Loathe as I am to be partisan, New York Nights, about Poppy organising her GBFs' joint stag do, is my favourite of all these four short stories. Apart from anything else, it was a hell of a lot of fun to research Studio 54 (couldn't get the uplifting disco music out of my head for days afterwards!). Add into the mix matching Andy Warhols, a dance floor 4-inches deep in gold glitter and a foul-mouthed supermodel, and - well, you'll just have to download it now to see the outcome...
Check out my latest interview with the W6 Book Cafe about my inspiration for A Girl Called Summer - along with some dreamy photos!
Well, Bella and Andy had to go somewhere with their baby, so I chose my favourite place on earth – Ibiza. I’ve known and loved the island for years, and Andy (yes, that is my husband’s name!) and I spent our honeymoon there. We were staying close to San Carlos in the North East – exactly the location of Bella and Andy’s dilapidated old finca. Most days we had our first lunch, which comprised jamon serrano, olives, bread and a bottle of rose, at Bar Anita, while pondering which of the many beautiful beaches on which to enjoy our second lunch – which generally involved seafood, more wine and swimming in the unfeasibly clear, clean water. Heaven on earth.
Summer is based on a girl we met on a beach in Goa – her hippy parents actually do run a place called the Art Resort - and she was so pretty, friendly and unpretentious that I wanted to make a proper character out of her.
Then I needed a complete contrast to Summer, so I came up with Tamara. I didn’t like her at all when I started writing her, but you know what? You can’t really hate your characters if you want them to find happiness! I found myself getting fonder and fonder of her as I wrote her.
I’d introduced both Jack and Lars in Vanity and thought that they each deserved a love story of their own – I hope I’ve done them justice!
It seemed only natural that Poppy, Damian, Ben and Natalia would by now be living it up in LA – enormously rich, successful and having the time of their lives. It was nice to have them as a foil to some of the more traumatic elements of the story – and besides, they’d all had their own dramas in my previous books.
The finca is pure house porn – I’ve always wanted to do up an old place and make it my own. I lived in a 13th century hermitage in Majorca until I was five. Dad had a pool built (they chucked me in when I was 6 months old) so the idea of living as ex-pats in the Balearics must have come somewhere from there.
I also spent a lot of my childhood and teenage years in the South of France, so that’s the St Tropez scenes accounted for. Funnily enough, I don’t count any A-List movie stars among my closest friends, so I guess the research is a combination of an idyllic youth frolicking on stunning beaches – and an unhealthy obsession with celebrity gossip magazines!
I've written four short stories about the four main female protagonists in A Girl Called Summer, and the first one, LA Nights, is out today, at only 99p! It introduces a new character, former wild child Tamara Gold, who's trying to make a good impression on her potential new in-laws. Her fiance, dreamy Hollywood heartthrob Jack Meadows, proposed to her on the set of a remake of Antony & Cleopatra. His father, Filthy Meadows, is a legendary rock star; his ex-groupie mother, Heather, doesn't believe anybody is good enough for her son.
What could possibly go wrong?
Yes, the time has finally come! The long-awaited second volume of Sunlounger short stories is nearly upon us! This Saturday, June 21st, to be precise.
Last year's anthology was pure holiday bliss, but this promises to be even bigger and better, with over 80 romantic comedy writers featured, including Victoria Fox, Katie Agnew, Lucy Robinson, Carrie Duffy, Ilana Fox, Louise Marley, Anna-Lou Weatherley, Nigel May, Molly Hopkins, Chrissie Manby, Milly Johnson, Sophie Hart and Lisa Dickenson. You can see the full line up here. Impressive, isn't it?
Sunlounger is the brainchild of amazing, inspiring Belinda Jones, author of 12 'escapist vacation for the price of a paperback' reads. Her latest, the utterly delicious-sounding The Travelling Tea Shop, is out now, and is - along with Sunlounger 2, of course - top of my list of holiday reads (I really cannot wait until I can stop writing to deadline and start reading other people's books again!).
The stories take you from Tuscany to Tasmania, Cuba to Corfu, Sydney to Santorini (see the full - not necessarily alliterative - list here).
