Wednesday, January 16, 2013

#OBBigBang Orangeberry Big Bang - Burning Embers by Hannah Fielding

Updated on 28th December 2012

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What is your favorite quote, by whom and why? If you try anything, if you try to lose weight, or to improve yourself, or to love, or to make the world a better place, you have already achieved something wonderful, before you even begin. Forget failure. If things don’t work out the way you want, hold your head up high and be proud. And try again. And again. And again!’ by Sarah Dessen, Keeping the Moon

This quote is akin to a lesson I was brought up on which my father used to tell my sister and I whenever we ran into difficulties: ‘If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again.’

What are you most proud of accomplishing so far in your life? I am proud of having brought up two well-balanced children who have now flown the nest and are both successful in their pursuits.

I am also proud to have fulfilled a dream, which even if it had not been obviously formulated in my mind, was certainly dormant at the bottom of my heart: the dream of becoming a published author.

Can you share a little of your current work with us? Burning Embers, published by Omnific Publishing, is a contemporary historical romance novel set in Kenya in 1970. It is an evocative and passionate story of coming of age, of letting go of the past, of having faith in a person and of overcoming obstacles to love, set against the vivid and colourful backdrop of rural Africa and its culture.

Blurb: Coral Sinclair is a beautiful but naïve twenty-five-year-old photographer who has just lost her father. She’s leaving the life she’s known and travelling to Kenya to take ownership of her inheritance – the plantation that was her childhood home – Mpingo.

On the voyage from England, Coral meets an enigmatic stranger to whom she has a mystifying attraction. She sees him again days later on the beach near Mpingo, but Coral’s childhood nanny tells her the man is not to be trusted. It is rumoured that Rafe de Monfort, owner of a neighbouring plantation and a nightclub, is a notorious womanizer having an affair with her stepmother, which may have contributed to her father’s death.

Circumstance confirms Coral’s worst suspicions, but when Rafe’s life is in danger she is driven to make peace. A tentative romance blossoms amidst a meddling ex-fiancé, a jealous stepmother, a car accident, and the dangerous wilderness of Africa.

Is Rafe just toying with a young woman’s affections? Is the notorious womanizer only after Coral’s inheritance? Or does Rafe’s troubled past colour his every move, making him more vulnerable than Coral could ever imagine?

How did you come up with the title? It came to me one evening while we were having a campfire in the garden and I was watching the incandescent embers. The fire was by no means dead – it was just smouldering there quietly, giving out a strong glow from time to time like the passions of Coral and Rafe, my heroine and hero.

Can you tell us about your main characters? Coral could at first come across as a spoilt brat. But there is more to Coral than meets the eye. She has had a protected upbringing, but she has also had many blows. The abrupt change she had to suffer at the age of nine when she had to leave the open spaces of Africa for the confinement of boarding school in England; the divorce of her parents; the remarriage of her mother; the birth of siblings to this new marriage; and finally, her own broken engagement. All this has made her insecure, and that is why sometimes she reacts so childishly to her surroundings and to Rafe. Even though she is naïve emotionally, and her fiery, passionate and rebellious nature pushes her sometimes to extreme behaviour, she is intelligent and very competent at her work as a photographer, which she takes very seriously. Still, through the book Coral learns to grow up the hard way, and blossoms into an understanding, compassionate and generous woman.

Rafe is the Alpha man par excellence. He is handsome, a successful entrepreneur, commanding, strong and kind. But he is a notorious womaniser and there is a darkness to him that is present all through the book and caused by a troubled past that is reflected in everything he does and says. A passionate man with a strong sense of right and wrong, his love for Coral is so deep that it brings him almost to the door of death.

What is your greatest strength as a writer? I am very 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. 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. In order to write I need to see, smell, feel, even taste what I am telling my readers about – it must come from the heart. That is perhaps why my descriptions are so vivid, which I am told is my forte.

Have you developed a specific writing style? I like to write in a descriptive style because that is what my French education gave me and that is what I like most to read. I try to convey to the reader every detail my imagination is conjuring up – all the senses are involved, so that the reader can form a clear picture of the setting 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 put across. This could be due to the rigorous training of my French education. The nuns at my school, and later my teachers at university, were very strict about style.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp? Yes. The messages of my novel are that one should learn how to let go of the past in order not to miss out on new opportunities, and to draw one’s own conclusions rather than being influenced by other people’s point of view.

Do you have any advice for writers? First and foremost, write from the heart. Be true to yourself and don’t compromise to please the market. Markets change, fads come and go; your work will remain.

Research your facts thoroughly. A writer today has no excuse for not getting his/her facts right. Use all the tools available to you. Travel, internet, books, films, documentaries: they’re all there to enrich your experience and make your writing journey easier.

Plan your novel down to the smallest detail. This will make your writing so much easier and therefore so much more enjoyable. A plan is your map. Would you set out on a long journey by car without a map?

