Why do you write Gothic romance?
I didn’t set out to. I’d intended to write a contemporary romantic suspense set in the most romantic place I’d ever visited—Cordes sur Ciel, a hilltop town in southern France. It even has a town square called Place de la Bride!
But then my hero turned out to be the aloof, brooding type, reminiscent of Mr Rochester…and I discovered Cordes’ eight hundred years of history and all the legends, myths and symbolism surrounding the heretic Cathars who found refuge there. The plot evolved from one of the most persistent stories about the Cathars.
What kind of stories do you like to read?
I like page-turner books with developing relationships. Ones that evolve through a series of books are a particular delight. No surprises, I’m always drawn to stories where the plot is driven by things that happened far in the past, and by forgotten family secrets.
There’s a small niche that I style ‘genealogical fiction’ that I’ve devoured, too. Whether the book is a crime thriller or a family history procedural, it raises themes of identity and heredity. As an adoptee who didn’t meet a blood relative till the age of twenty six, I can’t resist them. One day, before too long, I’ll write one.
What books would you want on a Desert Island?
If I could only have three, they’d be:
- Monsignor Quixote by Grahame Greene. It’s so gentle and full of wisdom, a real late-stage book that couldn’t have been written by a younger Greene. Quixote and Panchez’s picnics by the Spanish roadside with bread, wine and manchega cheese are delightful and relaxing.
- Crocodile on a Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters. I adore her feisty, self-reliant heroine, Amelia Peabody, and her thoroughly modern marriage—in the late nineteenth century—to Egyptologist Radcliffe Emerson
- The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken. Yes, a children’s book. It’s brilliantly Gothic with its wolves in the wild, wintry landscape, and the cruel governess who runs the orphan school. It has a story arc which is deeply comforting. As Oscar Wilde put it, “The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what Fiction means.”
That said, my aspiration as a writer is one day to be given the accolade ‘the new Mary Stewart’. She combined contemporary romantic suspense stories, some using Gothic motifs, with beautifully described locations. I once took a holiday to the White Mountains of Crete solely due to her book The Moon-Spinners, which began with the wonderful line,
‘It was the egret, flying out of the lemon-grove, that started it.’
Have you always written stories?
My love of writing stories surfaced in primary school. When, eventually, I learned that my by-blood uncle and great grandfather had been the storytellers in their communities, it made perfect sense.
Where in the world are you, and what do you do?
Paradoxically, given my love of old places, I live in a very young country, New Zealand, with my husband and two adult children. By day, I’m a business strategy consultant. When I’m not working or writing, I can be found digging into my family history—having twice the usual number of trees is one of the blessings of adoption.