Writing The Beachside Sweet Shop gave me the perfect opportunity to make some coconut ice. I used to help make it with my grandmother, growing up, and it tasted exactly as I remembered it.
Also, in the course of research, I tried eating pear-drops to see whether I’d grown to enjoy them – I haven’t. I always preferred chocolate and still do.
Shipley, the setting for the Beachside series, is based on Swanage in Dorset, one of my favourite places to visit, but I changed the name so I could use some fictional license when it came to naming and placing pubs and shops.
I don’t have green fingers so there was plenty of research involved in writing The Beachside Flower Stall. I loved learning the meanings and symbolism of various flowers and was inspired to be more active in the garden this summer!
Ruby, who runs the flower stall in the book, is based on a neighbour I remembered from my childhood, who grew the most beautiful roses and would let my sister and me gather fallen petals to make perfume.
Writing the Beachside series reminded me how much I took for granted growing up in a seaside town, and how rarely I even went on the beach. Though I now love living in the countryside, holidays and breaks tend to be by the sea.
I wrote a lot of The Beachside Christmas during a heatwave, so played Christmas songs to get myself in a festive mood. Mulled wine may have featured, too.
I watched a bit of ‘structured reality’ television to get a feel for the character of Ollie in the Christmas book, but it only confirmed that it’s not my cup of tea. I love a good drama, and I like some reality TV, but I don’t like them combined!
Although Shipley and its characters don’t exist outside my own head, I became so engrossed in their stories while writing that I kept accidentally calling people by their names.
I’ve learnt some fascinating facts from writing each book: in the 1800s physicians advised broken-hearted patients to eat chocolate to ‘calm their pining’; tulip bulbs were once more valuable than gold; the world record for the amount of Christmas lights on a house is 331,038. That’s some electric bill!