Huge congratulations to Abi Yardimci on the cover reveal for Everything is Yours, the final book in the Life is Yours trilogy, a stunning and evocative series about life, love and finding your heart. And look at this stunning cover!
About the book
New Year’s Eve is in full swing. Jess and Lindy have met by chance and already they’re sharing a bottle of wine in a cosy Turkish restaurant. Lindy is hooked on a story Jess is telling, but midnight is coming and happy endings aren’t always guaranteed . . .
After Jess returns from the trip of a lifetime high on hope, ambition and new love, she’s ready to take on the world. She shuts down her business, cuts ties with her ex and announces to everyone the old her is gone.
But a violent encounter rocks her world and her past comes crashing back to haunt her. With a childhood demon to forgive, a long-distance relationship to navigate and that final layer of self-love to uncover, can Jess dig deep and put the final pieces in place before midnight comes knocking?
My thoughts on the book
This is a beautifully written love story – but it’s not just about love, it’s about finding your way, your heart. Abigail has a turn of phrase that made my heart sing – it’s unique and evocative and this is a fabulous finale to the series.
Abigail Yardimci was born in Consett, Co. Durham in the UK. She has worked as a video rental person, a catalogue product-picker, a deli-sandwich-maker and an amazing barmaid. She eventually trained as an arts education consultant working across the North East of England, she sold her abstract paintings internationally and more recently trained to teach mindfulness meditation to young people and families.
I’d been single for several years, dating occasionally but nothing serious as, after two back-to-back relationships with cheaters, I was convinced that all men should f*ck off and die. My status as a late-30s singleton was a concern to many of my family members and well-meaning friends and the topic of far too many conversations. In fact, when I booked the trip, I lost count of the number of time I heard ‘Oh, you might meet someone’.
But I didn’t want to meet someone. At 37, I had met enough someones to know that relationships were not for me. I would lose sight of myself, pretending to be someone I wasn’t just to keep them going.
So imagine my surprise when I said goodbye to two of my oldest and dearest friends, Greek-Australian siblings I’d just spent the week with in Athens and Santorini, and boarded a rickety bus to ride dusty roads to the small port on the southern tip of Santorini – Vlychada – and when I stepped off that bus, I met someone.
‘Are you on the sailing trip,’ said the tall, cute American I’d been watching on the bus.
‘Oh, thank god I’m in the right place.’ I smiled at him. ‘Sorry, I’m Ben.’ He held out his hand for me to shake it.
‘Sandy.’ He had a firm handshake and a friendly smile.
‘Should we go find our boat?’ he asked.
We found the right boat, met the people we’d be sailing with for the next 10 days and embarked on a remarkable friendship. I say ‘remarkable’ because despite have a 10-year age difference, living on different continents and having a vastly different upbringings, professions, and life experiences, I’d met someone who saw the world through similar eyes to mine.
And he was super cute too. See?
Our friendship turned romantic and by the end of the trip, I knew I wanted him in my life. But how would that work? I lived in Sydney and he lived in St Paul.
Well, we did make it work. We met up to travel together for more than 2 years – Hawaii, New Zealand, a road trip up the West Coast of the US – and then in 2008, we made the (exciting and terrifying) decision to move together to Seattle. There was a ‘hard-to-get’ visa to come by (mine), a job to leave (mine), a job to transfer (Ben’s), and an apartment to find and set up (both of us). There was also a MASSIVE LEAP OF FAITH for Ben to move across the country and me across the world to move in with someone we’d only spent (collectively) 3 months with, face to face.
Cut to 2021.
We’ve lived together in 4 apartments in 2 cities (not counting our 2018 sabbatical, which takes that tally to double digits).
We’ve added dozens more trips to our repertoire (longer international trips, interstate trips to see family and friends and to explore, and shorter local trips to ‘get away’). We’ve taken a year-long sabbatical, living and working in WA, Bali, Seattle, Minnesota, the UK, Edinburgh, and Portugal, and visiting LA, Chicago, Ireland, Wales and Amsterdam.
We’ve tasted wine in regions around the world – Australia, New Zealand, California, the Pacific Northwest, Italy, and Portugal – with many more on our wine tasting bucket list. We’ve been sailing, boating, white water rafting, sky diving, ziplining, abseiling, hiking, water skiing, glacier climbing, snowshoeing, skiing, and paddle-boarding. Ben learnt to surf in Hawaii, but I stayed (safe) on the beach.
We’ve loved 2 kitties – Lucy (sadly, she died in 2015) and Rocky (he found his forever home in 2017)- and are about to bring home a 3rd (disclaimer: no pet’s names have been used in passwords😉). We’ve had several career changes each, and I’ve published 5 books and am about to finish writing my 8th. I’ve gone from being a brunette to a (dark) blonde (really a silver vixen, but not quite ready to embrace that yet) and Ben has gone from a curly-haired cutie to a smooth-headed hottie.
We’ve made lifelong friends together.
We’ve changed, we’ve grown, we’ve evolved and we’ve stayed ourselves.
And the past 2 years, we have spent every day and every night together. And through a pandemic, he is still my person, my someone. There is no other person I could have gotten through this with, babe.
Thank you for your good humour, your sometimes lame, but more often clever jokes, for hugs and laughs and dancing in the living room. Thank you for cleaning our windows so we can at least enjoy the view. Thank you for keeping track of seventy million streaming services and finding fun and interesting things for us to watch. Thank you for letting me teach you backgammon and for the games of gin rummy, even though you almost always beat me. Thank you for reading books about philosophy and thinking and how the mind works, broadening my knowledge and perception both by example and in our fascinating conversations. Thank you for enjoying my cooking, even when I’m phoning it in. Thank you for making the bed each morning, taking out the rubbish, and vacuuming to keep our home a sanctuary. Thank you for walks around the city and listening and understanding when it all gets too much. Thank you for celebrating every minor milestone of my publishing career – and thank you for keeping us well stocked in bubbles for those celebrations.
Thank you for being you. Thank you for being my someone. Happy 15th(!) anniversary.
I’ve watched The Crown since it started. Until now, season one was my favourite, with Claire Foy doing an exquisite job of portraying the young monarch. Then came season four.
I’m only a few episodes in, but with the incredible Emma Corrin having perfected Princess Diana’s voice, posture, and mannerisms, I’m finding myself overly emotional every time she is on screen.
You see, I loved Diana.
From afar, of course like most people, but she was … I cannot put into words what it was like growing up with her as an icon – of femininity, sure, but also of compassion, bravery, and humanity. She was an extraordinary person in extraordinary circumstances. I admired her and, yes, from afar, I loved her.
I was touring when she died – running a five-week tour for fifty 18-35 year olds and we were in Austria when the news broke the morning after a brilliantly fun dress up party.
This is an excerpt from my travel diary:
The kitchen was oddly quiet, only one rep, John, there preparing breakfast instead of the six or seven I expected. I asked where everyone else was and he casually replied, ‘Oh, haven’t you heard? Diana’s dead.’ Diana, who? I thought.
‘Diana who?’ I voiced aloud, still nowhere near connecting the dots.
‘The Princess.’ He continued his preparations, seemingly unaware of the bombshell he’d just dropped, so I thought he must be joking.
‘That isn’t funny, John.’
He stopped what he was doing and looked at me. ‘No, I’m serious.’
‘Well, you’d better be bloody serious, because I’m about to walk in there and tell fifty people,’ I said, indicating the dining room where my tour group was having breakfast.
‘It’s true, listen.’ He switched on the radio and the announcer was, of course, speaking German, but I could make out, ‘Prinzessin Diana ist tot,’ and had enough of the language under my belt to understand – the language at least. I still couldn’t comprehend the meaning of those words.
I fiddled with the dial on the radio, hoping to find an English speaking station, and finally found the BBC. ‘Diana, Princess of Wales, has been confirmed dead, killed overnight in an automobile accident in a tunnel in Paris.’
Well, there was no mistaking that.
Princess Diana was dead.
Without another thought, I walked through the swinging doors to the dining room and called for quiet, not looking at any of their faces. Some people still spoke, and I shouted, ‘Listen!’ I never spoke to my group like this and the tone of my voice must have conveyed the seriousness of the situation. There was immediate silence.
