What can Female First readers expect from your new novel Burning Embers?
Escapism: Burning Embers is a vintage historical romantic novel that will transport you through a passionate journey in Africa. It is the story of Coral, a naïve young English woman who falls in love with Rafe, a handsome but complicated older man with a deep secret, and the path riddled with complications and intrigue that their love must go through to prove itself.
The description in Burning Embers transports you to the colourful, wild landscapes of Kenya, amid its animals, its people and their customs and history in 1970. Essentially, the book allows you to travel to Africa without leaving your armchair and get lost in a world of sizzling romance and suspense.
How much research was required to capture 1970’s Kenya?
I grew up in North Africa and I travelled to Kenya when I was a young girl. I found it a most fascinating and romantic place: the vivid colours, the kindness and hospitality of the people, their wise proverbs and so much more. At the time, I jotted down a few impressions and some descriptions (for many years I have kept a notebook in my handbag where I put down thoughts – a sort of a diary with a difference).
We also had a very dear family friend, Mr Chiumbo Wangai who used to visit us often and tell me about the tribes, the folklore and the witchcraft of his country.
Where did your inspiration come from for the novel?
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 Mr Wangai’s enthralling stories 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 by a friend Mr John Harding. You can find them on my website at: http://www.hannahfielding.net/?cat=7.
How did you capture a romantic story intertwined with that of one that was political?
I am essentially a romantic, and my books will always be about passionate love; but because I like to set my plots in an authentic background I go to great lengths to learn about a country. Politics, language, customs, fauna and flora – 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.
Burning Embers is total romance; the politics of the country like all the other descriptions in the book, help to set a scene for my characters that is real.
To what extent has your degree in French literature helped you in writing your novel?
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.
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.
You had a business in renovating rundown cottages; when did you decide that it was time to write?
I have always had a vivid imagination. I started to invent stories when I was about seven. My half-French half-Italian governess used to tell the most wonderful fairytales and we came to an agreement that for every story she would tell me, I would tell her one in return. At the age of 12 I used to write short romantic stories to circulate in class, which made me very popular with my peers, but less so with the nuns.
During my twenties I had no time to write, and once I was married and had children, I had even less to time to indulge in my passion. So once my business was flourishing and my children had flown the nest I decided to put pen to paper and channel my creative imagination into something that has always been gratifying for me and given pleasure to the people around me.
What have you in store next for your fans?
I have written a very passionate trilogy that takes place in Andalucia, Spain, and spans three generations of a Spanish/English family, from 1950 to the present day. At the moment I am in the process of writing a romantic novel set in Venice and Tuscany, Italy, in 1979/1980. It opens with the Venice Carnival that has returned after a cessation of almost two centuries.
Who are your favourite reads?
French literature: Balzac, Stendahl and Victor Hugo
English literature: The Brontë sisters and Jane Austin of course
Modern reads: M. M. Kaye (The Far Pavillions – Shadow of the Moon)
…………… Margaret Mitchell (Gone with the Wind)
…………… Susan Howatch (Penmarric – Cashelmara )
……………. Brenda Jackson: (Tall…Dark…_Westmoreland! – Courting Justice).
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 sceneries 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.
Female First Lucy Walton