Read, reread and reread. Edit, edit, edit. Go through your manuscript again and again and edit it. I know that it will break your heart to delete a phrase or even one word you have spent time agonising on, but sometimes less is better than more. Not easy advice to follow, but in the long run it does work. If you can leave the manuscript alone for a few weeks and revisit it at a later date, reading it as if it were someone else’s, then that’s even better.

What is your favorite food? I am very versatile with my food. I love cooking and of course I love eating – it is one of the main pleasures of life, I think. In my travels I have sampled many different dishes, but even though I have not yet visited China, I must admit that I always look forward to a Chinese meal.

What genre are you most comfortable writing? I am romantic, passionate and imaginative, therefore I write romantic novels, because that is also the genre I most enjoy reading.

How do you promote this book?

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated? 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.

How has your upbringing influenced you writing? I grew up in a rambling house in Alexandria, Egypt, and my bedroom windows overlooked the beautiful Mediterranean Sea. I could see up to the harbour. At any time of day when I looked out of my windows, there was beauty in the scenery. That is where I first experienced the blazing dawns and sunsets, the brilliant azure sky and the ever-changing colours of the sea – silver under the moonlight, almost purple and orange in the early morning or the evening, deep blue in autumn, angry grey in winter and almost turquoise in the spring and summer. My plots are set in warm countries: such vivacious, passionate people, fascinating cultures and wonderful, breathtaking vistas. It is what I know best, what touches me most, so for the time being I will continue to situate my stories in places that bring warmth to my heart.

The French nuns at my convent school, Notre Dame de Sion, and later my French professors at university were very strict about structure and punctuation. Today, I still try to make sure each scene has an introduction, a middle part and a conclusion. I definitely think that my background in French literature has been a blessing. French is sonorous and elaborate and you can’t study the literature without developing a love of words and phrases. I used to spend hours reading a thesaurus, totally engrossed in the nuances of words. Even now, if I am looking up a word, I sometimes find myself just absorbed in the subtle shadings of words – and time just flies by.

What inspired you to write your first book? 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 Kenyan family friend, 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.

What do you consider the most challenging about writing a novel, or about writing in general? The most challenging parts for me when I write a new novel are the opening paragraph and the closing paragraph. The first must encourage the reader to continue his or her journey into the novel, to want to get to know the characters and their story; and the second must leave the reader with a feeling of contentment and maybe a tinge of melancholy because the voyage has come to an end and it is as if he or she is saying farewell to a friend.

Can we expect any more books from you in the future? I have written a sizzling and sensual trilogy, a romance that is set in Andalucia, Spain, spanning a period that will take the reader from the 1950s 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.

I have also written a very romantic and touching love story set in Venice and Tuscany in 1979/1980. It opens with the Venice Carnival that has returned after a cessation of almost two centuries. It is a tale of lost but tender deep, ineffable love, dealing with its echoes and learning to love again.

I am now working on a trilogy set in Egypt, which will take my readers from 1945 to the present day, transporting them to a world of deep, ingrained customs and traditions, interesting though often cruel, and making them live through the various winds and storms that blew over this very ancient land.

What do you do to unwind or relax? I am a loner to some extent, and a dreamer, so the beach calls to me. I live part of the year in the south of France, and I love taking long walks on the beach on a sunny spring day. I gaze at the sparkling Mediterranean sea, with its ever-changing shades of blue under the smiling sky, and conjure up romantic stories.

When I am in my home in Kent, I love to cook, especially around Christmas time when I start baking all the delicious pies, puddings and cakes that are special to that time of year. Otherwise, nothing is more satisfying and relaxing than curling up either in bed or in front of a log fire with a romantic novel.

Do you have to travel much concerning your book (s)? Yes, I do, and that is the most exciting part, because it is all about discovering something new. I like to get a feel of the place where my romance novel is going to be set. I need to experience its weather, view its countryside, mingle with its people and try its exclusive cuisine. Every facet of a country helps me to form the setting of a film in my mind, where I can place my characters, knowing that their experience will be genuine and that my story will come from the heart.

Do you intend to make writing a career? Writing for me is not a career. Even if I had not been published, I would have continued to write because writing is my life.

If you could leave your readers with one bit of wisdom, what would you want it to be? Never say die! Never give up!

Have you ever had writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it? One of my favourite quotes about writer’s block is: ‘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 wildflowers if I’m searching for a setting for a love scene, or a café bustling with people where I can find the description for one of my characters.

What are some of the best tools available today for writers, especially those just starting? Apart from the obvious tools that modern life offers to the author today, like search engines on the internet, documentaries, films, libraries and a good knowledge of Word, I think a writer should be armed with what I call the 4 Ds:

Desire to write.

Dedication to allotting the necessary time and effort to your project.

Discipline to keep to strictly set rules.

Determination to succeed.

What contributes to making a writer successful? Writing from the heart! Readers always detect when the writer is not being sincere.

Buy at Amazon

Genre – Contemporary Romance (PG13)

Connect with Hannah Fielding on Twitter & Goodreads

Website - http://www.hannahfielding.net/

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