Beating the Billionaires


When I wrote Hot Property over two years ago, I decided to create a new kind of hero- the antithesis to what was trending at the time- the lonely billionaire. I know this is-or was- the man every romance reader dreamed of: rich, handsome with a lonely heart, looking for true love. Sorry but…yawn.

I wanted to present a challenge to the reader, a hero who didn’t have the means to offer the heroine a life of glamour and leisure, who couldn’t take her to the hot spots of the world, fly her to Paris for lunch, or give her diamonds and pearls. My hero would be, okay, sexy, but a man who worked hard to keep bread on the table and the wolf from the door. Someone who had other values and ideals, preferring the great outdoors to fast cars, yachts and fine dining.

So I conjured up Paudie, a Kerry sheep farmer, good looking, poor but honest, hot tempered, strong, stubborn and very, very Irish. He loves animals, the great outdoors, Irish music and a well-pulled pint. He has bright blue eyes and a smile to melt a thousand hearts. I fell in love with him myself as I wrote the story, and now tens of thousands of readers have done the same.

I didn’t really expect it or plan it. I thought I was taking a huge risk. But I never write to a formula or try to find the zeitgeist of the moment- which is impossible.

Hot Property is now available for free in all e-book stores worldwide. It has seen over 20000 downloads on Amazon to date, and received rave reviews. Many readers have sent me messages swooning over Paudie. Must be that Irish charm- or perhaps that readers now want the simple life in a beautiful landscape, rather than champagne and caviar.

Is this a new trend? In that case, I’m proud to have been one of the first to kick it off.

US-UK, What a Difference!

US-UK the contrast   I have noticed through the years of publishing my e-books worldwide, that there is a great difference in the settings- or should I say countries- to which US and UK readers want to escape. As I have had quite a globe-trotting life, I set my novels in the countries where I have lived- and they are quite a few. The places in which I have lived and loved the most are France and Ireland. (Also my home country- Sweden, of course, which was featured in Swedish for Beginners).

I have often been told that my sense of place is one of the best features of my books, and that the readers feel they are ‘there’ as they read. I think this is because I think very visually and feel myself I’m right in the middle of the setting I describe as I write. I ‘see’ the beautiful vistas of France and Ireland, I feel the heat, and smell the herbs and garlic of a French coq au vin, or an Irish stew with fresh soda bread. I swim in the warm waters of the Mediterranean, or walk up the grassy hills of Ireland with the wind in my hair. My greatest wish was to take my readers along with me on these trips, and if I have achieved that, I’m very happy.

My e-books sell mainly in America and Britain. But these readers have very different tastes. American readers love to ‘travel’ to Ireland, especially the wild west coast, as described in my Kerry Romance Series, the first of which,Hot Property, is free right now. UK readers, on the other hand, love going to France in their imagination, which is why my brand new Riviera romance, Selling Dreams, along with my comedy/satire, Villa Caramel, have seen amazing sales in the UK all winter.

I have my own theory about this. I think Americans love Ireland, and thus like reading about it. Many American have roots in Ireland and there is a great infinity between the two countries. People in Britain, on the other hand, have a great love of France and all things French. It’s more exotic and the weather is better, not to mention the food and wine. I can’t argue with that.

This chilly winter, I have myself, escaped to the French Riviera, and continue to do so while I write the second book in what is to become The Riviera Series.

After that, I might return to Ireland… Who knows? In any case, I’m not complaining. Vive la difference!

Writing in a suitcase

2004-01-10 05.49.18

My life is about travel. Travelling from Ireland (where I live) to Sweden (where I grew up) and back again. Visiting friends in the US and going for breaks to France (where I spent many happy years). And writing, writing all this time, while I’m in airports and on planes and sitting in strange bedrooms, with my trusty laptop.

The flight back from Sweden today was in quite a small plane. Cramped at the back of a Boeing 717, I put up my laptop and wrote a long scene, set in a restaurant high up in the hills behind Nice. I was there in my head while the plane brought me back to Ireland.

