I'm delighted to welcome Sarah Mallory to our Summer Picnic
Welcome back to Jaffareadstoo, Sarah. Which favourite foods are you bringing to our summer picnic?
Succulent cold salmon accompanied by peppery salad leaves and potato salad. I am sure the weather will be hot so we will only need a light meal, but I will bring some fresh crusty bread, too. For dessert, something light; fresh berries, perhaps, with little pots of zingy lemon posset. A good friend prepared just such a picnic recently and the food tasted heavenly on a balmy summer’s evening.
What would you like to drink? We have white wine spritzers, locally brewed beer, traditional Pimms, sparkling elderflower cordial or a thermos of tea or coffee?
Bubbles! There has to be a glass of bubbles to start off, and yes, elderflower cordial served with sparkling water is a great way to quench the thirst. With the recent hot weather, I like to have plain water in the cool bag, too. And at the end of the meal, if it’s in the evening and the air is growing cooler, a cup of coffee would be lovely, perhaps with some buttery shortbread. Delicious!
Where shall we sit, by the pool, on a beach, in the garden or in the countryside?
I love picnics anywhere and would be very happy for you to choose. When the children were young the beach was favourite, although the sand always gets into the food, no matter how hard one tries to keep it out! Garden picnics are great, because you don’t have far to go if you forget something, whereas taking a picnic into the country is always a bit of an adventure, isn’t it? You never know quite where you will end up - at least, that is my experience. I like to “keep moving on” until I find the perfect spot, which can involve driving for miles! And then there’s the pool… you see, I really cannot decide!
Do we have a wicker hamper, tablecloth and cutlery, or is everything in a supermarket carrier bag?
I love the idea of a wicker hamper and everything elegant, but I can never get everything to fit in! In real life I find a cool box and bags are much more practical. I try not to use carrier bags but hey, if one of my heroes carried me off for an impromptu picnic and we stopped at a supermarket to buy the food I wouldn’t complain. In fact, some of the best picnics happen that way – totally spontaneous.
Which of your literary heroes (alive or dead) are joining us on the picnic today?
Someone lively and entertaining: Lord Peter Wimsey, perhaps. He is urbane, witty and knowledgable – I think he would be great company.
Do you have favourite place to have a summer picnic?
A short walk from my home there is a promontory that looks out towards the Isle of Skye. Sometimes we are even lucky enough to see otters playing at the water’s edge there. When the weather is right (and being the Highlands of Scotland, you have to pick your moments), it is a lovely place to picnic, or even to sit and watch the sun setting, maybe with a wee dram.
Do you have a summer music playlist? And if so will you share with us a favourite song or piece of music that makes you feel happy?
When I am with friends, I like something quiet and instrumental in the background, especially piano music or maybe a solo guitar. That way it doesn’t intrude in the conversation. Music that makes me feel happy? That varies, it can be anything from Disney musicals to folk ballads!
Which summer read are you bringing with you today?
You mean we will stop talking long enough to read??? I am currently re-reading Lesly Cookman’s “Murder at the Laurels.” I love Steeple Martin, the village community she has created in deepest Kent for her cosy crime novels. Perfect summer reading.
When you are writing do you still find time to read for pleasure? And is there a book you would like to read but haven’t had time for …yet!
I try to find time to read for pleasure, although it’s not always possible when I am deep in a book. However, I avoid historicals when I am writing because I always worry the author’s voice rather than my own will creep into my own work. I tend to read crime or non-fiction. There are dozens of books I would like to read, the list just gets longer, but top of the pile at present is Christina Courtenay’s Whispers of the Runes, a dual-time Viking romance.
Where do you find the inspiration for your novels?
It can come from anywhere. The honey-coloured houses of Georgian Bath and the mills of the Yorkshire valleys have both inspired stories for me, as well as the rolling hills of the West Country where I grew up. It was driving through the Highlands of Scotland that inspired The Lairds of Ardvarrick trilogy, set in the 18th century when times were hard and dangerous for everyone. An old house, a sudden breath-taking view or even conversation with a stranger can set up a “what if?” moment, and from that I begin to weave a story. That is always a magical moment.
Have you a favourite place to settle down to write and do you find it easier to write in winter or summer?
I write best in my office with the door shut. It is the one room in the house that doesn’t have a view of the sea, and that was a deliberate choice! I am so easily distracted. Summer or winter doesn’t matter, really. In summer one can be lured away from the desk by a sunny day but the long dark nights in the north of Scotland mean roaring log fires, which are equally appealing to me – I just love to curl and watch the flames.
When writing to a deadline are you easily distracted and if so how do you bring back focus on your writing?
It’s difficult, I admit. I set myself a target of a certain number of words to write each day, but that won’t work when I am researching. I have a timer on my desk I can set for the number of hours I should be working and that helps to focus the mind. It doesn’t always happen, of course. Life has a way of interfering in the best laid plans, but it does help to keep me on track.
Give us four essential items that a writer needs?
A good computer. It can be a laptop or desktop, but these days an author needs to present a professional image, so a typed manuscript is essential. The internet is where most publishing business is conducted these days, so you do need to know a little about that, too. Somewhere to work. It doesn’t have to be an office or desk, although that is where I work best. Some authors I know work from their laptop while sitting on the sofa! It needs to be somewhere you can be comfortable and quiet – so preferably not where people are constantly walking past you. Determination. Books do not write themselves. The initial spark may set you off but then you have to keep going, even when you think what you are writing is rubbish (and most authors get to that point at some stage of their writing). Belief in yourself. Writing is a tough business, there is now more competition than ever before and it is easy to be downhearted. Stay focussed, stay professional.
What can you tell us about your latest novel or your current work in progress?
My latest novel is The Laird’s Runaway Wife, the last of the Lairds of Ardvarrick trilogy, but I am now getting excited about my Christmas-set Regency that it will be published at the end of October. The Duke’s Family for Christmas is about a young man forced to give up his first love and years later discovers he has a son. It’s a heart-warming romance about bringing a family together and I hope it will give readers that lovely, festive feeling.
Grant and Maddie’s marriage had been full of joy, but tragedy has struck and Maddie runs away. When Grant discovers she has joined her father, a dangerous Jacobite sympathizer, he follows her to London, vowing to do whatever it takes to keep her safe.
More about Sarah
Sarah Mallory is an award-winning author of over 50 published books, including more than 30 historical romances for Harlequin/Mills & Boon, and she also writes sparkling adventure romances as Melinda Hammond.
Originally from the West Country, Sarah lived for many years high on the Yorkshire Pennines, but in 2018 she ran away to the Scottish Highlands and now lives by the sea, enjoying a whole new adventure.
Sarah, where can we follow you on social media?
Twitter - @SarahMRomance
Facebook page - Melinda SarahMallory Hammond
Instagram - sarahmallory21
Thank you for sharing your summer picnic with us today.
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