Today I’m delighted to revisit my Five on Friday interview with Cherry Radford which was first posted in June 2018. It’s been brought up to date to reflect Cherry’s latest publications.
Cherry writes writes uplifting novels about identity, renewal and finding soulmate romance when you least expect it. She inherited a love of Spain and its culture from her half-Spanish mother and all her novels have a Spanish connection or setting. You can see how we first met on Twitter via a shared love of Spain and flamenco.
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).
Over to Cherry:
Which piece of music/song would you include in the soundtrack to your life and why?
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.
What (apart from family and friends) would you 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 a piece of advice for 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 something 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.
Tell us something you’d still like to do or achieve.
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!
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The Spanish House
Juliana makes a modest living as an ‘ethnic’ TV/film extra – even though the only connections with her Spanish heritage are her cacti, Spanish classes, and some confused memories of a Spanish mother she hasn’t seen since she was seven.
When her beloved Uncle Arturo offers her the chance to discover her roots while housesitting his coastal home in a quiet corner of Andalusia, Juliana can’t believe her luck. Especially when he reveals that the house will be hers if she fulfils ten life-enhancing ‘Conditions’ within 90 days.
Redecoration of the house and a visit to the old film studio where her mother used to sew costumes seem ridiculously simple tasks for such a wonderful reward. But little does Juliana realise that there are family secrets and inherited rivalries awaiting her in sunny Spain, and the condition that she has to ‘get on with the neighbours’ – who include a ruggedly handsome but moody artist – may be harder than she thinks.
The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter
After the break-up of her marriage, Imogen escapes to the coast to be alone – and to find out more about her lighthouse keeper father who mysteriously drowned there in 1982. She starts to see similarities in their lives, especially in the way they both intensely correspond with someone; he had a young female penfriend, and she now has an actor-musician Twitter friend in Madrid.
Despite their differences – Imogen 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.
The Spanish Garden – Due 121th May and available to pre-order
Can love blossom where secrets are buried?
Petite, blonde Andie is running from a media scandal that threatens both her career as a garden designer and her relationship with fellow TV presenter Johnny. Miraculously, her grandmother’s old house by the sea in Almeria, southern Spain, where she spent her holidays growing up, is available for rent, and she seeks solace and healing in the one place that’s always felt like home.
But she’s shocked to find that, after twenty years, the beautiful Mediterranean garden is now neglected and overgrown. Even worse, her booking fell through and now someone else is staying at Casa Higuera: a darkly brooding ex-flamenco dancer, Vicente, and his shy, oddly silent little son, Rafi.
After they dramatically rescue her from an attack by a wild boar in front of the house, a tentative bond is forged and she offers to repay their kindness by restoring the wilderness. She finds beauty, secrets and healing in the garden – will she also find love?
The Spanish Cove (Due July & August- available to pre-order)
Piano teacher Marina Meyer is delighted when her mother offers to help buy her own place in London, even though it means returning to Spain to sell the family holiday home. Cala Turquesa may be beautiful, but it also holds painful memories of Marina’s father, who tragically died there in a boating accident.
When Marina befriends turtle-saving vet Mati, it’s hard to believe she could have stayed away so long. And then there’s handsome property developer Agustín, who has set his sights on more than just the real estate…
But as Marina clears out her father’s belongings, memories resurface, along with troubling questions about the circumstances of his death. Can Marina overcome these to find happiness in the Spanish Cove?