My eyes locked on the tiled floor, I said, ‘Last night, Princess Diana was in a car accident in Paris. She died.’ No one spoke, or maybe they did, but I choked back a sob and pushed back through the swinging door into the kitchen, vaguely aware that some of the people on my tour followed me, consoling me then crowding around the radio.
My sister! Victoria lived in London and she would be distraught. I needed to call her. It would be expensive, but she’d need me.
My fingers were shaking as I dialled the number and I made a mistake and had to start again. She answered sleepily on the third ring. ‘Hello?’
‘Hi, it’s me. Are you okay?’
‘Yes. Did you call me at 7:30 in the morning just to ask me that?’
She doesn’t know, I thought. ‘Vic, have you heard the news?’
‘What news?’ Oh, god.
‘It’s bad, Vic. Princess Diana died last night.’
Her screams, then her wailing, were so loud I had to hold the phone away from my ear. Tears streamed down my face and I caught the eye of several others who were also crying. I wiped my nose on my sleeve and someone handed me a napkin.
When Vic calmed down enough to talk to me – I could hear the news blaring from her TV in the background – I made her promise to call someone so she wouldn’t be alone and we hung up.
I made my way back into the dining room where someone had turned on the TVs, all tuned to BBC news. Fifty of us – give or take – sat either in silence or sharing quiet murmurs as we watched footage from Paris – the mangled car, the tunnel, and the security footage of Diana and Dodi al Fayed leaving the hotel. And scenes of the thousands of people converging on central London bearing flowers, cards, and signs, and wearing their grief for all to see.
I both could and couldn’t believe it.
The following days of the tour – we were only about 3 weeks in – were spent scouring English newspapers and watching newscasts where possible. As we headed towards the last leg of the tour, I had to tell the same group that Gianni Versace had been murdered outside of his house in Miami, and then on the last day of the tour, that Mother Teresa had died. A few people thought I might be joking – too many sad announcements for the same group – but no.
That day also happened to be the day of the cortege, September 6th. In the late afternoon, as we drove into London, it was like a ghost town. I had never seen the city deserted before and likely wouldn’t again. It was eerie, disturbing, and unsteadying.
At the hotel, we said our goodbyes – for most of us, long and tearful and I felt especially close to this group. Alone in my room, I watched a replay of the full cortege, my heart breaking as I watched 12-year-old Harry and 15-year-old William walking behind their mother’s casket, that handwritten card on top, the envelope reading, ‘Mummy’. Those brave, brave boys.
Why was I so sad? Why had the death of a woman I didn’t know affected me so acutely?
I think it was especially tragic, as she finally seemed happy. She’d endured a trying marriage, and she’d been in the spotlight for her entire adult life, enduring scrutiny and criticism for every move she made. Yet she’d emerged more beautiful than ever, as though a light had been switched on inside her. That she should die at 36, at the beginning of her newfound life, was a cruel twist of fate.
Someone on the tour said, ‘This will be our Kennedy.’ That was true then and still is today.
So excited that this day is (finally) here! I started writing this book in July 2019 for Camp NaNoWriMo with the goal of writing 30K words in 31 days. I wrote 35K words, then tweaked the manuscript with help from my agent, and we pitched it (with a synopsis) to my publisher, One More Chapter.
They loved it, then it was slotted into my publication schedule and today’s the day when it is out in the world!
To mark the occasion I am sharing my acknowledgements.
Acknowledgements and a note from the author
It’s hard to believe I am writing the acknowledgements for my fourth book, but here I am. I have dedicated this book to my parents―my mum, Lee, my dad, Ray, and my step-mum, Gail. I am extremely fortunate to have parents who not only love me, but champion me and inspire me. They have also instilled in me the importance of family―including the family members we choose―as well as having a sense of adventure and following your dreams.
Family is a prominent theme in this book and as I write these acknowledgements amid the second round of COVID-19 lockdowns here in Melbourne, ‘family’ has become more important to me now than ever. And for me, a person who has lived on three continents, that word encompasses all the people I love, all the people who inspire me, lift me up, confide in me, and ease my path. Thank you, family―wherever you are. Stay safe and we will meet again someday soon.
