Tuesday, 21 February 2017
Whenever I go on radio, I'm always amazed at how efficient it is! No cast of thousands required here, as is the case with television. There was Nancy and her charming producer, a bank of complicated equipment... and they were good to go. Long live radio! No wonder it can bring us so much variety and can respond so fast to breaking stories.
I am counting down to the launch of The Girl from Simon's Bay in Cape Town during the week of the 6th March. If you happen to be in the area, do join me at one of the following events:
Monday 6th March at 10am at Fish Hoek Library for a Literary Tea - talk and reading
Wed 8th March at 10.30am at Exclusive Books in Cavendish Square, Claremont, for tea and book signing
Wed 8th March at 5.30 for 6pm at Wordsworth Books, Longbeach Mall, Noordhoek for talk and book signing, with refreshments
Do take a look at my website, again under Events, for the Invitations to the above.
I look forward to seeing you!
Thursday, 2 February 2017
While four ships become the wartime home of the hero of my new novel, The Girl from Simon's Bay, what of the heroine, the Girl herself? Where does she call home?
She is born in 1918 in Simon's Town, the British port which hosts the Royal Navy's South Atlantic fleet. She lives in a terrace of cottages above the dockyard where her father works. When she's 21, war breaks out and changes her world - you'll have to read the book to understand why!
In the 1960s, the South African government embarked on a program of forced removals as part of their apartheid policy. Simon's Town was declared a White Group Area, and non-whites were evicted from the town and their homes were destroyed.
So... how was I to describe my heroine's early life in a community that no longer exists? While many of Simon's Town's beautifully restored Victorian buildings can still be seen, the cottages of local workers and fishermen have gone. Only fragments remain: a historic wall that marked one section of the community, a small, elegant mosque that defied demolition.
Luckily, I discovered the tiny Heritage Museum, tucked away near the dockyard, where a dedicated lady historian has created a vast archive of photographs, cuttings and memories. She was generous enough to guide me around the streets she once knew, and to conjure up life as it had been when my heroine lived there.
And here she is, holding an advance copy of The Girl from Simon's Bay, in her extraordinary museum...
Thursday, 19 January 2017
Today, Thursday 19th January 2017, is publication day in the UK for The Girl from Simon's Bay!
So... the book will be in bookshops around the UK from today, and also available to download to your Kindle, iPad, iPhone, and any other digital reader - wherever you are in the world. For South African readers, copies will be arriving in your bookshops from mid-February, and I will be doing a series of events in Cape Town in early March. If you are in Australia or New Zealand, keep an eye out from March. US and Canadian readers will have to be patient for a little longer - but remember that you can download the ebook immediately.
This picture of me with an early copy of the book was taken at the top of Red Hill, overlooking Simon's Bay, last month. It does not look the same today. Sadly, last week, a devastating fire swept through the area, destroying much of the beautiful fynbos, and threatening Simon's Town below. Only the heroic action of three water-bombing helicopter pilots plus the dedication of firefighters on the ground averted a tragedy.
A fire threatens Simon's Town in The Girl from Simon's Bay...
Perhaps it was the sun glancing off a piece of glass on the mountain that caused the spark. Flames burst through the leafy canopy like myriad orange umbrellas.
"It'll head this way," I cried, "the wind's in this direction -"
Wednesday, 4 January 2017
Happy New Year! A box arrived on my doorstep the other day...
And here are the contents: all crisp and hot off the press, the first copies of The Girl from Simon's Bay!
It's always a wonderful feeling to hold the finished book in your hand for the first time, to flick through the pages and read a random section and realise that, yes, it's finally in print! I am delighted with it, I love the design, and the cover is really smooth and tactile to the touch. Typeset in 11/16pt Sabon, it's clear and easy to read - I always enjoy a book whose the type setting doesn't require me to screw up my eyes! Right now, The Girl from Simon's Bay is being distributed for its launch in the UK on the 19th January. Copies will soon be heading off to South Africa where I will be doing a series of promotional events and interviews in Cape Town in early March. In due course, there will be paperbacks available in the USA, the Commonwealth and other English-speaking countries.
But if you are a Kindle or iPad user, you don't have long to wait - wherever you happen to be in the world. You can order the book directly to your device right now via your favourite online seller, and it should pop up in your library/digital bookshelf on 19th January. Hooray for technology!
Sometimes David surprises me... in the passing slide of blue eyes, the timbre of a man's voice, the line of a warship sliding across the bay.
