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  1. A warm welcome to artist and romance novelist, Gilli Allan, who's dropped by today to talk to us about how her travels have inspired her writing.

    Welcome, Gilli. Can you tell us a bit about where you live.

    Though I grew up on the edge of the north Kent countryside, I think of myself as a Londoner. My home town of Orpington was, and is, an outer suburb of the capital. So I worked in London and, when it was time to leave home, lived in South London in a shared flat. I used to fantasise about one day living in a cottage with roses round the door. There may be a grapevine and Jasmine around the door (not roses) but even though I’ve been here far longer than I’ve lived anywhere else, it still almost seems an implausible dream that my home now is in a small village in the Cotswold Hills.

    Gloucester

     Haymaking in the Gloucestershire valley my cottage overlooks, 2016

    Our cottage is near the head of a discreet valley. The field immediately behind us is uncultivated. Deer, rabbits and foxes can often be seen there, and badgers visit our garden in the dead of night. The farm breeds Red Poll cattle. The herd recently made an appearance on Country File.

    It sounds idyllic, Gilli. Do you like to travel? What is your favourite means of travel?

    In fact I am only just back from a blissful fortnight in Assos, in Kefalonia. But I confess I’m a tourist, not a ‘traveller’. It’s always intriguing to see new places and to experience different cultures and customs, but I’m not restless - always wanting to be off somewhere new.  Just the notion of a life of continuous travel makes me feel tired. Though I quite like the idea of a cruise, I’m not a good sailor. Flying is not a problem but it’s never really comfortable, and I’d love to have the funds to upgrade. One of my favourite forms of travel is the train.  I’d love to do the Orient Express.

     Kefelonia

    Assos, in Kefalonia. The view from our villa terrace

    What countries have you visited or lived in? 

    I’ve never lived abroad or travelled further than the outposts of Europe. But when I tot it up, I’ve been around. I first went to Yugoslavia - near Dubrovnik - when it was still part of the Communist Block. The second time I visited, it was Croatia. I’ve been to mainland Spain and also Minorca; mainland France and the island of Corsica; mainland Italy, and also the island of Elba on honeymoon. I’ve holidayed at resorts on the Greek mainland, and its islands of Corfu, Lefkas, Paxos, Kefalonia, Rhodes and Fourni. I’ve been to southern Ireland, the Czech Republic twice (on both occasions Prague), Amsterdam, and Istanbul. Not to mention Bruges twice and Ghent once. Phew!

    Dubrovnik

    Dubrovnik, 2008

    What country/place has made the most impact on you? Why? And have you featured any of the countries/places you’ve visited in your novels?  Tell us a little about them

    Hard to pick one, but I should probably nominate Yugoslavia. For me, aged twenty-one, this holiday was a very big adventure. It was my first independent holiday abroad (with flatmates) and I fell in love - both with the astounding medieval capital, Dubrovnik, and with Zoran Romani. We stayed in what to me at the time seemed a wonderful and luxurious hotel which dropped down to sea level in a series of terraces.  I no longer recall the name but it was situated virtually on its own in a tiny settlement called Plat.*

    Half Italian and half Croatian, Zoran Romani was the son of the hotel owner (or so he claimed). It was hard to communicate as he had little English and I had no Croatian (or Italian for that matter), so the relationship was been mainly based on physical attraction. Despite this fact we broke-up before the conclusion of the holiday because I would not agree to sex. Many tears were shed. Mine. He remained unmoved and unmoveable on the point!

    I wish I could include a picture but you’ll just have to imagine a handsome young man in his mid twenties, with shoulder-length dark curly hair. I did photograph him on a day we spent together in Dubrovnik, but my technique with my very basic camera was poor. He is too far away in the shot, and is standing in the deep shadow of a passageway.  More importantly, I’ve not transcribed this image to the computer.

    To write my short story “Holiday Romance” - included in the ebook version of Truly Madly Deeply, the RNA anthology of short stories - I drew on my memories of this interlude, as well as my many embedded impressions from later hot summer holidays in resorts around the Mediterranean. Most specifically, my memories of an incident that happened to me in Istanbul, have found their way into that story.

