If books be the food of love….read on…

Travelling can be both hungry and thirsty work, so what better way to indulge your cravings and discover a new cuisine along the way than by picking up a book and delving into its delectable aromas and flavours…

MAP-FOOD

FOOD – Street food in Mumbai

The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra – Mumbai (Bombay) – India – Vaseem Khan

elephantInspector Ashwin Chopra  is due to retire this very day from the Mumbai police department so he’s not expecting to have any more cases to solve before he goes. But then two mysteries fall right into his lap – luckily not literarily as one of them is a baby elephant. The first mystery however is a drowned little boy whose death is suspicious and who no one seems bothered to solve.

But Chopra is not having any of it, and last day or not, he’s going to get to the bottom of it. So he trawls the city of Mumbai looking for clues –  with a baby elephant named Ganesh as his sidekick..

Foodie kicks

Cuppa and a curry with the author – https://thebooktrail.wordpress.com/2015/09/16/vaseem-khan-talks-elephants-food-and-mumbai/

This is a  Mumbai which is sweaty, noisy, chaotic, vibrant and teaming with a number of characters and colours. Street food vendors stand on street corner peddaling their wares. The busy, complex aromas of the city are all around, the noise,hustle and bustle of dishes being prepared and tastebuds salvating in readiness for a meal to remember. Chopra his food as a ritual since he has an aversion to ginger – it’s these little quirks that made me picture the man as if he was stood right beside me.

FOOD: Haggis in Edinburgh

edinbThe Strings of Murder – Edinburgh 1888 – Oscar de Muriel

Edinburgh, 1888. A violinist is murdered in his home. In his locked practice room whilst the sound of several musicians played in the night. Who could have got in the room whilst it was locked? And who would want to kill a violinist?

Meanwhile in London, the city is awash with panic over the Ripper murders and so Scotland Yard sends Inspector Ian Frey to investigate under the cover of a fake department specializing in the occult. However, Frey’s new boss, Detective ‘Nine-Nails’ McGray, actually believes in such supernatural nonsense.

Just who or what is crawling the dark dank streets of Edinburgh?

Foodie moments

A cuppa and a cake with the author-

https://thebooktrail.wordpress.com/2015/04/22/cuppa-and-some-scottish-shortbread-with-oscar-de-muriel-the-strings-murder/

Whoah – this side of Edinburgh is not one you’ll have seen before. It’s not the bustling bright city it is now but one of darkness, the occult, violins played by the devil, a devils sonata and if Inspector Frey is to be believed, bad bad food and even worse weather…

The policeman from the south has trouble finding decent food to eat in the city he says but eventually is told he should try the haggis.Well, if haven’t tried it yet, read this book and then taste it. Go on…

FOOD: Cassoulet from a French villlage

The Fogas Chronicles

Julia Stagg

It’s off to France now to meet Julia Stagg, who brings food into all of her French set novels…

https://thebooktrail.wordpress.com/2014/04/06/cuppa-and-a-cake-with-julia-stagg/

L’Auberge

aubergeSet in Fogas, A fictional village  in the French pyrenees, this is a story of an English couple, Paul and Lorna, moving in to a rural French community and trying as best they can to fit in. Fogas is a village you want to happen upon and stay for a while such is its charm despite it being more rural than rural itself –

 There was no shop, no bar and even La Poste had been sensible and placed the commune post office in La Riviere. So apart from the cluster of houses which formed the village and the old communal washbasin with its continually running tap, Fogas was simply the base for the town hall

 

Foodie moments

In the first book , L’Auberge…

The young English couple have just bought the local Auberge, much to the horror of the locals who fear the English and their cooking in particular.

 

‘The Auberge has been sold to an outsider’

‘But why is a given that the restaurant will fail just because they are foreigners?’ demanded Christian

‘Because,’ Pascal relied in his lofty manner, ‘the new owners are English!’

Then the adventures continue with The French Postmistress, the Parisians return and a Fete to remember….

A French village offers baguettes, cheese and good old fashioned local grub. Ah the antics of these people will make you laugh but it’s the local cuisine, the French way of eating and the mountain setting which will have you salvating over French fayre. The books all feature the famous French dish of Cassoulet and ah you just have to try it! Julia Stagg the author used to work in a French auberge and so her observations on the food and drink of a French village are spot on.

