I’m delighted to be welcoming Karen Aldous today who is chatting to us about her June release, Under a Tuscan Sky, as part of her blog tour organised by Jenny at Neverland Blog Tours.
Find out Karen’s inspiration, her characters, a favourite activity for inspiration and a tip for new writers. There’s also a tourwide giveaway of 1st, 2nd and 3rd prizes for UK residents so be sure to check out the giveaway and enter!
Karen Aldous enjoys village life on the edge of the north-downs in Kent with easy access to the buzz of London. Not only does she love the passive pleasures of reading and writing, she also craves the more active pursuits with her family and friends such as walking, cycling and skiing especially when they involve food and wine!
Much of Karen’s inspiration comes from her travels and meeting people. The UK, France, Greece, Switzerland, Italy and parts of the USA and Asia are just some you will experience in her books to date. However, wherever she goes, new characters emerge in ‘Karen’s World’ screaming at her to tell their stories; past or present. She loves to write about strong independent women who can direct their own lives – but struggle to control them! And, of course there’s always a gorgeous hunk or two!
Connect with Karen Aldous
Welcome to Jera’s Jamboree.
Please summarise Under a Tuscan Sky in 20 words or less.
Olivia never found true love, but since her Tuscan nonna’s death, secrets and discoveries are unlocked and transform her life.
What was the idea/inspiration for your novel Karen?
I visited Tuscany on a recce for my daughter’s wedding and instantly fell in love with it. The iconic scenery is simply stunning. It wasn’t just the views however, the venue she chose took my breath away, the medieval villa and farm buildings ignited the cross-generational issues between the characters and stories of ninety-year old Elena, her daughter Roz and the main character, grand-daughter Olivia.
If you could choose to be one of your characters which would you be? and why?
An interesting question because each have struggled and I wouldn’t wish to have been in either of their shoes. I’m going to choose Elena, the grandmother because I would love to slip back into an era and a culture I haven’t lived and discover her life living through two wars and on a Tuscan farm. It was probably very tough and so different to the kind of life we live now but as a child growing up on a Tuscan farm, I’d like to think it was also very beautiful.
Tell us more about the characters Karen.
Olivia was abandoned as a child and is afraid to open her heart to anyone. She is naturally wary and very cautious. It is only after her nonna’s death when her mother passes all responsibility to her she begins discovering who she really is and what she is capable of.
Roz is Olivia’s mother, a seventies hippy who rejected society and responsibility in favour of a carefree non-conformist existence. When she is faced with reality, she defends herself to the hilt – it’s the wake-up call she needs to bring her family together.
Elena was the driving force of the story, she has never forgiven her daughter for her past actions and is determined to see justice done. A stalwart through and through and rather mischievous, but with a heart in the right place.
Who would you cast in the role of your characters Under a Tuscan Sky were optioned for a movie?
For Olivia, Gemma Arterton
For Roz, Helen Mirren
For Elena, Maggie Smith
For Hugh, Jack Whitehall
For Alberto, Danny Mac
(images supplied by Karen)
Did you travel to any places?
Undergo any new experiences?
I did indeed. I visited Tuscany last year with my daughter and her fiance because they had chosen it as their wedding venue. I was overwhelmed when I saw the farm setting in the Tuscan hills. A medieval stone villa surrounded by its medieval stone buildings nestled on the hillside among beautiful vineyards and olive groves. Although the buildings have been beautifully restored, the interiors are traditionally furnished which enabled me to immerse myself in a bygone era. And what captured my imagination most was discovering that it once belonged to the Medici family, notorious for collecting art. Immediately, the Italian grandmother, or nonna Elena as she is known in the novel, hobbled before my eyes wearing knowing eyes and her story began to evolve. With the art connection, I had to find something meaningful to Elena, and the bridal chest, or cassone as it’s known in Italian, emerged as a symbol for Elena’s granddaughter Olivia and daughter Roz as it contained the family secrets. This was when I began researching Italian cassoni on the internet. I discovered they could be transformed through the fashions and again, restoring it was symbolic for Olivia who is the main character who during the course of the novel grew and changed. Other research I did was in Florence. I used an extremely helpful guidebook, Florence and Tuscany – a DK Eyewitness Travel. Olivia meets an Italian car manufacturer from Florence and an antique dealer from England. Again, the internet was a useful tool for delving into the world of electronic cars and antiques in England and Tuscany.
How do your characters come into existence Karen? Do they have a bio?
Characters usually come to me when I’m visiting a place. It’s rather fun because the setting will often set the tone. I feel a kind of presence when I enter some buildings or grounds and I find myself speaking to a character and asking them questions, in turn they tell me what’s troubling them, and then their world unfolds, and the main character’s bio begins. All my main characters will have a bio so that I get to know them.
Do you have a favourite place you go to for inspiration or a favourite activity?
Even though much of my inspiration happens at a location, I do like to think about characters and how the plot is developing when I’m out walking the dog. I find walking among trees in the park or across fields provides the quiet my mind needs to get things into perspective or get juices flowing when I’m stuck. Nature is wonderful for restoring balance and slowing you down when the house gets hectic. (oh yes, I agree 100%)
Are there any tips you could share with new writers?
My biggest tip is to just write the story. Have a plan for your characters and plot and keep writing until the end. Guaranteed you will feel like you’ve run out of steam at times, or you get stuck after the first 30k words, you will have doubts, think your writing is pants…etc., but you can edit later. I never dreamed my first attempt would be published, and I still have so much to learn – but I consider it my apprenticeship for greater things to come. Yes, you need to wear several layers of confidence to cover a thickening skin.
Finally Karen, have you joined any writing groups?
Yes, and finding the right group will build that confidence. Being among like-minded writers with similar goals will not only spur you on, writers and readers are a very supportive bunch, but will help you through the highs and lows. At the same time I got on to the New Writer’s Scheme with the Romantic Noveslists’ Association in 2012, I also joined The Write Place, Creative Writing School in Dartford and if I hadn’t taken these actions, I may never have fulfilled my dream.
Thank you for being my guest today.
Wishing you success Karen.
Format: Kindle Edition
File Size: 1191 KB
Print Length: 384 pages
Publisher: HQ Digital (14 Jun. 2017)
A summer she’ll never forget…
When Olivia Montague’s grandmother passes away, she decides it’s finally time to make some changes in her own life. So she breaks up with her ‘going nowhere’ boyfriend and embarks on a journey to her Nonna’s home in Tuscany.
Until now, Olivia has always believed that she’s incapable of love, after being abandoned by her parents as a baby. But with each day spent at the gorgeous villa nestled in the rolling Italian hills, she feels her heart begin to flutter…
And when handsome antiques dealer Hugh St. James arrives on the scene, she realises things might be about to change forever!
Karen’s books published by HQ/Harper Collins are available at most ebook retailers. AmazonUK:
Don’t forget to check out the other hosts on tour.
So here’s the (UK only) tourwide giveaway and what a fabulous giveaway it is too!
1st prize: £10 Amazon voucher, eCopy of Under a Tuscan Sky & a signed notebook
2nd & 3rd prize: eCopy of Under a Tuscan Sky & a signed notebook
Please note Jera’s Jamboree is not responsible for the giveaway.
Read the Terms and Conditions before entering on the Rafflecopter below.