    * During our 2008 stay in Croatia we passed the resort. We were on a boat trip from Lopud, the island where we were staying, to Cavtat, a village further down the coast. It was no surprise to see that Plat looked far more developed.

    How do you do your research? Do you use google or actually visit the place?

    I don’t write escapist romantic fiction. If I have to come up with a term for what I do write, it’s Reality Romance. Whenever I begin sorting through my ‘ideas box’ for a jumping off point for a novel, I have never so far been inspired to send my characters off to impossibly gorgeous, sun-soaked  locations. “Love”, as I know only too well, is easy to fall into if you are away from the ordinary and the humdrum. So I am more comfortable setting my novels, (TORN, LIFE CLASS and FLY OR FALL) in a world I know, and a landscape I am familiar with.  But perversely I don’t generally use specific locations. I find it too constraining. I need the flexibility to change the topography to suit my imaginary world.  

    In my current *work in progress*, BURIED TREASURE, which is set largely in Suffolk, I employ the same dual approach. Many years before I’d thought of setting a story there I had visited Suffolk several times.  So when I had the idea for the current story about an Events Organiser’ and a university academic (who is the archaeological consultant for a Suffolk district council), I couldn’t rely on my imperfect memories of the county. I needed to go there. 

    Suffolk

    Kersey. Suffolk 2015

    Our holiday cottage was in the stunning medieval village of Kersey and our October stay was made all the more enjoyable because my son and daughter-in-law joined us there for a week and we were blessed with a spell of fabulous weather. We were able to get out into the countryside just to walk, but also we visited Bury St Edmunds, Southwold, Sutton Hoo, and West Stow (a recreated Anglo Saxon village).  

    So, in the final book there are real places, and there are made up places. I hope they’ll coexist happily together. Time will tell.  

    What are the funniest things that have happened to you while travelling?

    Cornwall was the most frequent holiday destination during my childhood. Once, because it was drizzly, we were eating our picnic lunch in the car. The car park had a loose gritted surface. An old fellow approached us, leant through the window and engaged us in conversation. Apart from nodding, a few ‘well I nevers’ and a lot of suppressed mirth, we contributed little to his thickly accented and rambling discourse on the necessary skills involved in “grit-flinking”.  Should I ever need to do some, I still recall the advice that “it’s all in the wrist”.

     Spain

    La Escala, Spain - 1962 (my brother talking to a donkey)

    In 1962, out of the blue and somewhat ahead of the big Mediterranean boom, my parents decided to rent a villa (in reality an apartment over a bakery) in La Escala, a village on the Costa Brava in Spain.

    I was only thirteen and my periods were still irregular, so it was a disappointing surprise when nature chose to visit me during that fortnight. I was looking at as much as a week of no swimming or snorkelling! My dear mother, normally reserved and modest about such things, bravely took on the task of initiating me into the delights of the tampon.

    On one memorable occasion my sister and I visited the loo attached to our favourite beachside café. Afterwards, emerging onto the open air terrace overlooking the sea and clutching my box wrapped up in a towel, I managed to drop the lot. The tampons rolled everywhere. Funny in retrospect, but at the time it was mortifying because I’d developed a crush on a young man who often ate at that beach bar, and of course he was there that day, and was an amused witness to my clumsiness. But because I was still so young I was probably less appalled than my 17 year old sister, who had to help me chase down and pick all the tampons up.

    Oh gosh, poor you! Any other holiday tales? 

    Our whole holiday in Ireland (1967) was spent laughing. There was the shopkeeper who showed my brother how to cast a fishing line. The demonstration was conducted inside the shop, but the line was cast through the door and out across the road - without checking first for traffic or pedestrians!

    Ireland

    Market Day in Bantry - Southern Ireland 1967

    On market day, farmers came into Bantry with their animals. Some, who had sheep to sell, kept them in order by encircling the small flocks with a string, and tying the ends to a lamp post or a door handle.

