I am thrilled to be joined today by fellow Scot Kiley Dunbar, Hera Books author, Joan Hessayon Award nominee, academic and organiser of The Manchester Metropolitan University’s #LoveWritingMCR program.
Welcome Kiley! We met IRL at last year’s RNA Conference (so much fun!) and I was looking forward to catching up with you at Manchester earlier this year, but the weather thwarted my plans… How did the #LoveWritingMCR event go and will there be any more such events?
I was gutted we couldn’t meet up again, [Eilidh: Me too!] but those were some wild storms back in February, all the trains were cancelled later that night so we were lucky to get home again! It all seems a distant memory with lockdown happening since then, doesn’t it?
Yes, absolutely. Like a different world.
The event was a big success, around fifty RNA members attended to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the organisation. We had a full day of speakers, including Debbie Johnson as our guest of honour, and a ‘1000 word meet cute writing competition’. It was a blast and I got to meet up with lots of writing pals I only ever chat with on Twitter.
Manchester Metropolitan University’s Manchester Writing School is planning more #LoveWritingMCR events in the future; something else to look forward to when this is all over.
When you took part in #UKRomChat we discussed your debut novel, One Summer’s Night. What have you written since then?
That’s right! I’d only just debuted in March 2019 and #UKRomChat invited me on! That was so much fun too!
Since then I’ve published Summer at the Highland Coral Beach (2020), the first in the Port Willow Bay Series, which takes you on an impromptu crafting holiday in the Scottish Highlands and reminds us that after the storm comes the rainbow. There’s lots of crafts, ceilidhs, coral bays and gentle recovery. (Part two coming September 2021 – both parts can be read alone), and Christmas at Frozen Falls (2019) which whisks you away to snowy, remote Finnish Lapland over Christmas where Sylvie Magnussen is getting a second chance at love with an old flame – sexy Stellan Virtanen – the one who got away – well, he ran away actually, and Sylvie never understood why. Expect hot kisses in a cold climate, Northern lights and a stunning resort setting. (Standalone novel)
You’ve set books in Stratford-upon-Avon, Lapland and now the Scottish Highlands. How do you choose the locations for your books?
They’re all places I love and wish I could spend more time in. By writing these stories I can go back there as often as I want.
Love this answer!
Please tell me about your hero and heroine in Summer at the Highland Coral Beach, Beatrice and Atholl.
Poor old Beatrice has experienced devastating loss and she doesn’t know where to turn. When she arrives in the Scottish highlands she finds a community where she’s needed – though they’re unconvinced at first – and of course, there’s love, romance and recovery in store for her too when Atholl Fergusson, a tall, redheaded Scotsman, helps her see life is beautiful and full of (happy) surprises.
I adore Highland beaches. I’ve written a flash set on a beach on Lewis. Whereabouts is Port Willow Bay? Which coast? Is it inspired by a real place?
Oh, I’d love to read that!
Thank you! Keep meaning to put it up here!
Lewis sounds so idyllic and wild.
Port Willow is my reimagining of Plockton, a beautiful nineteenth century village once loved by artists and Victorian tourists, now a haven for holidaymakers looking for quiet beaches, walking, pubs, seafood and scenery.
You deal with loss in Summer at the Highland Coral Beach. How important is it for you that romantic fiction shows life’s sorrows as well as joys?
I want my books to be realistic in that we all suffer pain and sadness in our lives and in Summer at the Highland Coral Beach I wrote about babyloss, a topic close to my heart. One in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage and, sadly, Beatrice discovers that although the experience is a common one, it’s still not talked about nearly enough. Beatrice’s grief is compounded by feeling she can’t share her sadness – until she meets Atholl Fergusson who has a quiet kindness about him that inspired her to confide.
Thank you for giving us insight into your motivation for writing this story. Books can, and do, get people talking.
Finally, to borrow from #UKRomChat, is there an even greater role for Happy Ever Afters in romance novels in our lives right now?
We need to believe that our patience and planning, hoping and longing will pay off in the end. Love always wins in romance novels, that’s why I couldn’t live without them.
Thank you so much for welcoming me to your blog, it’s been lovely talking with you, Kiley. x
Thank you for being here! I’ve loved our blether. It’s great to have ways to chat from a distance. x
Summer at the Highland Coral Beach is available now!