Welcome to Day 16 of #RomancingSeptember
Our guest today is Zee Monodee and her book Whisk Me Up
Where is your home town?
I am from a small island called Mauritius in the Southern Indian Ocean, and my hometown is the second largest city on the island and named Curepipe. The city is located almost in the middle of the land, on the higher upper plateaus – it used to be a stop on the road from the port in the south east, Mahebourg, to the port in the north west, Port Louis (also the capital of Mauritius). Travellers would stop in Curepipe to ‘cure la pipe’ – in French, this means to refill and smoke from the pipe again, and hence, the name Curepipe stuck because that was the main purpose of the city in olden days J And it being at the highest altitude on the island, we ‘suffer’ from very rainy, dark, and windy weather almost throughout the year – very much like England weather, in fact. We break out in song and dance when the sun shines out on us, lol. Was born here, in a suburb named Forest-Side, and couldn’t contemplate living anywhere else on the island (yes, even the beach!).
How long have you been writing romance?
My writing career is going on eleven years now. Around the time I started writing (it was going to be literary writing!), I was diagnosed with aggressive malignant breast cancer. Death was literally at my doorstep and I thought to myself, “Well, sod it all! I’m going in for a happy ending everywhere!” So my writing veered to romance – it’s what kept me going during those weeks of gruelling chemotherapy and radiation therapy and then the physical therapy to get the use of my left arm back. I haven’t looked back since then, and cannot contemplate writing anything that doesn’t have a happy ending.
What is your favourite sub-genre of romance?
I’ll have to admit I love rom-coms. Anything light, sassy, funny, totally fluffy even – you’ve got me hooked. Life is hard and the daily toll dreadful enough that it all warrants a little bit of lightness to balance it all. So it’s rom-coms for me. And also, yes, I love chick-lit. J
Where is your book set?
It’s in Yorkshire, actually. Northern parts, near the dales. I created 3 fictional villages that fall under the patronage of the local earldom of Havisham. The series title, Havisham Park, is also the name of this region englobing these villages. If you ask me why Yorkshire, I cannot tell you exactly why I chose this place. It’s just so beautiful and the ‘perfect’ countryside that we all picture when we close our eyes and imagine the English country. I also love the accent and the strong feeling of identity of the Yorkshire people – I thought this would be rather novel and refreshing for a story setting, so Yorkshire it became.
Who is Mary Beth?
Mary Beth is a supermodel. Think Giselle Bundchen today and that’s who she is in the fashion and modelling world. A huge celebrity, a face recognised the world over. In her personal life, she’s also the last of 3 sisters, the daughters of Lord Robert Beresford, the late Earl of Havisham – which, incidentally, makes her a lady of the British aristocracy. Her mother is a well-known socialite in the US, which doubles up on the exclusive family aspect. But with this set-up also comes a lot of drama and dysfunctionality, so Mary Beth has not had it easy her whole life. She became a model at thirteen and now, at twenty-eight, it’s the only life she has known but even this is slipping through her fingers. Her career seems to be on the decline and she is doing everything to be on top of the modelling game…but at the same time not realizing that she has fallen into the arms of anorexia to achieve this goal. When she faints backstage during Fashion Week in India, push comes to shove and her sisters step in to make her come to grips with this notion…and hence the start of the whole series itself – Gracie Lou and Carol Ann, the two eldest Beresfords, ‘kidnap’ her from India and bring her to Yorkshire, the family stronghold, to make her face the truth of her affliction and get healthy again. But Mary Beth having known only modelling as a validation her whole life, she is not ready to give it all up just like that!
Introduce us to Niall
Niall is that one hunk who ‘hides’ in every English village (and it seems to me, from observation and many concurring opinions, that the farther up north you go on the British isle, the more these blokes seem to pop out of the woodwork, lol). He’s a very private person and looks like a Viking giant with his Nordic build and long blond hair. Niall has known tragedy in his life, from a very young age (his mother died while giving birth to him) and the only place he’s ever felt at ease is in a kitchen, making food (and creating magic, as his customers describe it). There’s nothing more he loves than being left alone in his little world. Celebrity knocked on his door once and he didn’t cope well with it at all, so he knows what’s best for him – a quiet life in a quiet village managing his father’s pub. He is seen as a pillar of strength in the area, known as ‘The Shepherd’ of Sheep’s Flock, his pub.
Why would he shy away from someone like Mary Beth?
Well, he tasted celebrity once before, and it did not agree with him at all. The spotlight is not at all where he wants to belong…but lo and behold, Mary Beth is one of the most famous celebrities in the world, one of the most recognized faces on Earth. Wherever she goes, cameras and the spotlight go. Needless to say, these will shine on him, too, if he gets near her. So no, celebrity and its trappings are not for him. Furthermore, Niall is a working class lad whose family has always been the inn, in earlier times, and then later the pub’s owners. Mary Beth is the peerage of the area. Aristocratic codes are no longer as stringent as in past times, but even so – what does a commoner have in common with a lady whose godparents are regulars at Buckingham Palace and Sandringham?
What was the best bit about writing this book?
I’ll have to say the research! It opened up whole new worlds for me. I immersed myself for months on end to render both Niall’s and Mary Beth’s worlds as believable. I learned to cook – like, really learned to cook – when I had to study cooking techniques that Niall as a chef would use. I plunged head-first into the world of fashion and modelling to figure out its intricacies. I read books, articles, fashion magazines, watched Project Runway – lots of fun. Then the sobering part came when I had to research anorexia. It really put everything in perspective for me and I hope I managed to convey that distress and the effects of this condition in the book, and also show that, like the former victims say, there is hope to come out victorious from this battle.
Tell us what you are working on at the moment.
Well, I just finished outlining Book2 of the Havisham Park series. Batten Me Down is the story of the middle Beresford sister, Carol Ann. She used to be a hotshot defence attorney in the US and was in a relationship with a high-profile politician…and then suddenly, she dropped out of it all to come to Yorkshire. The official reason is that she came for Mary Beth, but her actions hide a lot more and she isn’t letting anyone on where that’s concerned. Local police Chief, Colin Hargreaves, can feel there’s something fishy about Carol Ann’s behaviour, and then there’s the fact that these two cannot be in the same room without a tornado and a volcano meeting. The two of them spell out chaos…but is there more than meets the eye everywhere Carol Ann is concerned, and will Colin be the man who can crack that seemingly seamless façade?
Where can readers find out more about you?
At my website/blog (http://zeemonodee.blogspot.com/) Life has been rather hectic lately so I’m not posting as often as I wish to, but I’m hoping this will change in the near future and I’ll get to be more in touch with everyone there. In the meantime, anyone can catch me on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/#!/zee.monodee) – this is where I am most regularly at the moment so please, don’t hesitate to hit me up over there.
Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00WCT6Y7K
Author social media links:
Author website/blog: http://zeemonodee.blogspot.com/
Catch up with more from Zee in Steph’s post in just a few hours http://stephanie-hurt.com/