    Again in Bantry, we watched transfixed as a group of men went through a lengthy rigmarole to manoeuvre a small earth-moving vehicle onto a boat in order to ferry it across the bay. After a prolonged discussion, scratched heads and many attempts, with planks and brute force, the digger was eventually manhandled onto the vessel. The boat disembarked. And promptly tipped up and sank.    

    What’s the most scary thing that has ever happened to you while travelling?

    Again it’s a childhood incident that springs most readily to mind. Driving home from Spain, across France, we stopped for the night at a roadside hotel before crossing the Massif Central. It wasn’t pre-booked, and they only had one vacant double room inside the main building, which was offered to my parents. I guess the place was, or had been, a farm as there were outbuildings, in one of which was a two bed annexe. To this room was added a put-you-up. My sister, Janis, and I were to have the beds, our nine year old brother, Laurence, the put-you-up.

    We ate outside in a courtyard  under a vine covered pergola - a meal of such garlicky pungency I still recall it - before we all went off to bed; our parents to their room inside, we to our annexe at the back of a barn. Fortunately we slid the bolts across the door and fastened the interior shutters across the window because, in the middle of the night, someone tried to get in. There was much drunken shouting cursing and banging, and rattling of the door. It died down, and then it started up again, seeming to go on forever. We were terrified, clutching our bed clothes to our chins and whispering to one another, obviously unable to understand what was being said in the slurred, guttural and probably colloquial French. These days we’d have instantly been on our mobile phones summoning our parents from their bed, but they slept peacefully on and only heard about our adventure in the morning.

    In the light of day the intense panic we’d been gripped by fled away.  There wasn’t a tramp lying in a drunken stupor outside the door of our little dwelling, and there was no explanation forthcoming from the owners of the hotel - just a Gallic shrug. We deduced that the annexe was not much used to accommodate passing travellers, and that there must have been a local man whose expectation of being able to doss down in there had been unexpectedly frustrated.

    This story quickly became amusing rather than scary, and my sister and I particularly enjoyed (and our brother less so) the fact that in the crowded little room - if the tramp had managed to gain access, either through the door or the window - it would have been Laurence he would have fallen over first.    

    Such fascinating travel tales, Gilli!

     Meet Gilli

    Gilli

     

    Gilli Allan started to write in childhood, a hobby only abandoned when real life supplanted the fiction. Gilli didn’t go to Oxford or Cambridge but, after just enough exam passes to squeak in, she attended Croydon Art College.

    She didn’t work on any of the broadsheets, in publishing or television. Instead she was a shop assistant, a beauty consultant and a barmaid before landing her dream job as an illustrator in advertising. It was only when she was at home with her young son that Gilli began writing seriously. Her first two novels were quickly published, but when her publisher ceased to trade, Gilli went independent. 

    Over the years, Gilli has been a school governor, a contributor to local newspapers, and a driving force behind the community shop in her Gloucestershire village.  Still a keen artist, she designs Christmas cards and has done some book illustration. Her novels - TORN, LIFE CLASS and FLY OR FALL are now published by Accent Press. All three have won a Chill With a Book Award.

    Author links

    Twitter - http://twitter.com/gilliallan  (@gilliallan)

     Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/GilliAllan.AUTHOR

     Blog: http://gilliallan.blogspot.co.uk/

     Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1027644.Gilli_Allan  

    To find Gilli’s books go to ~ http://Author.to/GilliAllan

    Thanks for talking to us about your travels, Gilli.

     

     

     

     

  2. I'm interviewing romantic novelist Rachel Brimble on my Travel Thursday blog today. Rachel lives in a small market town, just 30 minutes drive from the famous Georgian city of Bath. She moved there about sixteen years ago. Before that that she was born and raised in Bristol.

    Pulteney Bridge

    Pulteney Bridge, across the River Avon, Bath.

    Welcome, Rachel. Bath is a beautiful city. I see you've lived in Bristol too. Do you like to travel? What is your favourite means of travel?

    Hi Karen, it's great to be here. I LOVE to travel and don’t have the opportunity as often as I’d like. I am happy in the car or on a plane, but having recently returned from a second cruise, I have to say by ship is my new preferred mode of transport. The holiday starts the moment your luggage is checked in – bliss. )

    What countries have you visited or lived in?

