Monthly Archives: February 2021

#CoverReveal #UnderTheItalianSun #ForthcomingRelease @AvonBooksUK @BFLAgency

Here’s the beautiful, eye-catching cover for Under the Italian Sun, bursting with summer colour and escapism.

I was sold the first moment I laid eyes on this cover and I hope you love it as much as I do. It just seems to pop from the screen.

Here’s the blurb:

The #1 bestseller is back with an uplifting, escapist read that will brighten the gloomiest day!

A warm, sun-baked terrace.

The rustle of verdant green vines.

The sun slowly dipping behind the Umbrian mountains.

And the chink of wine glasses as the first cork of the evening is popped…

Welcome to Italy. A place that holds the answer to Zia-Lucia Costa Chalmers’ many questions. Not least, how she ended up with such a mouthful of a name.

When Zia discovers that her mother wasn’t who she thought she was, she realises the time has come to search out the Italian family she’s never known.

However, as she delves into the secrets of her past, she doesn’t bargain on having to think about her future too. But with local vineyard owner, Piero, living next door, Zia knows she has a serious distraction who may prove difficult to ignore…

This summer, join Zia as she sets out to uncover her past. But can she find the future she’s always dreamed of along the way?

Under the Italian Sun is available for preorder now:

I hope you enjoy your return to Italy and Montelibertà, which was the setting for One Summer in Italy, too. Umbria’s such a gorgeous part of Italy, one where I’ve spent a lot of time. It’s been a pleasure to let my imagination carry me back there as I wrote Under the Italian Sun, thinking of Zia spending a summer overlooking a sun-soaked vineyard in the valley below her as she searches out her own history. One that comes as quite a surprise …

Preorder Under the Italian Sun

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#Writing tip: flashbacks (and how I avoid them)

I always think carefully before utilising flashbacks to reveal backstory. There are other techniques available.

A flashback gives information about backstory to the readers and usually involves a complete change of scene as the incident from the past takes centre stage. It moves the narrative back in time from the point it has reached – ‘flashing back’ to a prior point.

FOR: Flashbacks can be a fabulous way to manipulate a timeline – or two or more timelines – if your novel involves that structure. Or the storyline can be suspended for the flashback to take place at a point that creates a cliffhanger. Frequently, flashbacks are used to tell the readers the backstory. Some genres use them so much that their readers must enjoy them.

AGAINST: A flashback halts the action, so any momentum my story’s building up is lost. Even if it’s exciting and crammed with intrigue, a flashback looks backwards instead of forwards and so sacrifices the all-important ‘page-turning quality’ or has to build up new PTQ … only to halt that, in turn, as the flashback ends and the main narrative takes over again. I’m not a massive fan of halting narrative drive, neither as a writer or a reader. My story is a train on a journey. The readers are the passengers. To utilise a flashback, I have to stop my train and get my passengers to board a second train and then drive that forward. Then I have to stop the second train and get everyone back on the first. It can work. We’ve all had journeys like that and reached our destination. But is it the most comfortable, immersive way of enjoying the ride?

ALTERNATIVES: As my books don’t involve me manipulating the timeline and I choose to construct cliffhangers in different ways, I utilise other techniques to convey backstory so my readers don’t have to change trains.

  • Conversation. Characters talk about past events, weaving their dialogue into the present action so the reader stays with the main narrative all the time. Dialogue’s a powerful tool and can be used to bring out skeletons from closets or probe old sores, provide explanations, expose lies and reveal secrets or hitherto hidden desires and allow characters to show both reader and other characters exactly how they feel or what they know.
  • Thoughts. Weaving memories into present action via a narrator or a third-person viewpoint character who’s acting out the scene, but thinking about the past at the same time. I find this great for revealing emotion and, if I need to, keeping information between Character A and the reader. That can build up tension as the reader knows other characters don’t share the same knowledge and there’s conflict on the horizon.
  • Prologues. I’ve posted about prologues in the past and I know not everyone likes them. However, a scene at the beginning of the book that’s going to have impact later, or even affect the whole book, can be a punchy, effective way of conveying backstory. To stretch my train metaphor, it’s the train manager making a dramatic announcement before the journey begins. Ladies and gentlemen, we hope you enjoy your journey but someone’s standing on a bridge we have to pass under and they may be throwing rocks.
  • Other forms of communication. Letters, diary entries, emails, texts, newspaper articles, websites, social media posts, even graffiti can convey backstory without the train even slowing as it whizzes through a station.

If I’m honest, you might find the occasional flashback in my early books. Maybe as time went on I became a more efficient train driver.

If you liked this post you may also like:

Should I write a prologue?

What happens in Chapter One?

Chapter Two and beyond

Final Chapter(s) and (possible) Epilogue 

Act, react and interact – breathing life into my characters

My plotty head, Fiction Land and my dad

Descriptive writing

Learn about publishing

Agent or no agent?

Sue Moorcroft’s recipe for a short story

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