Today it’s my pleasure to feature author Caroline James. I first met Caroline several years ago at a local book group, but I was too in awe to speak to her. Thankfully, I overcame my nerves and was pleased to feature Caroline as part of my 2016 ‘Cheshirati Christmas’ feature. Given that we’re approaching the festive season again, you might want to revisit it here later.
About Caroline :
Caroline James has owned and run businesses encompassing all aspects of the hospitality industry, a subject that features in her novels. She is based in the UK but has a great fondness for travel and escapes whenever she can. A public speaker, which includes talks and lectures on cruise ships world-wide, Caroline is also a consultant and food writer. She is a member of the Romantic Novelist’s Association, the Society of Women’s Writer’s & Journalists and writes articles and short stories and contributes to many publications. In her spare time, Caroline can with her head in a book and hand in a box of chocolates.
Over to Caroline…
Which 5 pieces of music/songs would you include in the soundtrack to your life and why?
You to Me Are Everything by The Real Thing
As soon as the opening bars begin, I close my eyes and am nineteen again. Dancing in a nightclub in Bournemouth. I went to college there and they were such happy days. I was young, free and about to begin my adult life. The words are happy, romantic and hopeful – just how I felt at that time.
Wild Rover by The Dubliners
I heard the first version of this song by a folk singer in a pub in Cornwall, when I was in my late teens. Now at the other end of life, I love to hear the version by Morning Call, which is played at Blackburn Rovers FC home games. My lovely Eric is a life-long fan of the club and when I see his face light up as the music comes on, I just want to burst into song with him and say a massive thank you to whatever higher deity bought this very special man into my later life.
Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves
Also known as ‘Va, Pensiero,’ this is a powerful chorus from the opera Nabucco by Verdi. My mum loved opera, she grew up in a household filled with music, and an opera singing father. When my sisters and I were growing up and she played this piece, her eyes would close, and she’d be completely lost in the music as she sang along. Now, whenever I hear this chorus, I am with my mum again. It always makes me cry. It is so intense, sad, yet quite beautiful.
Brown Eyed Girl by Van Morrison
Oh, family. Why does this song by Van Morrison make my sister Cath and I immediately stand up and start dancing around the room? My son Jamie too. Perhaps it is because many years ago, on a long journey to the south of France, I put Cath in charge of music, as I drove. Expecting a lovely selection of sounds, I soon realised that the only two CD’s Cath had put in the car were, The Best of Van Morrison and The Best of the Smurfs. The Smurfs got smashed after a half a dozen plays but Van the Man stayed with us throughout the trip and amazingly, I still adore his music today.
The Living Years Mike & the Mechanics
“I just wish I could have said it in the living years,” The words to this song are so poignant and always remind me never to go to bed on an argument and always remember to talk to your loved ones. Don’t die wishing that you’d had that overdue conversation. “Say it loud, say it clear, you can listen as well as you can hear.” Amen to that.
Highlight 5 things (apart from family and friends) you’d find it hard to live without.
Any flowers. ‘Wake up and smell the roses,’ How true is that? The beauty of nature is overwhelming whether it is one single, old-fashioned rose from the garden that perfumes the air as I sit at my desk, or the heady aroma of freshly picked sweet peas.
Simply put one foot in front of the other and go. Feel the fresh air on your skin. Smell the newly cut grass, taste the rain as it falls. Be warmed by the sun. Be invigorated in the cold. Walking is the most therapeutic thing I can do, I walk every day and love every single step. And it is free.
I love to cook. There is nothing I like better than to nurture others with food. Simple food, like a freshly baked loaf, warm and crusty from the oven with thick creamy butter. Or cake. A soft and springy sponge filled with home-made jam. I was a media agent for many years to many celebrity chefs and as the late, great, Keith Floyd, once said, ‘Food is life and life is food.’
Oh boy, did it take me a long time to discover this! I always wanted to write but never thought that I was good enough. I went to an all-girl’s grammar school and hated it. I thought that anything I wrote would be ridiculed. In my early 50s, I decided that I wasn’t going to go to my grave wondering if I could write, so I glued my rear to a chair and began. Coffee Tea the Gypsy & Me was my first novel (self-published after scores of rejections slips) and it shot to #3 in women’s fiction on Amazon. I’ve never looked back. Writing brings me pleasure (and pain!) beyond anything I ever imagined.