    I’ve only ever lived in the UK, but I’ve visited New York, Rhodes, Gran Canaria, Italy, Turkey, Cyprus, France, Belgium and Spain.

    Venice canals

    Venice, Italy

    What country/place has made the most impact on you? Why?

    I loved Rhodes for the beauty of the old town which I thought was magical. Also, the amazing places I’ve seen in Turkey such as the fabulous Ephesus and Pamukkale which were unforgettable. I am a complete history lover and anything that’s older than what we have in the UK, I am fascinated.

    Beach 2

    The beach, Rhodes

    Have you featured any of the countries/places you’ve visited in your novels?  Tell us a little about them?

    Unfortunately, I haven’t…at least, not yet! All my historical novels are set in Bath which is right on my doorstep, but the history and ambience of Bath is too rich to ignore. I have featured Royal Crescent, The Circus, the Theatre Royal and the Roman Baths in several books.

    I plan to set contemporary books in Rhodes and Verona which is another place with which I fell in love with when we visited there in 2015. These will be a part of a series where I have heroines striking out alone to see the world…very much in the planning stages at the moment!

    Me & Mr B 3

    Rachel and her husband in Verona

    How do you do your research? Do you use google or actually visit the place?

    A mixture of the two – I tend to visit a place first and if I like the feel of it, the characters usually pop into my mind while I’m there and I get home and feverishly write notes and snippets of dialogue before I forget everything. My ‘story ideas’ file currently sits at 10 pages of A4 with notes of either stand-alone books or series.

    Once I start plotting a particular book, I use google throughout for specific detail that I might have forgotten.

    Is there any country/place you would love to write about but haven’t visited yet?

    The Caribbean is still on my wish list to visit so maybe there – I’d also like to visit Scotland as I haven’t ever been there which is kind of sad.

    Oh, me too! What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever seen/done while travelling?

    The most unusual thing was actually what happened to us rather than what we’ve seen or done. When we were only holiday in France in 2010, we got caught up in the freak floods that broke out in Frejus and the surrounding areas. We were staying in a caravan park and everything happened so quickly. It was terrifying. We ended up being rescued by helicopter from the camp’s club house roof where we had been trapped for over 16 hours.

    We were very lucky – 20 people lost their lives that day.

    How awful! Thank goodness you and your family were safe!

    Flood 10

    The floods in France

     

    A bit about Rachel

    Rachel

    Rachel lives with her husband and two teenage daughters in a small town near Bath in the UK. After having several novels published by small US presses, she secured agent representation in 2011. Since 2013, she has had seven books published by Harlequin Superromance (Templeton Cove Stories) and an eight coming in Feb 2018. She also has four Victorian romances with eKensington/Lyrical Press.

    Rachel is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and Romance Writers of America, and was selected to mentor the Superromance finalist of So You Think You Can Write 2014 contest. When she isn’t writing, you’ll find Rachel with her head in a book or walking the beautiful English countryside with her family. Her dream place to live is Bourton-on-the-Water in South West England.

    She likes nothing more than connecting and chatting with her readers and fellow romance writers. Rachel would love to hear from you!

    Contact Links

    Website

    Blog

    Twitter

    Facebook

    Facebook Street Team - Rachel's Readers

    Goodreads:

    https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1806411.Rachel_Brimble

    Some of Rachel's Books

    One True love     What a woman desires

     

    You can  see more of Rachel's books on her Amazon page. 

    https://www.amazon.com/Rachel-Brimble/e/B007829ZRM/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1490948101&sr=8-1

    Thanks so much for dropping by to tell us about your travels, Rachel.

  3. I'm delighted to welcome romance author, Maxine Morrey, onto my Travel Thursday blog today. Maxine lives in a little village in Sussex that sits in a dip between the South Downs, about twenty minutes from Brighton. She loves to travel and has visited a number of places. She said she's happy to travel anywhere, she just loves to escape! I can identify with that, Maxine. :)

    Hong Kong skyline

    Hong Kong skyline 

    What countries have you visited or lived in, Maxine?

