Next up, on the blog tour for Finding Summer Happiness I’ve got a Q&A with author Chris Penhall…..enjoy!
about the book
Title: Finding Summer Happiness
Author: Chris Penhall
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Estimated page count: 300
Formats available: Paperback, Audiobook and eBook
Publisher: Ruby Fiction (18 May 2021)
Tour organised by: Rachel’s Random Resources
You won’t find happiness without breaking a few eggs …
Miriam Ryan was the MD of a successful events and catering company, but these days even the thought of chopping an onion sends her stress levels sky rocketing. A retreat to the Welsh village of her childhood holidays seems to offer the escape she’s craving – just peace, quiet, no people, a generous supply of ready meals … did she mention no people?
Enter a cheery pub landlord, a lovesick letting agent, a grumpy astronomer with a fridge raiding habit – not to mention a surprise supper club that requires the chopping of many onions – and Miriam realises her escape has turned into exactly what she was trying to get away from, but could that be just the thing she needs to allow a little bit of summer happiness into her life?
Q&A with Chris penhall
Tell us a bit about yourself:
I have two grown up daughters and live in the Essex countryside. In my garden is one of those free-standing hammocks in which I would sleep probably if the weather was good enough! I’m originally from South Wales, which is where my latest novel, Finding Summer Happiness is set, and I’ve also lived in Cascais near Lisbon, which is the setting for The House That Alice Built and New Beginnings at the Little House in the Sun.
I’m a freelance producer for my local BBC radio station and produce podcasts as well as enjoying my new career as a novelist.
What inspired you to start writing?
I’ve always wanted to write but found it difficult to start. I think it was because I expected everything I wrote to be excellent as soon as it hit the page, which is quite a pressure to put on yourself. When I finally began to write, I realised that wasn’t the case at all and there is this thing called ‘reading it again and editing it’. This discovery was quite liberating! I really started writing when moved to Portugal many years ago when my daughters were very young – it was all new and exciting and seemed to stimulate my dormant creativity. It was many years later that I actually started to write my first published book, The House That Alice Built, which I set in the place that inspired me to start writing properly in the first place.
How many books have you written and published?
I have written three books now. The House That Alice Built won the Choc-Lit Search for a Star Competition in 2019, and it took around 8 years from first putting pen to paper (or hands on keyboard) to getting it published. Since then I’ve had two more books published, which means the speed at which I write has increased considerably. I’ve also written two short stories for Choc-Lit anthologies and have started my fourth novel.
Which book, out of all the books you have written, is your favourite and why?
In all honesty, I love them all. I really enjoyed bringing these worlds to life, but I suppose as The House That Alice Built was the first one I had published, that has a special place in my heart.
How do you choose the names of your characters?
The main character in Finding Summer Happiness is called Miriam Ryan, and that is an homage to my love of rom coms and some of those lovely Meg Ryan films – When Harry Met Sally, You’ve Got Mail, French Kiss and Sleepless in Seattle. The others usually come quite organically – although the grumpy astronomer Alan Thomas is so named because my maiden name is Thomas, and quite a lot of people in Wales have the same surname, so I decided at least one person in the book should follow suit.
Alice in the Portuguese Paradise series is inspired by Alice in Wonderland – if you’ve read them you’ll notice that some of her friends are fond of some fairly dodgy tea concocted by her absent ladlady Mary, for example. The love interest, Luis is named after Luis de Camoes, the Portuguese poet, of whom there is a statue in the square in the same name in the centre of Cascais where a lot of the action in the novel is set.
I’ve just come up with the name for the main character my new novel – Layla. There is a reason for that which will become clear when I’ve got further into the book
Which of your characters would you want to be stranded on an island with, and why?
Now, that’s a difficult question. The easy answer would be almost all of them as I’ve created them and I think they are lovely, if sometimes a little ‘confused.’ I have to say that I loved writing Rhiannon, the love-sick letting agent in Finding Summer Happiness- she’d be great company. And Alan could help me lean about the night sky whilst we were waiting to be rescued by a passing ship! Luis could sing to me…
Who is your favourite author and which of their books is your favourite, and why?
