On this quiet Sunday morning why don't you put the kettle on, make your favourite breakfast and settle down for Sunday Brunch with Jaffareadstoo
What favourite food are you bringing to Sunday brunch?
Cheese and avocado on toast. Sometimes with a poached egg on top. That’s my favourite luxury brunch food. I’m not vegetarian, but my daughter is, so we eat a lot of veggie food. I’m passionate about avocados.
Would you like a pot of English Breakfast tea, a strong Americano, or a glass of Bucks Fizz?
At this time of day, I’m going to go for the tea. I’m not a big coffee drinker, to be honest. The Bucks Fizz would be lovely, but even a small amount of alcohol during the day makes me sleepy. Tea it is, then.
Which of your literary heroes are joining us today?
Mmm. I’m not sure if you’re looking for characters or writers here. For characters, I’d like to invite David Powlett-Jones from R. F. Delderfield’s To Serve Them All My Days. I’ve always loved him as a character. If it was a writer, I think I’d probably choose either Dorothy Dunnett or Georgette Heyer, since both of them were huge influences as I was growing up.
What’s the title of the book nearest to you?
I’m laughing at this one, because I got involved in something on social media last week about posting a paragraph from the book closest to me and it was a lengthy paragraph from a book about the Peninsular War which I’m not sure was the aim of the exercise. If I’m at my desk, it will always be a reference book, and today I’m working from volume six of Sir Charles Oman’s History of the Peninsular War. However, on my bedside table, you’ll find The Clouded Hills by Brenda Jagger. I love her books, I read them when I was young and she’s one of the few authors I’ve kept in hard copy all these years. My copies are falling apart, but I’ve decided to start re-reading them all at the moment.
What’s the oldest book on your book shelf?
Probably my Mum’s Bible. It was given to her as a prize at Sunday School in 1940 and I’ve always kept it. If you’re thinking fiction, I have a few of my own books from childhood that I’ve kept. Probably the Shoe Shop Bears by Margaret Baker which I loved, and read to my own children.
Which book do you really want to read but haven’t had time for …yet!
I’d like to read the sequels to Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. I read the first one and really enjoyed it, although it’s not the easiest read. For some reason, I just couldn’t get into the second and it sits abandoned on my shelf. I think for those books you need a long stretch of time and a bit of commitment; I read the first in the sun on a two week holiday. The trouble is that when I’m working on a book, I find it hard to commit much time to something like that. It’s on my list though.
Do you have a guilty reading pleasure, and if so will you tell us about it?
Probably PG Wodehouse, given his apparent political leanings. I don’t care though, his Jeeves and Wooster books are pure comic genius.
If the house was on fire which book would you rescue?
Books, and I’d need a couple of big bags to carry them. Last year, for our 25th wedding anniversary, my husband bought me a bound set of Wellington’s Dispatches. They cost a fortune, and they are my pride and joy. Everybody else would be saving laptops and gadgets or old photo albums, but most of what I value is stored online anyway. I’d be grabbing my dog and my Wellington books.
Do you have a reading/writing playlist on Spotify, or a favourite CD to listen to when reading/writing? And if so will you share with us a favourite song or piece of music that makes you feel happy?
I can’t listen to a lot of music while I’m writing. I’m a great sing-along fan, and if I’m singing along to Abba, I can’t write tragic battle scenes or a touching love scene. And I can’t help myself, if it’s on, I have to sing. So I listen mostly to classical music when I’m writing, or else people like Enya or Clannad. I also love folk music. And some film music can be great. I like Gladiator for battle scenes and Pirates of the Caribbean when I’m writing the navy books.
Do you have a favourite place to settle down to read/write?
I’m lucky enough to have my own study. It overlooks our front garden and I have a sofa and a big armchair if I want to curl up and read. The sofa mostly belongs to Oscar, our black Labrador. I love my study and I love my desk. Sadly, I’m not working there at the moment. My 21 year old son is working from home during the Coronavirus lockdown so I’ve let him have my desk and I’m working upstairs in my husband’s attic office. It’s going well in terms of work, but I do miss my study, it’s one of the things I’m looking forward to getting back at the end of this.
Give us four essential items that a writer absolutely needs?
I think this varies between writers, but trying to generalise, I’d say:
Something to write with - computer, laptop, pen and notebooks
Somewhere quiet to write
At least a small amount of uninterrupted time to write
Research materials, whether it be books or the internet
What can you tell us about your latest novel, or your current work in progress?
I’m currently working on book six of the Peninsular War Saga which is my most popular series and it’s going very well. This book is set during Winter Quarters of 1812-13, when Wellington’s army was recovering from a horrendous retreat from Madrid and Burgos, covered in the previous book.
This is a slightly different book, as it follows two completely separate storylines. The main characters from my fictional army brigade are settled in cantonments, and for once they aren’t being constantly thrown into danger. For a few months we can catch up on the politics of the conflict and the personal lives of some of the main characters. Which doesn’t mean that life is going to be easy for all of them.
Meanwhile, there’s a second storyline, following two of the central characters on a mission to the north of Spain where local partisans are constantly in arms against the French. There is a LOT of action in this part of the tale, which culminates in the horror of the storming of Castro Urdiales by the French in May 1813. When I started to research this book, I’d never heard of this event so it’s been a lot of work, but I think it’s coming out well. The challenge is to weave both storylines together and also to keep the timing right, so that at the end of the book, everybody is where they are supposed to be, ready to march towards Vittoria, which will be the central event of book seven.
Back with her husband and his brigade, Anne van Daan is beginning to recover from her ordeal at the hands of Colonel Dupres as Lord Wellington marches his army into Spain and up to Salamanca. In a spectacularly successful action, Wellington drives the French back although not without some damage to the third brigade of the light division.
Still recovering from their losses at Ciudad Rodrigo and Badajoz earlier in the year, the light division remains in Madrid while Wellington lays siege to Burgos but some of Paul’s brigade have troubles of their own.
Lieutenant Simon Carlyon is determined not to allow his dead brother’s shameful reputation to blight his career in the army but finds it harder than expected to serve under the man who killed him.
Colonel Johnny Wheeler is finding the lie he told to protect others difficult to live with, faced with the unrelenting hostility of a young officer.
Captain Michael O’Reilly’s life is complicated through a casual act of kindness.
The end of the campaigning season does not go as well for the Allied army and triumph turns to an undignified and dangerous retreat. At a time when the discipline of Wellington’s army seems to have broken down, Van Daan’s brigade need to set personal matters aside and concentrate on staying alive long enough to reach safety
Where can we follow you on social media?