Today I’m delighted to introduce author Cherry Radford, who I first met over on Twitter via a shared love of Spain and flamenco. Themes which feature in her latest book The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter.
Cherry has been a keyboard player and a scientist, among other things, but now divides her time between writing and piano teaching, and Eastbourne and Almería (Spain).
So over to Cherry
Which 5 pieces of music/songs would you include in the soundtrack to your life and why?
Blimey, are all the questions going to be this hard? Having put myself through these agonising decisions, I thought I’d make a Spotify playlist of them: http://sptfy.com/Eyj ENJOY!
Life on Mars? (David Bowie) – My big brother bought this LP, and I remember sitting on the carpet, legs all anyhow, poring over the album sleeve. Who was this strange, wonderful man? Until then, music had meant my parents’ Light Classics, used by my friend and I for hilarious made-up ballets in the living room. This was something else; Bowie (literally) took me somewhere I’d never been.
Étude Opus 10, No. 3 for Piano (Chopin) – Fast forward to Music College, where my Polish piano teacher had me playing plenty of Chopin. So beautiful, so emotional… so bloody difficult! Chopin will also remind me of my love of the piano, even if that love is not fully requited (I have pathetically small hands). This is just one of my favourites – and probably one of Jerome Kerns’ too, because Smoke Gets In Your Eyes sounds just like it. [Listens as adds it to Spotify Playlist]. Hm. Bit teary.
Shining (Steel Pulse) – Let’s cheer up a bit with this irresistible bit of reggae. There’s so much going on in this track – busy bass line, percussion bitty-bobs and delicious vocal harmony asides everywhere – one play is never enough. And oh, the lyrics – including a classic line for a late developer like me: You took your time trying to find out what life, what life, what life has in store for you… You’ve guessed it: my wedding video music.
Como Me Duele Perderte (How it Hurts to Lose You) Gloria Estefan – I came across this when I started Salsa dancing as part of research for my first novel, Men Dancing. Its bitter-sweet sadness matches both the novel and what was happening in my life at the time, but the song also reminds me of those early exciting but scary days of being a writer.
Dos Puñales (Two Daggers) (Josemi Carmona, Paco de Lucía) – I’ve done well to limit the flamenco here to 20%, when it’s probably taking up 80% of my iPod. This is a wondrous example of flamenco fusion; it’s earthy but accessible, and beautifully produced. I love the way the music seems to have a narrative – whatever you want. A tweet asking where I could get hold of the album (Las Pequeñas Cosas), followed by a later one asking about this track, eventually led to a stranger-than-fiction (non-virtual) friendship with the artist. This chance connection was the main inspiration for my new novel, The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter.
Highlight 5 things (apart from family and friends) you’d find it hard to live without.
My Piano – I don’t play as much as I like or should, but when I need it (because I’m bored / fed up / nervous / happy / miserable, waiting for something), I have to have it, now. One of the reasons I enjoy teaching piano is that I want my darlings (adults and children) to have this wonderful support and delight in their lives.
The Sea – I’m generally uncomfortable in locations that aren’t near the sea; there’s a sort of a background feeling of if I’m not near the edge, where the hell am I. Exceptions like Madrid and… (can’t actually think of any others right now) have to have a lot going for them. My current distances from the sea (by foot, door to wet toe) are 10 (Eastbourne) and 3.5 (Almería) minutes.
Why do I love it? The salty smell, its ever-changing colours and moods, and (most) of the beautiful creatures in it. I’m susceptible to flour-soft sand, but I also love beaches where I can collect stones and shells. I’m a keen (if three-limbed – see later!) swimmer, and during Summer and Autumn I’ll check the flag, put on my beach shoes and be in whenever I can (in both countries). It’s also the best place (along with the bath) for getting writing and plot ideas.
Home in Spain – I’ve only had this little town house in San José (near Almería) for a couple of years, but now don’t know how I coped without it. My half-Spanish mother brought me up to be a hispanophile, so for as long as I can remember I’ve been drawn to the country and its people. I also get very miserable and lethargic when starved of bright natural light and warmth, so escaping there in school breaks lets me recharge my batteries. Although my Spanish is at a high level, I can still zone out of conversations around me – perfect for writing under a beach umbrella.
Thai Food – I’m not a foodie, but I’m insanely excited about these fragrant and spicy flavours and the flowery presentation. Spain needs to discover it; its absence there is one of the few reasons I ever want to come back to Blighty.
My mobile – It would probably do me good to live without my mobile for a while, I’m on it far too much, but the pain of being separated from my WhatsApping friends (including Spanish ones I can’t see as much as I’d like), Twittermates and Instagram would be considerable.
Can you offer 5 pieces of advice you’d give to your younger self?
Put more face, hand and sun cream on – I thought I’d be young forever. But if I’m still not listening now, I certainly wouldn’t have listened then. Sticky, messy stuff.
Label and date your photos – Uh, those boxes of loose photos with vaguely recalled faces and scenery…
Don’t lose contact with people you care about – Petty arguments or laziness caused me to lose contact with some friends.
