Today I’m delighted to revisit my Five on Friday interview with Rosie Howard which was first posted in June 2019. Rosie Howard was the first pen name of the author who now writes as Poppy Alexander. She adores creating uplifting romantic fiction with strong, multigenerational friendships and idyllic country settings.
Over to Rosie:
I wrote my first book when I was five. Of course it was abysmal. I vaguely remember something about a squirrel and a big red apple. If anybody’s interested I’m pretty sure my mum still has it in the attic somewhere.
There was a long gap in my writing career while I grew up, which took a long time and is arguably a work in progress. After studying classical music, for reasons that now escape me, I took up public relations, campaigning and political lobbying, with a bit of freelance journalism thrown in. This is brilliant because it all involves writing, although my favourite form of writing – making stuff up – is sadly frowned upon in PR.
I take an anthropological interest in family, friends and life in our West Sussex village (think, The Archers crossed with Twin Peaks). This provides lots of entertaining material although any resemblance between my fictional characters and real life never ceases to amaze me – life imitating art, and all that… please don’t sue.
Which five pieces of music/songs would you include in the soundtrack to your life and why?
Mozart’s Requiem – because this was the first oratorio I ever took part in. I played clarinet (badly) at the time and being in the middle of a full orchestra, along with soloists and choir, creating such incredible music together was intoxicating. I still love it. Also, it reminds me of the David Schaeffer play/film, Amadeus, in which rival composer Salieri believes himself to be cursed by God because he has been given the ‘gift’ of recognising Mozart’s talent but has no real talent himself. That’s me.
Bryan Adams – Summer of ’69 because that was what we were playing the summer I finished my A Levels. We sat in the sun, we drank, we danced and we wondered how on earth we were ever going to become useful, effective grownups, which – we were horrified to discover – was a state imminently expected of us. I know now, it never truly happens, or at least it hasn’t yet.
Handel – The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba because – on a blazing hot summer’s day, long, long ago – I walked down the aisle to this, on my father’s arm (yes, I know, embarrassingly grandiose). That day, with this glorious music ringing in my ears, I married my amazing husband who is still my best everything all these years later. What a ride!
Roxy Music – Avalon – this was already a classic by the time I got into listening to music, but I just thought – and still think – Bryan Ferry is the coolest person who ever lived.
Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet – because the second movement is the most sublime piece of music ever written for clarinet. It was extensively used in the film Out of Africa with Robert Redford and Meryl Streep. An absolute classic. I must watch it again one day soon.
What five things (apart from family and friends) would you find it hard to live without.
Stovetop espresso maker – every morning, once the morning chaos has abated, I make myself a flat white. It’s a ritual and is my final procrastination before I run out of excuses and have to start writing.
Dog – my dog is a young, fox red Labrador called Saffy (Saffron) because of her amazing colour. Her fur is a different colour to every item of soft furnishing we possess so – helpfully – it really shows up how little hoovering I do. She insists I get out into the fresh air once a day and that’s good for both of us. We are lucky enough to live in a beautiful place at the foot of the Downs in Sussex and with dog walks through fields and forests, along rivers and the beach, we are spoilt for choice.
Aga – I learned to cook on an Aga and now have one of my own, the joy being not only the constant heat but the fact it has no twiddly knobs and dials. I am overawed by fancy stoves with conduction hobs and all that jazz. I’d struggle to boil an egg on a normal cooker now.
Trainers – I pretty much live in trainers because I now cannot understand my former self who definitely, inexplicably, thought a shoe’s primary function is to look cool and not to aid painless walking. Who WAS that woman…?
Backpack – because I now cannot understand my former self who thought handbags existed to look cool… see above.
Give five pieces of advice to your younger self?
I’m not sure five is going to be enough…
Don’t worry so much. It’ll all be alright in the end and if it’s not alright, it’s not the end.
You are good enough – clever enough, beautiful enough… (insert as necessary) don’t let anyone else define you or, in any other way, f*** with your head.
Do the thing that makes you happy. Do it again. Keep doing it.
You are at a disadvantage being a woman because women get it tough – unless you challenge this, things will not change and then your heart will break for your daughter, knowing she will face many of the challenges you did, but maybe/hopefully not all of them.
You are at an advantage being a woman because being at a disadvantage sharpens the mind and makes you more determined. Nothing will fire you up more than being overlooked because you happen to have tits but that rage is useful. Harness it.
Tell us five things that most people don’t know about you
Most people don’t know ANYTHING about me as I don’t flatter myself I have much of a public following yet, but – as I settle down to write my sixth book (not including the several unfinished ones) – that might be changing, although I do like the relative anonymity of being a writer in comparison with being, say, a politician as I am no good at keeping my mouth shut.
