description with you. Here it is.

Abbie Finch loves her job.

Unfortunately, her boss doesn’t love her.

When she finds herself unexpectedly unemployed, Abbie realises that she’s let all her friendships fall by the wayside and has no one to turn to.

Lost and lonely, Abbie decides to leave her comfort zone and join the neighbourhood café’s community table. There she meets aloof, elegant Ethel, down-on-his luck Bob, colourful, chaotic Dawn and recently relocated Viraj. Friends? Not yet. But when they decide to help the homeless people in their community by staging an extravagant fundraising event, will something that began as a good deed help Abbie find a way back to herself—and make lifelong friends at the same time?

What do you think? Does it sound interesting? Well, it’s up for pre-order hereand we’ll have to wait a little bit longer for the cover reveal.

In another sneak preview I can reveal that September’s Imogen Clark book (the one I’m currently editing) will be called A Borrowed Path. Watch this space for more about that.

What have I read?

I’ve read some great books again this month. You know how sometimes you just get a really good run? Well, I’m definitely on one. Here are my top four recommendations.

Image shows four book covers

This month’s book suggestions.

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer is about a group of teenagers who are thrown together on a summer camp for creative kids. The book then follows them through their adult life. Just having talent is not enough to make someone successful, as we all know, and as the book examines each character we see how opportunities may be missed for all kinds of reasons. It’s also an excellent study on what it takes to be a lifelong friend.

How to Talk to a Widower by Jonathan Tropper is the story of Doug whose wife Hayley is killed in an accident when he is just 28. This leaves him devastated and with Hayley’s teenage son, who would rather be with Doug than his actual dad, hanging around and requiring attention. It’s beautifully observed piece on long term grief and moving forward but it’s also written with a wit that made me laugh. The dialogue is sassy and punchy and it pulled me right into their world.

Oh Sister! by Jodie Chapman is about three women all born into an extreme church, (which seemed to me to be loosely based on the Jehovah’s Witnesses.) The women know nothing about life outside the church, but one by one they break the rules and have to deal with the consequences of that, being forced to turn their backs on the only life they have ever known. There are many parallels between the strict, male domination of the church and life in general. You don’t have to dig very deep to relate to their stories.

Trespasses by Louise Kennedy is an ill-fated love story set in Ireland in the 1970s at the height of the Troubles. Life there is a complex business, with its parameters made up of society’s expectations, what the church permits, a small community thriving on gossip and the deep civil unrest of The Troubles. Caught up in all this is is Cushla who embarks on an affair with an older married man. The tension that all these factors bring to bear on such a relationship builds steadily through the book so that the impending sense of doom becomes impossible to ignore. I really loved the descriptions of life in the 70s. I’d clean forgotten about running out of school in my underwear (mid Music and Movement class) for bomb scares.

And that’s it . . .

for this month. Do you like the newsletter coming via SubStack? You can comment below. I’m still experimenting with the platform and haven’t yet made any long term decisions as to how I’ll use it but I have been posting my Saturday Chats. One of the things that SubStack allows you to do is easily inform your audience when you have posted something new. I’ve been resisting doing this because I’m conscious that I promised one newsletter a month and I don’t want to bombard you. But if you do follow me on SubStack then I think it will send you a notification of anything I write.

Anyway, that’s enough from me. When we reach the end of next month I will FINALLY have started writing something new, London Book Fair and all its madness with have been and gone, I will have been wedding dress hunting with my daughters, have visited my son in Croatia and will hopefully have some covers to share. All this to come next month.

But until then, happy reading.