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Sea Music is on  a Kindle promotion for the whole of August for 99p

This is how I came to write the story of Sea Music…

One summer evening many years ago I was walking along a deserted creek at dusk. It was a place I loved, atmospheric, eerie, full of the sound of curlews and waders making filigree patterns in the mud. I saw a woman ahead of me walking on two sticks and I slowed down to talk to her. She was worried about spoiling my walk and said, almost casually. ‘I have to use sticks now. The Germans injected Arsenic into my bones…’ I stared at her, the hairs rising up on the back of my neck, thinking I must have misheard.

When I could speak I asked her how she came to be in Cornwall.  ‘My husband was one of the soldiers who liberated the camp and carried me out of there. He was a Cornishman, he looked after me, got me to England. He brought me all the way to Cornwall with him. He has just died.  It is why I walk by the water when the paths are quiet, to remember him.’

Seeing my shocked face, she said. ‘My dear, I have had a wonderful life. We built our house together above this creek, but I am lost without him.’

It was now dark and the woman urged me to go back to my car. I realised in the shock of her startling revelation that I had not even asked her name or found out  where she lived. For months I searched the creek paths  but I never saw  her again  and I wondered if I had dreamed the whole episode

A few years passed but I never forgot her. I felt compelled to write a story about a woman like her. I imagined what her life might have been. I researched  and immersed myself in the story of Martha, a woman who survived the concentration camps and  was saved by the love of a doctor. A woman who never talked of her past to her children and so they were never able to understand her fears and foibles.  Martha, in frail old age, found the past slid back to crowd out the present to haunt her, until a ghost from her childhood finally brought Martha peace.

When I finished the book I dedicated it to my lady by the creek, wishing I could have seen her again, had her approval for my book. But I thought she must be dead.

I was telling  a friend about my book when she excitedly declared that she knew who my old lady was. She had just got married again at the age of eighty. She found me a telephone number and  urged me to ring her. I did so with trepidation. It was unlikely that she would remember me after so many years, but remember me she did.

It was the start of a close and wonderful friendship that lasted many years. Before publication, I left the manuscript with her, if she objected to it, I would not publish.

She approved and loved it. ‘How could you know all these things? How could you get it right? I have even married a doctor…’ The one thing she asked me to change was the ending. ‘It is the next generation that matters You must end with hope and new life. With a birth, not a death.’

The reason that I do not give a name to my lady of the creek was that just before publication of my book the interest in it for my inspiration by my publishing team was keen. My Lady’s husband called me  early one morning. She was having nightmares. When I got there she was terrified the press might find her and then ‘They’ would trace her, like they did her father. ‘They’ were the communists back home in Slovakia who had flown her father to her address in Cornwall after the war, to show, she told me, that they knew where she was. Her father arrived mute and could never tell her what they had done to him. I had no grasp of  post -war  communism or whether her fears could possibly be founded after so many years, but her terror was real. I had to make sure she was protected so I vetoed any ideas of her being involved in any publicity and I never used her name or whereabouts. Her fear was so profound that I was shaken and even all these years later I cannot use her name.

 Sadly, my lady’s second husband died and she was alone again. With failing health, she had to go into a nursing home. Her body was frail but her mind was as sharp as ever. I visited her there until she died. I loved and admired her greatly. She was inspiration for a book that changed my life. What I choose to remember of that special lady is a photograph tacked onto the wall of the small stuffy room where she ended her days. It was of a beautiful young girl, with her life in front of her, smiling in a field full of flowers, somewhere in Slovakia..

Sea Music was refused by nine publishers before HarperCollins picked it up. It was my breakthrough novel and was published in ten languages. It is the only book that I have ever had posted on billboards at railway stations. It led me to many wonderful people and exciting and enriching  experiences.

While researching for Sea Music I came across the name Irena Sendlerowa. She was a social worker who worked for the Polish Underground Resistance in WW2. She was the courageous woman who smuggled hundreds of Jewish children out of the Warsaw Ghetto. She was caught by the Germans and tortured. I knew she had to go in my book, but I did not think she was still alive.

About a year after the book was published, out of the blue, a Polish woman called Lily rang me after reading Sea Music and told me she was a friend of Irena Sendlerova. Did I know she was still alive and living quietly in Warsaw? Stunned, I told her no. She said she was going to Poland shortly and she was going to take Mrs Sendlerova a copy. I told her Sea Music was being translated into Polish. Was I going to Poland?  Lily asked. Was there a launch? Would I like to meet Irena Sendlerowa?

 Lily and I met in Warsaw for the (very odd) Polish launch of SEA MUSIC and Lily took me to see a very frail Irena Sendlerowa in her flat. She was frail and we did not stay long. She had the Polish version of my book on her bedside table. She was warm and gentle and still suffering the long -term effects of her capture by the Germans. She was mystified about why I had put her into my book.  To have the privilege of meeting this wonderful brave and humble woman was the most profound experience of my life.

Sea Music was refused  by publishers who thought the subject of the Holocaust and middle -class life did not sit well together.  When I gave talks about the book my audience were mostly middle class, often Jewish women who related passionately to Martha in my book because of the experiences of their parents, family members or friends. So many stories. So much bravery…

A New Year

A New Year


To step out this morning and feel the sun on my face seemed miraculous. It was cold, with just a sprinkling of frost but a gorgeous day beckoned. There was an extra bounce in Gertie, the rescue, who finds British winters appalling. Relentless wind and slanting rain have buffeted my exposed corner of the world for days. Sometimes it has been hard to stay on my feet on the muddy coastal paths as the wind unbalanced me and the sea crashed in fury against the cliffs like the sound of gunshot. Huge angry waves reared up like sea monsters and roared in as if they would like to grab mortals from the slippery paths…

Today all is calm. The sea is lambent; its voice a soothing whisper that accompanies my walk like a hypnotic meditation. The waves are small. Gentle ripples cross the sea- green coves where we swim in summer. I catch the dark shape of a seal as he turns in the curl of a wave. Larks circle up out of the cliffs to the blue sky singing their glorious morning songs. No red legged choughs on the headland today, but crows call out commands to each other like self- important generals. The paths are blissfully empty. Sheep graze on the hills by the steep, twisty path that leads to home.

In my garden, a blackbird and robin are singing in the old home oak as if competing for a heavenly choir. I stand in winter sunlight and see my narcissi are nearly out. Pink blooms are beginning to cover one of my camellia trees. It could almost be spring.

I have always hated those dark days between Christmas and New Year when the world seems to stop. One year ending but the next not yet begun. Days like today, when the world is still, when a gold sun touches my face and the wind is no more than a breath, the sheer beauty of nature that surrounds and sustains me feels profound in its healing, in its message of hope and possibility. Days of wonder are a rare and precious gift; a reminder to be grateful in this new year, for the small, everyday joys that sustain us…

Books, Literary Festivals and Covid

Books, Literary Festivals and Covid




 I headed to London at the beginning of July for the HarperCollins summer party at the V&A, and promptly caught Covid before I even got to the party. After two years of avoiding the virus it struck the moment I stepped out of Cornwall. As if that was not bad enough I also missed giving a talk about my new book The Long Road from Kandahar at the Penzance Literary Festival. A double whammy. A publishers’ party is glamorous, but it is also a chance to talk to your editors and meet and thank your publishing team, as well as talk to fellow writer and agents. I was not happy to be Cinderella…


A literary festival is not only an opportunity to talk about and promote your book, it is a fabulous chance to listen to readers and hear what they think. It is an opportunity to thank the bookseller who has taken time to set up a table to help sell your books. It is a place to soak up other writers and discover new authors, new books so I was really sad to miss out.

So, @penzancelitfest, thank you for your card and for all the hard work that goes into making the festival a success. I am so sorry I could not be there.  I will try again next year!

Thank you @edgeoftheworldbookshop Thank you, @Waterstonestru

Sunday Early Morning Walk

Sunday Early Morning Walk

Larks sang their hearts out on my early Sunday walk this morning with Gertie, the JR. People were already down in the little coves swimming in a sparkling aquamarine sea…What a surge of joy there is in waking to a day so beautiful the heart soars. The cliffs and fields are bursting with jewel like wild flowers. The sea is as still as a millpond as the day slowly awakes to a long hot Sunday…

The Long Road from Kandahar is out in the world in wonderful Indie bookshops like The Edge of the World Bookshop in Penzance and of course on Amazon.

It is also on Audible, beautifully read by

Azan Ahmed. It is a rather strange thing to listen to your book being read by someone else and hear a character  interpreted in a slightly different way than the one in your head. Wonderful too, as you listen, to hear your professional reader growing familiar with your characters so he slowly falls into the rhythm of your writing and brings your characters alive. It is a skill.



Inspiration for The Long Road from Kandahar

Inspiration for The Long Road from Kandahar

  These are grainy photos of me standing in front of the golden Pir Panjal Range of mountains near Murree, once a popular Hill Station in the District of Punjab.  We had just driven up the steep, isolated road from Rawalpindi, through tiny villages full of fierce turbaned Punjabis, not a woman to be seen. This was hostile Taliban country, and we were acutely aware of it in the piercing glances into our car. Mobile cameras were not so sophisticated in 2009. They could not capture the sheer beauty of the Kashmiri mountains, nor convey the heady smell of honeysuckle or the sound of bees filling the silence. Delicate, bright butterflies fluttered in and out of the shade of trees, and the air, after Karachi, was as pure as ice, with a pungent peace and calm. Our driver had stopped as we neared our hotel so we could admire the view and take photos of each other, and him. He encouraged us to walk away into the cool of shady trees, but we were reluctant to wander too far into that impregnable silence. He sensed our unease and assured us that we were absolutely safe here. A fact contradicted, later, by gun toting guards who followed us up a mountain walk in order to keep us safe. As I moved into the shade, I heard the sound of sheep and suddenly caught bright flashes of colour through the trees. Small giggling children ran from nowhere to take a look at us, disappearing rapidly before I could take a photo. Photos tell their own stories in the single click of a camera; a smile, a moment created, but they never tell the whole truth.  As I stood in front of those mountains bathed in golden light, smiling, I was aware of the distant drum of anxiety. There is risk attached to westerners travelling alone in North Pakistan. Extreme poverty gives rise to kidnap. Friends had advised against the trip, but we wanted to see as much of Pakistan as we could. There is one photo of me in the formally planted English rose garden in the hotel grounds.  The British influence on gardening in this holiday resort remains everywhere, but my face reflects only discomfort. For the first time in my life, I was experiencing the feeling of being an unwanted outsider. The hostility of the hotel staff  was only mitigated by the friendliness of other holiday makers from Lahore. The drive back down the isolated road to Rawalpindi, with a new and unvetted driver the hotel insisted we take, was terrifying. He repeatedly stopped in remote spots, refusing to engage when we asked him to keep driving to Islamabad airport. We were both silently convinced we were going to be kidnapped. Eventually, he linked up with another car driving the other way and we braced ourselves for the worst. However, a piece of paper was passed between them, our driver relaxed, even tried to be friendly, and did not stop again until we reached Islamabad Airport. Despite being way out of my comfort zone I will never regret experiencing the beauty of North Pakistan. Raza, the wonderful Pakistani boy in my new book, The Long Road from Kandahar was inspired by my trip to Muree. An outsider in the UK, he forms a close bond with Finn, the son of a British soldier fighting in Afghanistan.  I wanted to explore the effect of war through the eyes of two boys from very different cultures. The first idea for this book came while I was living in Karachi. My son was posted to Lashkar Gah and the amorphous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan felt perilously close… The Long Road to Kandahar is out on May 12 and I really hope my lovely readers will enjoy it.          

Life, War, Books

Life, War, Books

I am happy to tell you that Sea Music is on a special offer of 99p for the whole of March! So do take advantage or tell your friends who might not have read it yet.

Sea Music and The Long Road from Kandahar were written years and years apart, yet they are both, in very different ways, about the tragedy of war and the consequences and trauma war has on family life that can reverberate down the years.

Some of my readers will know the story of Sea Music. I wrote it in 2002 and my inspiration was an extraordinary woman. I met walking my dog on a deserted creek path at dusk. (The story of meeting Milly is on my website)

As we walked Milly apologised for walking so slowly. She told me she had been interned in a concentration camp by the Germans in the second world war. It was the only time she spoke to me of this time in her life. She disappeared into the dark and I did not find her again until after I finished Sea Music, a novel of her imagined life, one I felt strangely impelled to write. The story of Martha and her family. Milly approved and loved the book, but she made me change the ending. ‘It must end with the young and the next generation, with hope.’ She was right. Milly and I were close friends until she died.

As I researched the Warsaw Ghetto for Sea Music, I found the story of another brave woman, Irena Sendlerowa. This brave woman smuggled hundreds of children through the sewers and out of the ghetto to safety. She too was captured and tortured by the Germans. She was the only real person in my book, but I wanted people to know her name and remember what she did.

About a year after Sea Music came out and just before the Polish edition was due to be published, I received a phone call from a Polish lady called Lily, living in London. She had been sent my book by a relative. She asked me why I had put Irena Sendlerowa, a real person, in my novel. Quaking slightly, I explained. Lily told me she was a close friend of Irena Sendler. Mrs Sendlerowa was still alive and living in Warsaw. I was stunned, so sure was I that she must have died. It was a relief that Lily had only good things to say about Sea Music.

When I told her that the book had been translated into many languages and was coming out in Polish in a few weeks she astonished me by asking if I would like to go to Warsaw and meet Irena Sendlerowa. She went to Warsaw to visit her friend once a year and she would try to arrange it. Perhaps it could be timed with the Polish publication of my book? By now I realised Lily was a force to be reckoned with. She was going to give me a chance of a lifetime to meet a real heroine.

I did fly to Warsaw. I did meet the wonderful, small and frail Irena Sendlerowa.  Her goodness radiated out into the stuffy little room where she was being cared for. She had my book beside her.  Sitting with her holding my hands between hers was a profoundly emotional experience. The brave, young and imagined Irena had lived with me for months. Here was the real Irena, old, looked after and safe, but never from memory or nightmare. Like Martha in my book, her sadness would always lie somewhere inside her. Irena Sendlerowa had that particular stillness that comes with the pain of seeing too much. The trauma of war stays forever.


We do not write books for the horror of war, but to applaud and wonder at the strength of the human spirit, the sheer bravery and goodness of ordinary people rising up together to try to combat an evil force in any, and every way they can. Love for country and family, belief that good and right must eventually prevail, is what powers the human race to survive; to be courageous, to have hope.

A few months ago, as I finished The Long Road from Kandahar, Afghanistan fell to the Taliban with tragic speed and terrible consequences for that beleaguered country.

It was inconceivable that any of us could have dreamed, then, that peace for the western world, peace we have all taken for granted, would also be shattered forever One evil dictator intent on wiping out the lives and freedoms, the hopes and dreams of the men, women and children of Ukraine. All living, until a week ago, in a peaceful, prosperous country looking forward to its future. It feels surreal even to write that Russian soldiers have invaded a sovereign state to bomb and mow down innocent civilians who did nothing to provoke this horror.

It feels like a horrible dream we cannot wake up from. It is hard to concentrate on the things that fill our lives. Books suddenly seem unimportant and inconsequential. But books link and bind us together. Words inform and comfort. We are educated by them and derive great joy from them. We all need escape. We need to laugh and cry. To be immersed in fantasy, in other lives. History repeats itself. The ease of our lives is not a given. We need to be vigilant of those who govern us. Guard the freedoms we still take for granted here in Britain, where democracy is beginning to be threatened in many small, invidious ways. Because that is how it starts. We know how it can end. Books bring us and the world closer. Let’s keep reading and writing, hoping and dreaming. And praying for the people of Ukraine.




The Long Road from Kandahar: Due to be Published May 2022

The Long Road from Kandahar: Due to be Published May 2022

I am thrilled to reveal the beautiful cover for my new book. It reflects the heart and soul of my book so perfectly. It spans Cornwall, Pakistan and Afghanistan and  is out on May 12th this year. It has been a labour of love to write. One of those rare books where the characters come fully fledged and whole and the direction of the book is clear.

 My book is about many things. The war in Afghanistan. The powerful friendship  between two boys. One the son of a British soldier and the other a Pakistani boy sent to Britain to escape the Taliban. From vastly different cultures their lives are united and changed forever by the war in Afghanistan. The book is also about love and letting go. The strength of parents and grandparents. And, always, that enduring sense of place, of home, where a shabby old beach house in Cornwall burns behind the eyelids  and keeps hope and a refuge alive for everyone.

The book was finished before the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban.

For any bloggers or reviewers, my book is now open to review on Netgallery.

May 2021

May 2021

These are the three lovely books I bought  in The Edge of The World bookshop in Penzance as soon as the bookshops opened. I started with  DARK SALT CLEAR by Lamorna Ash.

This is an absorbing read, especially for all those who know Newlyn well and watch the fishing boats head out each day. Ash went to live for a while in the fishing community in Newlyn to learn and observe their increasingly difficult and threatened way of life. She went out on the fishing trawlers in all weathers and bravely pitched in to help when most of us would be whimpering with fear. Her respect and admiration for fishermen and their families as they battle to keep a way of life that is deep in their blood, is obvious. Her book is dotted with fascinating literary references and is a wonderful new reflective voice in nature writing.




At the moment we still cannot travel. But you can travel vicariously to Malyasia and New Zealand in THE HOUR BEFORE DAWN… A child goes missing and is never found… Years later  her twin and mother return to Malaysia and the past slowly, spookily unfurls…It is on special offer again. 99p for the whole of May.

As I write it is a cold,wet May Sunday with a threatening bruised sky. No goldfinches in the oak tree chattering and gossiping. Even the fighting magpies and crows have disappeared. May is such a rich month for wild flowers.  As the gorse and hawthorne fade the thrift  springs up on the cliffs and the woods are full of bluebells.

Beauty is everywhere, even in the patterns and symmetry of a ploughed field like an art work…











The Hour Before Dawn

The Hour Before Dawn

The Hour Before Dawn is a book very close to my heart. It is one of those rare books that wrote itself…

It is on a special promotion for  the whole of September for 99p

‘A rich multi-generational sage set in Singapore and New Zealand. The mysterious diappearance of a young child sets in motion a series of events that will haunt future generations of the family..’

I was an army wife way back and living in Singapore.  To escape the heat we would head for the Rest Houses near Port Dickson on the east coast of Malaysia.The wooden beach houses with their huge pottery baths and wooden verandas facing the sea were magical.  The long beaches  of white sand were mostly deserted and framed by jungle. There was only the occasional screech of monkeys and the voices of  night fishermen working by torchlight in the dark.

There was a particularly spooky walk through  jungle paths to an old lighthouse. The hairs always used to rise up at the back of my head as the heavy silence pressed down in a myriad of little jungle sounds. Rustles and calls and breaking twigs. Often we never made the lighthouse but turned for home walking faster and faster until we reached the warmth of the sun again before the abrupt fall of night.

I had the sudden idea for this book many years later in an entirely different setting when I was visiting one of my sons in New Zealand.  I was intrigued by a painting  called ‘The Garden of the Happy Dead’ by the  Austrian painter Friedensreich Hundertwasser who lived and worked in NZ. He was fascinated by  natures natural ventilation using plants and light. In this painting  trees become natural gutters and drainpipes and all creatures return naturally to the earth to enrich it. He was way ahead of his time ecologically and in the need to protect the environment.

My story flew out of nowhere, as I sat in a house in Northland in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by a different jungle… Back home,I sat down and it unwound iteself like a ribbon until I had finished…

I espcially love the French and Polish covers for The Hour Before Dawn…

The e-book  for the September promotion has a woman on the cover.



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