Wow! Sunshine & Biscotti is on the RNA Awards shortlist…

Today is a great day. Not only does it feel like spring is in the air, The Sunshine & Biscotti Club has been nominated for The Contemporary Romantic Novel Award at this year’s RoNAs!

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Woo hoo. I am totally delighted.

There are some fantastic authors on the list and you couldn’t go wrong picking any of them for a little escapism in the sunshine…

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The only thing now is to work out what to wear to the awards. And only a month to decide!

The Sunshine and Biscotti Club

It’s one month today until The Sunshine and Biscotti Club hits the shelves. I thought you’d like to  have a peek at the cover and read the blurb…

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I don’t know if the book an author has just finished is always their favourite, but that’s usually the way it is for me and this is no exception. I loved writing this story and getting to know these characters – I’d book a quick return trip to The Sunshine and Biscotti Club in a heartbeat. I’d love to know what you think if you pick up a copy! Will be available in eBook and in the shops May 19th. (You can preorder now if you like!)

Jenny x

Here’s the back cover blurb:

The ovens are pre-heating, the Prosecco is chilling…and The Sunshine and Biscotti Club is nearly ready to open its doors. But the guests have other things on their minds…

Libby: The Blogger
Life is Instagram-perfect for food blogger Libby…until she catches her husband cheating just weeks before her Italian cooking club’s grand opening.

Evie: The Mum
Eve’s marriage isn’t working, but she’s not dared admit it until now. A trip to Italy to help Libby open The Sunshine and Biscotti Club might be the perfect escape…

Jessica: In Love with her Best Friend
Jessica has thrown herself into her work to shut out the memory of the man who never loved her back. The same man who’s just turned up in Tuscany…

Welcome to Tuscany’s newest baking school – where your biscotti is served with a side of love, laughter and ice-cold limoncello!

#CHRISTMAS

It’s all go on the Christmas front, so I thought I’d give you a quick update. The latest Cherry Pie Island book, Four Weddings and a White Christmas, is available to download now http://amzn.to/1MXpMP4 and is brimming with all things Christmas. In it we meet cool single-mum Hannah and fiery, kinda moody chef Harry and watch as they (somewhat reluctantly) get to know one another over the course of four very different weddings. It’s funny, flirty, packed full of romance and, of course, there’s heaps of snow! I hope you’ll love it (whether you have or haven’t read the previous Cherry Pie books).

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And then, super excitingly, there’s The Little Christmas Kitchen which is now available in shiny, sparkly paperback from all the major supermarkets, WHSmith and Amazon http://amzn.to/1LS2Z6p. This is a standalone Christmas book following the lives of estranged sisters Ella and Maddy as they life-swap for the festive season. One leaves her high-flying London life behind in favour of The Little Greek Kitchen run by her mother on the island of Corfu. The other leaves idyllic island life and heads to the big city ready to make her mark on the world. But a big fat festive life-swap isn’t as easy as it sounds! As the sisters trade one kitchen for another, it suddenly seems that their recipes for a perfect Christmas might be missing a crucial ingredient: each other.

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I LOVE Christmas. And I LOVE Christmas books. I really hope you love these books as much as I loved writing them. Let me know either here or on Twitter @JenOliverBooks.

And for anyone who wants to know a bit more about my Christmas – all its traditions and my fave things – as well as all things writing, below is an interview I gave for @UKCarina. Enjoy! And 100% let me know whatever you want to share about your Christmas – the traditions, the songs, the smells, the tastes. Let’s get festive!

Tell us what your average writing day is like? 

  • I divide my time between writing and my day job depending on deadlines. If it’s a writing day then I will either be making notes and plans in my notebook for that story or working on the draft on my laptop. Since having my son my time to write and work has become very defined – I’ve lost the luxury of procrastination! Although I do still find the time to find the perfect notebooks! 😉

Where do you write?

  • I write at my desk in my flat with the door shut so I’m completely cocooned. If I’m making story notes though I tend to go out to a cafe for a change of scene or go for a walk if I’m stuck on something. I come up with ideas on long car journeys talking to my husband or on the phone to my mum or when I’m trying to convince my toddler to nap or while I’m in the bath!

This is your third Christmas story and as ever the food on the Christmas table is really important. What’s on your Christmas menu?

– We have a really traditional Christmas menu – turkey, Brussels sprouts, roast potatoes, stuffing, Christmas pudding etc – and, similar to Harry’s dad in Four Weddings and a White Christmas, if it’s messed with there are tantrums!

We see The Dandelion Café is being decorated with all sorts of retro ornaments for a Kitschmas wedding! Do you go all out with Christmas decorations or is it minimalist chic?

  • Decorations are a massive part of Christmas for me. I used to love it when my mum had decked out our house with garlands of holly and ivy growing up – it meant Christmas had truly begun. And I try to carry on that tradition in my place. Last year I strung lots of tiny multi-coloured baubles to brown garden string and hung them along the walls of my living room – for something so easy to create the look is really effective. I also bought some beautiful vintage silver glass ornaments from a car boot sale but I put them in the bottom of the buggy and then forgot they were there when I folded it down – they shattered everywhere, I was gutted! This year though I have a whole bag of new decs that I bought in the January sale last year – I can’t wait to get them out and admire them.

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In the story all of Hannah’s family gather in the morning to open stockings. What are your Christmas rituals?

– Well I stole the one for Hannah’s family from my own! We always opened our stockings together as a family and, if we’re all staying in the same place, still get them. Me and my sisters make ones for my mum and dad and they make them for us. We sit round the fire in the morning with cups of tea and see what little gifts we’ve been given.

Harry walks New York at Christmas – have you got any favourite places to go at Christmas time?

– I love the Southbank at Christmas. It’s all-out festive with markets, mulled wine and carols. We also try and go to the Scandinavian Christmas Fair in Rotherhithe every year – it’s well worth a visit because it’s just so Christmassy and you can buy all sorts of different foods, wines and gifts. I love it. http://www.scanevents.co.uk/christmasmarket/partners.html

Christmas every day or sunny summer holiday? 

– Both but only once a year. The anticipation is 90% of the fun.

What’s the best thing about Christmas?

– The build up. I like the shopping for presents, the get-togethers with friends, the family catch-ups, the skating rinks and all the little things that take you by surprise – last year there was a Christmas evening in the high street near us with real live reindeer!

What’s your favourite Christmas smell?

– Walking into the house the day after the Christmas tree has gone up. The surprise of the scent of pine is like a shot of Christmas adrenaline.

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Give us a Christmas memory that makes you smile?

– When I was about ten my older sister bet me that I couldn’t wait till after lunch to open my presents (up till that point I’d spent every Christmas morning hurrying people through breakfast so we could open the gifts). Since then it’s become a family tradition to wait till after lunch for present opening.

What is your favourite Christmas film? 

– Either Home Alone or It’s a Wonderful Life. Although the year before last we went to see Cinema Paradiso at the cinema a couple of nights before Christmas and now it fills me with Christmas nostalgia. I also have a soft spot for Mrs Miracle with Dawson from Dawson’s Creek in it.

Favourite Christmas song?

  • It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas sung by Dean Martin.

Is it better to give or receive?

– I love buying presents – it’s one of my favourite things. There’s nothing better than nailing the perfect present for someone and then seeing the look on their face when they open it.

What’s the last thing you snapped on your phone?

– A screen shot of my book The Grand Reopening of Dandelion Cafe at #5 in the Kindle chart and a video of my son laughing so hard he has to lie down.

What was the last book you read?

The Ice Twins. I was home alone and completely spooked.

Which piece of wisdom do you live by?

– The less time I have the more likely I am to get it done!

Hurray for Autumn

I love September.

