Monday, 10 June 2019

Monday Munches: The Chesil Rectory

Since my husband no longer works on a Monday, in his gradual whittling down of office days until he retires altogether, my demand has been that we celebrate his 'leisure' by him taking me out to lunch. I can't in any case concentrate on my own work while he is in the house, no matter how unobtrusively he tiptoes about.  This lunching routine has been in play since Christmas, but only now has it occurred to me to blog about all the different eateries we have tried/are trying around  our wonderful city of Winchester and its environs, which are absolutely bursting with great places to eat. Since one of my favourite things to read is a restaurant column, why not write one of my own and see how far I can spread the word?

We start with today's treat, which was The Chesil Rectory. This place is something very special, an upscale but homely restaurant set in a 600 year old Grade II listed medieval house once given to Mary Tudor by her father, King Henry VIII. It is all low ceilings, dark timber beams, open fireplaces and a rickety wooden staircase, and it is run with glamorous expertise by a dynamic team headed by Mark and Eleanor Dodd.  Stepping off the busy street (for some reason it is always raining when I come here) into the cosy dining rooms is like being embraced by a cashmere cardigan. The welcome is always genuinely friendly, the atmosphere calm, and decor tasteful and pleasing, the chairs and leather banquettes so comfortable you never want to leave.

We decided on the special lunch menu, which at £17.95 for two courses is barely more than a standard fish and chips, but the difference in presentation, cooking and flavours - especially the delicate sauces - is stratospheric.  After a lovely chat with Eleanor (she and Mark happened to be working today and are friends of ours to boot) who very generously offered us a complimentary glass of grassy dry Riesling, I had the watercress soup with basil oil, bright green, silky, filling, and not over-salted. I could virtually feel the vitamins soaking into my system as I slurped my way to the bottom of the boat-shaped bowl. Richard had heritage tomatoes of various hues in what looked like a bacon crumb which he said made his mouth water even after he had finished. We both had a cute little mushroom pie with puree potatoes, a crisp roundel of green cabbage, and a truffle sauce in a wee jug on the side which was so delicious we ate most of it in delirious silence. There was no room for pudding, and indeed I am lying down as I type this back home, but it is very difficult to heave oneself out of the leather embrace and out into the wet afternoon.
As always service was swift and efficient, but it would have been most unprofessional to kiss the waiter, a handsome young student so tall that he has to duck under all those medieval ceilings who also happens to be my son! Here is a picture of him clearing the decks as we prepared to leave and he prepared to serve a large incoming party of hungry Poles.
Whatever time of year and whatever time of day, this place always gets 5 stars from me. Next time we will make sure it is warm enough to sit in the little courtyard garden newly opened for yet more long, leisurely, gourmet meals...

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Review of Mamma Mia 2

My fears that this was going to be a limp rehash of the original, as so many sequels tend to be, were certainly realised at first. The film gets off to a shaky start by plastering on the ‘Richard Curtis’ effect (he is credited as contributing to the script) of a romanticised rather than real England. 
We open at the start of an annoyingly inaccurate Oxford university graduation ceremony, showing students gathered in their college. Call me picky, but that is not how it works. The grand communal ceremony takes place in the Sheldonian Theatre, but this and other details are shrugged aside as Donna, her mates Tanya and Rosie, Celia Imrie and a bunch of others throw off their gowns, burst into the first (forgettable) Abba song, cycle through unrecognisable country lanes before perching on a rooftop to drink wine in front of an almost certainly painted backdrop of dreaming spires. The drinking wine bit is wholly accurate, granted…
More to the point, what on earth is the significance of depicting Donna as an Oxford graduate other than as an excuse for a music hall knees up and to lay it on thick that she HAS A BRAIN?  Because having got that off their chests, she never sets foot on British soil again.
However, the film improves as it goes along, due mainly to the electrifying presence of Lily James who steals the movie from a sickly sweet Amanda Seyfried and bored-to-a-standstill Dominic Cooper and a fairly lackadaisical Pierce Brosnan.  Sadly Lily’s energy and talent only emphasise the enormous and unexplained hole left by Meryl Streep.
As far as the music goes, it is sheer laziness to reheat several Abba numbers from the first film, even if they are brilliant favourites such as Dancing Queen. Is their catalogue so limited that they couldn’t have recorded an entirely original soundtrack? Other than the music, it was the reworked/glamorised version of the Seventies fashion that had me hooked.  If only such tailoring and gorgeous, non-crimplene fabrics had existed when I was a teenager…
Which brings me to Cher, whose sequin embroidered flares I furiously covet.  Yes, she looks amazing in her costumes, but am I the only person who found it disconcerting to hear that mellifluous, powerful voice booming out of a soft-lit, motionless mask? And what was the point of Andy Garcia? Other than cranking out a decent rendition of Fernando I could not understand a single word of his dialogue!
The greatest relief from all that misty-eyed staring, misunderstandings and predictability were the rare gems of comedy supplied by Rosie, who seemed, when played by Alexa Davies, to be obsessed by cake as the cure for all ills. Perhaps I was desperate by then, but I laughed out loud at Julie Walters’ inability to keep up with the various dance routines.  Omid Djalilli delivered a hilarious cameo as the passport controller at the end of the jetty passing judgement on how everyone had aged. Actually pretty well, I’d say. The three dads dialled in their performances amiably enough, but their younger counterparts were pale, wooden imitations in comparison.
This felt like a lazy, reheated, cynical, money-spinning people-pleaser but my heart isn’t entirely made of stone. Even though Meryl Streep’s one appearance yet again highlighted the lack of real soul in the rest of the film, I did cry, like everyone else, at her beautiful duet with Lily James.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Daddy's Girl by Maria Lucas - opening pages

