Catching up with Author Kate Smith

A very happy publication day to debut author, Kate Smith, and thank you very much for having me on your blog tour for You’ve Got Mail!

Cover of You've Got Mail, a man and a woman. The woman is holding a phone,

Tell us what inspired you to write You’ve Got Mail?

It was the idea of receiving an anonymous email that sparked the premise of You’ve Got Mail. And the story blossomed from that. I love the romantic story of Cyrano de Bergerac, the writing of love letters anonymously, the pretence of being someone else. So, I toyed with the idea in my head of what would happen if, instead of wooing people anonymously, my main character dumped them instead.

When did you start writing seriously?

I was thirty, had just had my daughter and become a single mum, and I needed an outlet. I wrote a romcom that will never see the light of day (thankfully) and I found the whole process really cathartic. I could give my characters the happily ever after that I was craving in real life, I guess. I had an agent read it and say she loved my style of writing but that the story didn’t have a ‘hook’ so I went away and started on a new project that ended up being You’ve Got Mail.

I work part time as a therapist in social care, so between that and looking after my daughter there’s not a lot of time for writing. But I make sure I give it as much priority as I can.

What do you love most about being an author?

I love getting to know my characters. They tend to have a life of their own and often I find that I’m veering away from my (very loose) plan because they’re having none of it! I also love the hope and joy that writing romance brings. I know that whatever my characters have to deal with they will come out of it with their own happily ever after, and this is comforting for me.

And, especially at the moment as a front-line worker, I love being able to completely switch off from the real world and immerse myself in pure romantic fantasy.  

What are you working on now?

My deal with Orion Dash was a two-book deal, and I have just sent my second romcom manuscript to my agent and editor. So, while I wait for the feedback on that one (I’m not sure I can give you any more details yet) I am finishing up a third romcom manuscript I started during lockdown 1.0! Watch this space!

What do you hope readers will take away from You’ve Got Mail?

I would love readers to grow with Gracey, my main character. To be with her on her journey of discovery as she learns she’s more than the sum of what others think of her. But mostly, I would love readers to enjoy the book and the escape it hopefully provides; with a little laughter along the way.

This sounds fabulous. Here’s more about the book:

It’s been fun, but I think we should stop seeing each other. Thanks for a great laugh x

When Grace Wharton is dumped by email from a relationship she isn’t even in, she adds it to the list of ways her life hasn’t quite panned out: twenty-five, single, and working a dead-end job she doesn’t enjoy. She fires off an angry response to Mr Obnoxious – how dare he try to dump someone over email?! – knowing that telling off a random stranger online means she has reached an all-time low.

Everything changes when her boss asks her to go to a big sales conference to secure an important client. Her partner is Jack Lockett, company Casanova and Grace’s long-time crush. What’s more, he seems very interested… But Mr Obnoxious keeps sending her emails and Grace keeps replying. Only to make sure he doesn’t send any more heart-breaking emails, obviously.

Grace’s life has suddenly gone from stagnant to brimming with possibilities. But is it all too good to be true?

A witty, charming and all too relatable debut romcom, You’ve Got Mail is perfect for fans of Sophie Ranald, Mhairi McFarlane and Joanna Bolouri.

Where can you get it?

Amazon UK | Amazon US | Amazon AU | Kobo | Nook

More about Kate:

Kate Smith smiling woman seated in a garden

Kate Galloway Smith is a writer, editor, and an HCPC registered Occupational Therapist.

A member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Kate can be found writing romantic comedies in Norwich, where she lives with her daughter and their cat and an increasing number of house plants.

You’ve Got Mail is her debut.

A love letter to Australia

This was my love letter to Australia before a pandemic hit.
It’s still true.
We should still change the date.
We should not honour bigots and media autocrats with national honours.
We are still, on the whole, here for each other, both proud and ashamed and (mostly) resolute to change, to be our best selves, our best country.
At times we are hopeless, but almost always hopeful, with a sharp eye focused on a better future.
We have stayed at home to save lives, we have grieved those we’ve lost, and we are hopeful of a vaccine that will open up our world again.
We have wept for a ravaged land, hopeful of recovery but mourning loss of flora and fauna, some species gone forever.
We have stood up against injustice and, from afar, have watched our brothers and sisters across the world in their own suffering, hopeful of change that must come.

We have survived.
We will thrive again.
We will see you again.
We are Australia.

Off the Beaten Track

It is Australia Day 2020. January 26th is a contentious date, because it marks the arrival of the First Fleet―the first European settlers who arrived in Australia in 1788.

