F: Can you tell us a bit about you and how you came to be a writer?
VH: My first job was with the BBC, as a production secretary for The Archers where I typed out the scripts and timed the episodes in the studio. From there I went to Central Television and became a script editor for shows like Crossroads and Boon. When I started a family I jumped over the fence and became a script writer, working on Heartbeat, Boon, Doctors and Holby City. I got my first book deal with Penguin in 2000 and have just delivered my 22nd novel!
F: What made you decide to write romance novels in particular?
VH: I don’t write conventional ‘boy meets girl’ romance, but the settings in my books are always romantic, places where I think my reader might like to be taken: the seaside, the Orient Express, a bookshop in the Cotswolds or a cider farm in Somerset. I tend to have a big cast of characters and love is at the centre of what I write - but not just romantic love. Family love, friendship or passion for what you are doing comes into it too.
F: What can we expect from your new book, A Day at the Beach Hut?
VH: It’s a collection of short stories set in a row of beach huts on Everdene Sands, taking you through one hot summer’s day from dawn to sunset. There are fifty recipes accompanying the stories - everything from banana pancakes for breakfast to crab linguine to a gorgeous white chocolate and raspberry cake, all inspired by seaside life.
F: Is there a story and/or recipe you'd most like to share with us from your new book?
VH: Banana pancakes! The recipe is our absolute favourite way to start the weekend and will keep you going until lunchtime.
F: You're a fan of Falcon Enamelware. What’s your favourite product and what do you use it for?
VH: I have the Bake Set which I use all the time - for everything from roasting a chicken to pommes dauphinoise to apple crumble. I use the biggest to make my favourite picnic dish - Spanakopita, which is a spinach and feta pie with filo pastry.
F: How have you been during this time? Do you have any tips for small business owners and creatives?
VH: I’m lucky because I work from home anyway so I was used to that! But it was tough not seeing people, and I missed visiting bookshops and doing literary festivals and talks.
It’s important to keep active to keep your stress levels down and your creativity up. I carried on swimming in the sea throughout the winter and it was definitely a mood lifter. I try and get lots of fresh air - everything feels better if you spend some time outside. It can be tough being your own boss so you have to find ways to wind down and step away from your work, otherwise you can burn out.
Purchase A Day at the Beach Hut here.