So whether you are hungry for food in Mumbai, want to try some haggis in Scotland or eat the best Cassoulet this side of the Pyrenees, just pick up one of these three books and tuck in.

Bon appetit!

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Vaseem Khan talks elephants, food and Mumbai…

I’m off to meet a man about an elephant today. Yup, you read that right. I am currently sitting in an Indian restaurant, with the fragrances of the food and drink wafting all around me waiting for Vaseem Khan – the author of The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra. vaseem-with-book-copySuddenly there is a loud trumpeting sound – Vaseem’s taxi? As I approach the door, an elephant bedecked in jewels comes lumbering around the corner before stopping right infront of me. Truck uncoils and a man slides down and announces himself – Hello he says. Vaseem Khan at your service. 

Well with that novel approach (never have I had an author arrive by elephant) I just have to start firing away with the questions straight away.

You create a vivid picture of the sights and sounds of Mumbai. Can you tell us a little more about Chopra’s city?

Mumbai is an eternal city. It is constantly changing but its soul will always remain quintessentially Indian. The city was once a series of seven islands occupied for millennia by Koli fisherman until the Portuguese established a trading centre there in 1534 and called it Bom Bahia or ‘Good Bay’ from whence the name Bombay is derived. A century later the Portuguese gifted the territory to King Charles II of England as part of the dowry of Catherine of Braganza. Charles promptly leased the islands to the East India Company which transformed the disparate islands into a city. By the end of the 1700s Bombay, with its deepwater port and established trade routes, was the ‘Gateway to India’. In 1995 Bombay was rechristened, after Mumbadevi, the stone goddess of the original Koli fishermen.

Today 20 million live in the city. Is it any wonder that Mumbai is a non-stop assault on the senses? People’s lives are a blend of modern and traditional sensibilities – Mumbai, like most metros in India, is facing a cultural onslaught from westernisation – which brings both good and bad, as I describe in my novel. But most people are still very wedded to their ancient culture. What is a constant is how warm and friendly everyone is.

How did you think about having an elephant in your story?

The book comes to life! (C) the booktrail
The book comes to life! (C) the booktrail

You could say that the elephant was born on my first day in India. I remember vividly walking out from Bombay airport in 1997, aged 23, into a wall of sizzling hot air. The first thing I saw set the scene for me – a group of lepers and beggars milling about the taxi rank. At the first traffic junction we stopped at there was a thumping on the window. I turned to see a tall well-built gentleman in a sari. My first eunuch. I turned back to the road and there, lumbering through the traffic as cool as you please, was an enormous grey Indian elephant with a mahout on its back. This surreal sight stuck with me and eventually became a part of the novel I wrote when I returned to England ten years later.

When you think about it, elephants make great crime fighters – they are intelligent, have great memories and display a range of emotions, which is important to me as a writer as the dynamic between Ganesha and Inspector Chopra is a key aspect of the novel, adding much charm and humour.

To discover more read my blog piece: “What makes an elephant a great sidekick for a crime novel?’: https://blog.sainsburysebooks.co.uk/what-makes-an-elephant-a-great-sidekick-for-a-crime-novel/

Can you tell us more about Ganesha?

Ganesha is a one-year-old baby Indian elephant. He is sent to Chopra by his long lost uncle Bansi. But Bansi doesn’t reveal why he is sending him an elephant or anything about Ganesha’s background. This is a mystery that will be revealed slowly over the course of the book and series. Bansi does say – in a letter – that Ganesha ‘is no ordinary elephant’. These words gradually prove prophetic as Chopra discovers there is more to little Ganesha than meets the eye.

When Ganesha first turns up he is very despondent. But we soon see his real personality emerge. He is adorable, of course, but also tenacious, determined, mischievous and adventurous – he is a child, after all. As well as helping Chopra he will be getting into a few scrapes of his own!

elepahant

What next do you have planned for Chopra and Ganesha?

Well, Chopra and Ganesha are just getting started! I have just completed their second adventure, ‘The Perplexing Theft of the Jewel in the Crown’ which is about the theft of the world’s most famous diamond – the Kohinoor, which was originally mined in India and then given to Queen Victoria during the Raj. The Kohinoor is currently part of the British Crown Jewels. In the novel the Crown Jewels have been brought to India for a special exhibition. A daring robbery sees the Kohinoor stolen and Chopra and Ganesha called in to try and recover the great diamond.