I don’t have favourite authors as such, but there are writers I return to again and again. I always look forward to Marian Keyes releasing a new book – I’ve recently finished reading Grown Ups and loved it. I mean, how did she manage to write so many characters with intertwining plots? And those descriptions of Italy are absolutely sublime.
What is the first thing you can remember writing?
I vividly remember writing a short poem called ‘My Dream Horse’ when I was at infants school, and being really excited and proud when I was told it was going to be put on the wall in the corridor as part of a display. I drew pictures and everything! Unfortunately, whoever typed up the heading to put above it mis-read one significant word as ‘House’. So, due to a slight editing irregularity, my first sort of published work was titled ‘My Dream House’, in which I appeared to use horse metaphors to describe what sort of house I’d like to live in. Quite mature for a 7-year-old I’d say.
What other jobs have you done other than being an author?
I have stacked shelves in Tesco and worked briefly on the deli counter. I worked for the BBC as a production assistant when I first left university and worked in a variety of departments including copyright and finance. I also worked at Radio One and Radio 4. I was a civil servant for a while, then ended up back working as a freelance in the media, where I’ve spent a lot of time working for my local BBC radio station. I’ve also written articles for local papers and magazines, copy for websites and produced podcasts. I worked for many years as Associate Producer on the Richard and Judy Book Club podcast too, where I got to chat to authors and it was rather wonderful.
If you could get in a time machine and had one chance to travel, where would you go? (Backwards or forwards!)
August 2019, and my last summer holiday in Lagos in Portugal or March 2020 where I had my last salsa dance in London, or the last week in June 2021 when I had a lovely long swim in an open air lido near Greenwich and felt absolutely fantastic afterwards. I know that’s more than one chance…sorry..and I haven’t finished yet… as for forwards – honestly, just to the next time I can do any of those things again, which won’t be long!
If you could have one conversation with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
I think I’d like to chat to Hugh Grant to be honest. Just because I think he’d be great company and I rather love his films. Especially Paddington 2. And Bridget Jones. And Love Actually. And Four Weddings..I’ll stop now..
What are your favourite things to do?
I am writing this whilst sitting in my hammock pod in my garden, which is one of my favourite things to do. I love hanging out with my grown up daughters who are great company, my lovely, lovely friends. And salsa and tap dancing, swimming, cooking, eating, watching films and going to the theatre. I also love ‘singing’ karaoke, music of all kinds, reading (obviously) and travelling.
Walking along a beach in my bare feet with the sea lapping gently in the background then sitting at a café and watching the world go by is by far one of the best things I can think of. Sigh…
What is the strangest thing that has ever happened to you?
Well, given I work for a BBC local radio station and have been out for events and live broadcasts quite a lot, I think I don’t know what strange is really anymore. I was out and about with Pudsey Bear quite a bit for Children in Need for years, sometimes just helping him meet and greet, and sometimes I would be doing pieces into radio programmes from wherever we were. I was at quite a few Christmas Light Switch-ons too. I remember one in a local town which shall not be named, where we were told to wait down a side street and someone would come to get us and we would walk with the Mayor up the High Street, get up on the stage, and Pudsey would press the button so the town would be flooded with light and a choir would start singing. Perfect. Except we were forgotten, and I had to drag a big yellow bear who’s not really good at running up a busy street past lots of excited children who wanted to say hello to the stage because he was switching the lights on and he wasn’t there. We got there just in time. Thank goodness no-one was looking at me…
If you could give your younger writing self any advice what would it be?
I’d say, Chris, just write. Don’t expect your words to be perfect from the start. There is this thing called editing.
And finally, name one book you think everyone should read?!
I can’t. There are so many…..and I would change my mind every day. Today I would say The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. Tomorrow it would be something else.
And finally, tell us about your most recent book and where we can find it?
follow the tour
Thanks to Rachel for inviting me on to the tour and to Chris for her wonderful Q&A.
Have a great day for now lovelies and I might be back again later!