I can almost believe...
Sunday, 4 December 2016
After all, a new book is surely a good time for a refresh!
Website design has certainly moved on from when we set up my original site four years ago. Instead of a static page, I can now include a set of revolving photographs as a backdrop, for instance. And I can add more links to the research I've done and the places that feature in the books. The website is now "dynamic" (!) in that it will squeeze itself onto the smallest phone without losing content, or expand to fill your large desktop screen. Progress! And, hopefully, a more appealing layout. Let me know what you think.
In addition to the smart new features, I've revamped the existing material that described The Housemaid's Daughter, and included lots of new content about the background and inspiration for The Girl from Simon's Bay. The new novel is set in Simon's Town, the naval base at the foot of the Cape peninsula in South Africa. There are photos of the bay and the mountains, there is background to the 4 ships that feature so strongly in the book, and I've given a taste of the wartime royal navy town that's at the heart of the story. It's a world that nurtures - yet sometimes turns away from - the Girl in the title...
So do take a look, especially if you plan to read the book. It will offer a private view behind the scenes!
The Girl from Simon's Bay will be published in paperback on the 19th January 2017 in the UK and South Africa, with the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand to follow in Feb/March. But remember that the book will available worldwide, on 19th Jan, as an ebook for Kindle, iPad and other ereaders.
Don't miss it!
Sunday, 20 November 2016
The Girl from Simon's Bay has taken her place on a cover that strikingly evokes the setting for my upcoming book. Last year I took a series of photographs from a vantage point above Simon's Bay, on the Cape Peninsula in South Africa, to provide inspiration and detail for my publishers' design team. I wanted to show the spectacle of the glittering bay surrounded by mountains, while also conveying a haunting sense of a young woman adrift...
To my delight, the designers also included typical Cape features like the swathe of fynbos with pincushion proteas in the foreground. And for those of you who know the Cape, you'll recognise the ribbon of sea foam as being a well-known sight along the coast, particularly down at Cape Point where the sea can be so rough that foam seems to decorate every rock and inlet.
Now that the cover is complete, the book will be going to print. Pre-orders are already being taken so if you fancy getting in early then do place an order at your favourite online bookseller and await its delivery in the New Year. The official launch date is the 19th of January. I can't wait to feel the pages beneath my fingers! You can, of course, also order the book to read on Kindle, iPad and a variety of e-readers.
In my next blog, I'll be introducing you to Louise, the heroine of the novel, and the enigmatic girl on the cover. But for now, let me leave you with a brief taster...
Infant waves curled towards me over the crystal sand.
I reached out both hands to seize the oncoming water with its lace of bubbles and fell forward. Cold, green liquid gurgled into my mouth, lapped at my forehead and started to trickle into my ears...
Friday, 28 October 2016
Once again I turned to navy records. I looked for actual young men of a similar age who'd gone on to distinguish themselves on similar vessels to my potential hero. I identified four men who filled the criteria. Born between 1910 and 1911, they either went to Dartmouth as cadets or joined the navy after school. Each was a midshipman in 1928/29, and served on battleships (HMS Nelson and HMS Revenge) or cruisers (HMS Effingham, HMS London). All reached the rank of Lieutenant in 1932/33, and pursued Gunnery training at HMS Excellent in Portsmouth. Upon the outbreak of war, one was assigned to HMS Royal Sovereign, one was on HMS Rodney, one was on HMS/HMNZ Achilles and one was on HMS Coventry. All survived sinkings and crucial battles. All continued in the Royal Navy, 3 retired as Admirals.
It was from the strands of these four very different, but real, individuals that my hero sprang. He needed their dedication, their skills, and sometimes their luck to survive. I have not named any of the officers whose careers I researched. But there is one whom I'd like to acknowledge, who provided a particular inspiration. He was Lt (later Rear Admiral) Richard Washbourn, of HMS/HMNZ Achilles. He was awarded the DSO for his bravery at the Battle of the River Plate in 1939. Here is an extract from his citation:
When ... several splinters struck the gun director tower, killing three men and wounding two others, though wounded on the head by a splinter which half stunned him and killed the man behind him, continued to control the main armament with the utmost coolness. He set a magnificent example to the rest of the Tower crew, who all stood to their posts and made light of the incident. Thus the primary control kept working and secured throughout the action a high rate of hits on the enemy.
Of such are heroes made...