‘Hi dudes, it’s great to be here and I am looking forward to a cool chat with you. No eating manuscripts, okay?’
I fell madly in love with Italy when I was researching for The Italian Wife and I couldn’t wait to go back for The Liberation. And let’s not forget all that vino and tagliatelle ai funghi porcini and fiery limoncello. Especially the limoncello! And all that fascinating history, all that breathtaking art and culture oozing out of every pore of Italy. And that’s not counting my guide, the gorgeous slim-hipped Filippo …. Need I go on?
Kate. Oh yes! And this time I didn’t make it up. It’s not just one fancy town that provides the setting for The Liberation, but two – Sorrento and Naples. Both utterly beautiful and totally different. My main character, Caterina Lombardi, lives in the exquisite ancient town of Sorrento, perched peacefully up on its clifftop, but she sells her craftwork in the greedy streets of the city of Naples which lies in ruins, devastated by wartime bombing.
Crime and danger are rampant in Naples where everyone is struggling to survive. And the wild street-kids, the sugnizzi, scamper like rats through the back alleyways, stealing anything that is not nailed down.
But Naples is a city you don’t mess with. When Caterina comes calling, she carries a gun.
Kate. Oh drat! No hamstahs. But plenty of rats – the two-legged variety, as well as the four-legged ones.
But I am giving a pet hamster a starring role in my next book in Paris in your honour, dudes. You can even name him/her for me. But remember, he/she is French. Ooh-la-la!
KATE. BTW, did you know that hamstahs as pets all came from Syria originally and didn’t arrive in the UK until 1931?
Kate. he Liberation is set in Italy 1945 and it is about searching for freedom. It is the story of Caterina Lombardi, a resilient and talented young Italian woman who worked as an apprentice in her father’s wood-inlay workshop. When he is accused of treason, she fights to clear his name and wants to tear the world apart to prove his innocence. But this brings her into sharp conflict with Naples’ dark and violent underbelly, where greed and corruption hang on to the coattails of power. It also strips bare the dangerous secrets that stalk her own family. Caterina accepts help from an American Intelligence officer, Major Jake Parr, and the two grow close, but she no longer knows who to trust. Who is the real enemy now? The deeper she digs, the more she finds it all comes back to her own family. To its secrets. And to its mistakes.
I love everything about it – its fashions, its films, its books and songs, its heroics, and even its catastrophic world events. Hollywood burst upon the planet with its seductive stars and music – the likes of Rita Hayworth and Cole Porter – bringing escapism to people who were in desperate need of it.
And six of the biggest political figures of all time held the world in their grip – Churchill, Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Roosevelt and Mao Tse Tung. It is a fascinating era and its intense conflicts make for rich pickings for a storyteller. I have only just started!
Kate. In Naples? Steer clear of it, I warn you guys. Firstly, it’s way too hot for Scottish dudes wearing fur coats. Secondly, it is a large port and rats as big as Buicks saunter down the streets. Be warned.
Kate. But Sorrento? Bobby Bub, I think your moment has come, you handsome dude. Sorrento is the perfect place for love and romance. It will melt even your stone heart and make you sing love-songs alongside Donovan. So get your furry arse and your green hat over there. Pronto!
Kate. Gone With The Wind. No contest. It is a wonderful sweeping epic of a film with powerful music that gives no quarter, glorious colour-tones and heart-stopping performances. I saw it when I was ten and it stole my soul. To watch a woman carve out her own destiny in defiance of the rigid social conventions of a man’s world set something on fire inside me. I have lost count of the number of times I have seen it since, but I do know that a small piece of Scarlett O’Hara glows brightly inside each of my heroines.
Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall,
Ginger Rogers, Judy Garland, Spencer Tracy, Burt Lancaster …. the list goes on and on. Myrna Loy, William Powell, Leslie Howard ….But I think if you twist my arm and make me chose only one, it has to be the utterly delicious Fred Astaire. Imagine it, dancing with him cheek to cheek, in one of Ginger’s stunning gowns ….. “I’m in heaven, I’m in heaven”.
Kate. I have recently come back from a research trip to Paris and I have to say that though I adore the Sacré Coeur Basilica in Montmartre, and the Musée d’Orlay will knock your eyeballs out with its Impressionists, my favourite place by far is sitting in a pavement café. Watching the chicest city in the world saunter past. You should try it, dudes. I sip my coffee, knock back my vin rouge. And stare. I stare at the effortless style of the French. At their elegance. I’d still be there now if the thunderstorm hadn’t hit and my gorgeous garçon hadn’t clocked off.
Kate. But I’ll be back. Hey dudes, care to join me?
Kate. Like I said – Paris. Paris 1938, to be exact. When the world was in the last throes of frivolity before World War II slammed into gear and brought the decade shuddering to an end. Romy Duchamps is an aviatrix. And a killer. She takes risks the way other people take tea. But in Paris, the City of Light, she has learned to expect the unexpected, as she pushes her twin sister into a choice she fears to make.
Well, that was good fun, dudes. Great to spend time with you. Thanks for inviting me over. *high fives*
Kate Furnivall was raised in Penarth, a small seaside town in Wales. Her mother, whose own childhood was spent in Russia, China and India, discovered at an early age that the world around us is so volatile, that the only things of true value are those inside your head and your heart. These values Kate explores in The Russian Concubine.
Kate went to London University where she studied English and from there she went into publishing, writing material for a series of books on the canals of Britain. Then into advertising where she met her future husband, Norman. She travelled widely, giving her an insight into how different cultures function which was to prove invaluable when writing The Russian Concubine.
By now Kate had two sons and so moved out of London to a 300-year old thatched cottage in the countryside where Norman became a full-time crime writer. He won the John Creasey Award in 1987, writing as Neville Steed. Kate and Norman now live by the sea in the beautiful county of Devon, only 5 minutes from the home of Agatha Christie!
It was when her mother died in 2000 that Kate decided to write a book inspired by her mother’s story. The Russian Concubine contains fictional characters and events, but Kate made use of the extraordinary situation that was her mother’s childhood experience – that of two White Russian refugees, a mother and daughter, stuck without money or papers in an International Settlement in China.
Some of Kate’s books.
The Liberation is set in Italy in 1945 as British and American troops attempt to bring order to the devastated country and Italy’s population fights to survive. Caterina Lombardi is desperate – her father is dead, her mother has disappeared and her brother is being drawn towards danger. One morning, among the ruins of the bombed Naples streets, Caterina is forced to go to extreme lengths to protect her own life and in doing so forges a future in which she must clear her father’s name. An Allied Army officer accuses him of treason and Caterina discovers a plot against her family. Who can she trust and who is the real enemy now? And will the secrets of the past be her downfall?
This epic novel is an unforgettably powerful story of love, loss and the long shadow of war.