As ever, there had to be a party to celebrate, and this year's, like last year's, was held at Trader Vic's, the glam tiki-bar in the basement of the London Park Lane Hilton (you may recognise some of the faces on their masthead!). In addition to the contributors to the anthology, it was fantastic to mingle with a whole host of brilliant book bloggers, including Laura (She Loves To Read), Jess (A Novel Thought), Victoria (Victoria Loves Books), Kirsty (The Love of a Good Book), Trish (Tishylou’s World), Sharon (Shaz’s Book Blog), Sam Smith (The Book Corner) and Kim Nash (Kim the Bookworm).
Me with the absolutely lovely Kirsty (The Love of A Good Book). We've been email friends for a couple of years now, so it was wonderful, finally, to meet her in person.
We spent a happy afternoon catching up with old friends, and making some new ones, over delicious Mai Tais and book-themed cupcakes (created by the extraordinarily talented Tracy Giddins, second from the right below):
From left to right, Anna-Lou Weatherley, Laurey Buckland, Carrie Duffy, Me, Tracy Giddings, Lucy Robinson.
And then there was the afterparty. Everybody was welcome to stay on and continue drinking into the night, but - ahem - only a few of us did. And I'm pretty sure I'm the only one whose husband came to join in the fun.... (luckily no pictures available from later on).
Thanks again to Belinda for being the brains behind such a fantastic event - not to mention the book itself! I really can't wait to read everybody else's stories. Buy it, buy it, buy it!
And now to Tuscany, where (surprisingly enough) Trading Up in Tuscany, my Sunlounger 2 short story is set. This is the very restaurant that inspired Georgie's first meal with Lucas (above and below).
This is the terrace at the fattoria where they eat dinner under the stars:
And this is proof positive that Christian, the tedious personal trainer boyfriend, was not inspired, one tiny iota, by my husband:
When I run or cycle around Hyde Park, so many moments of beauty stop me in my tracks that it's little wonder the exercise doesn't seem to be working (well, it's a better excuse than the fact I continue to eat and drink too much).
Caught on my trusty (crusty?) iPhone 4, here are a few snapshots of the last six weeks or so in the great metropolis:
I love London!
I've just come back from skiing in Verbier, with all my closest family - parents, husband, brother, sister, her son and new husband, my brother's best friend, Dad's first wife, and her long-term partner. I think it's fair to say that the lovely people who looked out for us in the fantastic chalet were bemused by the family dynamic, and wondering why there were so many Mrs Lords!
As my brother said, 'What could possibly go wrong?'.
The skiing was amazing. After a very warm spring, the snow gods decided to dump heavily on the mountains a couple of days prior to our arrival. And then the sun shone again. The conditions couldn't have been more perfect.
My beautiful sister, Caroline. We got lost from the boys and found ourselves on a winding track that went down, down and down through the trees. It was very pretty, but we didn't have a clue where we'd end up, so were happily surprised (amazed) to find ourselves skiing straight to one of the many mountainside bars, where some of the boys (or more accurately, men) were waiting with beers.
At the chalet, we drank champagne in the outdoor hot-tub, swam in the indoor pool, laughed, bickered, drank some more, ate some of the best food any of us had ever tasted, sang along to my husband's piano and brother's ukulele and slept off our hangovers (well, some of us - there were a few early birds that put me to shame).
With both my siblings and my husband, all trying not to touch limbs underwater.
And then there were the lunches. Such happy lunches. The views!
My wonderful parents.
And then... I took this (almost unprecedented) selfie just before skiing all the way down from the top, alone. All the other skiers had gone, but I wanted to stay and have a few more drinks with all four parents and Andy. I first skied when I was three years old, so didn't have any fear. In fact, I was singing to myself in the chairlift up to the peak, all aglow with lunch, mountains, sunshine, family and complete happiness.
But... joy does tend to come before a fall.
It didn't hurt too much to start with, although I felt a twang in my foot. But it completely buggered my confidence, to the extent that I snowplowed (the shame!) all the way down, the pain increasing as I descended. When I found myself at the top of a very steep black run, I just sat down, took my skis off and wept. Then a beautiful boarder girl asked me if I was OK (it's always women who stop to help). She was Dutch, her name was Tina, she was on holiday with her banker buddies from Canary Wharf, and she was completely lovely. Tina, if you ever read this - THANK YOU.
