Paying a return visit to my Author Spotlight is Chris Penhall. She’s here to chat about her latest release, The House on the Hill ,which is available now. Welcome back, Chris. First of all, would you tell my blog readers a little about yourself?
I am thoroughly enjoying my new career as a novelist as although I was first published in 2019, it has been my childhood ambition, so I walk around a lot pinching myself and saying ‘I can’t quite believe it to be honest.’ I live in the Essex countryside, have two grown-up daughters and as well as writing, I work on a freelance basis for my local BBC radio station and for a business podcast.
I lived In Cascais near Lisbon many years ago, and that inspired me to write my first two novels – The House That Alice Built and New Beginnings at the Little House in the Sun, and now spend a lot of time in Lagos in the Algarve, which is where The House on The Hill is set. I’m also from south Wales and love the beaches there, so Finding Summer Happiness is a little love story to the wide-open spaces of Pembrokeshire.
I also love dancing – salsa mainly, but I’ve recently taken up tap and have just appeared in my first dance show!
What inspired you to start writing?
I love reading, and always wanted to write, and when I was at school would jot down short stories all the time. However, I didn’t have any confidence in myself and didn’t really think I could ever be published. I started writing again when I lived in Portugal, as the whole place inspired me really, and my daughters were at school by that time so I actually had a bit of time and space in my imagination to create stories. None of them were any good though! They were my practice years – I didn’t think that at the time. Hindsight is a marvellous thing…
Tell me about your journey to publication
I started writing what became The House That Alice Built around 8 years before it got to publication. I got stuck close to the end and couldn’t write any more, so enrolled on an online course to help me write romantic fiction. So that was incredibly helpful and I got a clearer idea of the story which meant I could finish it. I then, after many rejections from agents, invested in a mentor who encouraged me to tell the story from Alice’s point of view in the third person. So, I made a lot of structural changes and that then went on to win the Choc-Lit Search for a Star Competition in 2019. Now I’m working on my fifth book!
In a nutshell, what is your book about?
The House on the Hill is set over one summer in the Algarve and tells the story of Layla Garcia who runs a yoga and mindfulness studio, and for various reasons her serene and organised world is beginning to unravel, partly because a reminder of a past she’s tried to forget moves next door in the shape of writer, Luke Mackie.
How did you come up with the title for your book?
It was originally going to be called That Algarve Summer, but as Layla’s business is called The House on The Hill, that is a better fit.
How do you plan to celebrate publication day?
I’m going to drink wine with friends and say on repeat, ‘I can’t believe it to be honest’ (see above!)
Do you have a work in progress just now?
I’ve written an outline of my new story and am keen to get on with it now, which means in the very near future I’ll jump in and start scribbling.
What one book would you recommend to a friend and why?
I think that would change depending on the day I was talking to them. I’ve just finished reading Ghosts by Dolly Alderton and very much enjoyed that, so I’d probably nudge my friends in that direction at the moment. Although, of course, Pride and Prejudice would always be added to any conversation about book recommendations.
What are you reading just now?
I’m about to start reading Dear Little Corpses by Nicola Upson as I’m interviewing her as part of this year’s Essex Book Festival and I’m very excited.
If you were on Desert Island Discs, what one book would you take with you?
Oh that’s so difficult. Today I would say, Grown Ups by Marian Keyes, because I love everything she writes and I think Grown Ups is a real tour de force. Although Where the Crawdads Sing is a close second at the moment. And I could add…no this could go on for a long time so I’ll stop now!
Is there a book you’d love to see made into a film?
All of mine! Can I say that? I would love my books to be made into films, so I’m just putting it out there!
How can people follow you or connect with you on social media?
My website address is www.chrispenhall.co.uk, and that’s where you’ll find my blog.
You can also follow me on
And finally, if you could be a character in any book you have read, who would it be and why?
I love Bridget Jones. So, Bridget Jones it is.
The House on the Hill is published by Ruby Fiction and available now. You’ll find buying options for various retailers on the Ruby Fiction website here: The House on the Hill