Today I’m delighted to feature best selling author Trevor Williams who writes romantic comedies as TA Williams (his original editor felt it would be a good idea to keep his gender opaque). Trevor’s early books were thrillers and historical novels and his move to romantic fiction is something he still finds hard to explain. He thinks it probably lies in his need to do his best to provide something to cheer his readers up, especially in the face of the many horrors in today’s world. His books certainly provide escapism to some gorgeous locations, even if travel to them is currently difficult.
Over to Trevor :
I’m a man. And a pretty old man as well. I did languages at university a long time ago and then lived and worked in France and Switzerland before going to Italy for eight years as a teacher of English. My Italian wife and I then came back to the UK with our little daughter (now long-since grown up) where I ran an English language school for many years. We now live in a sleepy little village in Devonshire. I’ve been writing almost all my life but it was only eight years ago that I finally managed to find a publisher who liked my work enough to offer me my first contract.
Which piece of music/song would you include in the soundtrack to your life and why?
Joe Cocker – With a Little Help From My Friends. I was at Nottingham University in the late sixties (I am very old) and one of my friends was social secretary. A few of us used to get roped in to look after the artists who were booked to perform on Saturday nights. Joe Cocker was a very nice but he had a serious drink problem and after two triple spirits (rum, vodka and gin mixed as I remember) he threw up all over me and then passed out. We carried him up to the Great Hall, poured gallons of coffee down him until he was able to crawl (nb still not able to walk) onto stage. I always remember seeing him gradually come alive as the intro started playing and by the time he had started singing he was upright and he sang non stop for an hour and a half. Some things you never forget.
Jacques Brel – Ne Me Quitte Pas. I did French and German at university and spent a year trying to teach English to teenagers in a little town in eastern France as part of the course. While I was there, I developed a taste for Jacques Brel (even though he was Belgian), along with red wine and French girls (well, actually, all girls really). Listening to it again now, I can still remember all the words – and yet half the time I walk into a room nowadays I can’t remember why I’m there… Funny thing the human brain.
Marvin Gaye – I Heard It Through The Grapevine. One of my lasting regrets is that I only discovered how to enjoy dancing in later life. When I was younger, dancing was a means to an end (meeting girls) and I was so shy I needed four or five pints inside me before I could pluck up the courage to ask one to dance with me. Needless to say, after all that booze, my breath was probably toxic and most of them used to disappear into the Ladies, never to return. Is there a rear exit to those places? If not, there must have been quite a crush in there. Anyway, this song still manages to get me up and swaying about. I love it.
Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody. I used to run a big English Language School and part of my job was travelling abroad (all over the world) promoting the place. I remember sitting in my car at Portsmouth docks waiting for the Brittany Ferries boat to France and listening to this track on the cassette (I told you I was old, didn’t I?) – all 12 minutes of it – and I was hooked. I played it over and over again all the way down the autoroute to Spain. It still takes me back to those interminable drives with a boot full of brochures on the way out and bottles of wine on the way back.
Pavarotti, Carreras, Domingo – Nessun Dorma. As I spent eight years of my life in Italy, I feel I need to include something in Italian although Italian “pop” never did it for me. I will always remember watching the outdoor concert by the “Three Tenors” at Rome’s Terme di Caracalla and even now, listening to it again, I get a shiver up and down my spine.
What (apart from family and friends) would you find it hard to live without.
It grieves me to say it, but a computer. I struggled for many years against what I still see as a creeping plague, ultimately leading to the robots taking over the world, but now I give in. I need my computer to write on, to get information from and to do everyday things like banking and booking doctor’s appointments. I can’t do without it now.
A pair of trainers/boots. I have the good fortune to live in a little village in Devon with open countryside almost right outside my door. I spend hours every week walking through the fields and on the common and – particularly in these troubled times – I find it relaxing, refreshing and hopefully it might keep me from putting on too much weight.
My bike. I used to do a lot of long distance cycling (all over Europe) and although my long distance days have been curtailed by various health issues (not least a bent coccyx after going into a massive pothole in the road last year), I still love getting out on the bike. Cycling, like walking, gives me a chance to let my mind roam and really helps with planning my books.
My garden. I do not have green fingers but, fortunately, my wife does. I mow the lawn and do the heavy digging but I leave the creative stuff to her. We made an interesting discovery last year – we have a pair of owls living in one of the trees.
