It’s a question a lot of authors get asked: How did you come to write the story; what was your inspiration? For me, the interesting thing is that whatever the inspiration, once the story has been set in motion it more often than not takes on a life of its own and the finished narrative can be quite different to the original idea. The roots are there, if you dig deep enough, but the tree itself has a different canopy to one first imagined. Here’s my attempt to unearth the seeds of All of Me.
In the late 1990s, when I worked as an actress, I did a tour of Italy. While it wasn’t the high point of my acting career (though career makes it sound grander than it actually was) it was a fantastic and magical experience. Later, when children came along and I’d moved into writing words for a living rather than saying them on stage, friends and colleagues often said I should write about my time in Italy. It would make a great story, they said. I wasn’t convinced. Location has always been important in my work – it affects tone, pace, rhythm, language – but in itself it doesn’t a story make. But showbiz people are interesting; they tend towards the dramatic (unsurprisingly), so whilst I didn’t water this narrative seed, I didn’t dig it up either, to continue the metaphor.
I wrote other stuff: short stories, flash fiction, novels. Alongside fiction, raising my boys and a part-time job in education, I work as an editor, freelance and for Cornerstones Literary Consultancy. Last year, I edited some MSs described as erotic romance and thought that I’d like to have a go at writing in the genre myself. A female character, an actress – one who would go on to become Flick Burrows – had been rattling around my imagination for some time. She was successful – a soap opera star – and driven. An unconventional beauty from a difficult, disadvantaged childhood, she owed her success to hard work and determination. And she was no ingénue.
Because of my background, I understand how tough it can be for actresses facing 40 and I started wondering how challenging it might be if a younger, much younger, man was interested in Flick. On the one hand, the industry is telling her she’s past it; her leading lady days are numbered and there’s a wilderness period before one is old enough to play the ‘hag’; on the other hand, a young man – a rich, clever, sexy man – is telling her she is hot, fascinating and utterly irresistible. Putting my leading lady in a glass house, via her career, would exacerbate the sense of fading desirability that many women feel approaching middle age. The sense that they need to carve out a new role for themselves. It was at this point the Italian backdrop appeared on the stage that was becoming All of Me. In another country – Flick is a Londoner – she is free to reinvent herself, behave atypically and the glamour, beauty, and let’s face it, sheer sexiness of Italy was perfect.
The theatrical tour provides the structure of the novel; the different locations and theatres marking the progression of the tour and of Flick and Orlando’s relationship. And because of my own life experience I needed to do little research on the world of the theatre and many areas of Italy, though I had to do some, of course, because of the passage of time. The real life tour did begin in Milan, before moving south to Sicily and working its way up the boot of Italy before finishing in Sardinia. However, because fiction is life without the dull bits (the quote is attributed to legendary film maker Alfred Hitchcock [replacing fiction with drama], or Clive James depending on where you look) the tour in All of Me visits many more glamorous locations than I did – Venice, Verona, Florence, for example – and takes place principally in the summertime (as opposed to the grimmer winter months). And the characters and their dilemmas are far removed from my own.
Flick’s dark past was inspired by so many people’s stories. Sadly, we hear similar tales almost every day on the news and in the papers. Similarly Orlando’s, though perhaps to a lesser degree than Flick’s. And once I knew Flick’s desires and demons, and I’d set the stage, the story near enough wrote itself. The origins date back 15 years, but All of Me was written quickly; at least by my standards. It took 11 weeks. Other works have taken two years. It is perhaps unfashionable to say this, but it is the truth. I had such fun writing Flick and Orlando’s story that for a while I thought it couldn’t be any good. I only hope that readers enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Excerpt for All of Me:
Mr Hot led me through to a brightly lit room, the light scorching my eyes after near darkness. He pulled up a wooden stool and gestured for me to sit. I did as I was instructed. Row upon row of bottles of oil, condiments, herbs and spices lined shelves that covered an entire wall. It was a store cupboard, and the strip lighting was harsh; every fine line, blemish and open pore would be visible. Inwardly, I cursed my lack of foundation once more. I felt exposed, stripped right down, and vulnerable. I shielded my eyes, allowing my hand to drop low enough to conceal most of my face.
‘Better here, fewer people. Can I get you a drink? Cup of tea?’ he said.
‘Something stronger might be better.’ I attempted to cover my embarrassment with humour. He did not laugh, or even smile. ‘Water would be great. Wouldn’t do to be seen drunk. Imagine what they’d make of that,’ I added quickly.
Through a gap in my fingers I watched him push open swing doors with considerable force and sashay out, revealing the bustle of a hectic lunchtime kitchen; he barked out an instruction in a language I couldn’t quite place. Italian probably, possibly Spanish. This was no ordinary waiter in more ways than one. He returned moments later.
Despite his blistering good looks, or maybe because of them, I wanted to get the hell out of there; I gulped down the water. ‘Thank you. Can you show me the other way out now please?’
‘It’s not too soon?’
‘I have to be somewhere.’
At the exit, he paused and looked into my eyes, the hazel fading to black as his pupils dilated. He ran his tongue over those sensual lips. I couldn’t breathe and for a moment I thought I might pass out. The attraction I’d felt was mutual; he was devouring me with his gaze; his desire was palpable. Had it been a movie, or an episode of the cheap drama I’d been in, we’d have thrown ourselves at each other, kissed passionately, before being interrupted by an angry chef brandishing a meat knife. I coughed; it broke the spell.
He leant forward to grab the door handle, the bouquet of his aftershave mingling with a distinct, very masculine aroma. I was soooo tempted, but this was real life, and my personal life was enough of a mess. He opened the door, leant forward to look up and down the street before turning back to me and nodding that it was clear. Neither of us knew what to say. I had no idea if he knew, understood, or even cared why the press were hounding me, and I wasn’t inclined to explain.
I held out my hand. ‘Thank you. You saved my life.’
He took my hand, but rather than shaking it, as I had intended, he lifted it to his mouth and kissed the back. A charge raced up my arm, exploding in my mouth and groin. ‘It was nothing. Anyone would have done the same.’
‘Thanks anyway,’ I gasped. I had to get out of there, and quick. My internal red light was flashing: danger, danger, danger.
I stepped into the street and, unsure which direction to take, turned right and walked; the skin on my hand still thrumming from the touch of his lips. I wanted to look back, and tried desperately to resist the urge. After a few metres, I gave up and turned my head. There was no sign of him.
Blurb: Actress Flick Burrow’s career is in the doldrums. Dumped by long-term boyfriend at the altar and nudging forty she escapes to Italy touring with a theatrical company.
Orlando Locatelli is a successful businessman. He’s rich, clever and drop-dead gorgeous.
When the two meet, the attraction is instant. But Orlando is 15 years Flick’s junior; he’s the controlling director’s son; his stepmother is possessive and destructive. He’s trouble and he’s determined to have her.
Sparks fly when a tour romance turns into something altogether more dangerous, threatening to reveal pasts, and desires, both lovers are keen to bury.
All of Me is published by Xcite in paperback and e-book formats.
You can buy All of Me here:
L.C. grew up in north Wales and now she lives by the sea in Brighton with three fellas (her ginger sons and her husband) and a cat called Sheila. After many years working as a journalist, copywriter and editor of hagsharlotsheroines.com, she writes fiction and works part-time as an editor for Cornerstones Literary Consultancy. All of Me is her first romance for Xcite. She hopes that it is the first of many.
To find out more about L. C. visit her site – www.lcwilkinson.com – for news and freebies. Or follow her on Twitter: @ScorpioScribble You’ll also find her GoodReads, and she loves to hear from readers and other writers so do get in touch.