Now that The Concubine's Secret/The Girl From Junchow is safely fledged and out of the nest, I am able to focus once more on the new book I am writing.
It is the prequel to The Russian Concubine - telling the story of the struggles of Valentina's young life during the glory days of tsarist Russia. The story of how she meets and falls in love with Jens Friis, a red-headed and red-blooded Dane, against the fierce opposition of her parents. At the same time the rumblings of the Revolution are growing louder in St Petersburg, as Tsar Nicholas II, the Imperial Duma and the Social Revolutionaries are at each other's throats.
So as you can see, it's still Russia I am addicted to. I'm having fun writing about a period of extravagant glamour and opulence as a change from the bleak austerity and grey harshness of the Stalinist regime. The tsar's court was an extraordinary hot-bed of intrigues, plots and rampant dissolution that made its UK cousin's court look positively monastic in comparison.
But the book is not going smoothly. I chivy myself with reminders: 'What book ever does?' and 'You've been here before!' Bitter crumbs of comfort. But it doesn't make it any easier. There is always a stage in a book when I get depressed, and right now, this is it. Little worms of doubt burrowing into my brain.
Do readers really think a book just flows out as smooth and creamy as milk from a cow? Don't they realise it's like slitting open your veins and watching your life-blood drip on to each page?