Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Festive Frivolity

It's that time of year again - when everything is rushing like crazy and there is so much to do and so little time. I find myself juggling chestnuts and Christmas trees and emails, mince-pies and plotlines, while still trying to get that vital scene down on paper, as well as a belated letter to Aunty Betty in Australia.

But today will be my last day of work, (I can feel my brain muscles dancing with glee!), so tomorrow I can launch myself with a clear conscience into final wrapping and cooking preparations for the arrival of two sons, two daughters-in-law and four cats.

By the way, in the new year Little Brown is setting up an exciting new website for me - the same domain: katefurnivall.com, but there will be changes to the blog. So be prepared. I will let you know more early in January 2012, and post more info on my new book, THE WHITE PEARL, which will be published in UK on 16 Feb and in US on 6 March. .

But right now I want to take a few quiet moments to thank you for your support throughout 2011 and for the comments on my blog which I always read with relish. I wish you all a happy festive season and the very best for the new year. Have fun!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Export Publication of THE WHITE PEARL

Today is special. The export edition of The White Pearl is published in countries worldwide, so I shall soon hear initial reactions and reviews. Always a nervy time. But I was thrilled to hear that in Australia they are doing an interesting offer:- Buy a copy of The White Pearl from any Whitcoulls store and enter a draw to win a Pearl Set from Pascoes Jewellers. Now that's what I call a promotion worth having!

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Inspiration in the Desert

I'm just back from a research trip to Egypt. It was an amazing experience. However many times I had studied pictures of it in books or on TV, nothing prepared me for the impact of stepping into my first ancient Egyptian tomb of a Pharaoh.

It is utterly breathtaking. The artistry, the exquisite beauty of the carvings, the mystery and the sense of timelessness are overwhelming.

Because of the political turmoil in the country at the moment, there are barely any tourists there, so I was privileged to see the great sights of Egypt without jostling crowds or impatient queues in the hot sun. Hatshepsut's temple, Tutankhamun's tomb, Saqqara and Karnak, the glorious antiquities inside the Cairo and Luxor museums, all lie quietly undisturbed by chatter or clicking cameras.

But what turned out to be good fortune for me is of course causing Egypt's economic downfall, as they badly need tourists to return with their dollars and euros. The Egyptian people are warm and welcoming, and I experienced no difficulties of any kind, despite being in Cairo during the protests in Tahrir Square. And I ended the trip with a real highlight - a hot-air balloon flight at dawn over the desert and its treasures. Now I can write my new book with the amazing inspiration and energy I drew from those ancient tombs.

Thursday, 20 October 2011


The summer months flew by in a blur of broken knee, followed by trips to Italy (stunning scenery) and Germany (wonderful wedding), but now I am deep into research for another book - which I am loving. An inside peek for you - it will be set in Egypt.

But that's for the future. The big news at the moment is that my next book, THE WHITE PEARL, will be published in December in large format, and in usual paperback size in February 2012 in the UK and in March 2012 in the US. I am thrilled with the cover which says it all - the sweltering heat of Malaya, a young woman caught up in the danger of enemy airplanes and the passion of a love affair that changes the course of her life forever.

To explore Malaya (yes, I know it's Malaysia now but in 1941 when the book is set, it was called Malaya) was an exciting change after my last three books in Russia. I loved the challenge of learning to understand somewhere completely new to me, a different culture, a different world. I chose Malaya and I chose 1941 because it was a time when this astonishingly beautiful country was poised on the brink of catastrophe and when internal conflicts were preparing to tear the country apart as it tried to throw off the heavy yoke of colonialism.

So what's the story about?

Connie Hadley is my heroine. Warm and passionate but flawed. As the glamorous wife of a plantation owner, her life appears pampered and comfortable. But she is hiding a devastating secret that could destroy her marriage. Her world is blown apart on the day of the infamous attack on Pearl Harbour, when the Japanese army also invades Malaya. Connie takes the decision to flee on the family's yacht, The White Pearl, so she sails with her husband and son and a handful of friends in search of safety. But on the yacht, in constant danger, fear strips away good manners and anger causes divisions until .....

Enough, enough! I won't tell more. Don't want to let spoilers slip out.

This is always a difficult time for an author. The new book hangs in limbo, the writing finished, copyediting done, cover and blurb decided on by the publisher - just waiting for launch day. It's a nervy time. Early pre-publication copies have gone out to reviewers. Which magazines and newspapers will pick it up for review or even an article? And my head is still half in Malaya with Connie, but at the same time I am rummaging around with Howard Carter in Tutankhamun's tomb for the next book.

