The sequence of four novels will span three hundred years, from 1562 – 1862. It was visiting Franschhoek in the winelands of South Africa and discovering the story of a few families of Huguenot refugees who, when fleeing persecution in France and finding refuge in Amsterdam, accepted the offer to travel to the Cape of Good hope to start planting vines. Out of that fragment of history, the idea for an epic adventure series – a Romeo & Juliet story of love across the religious divide and a feud between two families – took flight.
What was the strangest piece of information you discovered while researching these books?
That, in no small measure, French Huguenot refugees from Amsterdam helped give birth to the mighty South African wine industry! I love the link between ‘my’ part of France, Languedoc, and the new Lanquedoc of the Cape! (there’s even a sign at the side of the road near Stellenbosch with the alternative spelling) and also the way in which history twists and turns.
Can you describe the plot of The Burning Chambers in one line?
The Burning Chambers – forbidden love, a missing relic, ordinary people caught up in the horrors of war, love and loss.
The City of Tears – a family’s courage to survive, a missing child, a religious conspiracy.
What three books are on your to-be-read pile right now and what are you most excited about?
The 2020 Women’s Prize for Fiction shortlist is incredibly strong, with novels from Maggie O’Farrell, Bernadine Evaristo and Natalie Haynes among them. I’m the Founder Director and this is our 25th Year. Otherwise, because of lockdown, I’m already working on Book 3 in ‘The Burning Chambers’ series, so I’m reading some amazing travel books on the Canary Islands and South Africa in the 17th and 18th centuries.