Monday, 15 January 2018

#2 Monday Meanders with #Katharine Johnson

Good Morning -it's #Monday Meanders!

It's a windy, cold, almost snowy day here in my part of Aberdeenshire, Scotland, but it's okay because my new #Monday Meanders slot is designed to transport me, and hopefully also you, to other gentler climes.

This week's new destination, I'm delighted to tell you, comes via my talented Crooked Cat author friend Katharine Johnson. She's sharing information with us about her forthcoming book The Secret  (published by Crooked Cat Books) though we'll have to bide our time till later in the year to get our hands on it. The new novel sounds like just the ticket to take me to a brand new location, especially so since Katharine has included some truly wonderful photographs for us to get a real feel for the place.

Settle in and enjoy both Katharine's photos of the locale and her wonderful description of it.

Welcome to my #Monday Meanders feature, Katharine...

Hello Nancy - thanks so much for letting me visit your blog to talk about the setting for my next novel which comes out this summer.

Courtesy - Katharine Johnson
The Secret is set in a fictional Tuscan village called Santa Zita. It’s the same village as the one in my previous book The Silence, which was published last year. Although it’s a standalone story it’s about another secret harboured by Villa Leonida, the house at the centre of The Silence. This time, however, it’s a wartime secret.

One of the things that drew me to Tuscany as a setting was that it has such a rich, multi-layered history. A house like Villa Leonida would have experienced several reversals in fortune and would have many stories to tell. 

The isolated position of some of the mountain villages makes them hard to access and it's easy to imagine a secret being contained within their walls for many years.

Courtesy - Katharine Johnson
The Secret's about two girls growing up in Mussolini’s Italy and a secret they share that has devastating consequences reaching right up to the present day.

Santa Zita is perched precariously on a mountain and from below the houses look in danger of tottering down the hill but it has a wonderful view of the valley below with its rooftops and bell towers and the surrounding mountains.

The streets are steep and narrow, criss-crossed by arches and washing lines. There's a central square which houses the church of Santa Zita, a bar and a restaurant run by two eccentric, warring brothers. 

The village is surrounded by chestnut forests, and a fire is lit for three months during winter in the the chestnut drying tower at Villa Leonida to dry the chestnuts which are used for making flour. 

Courtesy - Katharine Johnson
Also on the slopes are vineyards, olive groves and fruit orchards.

When Martina and Irena are growing up the village square is the social hub and the focus for celebration suppers after the grape and olive harvests when long tables are set out across the square and lanterns strung among the trees. Martina’s wedding to Gianni is also celebrated in the square.

Courtesy - Katharine Johnson

Martina and Irena sit on the wall of the fountain in the square each day to wait for Gianni who lives in Villa Leonida to join them so they can walk to school together. Gianni’s family is highly respected, the wealthiest in the village, and Villa Leonida the most prestigious dwelling. 

Martina who lives in a small, terraced house below Villa Leonida often imagines what it must be like to live there and take part in the glamorous events she hears about. So when Gianni asks her to marry him she’s thrilled. But neither life at Villa Leonida nor marriage to Gianni are as she imagined.

When war breaks out all their lives change dramatically. Loyalties are divided, food is scarce and friendships betrayed in a climate of fear and suspicion. 

Seventy years on, Martina and Irena’s children have a chance to put right a wrong but doing so carries a risk that one of them would do anything to avoid.
Courtesy - Katharine Johnson

Although the village and its events are entirely fictional, the story is inspired by the history of many villages in Tuscany where I’ve had a home for a number of years. 

Katharine Johnson is a journalist with a passion for books, old houses and all things Italian (except tiramisu). She grew up in Bristol and has lived in Italy. She currently lives in Berkshire with her husband, three children and madcap spaniel. She plays netball badly and is a National Trust room guide.

The Secret will be published this summer by Crooked Cat Books. 

The Silence, which is also set in Villa Leonida but is about a secret from the 1990s is available to buy now


Since Katharine shared another brilliant photo I'm going to add it here because that bridge is just begging to walked over so that we can admire the peaceful water! 
Courtesy Katharine Johnson
Thank you so much for sharing your new novel with us today, Katharine. I'll be watching out for the launch so that I can uncover its secrets! Best wishes for all of your writing projects in 2018. 


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