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Tuesday, 22 January 2013

An interview with travel writer Holly

A character interview with Holly from the novel 
Sign of the Times by 
Susan Buchanan

Holly, travel writer extraordinaire and heroine of Sign of the Times, kindly agreed to be interviewed on one of her very favourite topics, travel!

Q: Hi Holly, welcome and thanks for agreeing to talk to us about your favourite topic.
H: Well, it’s no secret that I am a bit of a travel nut. I have the best job in the world and thank my lucky stars every day for it. My latest book, as yet untitled, is set in Tuscany, but I’d like to keep that under wraps for now. I will say, however, that there are lots of stunning places to be uncovered and you’ll be able to pick it up soon for around ten pounds.

Q? So can you tell us about your previous books?
H: Sure. Secrets of the Neapolitan Riveria was a bold step for me to take. I’d only recently ventured into travel writing, but I caught a lucky break and the book and the TV series that followed became a huge success. Here’s hoping the same is true of the new one!  If you’re not familiar with the area, the Neapolitan Riviera, an amazing region, contains some of the most beautiful spots in Italy: the charming town of Pisa, with its leaning tower; every art lover’s dream - the city of Florence; Sorrento and the amazing Bay of Naples, as well as quite possibly Italy’s shadiest city - Naples. Fortunately it has the saving grace of having absolutely amazing food.  Not to mention the fabulous city of Pompeii - it really does humble you and I swear, when you are there, you really feel as if you have travelled back through the centuries. Be warned, though, take water with you.  I suffered from serious sunburn and dehydration. You simply don’t realise how hot it is and because you are so awestruck, time passes very quickly.

Q: So what does Secrets of the Neapolitan Riviera cover that other travel guides of that area don’t?
H: Well, naturally there will be some overlap with other guides, but I spent over a year visiting villages there and when I visited the cities, I didn’t focus on the Uffizi art gallery in Florence or any of the other big hitters. I went behind the scenes, to places where I wouldn’t find tourists. Often you only need to go two streets away from the main drag and you will find restaurants overflowing with Italians, with virtually no tourists - they’re not brave enough, as they’d need to speak Italian.  Being fluent certainly has its advantages!  Plus I didn’t concentrate solely on places of interest, but gathered stories from street vendors, old men sitting in squares, Italian mamme cooking. There’s a bit of historical info in the book, too, about each area, very local to those villages which are covered in the book, but done in a new and I hope interesting way.

Q: And Venetian Dreams is your second book, soon to be launched? What can you tell us about that?
H: Well, it does what it says on the tin. Venice is a marvellous, sprawling city, full of dark corners, slow-passing gondolas and water taxis whizzing past. However, when you step out of the train station, you feel as if time has stopped. Personally I can imagine it in the era when masked balls were all the rage. The little island of Murano, where they blow the world-famous glass is a stone’s throw away.  I specifically went both in summer and winter.  The humidity is so bad in winter, you can barely breathe from the cold.  Just as well then that there are some amazing cafés selling hot chocolate you could stand a spoon up in! It’s kind of eerie in winter, though, but a brilliant time to explore and to get off the beaten track.

Q: So you’ve done most of the research for your third book. What’s next after that?
H: Well, there are three possibles to be covered immediately after I finish writing up the third book. The first is the Greek islands, something I am very excited about, as I have never been. I’ve been to 50 countries, but never to Greece. I’d be looking at it with a fresh pair of eyes.  The second is a road trip of some of the mountain ranges in the US, with a particular view at seeking out ex-pats and how their lives have changed since they moved to the States, having them show me around, shoot the breeze, so to speak.  The third is somewhere I have been before and adored, but where I haven’t yet discovered even a tenth of its potential, as back then I wasn’t a travel writer -  Andalucia and its white villages, in Spain. The pace of life is so slow, you feel as if you have been taken back about 100 years. No-one rushes.

Q: And do you have somewhere you would like to visit and perhaps write about that hasn’t been discussed yet with your publishers?
H: I’ve never been to Australia and I’ve only been to Toronto in Canada, so for first world, long haul destinations, those would be my two choices, but homing in only on a very small area, as they are both vast countries. And I’d rather do those that haven’t been covered time and time again. In Europe, I’d love to do Macedonia as I’ve heard it’s absolutely beautiful and I’d also love to cover Transylvania and the Carpathian mountains in Romania - I don’t know why but I’ve always been fascinated by Dracula! Finally, again going long haul, but less discovered, I’d love to write about and visit the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. It’s the region between Azerbajian and Armenia. I visited Azerbaijan several years ago and loved the history. I’d also like to visit Tuvalu, in the South Pacific - I first came across it when I was watching the Olympic Games opening ceremony about eight years ago!  I had to then go and look it up and since then have watched several documentaries on it and read as many books as I can lay my hands on. I don’t know - perhaps it’s being one of the smallest countries

Q : Well, thanks Holly for sharing all of that with us. I wish you every success with your launch.
H: Thanks for having me. It’s been my pleasure.

Sign of the Times

Twelve people. Twelve star signs

Sagittarius - Holly, a travel writer, visits Tuscany to research her next book. Seeking help when her car breaks down, she gets more than assistance when Dario, a vineyard owner, puts temptation in her path. Disappearing without explanation, he proves elusive. Bruised, Holly tries to put it behind her until a chance encounter brings her feelings to the surface again.

Capricorn – Holly’s fiancé, Tom misses her while she is in Italy and turns to an internet chat room for solace. His construction business is under threat, but could foul play be at work?

Gemini - Holly’s sister, Lucy, a serial man-eater finally meets her match, which puts her long-term relationship and career in jeopardy. Cheating she discovers, can have devastating consequences.

Libra - Holly’s uncle Jack, an eminent prosecutor, juggles a difficult teenage son with his high profile career and finds himself lacking. When his son’s school work starts slipping, he decides he needs to take control, but it’s not long before the balls all come tumbling down and Jack finds his family on the wrong side of the law.

One event binds them all… 

Susan Buchanan is the author of contemporary romance: The Dating Game and Sign of the Times (featured today) and both books are available on Amazon. 

Susan lives in Central Scotland with her partner, Tony.


  1. What a fascinating interview, Sooz! I am not much of a traveler, so it's fun to learn about all of these wonderful places around the globe that I've never seen. I think you need to write and publish "Secrets of the Neopolitan Riviera" and "Venetian Dreams!"

  2. Oooooh, totally agree with Tracie. You even have a pen name for your travel guides:>) I am supposed to be working, but read through the whole itnerview with Holly and dreamt of my next trip to Italy. Thank Holly for letting me live vicariously for a while.

  3. thanks for having Holly on your blog, Louise. We had great fun, Sooz