Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Interview with Hannah Fielding

Today we're speaking with author Hannah Fielding about her novel BURNING EMBERS.

Welcome to We Do Write, Hannah. Tell us a bit about yourself.

I was born in Alexandria, Egypt, a city founded in the year 332 B.C. by order of Alexander the Great, a Greek king of Macedonia. The rambling house I grew up in was built on a hill facing the Mediterranean, commanding the most breathtaking views of the ever-changing sea, with its glowing sunsets and romantic moonlit nights overlooking a scintillating ocean.

I went to a convent school, and after I graduated with a BA in French literature, my international nomadic years started. I lived mainly in Switzerland, France and England, and holidayed in other Mediterranean countries like Italy, Greece and Spain. After falling in love with my husband, we settled in a Georgian house in Kent where I brought up two children, while looking after horses and dogs and running my own business renovating rundown cottages.

My children have now flown the nest, and my husband and I spend half our time in our Georgian rectory in Kent and the rest in our home in the South of France, where I write novels before spectacular views of the Mediterranean.

How long have you been writing?

Stories and writing have always been part of my life. My father was a great raconteur and my governess used to tell the most fabulous fairy stories – I could listen to them for hours. When I was seven she and I came to an agreement: for every story she’d tell me I would invent one in return. That is how my passion for storytelling began.

At school I consistently received first prize for my essays and my teachers often read them aloud in class. As a teenager I used to write short romantic stories during lessons and circulate them in class, which made me very popular with my peers (but less so with the nuns!). In addition, since a young age I have kept some sort of a diary where I note my feelings, ideas and things that take my fancy (or not).

My grandmother was a published author of poetry and my father published a book about the history of our family, so writing runs in my veins. I guess I always knew that one day I would follow in those footsteps and forge my own path in that field – a subconscious dream which finally came true.

I wrote during my degree, and over the years, while working and bringing up my children, I had several novels on the go.

Tell us about BURNING EMBERS. What’s the story about?

Burning Embers is a contemporary historical romantic novel set in Kenya in 1970.

Coral Sinclair, a young and fiery English photographer, is on her way to Kenya, the land of her birth, to take ownership of Mpingo plantation, a legacy from her recently deceased father.

Handsome and charismatic Rafe de Monfort, a mature French widower and owner of a nightclub and the Whispering Palms plantation, holds a dark secret deep in his heart.

The two meet on board the ship that is taking them both to Kenya, and Coral feels an immediate attraction towards this stranger.

Once in Kenya, Coral discovers that Rafe is her closest neighbour, but she is warned off him by her old nanny. Gossip has it that Rafe is a notorious womaniser who counts among his mistresses Morgana, the dusky night club dancer, and Cybil, Coral’s stepmother with whom it is believed he was having an affair – an affair that might have contributed to her father’s death.

Yet despite herself, Coral finds herself falling in love with this man who shows her only kindness.

What is she to think when a witch doctor tells her that Rafe killed his heiress first wife and that he is now pretending to care for her simply to get his hands on Mpingo? When beautiful Cybil says that Rafe has been her lover for over ten years and Morgana assures her that Rafe will never be hers? What is the secret in Rafe’s past that colours his every move and makes him more vulnerable than Coral could ever imagine?

In this evocative and passionate story set in 1970 against the vivid and colourful backdrop of rural Africa and its culture, the seemingly doomed lovers are sent down a destructive path wrought with betrayal, passion and greed. Will love overcome all obstacles and prevail at the end?

How did the idea of the story come to you?

Burning Embers began not as a story, but as a vivid landscape in my mind. The seed of the ideas was sown many years ago when, as a schoolgirl, I studied the works of Leconte de Lisle, a French Romantic poet of the 19th century. His poems are wonderfully descriptive and vivid – about wild animals, magnificent dawns and sunsets exotic settings and colourful vistas. Add to that my journey to Kenya and Mr Wangai’s enthralling stories and it was impossible for me not to be inspired, and when I put pen to paper, Burning Embers was born.

I have had some of Leconte de Lisle’s beautiful poems translated by a friend Mr John Harding. You can find them on my website at

Do you have a critique group/partner or beta readers, or do you self-edit?

Generally, I self-edit. I go through several phases of editing before I’m finally satisfied with a novel. Then, I pass it to my family to read. I really value their opinion.

Are you a planner or a pantser?

I am a thorough planner. Having researched my facts thoroughly, I plan my novel down to the smallest detail. A writer today has no excuse for not getting his/her facts right. Use all the tools available to you. Travel, internet, books, films, documentaries: they’re all there to enrich your experience and make your writing journey easier. Planning ahead, I have found, makes the writing so much easier and therefore so much more enjoyable.

What’s the hardest part of writing for you?

There is only one challenge when I write a book – reining myself in to stop writing when it is time to go to dinner or get ready for bed! The writing flows out of me, and I so enjoy the process and get so lost in the world I create on paper that it is all too easy to forget about reality.

What do you absolutely have to have nearby when writing?

A thesaurus. My background in French literature has been a blessing. French is sonorous and elaborate and you can’t study the literature without developing a love of words and phrases. I used to spend hours reading a thesaurus, totally engrossed in the nuances of words. Even now, when I am looking up a word, I sometimes find myself absorbed in the subtle shadings of words – and time just flies by.

If you could have any super power, what would it be?

The power to heal people and the violence in the world.

Finish this sentence: If I'm not writing, I'm probably ...

Cooking food for my husband, my children and guests. I love to entertain, and after my writing space, the kitchen is my second home. I particularly like to use fresh produce from my gardens in Kent and France in my cookery – apples and plums, vine leaves, juicy tomatoes. Delicious!

Here’s the part where you thank the people who are supporting you. Let's hear your shout outs.

I would like to tell my fans thank you for the reviews, and that I am delighted that they enjoy my tales and I hope to always live up to their expectations. They should not hesitate to drop me a note at my email address: I am always delighted to hear from readers.

And finally, where can people find you and your book online?

My website:
Goodreads (for reviews of Burning Embers): and (for reviews of Burning Embers)

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