    I’ve lived in both Australia and France for short periods and also spent a couple of years living in the US.

    As for visiting, I was very lucky in that my husband’s previous career involved a certain amount of travelling which I sometimes got to tag along on and I was thrilled to be able to see quite a few places I may not have done otherwise including China, Malaysia, The Philippines, Hong Kong, India, and Pakistan. I’ve also visited Gran Canaria, Tenerife, Mexico, Majorca, Italy, Ischia, Switzerland, Corfu, Canada, The Netherlands, Belgium, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales…I think that’s it, but like I say, I’m always eager to add more to the list!

    Travel collage

    What country/place has made the most impact on you? Why?

    India, without a doubt. I’ve always had a fascination about it, even as a child. I don’t know where it came from as no one I knew had been. It was always just there in my head. When I finally got to go, it was amazing and felt very ‘right’. I’ve been lucky enough to go back a few times and I’d happily go again tomorrow. I think certain places just have a connection with your soul and I definitely have that with India.

    The Toy Train to Shimla, Himalayas, India

    The Toy Train to the Himalayas, India

    Have you featured any of the countries/places you’ve visited in your novels?  Tell us a little about them?

    My third book with HQ Digital (which should be out later this year) does actually feature a few places of the places mentioned above…but I can’t say too much more than that about it just yet!

    Oooh, I'm intrigued!!

    Has any country/place you’ve visited ever given you inspiration for a story?

    Just travelling really inspires me and refreshes the ‘well of inspiration’. One of my favourite places is Christchurch, in Dorset and whilst exploring around there the last time, I did get some ideas and found myself creating a little village in my head, picking bits and pieces from the area and putting them all together to create the perfect setting. That story isn’t actually written yet, but hopefully in time!

    How do you do your research? Do you use google or actually visit the place?

    I always prefer to visit a place if I can, but – at present – it’s not always possible (I live in hope!). So, sometimes tools like books, films, tv programmes, and of course Google Maps can be incredibly helpful. The first two books I wrote (one as yet unpublished) feature Kansas, and Australia so that did involve some of the research methods mentioned above.

    Tower Bridge, London

    The Tower Bridge, London

    My first two romantic comedy books with HQ Digital were both set in London, which I know quite well. For the second one, ‘The Christmas Project’, I knew I wanted the hero’s house to be in Notting Hill which was a place I hadn’t been to. So, a trip to that part resulted in getting a good feel for the place and I could really start creating Michael’s house, and road in my head.

    Is there any country/place you would love to write about but haven’t visited yet?

    There are plenty more areas of India I’d love to see, so that’s always on the list. I’d absolutely love to do a trip to Vietnam, and Cambodia and I think that could be pretty inspirational. Singapore is on the list – perhaps a little scene set in ‘Raffles Bar’? I’d love to explore Ireland more too which I think could definitely offer some possibilities.

    What’s the funniest thing that’s ever happened to you while travelling?

    We were in Jaipur and had gone out to look around the evening market. Going back to the hotel, we hopped in a tuktuk with another couple from the group we were travelling with, and our driver ended up having a bit of a race with another one. As we were zooming in and around, squashed in the little vehicle, and bouncing about, the lady mentioned how, even though it’s so mad, you never see any of these things crash. Quite literally less than two seconds later, we piled straight into the back of the other tuktuk! Luckily, no one was hurt and we just ended up crying with laughter at her perfect timing!

     Palace of The Winds, Jaipur, India

    Palace of the Winds, Jaipur

    What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever seen/done while travelling?

    India is always a wonderful place for seeing the unusual. Mopeds carrying everything from an entire family of five to a large wardrobe have all passed us by but even the lack of a vehicle doesn’t stop some people. Whilst sat at Shimla Railway Station, we were gazing down the hill and began watching a man walking along in a stooped manner with something strapped to his back…upon closer inspection we saw that it was a full size fridge freezer! And, of course, there was the time when my husband got back from the office later than usual, apologising for the delay with the priceless explanation of ‘There was an elephant sat in the road, blocking traffic…’

    What an amusing anecdote, Maxine!

