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Thursday, 8 August 2013

Twenty questions with... Nina Harrington

It gives me great pleasure to welcome Nina Harrington onto my blog today, author of Recipe for Disaster released July 31st from Carina UK and award winning author of Harlequin KISS contemporary romances.

I have grabbed the multi-talented Nina for a round of twenty questions, to get to know my fellow Carina author even better.

ACT ONE – all about you…


Born in Northumberland, I studied and taught pharmacy for many years and travelled widely before settling in Hampshire in 1989 and a role in the pharmaceutical industry. In 2002 I took a career break to give my dream of being a fiction writer my best shot. 

I knew that I had to learn my craft and read and write and then write some more before creating anything worthy of submitting to a publisher. I enjoyed crime and romance commercial fiction and these are the two areas where I knew that I wanted to focus on in my writing.

My best decision was to join the Romantic Novelists Association [ RNA ] and take part in the New Writers Scheme mentoring system. In 2008 my first romance novel which became ‘Always the Bridesmaid’ was bought by Harlequin Mills and Boon after being recommended by the RNA and 16 books later over 820,000 copies [ as of Dec 2012] of my romance books have been bought by my wonderful readers. Some of these books have won international awards.

But the best thing is? Now I have a chance to share my romantic mystery fiction with my first book for Carina UK – Recipe for Disaster, which is part of a 3 book contract.

When I am not writing my hobbies are cooking, eating, enjoying good wine, and talking, for which I have had specialist training. 


1) Have you always been a writer or is it something you fell into?

I vaguely remember writing down short bedtime fantasy stories to tell to my two brothers when they were small, and was reading before I went to primary school so I do believe that I have always been a writer.

2) Do you have a particular writing style or ritual?

Since I am now a full time writer I know how important it is to keep a writing routine so I head to my office straight after breakfast and spend the morning on new words.

The afternoons are for social media, admin and spending time out of the office to let my subconscious brain work on story problems.

If I am on deadline I will probably spend another couple of hours working on the manuscript in the evening but otherwise I love to read for pleasure and watch drama and movies.

3) Is there a book or an author that has influenced you in your writing?

One book or author? Oh what a tough question. Lois McMaster Bujold and her Miles Vorkosigan series.

4) Is there one piece of writing (or life?) advice that has stuck with you, or that you would like to share?

Can I have two?

“Follow your heart but listen to your head” – Steve Jobs.

And ‘Carpe Diem’ – Seize the day. Life is short. This is not a dress rehearsal.

5) Can you tell us three things about yourself that we probably don’t already know?

I love to travel and have had some real adventures along the way, including riding on the back of an elephant and dodging monkeys in Jaipur, India, watching down come up over Everest in Nepal and for my 40th Birthday I climbed an active volcano on the Indian Ocean Island of Reunion.

As a teenager I played the church organ for Sunday services - very badly.

I was vice-captain of the Judo Society at University.

6) What five luxury items or gadgets would you hate to be without?

My constant companion – my Roberts digital radio/CD player/card reader.

The Internet- because when you are travelling you realise how badly you take for granted the fact that you are connected to the world and writing community.

Real ground coffee

MacBookAir – This doubles as my e-Book reader

Digital camera.

ACT TWO – all about your new release… 




Bunty Brannigan makes the best cannoli in London!
London chef Bunty Caruso Brannigan has no time to celebrate her 30th birthday. She is working every hour to create a menu for an award ceremony, and to keep customers coming through the door of the Italian deli she has inherited from her parents.
Bunty’s life was complicated enough when all she had to deal with were her best friends from convent school, and the students in her baking classes, but then reformed bad boy, lawyer and Italian stud Fabio Rossi gives her a birthday present with a difference and things begin to really spin out of control.

What will happen when all of the Caruso family secrets are out in the open?
Will her Italian godmother sort things out from beyond the grave in her special way?
Will Fabio make Bunty change her mind about dating Italians?
Will the convent girls be forced to go back and tell Sister Teresa the truth about the visiting choirboys and the missing communion wine?
And how much chocolate do you choose to create a life size man part?

Let the mayhem begin. And don’t forget the cannoli!

7) Congratulations on your recent release of Recipe for Disaster, what was your inspiration for writing Bunty’s story?

Italian food. And lots of it. The character of Bunty came first and then of course I had to research all of the wonderful cooking she would have to do as a one woman chef and deli owner.

8) Did the story flow from your finger tips or did some scenes take a bit of cajoling?

The romance scenes and dialogue between Bunty and Fabio did flow, but I confess that the overall story went through several revisions to make sure that the mystery storyline meshed with the romance story in a convincing way.

9 How long did it take for the initial spark of the story to make it onto the page and then onto the publisher’s desk?

The first spark for this story had been noodling around in the back of my brain and scribbled on note pads for a long time, but the draft manuscript was completed during the winter months. My plan was to work on the Harlequin KISS books during the spring and come back to this book with fresh eyes in the summer for final edits before submitting to publishers.

It was the announcement that Carina UK was being formed that made me polish the opening 3 chapters and submit to Carina through my editor in February.

I was delighted when Carina came back to me. They loved the story! Brilliant. My very first single title length mystery had found a good home.

10) Do you have a favourite paragraph or sentence from your story that you would like to tantalise us with?

Ed's note: see the fab excerpt below!

11) Over to you, what can you tell us about Recipe for Disaster, to make us rush out and buy it?

If you enjoy reading Jennifer Crusie and Susan Elizabeth Phillips this book might be just what you are looking for.

12) What can we expect from you next? Is there something you are working on right now?

I’m lucky enough to have a three-book deal with Carina UK to write mystery single titles, so I’m working on my second novel with my editor right now. But this time it is set in the Mediterranean and features hunky coastguards and a heroine who makes Lara Croft look like Tinkerbelle.

QUICK FIRE ROUND – it’s pop quiz time…


13) Plotter or pantser?

Plotter. Nerd girl and proud.

14) Secret Seven or Famous Five?

Famous five. I think I had a full set at one time which I passed on to family.

15) Digital books or print books?

Both. I LOVE print books and embarrass myself and my family by sniffing new books the moment I buy one, especially non- fiction books.

But the closure of so many book shops and the limited range they sell means that the convenience of having instant access to wonderful fiction at the click of a screen from anywhere in the world is like a siren call. Irresistible.

16) Tea or coffee?

Tea. No sugar. Real coffee is my wake-up call in the morning but then it is tea. English Breakfast with a teaspoon of whole milk followed by Oolong and probably white tea in the evening.

17) Cats or dogs?

Neither. Totally allergic to pet fur.

18) Extrovert or introvert?

Extrovert in social situation. When I am working – total introvert.

19) Save or spend?

Spend. Shoes, wine and cake feature a lot. See comment on life being too short. Luckily I am married to a grown up.

20) Facebook or Twitter?

Twitter.

And that’s a wrap!

Thank you so much for taking part, Nina, I wish you every success with your new release.

To discover even more about Nina Harrington, and to keep up with her latest projects and shenanigans, you can visit her at:

Facebook    Twitter     Website


Excerpt...


Bunty sat back in her hard wooden chair and swayed a little from side to side as her whole crew of pals and teachers from the convent school and catering college joined in a very loud and very out of tune version of Mambo Italiana that Elena was playing at full volume in her honour.

Normally the background music would have been Greek bouzouki music or Elena’s favourite classical opera CD with tenors singing about frozen tiny hands, so this really was a special treat. Just for her.

There were wine spillages and salad dressing smears and breadcrumbs all over the tablecloths, and probably the new plum coloured wrap dress Alex had squeezed her into. At some point she had lost her shoe until the table when she sat down after all the toasts had been made.

Then Fran had presented her a crown she had made from gold paper and wire and insisted that she wear it as a party princess. At a jaunty angle of course.

Worse. Her makeup was probably a wreck after a brief but intense crying jag. Her favourite teacher from the convent school knew most of the girls crammed around these tables only too well – good and bad. She could tell some tales of mischief and mayhem.

But instead Sister Teresa had made the sweetest speech about how proud her mother would have been of her and what she had achieved, which had everyone in the room reaching for the tissues, paper napkins, on in more than one case the corner of the tablecloth. There was not a dry eye in the house. Even Alex the strong ‘accidentally’ dropped her napkin on the floor and had to drop out of sight for a couple of minutes to find it.

Bunty glanced up across the tables spread out around the room. It didn’t matter that she looked a mess. Not to her friends and family who had come out on a cold January evening to help her celebrate her birthday.

She grinned across at Maria who was carrying out yet more plates of more lamb and roast potatoes. Her friend replied with a jaunty wink as one of the catering students patted her bottom the second the plate hit the table and Maria pretended to squeal, and then sat down heavily on his lap and wrapped her arm around his shoulders.

These were her real friends. Her real family. Girls from the local convent school she had known all of her life and their husbands and boyfriends, pals from the local shops, students she taught at the catering college. All loud, boisterous and having fun. And that was precisely how she liked it. No false pretences here. Real people who shared her life each and every day.

She was so lucky to have them.

A warm glow of happiness and contentment spread from deep inside her like a furnace that pumped the heat from her heart to the very ends of her fingertips. She had never felt so safe and secure for years. Protected. And cared for and part of a very special community of friends who looked out for one another.

Maybe turning 30 was not so bad after all when she had friends like these in her life. So what if she didn’t have a mega TV career like her cousin Luca? She had something much better.

Bunty leant sideways and rested her head on Alex’s shoulder. ‘Have I said thank you yet for pulling this all together? It’s amazing and I love it.’

Alex laughed out loud and gave her a one armed hug. ‘Several times. It’s the wine you know. Causes short term memory loss in older women. I have built up resistance over the years so it takes a lot longer to kick in.’

Then Alex started rubbing her hands together and humming the last verse under her breath. ‘Now. Back to the important stuff. What totally outrageous thing have you decided to do before the end of the day? Remember the rules – it has to be spontaneous, the opposite of what you would normally do, and fun! Points will be awarded for the most ingenious solution!’

‘Dance on the table? Bunty suggested then shook her head and waved her arms around. ‘No. Forget that one. The table legs wouldn’t cope with my current body weight and this food is too good to waste and it would only lead to spillages.. Something outrageous. Um…’

Then she looked over Alex’s shoulder back towards the entrance to the restaurant and her breath caught in her throat.

Standing not three feet away from her was one of the best looking men that she had seen in her life. She was 5ft 9ins so he had to be at least 6 feet 2ins in his very shiny slim smart black shoes. Her gaze tracked up his body before the sensible part of her brain clicked in to stop it.

Slim hips. Broad shoulders. A hand made cashmere and silk business suit in a shade of midnight blue which was so perfect it made her drool. A tailored white shirt open at the neck just enough to draw attention to his natural tanned skin at the throat. Dark chestnut brown hair that curled into neat waves which simply begged to be touched.

‘Hello,’ he said in a rich deep male voice which crossed the air space that separated them and reverberated inside her head. ‘I’m looking for a Bernadette Caruso Brannigan. Have I come to the right place?’

He was Italian mixed with a delicious topping of American English. And he had come looking for her.

‘Bunty whipped around in her seat before Alex caught her open-mouthed staring at the top three buttons on his shirt, which were unfastened, revealing a hint of tanned skin with dark chest hair. Taunting her.

If he dressed like this in January, August would be interesting.

For some reason her breathing had become irregular and she suddenly felt remarkably warm.

Oh Alex,’ she breathed in a low hiss of appreciation. ‘I owe you big time.’

‘This is so true? But what particular thing have I done now,’ Alex replied between mouthfuls of garlic bread.

‘You didn’t tell me that you hired a male stripper.’

‘Who? What?’ Alex looked up and whirled her head around like a meerkat before it froze in the same direction Bunty was focusing on.

‘Oh. I see what you mean,’ she coughed. ‘Girl, I don’t know who he is, but I think you have just found your challenge. What are you waiting for? He is all yours. Go get him.’

Buy it now…


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