Today I am welcoming the lovely Angela Britnell on to my blog to talk about her latest book Summer at Seaspray Cottage.
Angela grew up in Cornwall and returns frequently from her new home in Nashville, Tennessee to visit family and friends, drink tea and eat far too many Cornish pasties!
A lifelong love of reading turned into a passion for writing contemporary romance and her novels are usually set in the many places she’s visited or lived on her extensive travels. Thanks to almost four decades of marriage to her wonderful American husband she’s a huge fan of transatlantic romance and always makes sure her characters get their own happy-ever-after.
Angela, thank you for coming on my blog today to talk about your new book:
Summer at Seaspray Cottage.
What would you do if you inherited a Cornish cottage by the sea?
If you’re Thea Armitage, sell it as soon as possible. Whilst there’s no denying that Seaspray Cottage has its charm, it just holds too many bad memories for Thea to consider keeping it – although at least spending the summer preparing it for sale gives her a distraction from troubles back home in Tennessee.
What Thea didn’t count on was her worst Cornish memory moving in right next door. Local bad boy Harry Venton played no small part in Thea’s decision never to return to Cornwall twenty years before – and now he’s her neighbour! Could things get any worse?
Except Harry isn’t the boy he was, and as Thea comes to realise that her opinion of him was built on lies and misunderstandings, perhaps things will start looking up for her summer at Seaspray Cottage …
This is another fabulous transatlantic romance set mainly in Cornwall. I know that you grew up in Cornwall but are now settled in Tennessee, much like Theo’s mother. How difficult or easy did you find the transition and learning to live in a different country with another culture?
I don’t think it’s ever easy but I suspect the fact that I’d also lived in Denmark (where I met my husband) and Sicily before the United States helped me to be more adaptable. There will always be things I miss but over time there have also become things I miss about Tennessee too when I spend an extended time away. The relative ease of travel these days (we won’t mention the pandemic challenges!) and social media make the distance seem less daunting – I can’t imagine what it was like for the brave early immigrants who left their families and everything they were familiar with knowing they would probably never see them or go back to their home country again.
I know you love Cornish pasties, by the sound of it as much as I do. I won’t ask you for your recipe for those, but Norwegian Fiskesuppe? Tell us more?
I have to confess I’ve never tasted it and am not keen on fish soups of any kind! I was searching for a very traditional Norwegian recipe to use in the book (I won’t spoil the story by saying who makes it and who they make it for) and came across the recipe where it’s described as a Norwegian cod and root vegetable chowder.
Have you ever danced the flora dance?
Yes, in school and at village dances when I was young. Flora Day is held in Helston each May and is a wonderful sight with the dance performed through the town at multiple times during the day – I believe I’m right to say you have to be born/resident in the area to take part and it’s considered a big honour. A cousin of mine who was a proud Cornishwoman actually had the flora dance music played at her funeral service.
Your books always have a special attraction for me, because of their setting in Cornwall. Mevagissey is a favourite place of mine. And of course, it has a museum. We have a Radio 4 programme “The Museum of Curiosity” – where guests are invited to donate peculiar exhibits, either tangible or intangible, it doesn’t matter to an imaginary museum. If it’s not a spoiler to say that Harry is considering building a museum in your fictional town, so it seems only right that you, as the author, should contribute something, what exhibit would you donate and why?
Mevagissey has a special place in my heart because it’s where my mother grew up and my grandfather was a fisherman there and harbourmaster for several years. I still have many relatives living there and another cousin of mine is on the board of the Mevagissey museum. There are several photographs of different family members on display and I hope in September we’ll be able to visit it again. If I was to donate something to the museum in my book it would be one of my father’s watercolours – he painted many different Cornish scenes and I can’t think of a better choice.
I love that Thea and Harry enjoy food so much. A woman after my own heart, so I know she’d appreciate me asking the next question. By, the way, I once had scones with a small amount of grated Tonka beans in – an ingredient that changed scones for me. Sorry back to the questions.
Firstly, when having a cream tea, the full works, scones, English breakfast tea, jam and clotted cream, do you butter your scones?
You never butter scones if you’re having cream on them although I allow an exception for my American husband because he bizarrely doesn’t like clotted cream.
Secondly, jam or cream first?
In Cornwall it’s always jam first – only people from across the Tamar River do it the other way around.
Thirdly, what’s your favourite flavour of jam?
That’s a tricky one – I love a strong flavoured jam like apricot or blackcurrant. I’m not a fan of strawberry and think that American grape jelly (their word for jam) is positively nasty!
Actually, last year, we discovered blackberry and star anise jam – another game changer.
Your characters are always so beautifully three-dimensional. I loved Thea and Harry from the off. A question I keep getting asked with characters is are they are based on someone I know. So over to you, how do you go about creating a character?
I always feel I don’t as much create a character as discover them. I’m not a plotter so my first draft is for finding out the story and the bare bones of the characters. Two thirds of the way through the Christmas book I’m working on my hero revealed something I didn’t know giving me extra work on the rewrite!
Are they based on someone you know?
I’ve never based one totally on someone I know – that’s far too much of a minefield – but little snippets sneak from the way a person does something, to how they dress or their likes and dislikes.
Is there a little bit of you in each character?
I suspect there might be although I don’t delve too deeply to find out!
And finally, I know you’ve just finished your Christmas novel, can you give us a little taster of what to expect later in the year?
I have finished the first draft but there’s still more work to do – I can give you a hint that it features a pantomime, a troubled Hollywood actor and treacle.
Thank you so much for joining me today Angela. It has been lovely talking to you.
Book links for Summer at Seaspray Cottage: