I haven’t been to a beach since, oooh now let me think about this … at least a year, and with my desire to stay Covid-free, I shall not be joining the ranks of those presently flooding to the coast now restrictions have been lifted. We also haven’t been to visit our relatives in the Cairngorms in Scotland, having scrapped plans to spend a February weekend with them.
However, I can take a virtual tour to both Scotland and a beach simultaneously, via a new novel by Kiley Dunbar … Summer at the Highland Coral Beach. And having been away from blogging for a few weeks, what better way to resurface than with a Q&A with the author of this enticing first book in the Port Willow Bay series?
I am so excited that Kiley, a fellow Romantic Novelist Association member, and a Joan Hessayon Award finalist in 2019 (for her debut novel One Summer’s Night) agreed to pause in her writing to speak to me.
1. What was the first piece of fiction you ever wrote?
At primary school we did ‘composition’. It was my favourite time of the week – we’d just free write for a while. I remember writing a (possibly nicked) story about a girl who lived with a dinosaur that wouldn’t stop growing! I always loved writing stories but as I got older I felt embarrassed about them and stopped, that’s when I became an obsessive reader instead. I only seriously started writing again in my late thirties.
I can relate to the embarrassment thing. I was always being told ‘You have an overactive imagination!’ as if it was something negative. Thank goodness you got over that and started to write again.
2. How long does it take you to complete a rough first draft?
To get a really rough draft down on paper (about 77-80 thousand words) takes four months usually and I really have to push myself to write that quickly. Good planning at the beginning helps me a lot.
I’m relieved to hear I’m not alone in that planning helps the first draft come together for you. My first, unplanned, unplotted title took eighteen months to get to 70k!
3. If you could have dinner with three guests, dead or alive, who would they be and why?
OK, I want this to be a fancy dinner party after months in lockdown so I’m going all out: Champagne, choccy truffles, a gold lamé dress and heels – the lot! I’ll invite a young Rudolph Nureyev (because hot, tortured genius, guaranteed good over-dinner anecdotes); Kate Bush (because goddess); and my lovely friend, the writer Michael McGill (because I miss him so much and he’s the best company I could ever wish for).
Wow. I’m so bagging a place at that table; or perhaps I can pour the champagne and simply listen in… I heard a Kate Bush on Radio 2 last week and had forgotten how atmospheric her songs are.
4. How do you like to relax when you’re not writing?
I like to read hot off the press romances. I walk with Amos, my little Bedlington Terrier, I watch a lot of drama (Netflix’s Itaewon Class is a favourite of 2020), and I’m on season three of Schitt’s Creek and it’s making me happier than I can say.
Oooh, I need to see Amos – did you bring him? No? He’s back home, guarding your next project? Oh, bless…
5. Where did the inspiration come from for your latest title?
Summer at the Highland Coral Beach came from wanting to write a book in my favourite genre that realistically dealt with miscarriage and showed that happiness and recovery, love and romance can come after grief and loss (other romances have done this in the past, I’m not saying I’m the first by any means). Plus I wanted to set a book in a place I fell in love with – the little coral beach near Plockton in the Scottish highlands – it is a little piece of heaven on earth, so I created my own version and called it Highland Coral Beach.
I’m so happy you’ve planned a series here, so we can revisit!
6. What are your top three reasons for being an RNA member?
Making new friends in the writing business; getting great advice and support; the annual conference is nothing but fun and informative from start to finish.
I couldn’t agree more!
7. What have you missed most during lockdown?
I miss going to cafes to write. What a simple pleasure that was, and I could be so productive sitting there with my decaf and my red-velvet cake. I’ll never take that freedom to work outside the house or to move freely for granted again. I will, however, still get annoyed by loud-opinionated men who always seem to sit at the table right beside mine!
8. What piece of advice would you give to a new writer (I’m all ears!)
Believe in your own writing. Take it and yourself seriously (even while having a total blast writing adorable romances) and don’t let setbacks dishearten you. You’ve got this!
I’d get up and hug you for saying this, if we were sat together in my garden today!
Thanks, Kiley, for popping over and chatting. You’ve given me a fabulous reason to dust off my much-neglected blog and I’ve loved chatting books and writing with you.
Escape to the Highland Coral Beach – where broken hearts can be healed
Beatrice Halliday needs a break from life. Booking a trip to the Highlands on a whim, Beatrice hopes learning Gaelic in a beautiful Scottish village might help her heal her grief after losing her baby, her husband and her much loved job in a space of months.
But Port Willow Bay isn’t exactly as the website promised. Instead of learning a new language, she’s booked in to learn the ancient skill of willow weaving, her hotel room is Princess and the Peathemed (with a stack of mattresses for her bed!) and worse still, her tutor is Atholl Fergusson, grumpy landlord of the hotel where Beatrice is staying – and she’s the only one doing the course.
But as Beatrice finds herself falling in love with Port Willow Bay and its people, and as she discovers the kind heart beneath Atholl’s stony exterior, can she really leave?
Escape to the beautiful Scottish Highlands with this utterly romantic, feelgood book; one visit to Port Willow Bay and you’ll want to come back! Fans of Sarah Morgan, Carole Matthews and Holly Martin will be captivated.
And you can find out more about Hera Books here
(I promise I won’t leave it another six months before I post again 🖌📚)