    Meet Maxine

    Maxine Morrey - bio pic b&w

     

    A bit about Maxine

    Maxine has wanted to be a writer for as long as she can remember and wrote her first (very short) book for school when she was ten. Coming in first, she won a handful of book tokens - perfect for a bookworm!

    As years went by, she continued to write, but 'normal' work often got in the way. She has written articles on a variety of subjects, aswell as a book on Brighton for a Local History publisher. However, novels are what she loves writing the most. After self publishing her first novel when a contract fell through, thanks to the recession, she continued to look for opportunities.

    In August 2015, she won Harper Collins/Carina UK's 'Write Christmas' competition with her romantic comedy, 'Winter's Fairytale'.

    Maxine lives on the south coast of England, and when not wrangling with words, can be found tackling her To Be Read pile, sewing, listening to podcasts, and walking.

    You can find out more about Maxine here:  

    Twitter            @Scribbler_Maxi

    Instagram        @scribbler_maxi

    Facebook         www.Facebook.com/MaxineMorreyAuthor

    Pinterest          ScribblerMaxi

    Website           www.scribblermaxi.co.uk

    Maxine's book

    The Christmas Project_FINAL

     

     Christmas in the city has never been more magical!

    Professional organiser Kate Stone has never - NEVER - been tempted to hit a client over the head with a snow shovel, but Michael O'Farrell is the most obnoxious - and heart-stoppingly gorgeous - man she has ever met. If he weren't her best friend’s brother, she would not have waited on his doorstep in the freezing cold for five minutes, let alone an hour.

    Kate knows, however, that her job isn’t just about tidying up, sometimes she needs to be part therapist too, and Michael clearly needs her help to declutter his heart as well as his home.

    But with the festive season just around the corner there isn’t much time to get Michael’s house ready for the O’Farrell family celebrations, but everyone knows that at Christmas anything can happen...

    Buy Links

    Amazon 

     

    Thanks for dropping by to talk to us about your travels, Maxine!

     

     

     

     

     

     

  4. I'm delighted to welcome thriller writer J.F. Kirwan on my Travel Thursday blog today. J.F.Kirwan is the author of the Nadia Laksheva thriller series for HarperCollins UK. Scuba-diver, traveller, writes in the dead of night...

    Welcome, J.F. Can you tell us a bit about where you live?

     1

    I live in a place called Meudon, just outside Paris, on the south-west edge. I can see the Eiffel Tower from my office at home, but from the living room on the other side all I see are trees! It’s fab, and I’m so lucky to live there. Paris is basically in a huge bowl, and Meudon has an observatory and surrounding park, from which you can see all the way across to the Sacre Coeur cathedralon the other side.

    That sounds fantastic. Do you like to travel? What is your favourite means of travel?

    I love to travel, in fact sometimes I think I live to travel. I like exotic places which are usually far-flung, like the Seychelles, so aeroplane is the usual means of transport, though I also like trains and cars. Not boats so much – even though I’m an avid diver, I get seasick quite easily.

     2

    Seychelles Beach

    What countries have you visited or lived in?

    I’ve visited more than fifty countries around the globe, and have lived in UK, France, Holland and Norway.

    Wow, that's a lot of countries! What country/place has made the most impact on you? Why?

    I think Hong Kong. I’ve been there seven times, and it is so vibrant, on the go all the time, constantly being replenished, reborn, and its skyline at night is just the best. Second choice would be the exact opposite – the Masai Mara in Africa, the savannah and the animals. Third would be Sipadan, a tiny island off Borneo, with absolutely world-class diving. I also like Mauritius – nice people, great diving, and you can hang out with lions and even the odd white tiger…

    3

    Have you featured any of the countries/places you’ve visited in your novels? 

    The first book, 66 Metres, is mostly set in the Isles of Scilly, off the Cornish coast, which I adored, and also Halden in Norway, where I lived for six months. I dived deep in both places and, to be honest, nearly came a cropper, and both those dive sequences are in the book. In the sequel book, 37 Hours, I feature Sipadan, though I call it Anspida to protect it, as in the book there is a vicious shark attack there (which is actually very rare in real life). The closing section of 37 Hours is bang in Central London, which I still love.

