It's Guest Author Saturday!! Please welcome contemporary romance author, Melanie Hewitt...

Hi Melanie!

So happy to welcome you to my blog for Guest Author Saturday - I absolutely love The Durrells so will definitely be picking up a copy of your latest release LOOKING FOR THE DURRELLS. Let's get started with my questions...

 What genre of books do you generally read and why?

I have always been a reader - well, since about the age of six - when the ‘Dick and Dora’ books taught all of us in school in the West Riding of Yorkshire in the 1960’s, how to work out what the words meant.

The real introduction to the world of books came from my late dad, a teacher and professional artist, who particularly loved Dickens, Hardy, CS Forester, AJ Cronin, Wodehouse and Kingsley Amis.

My early years were full of Enid Blyton, Malcolm Saville (The Lone Pine Mysteries) and then as a teenager, Dumas, Dickens - Charles and Monica - The Brontes, Daphne du Maurier, Arnold Bennett and a million books, both biography and romance about the Tudors and their times.

My love of books has given me an appetite as an adult to read anything and everything - as well as a house full of heaving and multiplying bookshelves.

As a journalist and very recently author, my two ‘mentors’ have always been Clive James and Sue Townsend. Masters of their craft and bringers of joy with every word they have written.

Every book I’ve read has taught me something about the world - and myself. We read to know we’re not alone is a saying I believe is true and important.

A favourite childhood memory

My childhood was blessed in many ways, but the outings and holidays that my own children were able to enjoy were more sparse and local when I was growing up. A day trip to Scarborough on a Yorkshire Traction bus, with a stop at a roadside café was a thrilling adventure.

Sandwiches and cakes always taste better on a beach and I can still smell the August warmed rock pools from those days whenever I return to the East Coast.

My dad also had the gift of making any trip extra special by telling tales of the history of a castle or town, battlefield or book. A visit to the cinema with him was a catalyst for more knowledge, more reading - particularly after seeing a film like Cromwell, A Man for All Seasons or Anne of a Thousand Days.

Do You have any shameless addictions?

Well, apart from a perfectly understandable affection for cake - Victoria sponge, millionaire’s shortbread, vanilla slices, Sachertorte - and chocolate; I’m expecting an invitation to the Hotel Chocolat staff party any minute … not too many naughty things.

I do like boots too - always without heels. Boots you could go on a walk across the fields in a la Elizabeth Bennet, matched with a floaty dress. I love vintage dresses too. So, thinking about it, the 19th c. dress / boot combo is definitely one of my things.

What do you think is the biggest challenge of writing a new book?

Writing a book and having it published is something I’ve unconsciously been working towards all my life. I was 60 when ‘Looking for The Durrells’ was published last August and after a career as a journalist, newspaper editor and then PR consultant, you’d be forgiven for thinking that a book would be, if not a breeze, then a natural progression.

I began writing in earnest in May 2019 - when the characters for the book began to appear and introduce themselves. I was in Corfu and had the single thought - if the Durrells were here now, what might they be doing, who would they be?

It has been, without a doubt, the hardest thing I’ve ever had to create.

Do you aim for a set amount of words / pages a day?

Writing a book, whatever that book is about, whatever genre anyone wants to pigeonhole it into, is a real skill set. It takes patience - through the whole publishing process particularly -  dedication and application through the editing and at times a kind of lonely determination to crack on, a single minded focus on the finishing line.

I’d like to say I had a plan that I stuck to, with disciplined working hours and was always mindful of eating well and stretching my legs to ease aching joints - but I’d be fibbing.

I sit on the couch sometimes with my laptop on my knee. If I felt the words flowing I’d stay up until three or four in the morning and when it all felt a bit overwhelming, I remembered the kind words of a supportive author who said: ‘Just because something is hard doesn’t mean that you’re not good at it.”

I was extremely fortunate too to have a hugely supportive CEO and colleagues, who understood how important the publishing contract and opportunity to publish was for me and generously allowed me to take a sabbatical.

What are your thoughts on writing a book series?

I am writing book two now - which after much thought and listening to the readers of book one, will be a sequel. I’m not quite ready yet to say goodbye to Penny and everyone else in St George South. I’m also plotting out a third - so there’ll be a trilogy.

Last, but not least, I believe the book was written because I felt a compulsion to tell a story. A story, as it turned out, I’d been developing one way or another since I was 13. This was when I  read ‘My Family and Other Animals’ by Gerald Durrell for the first time and was enchanted by it.


Fiancés, friends, and other animals. . .

After a year that sees a broken-off engagement and the death of her beloved father, Penny is desperate to get away.

Fulfilling a childhood dream, she sets off on a month-long pilgrimage to Corfu--an island idyll she knows only through the pages of Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals.

On the island, Penny quickly finds herself drawn into the lives of a tight-knit circle of strangers. Exploring--searching for the places the Durrells knew decades before--she makes unexpected discoveries about the hopes, fears, and secrets of the people living there today.

And as strangers start to be friends, lives past and present become entwined in ways none of them could have predicted. . .


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