As your father and grandmother were published writers you might say it’s in your blood. Might we recognize any of their work?
I’m afraid not. My grandmother wrote poetry, and my father wrote a family saga – but both books are now out of print.
You were born in Egypt. When and why did you leave?
I grew up in Alexandria,Egypt, but I left when I was a young woman because I wanted to roam the world. I think of the years that followed as my nomadic years, during which I spent time in Switzerland,France,England,Greece,Spain,Italy and Kenya. I lived in some places – mainly Switzerland– and stayed with friends and relatives in others.Greece was a particular favourite for me; it was there that I bought my wedding dress and took my honeymoon with my husband.
What led you to study French Literature at university?
It was the obvious choice for me. First, literature is my passion – I grew up surrounded by books and the tales of my governess, and it was by far my favourite subject at school. I attended a convent school, and there the nuns instilled in their pupils a respect and love for great literature: we were always reading books and discussing them and acting out scenes from them in plays. Why French? Because I adore the language and the culture and the history. My education was in French, and the writings I had studied at school were predominantly French.
Have you ever considered writing a humorous travelogue about your journeys?
No. Humorous writing isn’t really my style; I prefer romantic, passionate, descriptive writing.
If you’ve written all your life, why did you wait so long to be published?
After my children were born, between being a mother and running a property business, there was little time for daydreaming, let alone writing.
Then, once my children had flown the nest, I decided after so many years of yearning to write, write, write it was time to dust off the old manuscripts I’d been tinkering with for a lifetime and finish my first novel. And thus, Burning Embers flowed onto the page.
Today, I live the dream: I write full time, splitting my time between my homes in Kent and in the South of France, where I dream up romances overlooking breathtaking views of the Mediterranean.
Burning Embers is a romantic novel that will transport you through a passionate journey in Africa in the 1970s. 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.
I am an incurable romantic, a passionate and imaginative dreamer, in love with the beautiful places that I visit on my travels. Because that is also the genre I most enjoy reading, I write what comes from the heart: romance.
Why Kenya with all the traveling you’ve done?
When I was a teenager MrChiomboWangai, a Kenyan and a dear friend of my father’s, used to often come to visit. He was a great raconteur and used to tell me wonderful stories about his country, its people, its customs and its very exotic rituals. From time to time he lent me books about the place. Later, I travelled with my family to Kenya, and Mr. Wangai showed us around his fascinating country. I fell in love with the beauty and wildness and romance of the place, and my Burning Embers began taking shape in my mind.
What’s next for Hannah Fielding?
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 inVenice 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.
Greece is also on the map for a new Hannah Fielding romantic novel. I know that captivating country and its people very well, and Greek mythology was part of the literature course I read at university.Greece is not far from Alexandria, and I have many Greek friends.
I will publish these books publish in due course.
Why have you chosen, so far, for all your books to be set from the 1960s on, recent history, so to speak?
Because it is a period I know well, and I think I write best when I’m able to tap into my own experiences. Also, the past fifty or so years have seen such major changes in society, and there is much to explore in terms of romance in this era. Burning Embers, for example, is set in 1970, because I wanted to write a traditional love story with a naïve heroine, but one who is very much a product of the female revolution that took place in Western society during the 1960s, from her fashion and independence through to her career as a successful freelance photographer. Also, I wanted to capture the beauty of Kenya at a time when independence was brand new.
On average, how long does the whole writing process, start to finish, take you?
It takes about nine months. I am very disciplined in the planning of my plot, and only once I know exactly where the book is going do I sit down and write.
Do you have a routine or something special or specific your muse requires?
I write every day. Writing is my life and also a job – a very enjoyable job.
I wake up very early, so I get rid of my chores first thing. After my cup of passion fruit tea, in the morning I sit down at my desk at around 9:30 a.m.and work through the day with an hour for lunch. The muse is happy – so long as I have a thesaurus to hand.
You had a successful renovation/development company; how has that experience helped in your writing?
There is little relation between the two activities. But sometimes I find inspiration in my memories of the many houses I have seen through the business when I am describing a building in a book.
How do you feel about ebooks?
I recently wrote a blog post on this topic entitled ‘Do ebooks alter how we read romance novels?’ I have a Kindle, and I use it – but I will always prefer the experience of reading a print book.
Do you think the advent of ereading has helped you both to get published and broaden your reach to potential readers?
My publisher, Omnific, publishes into both print and ebook formats, so it’s difficult to gauge. I worry that ebooks will drive up print book prices – which is a shame, because I am a keen bibliophile.
Do you have a favorite author or book?
There are so many I can’t pick just one! For French literature, I love Balzac, Stendahl and Victor Hugo. For English literature, the Brontë sisters and Jane Austin. For more modern reads, I love M.M. Kaye (The Far Pavilions – Shadow of the Moon); Margaret Mitchell (Gone with the Wind); Susan Howatch (Penmarric – Cashelmara) and Brenda Jackson: (Tall, Dark… Westmoreland! – Courting Justice).
Do you have a favorite character, either your own or someone else’s?
I love Mr Rochester in Jane Eyre – because he is so human. I like a hero who is imperfect; that makes the story all the more vivid. Rafe, the hero in Burning Embers, is similarly tortured. But in that book, I feel a strong pull to a secondary character, Morgana, the dusky Middle Eastern dancer and Rafe’s mistress. She is a beautiful and passionate woman who guards her love for Rafe with the fire of a lioness defending her cubs. As long as she thinks that there is hope to keep her man she will fight for her love, all claws out. She is sensitive and proud, and as soon as she realises that Rafe’s happiness is with another woman, she discreetly relinquishes her place and melts away into the background. That’s what I call selfless love!
What was the last book you read that you would highly recommend?
The Fever Tree by Jennifer McVeigh. Like Burning Embers, it’s set in Africa, and the writing is beautiful – moving, compelling, powerful. You can read my review of the book.
How do you relax or enjoy your “down time”?
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, using 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. Otherwise, nothing is more satisfying and relaxing than curling up either in bed or in front of a log fire with a romantic novel.
Is there something you’d like to do or accomplish that you haven’t yet?
I would like to be able to add the word ‘bestselling’ before my title of author.
Anything you’d like to share with all the Manic Readers out there?
I very much value feedback from readers, so if any readers would like to post a review of the book or email me with comments, that would be gratefully received. I also run regular giveaways of Burning Embers, so if you’d like to read it, do take a look:
Hannah Fielding is a novelist, a dreamer, a traveller, a mother, a wife and an incurable romantic. The seeds for her writing career were sown in early childhood, spent in Egypt, when she came to an agreement with her governess Zula: for each fairy story Zula told, Hannah would invent and relate one of her own. Years later – following a degree in French literature, several years of travelling in Europe, falling in love with an Englishman, the arrival of two beautiful children and a career in property development – Hannah decided after so many years of yearning to write that the time was now. Today, she lives the dream: she writes full time, splitting her time between her homes in Kent, England, and the South of France, where she dreams up romances overlooking breathtaking views of the Mediterranean.
Thank you for taking the time to visit Manic Readers, Hannah. I’ve enjoyed your visit.