    6

    Sidapan

    The third book, 880 North, which I’m writing now, starts in Hong Kong. I can close my eyes and I’m there: the ancient but functional rickety trams, the constant bustle of people and never-ending traffic, the choppy waters between Honk Kong island and Kowloon, the smells of fresh-cooked food in Wanchai market, the relentless heat and humidity that mugs you whenever you step out of the swanky air-conditioning shopping plazas… Not everyone’s perfect destination of course!

     4

     Hong Kong skyline

    Has any country/place you’ve visited ever given you inspiration for a story?

    A couple of years ago I was in Hong Kong and a typhoon hit the island. Suddenly there was no traffic anywhere, and everyone went inside. Except me. I walked around, feeling like I was in a post-apocalyptic disaster movie. The third book in the series, titled 880North, which I’m writing right now, starts that way. It ends up a lot colder of course, as you may have already worked out from the title…

    How do you do your research? Do you use google or actually visit the place?

    I do research if I’ve not been to a place. Google is useful, but you can’t just cut and paste from Wikipedia. There have to be sights and sounds and smells that the protagonist would notice and resonate with, so this takes a bit longer. I once wrote about the Taliban and Afghanistan, and had people asking me when I’d visited the place. I hadn’t, so was quite chuffed!

     5

    Is there any country/place you would love to write about but haven’t visited yet?

    I need to spend more time in Russia, as Nadia, the protagonist, is Russian. Aside from that, Tierra del Fuego in Chile is on my list. The land of fire…

    What’s the funniest thing that’s ever happened to you while travelling?

    I back-packed my way round Italy once, and ended up in a town where I was trying to find a bank to get some cash. I saw a shopkeeper outside his shop setting out postcards, checked the Italian word for ‘excuse me’ and walked up to him, and said ‘Permeso.’ He walked away from me. I thought it was a bit rude, so I approached him again, said ‘Permeso’ a second time, with the same result. He was the only one around, so I tried a third time, at which point he suddenly turned to me and said in Italian-English ‘What do you want?’ I asked him about the location of the bank, but then asked him why he kept turning his back on me. He explained that there are two words for ‘excuse me’: scusi, which is what I should have used, and permeso, which actually means, May I pass? We had a good laugh. I went to the bank, and then came back and bought some postcards.

    What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever seen/done while travelling?

    Also in Italy (I love Italy, by the way), I went way off-road, stole my way through a broken fence, only to find I was inside the grounds of an asylum for the insane. I couldn’t find my way out again, and began to panic, worrying that they might think I was an inmate and keep me there!

    I think I'd panic too!

    A bit about J.F. Kirwan:

    J F Kirwan is a British diver who writes thrillers, inspired by writers such as Lee Child and David Baldacci. After a serious back operation he was unable to dive for eighteen months and so wrote a novel about diving, which turned out to be a series of three books, the first of which is Sixty-Six Metres, the depth at which air starts to become toxic to divers. He's dived deeper...

    You can contact J.F. here

    Website:  www.jfkirwan.com 

     FB  https://www.facebook.com/kirwanjf/ 

     Twitter is @kirwanjf

     You can buy his thrillers from Amazon: bit.ly/37hours and bit.ly/66metres

    Books covers

    Thanks so much for dropping by to tell us about your travels, J.F. :)

     

     

     

     

  5. I'm talking to popular romantic novelist, Julie Stock, today about how her travels have inspired her work. Welcome, Julie. Can you tell you tell us a bit about where you live.

    Hi, Karen. I live in rural Bedfordshire in a small village in the heart of the countryside.  

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    Bedfordshire

    We’ve lived here for nearly thirty years and I enjoy the setting a lot but I also feel we’re in a good spot for easy access to London and the rest of the country as well. I grew up in a large town before going to university in London, and although it took me a while to adjust to the peace and quiet when we first moved here, I probably prefer small town life overall.

    It sounds an ideal place to live, Julie. Do you like to travel about much? What is your favourite means of travel?

