Saturday, June 8, 2013

Author: Hannah Fielding Interview and Giveaway!

I'd like to welcome Hannah Fielding to the blog today to promote her debut novel from Omnific Publishing, Burning Embers. Be sure to stick around until the end to get the chance to win one of three print copies!

Welcome to Books à la Mode, Hannah! Let's get this interview started.

Will you please share a brief bio with us?

I grew up in a rambling house overlooking the Mediterranean. My earliest memories are of listening, enchanted, to fairy stories at the knee of my half-French, half-Italian governess, Zula. When I was seven we came to an agreement: for each story she told me, I would invent and relate one of my own. That is how my love for storytelling began.

Later, at a convent school, while French nuns endeavoured to teach me grammar, literature and maths, I took to day-dreaming and wrote short romantic stories to satisfy the needs of a fertile imagination. Having no inhibitions, I circulated them around the class, which made me very popular among my peers and less so with the nuns.

After I graduated with a BA in French literature, my international nomadic years commenced. I lived mainly in Switzerland, France and England, where I had friends and family, and during holidays I travelled to Mediterranean countries like Italy, Greece and Spain.

I met my husband in London at a drinks party: it was love at first sight, just like in the romance books that were my constant companions. He brought me to his large Georgian rectory in Kent, surrounded by grounds and forests. After my children were born, between being a mother and running a property business, there was little time for day dreaming, 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, based on my knowledge of Kenya. And thus, Burning Embers flowed onto the page.

Today, I am living 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.

Tell us a bit more about your newest release.

Coral Sinclair is a beautiful but naive twenty-five-year-old photographer who has just lost her father. She's leaving the life she's known and traveling to Kenya to take ownership of her inheritance—the plantation that was her childhood home—Mpingo.

On the voyage from England, Coral meets an enigmatic stranger to whom she has a mystifying attraction. She sees him again days later on the beach near Mpingo, but Coral's childhood nanny tells her the man is not to be trusted. It is rumored that Rafe de Monfort, owner of a neighboring plantation and a nightclub, is a notorious womanizer having an affair with her stepmother, which may have contributed to her father's death. Circumstance confirms Coral's worst suspicions, but when Rafe's life is in danger she is driven to make peace.

A tentative romance blossoms amidst a meddling ex-fiancé, a jealous stepmother, a car accident, and the dangerous wilderness of Africa.

Is Rafe just toying with a young woman's affections? Is the notorious womanizer only after Coral's inheritance? Or does Rafe's troubled past color his every move, making him more vulnerable than Coral could ever imagine? Set in 1970, this contemporary historical romance sends the seemingly doomed lovers down a destructive path wrought with greed, betrayal, revenge, passion, and love.
Describe Burning Embers in six words.

Steamy romance set in exotic Kenya.

How did you arrive at writing contemporary historical romance? Are there any other genres you’d like to tackle in the future, or any you want to stay away from?

I'm a romantic, a passionate dreamer by nature, and an avid reader. Since my early teens I've been reading—among other genres—romantic novels. Most of the stories I have written take place during a period which is outside the 'normal' categorization of novels, i.e. between the 60s and the 90s, which I would call vintage. My publisher was confronted with this categorisation dilemma when publishing Burning Embers. In the end, we settled upon this as a short description of the book: "Burning Embers is a contemporary historical romance novel set in Kenya in 1970."

For the time being I am happy writing this genre, as I believe that it is important to write about what you know—write from the heart. As for writing other genres... who knows? Fontaine, je ne boirai pas de ton eau, which is the French equivalent of "never say never." In life, one never knows!

I agree. Your writing could take you down any genre path. What was the inspiration for Burning Embers?

Burning Embers began not as a story, but as a vivid landscape in my mind. The seed of the ideas was sown many nears 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. Then later on, I went on holiday to Kenya with my parents and I met our family friend Mr. Chiumbo Wangai, who often used to visit us. He was a great raconteur and told me extensively about his beautiful country, its tribes, its traditions, and its customs. I was enthralled, and when I put pen to paper Burning Embers came to life. Burning Embers had to be written; there was too much about the place and its people that I felt passionate about.

I have had some of Leconte de Lisle’s beautiful poems translated into English by a friend, Mr. John Harding, which you can find here.

