Today I welcome author Hannah Fielding to my blog to discuss her latest book, The Echoes of Love.
Tell us a bit about yourself. Where were you born and where do you call home?
My memories of my childhood in Egypt could be those of a fairytale: sunshine, azure skies and the ever-changing colours of the cobalt-blue Mediterranean sea. I grew up in Alexandria, the jewel of Egypt’s cities, in a family of pashas and ambassadors who had been part of the exiled King Farouk’s court. I was carefully cosseted in a strict but close-knit, loving family home, surrounded by lush gardens and fragrant orchards.
As a young woman, I travelled extensively, before meeting my husband: it was love at first sight, just like in the romance books that were my constant companions. He brought me to his large Georgian rectory in Kent, England, surrounded by grounds and forests. We still live there for part of the year, and for the rest of our time we go to our renovated farmhouse in the south of France, which has breathtaking views of the ocean.
What or who inspired you to start writing?
My family, without a doubt. I grew up surrounded by books – my parents had them in each room of our house, and I was read to and encouraged to look at books myself from an early age. Plus, both my father and grandmother were published writers, so I had writing in my blood. Add to that a governess with a keen imagination and a determination to sow the storytelling seed in me, and it’s not hard to see why the dream of becoming a writer began to materialise in childhood!
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I think it was the day I first held my debut novel, Burning Embers, in my hands. It was the culmination of so many years of writing and dreaming, a special moment indeed.
But holding a book is passive, and the truth is that being a writer is active – so since that moment, every day that I think about a plot of character, or plan a chapter, or sit and craft a paragraph, I tell myself, ‘This is it. I am a writer.’ And that lights up such a warm glow inside.
Have you started your next project? If so, can you share a little bit about your next book?
I am currently editing for publication the first book in a fiery trilogy set in Andalucia, Spain, spanning three generations of a Spanish/English family, from 1950 to the present day. It is the passionate story of the de Falla family, some of whom have roots in England, and their interaction with the gypsies. A tale of love, treachery, deceit and revenge a rumbling volcano, set against the fierce and blazing Spanish land, which is governed by savage passions and cruel rules.
Greece is also on the map for a new Hannah Fielding romantic novel. I am now in the process of researching and planning a very dramatic and steamy love story that takes place on one of the many Greek Islands. I chose Greece because I know that captivating country and its people well – I have good Greek friends. I bought my wedding dress in Athens and my husband and I honeymooned on Rhodes Island. Greek mythology was part of the literature course I read at university and Greece is not far from Alexandria, where I grew up.
Do you write full-time? What is your work day like?
I generally do write each week day. I have a very rigid routine which has served well. Having researched my facts thoroughly, I plan my novel down to the smallest detail. Planning ahead, I have found, makes the writing so much easier and therefore so much more enjoyable. Then, when I am ready to begin writing, I settle into a regular routine – writing each morning and editing the previous day’s work, taking a break for lunch, writing a little more and then going for a walk somewhere inspirational, like the woods or the beach. Routine, I think, is key – otherwise life gets in the way.
Is there a specific place in the house (or out of the house) that you like to write?
In England I write in our wood-panelled library surrounded by all my favourite books, and in France I write in my bedroom. Both places have wonderful views over the gardens – and in France I love the backdrop of the azure Mediterranean and sky.
Please tell us about your current release.
The Echoes of Love is a touching love story that unfolds at the turn of the new millennium and is set in beautiful, romantic Italy: Venice, Tuscany and Sardinia. It is the tale of two people who have been badly hurt by life and by love and who are trying to love again, but are still haunted by the echoes of those tragedies.
Venetia Aston-Montagu has escaped to Venice to work in her godmother’s architectural practice, putting a lost love behind her. For the past ten years she has built a fortress around her heart, only to find the walls tumbling down one night of the Carnival when she is rescued from masked assailants by an enigmatic stranger, Paolo Barone.
Drawn to the powerfully seductive Paolo, despite warnings of his Don Juan reputation and rumours that he keeps a mistress, Venetia can’t help being caught up in the smouldering passion that ignites between them.
When she finds herself assigned to a project at his magnificent home deep in the Tuscan countryside, Venetia must not only contend with a beautiful young rival, but also come face to face with the dark shadows of Paolo’s past that threaten to come between them.
Can Venetia trust that love will triumph, even over her own demons? Or will Paolo’s carefully guarded, devastating secret tear them apart forever?