Do you know? I can’t really think of anything else so vital I couldn’t live without it. I’m not fussed about clothes, I drive an 8 year old car and I rarely listen to music. All I watch on TV is the rugby and a few cheesy sitcoms for inspiration but I could happily do without. Maybe I’m too easily pleased, but nothing springs to mind.
Can you offer a piece of advice for your younger self?
I can’t stress this one too highly – LEARN TO TOUCH TYPE. I have 22 books published so far and at an average of 80,000 words each that makes almost two million words I have laboriously typed with two fingers (if I’m lucky). If only I could type. Sigh…
Girls don’t like boys who have been drinking too much beer (see above).
I wish I had asked my dad about his experiences in the war but he didn’t talk about it and I was too self-absorbed to ask. So my advice would be: talk to your parents while you’ve got them. They aren’t just an embarrassment all the time.
Do not smoke. It isn’t cool and it does you no end of harm.
If you are lucky enough to have an old banger (I had a wonderful old VW Beetle which cost £200), hang onto it. By the time you’re my age it will be worth a fortune.
Tell us something that most people don’t know about you
I met and married my wife, Mariangela, in Italy and we still speak Italian at home all the time even though we’ve been back in the UK for over forty years. At least it meant our daughter became bilingual without moving a muscle and I’m counting on the mental activity to stave off the onset of Alzheimers.
I wrote my first book when I was in my twenties but I only got picked up by a publisher when I was in my sixties. Rejection letters? I’ve got a file the thickness of a phone book.
I love DIY. I really enjoy mending stuff, painting stuff, fiddling with stuff. I always did. Interestingly my brother can’t change a light bulb.
A few years ago I cycled the Camino di Santiago. I went the whole hog and started from here, cycled all the way down through France and over the Pyrenees. It took three weeks and came to 1,900 kms. Since then I have been back to the Camino on several occasions and find it fascinating. You can walk over a hill in the middle of nowhere and find yourself confronted by a whopping great basilica surrounded by open fields. It is one of those things I think people should all try to do.
In spite of writing romance, I am not a romantic person. My wife and I forget birthdays, we both forgot our 40th wedding anniversary and I can’t remember the last time we gave each other presents. Maybe writing romance is some sort of escape mechanism.
Tell us something you’d still like to do or achieve.
Having cycled it, I would really like to walk at least some of the Camino but I now have dodgy knees so that may not be possible.
Of course I would love to have a number one bestseller or see one of my books turned into a movie but to be honest I’m just very happy to know that several hundred thousand people all over the world have read my stuff and only a relatively small number of them hated it.
When the virus has been banished, I would like to spend a few weeks in Sicily. I have been there (on business) twice but barely for 24 hours each time. It is a wonderful island with a fascinating history and I would like to make it the setting for one of my books.
I wish I could influence the way people (and governments) think about the future of the planet. As far as I can see, short term expediency and selfishness mean that we are screwing things up for our children and their children. My next book, Secrets on the Italian Island (coming out in July), deals with the subjects of conservation and pollution but I wish I could do more.
I wish I could get another dog. Our old dog, Merlin, was the most wonderful dog in the whole history of the world (all right, I admit I may be a little biased) and when he died my wife was so upset she refused to get another. That’s why I put a black Labrador in all my books as a homage to Merlin.
Thanks so much for joining me today Trevor, I loved this. Being of an older vintage myself, the music choices brought up their own memories for me. I heard it Through the Grapevine has a dancing link for me too – it was a record I remember from an ill fated few weeks at a dance class. Can’t remember what ‘dance’ was associated with it but I’m always back in 1968 when I hear it. Bohemian Rhapsody always takes me back to Sixth Form and as a football fan Nessun Dorma will always be associated with Italia ’90, and more personally hearing Russell Watson sing it at Old Trafford in front of a stunned 57,000 fans at the close of the 1999 season.
I’m pleased your happy with only four essentials, it’s a sign of a contented man. Happy also to see the Camino de Santiago appearing, you have my utmost respect for having cycled your Camino, from home to Santiago. I managed to walk the Camino Ingles in 2012, which was a much shorter, but more do-able distance for an out of practice walker. I have a fascination with the Camino and I’m currently cycling it ‘virtually’, sadly only on an exercise bike, but I’m trying to immerse myself fully into what I would have experienced. Hopefully, one day, I’ll be able to walk a section of it again. It also guaranteed I bought Chasing Shadows to add to my ‘Camino’ collection. Here’s hoping your dodgy knees also hold up for a return one day.
Wishing you all the best wish your future hopes and never say never about your dog. Sometimes life works in mysterious ways. It’s a lovely way of paying homage to Merlin to have him in your books though.
Books by TA Williams
Escape to Tuscany Series
Secrets on the Italian Island (Book 3) – Published 8 July and available to pre-orderHer work has got in the way of relationships before – but never like this
Anna’s job as a geologist takes her all over the world, including to the beautiful island of Elba, where she’s sent to look for precious metals. And the island isn’t the only thing that’s gorgeous – she can’t believe her luck when she meets windsurfer Marco and sparks fly.
But Anna must keep her role on Elba a secret to avoid upsetting the locals, which means lying to Marco even as they grow closer. When her old friend Toby visits, Anna suddenly finds herself torn between the attentions of the two men. However, Anna’s not the only one keeping secrets.
Is Marco being entirely honest with her? And why did Toby really come to visit?
Second Chances in Chianti (Book 2)
Alice thought her future was set in stone, until her past came knocking…
Alice Butler starred in a successful US sitcom until tensions in the cast and crew caused the show to be cancelled. Now, five years later and working towards her dream job in art history, she’s called back for a revival of the show. It can only end in disaster, surely?
Flown to a villa in Chianti to meet with the rest of the cast, Alice must decide where her future lies – with her boyfriend, David, who laps up the Hollywood company, or with the mysterious Matt, who shies away from public attention?
Under a Siena Sun (Book 1)
Lucy needed a change of scene. She didn’t expect the change of a lifetime.
Doctors Without Borders has been Lucy Young’s life for the past four years. After being rescued from a conflict zone, she’s making a change from saving lives under gunfire to practising medicine in safe, serene Siena.
Now treating wealthy patients at a private clinic, she’s never felt less comfortable. She’s used to helping those in dire need – not those in need of a nip and tuck. Her turmoil grows when she encounters injured tennis star David Lorenzo, whose smiles make Lucy forget her aversion to the rich.
She’s soon falling for the sportsman but is she losing herself in this world of excess? All she’s ever wanted was to help the underprivileged, so can her future lie in Siena at the clinic – with David?
Dreaming of …
Dreaming of Italy
Up for a dream promotion, Emma won’t let anything get in her way – not even love.
Working for a major Hollywood film company isn’t all glitz and glam. But when Emma gets sent to tour around Italy to scout the perfect location for a new blockbuster movie, she’s not going to complain. Especially when it could make or break her career…
Historical adviser Mark is a distraction that Emma does not need. As they explore the beauty of Italy, though, Emma starts to fall for the mysterious historian, finding herself torn between her job and her heart.
From the wild, northern mountains of Piedmont, down the vibrant coast of Cinque Terre and through the rolling hills of Tuscany, Emma’s journey becomes one of self-discovery as she questions her priorities in life.
Dreaming of Verona
Verona is the City of Love. But will Suzie find romance there or, like Romeo and Juliet, will it all end in tears?
When Suzie is hired to accompany spoiled, abrasive Lady Alexandra Tedburn on an all-expenses paid holiday to Italy, she fears the trip will be a disaster.
But she soon discovers there’s more to Alex than shopping and tantrums, and she’s determined to help her realise her potential – against Alex’s authoritarian father’s wishes.
As they settle in Verona, Suzie can’t stop thinking about local artist Michael, who is still mourning the tragic death of his wife. With Suzie’s future uncertain, and Michael’s past
holding him back, it seems there’s no hope for romance in the city of star-crossed lovers… or is there?
Dreaming of Rome
Rome is where the heart is… The heartwarming read of the summer
Jo has had enough of handsome men. After a painful break-up, she’s decided she doesn’t believe in love.
Then, while on a professional trip to the magical city of Rome, she meets Corrado, a scientist and her brother-in-law to be, who doesn’t believe in love either. To him, it’s just a biochemical reaction. So what’s the problem?