I try to be patient but I am itching to see THE WHITE PEARL on the bookshelves. Not long now.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

On TWO shortlists!

What a super jamboree the RNA can throw! Champagne at 10 o'clock in the morning in the simply stunning setting of the RAF Club in Piccadilly, London, to announce the RNA Awards shortlist. And what better historical venue in which to be selected for the shortlist for the Best Historical Novel of the Year, as well as for the Best Romantic Novel of the Year.

The Jewel of St Petersburg is flashing its scarlet skirts in celebration.

What I love about meeting other writers is their boundless enthusiasm for their books, like mothers with precocious offspring, which meant the party in the President's Room buzzed with energy. When you get a host of writers, publishers, agents and media together - as well as trayfuls of champagne flutes - you get so much fizz your ears start popping. I think writers just don't get out enough!

I am impressed by the competition that Jewel has to face, a formidable line-up of talent, but I was particularly drawn to a book that for me stood out from the rest - titled Amazir and set in Morocco. It enchanted me. Okay, I admit it might be the gorgeous author, Tom Gamble, who did a bit of the enchanting, but I promise you he's one to watch.

Lunch with my agent afterwards at the V&A gave the celebration even more zip, though the subject of what my Next Book will be about raised its querulous head! But the day belonged to The Jewel of St Petersburg and we raised glasses to wish it success on March 7th when the winners will be announced.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Highlights & Lowlights

The highlight of this week has been the arrival in my son's home of Mishka (see above). She is a 13-week tabby-point Siamese kitten, but as her favourite game is 'fetch' with a fluffy ball and her preferred pastime is hurling herself up and down stairs while barking at full volume, I sense there is some confusion in that triangular little head of hers as to whether she is a cat or a dog!

The highlight of this month - and a great start to 2011 - is that The Jewel of St Petersburg has been longlisted for the RNA's Historical Novel of the Year Award, as well as its prestigious Romantic Novel of the Year Award. The shortlist will be announced in the splendour of the RAF Club in Piccadilly, London on Feb 10th. So watch this space.

And the lowlights? Still struggling with the end of The White Pearl. Endings are tough. I have some theories about this but will save them for a later post, as when I get started on discussing the pitfalls that lie in wait for a writer there is a distinct danger that there is no off-button!

I was recently asked by one delightful but misguided reader if I would offer him some thoughts and insights about writing. No reader should invite an author to hold forth about their thoughts and insights unless they are prepared to sit up all night listening! Writers are consumed by their characters and their stories - it's the only way they can ever get to the end of a book - and though writers try to look and act like normal people, their heads are seething with another life and another place. They sit smiling at you and nodding in the right places but don't be fooled! They learn to be cunning, so that you do not guess that their minds are far away, battling with the blank page that awaits them like a nemesis from their subconscious.

Maybe I'll get to the end of my current book faster if I learn from the kitten. Whatever lurks in the underworld of my mind needs to get out - even if it comes out as strange barks.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

New Year

Happy New Year. It's that time again - an opportunity to get out the new broom, to make a fresh start, another chance to do everything better this time around. As optimism is my default mode, I number myself among that absurdly hopeful band who make new year resolutions and one of them this year is to give more time to my blog.

The problem is that Work and Life have a nasty habit of getting in the way. Towards the end of 2010 Life got in the way big time, disrupting my schedules, so that instead of finishing The White Pearl by Christmas, I have yet again missed my deadline. Which makes me so cross I kick the cat. But now that Life is taking a backseat once more, I am up and running towards the finish of the book.

My publishers at Little,Brown UK and Berkley US have been angels, shifting publication and production dates to accommodate the delay in delivery. Nevertheless I still feel a heel about it. This throws up the temptation to take shortcuts, to reduce the number of scenes, to make them shorter, get to the point faster. Of course this kind of self-editing is no bad thing. It produces a better, pacier book. Altogether more focused. I advise all would-be novelists to practise writing a scene to a time limit because it's amazing what pressure can produce. A different part of the brain kicks in.

Finding the right balance is the difficult part, between thinking time and writing time, but my heroine, Connie, is giving me a quick rap on the knuckles. She's impatient to strut her stuff through Malaya and get out there on the bookshelves for all to see.

My other new year resolution? Not to be a slave to my characters who stomp around my head as if they own the place. I'm threatening them with a new broom!