Jen: Todayh we welcome Hannah Fielding to Romancing the Book. Hannah, will you share a short bio with us?
Hannah: I was born and grew up in Alexandria, Egypt. I went to a French convent school and then, upon graduating with a BA in French literature from Alexandria University, I travelled extensively throughout Europe and lived in Switzerland, France and England.
After marrying my English husband, I settled in Kent and subsequently had little time for writing while bringing up my two children, looking after dogs and horses, and running my own business renovating rundown cottages.
I now divide my time between my homes in Kent, Ireland and the South of France, where I write overlooking spectacular vistas.
Jen: Please tell us about your newest release and where the idea came from.
Hannah: Legacy is the third novel in my Andalucían Nights trilogy. Each book reads as a standalone, but there is a thread of family ties running through the overall series.
The core idea for Legacy had been haunting me for some time: how can you simultaneously be your own person and carry on the legacy of your ancestors?
Spring, 2010. When Luna Ward, a science journalist from New York, travels half way across the world to work undercover at an alternative health clinic in Cadiz her ordered life is thrown into turmoil.
The doctor she is to investigate, the controversial Rodrigo Rueda de Calderon, is not what she expected. With his wild gypsy looks and devilish sense of humour, he is intent upon drawing her to him. But how can she surrender to a passion that threatens all reason; and how could he ever learn to trust her when he discovers her true identity? Then Luna finds that Ruy is carrying a corrosive secret of his own…
Luna’s native Spanish blood begins to fire in this land of exotic legends, flamboyant gypsies and seductive flamenco guitars, as dazzling Cadiz weaves its own magic on her heart. Can Luna and Ruy’s love survive their families’ legacy of feuding and tragedy, and rise like the phoenix from the ashes of the past?
Legacy is a story of truth, dreams and desire. But in a world of secrets you need to be careful what you wish for…
Jen: What age did you discover writing? Tell us your call story.
Hannah: Stories and writing have always been part of my life. My grandmother was a published author of poetry and my father, a great raconteur, published a book about the history of our family.
My governess used to tell me the most fabulous tales and when I was seven, we came to an agreement: for every story she told me, I told her one in return. Later, at the convent school I went to, the French nuns who taught us sowed in me a love of words and of literature. When I was fourteen, I wrote short romantic stories that I circulated in class, which made me very popular with my peers – but less so with the nuns that taught us! 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).
To quote Anais Nin: ‘If you do not breathe through writing, if you do not cry out in writing, or sing in writing, then don’t write.’ I do all that. Writing is my life.
Jen: Are you a plotter or pantser?
Hannah: I am a thorough planner. 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. By the time I write the first paragraph, I know the story, the characters, the setting, the mood – everything.
Jen: What’s the most challenging aspect of writing? Easiest? Most rewarding?
Hannah: I find the hardest and the most challenging parts for me 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 last 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.
For me, the easiest parts are the descriptive parts. My style is mainly descriptive because that is what my French education gave me and that is what I most like to read. 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.
As for the most rewarding part of writing – that is when I receive a good review, and when my readers write to me say how much they enjoyed my book and how much they are looking forward to reading my next one.
Jen: Describe your writing in three words.
Hannah: Passionate, descriptive romance.
Jen: What do you do in your free time?
Hannah: I read: I love reading romantic novels – the thicker the book, the better.
I cook: I use the various produce of our vegetable garden. Jams, chutneys, stuffed vine leaves (dolmadis), stuffed savoury and sweet filo pastry cushions that I serve as nibbles when I entertain, stewed fruit for winter crumbles… the list could go on for ever.
I entertain: I find nothing more satisfying that having friends over; and as I often travel, it’s great to catch up with all the news.
I travel: To research my books. I find it exciting and exhilarating to discover new places, new people, new traditions and new cuisines.
I collect antiques: Chinese porcelain, Japanese sculptures and French and Italian glass, so you will often find me rummaging in flea markets and dark second-hand shops in the hope of discovering a treasure.
I go for long walks: I love the countryside in England and the seafront in France especially. There are many places to which I go for inspiration or when I have writer’s block.
Jen: Who has influenced you as a writer?
Hannah: 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.
Jen: What’s next for you?
Hannah: Next summer will see the release of Aphrodite’s Tears, an intriguing and exciting romance inspired by Greek mythology set on the Greek Islands.
I have also written a dark story of love and revenge set in Luxor, Egypt, the land of my birth, a world of deeply ingrained customs and traditions, interesting though often cruel.
After that, my readers can look forward to a love story that tackles contemporary women’s problems and is set on the French Riviera and by beautiful Lake Como.
Now I am working on a dark romance set in the beautiful setting of Ireland, the land of fairytales and legends.