I was born in Alexandria, Egypt, a city founded in the year 332 B.C. by order of Alexander the Great, a Greek king of Macedoniaand the hero of several campaigns. I left it a long time ago, and the Alexandria I remember was a cosmopolitan city, a mixture of European and Middle-Eastern, with large squares, fine streets lined with flamboyant trees and evergreen acacias with branches that spread out almost horizontally like parasols. For miles along the coast ran a Corniche road, which was certainly known in those days as the finest of its sort on theMediterranean. Long stretches of golden sandy beaches with interesting little coves bordered the turquoise water. My fondest memories are of scanning the seashore for the multicoloured shells strewn here and there over the sand and, armed with a net and a small jar, looking for the baby crabs and minute shrimps that hid in the recesses of the rocks.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
The rambling house I grew up in was built on a hill overlooking theMediterranean. My bedroom was light and airy and its three windows commanded the most breathtaking views of the ever-changing sea – up to the harbour in the distance – with glowing sunsets and romantic moonlit nights over a scintillating ocean. These spectacular tableaux made my imagination run wild and I would dream of princes that flew in from faraway lands on their magic carpet, of princesses dressed in gowns made of sunrays and of moonbeams, and of dragons lurking in those vast blue depths, rising from the waves that crashed against the rocks underneath my windows. These and many more stories I used to relate to my half-Italian, half-French governess. I think that although in those days I had not yet formulated the plan in my mind, I always wanted to become a writer.
Burning Embers, published by Omnific Publishing, is a contemporary historical romance novel set in Kenya in 1970. It depicts the developing attraction and love between a young and naive woman, Coral, who has come home to Africa, the land of her birth, and Rafe, a handsome, virile, commanding plantation and nightclub owner who carries a dark secret heavy in his heart.
It is an evocative and passionate story of coming of age, of letting go of the past, of having faith in a person and of overcoming obstacles to love, set against the vivid and colourful backdrop of rural Africa and its culture.
Burning Embers began not as a story, but as a vivid landscape in my mind. The seed of the idea was sown many years ago when, as a schoolgirl, I studied the works of Leconte de Lisle, a French Romantic poet of the 19th century. His poems are wonderfully descriptive and vivid – about wild animal, magnificent dawns and sunsets, exotic setting and colourful vistas. Then later on, I went on holiday to Kenya with my parents and I met our family friend Mr Chiumbo Wangai who often used to visit us. He was a great raconteur and told me extensively about his beautiful country, its traditions and its customs. I was enthralled, and when I put pen to paper Burning Embers came to life. I have had some of Leconte de Lisle’s beautiful poems translated into English by a friend, Mr John Harding. You can find them on my website at http://www.hannahfielding.net.
Do you have anything new in the works and can you tell us a bit about it?
I have written a sizzling and sensual trilogy, a romance that is set in Andalucia, Spain, spanning a period that will take the reader from the 1950s to the present day. It is the passionate story of the de Falla family, some of which have roots in England, and their interaction with the gypsies. A tale of love, treachery, deceit and revenge, a rumbling volcano, set against the fierce and blazing Spanish land which is governed by savage passions and cruel rules.
I have also written a very romantic and touching love story set in Venice and Tuscany in 1979/1980. It opens with the Venice Carnival that has returned after a cessation of almost two centuries. It is a tale of lost but tender deep, ineffable love, dealing with its echoes and learning to love again.
I am now working on a trilogy set in Egypt, which will take my readers from 1945 to the present day, transporting them to a world of deep, ingrained customs and traditions, interesting though often cruel, and making them live through the various winds and storms that blew over this very ancient land.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging about writing?
Yes, the most challenging parts for me when I write are the opening paragraph and the closing paragraph. The first must encourage the reader to continue his or her journey into the novel, to want to get to know the characters and their story; and the second must leave the reader with a feeling of contentment and maybe a tinge of melancholy because the voyage has come to an end and it is as if he or she is saying farewell to a friend.
What advice would you give to writers just starting out?
First and foremost, write from the heart. Be true to yourself and don’t compromise to please the market. Markets change, fads come and go; your work will remain.
Research your facts thoroughly. A writer today has no excuse for not getting his/her facts right. Use all the tools available to you. Travel, internet, books, films, documentaries: they’re all there to enrich your experience and make your writing journey easier.
Plan you novel down to the smallest detail. This will make your writing so much easier and therefore so much more enjoyable. A plan is your map. Would you set out on a long journey by car without a map?
Read, reread and reread. Edit, edit, edit. Go through your manuscript again and again and edit it. I know that it will break your heart to delete a phrase or even one word you have spent time agonising on, but sometimes less is better than more. Not easy advice to follow, but in the long run it does work. If you can leave the manuscript alone for a few weeks and revisit it at a later date, reading it as if it were someone else’s, than that’s even better.
Do not get discouraged. Continue to write whether you think your work is good or bad. There is no bad writing. There are good days and bad days. The more you write, the better at it you get.
Do you suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?
One of my favourite quotes about writer’s block is: “Biting my truant pen, beating myself for spite: “Fool!” said my muse to me, “look in thy heart, and write.”
― Sir Philip Sidney
I have two ways of dealing with writer’s block.
The first one is patience. If you sit there in front of a blank page – and I’ve done that, sometimes for as much as a couple of hours – the muse eventually takes pity on you and visits.
The second one is to get into my car and drive to a place that has inspired me in the past. That also usually works. It might be a garden overlooking the sea, a meadow carpeted with wild flowers if I’m searching for a setting for a love scene, or a café bustling with people where I can find the description for one of my characters.
Who is your favourite author and why?
I enjoy reading many authors, but maybe the one closest to my heart is M M Kaye, author of The Far Pavilions and The Shadow of the Moon. Why? Because of her fabulous descriptions which transport you to a time and a place as if you are there and then. If you have not read her books, I do recommend them… pure escapism… pure romance. http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1040250.M_M_Kaye
What books have most influenced your life?
People more than books have influenced my life.
I am the third generation of authors in our family. My grandmother was a poet: The Virgin Heart by Esther Fahmy Wissa, and a feminist http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ester_Fanous. I had great admiration for her and wanted to emulate her.
My father, who was a great raconteur, wrote a book about our family: Assiout: The Saga of an Egyptian Family by Hanna Fahmy Wissa, and he always encouraged me to write. He used to read the short stories I wrote as a teenager and he often told me that one day I’d be published. I wish he was alive to see that I have fulfilled my dream of becoming an author.
Though my governess was not a published author, she used to tell the most beautiful fairy stories. She was the first one who taught me how to maximise my imagination and she helped me develop the art of weaving a good tale.
What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?
Apart from the obvious tools that modern life offers to the author today, I think a writer should be armed with what I call the 4 Ds:
Desire to write.
Dedication to allot the necessary time and effort to your project.
Discipline to keep to strictly set rules.
Determination to win.
To find out more about Hannah, visit her website at http://www.hannahfielding.net. You can also follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. Burning Embers is available to buy from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.