What inspired you to write this book?
I first visited Venice as a young child. Then, as now, I was wide-eyed and enchanted by the beauty of the city. I distinctly remember standing in the main square, the Piazza St Marco, gazing up at the stunning architecture of Saint Mark’s Basilica, and feeling I had somehow entered another world – a fairytale world. Then I looked down, at the square itself, which was overrun by hordes of pigeons. There was nothing beautiful about those birds. They were quite spoiling the place. And it struck me then that Venice is a city of two faces: that which the tourists flock to admire, that makes the city the capital of romance, that breathes new life into the imagination and leaves a permanent, inspirational impression. And the other side, the darker side, that which is concealed in what Erica Jong called ‘the city of mirrors, the city of mirages’.
When I returned to the city as an adult, I became quite fascinated by the concept of Venice – what it means to be Venetian; what the city really is beneath the layers of history and grandeur and legend. Frida Giannini wrote, ‘Venice never quite seems real, but rather an ornate film set suspended on the water.’ I understand this quote – there is something fairytale about the place, and with that comes some reluctance, perhaps, to see the realism beyond.
Venice so captured my imagination that I knew some day I would write a romance novel set in this most elegant and fascinating of cities. But it had to be the right story to fit the place. For me, that meant a story that reflected the two faces of Venice – the mask she wears, and the true form beneath.
What kind of research did you do for this book?
All sorts! Once I have an idea I’m happy with, I ground it in reality by researching carefully the setting for the book – the culture, the era, the fashion, the cuisine, the buildings and so on. I read, I watch movies, I visit museums, I cook national cuisines, I listen to music and I travel to the settings. I very much enjoy that element of the writing process, particularly when I am able to convince my husband that a trip abroad is essential! We had a wonderful long weekend in Venice while I researched The Echoes of Love.
Did you base any of your characters on real people?
Sometimes a person will spark some inspiration in me. Paolo, my hero in The Echoes of Love, first wandered into my mind when I met an Italian lawyer who was the consummate gentleman, but somewhat tortured beneath the façade, I sensed; and Venetia, the heroine, looks like a lady I once saw in a Venice street. Also, in each of my books you find some kind of wise older character who acts as a guide for the heroine – this is in homage to my childhood governess, Zula, of whom I was so fond.
That said, my books are purely fictional. The stories are of my imagination, not based on my own life or those of people I know. I let my mind take flight.
Do you have an all time favorite book?
The Far Pavilions by MM Kaye. I first read it in the 1980s, and since then my copy has been well-thumbed. MM Kaye has been an inspiration to me in my writing, because, like me, she was a traveller at heart and she wrote wonderfully descriptive stories set in exotic locations that really transport you to far-off lands. The Far Pavilions is like an Indian Gone With the Wind – epic, moving, romantic, sweeping. If you’d like to know more about this writer and book, you can read a blog post I wrote on the subject at http://www.hannahfielding.net/?p=1523.
Tell us a random fact about you that we never would have guessed.
I’m something of a cook; in particular, I like using home-grown ingredients and, when in France, those I source from the wonderful local markets. I love to entertain family and friends; hosting dinner parties is a lot of work but immensely rewarding. Once a month I have a ‘Discover a Country’s Cuisine Night’ for family or friends, when I cook a three-course meal featuring the specialty of a given country. It’s a great way for me to experience the foods my characters eat in my novels!
About the Author
Hannah Fielding is a novelist, a dreamer, a traveller, a mother, a wife and an incurable romantic. The seeds for her writing career were sown in early childhood, spent in Egypt, when she came to an agreement with her governess Zula: for each fairy story Zula told, Hannah would invent and relate one of her own. Years later – following a degree in French literature, several years of travelling in Europe, falling in love with an Englishman, the arrival of two beautiful children and a career in property development – Hannah decided after so many years of yearning to write that the time was now. Today, she lives the dream: she writes full time, splitting her time between her homes in Kent, England, and the South of France, where she dreams up romances overlooking breathtaking views of the Mediterranean.
Her first novel, Burning Embers, is a vivid, evocative love story set against the backdrop of tempestuous and wild Kenya of the 1970s, reviewed by one newspaper as ‘romance like Hollywood used to make’. Her new novel, The Echoes of Love, is a story of passion, betrayal and intrigue set in the romantic and mysterious city of Venice and the beautiful landscape of Tuscany.