 The strip of photos drops into the metal slot as I pass.
I pause, distracted by the flickering movement, the soft click as they land. I don't reach for them. They're not mine, after all. And they might be wet. They always used to be wet. In the days before selfies you had to wait, first for the machine to digest your features, then for the glistening results to slide out like a tongue.
Photo booths were a confessional to vanity. You'd crowd inside with your mates on a dreary Saturday, giggling. Or persuade your secret boyfriend to enshrine forever some mournfully precious day, snogging while that all-seeing eye blinked, flashed, and dismissed you.
No one's inside this booth. No one's claiming these pictures. There's a crumpled KitKat wrapper on the floor. The thick pleated curtain has been pushed open. It's still knocking faintly against the metallic frame.
Someone barged past me just now, over by the flower stall. . I was probably in the way, standing there weighted with worry. The mingled scents wafting off the display were overpowering and somehow mocking, especially the lilies. The nausea passed weeks ago but I still detest their sickly, funereal smell.
I heard a voice. I turned towards the street doors, towards the shops, every which way as mothers do. But I couldn't see her. Someone just called out 'Mum!'
It's strangely quiet in here this morning. Normally Whiteleys is a sea of buffeting strangers, workers rushing through their lunch hour, tourists ambling in from the neighbouring hotels, locals stocking up, humanity flowing up and down the sliding escalators. Everyone in a hurry.
But not today. My friend Maisie has left. She dashed out through the glass doors, out onto the cruel bright air of Queensway, away from all this pulsating panic.
She must have given me these tulips. She left me by the flower stall and told me to wait for the others, and that's when a stranger knocked past me. I wasn't about to remonstrate. He, or she, could have been violent, or carrying a knife.
I waited with my flowers but I couldn't keep still. I ignored Maisie's orders and was nearly at the escalator to go up to the next level, passing this booth, desperate to go on with the search, when the photos caught my eye.
A pale oval in the centre of each of the four images.
Sapphire eyes trapped behind that little metal bar.
I pluck the photo strip from the slot.
It's her. Of course it's her. I'd know her if I was blindfolded. But what's happened to her? Where's her beautiful blonde hair? It's a sludgy brown, hanging down on either side of her face. My golden girl looks like a goth. She looks like me for the first time in her life, but it's wrong. It's all wrong.
There's a cut on her chin, still raw. Will it make a scar? Purple shadows under her eyes. Or are those bruises? That hideous false hair, matted and dirty like a doll that's been left out in the rain. And her lips. Smeared with something dark.
Oh my God. Raphy. Raphy. What's going on? Raphy!
I spin round, waving the pictures. I drop the tulips. I show the trickle of shoppers my screen saver of the real Raphy in her ridiculous blue beanie hat with the appliqué pink and green Magic Roundabout flowers. That's how she looked a month ago.

'Have you seen this girl?' I shout, darting back towards the flower stall, waving the photos, thrusting my phone at people as they enter the echoing shopping centre. 'She's my height. Taller. She's 16. She was just in that photo booth. Did you see her? On the street? Have you seen her?'

Available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle

Friday, 21 July 2017

Maria Lucas

I hope that I have enough fans and friends to come with me on my new journey. I have written a series of four books about Gustav Levi and Serena, and Gustav's brother Pierre, of which I am very proud, but I have also had other ideas buzzing in my head like so many bees for a long time which I wanted to get off my chest. Not erotica as such, although there is plenty of passion in them. But ideas for stories that I wanted to write away from any particular genre.

