As we enter another lockdown here in England, virtual drinks is the best we can all hope for. Fortunately, I am old hand at the practice and tonight I am delighted to welcome to my little blog bar for Friday Night Drinks, author… Sandra Danby.
Sandra, thank you for joining me for drinks this evening. First things first, what are you drinking?
A tall tumbler of Seedlip Garden zero-alcohol gin with tonic and a slice. All the flavour of gin without the headache. Seedlip is a new discovery. I’m loving it! If I’m out of Seedlip, I will be drinking a large mug of Yorkshire Tea, builder strength, no sugar.
Sounds like we have similar tastes in beverages. If we weren’t here in my virtual bar tonight but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?
To Gabi, my favourite chiringuito in Spain where you sit barefoot with the sand between your toes. I love to sit with a cold San Miguel zero beer in my hand and watch the sun go down as the scents of barbecuing sardines and the local fried fish speciality, fritura malagueña, drifts on the warm breeze. Gabi is an open-air restaurant on the beach at El Palo, a little fishing village near Málaga. It’s a quiet old-fashioned place where Spanish families go on holiday rather than foreign tourists. Best late on a summer evening, it features in my second novel Connectedness.
Sounds idyllic. If you could invite two famous people, one male and one female, alive or dead, along on our night out, who would we be drinking with?
I’d invite two artists who I think would be fascinating together. Pablo Picasso and Tracy Emin inspired me to make art the focus of the story in Connectedness so I’d like to bring them together. Picasso died in 1973 in France. Emin would have been nine or ten then so to my knowledge they never met. But I wonder what they would talk about?
So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?
I’m straightening out the kinks and twists in the plot of my third novel, Sweet Joy. It’s the sort of job that has to be approached with a completely clear head or things can get out of hand and ideas mysteriously disappear. It’s incredibly satisfying when connections are made and my brain says ‘of course that goes there’ when I’ve had a blank spot for a while. Sweet Joy is third in the Identity Detective series of adoption reunion mysteries. I love writing these stories. I become a kind of hybrid author, devising clues and red herrings like Agatha Christie, connecting historical mysteries with characters today as Lucina Riley does, and adding a dash of romance like Mary Stewart. At the moment my head is very much in wartime London, what it was like during bombing raids, how everyone woke in the morning not knowing what the day may bring.
What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?
My proudest moment was publishing my first novel, Ignoring Gravity, in 2014. I wish my parents had been alive to see me achieve my dream. They encouraged me to write stories as a child, making my own magazines, then studying English and training as a journalist. But my dream was always to write novels. Without doubt the biggest challenge has been indie publishing. Although my background as a journalist has served me well with the nuts and bolts of publishing my own books, I’m not a natural saleswomen or PR. At heart I am a happily-solitary writer in a garret with a kettle and a continuous supply of teabags. Yorkshire Tea, of course.
What is the one big thing you’d like to achieve in your chosen arena? Be as ambitious as you like, its just us talking after all!
I have outlines for books four, five and six in the Identity Detective series, so that is my first goal. After that I aim to take a sidestep and write standalone novels set in the part of Yorkshire where I grew up. The settings are beautiful – Connectedness is set partly on the cliffs at Bempton and Flamborough – and there are so many fascinating true stories that I know will kickstart my imagination. My real challenge is to decide which story to write first.
What are have planned that you are really excited about?
Book four in the Identity Detective series is bubbling along at the moment. No provisional title as yet. Like all my novels it’s a dual timeline story set today and, this time, the Seventies. I’m thinking bell-bottoms, tank tops, glitter and platform boots. Ziggy Stardust and Marc Bolan, Alvin Stardust and Suzi Quatro, some mysterious graffiti which appears in York, and a foundling left on the doorstep of a flat in a London mansion block.
I love to travel, and I’m currently drawing up a bucket list of things I’d like to do in the future. Where is your favourite place that you’ve been and what do you have at the top of your bucket list?
Oh so many. Places I’ve been that I long to return to… America for the wide expanses, the huge horizons and natural beauty of Yosemite and Point Reyes, both in California, and Monument Valley in Arizona. The Alhambra in Granada, Spain for the architectural perfection and sheer beauty. Berlin, Germany, for the streetlife, the museums and the wonderful choice of zero alcohol beers. On my bucket list are Denali National Park in Alaska, a cruise up the Norwegian Fjords to the Arctic Circle, and New Zealand for the Lord of the Rings vibe.
Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself.
I hit a mean forehand crosscourt winner but a rubbish smash. Once tennis courts reopened after lockdown this spring, I played twice a week and the improvement in my technique was amazing. I just need to keep it going. Meanwhile, I follow the tennis results daily and watch on television when I can.
Books are my big passion and central to my blog and I’m always looking for recommendations. What one book would you give me and recommend as a ‘must-read’?
The Cazalet Chronicles by Elizabeth Jane Howard. My go-to series, I have the paperbacks and also the Audible recordings. The first, The Light Years, introduces the three generations of the extended Cazalet family at the grandparents’ home in East Sussex as they await the verdict of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain as he negotiates with Hitler in 1938. The five books take us through the war years, ending in the Fifties when the children from the first book are now parents themselves. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read and listened to these books from beginning to end, when I start the first I must read through to the end. I can’t leave the family in the middle of the war!
Elizabeth Jane Howard’s Cazalet Chronicles is a thrilling yet charming five-book series of novels that follows the secrets and yearnings of the Cazalet family of Home Place, Sussex through three decades of middle-class life.
So, we’ve been drinking all evening. What is your failsafe plan to avoid a hangover and your go-to cure if you do end up with one?
There are some really good zero-alcohol options out there though they can be pricey, which seems crazy considering they are missing a vital ingredient. When I did partake of sauvignon blanc, I alternated a glass of wine with a glass of water.
After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?
Reading the newspapers, a walk in the country lanes, and a good tennis match on television followed by a snooze on the sofa.
Sounds perfect, although the tennis may have to wait a while! Thank you for joining me on the blog, Sandra, I have really enjoyed chatting to you.
Sandra’s latest book is Connectedness, the second book in her Identity Detective Series and you can buy a copy here.
TO THE OUTSIDE WORLD, ARTIST JUSTINE TREE HAS IT ALL… BUT SHE ALSO HAS A SECRET THAT THREATENS TO DESTROY EVERYTHING
Connectedness is a tale of art, adoption, romance and loss, moving between now and the Eighties, from London’s art world to the bleak isolated cliffs of East Yorkshire and the hot orange blossom streets of Málaga, Spain and birthplace of Pablo Picasso.
Justine’s art sells around the world, but does anyone truly know her? When her mother dies, she returns to her childhood home in Yorkshire where she decides to confront her past. She asks journalist Rose Haldane – who we first met in Ignoring Gravity – to find the baby she gave away when she was an art student, but only when Rose starts to ask difficult questions does Justine truly understand what she must face.
Is Justine strong enough to admit the secrets and lies of her past? To speak aloud the deeds she has hidden for 27 years, the real inspiration for her work that sells for millions of pounds. Could the truth trash her artistic reputation? Does Justine care more about her daughter, or her art? And what will she do if her daughter hates her?
Sandra Danby is a proud Yorkshire woman, tennis nut and tea drinker. She believes a walk on the beach will cure most ills. Unlike Rose Haldane, the identity detective in her two novels, Ignoring Gravity and Connectedness, Sandra is not adopted. She is now writing Sweet Joy, third in the ‘Identity Detective’ series.