Monday, 18 March 2013

House With No Name has moved!


House With No Name has now moved to my own website – www.emmaleepotter.com 

I'll still be blogging several times a week about books, films, family, education, France and whatever else strikes me – so I hope to see you there. Do let me know what you think of the new site and please subscribe to the new House With No Name blog. 

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Movie review - Eloise Laurence makes outstanding debut in Broken


If there’s an award for outstanding film debut of the year then it should go to 13-year-old Eloise Laurence. No question about it.

Eloise has just made her big screen debut in Broken, a gritty family drama set in a dreary suburban cul-de-sac. She plays 11-year-old Skunk Cunningham, who lives with her single parent father, her au pair and her teenage brother. Kind-hearted and adventurous, Skunk has had to cope with an awful lot in her life. Her mum ran off with an accountant, she is diabetic, she’s tormented at school, her au pair’s having an affair with her teacher and the two neighbouring families are troubled to say the least.

Broken, which is based on a novel by Daniel Clay, isn’t exactly a laugh a minute film. It features everything from mental illness to parenting to dysfunctional families and an awful lot in between. But Eloise Laurence gives a mesmeric performance. She lights up every scene she’s in (which is virtually all of them) and her facial expressions switch in the blink of an eye. She’s one of those rare performers who make acting seem like a piece of cake.

Director Rufus Norris spotted her talent straight away. He saw more than 850 girls for the part before casting Eloise. The daughter of actors Clare Burt (who also appears in the film) and Larry Lamb, she didn’t take any acting lessons beforehand and apparently hasn’t even decided whether she wants to act when she’s grown up.

The film itself isn’t perfect but it’s definitely worth seeing. The cast includes Tim Roth (as Skunk’s dad), Denis Lawson, Rory Kinnear and Cillian Murphy and they are all excellent. But by the end of the movie, as tragedy after tragedy unfolded, I was emotionally wrung-out and exhausted with it all.

Broken (certificate 15) is in UK cinemas now.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Download School Ties for FREE this weekend


My second romantic novella, School Ties, can be downloaded for free on Amazon this weekend – just in time for Mother’s Day in the UK. Here are the opening paragraphs. I’d love to know what you think, and look out for the sequel, Lessons in Love.

Will Hughes slammed his pen down in frustration. It was ten fifteen on a rainy September night and he’d been marking Hamlet essays for more than an hour. And what a bloody shambles they were too. Admittedly he was teaching the bottom set, but he was stunned by the quality of the teenagers’ work. Some could barely string a sentence together, let alone use an apostrophe properly. Only one had produced work that showed any understanding of Shakespeare’s most famous play. 

Trying hard to stay awake, he took a gulp of cold instant coffee. He was less than halfway through the pile of scripts and at this rate he’d be hard-pressed to finish them by midnight. Worse still, he’d promised to take the first XV rugby squad on a training run at dawn.

For the umpteenth time, Will wondered why he had returned to teaching. He’d left his last school a year ago to join an up-and-coming Shoreditch advertising agency. Yet now he’d had another change of heart and given up his skinny lattes and generous expense account to return to the chalkface.

Not that Downthorpe Hall was a tough place to work. It wasn’t. Compared to the early years of Will’s career, when he’d been a young English teacher at a tough inner-city comprehensive, Downthorpe was the cushiest number imaginable. A private school dating back two hundred years, it was housed in an elegant Cotswold mansion, complete with castellated turrets, a winding two-mile drive and acres of playing fields. It had once been an all-boys school, but had gone co-ed twenty years ago. The decision was deplored by the old guard but had succeeded in giving the school’s academic results a much-needed shot in the arm.

Will stretched his arms out wide to keep himself awake, then stopped. He could have sworn he heard a loud whirring noise outside the window. It sounded like a helicopter. But that was impossible. Not at this time of night. And not so close to the school...

