I’m so pleased to be joined by Phillipa Ashley today, author of The Cornish Cafe trilogy all of which I have very much enjoyed. You can read my review of the most recent book, Confetti at the Cornish Cafe, by clicking here. She has written about some of the adventures she has had while researching her books. You’ll find information about the author and buying links at the bottom of this post, along with the opportunity to read a free preview.
Why hands-on research is much more fun
Before I wrote my first novel, I had no idea of how much research was involved. Obviously, I assumed, a historical or crime novelist would need to do a lot of research but as for a contemporary romance?
You just make it up, don’t you?
Er… not quite.
My debut, Decent Exposure, was about a Lake District mountain rescue team. With a holiday home in the area, I knew the location well but almost nothing about the work of these amazing volunteers.
It was no hardship to visit the local MRT base and interview some of the team. What I hadn’t bargained for was actually doing some real hands-on research myself! After my editor asked me to inject ‘more fear’ into an abseiling scene, I decided to overcome my terror of heights and have a go. The experience of stepping over the edge of a cliff definitely added impact to the scene but as for taking the plunge again – never!
Since then, I’ve grown to enjoy (some of) my research adventures – hiring a vintage campervan was a lot of fun although it did make me realise some of the ‘romantic moments’ I’d planned for the hero and heroine were better set in a king size bed in a luxury hotel.
Not so enjoyable was working as an extra on a student film which involved playing a dying ‘plague victim’ in some freezing woods on a February night. That’s another one I’m happy to pass on in future.
For the Cornish Café series, I ‘worked’ in a local café for the morning (although I spent more time chatting than making cappuccinos) and did a bread making course in a Lichfield bakery. I came home with a lot of tasty loaves and the dough kneading ended up in a scene in Confetti where Demi works out her frustration with an annoying character.
On a more serious note, I spoke to two wonderful women from the charity, People in Motion, which provides aid to refugees, to ensure I could accurately portray one of the most important threads in the book.
As you might guess from the title: Confetti at the Cornish Café is centred around a very special wedding. The thing is, I’ve recently celebrated 30 years since I organised my own big day and I was a bit rusty on the details.
Fortunately, I met a brilliant lady called Hazel on Twitter. As an experienced event florist she talked me through every aspect of planning a wedding and was full of tips on how to make the day a success – and what can go wrong. And it was a sheer luck that a visit to hotel with a falconry centre back in July 2016 inspired one of the key scenes in the book. Yes, you really can have an owl deliver your wedding rings…
I also found that weddings have also changed a bit since 1987, with a bewildering array of options for ceremonies and celebrations beyond the traditional church and hotel reception. For better or worse, getting hitched is now big business – which was one of the themes of Confetti at the Cornish Cafe. Kilhallon, the Cornish ‘glamping’ resort in the series, offers couples a stunning seaside venue where they can have a wedding that’s unusual and individual.
Hands-on research is crucial. It makes your story more authentic, it opens up exciting ideas for plots and takes you, the author, to fascinating new worlds.
And if you do your job well, your reader will follow too.
Phillipa Ashley writes warm, funny romantic fiction for a variety of international publishers. The first two books in her best-selling Cornish Café series made the Amazon Top 20 and Top 10 chart in 2016. The final novel, Confetti at the Cornish Café, is published on May 29th 2017.
Phillipa lives in a Staffordshire village with her husband and has a grown-up daughter. When she’s not writing, she loves walking, cycling and swimming in wild places like the Lake District and of course, Cornwall.
Confetti at the Cornish Cafe