Beautiful locations have always been a big part of my books. People say that you should write what you know, but I think you should also write about what you love and I have always been obsessed by travel. My idea of a relaxing night in is being on the Internet ferreting out great destinations. When I was a journalist and set up a travel magazine, I got to travel around the world and see so many incredible places it seems rude not to try and write about them all!
I’m actually writing this blog post from Antibes and I have just been driving around the Cap telling my son it’s the location for a chapter in Perfect Strangers. It’s so beautiful and glamorous that I am thinking of setting an entire novel there. I love the literary connections too – the other night I had a drink at this amazing hotel called the Belle Rives, which was actually F. Scott Fitzgerald’s house in the 20’s. The terrace was stunning and for the price of a cocktail I got to pretend that I was a character in Tender is the Night.
Paris has appeared a few times in my novels – probably because I know the city quite well as my sister lived there for a little while. She had a great flat in Montmartre, which had a magnificent view of Sacre Coeur, and her flatmate had a three-legged cat called Lucky who I gave a cameo role in Guilty Pleasures.
Deep Blue Sea is a book about the bond between sisters. At the start of the novel the two sisters Diana and Rachel are estranged and I wanted Rachel to have run away to somewhere remote but exotic, somewhere where she could reinvent and recharge after a scandal. I decided to set her early chapters in Thailand because it’s so far-flung but a familiar destination for back-packers who want to get away from it all and experience the world. The book is called Deep Blue Sea because it’s about secrets that simmer beneath a perfect surface – even though the water around the likes of Ko Tao and Phi Phi are a stunning shade of green!
I go to St Ives every year to write. I love the light and the rugged beauty of Porthmeor and everyone is so friendly. It’s also got this incredible creative history – and I am fascinated by the history of the St Ives School of painters, a group of artists who lived and worked in the town mainly in the 50’s and 60’s. I wanted to weave that history into a book somehow, so I created a character called Christopher in Guilty Pleasures who was supposed to have worked with the greats in the School’s heyday. I was thrilled a few months later when one of Terry Frost’s relatives got to touch to say she had read the book, Terry being one of the St Ives School greats.
My novel Private Lives was about just that – the secret lives of the rich and famous, so I wanted to set part of it in somewhere sexy and sultry. Capri seemed perfect – it is such a beautiful island with the added bonus of having the coolest taxis in the world. They are open-top with these cute canopies and you can’t help but feel like Sophia Loren being driven around in one!
I’ve used American locations in my books many times but it’s generally been New York or LA. When I was planning my new book The House on Sunset Lake, I knew I wanted to write about a big old abandoned house but I didn’t know where that house was going to be. I eventually chose Savannah because it is so romantic, but there is a dark underbelly to the Deep South – that was really evident when I visited lots of old plantation houses and saw slave cottages in the grounds. The House on Sunset Lake is a love story but also a story about a family with a dark secret at its centre.
Casa D'Or, the mysterious plantation house on Sunset Lake, has been in the Wyatt family for over fifty years. Jennifer Wyatt returns there from university full of hope, as summer by the lake stretches ahead of her. Yet by the time it is over her heart will be broken, her family in tatters, her dreams long gone.
Twenty years later, Casa D'Or stands neglected, a victim of tragic events. Jennifer has closed the door on her past. Then Jim, the man she met and fell in love with that magical summer, comes back into her life, with a plan to return Casa D'Or to its former glory. Their reunion will stir up old ghosts for both of them, and reveal the dark secrets the house still holds close...