Of course, by commemorating this date, Australia ignores that in 1788 we were already populated by hundreds of nations of Indigenous Australians forming the world’s oldest civilisation. January 26th marks the date of an invasion and the beginning of a genocide.

This post isn’t about whether or not we should change the date of Australia Day, although we absolutely should. This post is a love letter to my home, my country, my Australia.

My Australia

My Australia is the person at the tram stop who sees that you’re lost and points you in the right direction with a smile. My Australia is the person at the party who draws the introverts into conversation, and makes sure everyone is heard. My Australia…

View original post 476 more words

Catching up again with Author Fiona Leitch

It is with great pleasure that I welcome fellow Renegade Author, Fiona Leitch to Off the Beaten Track, especially as it is publication day for the first book in her new cozy mystery series with One More Chapter! Let’s learn more about Murder on the Menu and the new series!

Cover of Murder on the Menu. Wedding cake in the foreground with a sharp knife sticking out of it. In the background, the coastline of Cornwall.

Tell us what inspired you to write Murder on the Menu?

I love murder mysteries that are cozy, without being either too graphic or, at the other end of the scale, too twee. I love ‘Midsummer Murders’ on the telly and I wanted to see if I could create something similar. But it would have to include three things I love: a great location, a strong female protagonist, and warmth and humour. I used to live in Cornwall and it is truly beautiful, but it’s also not always an easy place to live, what with lack of work and just being so cut off from the rest of the country. So I wanted to write about it, but not just as some glorious seaside town where the sun always shines.

I wanted a detective who’s not a complete bumbling amateur. Someone who could cut corners and not be tied to working within the law, as the police would be, but who isn’t constantly just stumbling over clues; she has to work for it. Ex-copper, Jodie, might be unorthodox, but she knows what she’s doing. She also knows how to rustle up a three-course meal for 100 people and make a banging Victoria sponge.

And finally, I wanted my protagonist to be warm, relatable and human. Jodie has responsibilities, she has a daughter and an elderly mother (and a dog!). She’s made mistakes in her love life and she may well make more. Then again, she may choose more wisely this time…

When did you start writing seriously?

I’ve been writing for years. I started out writing screenplays, which were always on the verge of being The One to break out … I had meetings with producers, got shortlisted a couple of times for the BBC Writersroom scheme, was a finalist in a big screenplay contest – but it never quite happened.

And then in 2017 I was persuaded to turn one of my screenplays into a novel. I’d always resisted writing a book, as there just seemed to be too many words! But once I started, I loved it. That novel, Dead in Venice, was picked up by Audible as one of their Crime Grant finalists. It came out in 2018, and that was when I realised I might actually be able to do this for a living.

What do you love most about being an author?

The same thing that I love about being a reader – the ability to escape into someone else’s life for a while! I get a little bit obsessed with my characters. They feel like real people to me, and I’m almost bereft when I get to the end of the book because it feels like I’m saying goodbye to them. Luckily, I can always write another adventure for them!

What are you working on now?

I’m currently working on the outlines for what I hope will be the next three Nosey Parker books. I love writing about Jodie and her friends. I’ve also got three romcoms outlined AND I want to write another book in the Bella Tyson series (Dead in Venice is book 1), so you could say I’m pretty busy.

What do you hope readers will take away from Murder on the Menu?

That a ‘cozy’ mystery doesn’t have to be twee or talk down to the reader, and that it can be well written. I think cozy mysteries, while massively popular among readers, have something of a poor reputation among book snobs. What they don’t seem to realise is that some of our best-selling and most critically acclaimed writers – Agatha Christie, MC Beaton and Alexander McCall Smith to name but three – could easily be categorised as cozy mystery writers.

More about Murder on the Menu

A sparklingly delicious confection to satisfy the mystery reader’s appetiteHelena Dixon, bestselling author of the Miss Underhay Mysteries

Still spinning from the hustle and bustle of city life, Jodie ‘Nosey’ Parker is glad to be back in the Cornish village she calls home. Having quit the Met Police in search of something less dangerous, the change of pace means she can finally start her dream catering company and raise her daughter, Daisy, somewhere safer.

But there’s nothing like having your first job back at home to be catering an ex-boyfriend’s wedding to remind you of just how small your village is. And when the bride, Cheryl, vanishes Jodie is drawn into the investigation, realising that life in the countryside might not be as quaint as she remembers…

With a missing bride on their hands, there is murder and mayhem around every corner but surely saving the day will be a piece of cake for this not-so-amateur sleuth?