  1. It’s my birthday month and I still have a childish excitement for celebrations, presents and chocolate cake.
  2. I tend to go on holiday in September – catching the tail end of the European summer, resolutely dressed in my shorts and flipflops as the locals don their wooly jumpers and winter boots.
  3. I’ve never been able to shake that new start, back to work feeling that came with going back to school.

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Granted this latter point hasn’t always been a positive. I dreaded the day my mum would take us to WHSmiths to stock up on stationary and a new pencil case, if we were lucky, for the forthcoming term. But nowadays I quite like it. I like the idea that the sun is taking a bit of a rest. I can relax and get down to things without the constant feeling that I’m missing out on the glorious weather, the frolicking get-togethers, the ice creams, the lazy lounging about and the general everyday excitement that goes hand in hand with summertime. I can say – thanks very much Summer, it’s been fun, everyone says you’ve been a bit rubbish this year but I feel like I got my fair share of rays, now let’s hand over to Autumn. I can get my duvet back. I can feel a bit chilly as I get into bed. I can put my boots on, dust off my coat and find my scarf. It’s time for stews and red wine, fires in pubs and dark, cosy evenings. It’s X-Factor and long, bonfire-scented walks, splashing in puddles and falling leaves. Gone is the ‘I should be outside’ guilt, replaced by the ‘hurray I’m indoors’ delight. I can cosy on down to my computer, be hugely productive and let a million and one ideas swirl around in my head.

It’s not January, for me, that the year starts, that everything begins again, but September. Autumn. The summer madness drifts away. The cool air brings with it fresh starts, infinite possibilities and the brilliant excuse to buy a new notebook!

Behind the scenes of Cherry Pie

So I thought you might want a bit of a behind the scenes sneak peak at some of the inspiration behind the Cherry Pie Island series 

Here’s five things that you may not already know about The Grand Reopening of Dandelion Cafe

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  1. I used to be a rower and The Dandelion Cafe is based on the cafe we used to go to between our rowing outings at the weekend. It was a tiny, dark little place that existed before all the trendy tea rooms and coffee shops started opening and was the only place to go. It had ripped red faux leather seats and served apple pie with fluorescent custard. We’d have mugs of steaming hot tea and toasted bacon sandwiches with ketchup and we’d sit and read the paper and do the crossword while truckers came in for a pit stop and clubbers stumbled in having not been to bed. We’d watch the rain outside – sick that we had to go back out on the river – or smile at the sunshine thinking how tanned we’d get during the next session. The cafe was tatty and run down and I don’t think it exists anymore but it was so cosy and friendly and the perfect place to escape the world for an hour or so.
  2. When I lived in Vauxhall, every morning I’d walk to the train station along a big, polluted main road. To make it a little bit more pleasant I’d cut through the park. In spring they had the most phenomenal blossom trees. I would stop and look up and the sky would be filled with pink frothy petals – just like the orchard on Cherry Pie Island.
  3. In Dandelion Cafe, Annie remembers discussions over the best way to eat cherry pie. Personally, I really like a teaspoon. So does my mum. My dad likes a fork. My husband thinks we’re all bonkers and should just eat with whatever piece of cutlery we’re given. How do you eat yours?
  4. Cherries are definitely my favourite fruit (close seconds: bananas, clementines and raspberries). Once, while driving through France, we stopped at a stall at the side of the road and bought a bag of the most exquisite, sweet, juicy, dark red cherries I’ve ever eaten. We still talk wistfully about them!
  5. The Dandelion Cafe becomes a tapas place in the evening. This is my dream cafe! Retro-chic cafe by day, cool little tapas bar by night. I went to Seville for my honeymoon and it fast became one of my favourite places – so friendly, exciting and beautiful. Orange trees line the streets and the little bars serve marinated anchovies, chorizo, pimiento de padron, serrano ham. It was food heaven. Hopefully I’ve captured a little piece of it for you to taste.

Happy reading!

And if you like, take a look at the map of Cherry Pie Island!

Jenny x