Well, he’s gorgeous for a start, as well as charming, generous, intelligent and attentive, and she feels herself immediately falling for him, despite her new outlook.
The majesty of the Eternal City brings them ever closer together. But is their relationship doomed, or will love conquer all?
Dreaming of Tuscany
The glamour of Hollywood. The magic of the Tuscan countryside. One big decision…
Beatrice Kingdom (Bee to her friends) wakes up in hospital in Tuscany. After an accident on a film set leaves her burned and scarred, she feels her whole life has been turned upside down.
Bee is offered the chance of recuperating in a stunning Tuscan villa in the company of a world-famous film star, the irascible Mimi Robertson. Here amid the vines and olive groves, Bee quickly finds there’s more to the place than meets the eye, not least a certain Luca (and Romeo the dog).
As she comes to terms with her injuries and her new life takes shape, Bee will have to travel a road of self-discovery… and make a huge decision.
Dreaming of Christmas
It’s the dream Christmas: snow, mountains… and, er, an ex-boyfriend. But can Zoe still find love in the Alps?
Dumped on Christmas Eve by her long-term boyfriend, it’s been a rough year for Zoe Lumsley. But then she gets an invitation she can’t refuse: an all expenses paid skiing holiday with old university friends.
The bad news: her ex, Grant, will be there with his new girlfriend. But so will her former flatmate Billy, the organiser, and in the meantime he’s done rather well for himself. As Christmas in the Alps approaches, it’ll be great to see the old gang. Some more than others…
Dreaming of St-Tropez
The perfect summer escape on the French Riviera. Sun, sea and secrets…
After a disagreement with a billionaire, architect Jess Milton is ‘let go’ from her job. However fortune intervenes – an elderly client asks Jess to dog-sit overweight, but loveable dog Brutus in St. Tropez.
Fed up with the mega-rich, Jess is reluctant to visit the playground of billionaires, but an all-expenses-paid trip and the promise of sunshine seals the deal.
Little does Jess know how much time she’ll be spending with the family living in St. Tropez. The sullen, but very good-looking David and his millionaire father are both welcoming but guarded, haunted by their pasts…
Can Jess bring some sunshine back into their lives – and, just maybe, find love in the process?
Dreaming of Florence
Fresh pasta, red wine, fine art… and love? Find enchantment this year in the magical city of Florence
When Debbie Waterson’s bicycle crashes into handsome doctor Pierluigi, she wonders if her luck has changed. Determinedly single after ending a long relationship, at last, a man worth bumping into!
Inspired to visit Florence, she soon runs headlong into that old foe: reality. But is Pierluigi the man of her dreams? Then there’s her booze obsessed boss, his forbidding secretary and her noisy inconsiderate neighbours. But could her luck be about to change? Will she find love after all?
Dreaming of Venice
Find love, friendship and prosecco – in the magical city of Venice
Life is tough for Penny. A dead end job in a London café, a boyfriend in Australia (what could go wrong?) and an art career going nowhere. But then Penny is approached with an extraordinary proposition.
It isn’t going to be easy but, if she can pull it off, she will turn her life around and at long last see the fulfilment of her dream – to visit Venice. And, just maybe, find true happiness with the handsome man of her dreams.
But can dreams come true?
Amy had it all – money, brains and beauty. And then the accident happened.
Still recovering, this is Amy’s first time away from home. She heads for Spain, accompanied by the mysterious and troubled Luke. But, just like Amy, Luke finds he is also running from his past…
1314: A Templar Knight is also running. He meets the wife of a former comrade, the victim of a terrifying attack. Taking her under his wing, they must journey together through a dangerous world carrying a treasure of inestimable value.
As Luke and Amy travel through the stunning scenery of Northern Spain the medieval couple, so similar to themselves, emerge from the shadows of time.
To Provence, With Love
Anything is possible…
Struggling writer Faye Carter just can’t believe her luck. She’s off to Provence to write the autobiography of a famous film star and she’ll be staying in the stunning chateau!
So when she meets charming (and completely gorgeous) lavender farmer, Gavin, she knows that she’s made the right choice – even if glamourous, elderly Anabelle seems to be hiding something…
But when the sun is shining, the food is delicious and the air smells of honey, anything seems possible. Will the magic of Provence help Faye finally find a happy-ever-after of her own?