I call them 'domestic noir', and I have published two of them on Amazon. One is called 'Daddy's Girl', about a teenage girl who disappears while searching on Facebook for the father she has never known. The other is called 'Loved Ones, a harrowing story about a mother and son trying to cope after the rest of their family is killed by a right wing terrorist attack. Not cheerful, I admit. But powerful, I hope, and straight from the heart and guts.

The novels are inter-linked, in that some characters appear in both, and they come from the same area of north Kensington in London - not far from the recent Grenfell Tower tragedy.

If you were a fan of my writing as Primula Bond, you will enjoy these books, and I am eager to hear what you think!

Here is the buying link to 'Daddy's Girl', but if it doesn't work it is available on kindle and paperback on Amazon. Here is the photograph that I took one day in Amsterdam, and which inspired this story.

Thanks lovelies!

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Celebrity for a day - Cheltenham Literature Festival 2016

Friday 7th October 2016. I have been invited to attend the Cheltenham Literature Festival as a speaker on a panel discussing a beautiful new anthology of sexy stories 'Desire' published by Head of Zeus and chosen by Mariella Frostrup and my agent Lisa Moylett who is also editor of the Erotic Review. An extract from The Silver Chain, the first in my erotic romance series, is published in the collection, so Lisa took me up on my offer to 'do anything to help publisise' my and other erotica writers' work.

My husband Ted comes with me, partly for moral support but mainly because for the pleasure of talking about erotica the festival offers me a hotel room for the night - my first taste of what it's like to be treated like someone important - and it would be a waste to stay there alone. The journey to Cheltenham is fraught with tension. Although I've done workshops before, it was three years ago at York Literary Festival and public speaking is nerve-wracking at the best of times.

We arrive at the Queens Hotel and are tickled to be greeted as Mr and Mrs Bond. It's a pseudonym, but for one night only it is my real identity. Later Ted is chuffed when the staff say to him, 'Good evening, Mr Bond!' We are upgraded to a suite, which makes us feel even more important. A stunning room, and Ted's eyes gleam, because he knows what a big sumptuous hotel bed does to me.

But for the moment I'm too tense to enjoy it. We check into what I was told would be the Writers' Room, but actually has a big VIP notice on the door. Finally, I am a celebrity! Free drinks, alcohol and food are on offer, but I'm still too nervous to eat. We are given wrist tags, and finally belong to the community of guest speakers!

I distract myself by going to a talk by Ian McEwan on his new book 'Nutshell'. What a seasoned speaker he is, confident, funny, but still with the slightly rumpled look of the solitary writer.
Then it's time to meet the gang. We are to meet in the VIP room and be escorted to The Times Garden Theatre for our event.  Funnily enough as soon as I see Lisa, who I already know, and Anna Maconochie, the fellow author speaking on the panel, my heart rate slows to something less frenetic. The actress Anna Chancellor is there. She's going to read extracts of the book and is an absolutely lovely woman. Despite being a rather haughty character on screen, she is warm and lovable in real life and I feel we are mates - alas, just for one night!

Mariella is similarly absolutely lovely. I guess being a TV and film addict makes me star struck, but she has no airs and graces at all and in fact admits to being just as nervous as the rest of us, despite years of presenting experience. We discuss whether or not a glass of wine is a good idea. Everyone shuffles their feet, but when I say I'm going to have a small one (after days of abstinence), the others rush to join me. Ted stops me having a second one, on a stomach empty of anything except half an apple.  Feeling better. Selfie time again! That's not a pimple on my face, by the way - it's the mike they've attached so we can all be heard in the pretty enormous scary space.

And so to the stage. It's 9pm. A late slot, presumably bearing in mind the content of our discussion, which will include 'f' and 'c' and 'w' words as it gets warmed up. The lights are bright in our eyes, curiously comforting because the audience of perhaps 600 odd becomes an invisible sea of heads - friendly heads, as Ted reminds me before he vanishes into their midst. They're here because they want to hear what we have to say, not to heckle or be hostile. I have some notes on the stories of the anthology I particularly liked, and a couple of quotes I want to use, but never look at them. Mariella is a pro interviewer. After a funny introduction she asks me and Anna in turn about how and why we started writing erotica.  I relate how I started my erotica career as a love-lorn secretary turning rejected sex scenes into short stories when bored at work. When I sold my first to a magazine for £150, my career of short stories, novellas and novels began.