Isn’t that so weird? How, as a writer, you can be somewhere so different. I mean, really BE there and see and feel and hear your characters, while the air hostess goes: “More coffee?” And I look up, momentarily pulled back to the present and smile and shake my head. Then I dive back in and I’m THERE, in La Colombe d’Or, the most beautiful restaurant on the French Riviera, telling the waiter I want my steak ‘a point’ (medium rare) and frites with that s’ils vous plait’ and look across the white tablecloth at the rakishly handsome man, who I haven’t decided if he really deserves the beautiful Flora…


And at the same time (nearly), I’m co-writing a political thriller with fellow writer Pete Morin and switching from the south of France to the windswept Atlantic coast of Ireland, where corruption is rife and murder and mayhem happen at the drop of a golf club.


                                               Call me weird. Or just call me- a writer.

Doing it my way- the inside story of my writing process.



indo 1


Last week, I was asked to participate in a ‘blog roll’ by my friend and fellow author Rosalind James, a very successful author in the romantic fiction genre with her hugely popular Escape to New Zealand series among others. I greatly admire Rosalind for her beautiful writing and her settings in lovely locations. Her writing and mine go together very well, as we both write romantic themes, laced with humour and sensuality. I was very flattered to be asked to take part in this blog roll by Rosalind and said yes immediately. You can read about her own writing process here


The idea is to describe my writing process and how I produce a book so here are the answers to the questions:


I have just published Hot Pursuit , the third and last in the ‘Hot’ series set in Kerry in the west of Ireland. At a bit of a loose end after that, I saw that my friend, crime writer Pete Morin, was looking for a writing partner for his new Boston crime series. As I have done this before and produced two detective stories with Ola Saltin, I chatted a bit with Pete about it and, before I knew what was happening, had agreed to co-write with him, adding the twist of Boston-Irish political corruption to this series. We started work on the first draft a little over a month ago and have already produced 30000 words, which is amazingly fast.

But, as with all co-writing, there are lulls when you have to wait for your partner to write up a scene or do corrections, so, as I didn’t want to disappoint my romantic fiction readers, I decided to work on a romantic comedy at the same time. It seemed a little daunting at first, but now I find myself changing between two completely different modes of writing quite comfortably.

The new story is set in France and I have a new heroine, Flora McKenna, who gets a job in an estate agency in Antibes, a lovely little town on the Riviera.


Not an easy question to answer. It’s difficult to assess one’s own work, but judging by reviews and comments from readers, I think it’s partly the humour that often include bitchy one-liners- you know, the things you’d love to say in real life but don’t dare… Also the settings, as I have a very visual mind and like to describe scenery and draw the reader into the world I create. My stories are also set in foreign countries, where I draw on my own globe-trotting life for inspiration. My heroes are not usually alpha-males either. So, in a nutshell, my specialities are: humour, scenery, exotic locations and a different type of hero.


I kind of fell into this genre with my first book, Diplomatic Incidents, which is now an e-book with the title Duty-Free. I drew on my experiences as the wife of a diplomat, using many of the rather ridiculous things that happened during my efforts to be ‘diplomatic’. Then I saw that the formula of romance + comedy suited me very well as I’m both romantic by nature, a bit of a day-dreamer but I also like a good laugh. I hugely enjoy this kind of writing and after thirteen novels, find it comes quite easily.


Uh, oh… Well… Difficult to describe really. Sometimes I have an idea for the next book as I finish the previous one, but more often than not, the ideas come after a week or so of thinking about different themes and settings. Then I sit down and write a chapter or two into the first draft to see if it all works.