However, five things about me that may surprise people are:
As a jobbing writer, I have written on some bizarre topics for some unusual publications over the years, including ‘Plastics and Rubber Weekly’ – not as exciting as it sounds.
My first published novel was shortlisted in the Good Housekeeping Novel Writing Competition. The first prize was a publishing contract with Orion Publishing and I didn’t win it, but the novel was published by Choc Lit as ‘Never Marry a Politician’. A few years on, I actually have a publishing contract with Orion, anyhow, and am glad it worked out the way it did as I am more ready to make the most of the opportunity than I would have been then.
I once sang a solo top B Flat in public despite being a Mezzo Soprano. It was the Bachianas Brasileiras by Villa Lobos. I think I got away with it. Just.
I have a genetic connective tissue disorder called Ehlers Danlos Syndrome – hypermobility type (hEDS). It is not well known, even in medical circles, and lack of awareness often makes things worse for people who have it – which is why I thought I should mention it.
I am blind in one eye, which isn’t obvious unless I’ve had too much to drink. Therefore probably more people might have noticed this than I fondly imagine.
Tell us five things you’d still like to do or achieve.
Spend time in rural Italy. And then use it in a novel. As legitimate research this is tax deductible in my view (if not my accountant’s).
Buy a camper van and tour Europe. Ditto.
Learn to play the violin. Violinists have all the best tunes, especially if you like Baroque music, which I do. Also, apparently learning an instrument staves off dementia, which is starting to interest me very much as my mother sadly has it now and she is not that old.
Take an English degree. I would adore to wallow in literature for three years and think – if I had taken English rather than Music – I might have started writing sooner.
Achieve enough in life to earn an invitation onto Desert Island Discs because then I can choose eight favourite tracks rather than just five.
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Writing as Rosie Howard
Busy with life and work in London, Maddy has put behind her the trauma which caused her to flee the Sussex market town of Havenbury. Or so she thinks. When she’s asked to help run the slightly shabby Havenbury Arms after her old friend Patrick suffers a heart attack, how can she refuse? But that’s when the panic attacks return worse than ever…
Psychologist Ben is sure he can help Maddy face her fears, but as he finds himself falling for her he is also struggling with a recently uncovered family secret that heaps uncertainty on everything…
A Vintage Year
It started with ‘happily ever after’. But just three years after Bella’s fairy-tale wedding to fun-loving Charlie Wellbeloved, while her best friend, Maddy, is expecting a baby, her own weight gain is purely from comfort eating. Only her little Labrador Dolly can boost her spirits as she gloomily surveys her failing marriage and fledgling interior design business.
Dovecot Farm is just a rainstorm away from ruin, but Charlie is hoping against hope his family vineyard will produce a vintage year, saving his business, his childhood home and – most of all – his marriage .
When handsome and glamorous Rufus appears in the tight-knit Havenbury community, he quickly charms Bella and makes himself indispensable to Charlie, but he is guarding a secret. But is he really too good to be true.
Writing as Poppy Alexander
25 Days in December
You can’t plan for the unexpected…
Kate Potter used to know what happiness felt like.
A few years ago, she was full of energy, excited by every possibility. But that was back when everything was different, before Kate’s husband went away with the army and didn’t come home. She can’t even remember what it felt like to be in love.
Then Kate meets Daniel. Recognising her loneliness reflected in his eyes, Kate vows to try and help bring him out of his shell. But as Kate plans to bring life back to Daniel, she might have stumbled on the secret to happiness…
Can one chance meeting change two lives?
The Littlest Library
It’s only the beginning of her story…
Jess Metcalf is perfectly happy with her quiet, predictable life – it’s just the way she likes it. But when her beloved grandmother passes away and she loses her job at the local library, her life is turned upside-down.
Packing up her grandmother’s books, she moves to a tiny cottage in a charming country village. To her surprise, Jess finds herself the owner of an old red telephone box, too – and she soon turns it into the littlest library around!
It’s not long before the books are borrowed and begin to work their magic – somehow, they seem to be bringing the villagers together once more…
Maybe it’s finally time for Jess to follow her heart and find a place to call home?
The 12 Days of Christmas
The most magical time of the year…
For the first time in ten years, Freya is back in the little village of Middlemass for Christmas. The streets might be twinkling with fairy lights, but after the recent loss of her mother, she’s never felt less festive.
Forced to sleep under the same roof as her handsome neighbour Finn, Freya realises she’s going to need a distraction – fast! So she sets herself a challenge: to cook the ’12 Days of Christmas’. Her delicious food soon brings the villagers together, and as each day passes, old friendships are renewed, memories stirred and there’s even the flickering of romance…
She was only meant to stay for the holidays, but could Middlemass – and Finn – steal her heart forever?