Readers, click "Read more" to learn about Hannah's road to publication, the most important thing she's ever learned, and some fabulous writing tips. You also don't want to miss the great giveaway at the end!

How did you first get published and how has your experience been like so far? Tell us call story, as well anything you learned during the process or picked up along the way.

I decided from the very beginning to tackle the process myself. I wrote a few letters to publishers whose websites took my fancy. I started sending letters out in January and was lucky to receive Omnific's offer in May. From the very beginning I loved Omnific’s slogan: "Romance... Without Rules" and was delighted when they offered me a contract.

I learned that editing again and again and again is a necessary pain and that marketing one's product is difficult in this very competitive world of fabulous authors, and that one needs great patience and determination not to get discouraged.

Seems like publishing with Omnific has provided you with a valuable learning experience! Are the characters from your book based on anyone you know in real life? How much else of your actual life gets written into your books?

None of the characters in my book are unique people and none of the situations are taken from a unique experience. My books are an amalgamation of people, places, feelings and emotions that come from my background, my travels, my thoughts, and my life.

Fair enough! Which character from Burning Embers was most difficult to write?

The hero, Rafe, and the heroine, Coral, were the most difficult for me to write because it was hard to get the balance and the progression in their characters right.

That sounds reasonable... the main characters do have to be the most fully fleshed. What do you consider your biggest strengths and weaknesses as an author?

Funnily enough, my biggest strength and my weakness are intertwined in my ability to describe places, people, and feelings thoroughly—I tend sometimes to over-gild the lily by using too many adjectives and I need to work on that during my numerous editing sessions.

What's the greatest thing you ever learned?

Definitely determination, perseverance, and patience. My father used to tell me: "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again." I have learned that determination and perseverance pay off most of the time, but I'm afraid I haven't yet learned to curb my impatient nature, which causes me some heartache.

How do you react to harsh reviews?

I always take note and then move on.

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Some randomness...

Favorite kind of chocolate? Dark, milk, white, coffee-flavored, the kind with nuts or berries inside?? Dark chocolate.

What kind of kid were you in high school? Rebellious, but not stubborn.

All-time favorite quote? By Toni Morrison: "If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it." (What better incentive is there to write?)

Love it! Most romantic thing a man has ever done for you? On my seventeenth birthday, my boyfriend, who was French, flew from Paris to Cairo, caught a 5:00 AM slow train to Alexandria, and surprised me that morning at breakfast just to wish me a happy birthday. That was in the days when flying was not that common and certainly not from continent to continent. He had to leave the same night to get back to Paris before his family noticed he had left!
Goodness! What a guy!! How do you get over heartbreak? Time, I suppose!

Currently reading? Oleander, Jacaranda by Penelope Lively—a wonderful read! I really recommend it.

I'll have to check it out! Most visited website? Amazon of course!

One of mine too ;) Favorite vegetable? (yes, you have to pick one). I love vegetables. Zucchini, spinach and cauliflower are my favorites.

Mine too! And green beans. Biggest celebrity crushes? Elvis Presley in my teens; David Selby and Julio Iglesias now.

Yum. Guiltiest pleasure? Antiquing.

What did you want to grow up to be when you were little? The rambling house I grew up in was built on a hill overlooking the Mediterranean. My bedroom was light and airy and its three windows commanded the most breathtaking views of the ever-changing sea—up to the harbor in the distance—with glowing sunsets and romantic moonlit nights over a scintillating ocean. These spectacular tableaux made my imagination run wild and I would dream of princes that flew in from faraway lands on their magic carpets, of princesses dressed in gowns made of sunrays and of moonbeams, and of dragons lurking in those vast blue depths, rising from the waves that crashed against the rocks underneath my windows. These and many more stories I used to relate to my half-Italian, half-French governess. Although in those days I had not yet formulated the plan in my mind, I always wanted to become a writer.

Your imagination is brilliant! Writing is the perfect career for you :)

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Give aspiring writers a piece of advice you wish you had known before getting published. 

Take a course in marketing... boy will you need it!

Now give us your best personal advice—something you wish you had known when you were younger and would offer to your own kids.

Think very carefully before you say anything. A word, once said, cannot be taken back.