There are two kinds of writers; pantsers and plotters. I’m a ‘pantser’, which means you write kind of by the seat of your pants and don’t work out a plot or outline before your start, but just charge ahead and go wherever your imagination takes you. The ‘plotter’ kind of writer shudders at this and can’t understand how you could possibly write a whole book this way without a detailed outline. But I find it’s a great and very fast way to get the first draft of around 70000 words down in about three months. You just write and write, piling everything in and at the end of three months you have a story with a lot of possibly very bad writing- but it’s a story! My favourite part of writing is going back to the beginning and making it shine, adding dialogue, correcting mistakes and fleshing out the characters. Most of my writing is done early in the morning, and later in the day, I go back a bit and do some revisions.

The most magic part of my writing is, when I am so inside the story and the characters that I forget time and place and wake up in a daze hours later, wondering what happened to the time. Writers call that being in ‘the zone’ and it’s a wonderful, inspirational feeling.



I have never experienced ‘writers block’ but sometimes I get stuck in a story and don’t know what should happen next or what my hero/heroine should feel and say. That doesn’t worry me. If this happens, I usually take break, go for a walk or do something else. While doing this, new ideas pop into my head or I get a kind of ‘aha’ moment when I know exactly what to do.

But if I’m stressed or worried about something in my personal life, writing has to stop for a while. That feels hard and I reluctantly tear myself away from my story and deal with the problems or wait until I feel calm and ready to get stuck in again. The bottom line is not to worry if you can’t write for any period of time and be very sure you can start again, however long the break.



I was thrilled that two of my writer friends whose work I greatly admire agreed to follow me in this blog roll.

The first was Imogen Rose, whose amazing YA paranormal books have been hugely popular all over the world, entertaining young adult and older readers alike. Initiation, The first book in the Bonfire Chronicle series is a good example of this talented author’s work. You can find more about Imogen here:

I’m also delighted that Mary P. McDonald, author of the famous Mark Taylor thriller series, will be sharing her writing experience in this blog roll. Mary has been very successful with her thrillers and is now branching out into romantic suspense with Seeking Vengeance

Mary’s blog:

Facebook page:



That empty feeling-when you have published your book…



I have just published my thirteenth novel, Hot Pursuit , the third and last book in my popular Kerry series. (or ‘Hot’ series, if you prefer). It took me about five months to write, including editing, proofreading, proofreading and more—proofreading. You might think I feel relieved the work is done, that the book is out there in cyberspace to be enjoyed by, hopefully, a lot of readers.

Yes, I’m happy. And also very relieved and proud of my achievement. Writing a novel takes a lot of hard work, soul searching and brain bashing. So having finished a novel that is as good as I can make it is very satisfying.

But then… I miss it. I miss all the characters that became my friends during this time. I miss the fun, the heartache, the wrestling with all their problems. Letting go of that world I created and so enjoyed spending time in was a huge wrench. For five months or so, I lived in Rita’s skin for part of the day, created her problems and tried to solve them. She was me, in a way, and I was her. With her, I fell in love with the hero and tried to make their story as romantic but also as believable as I could. I did my best to describe the setting and truly felt I was there as I wrote. I wore the clothes, drank the wine, danced and made love along with Rita. I was sad for her and laughed at her jokes, and got very, very annoyed with anyone who wasn’t nice to her. I loved her little flat in the outskirts of Dublin, furnished just the way I’d like it myself. I enjoyed the long walks she took on the pier and ‘saw’ the beautiful scenery. The peripheral characters were also fun to write and they were as vivid to me as the people I meet in real life. It all became such a fascinating world and I loved spending time in it.

My baby that has just left the nest

My baby that has just left the nest

I often wonder why writers actually write. What makes them put those first words together for their very first book? I know what made me do it. It all happened during a time when I had a lot of sadness. I started writing a story that was full of light and laughter, where nobody was sad or died or suffered from an illness. My escape, in turn, became that of others who, perhaps, read that story in order to get a break from their own hardships. It helped me. I hope it helped someone else too.