By the time we made it to the bar, my foot was hurting so much that I couldn't put any weight on it.
Sooo... the following day, the Swiss doctors were brilliant. Torn ligament in my foot - fairly simple, one might imagine. But no. They kept doing X-rays. So many X-rays that I was starting to wonder if I'd done really bad damage to my foot.
But they kept laughing. And then it transpired that the X-ray had revealed a needle - a sewing needle (you can make out the eye) embedded quite closely against my fourth metatarsal.
I mean - really? WTF? How could I not have noticed stepping on a needle - however many years ago it happened? The doctors are still none the wiser.
Needle aside, it was one of the best holidays ever, and I'd like to thank my fantastic father (who used to be a spy - details to come in a future blog) for arranging the whole wonderful shebang. Thanks Dad, you're a star xxx
Hurrah! The wettest January since records began in 1870 is over! Yes yes, I know it's going to be miserable again in only a few hours' time but today there was a definite hint of spring in the air. Last week I bought my first daffodils of the year - always a joyous milestone....
... today saw the earth slowly but surely coming back to life in Hyde Park...
... and on the way home I stocked up on some glorious seasonal produce from Portobello market. I'm planning to thinly slice the leeks, fennel and lemon, fry them with a bit of garlic and plenty of seasoning in olive oil before stuffing the mixture into a couple of lovely fresh mackerel to go under the grill. Accompanied by the steamed kale and buttered, parsley-ed new potatoes, they should make a yummy, light and healthy-ish meal to go with my (currently) optimistic, sunny mood.
Well, you've got to make the most of it before the next unfeasibly horrible deluge, haven't you?
I was full of good intentions at the beginning of this week. I was going to visit the gym daily for physio and swimming, and generally make my poor withered limbs strong again. But you know what? I simply haven't got the energy. It's freezing outside. And it's all I can do to get up and down the stairs. As I only got out of intensive care on Friday, I've decided that what I really need to do is listen to my body. And after such a long time in hospital, my body is telling me to spend a lot of time at home, nesting (and taking plenty of siestas with magazines and boxes of chocolates).
Aren't these posters beautiful? I tried to photo them last night with atmospheric lighting, but... well, you can see the 'but' for yourself...
So here they are again in daylight. I've had them for years; bought them in Antibes, in fact, when my mother had a tiny flat in Cannes. Fun times. But I've never shown them off to their full advantage, exhibiting in an unimaginative row in student-like clip frames. This cluster idea came from wonderful Will, who lives downstairs (and more of whom later).
And this sublime Audrey-like creature is my mother in the 60s. HOW beautiful?
My recent stay in intensive care got me thinking, not for the first time, about freedom. I have been in hospital enough times (and prison once - it was in Greece, and a hideous miscarriage of justice - honest guv), to relish my freedom more than just about anything in the world.
This post is neither particularly original nor insightful, but really - just how lucky am I, and other women my age, and younger, to be living when and where we do? I'm not talking about idiotic freedoms (like the one to bear arms, for example), but it simply wouldn't be much of a barrel of laughs to be female, or indeed homosexual, in so many parts of the world, right now. Lest we forget our own heritage, it wouldn't have been much of a rollicking ride to be female or gay in this country - say - 50 years ago; well, pre-pill, and legalisation, anyway.
I don't think feminism has achieved everything yet (FGM? People trafficking? Jeeeez), and the selfie/twerking/me me me culture of the under 20s is breathtakingly depressing, but just for once I wanted to express how bloody lucky I feel to be living where and when I do.
And this is probably more a reflection of my age than anything else, but it is surely no coincidence that a lot of my favourite choons contain the words 'freedom' or 'free'.
Here are some of them:
What are your favourite freedom songs? I'd love to hear them.
It was a pretty traumatic time about which I figured I neither wanted to write nor people to read. However, in time-honoured fashion, here are some pictorial highlights:
Family holiday in Sicily (four below):
Hyde Park in October, just prior to evil infection (four above):