Lighten up! – I was such an intense young person, playing melancholy piano and sitting around reading Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus. Can’t think how anyone put up with me. A year abroad (with light and warmth!) would have done me good.
Yes, you can write a book! – I should have taken the course, bought one of those elasticated leather notebooks, stopped making excuses, and started writing much earlier.
Tell us 5 things that most people don’t know about you.
I used to be a keyboard player in a band – For some years, I was a piano teacher doing the day and played in a band a few nights a week. The second band I joined even had a single out; I’ll be in trouble for not including it in my five soundtracks, but you’d be glad I didn’t!
I used to be a post-doctoral scientist – I re-trained, and worked for Moorfields Eye Hospital for many years as an optometrist and post-doctoral researcher.
I used to be a ballerina …at the Royal Ballet. – No, just kidding! But I did teach piano at the Royal Ballet Junior School for some years – and get free tickets. Maybe in my next life.
I have limited use of my right arm – I have a congenital problem with my shoulder that makes it painful for me to open a door or lift anything as heavy as a hardback book with it. An operation didn’t help. But I can somehow do reasonable flamenco arms, and swim without going around in circles!
I almost died of pneumonia over the millennium – The last eighteen years – including the publication of my three novels – have been a bonus.
What are the first 5 things you’d have on your bucket list?
Having my book out in Spanish – The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter has equal male and female, English and Spanish viewpoints – Bicultural People Fiction! I’d love to see it in Spanish, and give it to some of my Spanish friends whose English isn’t good enough to read it in its present form.
Tour South America – I’d like to visit the places where my half-Spanish mother grew up, and more. My cousin and I have talked about it, but… This is what I should have been doing in my maudlin early twenties!
Learn how to high dive – Researching high diving for my next novel, this has become my new ballet. Ah, and I’d like Greg Louganis to teach me (check out the documentary film Back on Board and you’ll see why – what a lovely man).
Learn how to cook Thai food – Family over shoulder: ‘What? Learn how to cook any food!’
Have a grandchild – But not too soon, boys!
Thanks so much for taking part Cherry, some fascinating revelations – I love your previous employments – we need to know what that single was! Regarding music, many thanks for including a Spotify link. I just need to access your flamenco list now (no you don’t I can hear my husband cry!) I hope you get to achieve your bucket list dreams, hopefully the first one won’t be too far off.
After the break-up of her marriage, Imogen escapes to her aunt’s converted lighthouse on Beachy Head. Writing for a tedious online magazine but hoping to start a novel, she wants to be alone until she finds an entrancing flamenco CD in her borrowed car and contacts the artist via Twitter. It turns out that actor-musician Santiago needs help with English, and is soon calling her profesora.
Through her window, the other lighthouse winks at her across the sea. The one where her father was a keeper, until he mysteriously drowned there in 1982. Her aunt is sending extracts from his diary, and Imogen is intrigued to learn that, like her and Santi, her father had a penfriend.
Meanwhile, despite their differences Imogen is surrounded by emotional and geographical barriers, Santi surrounded by family and land-locked Madrid their friendship develops. So, she reads, did her father’s but shocking revelations cause Imogen to question whether she ever really knew him.
Two stories of communication: the hilarious mistakes, the painful misunderstandings, and the miracle or tragedy of finding someone out there with whom you have an unforeseen, irresistible connection.
Musician and dance enthusiast Yolande has just finished with yet another faithless boyfriend, even though her body clock is ticking wildly and she longs for a child. However much gay best friend and ideal man Jeremy adores her, he refuses to be the father. Should she relent and take back her repentant ex? Conceive with a sperm donor? She has become entranced by flamenco, music of the outcasts – could seeds secretly planted at a London flamenco evening with enigmatic dancer Fernando Morales begin to flower into a ‘flamenco baby’? Then, while Yolande starts a cosy relationship with a teacher on her flamenco course in Granada, Jeremy becomes drawn to Fernando – and so begins a whirl of secrecy, love and jealousy that has them all wondering if, in the spirit of flamenco, they dare to give the truth.
A chance meeting with a performer you’ve always admired – an exciting story to tell your family and friends. But not if that excitement won’t go away, and turns into the chronic ache of obsession…Dr Rosie Buchanan – weary hospital scientist, frustrated musician, cheated wife and struggling mother – finds herself sitting next to charismatic Royal Ballet star Alejandro Cortes on a London train. Half an hour and a shared bag of errant Maltesers later, she starts to feel she’s misheard her true calling – and is soon doing research of a very different kind. Rosie arranges a bogus research visit at Alejandro’s home, and is thrilled when he and his girlfriend ask her to become their piano teacher. And she tries to overcome the pain of her failing marriage to former soulmate Jez, and the obsession with Alejandro, by accepting consolation from an old friend, consultant Ricardo Pereira. But so begins a complex dance of passion, betrayal, loss and redemption..
Keep up to date with Cherry on social media, she’d love to hear from you!
She chats about writing and other passions on her BLA BLA LAND blog,