We discuss erotica as a genre, and I emphasise my enthusiasm for turning the every day into the extraordinary, with the help of inspiration and experience. Imagination as travel agent.  Finding love and sex in the most unexpected places, all the more powerful for being suggestive rather than explicit. I kick myself later that I don't illustrate the power of the short, sweet and subtle by referencing one of the early mobile phone ads, when texts were just being introduced. The commercial shows a frazzled woman on an escalator going to work. She gets a text: Hello Sexy. She blushes, glances round to see if anyone has noticed (the precursor of the ebook, where of course no-one can see what you are reading). You wonder who it's from. Then the sender says: How about we send the kids to the grandparents and we go away for the weekend? So you know it's from her husband, it's loving, it takes her by surprise, and it's incredibly erotic.

We discuss the difference between erotica and porn which to me is very stark. Porn is brutal, immediate, visual, unemotional, belittling. Erotica is suggestive, imaginative, enhancing and takes you to another world.  In answer to a further question, which is why is erotica necessary/growing in a world saturated by porn and sex,  I reiterate that it's as meaningful as ever, designed to transport readers away from daily life, into fantasies and exotic locations , while hopefully embellishing what they will come back to in the bedroom. Actually I'm not sure I put it as eloquently as that on the night, which is annoying, but I'm sharing it with you now.

Then the floor was opened up to questions, the first being what did we all think of Fifty Shades of Grey. I leap to answer that, which is to say that while I don't rate the writing and lack of editing of the trilogy, the rest of us erotica writers have to thank the Fifty Shades phenomenon for reinvigorating the erotica market which by then was dying a death.

Anna reads one more sexy, naughty extract in her flowing, deep, humorous voice, and the session is over. Mikes are removed, high heels exchanged for trainers, and we are led across the now dark Imperial Square to the Waterstones tent, to sign our book. One of the lovely volunteers guiding us asks if he can get us anything to drink. Five heads snap round. Wine! we all whoop, in unison.

In Waterstones a small but enthusiastic queue forms, clutching the wonderful, if enormous, volume now on sale, and the four of us sign it, fortified by several glasses of wine. Some copies of The Silver Chain are also available, which I sign for anyone who wants to be introduced to the passionate love story between Gustav and Serena! By now it's nearly 11pm and Waterstones is closing, so Ted and I bid farewell to our new friends and wander back to the hotel, where we enjoy a couple more glasses before repairing to our very sexy room - perhaps to practice some of the activities that we discussed earlier...

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Living with Primula - by husband Ted