Very true. What’s a question you’ve always wanted to be asked in an interview?

Can you see any of your books being turned into a film or a TV series?

How would you answer it?

Yes, all of them, because my descriptions of the places and of each character (even the minor ones) are so detailed and vivid that it would make life very easy for a director to situate the scenes and fully understand the characters. Also most of my chapters end on a cliff hanger, which would be ideal for a mini-series.

Good point! Love how you write that way, it's easy on the reader as well. What would you say are the most important attributes to remaining sane as a writer?

Have faith in yourself. Write from the heart, be true to yourself, don't compromise to please the market. Markets change, fads come and go; your work will remain. Remember there is no BAD writing. Don’t take criticism personally. People have different tastes, different views, different feelings about things; after all, that is what makes the world an interesting place.

Excellent advice. Are there any occupational hazards to being a writer?

Writing is a solitary pursuit and if one is not careful one can become too inward-looking.

What’s the most interesting comment you have ever received about your book?

"An epic romance like Hollywood used to make... The setting is Kenya in the 1970s where Coral Sinclair has come to claim the plantation she has inherited. But the handsome stranger she met on the boat from England turns out to be Rafe, the notorious womanizer. But an unlikely love blossoms against a wild and beautiful backdrop. Ahh!" – Peterborough Evening Telegraph

How nice! What is the message from your story you want readers to grasp?

First of all, don't listen to malicious gossip; instead listen to your heart and be your own judge. Secondly, let go of the past and look to the future; there is always a new dawn offering opportunities which might pass you by if you are not looking.

What are your goals as a writer?

I would like the words "best-selling writer" to be put beside my name.

One day! What dreams have been realized as a result of your writing?

I've been imagining and telling stories since my childhood. I've been writing for myself and for friends since my teens. I never thought I would have the courage to actually look for a publisher. With the encouragement of my family and friends I finally bit the bullet and I am very grateful to Omnific Publishing for giving me my first chance and realizing a dream which, even if not acknowledged openly, was always lying dormant in my heart.

A literal dream come true—you deserve it! What's next for you?

I have written a number of books and travelling extensively, searching for new pastures in which to set my future novels.

I have written a passionate, fiery trilogy set in Andalucia, Spain, spanning three generations of a Spanish/English family, from 1950 to the present day.

I have also just finished writing a touching, deeply romantic novel that takes place in Venice and in Tuscany, Italy in 1979-1980. It opens with the Venice Carnival that has returned after a cessation of almost two centuries.

Greece is also on the map for a new Hannah Fielding romance novel. I am now in the process of researching and planning a very dramatic and steamy love story that takes place on one of the many Greek Islands. I chose Greece because I know that captivating country and its people well—I have good Greek friends. I bought my wedding dress in Athens and my husband and I honeymooned on Rhodes Island. Greek mythology was part of the literature course I read at university and Greece is not far from Alexandria where I grew up.

I still have numerous books in me and I intend to write a historical romance trilogy, which will be set in Egypt and will take my readers from the 1940s to the present day.

I so enjoy researching these books (what better excuse to visit Venice?), and they are in the pipeline for publication in due course. I very much enjoy the publishing process and hearing from readers of my books. But for me, being a writer is not about publishing. It is simply about writing—writing from the heart the books that I most want to read.

Where can you be found on the web?

It was a pleasure getting to know you today, Hannah! Thank you so much for joining us, and good luck with your future endeavors.


Books à la Mode is giving away three print copies of Burning Embers—yay!! To enter, fill out the Rafflecopter form below. Here's a comment prompt for extra entries:
What kind of historical fiction do you like? Contemporary "vintage era" historical fiction like the setting in Burning Embers? Stories set in the medieval times? Stories from the ancient Greece? Let me know!
Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and disclosure!
Sponsored wholly by the author—thank you so much, Hannah!
Giveaway ends 23 June 2013 at 11.59 PM (your time).
Open to anyone in the world! Woohoo!
Winners have 48 hours to claim their prize once they are chosen, or else their prizes will be forfeited.
Although I do select winners, I am in no way responsible for prizes, nor for shipping and handling.
As a reminder, you do not have to follow my blog to enter, though it is always very much appreciated ❤ Plus you get extra entries! ;)
Good luck!