When I was a child, my governess told me fairy stories. These tales, full of superstition and magic, were my first inspiration, and the warmth and colour they still evoke greatly influence my writing. They were also the experience through which I learned to become a storyteller, as my governess and I had an agreement – whenever she told me a story, I would have to tell her one in return.
As a novelist, I am obsessed by vivid colours, lush landscapes and tales of exotic customs in far-off lands. I can trace much of this back to a dear and long-departed friend of my family Mr Chiumbo Wangai, who fascinated me as a teenager with stories of the witch-doctors and magical ceremonies in his native Kenya. When I visited the country myself, I soon fell in love with its beautiful countryside and unforgettable sunsets.
Though I have been telling stories since I was a child, it was only after my children had grown up and my husband and I had turned our family business into a success that I felt I could devote myself to writing full time. After I dug out the various ideas and sketches I had jotted down over the years, I realised how profoundly my travels throughout Europe, the Mediterranean and particularly Africa had burned themselves into my memory. I felt driven to turn them into a novel.
The mystery, magic, heat and passion of Kenya’s landscapes inspired me to use them as the setting for my first novel. Burning Embers, a passionate love story set against the backdrop of the country in 1970. My later travels through Europe provided rich fodder for more stories, including my new novel, The Echoes of Love, set in Venice and Tuscany, Italy.