RONA Awards 2022 Celebration Drinks with… Charlotte Betts

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My next guest in my series celebrating the 2022 RONA Awards is an author who was short-listed in the Historical Romantic Novel award category for her novel, The Fading of the Light. Welcome to the blog… Charlotte Betts.

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Thank you for joining me for drinks this evening. First things first, what are you drinking?

Thank you for inviting me to join you for a Friday night wind-down. Since I have to drive tonight, I’ll enjoy a Grove 42 Seedlip non-alcoholic gin. Lots of ice, a slice of lemon and top up the glass with tonic water, please.

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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?

Probably not where you’d expect! Wrap up warm and I’ll bring homemade gingerbread, a flask of mulled wine and picnic rugs. There will be a full moon and we’ll walk out into the woods that surround my cottage and set up camp on the edge of a glade and tell each other stories of long ago. We’ll sit in the silvery moonlight, listening to the leaves sighing in the trees and gaze up at the stars shining like diamonds in the velvet black sky. If we wait long enough, we might see deer, foxes and perhaps a badger. And a wood mouse or two.

Sounds amazing! 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?

My female guest would be Amanda Earhart. Born in Kansas, she was a Red Cross nursing volunteer in Canada in WWI. Back in the US, she first went up in a plane in 1920 and in 1923 was the sixteenth woman to receive a pilot’s license. In 1928, she was the first woman to fly a plan across the Atlantic and in 1937, she attempted to circumnavigate the globe but disappeared over the Pacific. I so admire her for her determination and for being a role model for other women.

My male guest would be Sir David Attenborough, broadcaster, biologist and advocate for mitigating climate change. What tales he would have to tell about his travels all over the world!

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 currently writing my eleventh book, The Venetian Inheritance, the first of three set in Italy. Each book follows the story of a different WWI widow. I’m interested in what happened to all the ‘surplus’ women after so many men were killed or maimed during the Great War. Women who’d always expected to be provided for by their husbands now had to find a new way of living. For some this was a terrible shock but, for others, life opened up with new opportunities. There will be romance – how could there not be in such a romantic setting as Italy – but my heroines will choose their own, different, paths to happiness.

What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?

I didn’t start writing until late in life and becoming a debut published author at 61 was a proud moment. That first novel The Apothecary’s Daughter won the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Joan Hessayon Award. I’ve won or been shortlisted for other awards since but I’ll always remember that one with pride. 

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1665. Susannah Leyton has grown up behind the counter of her father’s apothecary shop in bustling Fleet Street. A skilled student – the resinous scents of lavender, rosemary, liquorice and turpentine run in her blood – her father has granted her the freedom to pursue her considerable talents. But Susannah is dealt a shocking blow when her widowed father marries again, and her new step-mother seems determined to remove her from the apothecary shop for good.

A proposal of marriage from the charming Henry Savage seems to offer Susannah an escape. But as the plague sweeps through London, tragedy strikes, and dark secrets in her husband’s past begin to unfold. It will take all of Susannah’s courage and passion to save herself from tragedy . . .

My biggest challenge is not to feel guilty when I want to write but the housework, the family or the dog need attention. 

What is the one big thing you’d like to achieve in your chosen arena? Be as ambitious as you like, it’s just us talking after all!

I’d really, really love to have my books made into a film or TV series. When I’m writing, I always picture the settings and characters in minute detail and the story feels as real to me as a film. Not everyone likes reading (shocking, I know!) and I’d love those people to enjoy my stories in another format.

What have you planned that you are really excited about?

My recently published Spindrift trilogy is set in a turn of the century artists’ community in Cornwall. The Fading of the Light, #2 in the series, has been shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association awards in the Romantic Historical Category. 

I’m so excited, not just about being shortlisted, but because the event will be the first opportunity since before Covid to dress up and meet fellow authors, my agent and my editor face to face again. Happy days!

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?

I visited the Highlands of Scotland a few years ago and was blown away by the wild beauty of the landscape studded with picturesque ruined castles.

As a teenager, my parents took me to Pompeii. It was a searing hot day and I remember walking through the ancient streets thinking that my sandals were treading in the exact same place as real Romans before me! I long to return. Currently, I have no great desire for exotic travel to faraway places but I would love to spend a few months on a road trip around Italy, Croatia and the Mediterranean, discovering more about the history of these places.

Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself.