As always, I am grateful to my two partners-in-writing, my editor, Hannah Todd, and my agent, Lina Langlee. It is wonderful having you in my corner and you are both gifted collaborators. Hannah, thank you for being my champion at One More Chapter and HarperCollins, and for your excellent feedback, which always elevates my writing. I continue to grow as an author under your guidance. Lina, I greatly appreciate your advocacy, your astute guidance, and your ongoing support of my writing career. Ever onwards and upwards―together.
Thank you to my fellow authors for supporting, championing, and inspiring me, particularly my fellow Renegades, Nina, Andie, and Fiona. Our daily catchups sustain me; they are chocolate for my soul. Thank you to Lucy Coleman (Linn B. Halton) whose quote appears on the cover of this book. I hope that one day I will be as prolific and as accomplished as you. Your books are the stuff of dreams. Thank you to all my fellow romance authors who forge and shape this genre, and to the book lovers, bloggers, and reviewers whose passion for romantic fiction lifts us all, especially my friends at UKRomChat, The Reading Corner Book Lounge, and Chick Lit and Prosecco. Thank you to the volunteers at the Romance Novelists Association and Romance Writers of Australia for your tireless efforts to sustain and elevate romantic fiction. And thank you to my fellow Aussie authors at the Australian Writer’s Centre and #AusWrites.
Lastly, dear reader, thank you. Thank you for traveling across three continents with me and enjoying some Christmassy goodness. Christmas is my favourite holiday, and over my lifetime, I’ve spent it in the US, the UK, and Australia―each Christmas special for its distinct traditions and the loved ones I’ve shared it with.
I am super excited about this book, as it celebrates one of my favourite times of the year, Christmas. I decided in June last year that I wanted to write a Christmas book, and as I do for all my books, I turned to my own travel experiences for inspiration.
You see, I am an ‘Aus-Meri-Pom’ as my grandma Joan used to call me. I have an English father, and American mother and I was born in Australia. I have lived in all three countries and consider the UK and the US my second homes, especially as I have so many loved ones in both countries.
With so many Christmases to choose from – some snowy, some wintry and cosy (but no snow), many hot, I considered how to pack more than one Christmas into one book.
That’s when I got the idea to have three childhood friends swap Christmases. This way, I could dive into what makes each one special, seeing each Christmas through fresh eyes.
My sister, brother-in-law, nephew, and great aunt all live in the UK, and we’ve had a couple of (lovely) Christmases with them in recent years (in 2014 and 2108). I LOVE how beautifully and traditionally Christmas is celebrated in the UK. Yes, we had chocolate oranges in our stockings; yes, we had plum pudding and brandy sauce; yes, we went to Christmas Fairs and Winter Wonderland, and sipped mulled wine and hot chocolate; yes, we watched the Queen’s speech; and yes, we even had a(n early) traditional Christmas lunch in a 500 year year old pub! All the yeses to this kind of Christmas.
I’ve also had many Christmases in the US, but one that has stuck with me all these years is the Christmas I visited a dear friend and his (lovely extended family at their mountain cabin in Colorado, then met up with my partner, Ben, for a ski trip to Breckenridge and New Year’s in Denver.
It is a stunning part of the world, and Breckenridge is one of those towns that looks like a filmset of a Christmas movie. These pics are from our drive into town.
And this was the “cabin” we stayed in for Christmas:
There were 13 of us for Christmas – and we all had beds, with some to spare! Me in Colorado, all rugged up. Look at those mountains and that sky!
Most of my 51 Christmases, however, have been in Australia. It’s hot, sometimes swelteringly so, and we celebrate traditions that are as much about the family gathering together in summertime as they are about the holiday.
I always make a pav(lova).
We have a fake, but festive, tree (thanks to Ben for the gorgeous pic on the left).
There are salads, fruit platters, champagne (lots of bubbly), Christmas carols (even the snowy ones), some sort of roast, cheese platters, maybe a baked salmon, or some prawns or crayfish on the barbie, and I’ll always bake my fave Chrissie bikkies, Russian Tea Cakes (recipe for you).
We go to the beach, play boules after lunch, call our loved ones far and wide, play games out on the veranda, like Trivial Pursuit and Cards Against Humanity, while we sip crisp, white Aussie wine – you, know, Christmassy, family stuff – Aussie style.