Living with Primula
by Ted Bond

By rights Primula Bond should have given me the first fee she ever earned, because she earned it writing her first erotic story in my time. She was my secretary, employed by me, and she was using the one word processor we possessed in the office back in 1995 to write Man in a Cage, which was subsequently accepted by the now defunct magazine For Women. She was paid the princessly sum of £150 and was chuffed to bits to be paid for something that she enjoyed so much.
She claims she composed, typed, edited and printed the story out in the space of her lunch hour, but I suspect that the truth is that the lure of writing about a naked man delivered in a cage as a birthday present to a lonely, Chardonnay drinking singleton far outweighted the joys of drafting leases, conveyances and wills.
Every time after that when I saw her nimble fingers tripping over the keyboard, I wondered what smut she was composing this time, and perhaps allowed myself the odd furtive question about what else they were capable of doing. More poignantly, though, I had to wait another eight years before was holding those slender fingers in mine as we walked down the aisle.
Our own story is itself the stuff of (almost) doomed romance. When I first arrived at a Hampshire practice of solicitors in 1991, Primula Bond came with the package as my secretary. She was a stunningly attractive, auburn-haired single mother. I was a battered and bruised, prematurely grey divorcee. We had a lot in common, and instantly struck up a very close, humourous friendship. We developed a habit of writing increasingly risque limericks on telephone memo pads and leaving under each other's noses when on the phone trying to be businesslike.
She claims she fancied me almost from the word go, and when she confided as much to one of her work mates, that mate agreed that I had that silver fox look of a guy who 'would rip off your knickers with his teeth.'
Poor Primula even had one or two suggestive dreams about me in those early days, apparently, which must have been disconcerting for her when she had to buckle down to my dreary dictation each morning. I say 'poor' because owing to a fairly chequered past love life she was too shy to rush into declaring her feelings for me. She was biding her time to pounce, in the best traditions of an erotic heroine. Meanwhile my confidence levels were also pretty low and I was totally blind to her blushing intentions. I thought I was her boss and friend, nothing more, and I assumed that at 29 and 13 years younger than me, she would never think of me in any sexual way.
So when I upped, dated, proposed to and married another woman in haste, a few months after we first met, Primula was devastated. She came to the wedding as a guest and put on a brave face, but developed a cracking migraine and says it was the worst day of her life. She could see me but not reach me, and felt marginalised in the sea of hats and frocks, unremarkable at the time to me and my family, and it is to my eterntal regret that I didn't know how she felt until it was far too late. We could have saved so much precious time. Anyway, having seen me fly off from that wedding reception in a white helicopter, going on honeymoon with the wrong woman, Primula was convinced that henceforth I would only ever be the one that got away.
Certainly she bravely continued working for me after that wedding, even though I was now living just down the road with my new wife, and something, life, frustration, longing, galvanised her into writing that first story under the harsh striplights of my office, with people nattering around the water cooler. In the calmer times of recent years Primula still finds inspiration all over the place. She'll find ideas in a tableau glimpsed from a rushing train, a snatched overheard conversation, an anecdote, memories of her own travels, relationships or bizarre temp jobs. Or she'll just pluck a random thought, an imagined scenario from her over-active imagination. Writing is a wonderful way of escaping the mundane, a free holiday, while enhancing our observations.
But what started it all off back was probably the trauma and frurstration of seeing me marry someone else (only then to witness my obvious unhappiness while she could only stand by and watch) combined with her own vain search for true love in her own life. And they do say that adversity and heartbreak are what drive the best writers.
What was the loss for those over-priced dating agencies she joined eventually became my gain.
Either way she remained working for me for a couple more years before abruptly uprooting herself and her little son and vamoosing back to London to get on with her life. When my marriage broke down after seven years I phoned her up in her little flat in Earls Court, as she had invited me to do. I expected her to be long gone by then, married to some dashing City tycoon, but as luck would have it she was free. I took her out to dinner, we talked until the small hours, and we've been inseparable ever since. Not wishing to waste any more time, we married just under two years later when she was six months' pregnant with the elder of our two boys, and thirteen years on the rest is a blissfully happy history.
Primula has an MA from Oxford University in English Literature and since she was about eight years old her ambition, through a varied career including teaching children in Cairo, temping in London and, of course, working for me, has been to write a best selling literary novel in her real name, but until that dream comes true she is making her way as a freelance features writer as well as proving to be pretty damn successful at writing erotica. Her editor has been hugely supportive of her and her work all through their journey together from Black Lace through Accent Press to the new 'Mischief' series at the Avon imprint at Harper Collins. And what could be more flattering than being periodically asked, begged sometimes, to give him another story, or another novel?
She also lends something of her more academic side as well as her experience to providing critiques for aspiring writers of erotica, feeling passionately about getting the basics of grammar and construction right alongside any creative flair before submitting work to a busy editor.
Now to the nitty gritty of life with an erotic writer. What everyone wants to know is, do we spend our weekends swinging from the chandeliers, swinging in other ways, exploring al fresco options, dressing as tarts and vicars, investigating fetish clubs, or working out how various Ann Summers-style contraptions work in order to be diligent in our research for her next novel? Well, put it this way. I still think she is super gorgeous and we are a normal, healthy, close and loving couple who laugh a lot and have busy lives and an energetic boyish family. Sometimes EastEnders and a takeaway is about as much fun as we get if we're too darned tired, but we do try to spend as much of our time as money will allow getting away from it all, eating, drinking and pampering ourselves in hotel rooms.
Aside from all that, however, my wife has an extremely vivid, nay graphic imagination which can transport her far away from the deep, deep calm of the marital bed right back to the hurly burly of the chaise-longue. And bearing in mind that as well as all the usual content you would expect ie overbearing bosses, lusty landladies and inexperienced lodgers, ingenue photographers, prowling cougars, nuns, even (in her latest work) vampires, quite a lot of her novels revolve around lesbian sex, I can honestly say that I have no direct experience of that, being a red blooded male and all.
Primula's love of food, clothes and perfume is always indulged in her stories, along with her love of exotic travel. So she takes great pride in transporting her readers from their semi in Staines to a slick penthouse suite in Manhattan or a back-street convent in Venice and so much the better. The imagination is a great, cheap alternative to travelling.
As for Primula's own experiences? Well, buy one of her books or e-books and you'll be as convinced as her legions of fans that she knows all there is to know about whip-lashing dominatrixes and threesomes!
One of the hilarious aspects of our life together is that outwardly we are ordinary, respectable, fun loving people. If you met me at work you'd think I was a typical country solicitor and because she is tall and slim Primula at the school gate has been known to be considered a little haughty - until people hear her dirty laugh. But then there's this other side, the cool looking wife who writes this explicit stuff on the side and the husband who supports her fully in her efforts, and this dichotomy is always a show stopper at dinner parties.
Thanks to 50 Shades I really think that erotica will become less and less shocking, especially if written intelligently and well as Primula does, and more and more just another successful genre of writing. Certainly at the last dinner party, with very good friends, they women all seemed to have read 50 Shades without batting an eyelid. So Primula, who before has forbidden her friends from reading her books in case they never speak to her or look her in the eye again, feels that perhaps now her books will reach more people, and therefore make a little more money.
Primula's parents have not and will not read her work, and would obviously prefer to see her name emblazoned in the window of Waterstones rather than available only on Amazon. But then so would she! As for our children, well, my grown up daughter and son-in-law who live abroad have read her books, in fact in the German edition (Primula is very big in Germany and Italy!), and thoroughly approve. Primula's sister is a firm promoter. Primula's eldest son used to be toe-curlingly embarrassed and would turn the books back to front in the shelves when his friends came over, and he still doesn't think it's cool, but now he sighs and says, 'Mother, when are you going to write something sensible so we can all retire and go and live on a tropical island somewhere?'
Hear, hear, I say.
I wish I could say we are constantly and vigorously researching each and every scene of her new book, but the truth is that I have barely seen her in the last two weeks because she has the bit between her teeth (take whatever inuendo you like from that) trying to emulate the current craze for erotica, kick-started by the phenomenal success of 50 Shades of Grey. She is either up half the night writing or leaping out of bed at 2am to rush downstairs to get something down before she forgets the idea. Understandably she's driven both by ambition and downright fury that someone has achieved overnight success doing something Primula and her co-writers have been doing for 20 years or more.
As for whether I ever remover her underwear with my teeth? Well, that's for me to know and you to find out!