Friday, 8 March 2013

Friday book review - A Sea Change by Veronica Henry


I’m a huge fan of Quick Reads, the “bite-size” books that aim to get more people reading. Around one in six adults of working age in the UK find reading difficult and many never pick up a book. That’s where Quick Reads come in. Launched in 2006, Quick Reads  commissioned a host of big name authors to write short books that are specifically designed to be easy to read. The initiative has proved so successful that over the last seven years 4.5 million books have been distributed and three million library loans clocked up.

New authors are added every year, with the latest starry batch of names including Andy McNab, Kathy Lette, Minette Walters and Veronica Henry. The novels cost a bargain £1 each and have turned loads of previously reluctant readers into “book addicts.”
I’ve read several Quick Reads over the years and when I spotted A Sea Change by Veronica Henry in Foyle’s at St Pancras the other day I snapped it up to read on the Eurostar.
The story was perfect for my train journey. It’s only 90 pages long but has all the charm and insight of Henry’s longer novels. Set in the fictional seaside village of Everdene, it’s the tale of ice-cream seller Jenna, who turns up for work one hot summer’s day to find that she’s been sacked. With a flaky family, no money to pay her rent and no work on the horizon, she takes drastic action – action that catches the attention of a young copper sitting on the beach.
Henry’s story is thought provoking, easy to read and as light as the summer breeze. The perfect Quick Read in fact.
A Sea Change by Veronica Henry (Orion, £1)

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Taking Sides, my third novel - out as an ebook TODAY


Taking Sides, my third novel, is published as an ebook for the first time today. It’s got a snappy new cover and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that readers will enjoy it.

The star of the book is Juliette Ward, a young mother who has grown tired of city life. Her newspaper job is driving her crazy, her hours are horrendous and she barely gets to see her young son during the week. Added to which, her house has been burgled three times and her car’s been vandalised by a bunch of thugs. 

So Juliette takes a deep breath, chucks in her job and persuades her husband to uproot to the wilds of the Lake District. Except just as they’re about to move, he’s offered the job of his dreams – hosting a new London breakfast show.

I got the idea for the book from the ever-increasing number of couples forced to live apart from their partners during the week – not because they want to but because they can’t get jobs in the same place.

Juliette, for instance, loves the thought of swapping the big city for life in the country. But she hates the idea of swapping her stable marriage for a long-distance relationship. She decides to give it a go, but the question is – can she ever make it work?

Taking Sides by Emma Lee-Potter (Piatkus Entice, £3.99)

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Amy MacDonald in concert at the London Palladium


What on earth possessed Justin Bieber to be two hours late for his own concert? In one fell swoop the 19-year-old singer disappointed hundreds of young fans, infuriated their parents and set Twitter ablaze with criticism.

I reckon they should have gone to Amy MacDonald’s concert at the London Palladium the night before instead. The Glaswegian singer-songwriter (responsible for one of my all-time favourite tracks, Let’s Start a Band) arrived on time, took the packed audience by storm and left us all stunned by her talent.

I’d booked tickets months ago but when it came to it, my husband was on a work trip in Dubai and my daughter was in Paris. So I asked my 18-year-old son instead and even though he was dubious and his musical tastes are diametrically opposed to mine he sweetly agreed. His favourite music is “Trap,” which is apparently a mix of “southern hip-hop and Crunk” – and no, I’m still none the wiser.

But after a set lasting more than an hour, even my son agreed that Amy MacDonald and her band gave a storming performance. Now 25, she is a self-taught musician who started playing in Glasgow pubs ten years ago and has now sold more than five million albums. Her latest claim to fame came last week when she appeared on the BBC’s Top Gear programme. A self-confessed car fanatic who drives a Ferrari, she drove a Kia hatchback at top speed around a Surrey racetrack and was described by a clearly impressed Jeremy Clarkson as “one of the biggest petrolheads we’ve ever had on the show.”

But back to the Palladium. Amy MacDonald, a diminutive figure in a short black sparkly dress and sky-high boots, gave one of the most outstanding live performances I’ve ever seen. She’s halfway through a European tour and whether she was singing acoustic ballads or anthemic rock numbers held the audience in the palm of her hand.

She’s good at the chat too. Along the way we discovered that she recommended Irn-Bru as a hangover cure, that the song The Green and the Blue was inspired by her love for Glasgow and that, unlikely as it sounds, she and her band warm up to Higher and Higher, from the Ghostbusters movie.

The next day she was off home to Glasgow, ahead of a gig in Edinburgh tonight. If the audience was this rapturous in London, goodness knows what it will be like up there…

Friday, 1 March 2013

Friday book review - With All My Love by Patricia Scanlan

What a treat to curl up on the sofa on a chilly winter’s night and read Patricia Scanlan’s latest novel.

With a clutch of bestsellers to her name (including Love and Marriage and City Girl), Scanlan is renowned for writing heart-warming novels about family, friendship and love.

Her new book, With All My Love is no exception. I read it in one delicious go, with tears streaming down my face by the time I got to the last chapter.

Once again, Scanlan focuses on a family – a family torn apart by a festering tangle of secrets and lies.

The book opens as Briony McAllister sits in a sunny park on the Costa del Sol, watching her young daughter playing with her dolls. Briony’s mother, Valerie Harris, has recently bought a house in Spain and Briony and her daughter have flown out from Dublin to help her settle in.

But when Briony takes an old photograph album out of her bag and starts to leaf through it, a letter she has never seen before falls out. The letter is addressed to her and as Briony reads it she realises that her mother has been lying to her for more than twenty years. Her mother had always maintained that Briony’s beloved grandmother cut off contact when she was little and didn’t want to see her – but it was an out and out lie.

As the lives of the three women unfold, Scanlan observes the conflict from each point of view. None of the women are without blame, but Scanlan cleverly makes the reader sympathetic towards each of them in turn. One moment I felt sorry for Tessa, Briony’s abandoned grandmother, the next I felt infuriated by her antagonism towards Valerie. For instance, when Valerie falls in love with Tessa’s youngest and favourite son, Tessa does everything she can to put a stop to the relationship. She makes snide remarks about Valerie’s clothes, warns her not to distract her son from his studies and acidly refers to her as “Miss Clinging Vine.”

Best of all, Scanlan keeps readers guessing about the women’s secrets right till the very end. There was no way on earth I could cast the book aside and stop reading. I had my suspicions, but I had to find out why Valerie had taken such drastic action and deprived Tessa of her precious relationship with her granddaughter.

PS. Watch out too, for Scanlan’s brilliant evocation of life in the late 70s and 80s, when Valerie first meets Tessa’s son. Glittery boob tubes, Queen singing We Will Rock You, Charlie perfume – Scanlan has remembered it all.

With All My Love by Patricia Scanlan (Simon & Schuster, £12.99)

Interview with Alison Morton - author of Inceptio


One of the very best things about Twitter is meeting other writers. Alison Morton and I got chatting about writing, blogging and France a few months back and with the her debut novel, Inceptio, out today I jumped at the chance to interview her for House With No Name.

Inceptio is your debut novel. Can you tell me a little about the road to publication?

Alison: I’ve played with words most of my life - storyteller, playwright (aged seven), article writer, local magazine editor and translator. I started novel writing in 2009 after seeing a particularly dire film. "I could do better than this," I whispered in the dark to my other half. "So why don’t you?" Three months later, I had completed the draft of Inceptio, the first Roma Nova alternate history thriller.

I knew the draft was both woolly and rough. I needed to learn novel-crafting skills and joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme in 2010. Two RNA conferences, an Arvon Foundation course in commercial fiction and the Festival of Writing at York spurred me on me on. I met some knowledgeable, generous and fun people along the way, one of whom ended up mentoring me. My history MA had taught me how to research and my six years in the Territorial Army trained me to do “guns and mud.” Perfect preparation for Inceptio.

I made the classic mistake of submitting too soon. Several rewrites later I had some full submission requests, including from a US agent. Replies like “If it was a straight thriller, I’d take it on” and “Your writing is excellent, but it wouldn’t fit our list” were a little depressing. I was (am!) passionate about my stories so, happy that my writing was at a reasonable standard, I decided to self publish with bought-in publishing services. Using high quality professional backing (editing, advice, registrations, typesetting, design, book jacket, proofing etc), I think it’s a fantastic way for new writers to enter the market.

Why did you choose to write a thriller and what is it about?

Alison: Inceptio started as a romantic novel with some action bits, but the thriller proportion grew until I realised I loved writing tension, danger, death, cliff-hangers and conspiracy more than romance. But the central romantic relationship is still key in this and the next two books.

It starts in New York, present day. Karen Brown, angry and frightened after surviving a kidnap attempt, has a harsh choice - being eliminated by government enforcer Jeffery Renschman or fleeing to the mysterious Roma Nova, her dead mother’s homeland in Europe.

Founded 16 centuries ago by Roman exiles and ruled by women, Roma Nova gives Karen safety and a ready-made family. But a shocking discovery about her new lover, the fascinating but arrogant special forces officer Conrad Tellus, isolates her.

Renschman reaches into her new home and nearly kills her. Recovering, she is desperate to find out why he is hunting her so viciously. Unable to rely on anybody else, she undergoes intensive training, develops fighting skills and becomes an undercover cop. But crazy with bitterness at his past failures, Renschman sets a trap for her, knowing she has no choice but to spring it... 

Do you have any tips for writers working on their debut novels right now?

Alison: Bash the story out. If you pause too long beautifying individual scenes at this stage, you risk losing the narrative flow. You’re first and foremost a storyteller; the story is the most important thing.

Put it away for at least six weeks, then do the first self-edit, checking the plot structure, deleting the dreadful parts and working on the sloppy bits. Then back into the drawer and start the next project.

Out of the drawer comes the first novel a few months later and this time you scrutinise each sentence word by word, forcing each one to justify its existence. Then you have something to work with.

What is your own favourite novel?

Alison: Currently, it’s Restless by William Boyd – spies, two strong women leads, Second World War, love, betrayal on personal and political levels, Cold War, class, alienation, irreverance and beautiful prose. Perfect!

Inceptio by Alison Morton (SilverWood Books, £9.99)

Alison’s blog: www.alison-morton.com
Twitter: @alison_morton

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

The RoNA Awards - winners include Katie Fforde, Jenny Colgan and Rowan Coleman


This was the first year in ages that I didn’t get to the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s RoNA awards bash - and I’m really fed up about missing it.

The RoNA awards celebrate the very best in romantic fiction and the party is always fun and ultra-glamorous. The champagne flows, you get to meet some of the best writers, publishers and agents in the business and RNA members’ shoes (from sky-high heels to leopard-print ballet pumps) are a delight to behold.

This year’s party was held at the RAF Club in London’s Piccadilly, with Judy Finnigan and Richard Madeley (no mean writers themselves) on hand to announce the five category winners.

So three cheers for Katie Fforde, who won the Contemporary Romantic Novel award for the second year running – this time for Recipe for Love.

Rowan Coleman triumphed in the Epic Romantic Novel category with Dearest Rose while Jenny Colgan scooped the Romantic Comedy Novel award for Welcome to Rosie Hopkins’ Sweetshop of Dreams.

The Historical Romantic Novel winner was Charlotte Betts for The Apothecary’s Daughter and the Young Adult Romantic Novel award went to Victoria Lamb for Witchstruck.

The five winning novels now go forward to the RNA Romantic Novel of the Year award and the overall winner will be revealed at the RNA’s summer party on May 16.

RNA chair Annie Ashurst, who’s written scores of novels herself, told the 250 party guests: “… we are here to celebrate the success of our brightest stars. We are proud of their talent, tenacity and dedication to their craft.

“It is a lovely thing to write a novel and to keep on going even as doubts set in – as they do with us all. Our awards give us an opportunity to publicly recognise the enjoyment you bring to your readers.”

Hear, hear, Annie...

PS. As well as the RoNAs, Sophie Kinsella was given an Outstanding Achievement Award. The RoNA Rose Award went to Sarah Mallory.  

Monday, 25 February 2013

Snow in Paris

Victoria Beckham looked frozen as she watched her husband make his debut for Paris St-Germain last night. I’ve just spent two days in Paris and I’ve rarely felt so cold. The temperature never lifted above -2 degrees, there was a biting wind and flurries of snow fell all weekend. My daughter wore three jumpers and I kept my Brora fingerless gloves and scarf on indoors and out. We had to dive into cafes every half an hour to stop our teeth chattering. Yet when I glanced at the papers this morning Victoria had stepped off the Eurostar in an unfastened coat, with her ankles bare and no gloves. She’s clearly tougher than the rest of us.

But never mind the cold, Paris is one of the prettiest cities on earth. We stayed at the super-stylish Mama Shelter, which boasts chic rooms, friendly staff, reasonable prices and a great brunch. Even though it’s slightly off the beaten track (in the 20th arrondissement) buses whizz past every ten minutes to whisk you into the centre for the princely sum of two euros – which meant we were at Bastille in fifteen minutes and in the Rue de Rivoli in thirty. As we chatted on the number 26 bus a Paris-based sports journalist from the UK tapped us on the shoulder and said he never usually heard English voices “on this route.” He made us feel like real locals.

Instead of sticking to our usual haunts we decided to visit an area we hadn’t been to before –the Batignolles, where Manet had his studio and artists like Degas, Renoir, Monet and Cezanne used to gather (at the Café Guerbois on the Avenue de Clichy). It boasts a pretty park, a village-like atmosphere and lots of quirky shops and art galleries. My daughter bought a pink hyacinth at the lovely flower shop below – I only hope it survives the winter on her student windowsill.

Mama Shelter is a five-minute stroll from the famous Père Lachaise cemetery so on Sunday morning we headed down the rue de Bagnolet and through the ancient archway. It’s the largest cemetery in Paris and one of the most famous in the world. Among the renowned names buried there are Chopin, Moliere, Proust, Colette, Modigliani, Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison. Not surprisingly, with a total of 69,000 tombs at the cemetery, a map is essential.

Actually, a snowy Sunday morning in February was definitely the time to visit this historic graveyard. A distant church bell tolled solemnly and the pale grey sky gave it a gothic, rather eery air – like something out of a Balzac novel in fact. Actually - and rather appropriately - he is buried there too.


Tuesday, 19 February 2013

What would my mother say?


I’ve been looking forward to reading Lucy Boyd’s book, Kitchen Memories, for ages. The daughter of Rose Gray, the inspirational co-founder of the River Café, Lucy is now head gardener at Petersham Nurseries in Richmond, Surrey and an accomplished chef herself.

I met Lucy at HarperCollins last autumn when I was invited to the publisher’s Fulham HQ to give a talk about blogging. 

Kitchen Memories is a captivating mix of recipes, memories and stunning photography. In a moving interview with The Times yesterday Lucy spoke about her mother’s massive – and ongoing - influence on her. Rose Gray died in 2010 but even now, when Lucy’s cooking she can hear her mother’s voice in her ear.

“I bought some asparagus out of season the other day and I’m still covered with shame,” Lucy told interviewer Andrew Billen. “It’s like ‘God, what would Rose say?’ She’d say 'Traitor.'”

Lucy’s words resonated so strongly with me. My mother died more than eight years ago but every time I do something she’d disapprove of (not often, I admit) I feel desperately guilty. We were incredibly close, spoke on the phone every day and agreed on most things  – apart from poached eggs, brackets, flat shoes and telling people your age.

She loved poached eggs, I hate them. She loathed brackets, I love them (as you can tell). She loved sky-high shoes and well, so do I (but I’m quite keen on my Converse too). And last of all she thought you should never ever let on how old you are. Actually, come to think of it, I’m coming round to that one…

Kitchen Memories by Lucy Boyd (HarperCollins, £20)

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Another Country - Huhne Junior at the Oxford Playhouse


There are lots of great things about living in Oxford but one of them is the chance to see some stunning student drama productions.

Last week – on Valentine’s Day in fact – I booked tickets for Another Country, Julian Mitchell’s famous public school play. Set in the 1930s, it’s the story of a group of public schoolboys struggling to work out what they believe in after the suicide of a fellow pupil rocks the school.

I was lucky enough to see the play in the West End thirty years ago, when it starred a young Rupert Everett and an even younger Kenneth Branagh. So I had high hopes for the production by the weirdly-named student company Screw the Looking Glass – and I wasn’t disappointed.

But two performances towered over the rest at the Oxford Playhouse. The actors playing the parts taken by Everett and Branagh 30 years ago were by turns charismatic and moving, insightful and funny. I found myself gripped whenever they were onstage, not quite so gripped when they weren't.

I stupidly hadn’t bought a programme so when I got home I checked out who these fine young actors were and nearly fell off my chair in surprise. The actor playing Guy Bennett (based on spy-in-the-making Guy Burgess) was none other than Peter Huhne, a second-year languages student at Oxford and the son of former cabinet minister Chris Huhne. As virtually the whole world knows, the student’s bitter text messages to his father were read out in court following Chris Huhne’s guilty plea for perverting the course of justice and were plastered across the papers for days afterwards.

Huhne Junior is only 20 but talk about impressive. How on earth he got through the media firestorm, carried on with his studies and gave a towering performance like this I don’t know. But then again, as all great actors know, the show must go on.

PS. The other fine performance was by Jo Allan, as Bennett's Marxist sympathiser friend Tommy Judd.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Yvette Cooper, family life and dressing up for school


There’s a great interview in this week’s Grazia with Yvette Cooper, who as well as being the shadow home secretary is married to shadow chancellor Ed Balls and has three children between the ages of eight and thirteen.

The best thing of all about the piece (written by Gaby Hinsliff) is that it gives a vivid glimpse of life in a hectic household, where two high-flying politicians are juggling about a million things at once. On the morning of the interview the roof was leaking, a builder had arrived to fix it, they were busy getting the children off to school and Cooper was trying to agree a quote about the police reforms.

And, I must say I couldn’t quite get my head round this bit, in the midst of the chaos Balls was trying to do his piano practice. Piano Practice? At eight-thirty in the morning?

Cooper admits that domestic life “may be a bit of a muddle” sometimes but they muddle through it together. She says that while Balls does “more tidying up and cleaning than I do” she tends to panic about things like “how come they need a Spanish costume for school tomorrow?”

Now that, I reckon that will strike a chord with parents everywhere. I’m a mega-admirer of teachers but the one thing I couldn’t cope with when my children were at primary school was the vogue for themed days. Over the years my two had to dress up as Victorian children, characters from their favourite books, characters from Roald Dahl stories, French children, animals, birds - you name it.

Quite apart from the fact that I’m the worst seamstress going, my son usually only mentioned it the night before. So I'd stay up till midnight  trying to cobble together an owl costume out of an old blanket.

And worst of all, schools assume that children love dressing up. Well, my son HATED it. On World Book Day the only outfit he deigned to wear was an aviator’s boiler suit and goggles. In the end we had to pretend that Biggles was his favourite book and he went as a pilot. Even though he’d never read any of the Biggles stories – and still hasn't.

And the following year he refused point-blank to dress up at all.  

Monday, 11 February 2013

Hotel review - The Pig in The Wall


I’ve just discovered my all-time favourite B&B. Surprisingly, it’s not in a secluded Gloucestershire valley or halfway up a Cumbrian mountainside. It’s actually in Southampton – which is brilliant for catching the Isle of White ferry or a cruise to sunnier climes, but not exactly known as a holiday destination.

The Pig in the Wall is the sister establishment to the Pig in the Forest, a five star hotel in the New Forest, and opened in October 2012. The name is inspired by its unusual (and very striking) location – the 12-bedroom boutique hotel is built into a gap in Southampton’s medieval wall, just minutes from the harbour.


Inside, it is utterly stunning. The rooms are designed by Judy Hutson (wife of co-owner Robin Hutson, who founded the Hotel du Vin chain) and are so chic and comfortable that I’d love her to sort my own house out. My favourite touches were the mismatching (deliberately) multicoloured floor tiles in the bathroom, the railway sleepers used for the floors and landing, the Roberts Radio and old-fashioned alarm clock by the bed and the framed newspaper prints (one with the headline Titanic Disaster from April 1912) lining the walls.

The Southampton Pig doesn’t have a formal restaurant although there’s a smart-looking Land Rover in the car park that whisks guests to the New Forest Pig if they so choose.

But the Pig in the Wall has an informal deli-bar (serving salads, charcuterie and wines by the glass) and also serves up a cracking breakfast. The stylish green drawing room is filled with books, wooden trays of plants and an eclectic collection of jugs and china and I felt so at home in my leather armchair that I could happily have stayed for hours. I helped myself to fresh apple juice and banana bread, the friendly staff brought several pots of Earl Grey tea and yes, all was right with the world.

The Pig in the Wall, 8 Western Esplanade, Southhampton, SO14 2AZ.

PS. Watch out for the next Pig venture. The Pig on the Beach, at Studland in Dorset, is coming soon...


Thursday, 7 February 2013

Moving On, my second novel - out as an ebook TODAY


Moving On, my second novel, is published as an ebook today – and I’m over the moon. It’s the novel I’m most proud of so I’m hoping that new readers will enjoy it.

When the book was first published it had a lurid pink jacket with daisies scattered across the front but now publishers Piatkus Entice have given it a gorgeous mauve cover (I must say I rather covet the heroine’s green and black spotty shirt) and it looks far more stylish.

Like my first novel, Moving On is set in the world of newspapers. But this time round the main characters are two sisters, Kate and Laura Hollingberry. Their father, HH, is a mega-successful newspaper tycoon, but they know next to nothing about their mother, Clare, who walked out in mysterious circumstances when they were little.

The two girls are close but they’re poles apart in character. Laura is happy to get an undemanding job until she finds Mr Right, while Kate is fiercely ambitious and wants more out of life. Determined not to rely on her father's money or influence, Kate takes a job on the Bowland Bugle, a struggling weekly newspaper in the wilds of Lancashire. It's her first job and her first bid for independence. Anything can happen – and it certainly does.

Kate arrives in the north of England as a naive, inexperienced reporter (hmmm, shades of autobiography there), but is forced to grow up fast. Especially when she’s faced with a distraught couple whose teenage daughter has gone missing, a boss who seems hell-bent on tripping her up at every opportunity and a love affair that doesn't go according to plan. Meanwhile, back in London, Laura is facing her own heartbreak and the future of the family business is looking uncertain...

Moving On by Emma Lee-Potter (Piatkus, £3.99)

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Celia Birtwell teams up with Uniqlo


Celia Birtwell is one of the UK’s most talented textile designers. Her gorgeous prints were tailored and cut into romantic dresses in the  60s and 70s by Ossie Clark, her late ex-husband, and worn by the likes of Marianne Faithfull, Bianca Jagger and Pattie Boyd.

Not only that, she also became the long-term muse of David Hockney, whose Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy portrait is one of the Tate’s most famous paintings.

Now in her 70s, she’s still turning out stunning designs. When she created a fashion collection for Topshop six years ago it rapidly became their most successful designer collaboration. The clothes flew off the shelves in next to no time – in fact I remember Topshop staff having to limit the number of Celia Birtwell designs eachcustomers could buy. Then she designed a range for outdoor clothing store Millets (I immediately snapped up some wellies and a sleeping bag).

So it’s great news that Birtwell has now teamed up with Uniqlo. Her archive prints have been transformed into an exclusive range of T-shirts, vests, shirts, tote bags, scarves and much more and will be launched in Uniqlo stores from March 21.

Wow. I’m definitely going to be in the queue…
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