I absolutely LOVE Christmas, and if you do too, I hope you will love The Christmas Swap (buy links included). It’s out now!
Super excited to welcome Abigail Yardimci to Off the Beaten Track today, especially as she is a fellow travel fiction author, who met the love of her life while travelling – just like I did! And she’s got a publication day coming up next Monday, Sept 21!
Tell us what inspired you to write Destiny is Yours.
Destiny Is Yours is based on a chapter of my own lived experience from 2006. At the beginning of that year, my fiancé and business partner of seven years just decided he didn’t want that life any more. He left with hardly a whisper of warning and I felt like all the rugs had been pulled out from under me. Ultimately, I had to decide if I was going to disappear into a shadow of my former self, or, eventually, pick myself up and open my eyes to the world in a different way.
I chose the latter and part of that involved me jetting off for a whole month to the Western coast of Turkey so I could figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I went with a friend of mine who was also newly single and we both knew we had a lot of soul-searching to do but we also wanted a bit of an adventure. Well, we got it – in bucketloads. And because that month away was so awesome and surprising, I decided it just had to be written down as a story. In fact, I wrote three books based on the whole year, of which Destiny Is Yours is the second – it’s called the Life Is Yours trilogy.
We’re all likely to suffer from heartbreak and lose our way at least once in our lives – whether it’s from the end of a relationship or something completely different – so tales of recovery and renewal are always going to be important . . . especially ones that involve sun, sea, sand and, well, you know!
When did you start writing seriously?
I’ve been writing on and off for a lot of years – probably since I was about six or seven to be honest. I studied Creative Writing at university but got disheartened by the kinds of assignments we were given and went off-track for a while. It wasn’t until I encountered intense heartbreak followed by a slow and steady reawakening to the world in 2006 that I realised I’d forgotten that writing completely fed my soul. So, I guess that’s when I started writing seriously, when I knew I had to write the Life Is Yours trilogy and somehow get it into the hands of a publisher.
It was hard work though – and life threw many a challenge in my way just to make sure that’s really what I wanted. But I kept at it slow and steady and finally, twelve years after putting pen to paper, I found the publishing deal I’d been hoping for.
What do you love most about being an author?
I love that I’m really doing my life’s work here. Even if nobody ever read my stories, I’d feel like I was doing the right thing because writing is who I am. The process of writing is undeniably hard and really eats through my confidence sometimes . . . but I just can’t leave it alone and I know that’s because I’m meant to do it. Recently, I found some type-written stories I’d written when I was seven and I really smiled to myself. Even then I knew what it was I was supposed to be doing.
I also LOVE hearing from readers. It is a heart-soaring kind of feeling when somebody divulges how they’ve identified with a character or been touched by a particular passage. A few people have even used some of the journaling and coaching techniques that my main character, Jess uses in book one, Life Is Yours. That really made me happy that people could pick something out of the book and make it their own to help themselves going forward. Beautiful.
What are you working on now?
Oh, I seem to have so many projects on the go! I’m currently re-editing the final book in the Life Is Yours trilogy. It’s as yet unnamed so I’m racking my brains trying to think up a snappy title that will work with the rest of the series.
After that, I have a very special writing project which will see my main character, Jess, several years later after the original books, about to embark on a month of fasting for Ramadan with her Muslim husband. Again, this will be based on lived experience and I’m excited because there will be humour and hilarity as well as some hard truths, epic learnings and intense emotional connections.
I also write a regular blog post about creative living, mindful parenting and top tips for sneaking more joy into your life, so I’ll be working on that. Plus, I have some top secret writing I’ve done over lockdown that I hope to shape into something resembling yet another novel!
What do you hope readers will take away from [DESTINY IS YOURS]?
What a great question! I hope readers will take some ideas about how to shake up your life when you’re feeling a little stale, broken or confused. I hope they’ll open their minds to the awesome world we live in and how there are opportunities everywhere for us to make connections and be present. I also hope they laugh and smirk and cry and cringe and gasp and imagine and sigh and smile – too much to ask, do you think?!
Here’s the blurb
There’s something about New Year’s Eve that brings people together.