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Me, me, me - answering random questions about myself

Do you put any of your own likes/dislikes into your characters? i.e.: Food, photography, voyeurism?

I love using my characters as an excuse to harp on about my own interests such as photography, food and travel. Serena is an enhanced version of what I was l like at that age, or how I would have liked to have been, and my other characters are usually much better photographers, cooks and travellers than I am! My more colourful, adventurous characters are also useful vehicles for experiencing some of the more outrageous practices that I may or may not have tried, or may or may not be good at! But I try to be accurate in my description of an activity or interest, because beady eyed readers can always spot inaccuraries. As for dislikes, those tend to be more character traits such as jealousy, manipulation, deception, and those are all heaped on the shoulders of the 'bad guys' in the stories.

You were asked by Harper Collins to write the Silver Train trilogy. Did you already have Gustav and Serena in your mind?

Only in shadowy outline. In fact Gustav started off as a vampire and Serena was going to be his earthly, red-blooded morsel. All similarities to Twilight characters were going to end there! So while that initial idea wasn't suitable it sowed the seed at least of the physical characteristics. Gustav's sinister dark looks were the basis for his complicated past. As for Serena, as I say, she's a kind of enhanced version of me, so she was always semi-formed in my head. Starting the story on Halloween night gave me all sorts of opportunity to paint a picture of the characters and play with the idea of masks, costumes and illusions. After all, we all hold something back when we first meet someone, especially if we think they could overpower us if we don't keep our mystique!

Did you travel to New York when you wrote The Golden Locket?

My dream is one day to be rich/famous enough to travel for research purposes, but actually I based their journey and experiences in New York on two great holidays I've had in the last four years, once alone with my husband at Valentine's, and once for New Year's with our kids, and I absolutely loved it. I am longing to go back in spring or summer, because it was DASHED cold when I was there!

Will you do any of their story in Gustav’s POV? I would love to know what he is thinking and feeling. 

I have wrestled with this idea for the third book because I can see why readers would welcome the occasional shift of viewpoint, but on balance I feel that having got this far without his innermost thoughts, it would be difficult structurally and I think jar with the flow of the narrative suddenly to interpose his thoughts. If you think about it, we are all to a certain extent inside ourselves, looking out. I am incredibly close to my husband, and all the world can see how much we love each other, but I will never look out through his eyes... and that's how it is with Serena. She's me, she's the reader, seeing, hearing, smelling, touching our lovers who are nevertheless separate beings. What I have done, and really hope it communicates to the reader, is try to make Gustav come alive physically and emotionally through Serena's eyes, especially as their relationship is tested to the limit in both Books 2 and 3, and ultimately reaches the heights of intensity and romance. I have also tried to show how he gives more and more of himself, becomes more relaxed and open, as the books progress.

Where did the original idea for the Unbreakable trilogy (now the Silver Chain series) come from?

The original idea started with Serena, who, like the Berocca adverts, is me, but on a really good day. Then I closed my eyes and envisaged, in glorious detail, my ideal man firstly in pure looks and then in character and background. Gustav actually started out as a vampire and I have retained the dark, mysterious, wolfish air he has about him. While her past is not remotely like mine, Gustav's bad marriage is based on real life stories I have been told and have wanted to portray in fictional terms, because there really are evil women like Margot out there... The rest followed quite naturally, once they had come to life. The challenge lay in bringing those two characters together in glorious locations, givin them fascinating occupations and plenty of adventure, while keeping it real, ie exploring how two such different people could meet, ignite, overcome threats and sabotage, and (hopefully) live happily ever after.

How much of a challenge is it writing a series? Is there an obligation to make each book better than the last?

A really interesting question.  I was pretty daunted at the idea of maintaining this story through three volumes, as I think some authors find they are spreading it pretty thin if they're not careful. At first I felt I'd given my all in The Silver Chain and just hoped that I could find enough to put into a second and third volume, let alone make them as good as the first. Also, at the time of writing The Golden Locket, I hadn't yet had the reaction of readers to The Silver Chain, so it was a bit like writing in the dark, or with ear muffs on – no idea how it would be received! But as the story progressed, and more characters and plot lines emerged, I found that, as with real life, there is always more to say. Obviously a writer's job is to condense that into a fictionalised world, so it will be stylised and manipulated to fit the parameters of your plan, but as an avid fan of mystery/thriller TV drama and film, I love the idea of cliffhangers, twists, and unexpected developments. If you leave each chapter/book on some kind of breathless moment, the next chapter/book becomes easier to start. If I'm honest I think that's why I enjoyed writing The Golden Locket and the third book more than writing The Silver Chain, because 'd already set up the main characters and situations, and now all I had to do was send them on their logical way. So, whisper it, but yes, I think The Golden Locket may be better! So what I'm hoping is that, while people really loved The Silver Chain, they will go wild about the sequels!

When writing your novels do you outline the plot first, or do you let the story go wherever it takes you?

A little bit of both. I do write a synopsis, broken down into chapters. I think a lot about it, and it helps me get over the dread of starting a new book, because I have given myself a framework to follow. Obviously then characters and plots will crop up which will deviate from the path, but at least I have some kind plan to keep me on the straight and narrow.

Location is obviously important to your story, how do you decide where in the world to take your characters?

After my first taste of travelling aged 18 (camping in Biarritz), I have loved it ever since. In fiction these locations add to the exoticism and luxury of the story, and is also relevant to the plot, but ultimately I weave that around places I have lived in myself, and/or travelled to. I have lived in London, Venice and Egypt (which I haven't written about this time, owing to current situation, but have shifted some of the action in Book 3 to Morocco instead), and I've visited all the other places such as New York, Paris etc more than once. It's a great excuse to revisit favourite areas, hotels, restaurants etc, pore over guidebooks, maps, etc, and go on the internet to check that I'm still up to date.

If The Silver Chain series was optioned for a TV drama/ movie, who would you like to play Serena, Gustav and Pierre?

We can but dream! My ultimate fantasy would be sitting in a cinema with a vast box of Maltesers watching those opening credits! My instinct if a film were made would be to swerve the Hollywood hype, be groundbreaking and original, and go for gorgeous unknowns. But to give an idea, I've always had Olivier Martinez, the French actor, in my mind for Gustav, Josh Holloway from 'Lost', or Dominic Zamprogna (from 'General Hospital'). They must have silky dark hair, haunted, Slavic cheek bones, black eyes, and the constant hint of unshavenness. Amanda Seyfried would make a great a red-haired Serena. Pierre would have to be a thicker set, younger version of Gustav, the Puerto Recan actor Sharlim Ortiz perhaps if he put on a little muscle. Polly could be the Swedish actress MyAnna Burring who was in 'Twilight' and also 'Downton Abbey'. Salma Hayek, Diane Lane, Rachel Weicz or Demi Moore could be Margot, the evil but charismatic ex-wife. Tilda Swinton could be Crystal, the enigmatic housekeeper, but she might steal the show! 

