Monday, December 04, 2006

Christmas Stocking books and authors - 5

Last spring, I went to the Richmond offices of Harlequin Mills & Boon to have my first official lunch with my new editor. We went to a lovely small restaurant not far from Eton House and had a lovely meal with a lot of laughter and discussion of books, deadline and schedule dates etc. At one point, my editor mentioned that there would be some other editors coming to the same place for lunch together with a brand new author – a very recent UK signing to the Modern line.

Of course that sparked my interest. And a short time later I saw the new author come in. I recognised the expression on her face – after all, I knew it had been on my face once, 20+ years ago maybe but I still remember it. That sense of excitement , awe, a little tension and an overwhelming flood of disbelief. The feeling that ‘this isn’t happening to me – in a minute I’m going to wake up and find it’s all been a dream . .’

I didn’t get a chance to go and talk to the new author that day, my first meeting with Christina Hollis came later, at a Presents Author dinner I was hosting in September – which is where the picture I’ve used to illustrate this post is taken. It was a lovely evening and this time I had the real pleasure of being able to talk to Christina and get to know her better. Luckily for me, she’s also given me some biographical notes so that I can introduce her to you properly

Christina Hollis was born a few miles from Georgian Bath, England. As an only child until the age of seven, she found it hard to lose her place as the centre of attention when her little sister came along! The books that were all around her as she was growing up became her comfort, and the greenhouse her refuge. Her very first book was a few sentences about three puppies that lived in a basket. Her mother produced it – by stitching the handwritten pages together.

The school’s careers advisor gave her the straight choice between medicine and teaching, telling her ‘there is no money in either writing or horticulture’.(Something I relate to as I was always told I’d never ever succeed as a writer!) Unable to follow either of her dreams, she left school at sixteen and started work in an office. A move to the marketing department in the same financial institution brought her into contact with high-flyers for the first time. Working as their ‘gopher’ was an experience that opened her eyes to life outside of sleepy Somerset.

It was at this time she met her husband, on a blind date organised by her future brother-in-law. Love at first sight led to marriage within eight months. Christina had never stopped writing, and when one of her plays was short-listed for a national award, her husband suggested she should give up office work and write full-time.

Half a dozen full-length novels followed, but many rejections, too. In addition to writing fiction, she lectured on organic gardening. She also wrote regularly on both horticulture and self-sufficiency for several national magazines, illustrating her work with photographs she had taken herself.

The birth of her children meant that freelance work had to be put on hold. Then, when her son was six months old she saw a newspaper article about a successful writing course at her local college. There, the Welsh poet Paul Groves introduced her to short-story writing. Various examples of her ‘homework’ went on to be broadcast by the BBC, achieved success in several national competitions, and publication in magazines such as ‘The People’s Friend’.

One holiday assignment was to write the first two thousand words of a novel, to be read aloud during class. That was how ‘The Italian Billionaire’s Virgin’ came into being. Urged to send it to Mills and Boon by her fellow students, her thrill at being invited to send in more chapters and then the whole book was only exceeded by the experience of receiving THE letter – acceptance! It arrived on her son’s birthday, making it a double celebration that the family will never forget.

Christina tells me that the hero on the cover of The Italian Billionaire’s Virgin looks like her husband when she first met him – so that ‘love at first sight’ makes perfect sense!

But I should be telling you about the book - because of course Christina has donated two signed copies of The Italian Billionaire’s Virgin to the Christmas Stocking Contest. It’s also on my own TBR pile, waiting for a moment free to read it. So to whet your appetite – here’s the blurb:

An innocent for the taking . . .

When he finds out that Contessa Larissa Alfere-Tiziano has inherited a ruined Tuscan palace, gorgeous, ruthless Italian property magnate Antonio Michaeli-Isola is determined to reclaim his birthright and make the palazzo his own. And if that means seducing and then discarding the beautiful, spoilt Contessa . . .then he will.

But Rissa is keeping up a pretence that her title has forced upon her. Though Antonio thinks she’s no better than a gold-digging adventuress, in reality the vulnerable virgin is struggling to make ends meet. As she gives him her innocence, will Antonio realise his misapprehension . . .before it’s too late?

Christina doesn’t yet have a web site or a blog that I can link you to – but as soon as she does, I’ll let you know. At the moment she’s hard at work on her second novel.

The Italian Billionaire’s Virgin is on sale in the UK shops on January 5th – but it’s already available on the Mills and Boon web site if you can’t wait that long. USA and Australian publication dates to be announced. It sounds like the perfect holiday treat to me!
PS Abby Green's first book is now also available on the M&B site . See here for more details if you missed them


Anonymous said...

Thanks for that Kate, it was a pleasure to meet Christina in London this September and wishing her all the best for her book and many more!
x Abby Green

2paw said...

I'm looking forward to both books Kate, what a lovely story!!!


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