Where you can buy Murder on the Menu

Amazon UK | Amazon US | Amazon AU | Kobo | Nook

More about Fiona

Fiona Leitch is a writer with a chequered past. She’s written for football and motoring magazines, DJ’ed at illegal raves and is a stalwart of the low budget TV commercial, even appearing as the Australasian face of a cleaning product called ‘Sod Off’. After living in London and Cornwall she’s finally settled in sunny New Zealand, where she enjoys scaring her cats by trying out dialogue on them. She spends her days dreaming of retiring to a crumbling Venetian palazzo, walking on the windswept beaches of West Auckland, and writing funny, flawed but awesome female characters.

Fiona is represented by Lina Langlee at the North Literary Agency.

Follow Fiona

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Thanks so much, Fiona! No doubt Murder on the Menu will fly off the shelves!

Catching up with Author Andreina Cordani

Very excited to welcome Andreina to Off the Beaten Track on the publication day for her intriguing first novel, The Girl Who… Welcome Andreina and huge congrats on your publication day!

So, tell us what inspired you to write The Girl Who…

I was in a features meeting at the women’s magazine I was working for – the editor was talking about a child who had been a victim of crime years ago. Her face had been on the front of every newspaper, she’d won awards for bravery, been the subject of a couple of books and by then would have been about eighteen years old. It suddenly struck me how impossible it would be to grow up in a situation like that, with the whole world thinking you’re an angel/martyr/inspiration. You woudn’t be free to make the usual teen mistakes, to decide for yourself who you are. So that’s where the idea started – it kind of got darker along the way.

When did you start writing seriously?

I always knew I wanted to write books, but when I left university I didn’t feel qualified somehow, so I trained in journalism thinking that, at least, I could hone my writing skills while I waited for inspiration to strike. In a way it was a good move – I learned so much from my interviewees and the amazingly talented people around me – but it also meant I took my eye off the writing ball a bit. Then a few years ago I suddenly realised that if I didn’t do it now – right this minute – I’d never do it. I had to step back from my career to give myself the mental space and time to do it. My bank manager is not so happy about this, but I feel much better for it.

What do you love most about being an author?

As a journalist I wrote within very stringent requirements – producing x-amount of words based on hard facts and designed to appeal to a very specific set of readers. Now I love being in charge of the story and creating characters from scratch. Of course, I work closely with my editor and change things as needed but it’s a much more flexible process. I really enjoy it and hope I get to keep doing it!

What are you working on now?

I’ve just delivered book two to my editor and while writing it I learned so much more about twists and turns… and planning. Definitely more planning next time. So now I’m doing outlines for book three – it’s the fun stage where all sorts of possibilities are swimming through my head, where the idea could morph into pretty much anything. That’s always exciting.

What do you hope readers will take away from The Girl Who…?

I think a lot of what I write is about understanding people in impossible situations, often under the glare of a media spotlight. These days I think we all understand that what we see in the news and online is only one part of the truth, I’m hoping that this book helps people think about that even more.

More about The Girl Who…

The girl who… survived
The girl who… inspires
The girl who… has something to hide

People can’t bring themselves to say what happened to her. They just describe her as ‘the girl who… you know…’. But nobody really knows, no one sees the real Leah.

Leah is the perfect survivor. She was seven years old when she saw her mother and sister killed by a troubled gang member. Her case hit the headlines and her bravery made her a national sweetheart: strong, courageous and forgiving.

But Leah is hiding a secret about their deaths. And now, ten years later, all she can think of is revenge.

When Leah’s dad meets a new partner, stepsister Ellie moves in. Sensing Leah isn’t quite the sweet girl she pretends to be, Ellie discovers that Leah has a plan, one she has been putting together ever since that fateful day. Now that the killer – and the only one who knows the truth – is being released from prison, time is running out for Ellie to discover how far Leah will go to silence her anger . . .

Where can you get it?

Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Amazon US | Waterstones | UK Bookshop | Hive

More about Andreina

When she was at school, Andreina Cordani used to get out of gym class by saying she would use the time to write a book and dedicate it to her gym teacher. Sadly it took years of exercise-dodging before she was able to complete The Girl Who…, and she hasn’t been able to touch her toes since 2002.

In the following years, she pursued a career in journalism, working for women’s magazines including Cosmopolitan and Good Housekeeping. Specialising in ‘real life’ stories, she interviews seemingly ordinary people about their extraordinary lives – most of which you wouldn’t believe if you read it in a novel.

She lives on the Dorset coast with her family where she reads voraciously, watches YouTubers with increasing fascination and swims in the sea.

Follow Andreina

Twitter | Instagram | TikTok: @acordanixo

Thank you, Andreina, and all the best for your new release. No doubt it will fly!

Catching up with Author Davina Stone

I am very excited to welcome Davina Stone to Off the Beaten Track today, especially as it is publication day for her debut novel, The Alice Equation! I have been fortunate to read an early copy and absolutely loved it. Here’s my review on Goodreads.

Tell us what inspired you to write The Alice Equation?

I love the idea of how love can change us, make us a better version of ourselves. So it started with Alice, the painfully shy bookworm and her unrequited love for her charming but womanising friend, Aaron. And it grew from there. In fact it went through a complete rewrite before either Alice or Aaron (particularly Aaron, he kept behaving very badly), were ready to be introduced to the world!

When did you start writing seriously? 

I’ve always written stories and I won a prize in a young writers competition with a novel I wrote when I was twelve. (Painstakingly hand-written it was called Grandpapa’s Secret, and was all rather “gothic”  if I remember rightly.) But I can pin-point when it became serious. I was diagnosed with a large hole in the heart four years ago. I had to undergo open heart surgery and that was a wake-up call that life is short and we need to live our dreams. I’d always wanted to write romance so I closed my health counselling business, my husband and I moved  away from the city to a bush block near Margaret River and I focussed “whole-heartedly” on my goal of becoming a writer.

What do you love most about being an author? 

The wonderful quirky characters my mind comes up with. I love sending them out to play, watching them tie themselves – and each other – in knots, then helping them fathom out how to get to their Happily Ever After. When you write romance the world you build is a world of emotion and the five senses. Nothing is more intense than truly falling in love. And that’s probably what I  enjoy about it most of all.

What are you working on now? 

I’ve just finished the second book in the series, about Alice’s best friend, Polly. It’s more enemies to lovers, because Polly is very feisty, and Solo her love interest, well, let’s just say he’s got some secrets in his past he’s running from. The Polly Principle will release in April 2021. And I’m now working on the third book, The Felicity Theory which is set in London and Sydney, two of my favourite cities.

What do you hope readers will take away from The Alice Equation?

I hope it leaves a smile on their face. It may sound a very simple goal, but I really just want to write stories that make people happy. Because we need a whole heap more happiness in the world right now, and I reckon writing romances is the best way I can contribute to that.

About Davina

Davina Stone writes romances about flawed but lovable characters who get it horribly wrong before they finally get it right. They also kiss a fair bit on the way to happily ever after. Davina grew up in England, before meeting her own hero who whisked her across wild oceans to Australia. She has now lived half her life in both countries, which makes her a hybrid Anglo-Aussie.

When not writing she can be found chasing kangaroos off her veggie patch, dodging snakes, and even staring down the odd crocodile. But despite her many adventures in her heart, she still believes that a nice cup of tea fixes most problems – and of course, that true love conquers all.

Davina’s short stories have been published in five Romance Writers of Australia anthologies. Her first novel, The Alice Equation was a finalist in the 2020 Valerie Parv Awards. Her second novel, The Polly Principle (release April 2021), took second place in The Romance Writers of Australia 2020 Ripping Start Competition.

Follow Davina

Facebook | Instagram | Website

More about The Alice Equation

Alice Montgomery’s life is like Groundhog Day. Five years after graduating, she’s still working in her mum’s bookshop, hiding her stash of romance novels under the bed and pining for the gorgeous guy who helped her over a panic attack before her final uni exam.

Aaron Blake loves to party – hard. His idea of commitment to anything other than his legal career is strictly three months. Until landing a job with the most prestigious – but conservative – law firm in town means he has to convince the partners he’s deeply committed to family values.

Aaron needs a fake date fast – and who could be safer than his bookish friend Alice?

Soon Alice finds herself dating her secret crush, sporting a daring new look of vintage frocks and itsy-bitsy lace lingerie.

Now the heat is notching up. Aaron’s feelings for his fake date are proving anything but safe, and Alice is discovering her inner sex-goddess.

But when secrets are revealed and lies uncovered, both Alice and Aaron will have to work out the hardest equation of all… what this crazy thing called loved is all about.

Author confession: Okay, things do get a bit hotter than kissing. Heat level: 3–4 sizzling flames.

Where can you get The Alice Equation?

Amazon AU | Amazon US | Kobo | Books2Read

A year to remember

I created this meme several months ago and it turned out to be a perfect foil for the despondency I felt when the Premier of Victoria announced that we were going into the strictest pandemic lockdown in the world ― and not for a pre-determined amount of time, but (seemingly) indefinitely, until we reached zero cases for two solid weeks.

It seemed impossible ― impossible ― that we would ever achieve such a lofty goal, something no other city, region, state, or country had achieved after having such a proportionately high number of daily cases of COVID-19.

Like many others, I felt trapped, claustrophobic in my home, my city, even in the state of Victoria. I started house-hunting online, seeking a rental property in coastal and/or regional Australia ― for when they let us out.

But as we emerged from Winter, as the days started to get longer, and as we started to see results from our compliance with the newly-enacted laws, hope started to show its face again.

I had some saving graces during this time, aspects of my life for which I am extremely grateful, and I wanted to share those with you. I do want to say that I write this post knowing exactly how fortunate Ben and I are. Throughout 2020, we have remained healthy, our loved ones are (as I write this) safe and healthy, despite many of them living in hot zones, such as the UK and the US, and we retained our income and, subsequently, our home.

Space

Our apartment is in an older building in downtown Melbourne (older meaning 15+ years) and that means an expansive floorplan and enough separate spaces for two people to cohabitate 24/7 for months on end without getting (too much) in each other’s way.

I have a super splodge work station for my day job and writing (I commandeered the guest room after realising we would have exactly zero guests for the rest of the year), and we have a stunning view (2 angles, 2 different times of the day).

Exercise

I need to exercise ― it is critical to my mental wellbeing and with our gyms closed and time outside limited (or just super shitty weather in the dead of Winter), I relied on home workouts and riding my spin bike (so glad I bought it in March!). I’d tee up back seasons of The Great British Bake Off and ride and ride and ride ’til I was a sweaty mess. Pure escapism. And when I ran out out of British Bake Off I watched the Aussie version. When I ran out of that, onto the Canadians. Oddly, it’s highly motivating to cycle while watching people make cake. Don’t ask me why.

When the gym opened back up, I was there ― mask and all.

Date night

Once we realised we would be in lockdown for months, not weeks, we committed to a weekly date night. When you can’t leave the apartment, this means dressing in nice clothes (and makeup for me), putting on some music, cooking something special or ordering in from a local restaurant, opening a nice bottle of wine, and eating at the table (how novel!).

Date nights reminded us that although we saw each other all day every day, we are still each other’s person. He’s the love of my life, the man who makes me think and smile and laugh out loud, who thinks of me and cares for me and lets me do the same for him. I chose him and he chose me and that doesn’t go away, no matter how much time we spend together.

(I love you, babe)

Getting out and about

We were allowed out. We could walk together for up to an hour a day (with masks). We could bike ride (without masks!). And at one point, we could have a socially distanced picnic in the park with our besties. And we took those opportunities to get outside, breathe fresh air, get a different perspective, and just be out. And, I have to say, our ‘hood, Docklands, is just gorgeous, which is great food for the soul.

Consuming creative content

People are clever ― really clever ― and a massive saving grace for me this year has been watching, listening, and reading other people’s creations (and not just Bake Off). I’ve watched entire television series from the beginning ― new, new to me, and old faves. I’ve watched films, concerts, plays, documentaries, and cast reunions. I’ve listened to podcasts, concerts, pop, classical, rock, techno ― really, just name it. And I have read a few dozen books this year ― mostly chicklit, some histfic, and (my fave) crime thrillers.

Busy, busy, busy!

For me, this year was not a time for much introspection. Perhaps 2021 will bring me the mental and emotional space to look inwards, but as well as voraciously consuming content, I’ve been creating it. I’ve published 3 books since the start of lockdown (including all the editing, marketing, and social media that go along with publishing a book). I’ve finished a work-in-progress and have nearly finished a book I started in August (my 5th and 6th books).

For me, lockdown meant ‘head down’. I threw myself into my work ― the ultimate distraction from a world on fire. I know this was not the case for a lot of authors, but for someone unwilling to spend much time on proper introspection (something I tend towards when the world is not on fire), it was an excellent panacea. With my fulltime job in online learning (and didn’t our industry pick up exponentially this year?) and authoring, it was typical for me to be at my desk 12 hours a day and most of the day on weekends. Work was an excellent distraction.

Publication day celebrations:

I’m in WA now (Western Australia), where we’ve been fortunate enough to travel to for the holidays. Spending time with our family and friends in my home state has been our ultimate reward for what has been an unforgettable year.

And when they ask how we survived it, there is one simple answer: together.

The Christmas Swap #OMCReadalong with One More Chapter

Very excited to announce that The Christmas Swap has been chosen as One More Chapter’s holiday read-along book from December 8-11.

How can you join in on the fun?

Grab a copy of the book today, mark your calendar, and follow the hashtags and posts on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

There will be an Instagram live event on December 11, as well as quizzes, challenges, sharing of Christmas traditions, reviews, Q&As and much more!

So if you love all things Christmas, sign up or mark your calendar today!

One More Chapter on Twitter | One More Chapter on Instagram | One More Chapter on Facebook

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Book bloggers, sign up here:

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The Christmas Swap Blurb

Chloe, Jules, and Lucy meet at a Maui resort kids’ club, aged 11, forging a lifelong friendship spanning two decades and three continents.

Twenty-two years later, they decide to swap Christmases, none of them expecting the hilarity and romantic escapades that will ensue.

Chloe from Melbourne spends her Christmas with Lucy’s mum and dad in a sleepy village in Oxfordshire, England, stunned to the core when she discovers who grew up across the road from Lucy.

Lucy, who has jetted off to snowy Colorado for her dream-come-true white Christmas, is taken into the fold of Jules’s loud and brash family, discovering more about herself in a few short days than she has in years.

And Jules leaves the cold climes of Colorado to spend a balmy ‘Orphan’s Christmas’ with Chloe’s friends in Melbourne, finding that time away from her mundane life is just what she needed.

Join these three lovable women as they each get a Christmas to surpass their wildest dreams.

Buy Links

Amazon AU | Amazon UK| Amazon US | Kobo | Dymocks(AU) | Booktopia(AU) | A&R(AU) | Waterstones(UK) | Foyles(UK)

Paperback out now in the UK and coming soon to other countries.

CHRISTMASSY :: Q&A :: Sandy Barker

With huge thanks to Bookish Bron for having me!

BookishBron

A couple of years ago I did a little series of Q&As with authors where we talked about books and Christmas. It was so much fun that this year I’ve decided to bring them back!

First up to chat Christmas with me is the lovely Sandy Barker. Sandy has a new novel out called The Christmas Swap – it has been my favourite Christmassy read so far this year (you can see my review here). Here’s the blurb for The Christmas Swap – read on for our chat.

Chloe, Jules, and Lucy meet at a Maui resort kids’ club, aged 11, forging a lifelong friendship spanning two decades and three continents.
Twenty-two years later, they decide to swap Christmases, none of them expecting the hilarity and romantic escapades that will ensue.
Chloe from Melbourne spends her Christmas with Lucy’s mum and dad in a sleepy village in Oxfordshire…

View original post 1,194 more words

Where I was when Princess Diana died

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.

Image by Mario Testino

Someone on the tour said, ‘This will be our Kennedy.’ That was true then and still is today.

Cover Reveal x3 for Fiona Leitch!

I am very excited to be part of the cover reveals for Fiona Leitch’s upcoming cosy mystery series with One More Chapter.

Here’s the series blurb

Ex-copper turned caterer Jodie ‘Nosey’ Parker returns home to Penstowan, the small seaside town in Cornwall where she grew up, after almost twenty years in London’s Metropolitan Police Force. With her teenage daughter in tow, and her slightly batty mother still living there, Jodie plans on having a quiet life running her new catering business.


But she soon discovers that life in Penstowan is not as quaint (or boring) as she remembers. Missing brides, bodies in the shrubbery, annoying writers pushed off cliffs and movie star madness all conspire to get this not-so-amateur detective back on the case. Helped by her old childhood sweetheart Tony and hunky newcomer, DCI Nathan Withers, not to mention new member of the family Germaine the Pomeranian dog, finding the killer is bound to be a piece of cake. Murder, mayhem and much consuming of pasties will ensue, to prove that when Jodie’s around, murder is always on the menu…

And check out these covers!

I’ve read Murder on the Menu and it is BRILLIANT. You’re gonna love this series. Clever, funny, pacey and yes, even romantic!

Buy links:

Murder on the Menu | A Brush With Death | A Sprinkle of Sabotage

And you can grab Fiona’s (brilliant) Bella Tyson books here:

Dead in Venice | Murder Ahoy! | Murder at the Grotto (Bella Tyson short)