Do you read reviews of your novels? Do you take them seriously?

I read the first few reviews of The Silver Chain which just so happened to be a bit lukewarm. Although I took one or two comments to heart for the future, I found the sarcastic ones incredibly demoralising, almost physically a punch in the gut. I had to ask why people who came out and said they didn't like erotica were reviewing, well, erotica, and also why they also bother to post dodgy reviews on Twitter for all to see. Also I couldn't help noticing that the worse the review, the worse the grammar/spelling etc of the reviewer. Just saying. But yes, it's amazing how quickly you can lose confidence in what you thought was good work. After that I only read the good reviews which are sent to me by my editors and those I did take seriously because often they showed real knowledge of the story and characters and made valid points, and it warmed the cockles of me heart when they seemed to fall in love with them, too!

How long does it take to write a novel?

I've spent the best part of 2013 writing this trilogy. I'd say the first draft takes an average of two months to get down on paper/screen, and then you have to wait for the editor to come back with edits and re-writes which all in all can take another month or so. So roughly three months. I took the summer off because I wanted to clear my head between The Golden Locket and Book 3, and I had a writing conference to prepare for. I am very lucky because at the moment I only go out to work part time, so I do have whole days during school hours to write, and when deadlines are desperate my husband takes the boys out of the way so I can shut myself away at weekends, too. 
Do you have any writing rituals?
I write best when everyone is out of the house. I have a particular spot on a sofa where I write, and although I have to move around at weekends to find a peaceful place during the week that is my writing spot. I have loads of breaks, though, getting up to make coffee, watching Holly and Phil on TV, checking Twitter..
What was your favourite childhood book?
Anne of Green Gables, Little House on the Prairie, Little Women. Yep, I was that predictable!
Name one book that made you laugh?
Bizarrely I couldn't think of any fiction that made me laugh, but what makes me laugh out loud every time I pick it up, especially around Christmas time, is 'The Hamster That Loved Puccini' by Simon Hoggart, which is a collection of both nauseating and hilarious 'round robin' letters from smug families..
Name one book that made you cry?
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, by Jonathan Safron Foer. Written through the eccentric viewpoint of a little boy who has lost his dad in the 9/11 attacks.
Which book would you give to your best friend as a present?
What Was Lost by Catherine O'Flynn. Odd, strange, funny, sad. Unlikely setting behind the scenes in a shopping centre.
Are you inspired by any particular author or book?
I think I wanted to become a real writer whilst reading The Magus by John Fowles, lying on a beach on the island of Spetse where the book was set. It's mystical, scary, oblique, poetic – all the things I wanted to be when I was 19!
What is your guilty pleasure read?
Hello Magazine.
Who are your favourite authors?
Rose Tremain, Kate Atkinson, Julie Myerson, Penelope Lively, Ruth Rendell...
What book have you re-read?
Love Life by Ray Klum. An unfaithful husband's love for his dying wife. It's as close to fiction as a real life story can be, and hard hitting. The kind of non erotic fiction I would like to write one day.
What book have you given up on?
Whisper it. 50 Shades of Gray.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

We can but dream! My ultimate fantasy would be sitting in a cinema with a vast box of Maltesers watching those opening credits! My instinct if a film were made would be to swerve the Hollywood hype, be groundbreaking and original, and go for gorgeous unknowns. But to give an idea, I've always had Olivier Martinez, the French actor, in my mind for Gustav, Josh Holloway from 'Lost', or Dominic Zamprogna (from 'General Hospital'). They must have silky dark hair, haunted, Slavic cheek bones, black eyes, and the constant hint of unshavenness. Amanda Seyfried would make a great a red-haired Serena. Pierre would have to be a thicker set, younger version of Gustav, the Puerto Recan actor Sharlim Ortiz perhaps if he put on a little muscle. Polly could be the Swedish actress MyAnna Burring who was in 'Twilight' and also 'Downton Abbey'. Salma Hayek, Diane Lane, Rachel Weicz or Demi Moore could be Margot, the evil but charismatic ex-wife. Tilda Swinton could be Crystal, the enigmatic housekeeper, but she might steal the show!

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

About two months to get down on paper before being minutely examined and radically changed by my editor!

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I would compare these to Sylvia Day's and Nikki Gemmell's erotic series.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

These books are set not only in London and New York but Paris, Venice and Morocco, too. Oh, and Devon, and while it is pretty intense stuff, there are moment of levity, too.