I think this is a first on the blog, I’ve never had a writing duo on my Friday Night Drinks feature before! Even better, this is a mother and daughter team whose debut novel, Love at Cafe Lompar, was shortlisted at this year’s Romantic Novel Awards in the Katie Fforde Debut Romantic Novel Award category. They are… Anna and Jacqui Burns.
Welcome to the blog, both of you. Thank you for joining me for drinks this evening. First things first, what are you drinking?
Jacqui: Definitely something with bubbles, Prosecco or Champagne! Any excuse, really.
Anna: Same for me! Or a fruity G&T.
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?
Jacqui: Somewhere with a sea view, I think. Tenby’s not too far from where I live and there’s a great Indian restaurant there overlooking the bay. In the summer, there are fireworks every Saturday night. A curry and a view, what’s not to like? There’s also a quirky little bar two doors away where live bands play. Perfect!
Anna: I’m usually more of a night-in, wearing pyjamas kind of girl with a drink and a good film or boxset. If I’m forced to go out though there’s usually food involved- a curry or a nice pizza.
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?
Jacqui: Freddie Mercury – I am fascinated by him. He was a genius and complex, as geniuses often are. I think he would be a great dinner guest (if he turned up). And Miriam Margoyles. She’s hilarious and has such an irreverent sense of humour. She would definitely upset someone and it would be soo entertaining.
Anna: I’m a die-hard Swiftie so Taylor Swift would definitely get an invite for my night out, especially if she performs! Maybe some eye candy for the male guest- is it painfully unoriginal to say Ryan Gosling? That would make for a very enjoyable night out!
Think we might have ourselves a proper party here! 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?
Jacqui: Well, we’ve finished the sequel to Love at Café Lompar and it’s out in June this year. We’re thinking of the next book now. In writing, you’re always thinking about the next one. We’re still undecided whether we’re doing a follow up or something totally new.
Anna: We’re on the shaky ground of coming up with ideas for our next book at the moment. We have a few ideas but it’s hard to know if they really ‘have legs’ until we start writing. Neither of us are big planners so we usually just start a book without knowing where it will go.
What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?
Jacqui: It has to be when Honno got in touch with us to tell us they wanted to publish Love at Café Lompar. It was thrilling and they’ve been so supportive. When you write something, you don’t know if others will like it and this was validation. It’s tough in the writing world and you really have to have self-belief, otherwise you’d never write anything. It was wonderful writing with my daughter. We would spur each other on and it also meant we were accountable to each other. We couldn’t give up as the other one was invested in the book too. We also read lots of inspiring quotes.
Anna: Same for me. When we had that email from Honno to let us know they wanted to publish the book it was like a huge sigh of relief, a squeal of excitement and many tears of disbelief all rolled in to one! Also getting to hold the first print copy of the book was totally surreal and wonderful. Oh, and finding out we were shortlisted for the RNA award too!
My biggest challenge is probably editing- I have to say I’m a bit of a slap-dash person so the task of poring over edits and lines again and again is not my favourite thing to do but a necessary evil!
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!
Jacqui: Ooh, that Love at Café Lompar is made into a Netflix film. I can see Emma Thompson as Grace, the character I wrote, and Lily James as Kat, my daughter’s character!
Anna: And Jack Savoretti as the gorgeous Milo!
What are have planned that you are really excited about?
Jacqui: The Romantic Novelists association’s awards ceremony is pretty special and we’ve been so looking forward to it. We have another trip planned to Montenegro in the summer; my daughter and I often have little weekends away. She’s in Derbyshire and I’m in south west Wales, so when we meet up, it’s always special. Now we have writing books together in common, so we’re often talking about new characters and plots.
Anna: The trip to the award ceremony in London will really be a special one. Also, the publication of the sequel to our book in June, A Wedding at Café Lompar.
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?
Jacqui: That’s an easy one. We set our book in Montenegro after we stopped there one day on a cruise. The Bay of Kotor was breathtaking – like the Norwegian Fiords in the sun. We’re desperate to go back there. The sequel to the novel is out in June and we want to go to Montenegro in the summer and take lots of photographs. It really is the most beautiful country and I rarely hear of people visiting there. I also want to see more of France and New Zealand is definitely on my bucket list.
Anna: That’s a tough question- where to start? Montenegro was absolutely gorgeous and a very special place to us. I’m a serious Scandi-phile and love travelling to the Nordic countries too. I would love to go to Sweden and Finland so I can tick them all off my bucket list. I also love America, and dream about spending autumn or “Fall” in New England.
Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself.
Jacqui: Well, I have just lost three stones on Slimming World. It’s not a secret as I have been posting my weight loss on Facebook and Instagram. It provides a layer of accountability. It’s hard as we’re a real ‘foodie’ family and food is so much part of socialising. I get much more interest on social media for my weight loss than anything I post on our books.