As I went on writing, I drew on my experiences and my stories became more serious, hopefully deeper and more realistic. I feel I have grown so much as a writer since that bright, fun debut novel I wrote nearly fifteen years ago. But every time I’m finished, there is that huge feeling of separation—of having had to leave people I love.

Writing a book is like having a baby. Like carrying this person for nine months and actually feeling you know this small creature. While you’re keeping it inside you, it’s yours alone to nurture and love. But when it’s born, you throw it out there, into the big bad world for all to see. Your baby is the most beautiful thing in the world to you. But not to other people. When the ‘baby’ comes out, you have to stand back and wait for the reactions of others, of readers and reviewers who might not like this new creation of yours. Worst of all—they might even ignore it.

I miss my ‘baby’ and the time when it was only mine. But toward the end it was hard and painful, when I had to do all that proofreading and editing and formatting and reading over and over again.

But then… as with having a baby, you forget the pain and say: ah, why not? I’ll have another one…

As my stories are very character driven, it doesn’t take long before another heroine pops into my head and starts having problems I have to solve for her. Right now, there’s Flora, who has just arrived in Antibes in the south of France to take up employment in a real estate agency with a very dodgy staff. She bumps into this dishy Frenchman and then, well, the rest is still in my head.

But parallel to that, in a kind of twilight zone existence, there is also the heroine of ‘Full Irish’, the crime novel I’m co-writing with fellow crime author Pete Morin. Finola McGee, political reporter for the Irish Herald who, with Boston lawyer Paul Forté of Diary of a Small Fish fame, cracks the case of political corruption across the Atlantic,  is a feisty heroine I’m also beginning to bond with.

Two ‘babies’ this time. I’m sure I’ll miss them both when the stories have reached their conclusion. But the remedy is, as always, starting the next one.

Sex and the heroine

red shoes 2

I have had a long discussion with fellow writers about the heroine in my current work in progress: Hot Pursuit, #3 in my Hot series, after  #1 Hot Property and #2 Hot Gossip .

This was my question:

Lately, my heroines have become more sassy and independent, not denying their need for sex, even if it’s not about everlasting love and marriage.

The traditional heroine in romantic fiction is gentle and sweet and often comes across as a victim until the hero rescues her. She doesn’t initiate sex and is always a little coy when a man makes a move and the resulting lovemaking is often something she is pulled into against her moral principles. Some of my earlier heroines have been a little like this.

But when I started writing the Hot series, I thought I’d portray a more modern woman, who enjoys sex and is not afraid to show it. She can also have a fling with someone she fancies with no strings, until she finally finds ‘the one’.

In my current WIP, the heroine has a purely physical relationship with a man who’s drop-dead gorgeous, younger than her but not her match intellectually. Of course, later on she will meet someone with whom she finds that true love but her path is littered with temptations and complications. The heroine has a a sexual relationship with a man who doesn’t want more than that. So by mutual agreement, they see each other, have fun and their dates always end up in bed.

But  at the same time, she has a deep friendship with another man, who doesn’t ask for sex but leans on her for comfort and companionship. This man is troubled and damaged. She shares things with him she could never share with her lover. That relationship is platonic but very deep and loving in another way.

So, the question is: will this new kind of heroine, much closer to what many young women are like today, be sympathetic to the reader? Will it be acceptable that the heroine has needs and isn’t afraid to show it and that she jumps into bed just for fun from time to time? She’s a Sex and the City kind of girl. More Marilyn Monroe than Audrey Hepburn. More stilettos than sensible shoes…

This allows me to write some hot sex scenes… ;)

My question is: will this woman be sympathetic and more realistic? Or will readers hate her and label her as a slut?

Of course,  there are books in the romance genre from sweet romance (with no sex)  to erotic romance where they may be having sex even before the first date and everywhere in between. There will be readers who will see her as more realistic and sympathetic, others who won’t.  Tastes differ. Opinions vary. It’s still an interesting question to me.

I’ve had conflicting reactions to this query.  I’d love to hear more on this subject.

%d bloggers like this: