Egyptian by birth, Hannah Fielding is one of the UK’s leading travel and romance fiction authors
From Tanzania to Venice, you’ve set your stories in a number of exotic locations. Do you travel to all of them? And how do you immerse yourself in a country’s culture?
I research in detail, with dedicated trips to locations. There, I talk to the local people, asking them about their traditions and legends; I read their poetry, listen to the music, and eat the food; I go to local festivals, restaurants and visit lots of museums. I drink in the sights and sounds and smells and the very feel of the place.
Do you travel alone or with company?
There is a French saying, which I abide by: ‘Il vaut mieux être seul que mal accompagné’ – it is better to be alone than in bad company. More often than not I travel with my husband who is great company.
Your new book, Aphrodite’s Tears, is set in the Greek Islands. What have been some of your most memorable moments there?
I bought my wedding dress in Greece and I felt like a princess out of an ancient myth when I wore it. And my husband and I honeymooned there on the beautiful island of Rhodes. I also attended a production of the Sleeping Beauty ballet under the stars at the open-air theatre at the Acropolis in Athens.
In your opinion, what is the most romantic destination in the world?
The Sofitel Legend Old Cataract Aswan Hotel in Egypt. Built on a granite promontory in the Nubian Desert on the banks of the Nile, the dark-pink edifice, in the style of Belle Époque villas of the 19th century, has retained all the splendour of yesteryears. The hotel propels you to a time and place of legendary people and stories.
Which city has surprised you the most?
Venice, Italy. When I first visited, I expected it to be so sublimely romantic – and it is. But Venice is a city of two faces: that which the tourists flock to admire, and beneath the mask, a darker side, concealed in what Erica Jong called “the city of mirrors, the city of mirages”. This was one of the inspirations for my novel The Echoes of Love.
What inspires your book ideas?
So many things. Sometimes it may be something as simple as a face in the crowd that catches my attention. Other times I’m gazing out at beautiful scenery when an idea wanders into my head. Or I could be at the theatre, or listening to a piece of music, or re-reading a novel.
In which sort of setting or scenery do you feel most comfortable writing?
It has to be the sea. I live half of the year in France, where our farmhouse affords wonderful views over the bay of St Tropez, and wherever I write, I am always positioned so that I can see the sea. Ireland is my home for the other half of the year where I live in a Georgian house on a hill that commands the most fabulous views, and I write overlooking the countryside.
What are your top five favourite countries?
Italy, Spain, Greece, France and Egypt, all Mediterranean countries with wonderful old histories and cultures, stunning architecture, varied countrysides and delicious food. The sunny weather renders the people happy, exuberant and hospitable, traits that are reflected in their way of life and in their customs and festivals.
What is your best hidden gem at which to stay?
On the isle of Paxos, in the Ionian Sea, Studio Superior is a little gem huddled away among wild-fig and lemon trees. Set among a domaine of villas, it stands on its own in a small garden, with the sea only a few steps below, and looks onto the port of Gaios shimmering in the distance.
Where are you heading next?
After Aphrodite’s Tears, my next novel is set in two of my favourite countries, France and Italy, transporting readers to the Côte d’Azur and to Lake Como. It is, as you would expect of these passionate countries, a concerto of romance and sensation.