To Rome, With Love
A summer of second chances…
Just a week before her big day, Sarah returns home to find a note from her husband-to-be – the wedding’s off! So when her boss decides to send her on an epic cycling trip, from Venice to Rome, it seems like the perfect distraction…
Although she never expected the distraction to come in the form of her oh-so-handsome, but slightly serious, cycling companion, Miles. And with still 600 miles of beautiful scenery, mouthwatering food and delicious wine yet to cover, anything could happen!
What Happens …
What Happens in the Alps
Up in the magical, snow-kissed mountains…
Two years ago, Annie Brewer’s life was turned upside down when her adrenaline-junkie husband died in a tragic climbing accident. So she’s hoping that moving to the beautiful village of Santorso in the Italian Alps will finally put her life back on track!
…anything can happen!
She might be going into business with her oldest friend – notorious lady-charmer Matt Brown – but men are definitely out of the question for Annie! That is, until she bumps into tall, dark and delicious Alessandro Lago on the ski slopes…and spontaneously says ‘Yes’ to a date!
It must be the crisp, mountain air but suddenly, anything seems possible. The only trouble is, chivalrous Matt is looking more gorgeous than ever…
What Happens in Cornwall
For a very British summer holiday…
When archaeologist Sam realises her relationship is as dead as the skeletons she’s exhuming, she knows it’s time to make a change. But with bills to pay her options are limited…until a discovery on Rock Island in Cornwall gives her a reason to escape…
Head to the Cornish coast!
In Cornwall, questions are thrown up at every turn: who is the glamorous owner of Rock Island that the paparazzi are so interested in? How has the irresistible, but impossibly arrogant, history professor James Courtney managed to get so far under Sam’s skin? And will it ever stop raining so Sam can lose the cagoule and sip a cool drink in the sun? One thing’s for sure: there’s never been a holiday quite like this one!
What Happens in Tuscany
From rainy England…
Katie never imagined her life was perfect. But when she finds herself on a rainy street, soaked to the bone and with only a cheating boyfriend and a dead-end job keeping her in town, she knows something has to change. Which is what leads her to Iddlescombe Manor, to be companion to Victoria Chalker-Pyne – the only 25 year old Katie’s ever met who hasn’t heard of Twitter, thinks girdles are de rigueur, and desperately needs an education in the 21st century!
…to the Tuscan sun!
But it wouldn’t be an education without a summer holiday – and where better than Tuscany? Decamping to Victoria’s family villa, it’s soon clear that the valley really does have it all: sun, sea…and some seriously gorgeous neighbours. The only question is: when the weather’s this hot, the wine is this smooth and the men are this irresistible…will Katie ever want to make the journey home?
What Happens in Devon
Widower Tom is in need of a fresh start! He’s always dreamed of being a novelist and so, inspired by his therapist, he sets out to write a book – fuelled by hobnobs and cups of tea – after all, how hard can it really be?
What Happens at Christmas
For the perfect Christmas…
When career-girl Holly Brice learns that her estranged father has died, she decides to take a trip down memory lane and find out about the man she never knew.
Arriving in the sleepy little Dartmoor village, she’s shocked to discover that she’s inherited the cosy little cottage she remembers so fondly, a whole load of money – and her father’s adorable dog, too!
Head to snow-covered Devon!
And as the first snowflakes begin to fall and Holly bumps into her gorgeous neighbour, Jack Nelson, life gets even more complicated! Men have always been off the cards for high-flying Holly, but there’s something about mysterious writer Jack that has her re-thinking her three-date rule…
When Alice Met Danny
What’s in a name?
Devastated after losing her job, eternal pragmatist Alice leaves London for a new start in Devon. It’s there that she meets Danny.
Then she meets another Danny.
Secrets at Toplingham Manor
Not everything is as it seems!
When Roger Dalby’s elderly uncle passes away and leaves him Toplingham Manor, he isn’t quite prepared for what happens next. Unknown to him, his best friend Duggie finds a use for the second floor that his Uncle Eustace certainly wouldn’t have expected…
But the further Duggie immerses himself into one of the oldest and most secretive professions around, the more he realises what a complicated game it is to play. And when an attempted murder wreaks havoc on the Manor, he wonders if he might just have gone one step too far…
Previously published as The Room on the Second Floor