I read as much as possible, all genres and all sorts of books. From an atlas to a thriller, a classic, a text book or a romantic comedy. I love losing myself in the written word. I read on my iPad too and it goes everywhere with me.
Can you offer 5 pieces of advice you’d give to your younger self?
Blow your own trumpet.
My mum used to say this to me. It basically means, shout out how good you are because no one else will do it for you. As an older me, I would remind the younger me to do this more often.
Size doesn’t matter.
I’ve been on a diet all my life. Now, when I think of all the effort and pain I’ve used up trying to have a perfect shape, it makes me exasperated. Beauty really does come from within. It’s the person inside that matters. You first need to love yourself as you are. Without that, the rest is immaterial.
Come out of your comfort zone.
As the saying goes, don’t be afraid to come out of your comfort zone, be afraid of staying in it. The best things have happened to me when I’ve had a go at things that I never thought I was capable of doing. Like owning and running a beautiful country house hotel, on my own, at the age of thirty one. Or zip-wiring miles down a Chinese valley in a harness that resembled a man’s leather belt, or working very hard to get a job that enabled me to fly on Concorde.
Be kind to others.
Treat people as you want to be treated yourself, no matter how hard it may seem at the time. It may sound trite, but if you step outside and smile at people, the world generally smiles back at you.
The time to be happy is now.
Not tomorrow, or this time next year. Live in the moment and make each moment count. Another one of my mum’s sayings. I often wonder if living through a war made her that way? She was in the navy and lost a lot of loved ones, so life must have become extra precious.
Tell us 5 things that most people don’t know about you.
I like to trek mountains.
I haven’t done this in a while as I broke my foot last year but am determined to get the walking boots back on soon. Being on a big hill or mountain is such a joy. Mountains to me are powerful and imposing, moody, memorable and very scary at times. I’ve trekked in China and South America, climbed Ben Nevis and lots of other mountains too.
I have limited confidence.
I have to push myself to stand up and speak to an audience. I have to take a very deep breath to steady my nerves before I enter a room whether there are two people on the other side of the door or two hundred.
I collect unusual bottles and bottle stoppers.
Especially ‘bird’ bottle stoppers.
Three years ago, I had a nervous breakdown.
I was trapped in work that made me very unhappy and wanted to change my life. I walked away from the work, my home, my environment and my life as it was then. Despite being very painful at the time, it was the best thing that I’ve ever done.
Boomerville Bertie comes everywhere with me.
Boomerville Bertie is a teddy bear. A marketing tool to promote my latest novel. But I have fallen in love with Bertie and he travels everywhere with me now.
What are the first 5 things you’d have on your bucket list?
I jumped in the Irish Sea on New Year’s Day a couple of years ago, in freezing temperatures, and loved it. Now, I’d like to swim in as many wild, outdoor places as possible. I just need to remember to pack my swimsuit and a towel when I go walking.
To enable other authors
When I started writing seven years ago, I hadn’t a clue what I was doing. Things have changed so much since then and there is so much information on the internet now. But whenever I host a talk on publishing (I’m both self-published and traditionally published), I often talk to would-be authors who remind me of myself seven years ago. They want help and encouragement. I’d like to do whatever I can to help them achieve their dream.
I would like to take a trip to Railway Museum in Kanchanaburi, Thailand, which is a tribute to the thousands of captured soldiers who lost their lives, whilst being forced to work on the infamous Railway of Death, from Burma to Siam, during WWII. My father was such a POW, who somehow survived in impossible and terrible circumstances. As the years passed, he wanted to go back to Thailand, as it is now. He had no ill feeling to his Japanese captors but through ill health, caused by punishment as a prisoner, never made the journey. I would like to do this trip in his honour.
To own a motor home.
I’d love a motor home. The thought of rocking up wherever you fancy, with willing wheels and a roof over your head, would be heaven to me and is right up there on my bucket list. Have mobile home, will travel. Anywhere. Anytime.
To have a kitchen with an Aga cooking range.
I have happy childhood memories of coming home from school, racing to the Aga in the kitchen and warming a very cold bottom on the burning-hot oven door. Today, my Aga would be more sophisticated, probably oil or electric, not coal-fired and smoky. It’s the heart of the kitchen, the best room in the house (to me).
Jill, thank you so much for inviting me to your, Five on a Friday. It’s a great pleasure to be with you and your lovely readers.
Caroline, the pleasure was all ours, thank you so much for sharing with us. I’m sure your advice to your younger self will resonate with most us, it certainly does with me. The Living Years by Mike and the Mechanics is also very meaningful, it was released the same year I lost my Dad and certainly echoed quite a few feelings. I appreciate your honesty regarding your confidence and your breakdown, I’m sure it will help others who struggle themselves, to see that those issues can affect anyone, at any time. Being open and honest is always better than hiding, making the issues harder to talk about. Not sure I’ll be adding outdoor swimming to my to do list, but a motor home does sound good. Here’s hoping you can tick those, and more off the list – I’m sure Boomerville Bertie will enjoy it too.
Jo Docherty and Hattie Contaldo have a vision – a holiday retreat in the heart of the Lake District exclusively for guests of ‘a certain age’ wishing to stimulate both mind and body with new creative experiences. One hotel refurbishment later and the Best Boomerville Hotel is open for business!
Perhaps not surprisingly Boomerville attracts more than its fair share of eccentric clientele: there’s fun-loving Sir Henry Mulberry and his brother Hugo; Lucinda Brown, an impoverished artist with more ego than talent; Andy Mack, a charming Porsche-driving James Bond lookalike, as well as Kate Simmons, a woman who made her fortune from an internet dating agency but still hasn’t found ‘the One’ herself.
With such an array of colourful individuals there’s bound to be laughs aplenty, but could there be tears and heartbreak too and will the residents get more than they bargained for at Boomerville?
‘The time to be happy is now…’ Jo remembers her late husband’s words but is struggling to face the lonely future that lies ahead. A heartbroken widow, Jo finds herself alone with ghostly memories at Kirkton House – a Cumbrian Manor that until recently, she ran as a thriving hotel. Her two sons have moved away, Jimmy to run a bar in Barbados, and Zach to London to pursue a career as a celebrity chef. Middle-age and widowhood loom frighteningly and Jo determines to sell up and start again, despite protestations from colourful friend, Hattie and erstwhile admirer Pete Parks. Hattie convinces Jo to postpone any life-changing decisions by enjoying a Caribbean holiday but their holiday sets off a course of events that brings mayhem and madness to Jo and her family. Confused and anxious for her future, can life really begin again for Jo?
When Jo Edmond’s husband runs off with their nanny and disappears into a Spanish sunset, Jo resolves to make a new life with her baby son. She impulsively purchases Kirkton House a run down guest house and with the help of a colourful cast of characters, establishes a thriving country house hotel. Jo opens the hotel during Fair Week, a famous 300 year old gypsy tradition, hated by the locals and loved by every tinker and traveller in the country. Romance is the last thing on her mind, until the enigmatic John Doherty walks into her life.
Assisted by Hattie, a local woman who becomes a friend, Jo’s business succeeds and a new Jo emerges, attracting the attention of every man who comes within her radar. In Fair Week, Jo’s errant husband turns up and begins a campaign to win her back but Black Monday is looming, the stock market crashes and tourism dries up. With difficult days ahead Jo has to reinvent her business to survive.
Coffee, Tea, the Chef & Me. (previously published as So, You Think You’re A Celebrity…Chef?
When media agent, Hilary Hargreaves, travels to Ireland to look at a campaign for a new cookery school, she meets a blast from her past – the romantic but reckless chef, Mickey Lloyd, who is hell-bent on resurrecting his flagging career. Her tough demeanour is rocked, as it becomes apparent that Mickey’s intentions involve more than a stint behind a stove in his quest to pursue her. But as plans for the school gain momentum, she realises that she’s developing more than a passing interest in reformed alcoholic, Long Tom Hendry, who owns the crumbling old mansion where the school will be homed. Hilary has many ingredients to juggle, with her demanding client list, which looks set to boil over if she doesn’t keep control. From London’s bustling, Soho, to Southern Ireland and the sunny shores of the Caribbean, has Hilary got too much on her plate and is she really prepared to risk it all for love?
Handsome young chef Zach Docherty is feeling the heat. Following an exposé in a national newspaper, his fiancée Poppy Dunlop has broken their engagement. Heartbroken at the thought of life without Poppy, Zach drowns his sorrows and, when his agent suggests that Zach becomes a contestant in a reality TV show, Jungle Survival, he reluctantly agrees. Plunged deep in the jungle, into a bizarre mix of talent and trials, Zach meets glamour model Cleo Petra, and the cameras go crazy.
Will Zach survive and be crowned Jungle King? Or will his latest exploits push Poppy further away…
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