I am delighted to welcome the lovely Evonne Wareham to my blog this week to talk about her latest book – A Villa in Portofino.
Evonne is an award-winning, Welsh author of romantic suspense – more crime and dead bodies than your average romance. She likes to set her book in her native Wales, or for a touch of glamorous escapism, in favourite holiday destinations in Europe. She is a Doctor of Philosophy and an historian, and a member of both the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Crime Writers’ Association.
Hello Evonne and welcome. I’ll get the super fan bit out of the way first. Have to say, I loved your Riviera Series from the start. Summer in San Remo then Wedding on the Riviera, so was absolutely delighted to open A Villa in Portofino and find Cassie and Jake in this one too. So, I am thrilled to be talking to you today about your books and learning more about the way you work.
Thank you Anni for inviting me on to your blog as part of the blog tour for A Villa in Portofino.
Before we start, could you tell us something about A Villa in Portofino?
Yes, A Villa in Portofino is the third book in the ‘Riviera’ Series of romantic suspense: love and mayhem in the sunshine of the French and Italian Riviera.
From chambermaid to “got it made” …
When hotel cleaning temp and poetry academic Megan Morrison finds out she’s inherited an Italian villa and small fortune from her estranged great-great aunt Olwen, she doesn’t quite know how to react. That is, until she travels to Portofino to see Il Giardino delle Rose for herself. Then she knows exactly what she has to do: live there!
Enchanted by the beauty of the house and gardens, fascinated by the history, and more than a little intrigued by handsome hired landscape gardener Gideon West, Megan can immediately see the villa’s potential as a dream home.
But having long-lost relatives sometimes means long-lost secrets – and it seems that Olwen had plenty of those. Could these secrets and a jealous obsession be powerful enough to drive Megan out of the house that she’s already fallen in love with?
You describe your books as romantic suspense, what can the reader expect?
Yes, the romantic suspense genre mixes the story of a love affair with thriller and crime elements. It’s my favourite genre to read and to write. A Villa in Portofino revolves around a neglected house and massively overgrown garden on the Ligurian coast of Italy that my heroine Megan unexpectedly inherits. She knows very little about the great- great aunt who left her the villa so as well as restoring it she sets out to try and solve the mystery of her aunt’s life. And, of course, as this is romantic suspense, there is someone else who wants the property and is determined to have it.
The ‘Riviera’ series began with a book that was meant to be a one-off – a touch of sunshine and glamour for the summer, and a bit different from the more gritty romantic suspense that were my first books for Choc-lit. That first ‘Riviera’ book, Summer in San Remo, is much more of a rom-com/mystery with only a smidgeon of crime. I enjoyed writing it so much though – particularly using the glamorous setting of the Italian and French Riviera – that I decided to make it the first in a series, based loosely on the detective agency owned by Jake, the hero in that book. Since then, with A Wedding on the Riviera and now with Portofino, I’ve slipped back much closer to my dark side. I enjoy writing the crime element to go with the love story – more dead bodies than you would get with a regular romance. The two elements have to be balanced though – no way is the love story an add-on. The books can be read as stand-alones, but if you read them in order you will find old friends appearing. I’m currently working on book number four, with – I hope – five and six in the pipeline. I’m a slow writer though, so I’m not sure when they will emerge.
Tell me about your writing process.
My first draft is written long hand, so I can write anywhere. A lot of my writing was done on trains, when trains were still a normal part of life. At heart I’m a plotter, although not an intense one. The crime side of the books does get complicated and I get satisfaction from making all the ends tie together. I tend to set out with some thoughts in my head of significant milestones I want to hit on the way and where they need to occur. There is often a time line involved. In A Villa in Portofino it was multiple family trees as the book goes through five generations of a family all the way back to the Second World War. That was complicated and had nothing to do with any crime. Not sure I’m going to be writing a multi generational book again in a hurry.
I’m definitely not one of those writers with a wall full of post-it notes. If I do that, or try to write a detailed synopsis, I get bored and don’t want to write the book. Major character flaw, probably. One of the big things that I gradually realised in my long apprenticeship as a writer, before getting published, is that everyone is different. Techniques that work for one person are anathema to another. I spent a lot of time unhappily trying to follow recommendations from tutors and authors I admired about ways to work before I figured that one out. The main thing is wanting to write and being fired up by an idea. There will be days when the thing writes itself and others when you are pushing treacle uphill with a spoon – much like life really.
What triggers a novel for you?
I start off with an idea of who my characters are, but they always develop minds of their own as I write and are not shy in telling me about it. There is a supporting character in A Villa in Portofino, an artist called Alcinda – she turned out to be a very distinctive player, and bossy with it, but I have no idea where she came from. I like writing villains too. In this book it is a villainess and again she became a distinctive personality as the work progressed. I had a very clear picture of her in my mind from the moment she stepped on stage – immaculately turned out in what she considered to be the very best of taste, but stuck in a time warp that is at least fifty years out of date. Then of course there are the hero and heroine – Megan and Gideon. I wanted Megan to be a woman with a lot of potential who gradually comes into her own as she restores her inheritance and finds her way in her chosen career. Gideon is quite a straightforward guy – what you see is what you get – he’s a landscape gardener who is hired by Megan to tame the wilderness surrounding the villa, but he does have a secret in his past that has potential to come between them. Although there is immediate mutual attraction, the love affair is not an instant thing. I admit I like to watch as my couple gradually become more aware of each other and begin to fall in love.
All three Riviera series books are set in the most amazing locations.
Location is important to me – I like to set the books in distinctive surroundings – often that is my native Wales or, of course, the Riviera. I like to write about sunshine, good food, lovely scenery, scent, beautiful gardens – so in the ‘Riviera’ books all that is a given. It’s not been so easy to do research in person lately, so I’ve had to rely on memories of fabulous holidays, the good old Internet and well-thumbed guide books. But you can always remember the feel of sunshine or the scent of jasmine.
Thank you, Evonne that’s fascinating, and I know I’m not alone in being glad that book four is underway.
Thank you Anni for inviting me.
My pleasure and you can keep up with Evonne on:
A Villa in Portofine is available as an e-book from