    As much as I enjoy being at home, I absolutely love to travel as well. Travelling is one of my favourite things and I really like having a holiday to look forward to. I’m not sure I have a favourite means of travel though! For many years, we would drive to France in the summer but it would always be quite stressful getting to the ferry on time and then often hauling our way down or across France once we reached the other side of the channel. And yet flying can be equally miserable. This summer we’re going to Menorca for the first time and our flight leaves at 6.35am! However, the flight isn’t too long so we’ll be okay. If I had a private jet, now, that might become my favourite way to travel...

    Me too! What countries have you visited or lived in?

    Apart from the UK, I have only lived in France. I lived there during my degree for my year abroad and my husband-to-be came with me, which was a sort of a trial run for marriage!

    I have visited most countries in Western Europe, mainly France as I also have French family,but also because of my love of the French language and all things French. We’ve been to Spain several times, Portugal, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands, Czechia and Greece. We haven’t yet ventured very far east in Europe so we have all that yet to discover. We have also visited a few places in America, including Nashville, Memphis, Los Angeles and Boston but there are many places we’d still like to go back for. There are obviously whole continents missing from our travelling experience so we have a lot of places on our bucket list.

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    Memphis

    What country/place has made the most impact on you? Why?

    We had a wonderful holiday in Crete a few years ago and at the end, none of us wanted to leave. It was strange really because when we arrived, our villa had no water and we were very impatient about things not being sorted out quickly enough. But we soon fell into the Greek way and found that we enjoyed the slower pace of life and the way that material luxuries didn’t seem to be that important.

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    Crete

    Have you featured any of the countries/places you’ve visited in your novels?  Tell us a little about them?

    My tagline on my website is contemporary romance from around the world and it was my love of country music and Nashville, in particular, that got me started writing in the first place. So my first book, From Here to Nashville, was all about a singer/songwriter from Poole in Dorset who dreams of being a successful country music star all the way over in Nashville.

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    My second book, which I’ve just published, is called The Vineyard in Alsace and this one draws on my love of France, and Alsace especially. It also allowed me to use my knowledge of winemaking, gained from the time I spent working at a mail-order wine merchant some years ago.

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    How do you do your research? Do you use google or actually visit the place?

    I hadn’t actually been to Nashville when I wrote my first book so I did do a lot of research on the internet. Then I was able to follow that up with proper research because I visited Nashville just two months after I published my book and luckily, all my references were fine.

     DSCN0363                   Nashville 

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    Is there any country/place you would love to write about but haven’t visited yet?

    I’d love to visit Marrakech one day and I could imagine setting quite an interesting romance story there. I’ve always wanted to visit Chile since learning about their wines when I first worked in the wine trade, and again, I could imagine that would be a beautiful setting for a romance. In fact, this is all giving me lots of new ideas!

     

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    Alsace

     

     

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     Alsace

    Have you started work on your next novel yet and if so, where will it be set?

    I have and it’s going to be set in Devon, which seems a bit less exotic than Nashville or Alsace but is every bit as interesting. One day, a few years ago, I was daydreaming looking at restaurants for sale on the internet and I came across this particular one which gave me the idea for this book. I’m now about a third of the way in and working hard to get to the end of my first draft.

    Meet Julie

    Julie-Stock

    A bit about Julie

    Julie Stock is an author of contemporary romance from around the world: novels, novellas and short stories. She indie published her debut novel, From Here to Nashville, in February 2015 and has just published her second novel, The Vineyard in Alsace. A follow-up novella to From Here to Nashville is also in progress, as well as the next novel.

    She blogs regularly on her website, 'My Writing Life.' You can also connect with her on Twitter and via her Facebook Author Page.

    She is a proud member of the Romantic Novelists' Association and The Society of Authors.

    When she is not writing, she works part-time for a charity as a communications officer, and freelance as a web designer and supply teacher. She is married and lives with her family in Bedfordshire in the UK.

    Thanks so much for dropping by to talk to us, Julie.

    Many thanks for having me on your blog, Karen. It’s been lots of fun talking about my travels.