After that Chopra and Ganesha will be on the trail of a kidnapped Bollywood star, and then in the fourth episode they will be travelling outside of Mumbai to Chopra’s native village in Punjab, North India, to try to unravel the mystery of Ganesha’s origins and the disappearance of Chopra’s Uncle Bansi.

My aim is to showcase different parts of India as the series progresses. India is really a collection of countries – it is so different everywhere you go. I’d like to put Chopra and Ganesha into different cities and regions so that we can use those wonderful environments as backdrops to the stories.

What should we eat if we visit Mumbai?

Vaseem feeds Ganesha before we talk more food! (C) Vaseem Khan
Vaseem feeds Ganesha before we talk more food! (C) Vaseem Khan

Mumbai is a gastronome’s paradise. As a world city there are now restaurants from every cuisine on the planet – many of these restaurants are in the suburbs of Juhu and Bandra or in the richer zones of south Mumbai.

Punjabi dhabas – to taste truly authentic Punjabi Indian food – tandoori chicken, nan bread, butter chicken, Mughlai dishes – eat at a traditional dhaba. These are usually rustic restaurants such as Uttam’s Dhaba in Marol, but there are others with an upmarket ambience such as Urban Tadka in Seven Bungalows.

http://www.urbanrestro.com/restaurants/mumbai/andheri/urban-tadka-seven-bungalows

Leopold’s Café is a Mumbai landmark and features in my second novel in this series ‘The Perplexing Theft of the Jewel in the Crown.’ It was previously made famous in the novel Shantaram. It has a range of delicious Indian and continental cuisine and is a good place to stop when exploring south Mumbai. http://www.leopoldcafe.com/index.htm

Mumbai is a coastal city so there are many great seafood restaurants. Try amazing Maharasthran-style seafood at Gajalee – especially the crab. http://www.gajalee.com/

Mumbai street food – if you can stomach it. Mumbai’s street food is amazing ranging from steamed rice cakes called ‘idli’ to chicken lollipops. You can find some great pictures of Mumbai street food on my Pinterest board: https://www.pinterest.com/vaseemkhanUK/mumbai-street-food/

With many thanks to Vaseem for a very interesting and food infused interview. Right then, we’re off for an elephant ride now so be sure to catch up with Vaseem later on! and Ganesha of course

Web – http://vaseemkhan.com/

Twitter – @VaseemKhanUK

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/VaseemKhanOfficial/

The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra – Mumbai (Bombay) – India – Vaseem Khan

elepahant

Why a booktrail?

Mumbai, murder and a baby elephant…..

Story in a peanutshell…

Inspector Ashwin Chopra  is due to retire this very day from the Mumbai police department so he’s not expecting to have any more cases to solve before he goes. But then two mysteries fall right into his lap – luckily not literarily as one of them is a baby elephant. The first mystery however is a drowned little boy whose death is suspicious and who no one seems bothered to solve.

But Chopra is not having any of it, and last day or not, he’s going to get to the bottom of it. So he trawls the city of Mumbai looking for clues –  with a baby elephant named Ganesh as his sidekick..

Place and setting

Sahar Rd Where the street vendors hang out Andheri - Kurla Rd A street known for the large multinationals in the city Dharavi, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India The Kala Qila area of the slum, Chopra knew, was famed for its leather shops. Leatherwork ....was one of the oldest industries in Dhavari The Marol pipeline There is a slum which runs alongside this road. Carter road “Carter Road was a place where everybody came”
Sahar Rd
Where the street vendors hang out
Andheri – Kurla Rd
A street known for the large multinationals in the city
Dharavi, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
“The Kala Qila area of the slum, Chopra knew, was famed for its leather shops. Leatherwork ….was one of the oldest industries in Dhavari”
The Marol pipeline
There is a slum which runs alongside this road.
Carter road
“Carter Road was a place where everybody came”

It was the hottest summer in Mumbai for more than twenty years. And for the second year in a row the monsoon had failed to arrive on cue

This is a  Mumbai which is sweaty, noisy, chaotic, vibrant and teaming with a number of characters and colours –

Auto-rickshaws buzzed through the dusty urban maze….

This is the Mumbai of Inspector Chopra. A soon to be retired inspector with a baby elephant as a sidekick? Only in India and perfect for India! As Chopra trawls the city looking for clues into the murder of a man, it’s the elephant which takes centre stage.

At first Chopra doesn’t really know what to do with an elephant. What use can it be to him? Why would he want one? But Ganesh has a way of endearing himself to Chopra and before long, this is one duo that is as unique as the colourful Mumbai setting.

The more serious of the mysteries is about a dead man – Santosh Achrekar –  and a promise made to Santosh’s mum makes him trawl the streets of the city from the city slums to the teeming town centre.

As the mystery darkens, the colourful descriptions of Mumbai life and little Ganesh shine ever brighter as he becomes one of the family –

Without taking their eyes from the screen, both his wife and the little elephant would lift chips from the bowl and insert them into their mouths

The overall investigation deals with a multitude of evils which pervade the chaotic, messy and  noisy underworld of India.

Booktrailer Review – Susan

Well what can I say. The setting, the characters and the way in which they jump off the page  – ‘the gaggle of sweating citizenry’ , or ‘Mumbai’s pavementless streets’ is just a joy to read. Chopra is an intriguing character – often melancholy and what the poor man has to put up with on his last day at work! He sniffs his food as a ritual since he has an aversion to ginger – it’s these little quirks that made me picture the man as if he was stood right beside me.

The hot humid streets make you grateful that this book is such a page turner as they provided a welcome breeze as the action ramped up and the ‘bovine press of bodies’ continued to squash the words together. It was that realistic I swear I had to wipe my brow on more than one occasion or prepare to hold my nose when Ganesh appeared on the page.

Aah Ganesh. I do love you. You make the world a better place. Chopra loves his city of Mumbai and now he has you. If you ever want a holiday though – the door of booktrail towers is always open. And there’s as much straw and elephant food as you want.

Books at the movies

With the release of Suite française this week and the recent release of The Second Best Marigold Hotel recently we took a look back at the books again…

War time France….

FRENCH

Suite française by Irène Némirovsky

Due out on March 13th, if this is anything as good as the book – then this will be outstanding.

In the book, Iréne , herself a Jew (who had converted to Roman Catholicism) who was arrested in 1942 and transported to Auschwitz before she could finish her work. This novel remained hidden away for many many years before being discovered by her daughter.

Iréne’s descriptions of occupied France took our breath away for she evokes such simple every day things so vividly and in such detail that you’re right there beside her.

You could smell the suffering in the air,  in the silence. Even people who were normally calm and controlled were overwhelmed by anxiety and fear.

Suite française evokes a country on its knees, held captive by the Nazis but at the same time evokes a people: families, children….humans,  who refused to submit their spirits and instead held their head up high as history unfolded.

The horror of the time is evident but it’s the human side of the story which will have you in tears as humanity is explored in poignant detail

INDIA

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and the Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

The spice of later life….

From France, we then travel to India for the colourful and often spice foray into the world of a luxury retirement home a group of stranger go out on what could be their last journey…

England to them is almost a foreign country – as people in their ‘golden years’ they feel invisible and forgotten and so they venture out there only to find….

India was a country of contrasts. Though baffling and frustrating, bogged down by bureaucracy and corruption, it was also a place where, if you spoke in the right ear, things magically happened.

Ah from the very first page, we laughed, cried and then laughed some more. It’s a mix of remembering days gone by whilst accepting and trying to improve the present. Such a mixed bag of English characters and the shock of meeting the people in India

And this book and film will so make you want to go to India – for the country is as beautiful as it was evoked in the book –

The Marigold was indeed a pleasant place, verandas on three sides, the compound shaded by flame trees.

Oh and the humour, the realisation that the famous Kama Sutra is an Indian invention and suddenly there’s another reason for visiting this ‘ strange hot country’

Three books to catch up with this week we reckon, what do you think of this movies and others that come from books?

The Goddess and the Thief – Windsor and India – Essie Fox

The Goddess and the Thief and the mystery of the Koi- i- Noor diamond...
The Goddess and the Thief and the mystery of the Koh- i- Noor diamond…

The Goddess and the Thief is an intriguing and exotic gothic tale of passion, obsession, betrayal and deception. With a mystery concerning a real life diamond at its heart.

a diamond

Story in a bejewelled nutshell

Alice who has been brought up in India is taken to England with her father to settle there. Her mother died not long after Alice was born and so her father hopes they can have a fresh start.

Aunt Mercy takes on Alice’s care but she is involved in the occult and works as a spiritualist medium. When Lucian Tilsbury  enters their lives, things become stranger still.

For Tilsbury is obsessed with the Koh-i-Noor diamond, a priceless jewel now owned by Queen Victoria. This diamond holds a special story as it was claimed by the British following the  Anglo-Sikh wars. This Indian stone exerts its power over all who encounter it especially a handsome deposed maharajah determined to claim his rightful throne.

The power of this diamond has far reaching consequences for all those who come in contact with it.

Place and setting

India Benares - Alice lives here at first Palace of Mount Kailash - The Lord Shiva and Sati story is based here Lahore the family moves here to the hills the  surrounding villages have English names and are the setting for Charles Willougby diary entries Windsor Claremont road - where Mercy’s house is Park street house, near castle walls - a mystery happens here London Great Exhibition in london in 1851 - appearances throughout by Prince Albert and Queen Victoria, as well as Maharajah Duleep Singh.
India
D – Benares – Alice lives here at first
C – Mount Kailash – The Lord Shiva and Sati story is based here
B – LAHORE
the family moves here to the hills
the surrounding villages have English names and are the setting for Charles Willougby diary entries
A – Windsor
Claremont Road – where Mercy’s house is
A – London
Great Exhibition in london in 1851 – appearances throughout by Prince Albert and Queen Victoria, as well as Maharajah Duleep Singh.

a diamond

East meets West in this fascinating tale of mystery, mysticism and a much sought after sacred jewel  whose powers transcend far beyond what seems possible. The Koh- Noor diamond is now part of the Crown Jewels and are kept in the Tower of London.

The figure of Duleep as shown in the inside cover of the book  – the Maharajan himself:

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Maharajah Duleep Singh – who claimed the Koh-i-Noor diamond was exiled to Britain but eventually pardoned by Queen Victoria and buried at Elvedon in Suffolk

Those years I lived in India , I think they were my paradise

From the descriptions and the story of the Mythical Koh-i-Noor diamond, this was our paradise too. The history of the Hindu belief and story surrounding Lord Shiva, his goddess bride Parvati and the woman he loved before, Sati, was enchanting and beguiling in equal measure.

Through this story, this legend we lean of the turbulent relationship between Britain and India, the role of the British Empire during the Anglo-Sikh wars and the deposed Maharajah. The sacred Koh-i-Noor diamond is at the centre of it all…..

The Jewel’s light waxes and wanes with the moon. Every new moon is a time of rebirth, of the body as well as the soul.

There is another legend told, that only a Queen may own this jewel… that any man who possess it will be doomed to a dark and terrible fate…..

The mix of a legend, historical reality and serious themes such as the British Anglo-Sikh wars is a fascinating and enchanting mix. This is a novel far beyond Gothic melodrama – it is rich and colourful tapestry.

The complete contrast between England and India at that time – the colourful and sensual nature of Indian culture compared with the repressive nature of Victorian society is shocking as it is chilling. As Alice finds, the veil of respectability slips easily from the English facade. Queen Victoria’s appearance in the novel shows this in a very unique way. 

a diamond

Well this book is just our favourite of the Essie Fox jewel box of novels so far and that’s saying something as both The Somnambulist and Elijah’s Mermaid are two booktrail favourites as well. The story, history and mysticism of the Victorian era, Shiva and the Koh-i-Noor diamond and the backdrop of the Anglo-Sikh wars, Queen Victoria, the Maharajah is absolutely enchanting and utterly compelling and it was a world I did not want to leave.

The English setting of Windsor with its Royal connections, in the midst of a time where social mores and habits of women were curtailed, I felt very sorry for Alice who became so trapped in the plot to steal the diamond that the whole world seemed to fall in on her and it was hard for her to know who to trust. The characters as a whole  – a cast if you will as this was a sumptuous performance – were made up of historical figures, cads, thieves and spiritualists. Fact and fiction mix with mind-blowing effect.

With the theft of a valued diamond as the main story, I rather think that it was Alice’s life and mind which were also stolen and abused at the wishes of the men and women in her life. The plot to steal the diamond drags Alice so far deep into it, that before she realises……well she is exploited again and again, her vulnerability showing the author’s social awareness of the time period.

With social issues, historical detail and a carefully plotted novel, this delivers on many many levels.

Sumptuous velvet layers

And a shining diamond above them all.

Mums and reading on Mother’s Day

Give flowers today –

Book Flowers!
Book Flowers!

