This week’s been pretty packed so far and it’s not over yet! Monday brought a trip delivering my husband’s paintings to the Hampshire Art Fair and, as I found myself in Jane Austen country again, I couldn’t miss visiting her resting place in Winchester Cathedral. It’s the most amazing building and you could easily lose yourself there for hours but I had a very specific job to do – making notes for the final scene of my novel.
It was really moving seeing Jane Austen’s grave and remembering how young she was when she died – just 42. And we visited number 8 College Street – the house in which she spent her last days. Here it is below – the bay window was her bedroom.
Here’s Jane’s grave in the north aisle of the cathedral.
And, in the spirit of my heroine, I lit a candle in her memory.
Wednesday morning brought a telephone interview on BBC Radio Oxford. Click here to listen to the show – it should be up for a few days. Once again, I was asked – as a romantic novelist – for my opinion on pre-nuptial agreements and you can hear exactly what I think at about nineteen minutes into the show!
The rest of the week has been spent on the novel and it’s going at a cracking pace at the moment which is is just as well as the next few days will be spent away from my desk but more about that later …
Writers are generally very nosy people – I mean we’re professionally curious. I love finding out about people and this inspired me to ask some of my good writer friends some probing questions like ‘What’s your favourite dessert?” The result is a new page of Writer Top Tens and the first two writers to submit their answers are the wonderful Kate Harrison and Lisa Jewell.
More Top Tens to come over the following weeks!
On a day stolen from summer, we visited the pretty Hampshire village of Chawton – home of Jane Austen. I’d visited her cottage before but, now that I’m writing my book about Jane Austen addicts, I wanted to see it again. It’s such a lovely place and I adored seeing the pretty topaz crosses worn by Jane and her sister, Cassandra. And the gift shop is an Austen addicts’ dream with books galore and the brooding image of Darcy everywhere!
I’d also booked for a tour of Chawton House Library – the place referred to as the ‘Great House’ in the letters of Jane Austen, and owned by her brother, Edward. There are some fabulous portraits and wooden pannelling, and the library is a delight featuring many rare books by women writers published between 1600 to 1830.
Whilst walking in the grounds, I managed to take a tumble – Marianne Dashwood style – and badly twisted my ankle. But, despite the fact that I was in Austen-land, there were no handsome men on horseback to rescue me and I had to do my best to hobble my way back to where my husband was painting .
If you’d like to see his lovely paintings of Chawton, visit his blog here:
I’m delighted to announce that the trade paperback of Loves Me, Loves Me Not is out now. This collection of romantic short stories is published in celebration of the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s 50th anniversary and includes stories by Joanna Trollope, Carole Matthews, Adele Parks, Judy Astley and many more wonderful writers.
And I’m delighted that one of my own stories features in it too. It’s called Mummies and Daddies and is about a children’s writer who gets a second chance at love in the mummy rooms of the British Museum. If you’ve read Molly’s Millions, you’ll realise that the British Museum is a favourite setting of mine!
Click the book cover (just gorgeous, isn’t it?) to buy your copy of the anthology at an amazing price!
I had some lovely news this week – Molly’s Millions is to be published in Turkey. This is really exciting as I used to teach English at a small school in west London for Turkish students. I wonder if they’ll remember their teacher and notice her book in the shops!
It was lovely to see Molly’s Millions in the Jarrold bestseller list. How wonderful to be up there with Maeve Binchy, Stephanie Meyer and John Le Carré!
After a fabulously frenzied summer of talks and book signings, I’ve now returned to my desk and have been making slow but steady progress on the first three chapters of my new novel. I always spend an age setting up these early chapters as I’m getting to know the characters and I’m not sure which direction they might take me in. It’s always a fun and rewarding process and the beginning of a new novel is a very exciting time.
I’ve also been catching up on some films. Really enjoyed Twilight, Inkheart and The Duchess, and adored Miss Austen Regrets. One of the wonderful things about being a writer is that you can claim that sitting on the sofa watching films is actually work!