How else could the two strangers, Lindy and Jess have met on a random Turkish beach with midnight gently beckoning? Slowly, they become friends through Jess’s story of heartbreak and loss . . . but the story is about to twist into something with a little more soul and a lot more adventure.
Jess’s heart is newly mended. Cracks still healing from an epic break-up, as well as a spectacularly failing business, she’s gone and booked the trip of a lifetime to Turkey with best mate Gillie, also newly single. Jess has had it with streaked mascara and sobbing for England – she wants to kick-start a life with more focus, more clarity and maybe even a little bit of magic.
Surely travelling round Turkey will do the trick? Jess is determined to find the answers somewhere and although she expects the delicious cocktails, the charming waiters and the golden beaches, she perhaps isn’t prepared for a mysterious pack of challenges sent by a friend; a book that transforms the way she sees her place in the world; starlit nights that begin to take over the days and an impromptu fortune-telling moment that changes everything . . .
Abigail Yardimci is an author, blogger and creative mindfulness practitioner. She is a Geordie girl living by the sea in South Devon in the UK with her Turkish husband and two terrifying kids. She loves to blog and gets her kicks through mindful parenting styles, creative living and chocolate.
Her writing inspiration comes from scratching the surface of everyday life to find the underlying magic that connects us all. The fire beneath the frustration, the creativity beneath the boredom, the stillness beneath the chaos.
Abigail’s debut novel, ‘Life Is Yours’ and second novel, ‘Destiny Is Yours’ are available now on Amazon and published by Britain’s Next Bestseller. Abigail also stays sane in the world of parenting by writing a popular blog called ‘Mum In The Moment’.
I wrote this book while living in Bali. It was Spring 2018, and I was on a year-long sabbatical with my partner and love, Ben. Often I wrote poolside or perched on a sun lounger―yes, really. I also wrote at the beach, in our outdoor workspace, and at my favourite cafe.
The sabbatical was Ben’s idea. And after some cajoling and reassurance from him that it would be amazing, I put on my big-girl knickers and we quit our jobs, gave away a lot of our stuff, packed the rest into a storage cage, and bought a one-way ticket to the rest of the world, first stop Bali.
If it wasn’t for Ben’s bravery, support, and intrepid spirit I would not have gone on sabbatical and I wouldn’t have written this book or That Night in Paris. You see, while on sabbatical I gave myself “permission” to be an author, to throw myself into writing, editing, and querying, and to seek out writing as a career.
So, as my third book is published, and I have just sent across structural edits for my fourth book and am finishing the draft of my fifth, a huge thank you to Ben.
I hope you enjoy this latest instalment of The Holiday Romance series and the conclusion to Sarah’s story.
What other authors have to say about A Sunset in Sydney.
“Guaranteed to have you holding your breath to the very last page.” Julie Houston
“I’m such a fan of this series.” Ella Allbright
“Lose yourself in this perfect, escapist read.” Samantha Tonge
“Sandy Barker blends romance and travel to make the perfect summer read.” Lynne Shelby
To, I have the great pleasure of catching up with a fabulous author who I met through UKRomChat. Like me, Kiley writes love stories set in beautiful places, exploring the themes of self discovery and love. And, also like me, she is proudly a MASSIVE Shakespeare geek (dips head to The Bard). Today, we will be chatting about her latest book, Summer at the Highland Coral Beach, the first in a new series.
Tell us what inspired you to write Summer at the Highland Coral Beach?
I spend a beautiful week in Plockton, a seaside village in the Scottish highlands, in August 2018. The whole family was there, including my kids, husband, parents and Amos the dog. We stumbled across a little bay made of white coral pieces and with turquoise blue water to rival any tropical bay. I knew as soon as I set foot on that beach I was somewhere magical and the story ideas started fizzing.
When did you start writing seriously?
Surprisingly recently. I wrote as a child and teenager but when I got to uni I stopped and focused on an academic career. So I published lots of articles and book chapters about the Victorians, suffrage campaigners and their writings, but gave up on my creative writing. The need to write kept niggling away at me until August 2017 when I couldn’t hold back any longer and I started writing One Summer’s Night which turned out to be my debut novel.