When I was thirteen, my father worked in television and he procured me a ticket to take part in a  music show, Ready Steady, Go! I had a whale of a time dancing as if no one was watching and I actually spoke to Mick Jagger, who gave me his autograph. The funniest part of all this is that I was wearing my ‘best’, dress, which was actually my confirmation dress!

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’?

Daphne du Maurier’s My Cousin Rachel. I love the ambiguous ending because it always leaves me wondering all over again. The characters are complex and well-drawn and the whole book has a brooding sense of unease. In fact, I like almost everything written by this author. In my opinion, none of the films made from this classic are as good as the book.

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Orphaned at an early age, Philip Ashley is raised by his benevolent cousin, Ambrose. Resolutely single, Ambrose delights in making Philip his heir, knowing he will treasure his beautiful Cornish estate. But Philip’s world is shattered when Ambrose sets off on a trip to Florence. There he falls in love and marries – and then dies suddenly in suspicious circumstances.

Before long, the new widow – Philip’s cousin Rachel – arrives in England. Despite himself, Philip is drawn to this beautiful, mysterious woman. But could she have masterminded Ambrose’s death?

Oh, I adore Daphne du Maurier! 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?

I’m not sure if I should be embarrassed, because it makes me sound like a kill-joy, or proud, because it makes me sound like a fine, upstanding citizen, but I’ve never had a hangover. Perhaps it’s the vile thought of having to swallow a Prairie Oyster with a raw egg floating in it that puts me off drinking too much. Also, alcohol makes me sleepy and then I miss all the fun. I imagine drinking a lot of water would help a hangover.

After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?

If it’s sunny, a seaside walk ending in lunch in a country pub. In the afternoon, a potter around a Cotswold village looking at antiques and architecture. On Sunday, a visit to a stately home where I can imagine myself as the lady of the house. After lunch, I’d like to curl up in a comfortable wing chair by a roaring fire and read, without any interruptions, except for enjoying a splendid afternoon tea.

Perfect! Thank you so much for joining me this evening, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed chatting to you.

Charlotte’s RONA-shortlisted novel, The Fading of the Light, is available now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

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1902. Spindrift House, Cornwall.

Edith Fairchild, deserted by her feckless husband Benedict eight years before, has established the thriving Spindrift artists’ community by the sea and found deep and lasting love with Pascal. They have accepted that they cannot marry, but when Benedict returns unexpectedly to Spindrift House, all Edith and Pascal’s secret hopes and dreams of a joyous life together are overturned.

Benedict’s arrival shatters the peaceful and creative atmosphere of the close-knit community. When Edith will not allow him back into her bed, the conflict escalates and he sets in motion a chain of tragic events that reverberate down the years and threatens the happiness of the community forever . . .

Charlotte’s latest book, the third in the Spindrift trilogy Letting in the Light, was published in January and you can buy a copy here.

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1914 Spindrift House, Cornwall

Edith Fairchild’s good-for-nothing husband, Benedict, deserted her when their children were babies. Now the children are almost adult, Edith and Pascal, her faithful lover of two decades, are planning to leave their beloved Spindrift artists’ community in Cornwall and live together in blissful sin in France.

But an explosive encounter between Benedict and Pascal forces old secrets into the light, causing rifts in the happiness and security of the community. Then an assassin’s bullet fired in faraway Sarajevo sets in train a chain of events that changes everything.

The community left in Cornwall struggles to eke out a living, while the younger generation enlist or volunteer to support the war effort, facing dangers that in the golden summer of 1914 would have seemed unimaginable.

When it’s all over, will the Spindrift community survive an unexpected threat? And will Edith and Pascal ever be able to fulfil their dream?

Charlotte Betts is a multi-award-winning author of ten romantic historical novels published by Piatkus. Her books are set in various eras between the Restoration and the Great War and she draws inspiration from the stories of strong women at turning points in history. Careful historical research enriches her writing with an evocative sense of time and place.

A member of The Romantic Novelists’ Association, The Society of Authors and The Historical Novel Society, Charlotte lives in a C17th cottage in the woods in Hampshire.

To be the first to hear about Charlotte’s new releases and her writing life, please do visit her website.

Connect with Charlotte:

Website: www.charlottebetts.co.uk

Facebook: Charlotte Betts Author

Twitter: @CharlotteBetts1

Instagram: @charlottebetts.author

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