I’ve just returned from a trip to my home town of Norwich where I had a fabulous evening at Jarrold’s, talking and signing. So many of my old school friends from Hethersett High came along to support me and it was amazing to see them all again and catch up on all the gossip. I can’t believe it’s been such a long time since we were all together!
Here I am signing a few books.
I adored all the posters around the store and felt very honoured to share window space with Lauren Child’s Charlie and Lola and Francesca Simon’s Horrid Henry! It really was a very special evening and many thanks to the fabulous Mike Butler who arranged it.
I stayed at a fabulous bed and breakfast whilst in Norwich where everything was vegetarian and environmentally friendly, and I had the best breakfasts ever! And there was time to see the beautiful Norfolk Broads and revisit some places from my childhood. Here’s Buxton Mill – one of the many places we used to cycle to.
Now it’s back to the desk and there’s a whole heap of work to get stuck into which I’m actually looking forward to it. It’ll be nice to see my characters again and find out what they’ve been up to!
Last week, whilst chicken-sitting in Kent, I gave a talk and did a book signing at Waterstone’s in Tunbridge Wells. It was lovely to meet so many aspiring authors there and they all had plenty of interesting questions for me.
And I absolutely loved the yellow gerbera that lined my signing table (the heroine of Molly’s Millions is a florist and this is her calling card!) Thank you, Sarah! A really lovely touch.
The chickens were – once again – a wonderful distraction and I didn’t get quite as much written as I should have. Here’s me with the gorgeous Bubbles.
No rest for me at the moment as I’m off to Norwich for a signing at Jarrolds. Norwich is my home town so this is going to be a very special trip for me.
Saturday brought another day’s promotion – this time at Waterstones in Uxbridge where they had a lovely display of Molly’s Millions. I was delighted to be joined by my two lovely nieces, Lucy and Charlotte. Here they are with me and my mother-in-law.
And today I spent a wonderful afternoon with children’s author, Mary Hoffman. I met her three beautiful cats and we talked about – well – books! Get two authors together and it’s usually the same!
Whilst driving around the beautiful Oxfordshire lanes, I saw this sign which reminded me that I’ll be chicken-sitting again this week!
Last night, I had the very great pleasure of being part of the Summer Fiction Panel with Judy Astley and Jane Wenham-Jones at Notting Hill’s Waterstones. We had a lovely crowd of people: friends, family and “wannabes” who all risked torrential rain to join us and make the evening a success. Thanks to the fabulous Mark Farley who organises the very best author events in London. And thanks to everyone who bought copies of Molly’s Millions. I’m delighted to say that it sold out! We even had to grab the ones from the window display!
This weekend, I had the very great pleasure of attending the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s annual confernce in Penrith. It was brilliant and it was so lovely to see so many of my writer friends with their copies of Molly’s Millions, all of which I was delighted to sign!
A highlight for me was taking part in the ‘Love in the Library’ talk in Penrith where a group of us – including Katie Fforde, Freda Lightfoot and Veronica Henry – told eager readers all our writing secrets. Many thanks to the wonderful staff who arranged the day and gave us a fabulous lunch.
Penrith and the Eden Valley is where I open Molly’s Millions and it was lovely to wander around the town and visit the amazing giant’s grave which my hero Tom and his daughter visit in the book. Here’s a pic of me with some of my very good writer friends.
Back to work now which has also been a pleasure as I’ve discovered beautiful Ardington House and it’s proving a very inspirational place. My new novel is going to be about a group of Jane Austen addicts who attend a specialized weekend at a Georgian country house. Here I am working hard – honestly, I really am! – on the island in the middle of the lake in the beautiful grounds.
And breaking news – I’m part of an exciting new group of writers who are all celebrating their first UK novels. We’re called Let’s Talk About Love so visit our website and find out all about us.