What do you love most about being an author?
I get to make people up, give them a world to inhabit, threw problems in their way, then soothe away all their sadness with love and romance. Then I get to share them with other people. What’s not to love about that!
What are you working on now?
I’m editing my fourth book, One Winter’s Night (that’s the working title anyway). It’s the sequel to my debut novel and it follows my heroine Kelsey Anderson as she stays in Stratford-upon-Avon over autumn and winter and sets up her photography studio. There’s a lot of steamy romance and festive feels in this one. It was a blast to write. (out September 2020)
What do you hope readers will take away from Summer at the Highland Coral Beach?
The message of Summer at the Highland Coral Beach is that there is always sweetness after difficulties and rainbows after storms, so hold on. Things will get better.
Also, I hope readers will take away an indelible impression of my craftsman hero – the grumpy, redheaded Scot, Atholl Fergusson, who is hotter than the sun.
Escape to the Highland Coral Beach – where broken hearts can be healed.
Beatrice Halliday needs a break from life. Booking a trip to the Highlands on a whim, Beatrice hopes learning Gaelic in a beautiful Scottish village might help her heal her grief after losing her baby, her husband and her much loved job in a space of months.
But Port Willow Bay isn’t exactly as the website promised. Instead of learning a new language, she’s booked in to learn the ancient skill of willow weaving, her hotel room is Princess and the Pea themed (with a stack of mattresses for her bed!) and worse still, her tutor is Atholl Fergusson, grumpy landlord of the hotel where Beatrice is staying – and she’s the only one doing the course.
But as Beatrice finds herself falling in love with Port Willow Bay and its people, and as she discovers the kind heart beneath Atholl’s stony exterior, can she really leave?
Escape to the beautiful Scottish Highlands with this utterly romantic, feelgood book; one visit to Port Willow Bay and you’ll want to come back! Fans of Sarah Morgan, Carole Matthews and Holly Martin will be captivated.
Kiley Dunbar is the author of heart-warming, escapist, romantic fiction set in beautiful places for Hera Books.
Kiley is Scottish and lives in England with her partner, two kids and Amos the Bedlington Terrier. She writes around her work at a University in the North of England where she lectures in English literature and creative writing. She is proud to be a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and a graduate of their New Writers’ Scheme. She’s was a ‘Joan Hessayon Award for New Writers’ finalist in 2019 with her debut novel One Summer’s Night.
The wonderful Samantha Tonge warmly welcomed me to the writing community when I was a debut author and it is a pleasure to welcome her to my blog for a catch up.
Her latest book The Summer Island Swap is a wonderful way to vicariously travel to a far off destination from the comfort of home. So, let’s find out more.
Tell us what inspired you to write The Summer Island Swap.
My son returned from a conservation volunteering trip in the rainforest and I was fascinated by his stories of the work they did there and the rescued animals. And then I saw a photo of him with a monkey virtually wrapped around his head! I knew, in that instant, that I wanted to write a story about rescue animals and the kind of people who saved their lives.
Although I have to admit, I did also listen to tales of tarantulas and basic showers with horror and thought what fun it would be to drop a character into that environment who was expecting a rather more luxurious type of holiday – cue Sarah!
When did you start writing seriously?
When my youngest started school in 2005. Life had been a bit full-on until then although – corny as it sounds – I always knew that, one day, I would write. I was in my late 30s and it took a while, but I finally got my first publishing deal in 2013.
What do you love most about being an author?
Feedback from readers means EVERYTHING. To know that my work might have cheered someone up means the world. And sometimes my books have inspired people to follow their dreams and move abroad, or get help for a health condition, and finding those things out is extremely special.
What are you working on now?
My Christmas 2020 novel. I’m super-excited about it, even though it’s been extremely challenging to concentrate and write during lockdown. The male protagonist – funnily enough, Sandy! – is from Sydney and I hope readers find him as mesmerising as Jess, the female lead, does.
What do you hope readers will take away from The Summer Island Swap?