Every mother is a book

Thats worth their weight in gold

For both can offer up some warmth

If you are feeling cold

For reading is just like a hug

That mothers often give

With words of wisdom, sprinkled in

Warm memories to relive

Your mother may have read to you

Your very first real story

So give a hug of thanks so that

Today she gets the glory!

This mother’s day why don’t you buy a book for your lovely mum. I did and she’s been quiet for an hour now! aah peace at last hehe.

Having tea with mum with one of our Mother's Day titles
Having tea with mum with one of our Mother’s Day titles

Of course I’m joking – its lovely to see reading being passed up the generation instead of just down it.

She’s always been a reader but recently she has started to read more and more and of course, I’m only to happy to help!

We’re having tea and I’ve got this book ready for her about a mum who would do anything to protect her child. Set in Canada

THE_MISSING_ONE_newest_image

 

What about the most matriachal mother there is? Set in the USA

littlel women

And let’s not forget the adoptive mum – Set in Prince Edward Island

aogglmm

The story about motherly love and loss that made me cry –

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What about the one who wants to relieve her dying mother’s anguish and to find a secret that has been buried somewhere in her past? Set in Suffolk and London and Australia

secret-keeper-pb-7b-advertorial

And we have to mention the one with a mother’s love that lasts and lasts for decades and a mother who never ever gives up on finding out the truth of what happened to her little boy –

 

The Midnight Rose - Set in India and England
The Midnight Rose – Set in India and England

 

There are many more books written about and dedicated to our most precious of people. Would love to hear your picks!

 

Happy Mother’s Day to all Mothers out there x

A cuppa and a cake with Lucinda Riley – author of A Midnight Rose

 

The table is all set ready for Lucinda and the cake has just come out of the oven
The table is all set ready for Lucinda and the cake has just come out of the oven

 

Today the booktrail is honoured to have the wonderful Lucinda Riley come over to Book trail towers for a cuppa and a chat. Writers love talking about books over a cuppa and a lovely slice or two of lemon drizzle. The booktrail owl has the table set and there is a distinct waft of lemon magic drifting from the kitchen. Better get a move on owl! Our Lucinda will be here in a moment!

The Midnight Rose - Set in India and England
The Midnight Rose – Set in India and England

This is the book that totally drew me into the setting and not only the surroundings – but the sights, the smells and the atmostphere as well. If you read the book trail of the Midnight Rose which was posted yesterday https://thebooktrail.wordpress.com/2014/01/16/the-midnight-rose-with-a-scent-of-india-and-england/ , you will know its set in both England and India and…ooh there’s a knock at the door. That must be Lucinda.

 

Lucinda on a research trip to India
Lucinda on a research trip to India

 

Hi there! Come on in. Booktrail towers may not be as grand as that gorgeous archway you are standing beside in the photo, but do come in. Sit yourself down. Now then, would you like a piece of the famous lemon drizzle cake? Kettle’s just boiled too. Tea or coffee?

Thanks for coming over by the way. I’ve been dying to talk with you for a long time – I’ve read all your books but this one really stands out for me and so I’m so glad you choose the booktrail for a chat. Now then, as you know we are keen on settings here, so I wanted to ask you about that first of all –

Lucinda outside the City Palace
Lucinda outside the City Palace

You have written a number of books set in different places. Is the setting important to you and why did you want to write the story The Midnight rose set in such a contrasting landscape as India and England?

Very much so. It’s always a location that sows the first seeds for a story and India has always fascinated me. Its contrasting cultures and diverse landscapes present such a vivid, rich tapestry that it naturally provides the colourful, exotic background I so adore writing about. And seeing the beauty of its stunning temples and palaces alongside the deprivation suffered by so many of the people there has also had a lasting effect on me.

Photo from Lucinda's mother's album
Photo from Lucinda’s mother’s album

Also, I knew my family had lived there 100 years ago. My great- great-grandfather was a British army officer there before he went to fight in The Great War in 1914,  and after I finished the book I was amazed to find that my mother had discovered a photograph album which showed many of the locations and names of people I had used in the book. And  I’ve just  discovered they had settled in Devon on the edge of Dartmoor in a village called ‘Crapstone’ (the name of the place under a photograph of their house) and of course, that’s where I’ve set the fictional Astbury Hall. That really shook me. It’s definitely my most ambitious story to date and when I started, I didn’t quite know what I was letting myself in for!

