I am delighted to welcome Hannah Fielding back to the blog
to tell us how music inspired her novel
Hannah Fielding is an incurable romantic. The seeds for her writing career were sown in early childhood, spent in Egypt, when she came to an agreement with her governess Zula: for each fairy story Zula told, Hannah would invent and relate one of her own. Years later – following a degree in French literature, several years of travelling in Europe, falling in love with an Englishman, the arrival of two beautiful children and a career in property development – Hannah decided after so many years of yearning to write that the time was now. Today, she lives the dream: she writes full time, splitting her time between her homes in Kent, England, and the South of France, where she dreams up romances overlooking breathtaking views of the Mediterranean.
To date, she has published two novels. Burning Embers
is a vivid, evocative love story set against the backdrop of tempestuous and wild Kenya of the 1970s, reviewed by one newspaper as ‘romance like Hollywood used to make’. The Echoes of Love
is a story of passion, betrayal and intrigue set in the romantic and mysterious city of Venice and the beautiful landscape of Tuscany.
The theme song for Burning Embers
Music is a great source of inspiration for me, whether
classical or modern and in any language. I have a huge repertoire of songs from
all over the world that I listen to while doing my research, and it helps me
create the initial atmosphere for my story. Sometimes I put music on in the
background while I write as well, carefully selected to reflect the mood of the
particular chapter I’m working on.
In Burning Embers, as well as running a prosperous
plantation, Rafe owns a nightclub, The Golden Fish: a high-class, palatial
establishment with a majestic cliff-top location overlooking the tempestuous
ocean. This chapter is charged with emotion – sensuality, jealousy,
frustration. It’s a setting imbued with soul and sexuality, and as I wrote, the
melody of Fausto Papetti’s saxophone provided the perfect romantic ambiance.
Other than Papetti, the music on my Burning Embers playlist
can be grouped as follows:
African music: The Kenyan setting is vivid in the book, and to
really put myself in the place as I wrote I listened to African music. I
especially liked music with a strong drum beat – the natives ne
Coral’s plantation use the drum in the book to signal danger.
Music from the era, 1970: The heroine, Coral, may have come
to live in Kenya, but she has lived for many years in England and, as a woman of
her time, is comfortable in Western culture. So as I wrote I listened to songs
I thought she would listen to, like
Elvis Presley’s ‘Suspicious Minds’, and Smokey Robinson & The
Miracles’ ‘Tears of a Clown’, and Andy Williams’ ‘Can't Help Falling in Love’.
Later, while browsing YouTube, I found the song ‘Burning
Embers’ by singer/songwriter Kendall Payne. It’s soulful and gently lulling,
and once she got to the chorus I was hooked – the lyrics ‘You feel like burning
embers / You feel like coming home / You feel like my forever’ instantly made
me think of Coral and Rafe in my novel Burning Embers.
Burning Embers is now re-released with a beautiful new cover.
Coral Sinclair is a beautiful but naïve twenty-five-year-old photographer who has just lost her father. She's leaving the life she's known and traveling to Kenya to take ownership of her inheritance – the plantation that was her childhood home – Mpingo. On the voyage from England, Coral meets an enigmatic stranger to whom she has a mystifying attraction. She sees him again days later on the beach near Mpingo, but Coral's childhood nanny tells her the man is not to be trusted. It is rumored that Rafe de Monfort, owner of a neighboring plantation and a nightclub, is a notorious womanizer having an affair with her stepmother, which may have contributed to her father's death. Circumstance confirms Coral's worst suspicions, but when Rafe's life is in danger she is driven to make peace. A tentative romance blossoms amidst a meddling ex-fiancé, a jealous stepmother, a car accident, and the dangerous wilderness of Africa. Is Rafe just toying with a young woman's affections? Is the notorious womanizer only after Coral's inheritance? Or does Rafe's troubled past color his every move, making him more vulnerable than Coral could ever imagine?
Though the afternoon sunshine was beginning to fade, the air
was still hot and heavy. Coral was struck by the awesome silence that
surrounded them. Not a bird in sight, no shuffle in the undergrowth, even the
insects were elusive. They climbed a little way up the escarpment over the
plateau and found a spot that dominated the view of the whole glade. Rafe
spread out the blanket under an acacia tree. They ate some chicken sandwiches
and eggs and polished off the bottle of cordial. They chatted casually, like
old friends, about unimportant mundane things, as though they were both trying
to ward off the real issue, to stifle the burning embers that were smoldering
dangerously in both their minds and their bodies.
All the while, Coral had been aware of the need blossoming
inside her, clouding all reason with desire. She could tell that he was
fighting his own battle. Why was he holding back? Was he waiting for her to
make the first move? Rafe was lying on his side, propped up on his elbow, his
head leaning on his hand, watching her through his long black lashes. The
rhythm of his breathing was slightly faster, and she could detect a little
pulse beating in the middle of his temple, both a suggestion of the turmoil
inside him. Rafe put out a hand to touch her but seemed to change his mind and
drew it away. Coral stared back at him, her eyes dark with yearning, searching
The shutters came down. “Don’t, Coral,” Rafe whispered,
“don’t tease. There’s a limit to the amount of resistance a man has.”
A flash of long blue lightning split the sky, closely
followed by a crash of thunder. Coral instinctively threw herself into Rafe’s
arms, hiding her face against his broad chest. She had always had a strong
phobia of thunderstorms. Now she knew why the place had seemed eerie, why there
had been no bird song or insect tick-tocks, no scuffling and ruffling in the
undergrowth. Even though the skies when they entered the valley had not
foretold the electrical storm that was to come, just like with the animals, her
instinct had told her that something was wrong. But she had been too distracted
by the turbulence crackling between her and Rafe to pay attention to the
Rafe, too, was shaken out of his daze and turned his head to
see that the sun had dropped behind the mountain. Dense clouds had swept into
the valley and were hanging overhead like a black mantle.
“Where did that come from? No storm was forecast for today?”
he muttered, jumping up.
There was another tremendous peal of thunder, lightning lit
up the whole glade, and again another crash. Then the heavy drops of rain came
hammering down against the treetops, pouring down through the foliage.
A wind was starting up. Without hesitation, Rafe folded the
blanket into a small bundle and tucked it under his arm. He slung the hamper
over his shoulder, and lifting Coral into his arms, he climbed his way up to
the next level of the escarpment where a ledge of rock was jutting out and
found the entrance to a cave where they could shelter. Coral was shivering. She
tucked her face into his shoulder, her fingers tightly gripping his shirt. She
was completely inert, paralyzed by fear. They were both drenched.
There was no way they would be able to get back to Narok
tonight. Coral knew from her childhood that storms were always long in this
part of the country, and through her panic she prayed that he wouldn’t be
piloting that little plane back in this howling gale. At least here they were
protected from the storm. It was not yet completely dark. Rafe looked around,
still holding her tightly against him. Coral couldn’t herself as she sobbed
“Shush, it’s all right,” he whispered softly in her ear.
“It’s only a storm. By tomorrow morning it’ll all be over.” He brushed her
tears away as more fell. “I’m going to have to set you down for a moment,
Coral. I need to light us a fire and get you out of those wet clothes.”
More about Hannah can be found here: