What a pleasure this weekend to be invited to lunch near Girona by a book club with a difference – a group of women from Spanish Catalonia (plus one from Holland, one from Portugal and one from Argentina) who meet to read books in English. They had read both of the first two Catalonia books, and, what a relief, they loved them. They found the Catalan background, descriptions and history true to life, and asked some extremely pertinent questions about why I had chosen their region to write about, and how I had done my research. Now, as book 3 of the trilogy, Mediterranean Summer, finally comes out in May, they tell me they are looking forward to finding out what happens to all the characters they have met. I did tell them that the book isn’t only about old characters, and I hope I may have a few surprises in it for them! It is so impressive to find such a group reading with so much empathy in English. And lunch was delicious! Thank you ladies. Do invite me back!
The launch so far of Autumn in Catalonia has been amazing. A great evening at Blackwell’s bookshop last Wednesday – with thanks to my lovely agent Jenny Brown and to Ann Landman of Blackwell’s and her great team. Then a lovely interview with Janice Forsyth on her BBC Radio Scotland Culture Show on Monday 26th, and tonight, 28th October, the final launch event in Inverness, at Waterstone’s at 6pm, where good Rioja will flow! Everyone is welcome.
Please come and join us at Blackwell’s bookshop Edinburgh on 21 October or at Waterstone’s Bookshop Inverness on 28 October for the launch of Autumn in Catalonia. Each event starts at 6pm, and you will have the opportunity to ask questions of the author, and have Jane sign your personal copy of the book over a glass or two of wine.
As we approach the vote on Scottish independence tomorrow, I can’t help but reflect on the similarities between Scotland, my home, and Spanish Catalonia, which borders the region of France which has become my second home.
Catalonia has been a fiercely independent entity in history, and was the only region of Spain to be granted full autonomy during the Spanish Republic, in the 1930s. It didn’t last long, because Franco and the Civil War put paid to it, and Franco’s rancour against Catalans, who were the last to hold out against his army in defence of freedom, ensured that their region of Spain was repressed and exploited for decades afterwards. The Catalan language was banned, its culture suppressed, and this rich region was taxed and milked for all it was worth.
No wonder then that so many Catalans now long for independence, demanding the same right to a referendum which has been granted to Scotland. The whole of Spain is watching our debate and will be almost as much on tenterhooks tomorrow as people throughout Scotland.
In November the Catalans are planning their own referendum, but the central government in Madrid has declared it illegal, and will take all possible steps to stop it happening. The passions are high on both sides.
It makes me so thankful that whatever the outcome in Scotland, we have been able to have a truly free debate on our future, and a democratic vote which will be honoured, whichever way it goes.
It also makes me feel very privileged to be writing about such a passionate and vibrant area of Europe as Catalonia. Daughter of Catalonia began to explore the tragedies which hit Spain in the last century. The sequel, which I am working on now, takes me deep into Spanish Catalonia, to Barcelona, Girona, and the wild Pyrenees, during the the turbulent years of the 1960s. It has been a fascinating journey, and one which I hope to share with my readers soon.
Thanks to French Property News for featuring my house in France in this month’s issue of the magazine. It took a long time and a lot of tears to build, but it is my dream home, and I loved telling them about it! The magazine is giving away copies of Daughter of Catalonia in a competition which is easy to enter (hint, the capital of Roussillon is Perpignan!) Have a go and see their review of the book here. Or why not buy the magazine and get the full article – with all those stunning photos of beautiful Collioure!
Blackwell’s bookshop in Edinburgh must be one of the nicest possible venues to talk about your book, right in the heart of the Edinburgh Festival. Blackwell’s loyal following among readers in Edinburgh is well deserved, and last Thursday’s ‘Writers at the Fringe’ event drew an impressive audience.
Events organiser Ann Landmann had invited me back in the spring to be part of her Festival line up, and I was delighted to find myself with a very diverse group of authors, all of whom have received national recognition. There were five of us, including crime fiction writer James Oswald, poet Tessa Ransford, Saltire prize winner Sue Peebles, and Gavin Francis, who writes amazingly vividly about his travels at the north and south poles.
And there was me, the debut author among them, but in such warm, appreciative company, with an audience among whom many had taken the trouble to read each author in advance, it was a pleasure to talk about the journey that was Daughter of Catalonia.
There are four more ‘Writers at the Fringe’ events at Blackwell’s during August, each Thursday evening at 6pm. I would thoroughly recommend them to anyone taking in the Festival this year.
What a wonderful evening last Thursday 15th May at Blackwells Bookshop in Edinburgh to launch Daughter of Catalonia. My wonderful agent Jenny Brown and I discussed the book, how it was born, and what drove the story and the characterisation, and the very knowledgeable audience put us through our paces with some very telling questions about the writing and publishing process. There will be more public events, including the Blackwells ‘Writers at the Fringe’ evening on 31st July at the Edinburgh Festival. The writing process is interesting and complex, but above all very enriching, and it is a real pleasure to discuss it with discerning readers.