Old photo of Delhi
Old photo of Delhi

 

Within The Midnight Rose, the descriptions of India are sumptuous and very colourful. You have obviously stayed there yourself. Can you recommend some of the places that inspired you and which would appear on a book trail of The Midnight Rose?

I visited the Moon Palace in Jaipur where I’d imagined Anahita living. And then stayed at the amazing Rambagh Palace which is now a hotel, still owned by the royal family of Jaipur and where they are regularly seen playing polo. I also went to Mumbai, where Ari lives, Cooch Behar up in the north and New Delhi.

india

You set a lot of the book in the 1920s – which are your favourite writers from that time?

Coincidently, all of my favourite authors are from that time – F. Scott Fitzgerald and Edith Wharton in particular. It’s my favourite era in general.

 

Do you think your history as an actress helps you to live the lives of your characters in your head?

Absolutely. I have a strange way of writing as I suffered from RSI after writing my first books twenty years ago and now I dictate the whole story into my dictaphone, known affectionately as ‘Dick’. It’s only after my long suffering PA, Olivia has typed it out that I learn that I’ve performed all the characters in different voices and accents. It’s become a joke in my house, especially as I also dictate the punctuation. My children think I’m crazy.

 

Castle Howard in Yorkshire image courtesy of Wikipedia
Castle Howard in Yorkshire image courtesy of Wikipedia

 

Seaton Delaval in Northumberland. Image courtesy of Wikipedia
Seaton Delaval in Northumberland. Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Astbury Hall is, I believe, based on Castle Howard in Yorkshire. Have you visited it and how did you do your research for this part of the novel?

Yes I have visited Castle Howard, which was designed by Vanbrugh. Another beautiful house, Seaton Delaval in Northumberland, is a Vanbrugh house and owned by a great friend of ours. He recently had to sell it to the National Trust as the upkeep and restoration was so financially demanding. So Astbury Hall is a mixture of the two.

 

Which countries have you lived in or visited and do you have a favourite?

I have a special soft spot for Ireland, where I was born and lived for ten years. I suppose that’s where I feel I belong. Also the South of France, where we have a house and spend our summers. Our village is on the coast and in a nature reserve so it’s incredibly untouched and beautiful, even though it’s only 15minutes from St Tropez. I love the French lifestyle, their appreciation of art and culture, and of course, food and wine.

 

Which literary character do you think you are you most like?

In my fantasy, I’m Daisy in ‘The Great Gatsby’. In reality, I’m probably Bob Cratchett’s wife in ‘A Christmas Carol’, feeding five thousand kids!

The Midnight Rose is a novel for all the senses
The Midnight Rose is a novel for all the senses

 

Do you think The Midnight Rose could have a soundtrack to place the reader even further in the setting? If so which two songs (one for each place) would you choose?

When I was writing ‘The Midnight Rose’ I always had John Denver’s ‘Annie’s Song’ in my head. Its lyrics are so fitting to the relationship of Anahita and Donald. Also, the music I use for the video I made for The Midnight Rose. It’s Scheherazade by Rimsky Korsakov, one of my all-time favorite pieces of music

 

US cover - the book is released on March 18th in the US
US cover – the book is released on March 18th in the US

What an amazing ending! I cried after reading it. It stayed with me for a long time afterwards and still does if I’m honest. Without giving anything away obviously, what was it like to write it?

Gulp… I will never forget writing that ending. I’d finished the story and knew I had to complete the circle and bring it back to Anahita.  Unusually, everyone in my ridiculously busy house was out. I began typing, again unusual as I normally dictate, and, after about a page, couldn’t understand why I was writing about Anahita and hospitals. I was literally just about to delete it when suddenly I knew. I wrote the last page with tears streaming down my face and sobbed on and off for the rest of the afternoon, because I just couldn’t bear the tragedy of it. I then gave it to my husband who’d read the rest of the book, and he cried too, and he never cries. I can’t ever imagine writing quite such a poignant ending again. Even my US and UK editors, who are both male, told me they were in floods of tears.

Thank you so much Lucinda for talking to the book trail about this amazing novel and how setting can play such an important role. You really do recreate some stunning sights,sounds and atmospheres in words. The scent of the Midnight Rose is a fragrance I will never forget.

For more information and insights into Lucinda and her writing, then please visit her website –http://www.lucindariley.com/  she has written books set in war -torn Europe, Thailand and many other places! Perfect for booktrails.