The Next Best Thing

Welcome back to my blog!

My friend, the author Loretta Proctor, has invited me to join her in a ‘blog hop’ It’s like a chain letter where each author finds five other authors and writes a blog on each of them and so on. The idea is for us authors to promote each others’ books and there can’t be much wrong with that. Author Lloyd Lofthouse invented the idea ( so all credit to him.

I will be featuring Loretta’s new book, Dying Phoenix, in my blog next week. Loretta  was born in Cairo, Egypt to an English father and Greek mother. She won prizes in the 1970’s for essays and plays, wrote specialised articles, studied psychology and worked as a counsellor. Now retired to Malvern, Worcestershire, she delights in story telling and is pleased to be a distant relation of Elizabeth Barrett-Browning. I recently reviewed her romantic novel, Middle Watch, which I really enjoyed as did my wife, the lovely Jan, who read it after me.


Loretta’s books are at:

Her blog is at

Part of the fun of this ‘hop’ is to answer a number of ‘interview’ questions about your next book. The questions and my answers to them are:

1) What is the working title of your next book?

I’m likely to call it ‘The Emerald of Burgos’. As far as I know it’s unique. The cover is going to be based on a picture of an emerald ring, something like:emerald

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?

Interestingly, the idea has two sources. While I was writing ‘The Harpist of Madrid’ a woman called Esmeralda appeared in the plot – you could say I invented her! She was a retired lady of pleasure. She is a strong and interesting character and I thought then that she would make an excellent protagonist for a new novel. But I didn’t have a story. Then by accident almost, I came across a book about the Spanish Army and the road they took from Genoa to Brussels when they went to defend the Spanish Netherlands. The book was by Geoffrey Parker, a prof. at Ohio State University. I bought the book and discovered that a number of women followed the army to deal with, shall we say, their manly needs. So a role for Esmeralda jumped off the page of Geoffrey Parker’s book!51lyBUOf54L._SL160_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-dp,TopRight,12,-18_SH30_OU02_AA160_[1]

3) What genre does your book fall under?

It can only be an historical novel. Needless to say, there is a certain amount of sex in it, some of which is shocking. But it is not meant to titillate. So it shouldn’t be classified as erotic.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

That’s an interesting one. I love Penelope Cruz and would give her the role of Esmeralda.

Penelope Cruz

Her two friends are Susana and Beatrix and I’d get Jennifer Lopez and Eva Longoria respectively to play them. I’m not sure whether Jennifer Lopez would appreciate being Susana who is a very simple girl but Eva Longoria would like Beatrix who is much more sophisticated.Eva LongoriaJennifer Lopez

The most interesting male character appears fairly late in the novel. He is a field marshal called Régulo de Aracena. George Lopez fits that part, even looking like a senior military figure.George Lopez

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

From escaping murderess then back street whore to camp follower of the Spanish army, Esmeralda becomes determined to fulfil a gipsy fortune teller’s prediction that she will befriend none other than the king of Spain.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Depends! My current publisher is Olympia. I’m hoping to agree a good contractual deal with them. They seem keen for me to do that so I feel quite optimistic. If not, I’ll self publish. I haven’t got an agent so I’ll be working on my own on that one!

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

Looking at my Word docs it seems I started writing in August 2011 and I finished on the Queen’s jubilee – it says so, on the last page! So about ten months. I left it for six months to mature and am now doing the first, major edit.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

There are a lot of novels based on prostitutes or prostitution. Insatiablebook[1]Insatiable, by Valerie Tasso is something of a classic with a heavy romantic feel about it.

Better known still is Émile Zola’s ‘Nana’ about a ruthless whore who starts her professional life as an actress and goes on to destroy just about every man who goes near her. Maybe the most famous is Fanny Hill by John Cleland. To me this book verges on the gratuitous in its descriptive writing, which is something I’ve tried to avoid.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?517PxbxDm5L._SL500_AA300_[1]

I felt I just had to write a sequel to The Harpist of Madrid. It turned out to be a prequel but never mind! My wife Janet encouraged me to do it and helped a lot with the research. So Jan was a great inspiration.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

There is a strong historical context and I’ve tried to give the reader a feel for old Madrid, where much of the story takes place. There is a fair bit of military history in it as well and, unusually, I think, a fair bit about the almost forgotten but bloody siege of Ostend which concluded in 1604. I like the description of Esmeralda’s traverse up the Spanish Road with authentic description of places she visited on route as well as her exploits with the troops.

So watch for my next instalment, next week!


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