Anna: It’s probably not a secret but when I started working as a junior doctor, I agreed to have my first job filmed for a BBC show called ‘Junior Doctors’. It surprised a lot of people who knew me as I’m usually quite a quiet person. I do like a challenge though and being filmed was a bigger challenge than I ever thought it would be- I don’t think it came naturally to me! I enjoyed having the glam treatment for promotional pictures though and getting to rub shoulders with Dan and Louise on BBC Breakfast!
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’?
Jacqui: I listen to lots of audiobooks when I drive or go for a walk, but there’s nothing more satisfying that having a new book in your hands. At Christmas, I loved reading Milly Johnson’s I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day. It was about six people stranded in the snow and they hole up in a pub in Yorkshire for three days. It was a masterclass in characterisation as it compelled you to turn the pages, even though little happened. Romantic novels or ‘chick lit,’ as it is often called, has a bad press as though it’s an inferior form of fiction. It annoys me as writers craft their characters and plots with such care.
It’s nearly Christmas and it’s snowing, hard. Deep in the Yorkshire Moors nestles a tiny hamlet, with a pub at its heart. As the snow falls, the inn will become an unexpected haven for six people forced to seek shelter there…
Mary has been trying to get her boss Jack to notice her for four years, but he can only see the efficient PA she is at work. Will being holed up with him finally give her the chance she has been waiting for?
Bridge and Luke were meeting for five minutes to set their divorce in motion. But will getting trapped with each other reignite too many fond memories – and love?
Charlie and Robin were on their way to a luxury hotel in Scotland for a very special Christmas. But will the inn give them everything they were hoping to find – and much more besides?
A story of knowing when to hold on and when to let go, of pushing limits and acceptance, of friendship, love, laughter, mince pies and the magic of Christmas.
Anna: My favourite book is Love After Love by Ingrid Persaud. It’s about an unconventional family set-up in Trinidad and it’s bursting with culture and colour! I’ve never been so distraught to finish a book and I recommend it to everyone that asks. I also loved The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. It’s a love story in a way that you’d never expect. Just gorgeous!
Meet the Ramdin-Chetan family: forged through loneliness, broken by secrets, saved by love.
Irrepressible Betty Ramdin, her shy son Solo and their marvellous lodger, Mr Chetan, form an unconventional household, happy in their differences, as they build a home together. Home: the place where your navel string is buried, keeping these three safe from an increasingly dangerous world. Happy and loving they are, until the night when a glass of rum, a heart to heart and a terrible truth explodes the family unit, driving them apart.
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?
Jacqui: Terribly boring, I’m afraid, but drinking gallons of water and paracetamol. At my age, hangovers last three days and I try to avoid them at all costs.
Anna: A hangover is all in the preparation. You need a packet of paracetamol and a bottle of water by your bedside before you go out for the night. Taking your make-up off and even showering before bed also makes you feel fresh. Space out your drinks with water, and always eat a big meal before drinking. If all else fails, then Netflix, tea and feeling sorry for yourself while you pray for it to be over!
After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?
Jacqui: A country walk and pub lunch – hangover permitting, of course! Followed by a good film or series on Netflix – something completely and brilliantly cheesy!
Anna: Agreed. You’ve forgotten the good book though!
Thank you so much for drinking with me this evening, I have had a blast and I can’t wait to read your book. I’d love to have you back on the blog to talk more about writing as a mother-daughter team when your new book is released if we can organise it, the dynamics intrigue me!
Anne and Jacqui’s RONA-nominated book, Love at Cafe Lompar, is out now and you can but a copy here. The sequel, A Wedding at Cafe Lompar, will be released in June 2022 and can be pre-ordered here.
Can a journey that begins in betrayal ever end in joy?
Grace believed she had the ideal marriage, but after Dan dies, she finds proof he had another family. Kat can’t admit that her father was less than perfect. Mother and daughter go to Montenegro to find out the truth.
But when they track down Rosa and her son, while Grace is heart-broken, Kat can’t help being thrilled to have a brother. Kat starts helping out ‘just for a few days’ at Rosa’s restaurant, the Café Lompar. Soon both women are torn between their old and new lives, facing impossible choices.
Jacqui Burns was born into a very humble working-class family, and brought up on a council estate. Her parents were avid readers and books provided an escape, offering a ticket to a better life. She studied English Literature at university and has spent a life teaching in secondary schools. She loved words and has always dreamed of being a writer. She brought her daughter up on her own and they both loved books and films, and shared the same sense of humour. They are very close, speaking every day and enjoying annual holidays together. It was on one of these trips, a cruise where they visited Montenegro for the first time and had the gem of an idea for a book. The rest is history, as they say…
Anna Burns grew up in South Wales, close to the beach, and loved taking long walks before coming back to snuggle up with a good book. She has always enjoyed reading and writing, as well as crafts such as painting and baking. Despite being creative, at school she performed well in Science and went to Birmingham to study Medicine at the age of 18. She chose to specialise in Psychiatry as she loves getting to hear people’s stories and help those struggling with mental illness, and is hoping to train in forensic psychiatry in the next few years. She currently lives in Derbyshire in a small village called Melbourne (which interestingly gave Melbourne, Australia its name!) with her pilot boyfriend and cat Socks.
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