It’s a story about following your dreams and letting go of the past and I hope readers perhaps get inspired, in some small way, to do that. I faced 8 years of rejection to get published and it was difficult – and Sarah, the main character of this book, has faced hard times too to fulfil her dream which is to be independent and have her own home and a job she loves. So if readers took something from that, it would be brilliant. But more than that, I learnt a great deal about conservation whilst writing this book and doing so increased my love, even more, of the natural world. I hope readers find that interesting as well. However, having said all of that, what matters most to me is that readers simply enjoy the story and manage to escape from the difficult circumstances we are all facing at the moment.
Sometimes the best holidays are the ones you least expect…
After a long and turbulent year, Sarah is dreaming of the five-star getaway her sister has booked them on. White sands, cocktails, massages, the Caribbean is calling to them.
But the sisters turn up to tatty beaches, basic wooden shacks, a compost toilet and outdoor cold water showers. It turns out that at the last minute Amy decided a conservation project would be much more fun than a luxury resort.
So now Sarah’s battling mosquitoes, trying to stomach fish soup and praying for a swift escape. Life on a desert island though isn’t all doom and gloom. They’re at one with nature, learning about each other and making new friends. And Sarah is distracted by the dishy, yet incredibly moody, island leader she’s sure is hiding a secret.
As an author, choosing names can be one of the most fun aspects of writing or one of the trickiest.
An author can spend hours on baby name generators, or genealogy and history sites to come up with the perfect names―not only for their main characters, but every supporting character, the names of towns, and even fabricated company names. As an author, I’ve even ‘borrowed’ names from my friends, family and former students.
But why is naming so hard? For me, there are a few reasons.
Names are subjective and (often) have personal connotations for the reader
As a former schoolteacher, there are some names that I won’t touch with a barge pole, simply because they elicit memories of difficult students. Those names may be completely innocuous to most readers, but as I’ll spend the most time with my characters, they make the ‘no go’ list.
The same goes for names with varying ‘heat levels’. If I’m naming a sexy love interest, are some names off limits? Is Milo a hot guy’s name or a hot drink from Australia? Where will my readers land on Rupert (no for me) or Henry (yes for me―but only because of Cavill)?
And while I am a huge Keanu fan―and of course there are quite a few Keanu’s out there in the world, especially ones born after The Matrix came out in ‘99―it’s just too evocative of the Keanu that it’s on the ‘no go’ list too.
Names are ‘fashionable’ and ‘unfashionable’
As we know, names go in and out of fashion, with some names circling back onto the ‘fashionable’ list every other decade or so.
After the film, Splash, came out in the mid-80s, the most popular girls’ name for years was ‘Madison’―simply because a mermaid named herself after Madison Avenue in New York. Until then it was just a last name, but it might be perfect for a character born in the 80s.
And writers of historical fiction are limited even further. There probably weren’t (m)any Kylies or Kylos in the 1800s. As an aside, I have so much respect for historical fiction authors―all that research!
Names have to ‘fit’ the character
I’ve heard this from other authors, so I know I’m not the only one to do it, but sometimes I will choose a name for a character and as I am writing, I realise it doesn’t ‘fit’―that they are not an ‘Eleanor’, but more of a ‘Susan’. Of course, this ties back to my first point about names having connotations, but the name must suit the personality of the character, as it is one of the tools an author uses to evoke their characteristics.
In my 4th book, one of the characters is an actor and I’ve given him a stage name―his mother’s maiden name as his first name. And I got her maiden name from researching last names from Oxfordshire. I tried combinations of last names until I got one that just evoked ‘international film star’.
And many authors I know will name the villain or the antagonist after someone they’ve encountered in real life. It makes me wonder if there really was a ‘Hannibal’ in Thomas Harris’s life, when he penned The Silence of the Lambs.
When naming comes easily
Sometimes naming isn’t hard, like when a character arrives in my head (almost) fully formed, including their name. And some names are an homage to someone special.
In my 4th book, there are three main characters―best friends―and all their names begin with ‘L’, Lauren, Lisa, and Lucy. I have special friends with those names and writing their names into a book is a lovely way of honouring them. Even naming minor characters after people I know can a fun way to include them in my work.
So, next time a character’s name lands with you perfectly, or rubs you the wrong way, just know that the author may have agonised over that choice. And ask yourself if it hit or missed the mark because one of the reasons I’ve mentioned here.