How did you first get published? 

Writing started as a hobby while I was bringing up my two daughters. My first sales were of children’s stories and articles. After that I wrote over fifty short stories and articles for women’s magazines. I followed these with five historical romances for Mills & Boon, my first being Madeiran Legacy, before breaking into mainstream fiction with Lakeland regional sagas. I’ve now written over 45 books, many of them bestselling historicals and women's fiction.

Where do you get your ideas? 
From life is the simple answer, but really I don’t quite know. From people, from things that have happened to me or my family. Details change of course, get turned upside down, and I constantly use a writer’s favourite two words ‘what if’. For instance, in ‘Polly's Pride’ Polly sells all the family furniture in order to finance a second hand carpet business when her husband can’t find work during the depression. My great aunt Hannah did exactly the same thing, although the outcome was entirely different. So I asked - what if her husband objected?

Do you use real places for your settings? 
My characters sometimes live in a fictitious village or street, which allows some scope for my imagination, but it is placed in as accurate a setting as I possible. I enjoy research and spend a great deal of time seeking out those little details to create a true sense of place. This might include which hills my heroine might walk over, the birds or flowers she might see at any given time of year as well as national and global events. I take a great many photographs, draw maps and talk to people who have been involved in the type of industry or lifestyle that I am trying to recreate. A strong sense of place is essential for the kind of sagas I write, as it is a form of social history.

How long does it take you to write a novel? 
When I first started it usually took about nine or ten months. Now I can write a saga in four months, but the more complex books I write for Amazon publishing take well over a year. This naturally demands long hours at the computer, plus many months of research. But I don’t mind as I love research, and am never happier than when I am weaving stories in my head or on screen.

How do you relax? 
By reading, of course. I also enjoy my Spanish garden and walking in the countryside, or campo as it is called here. In England I love going to the theatre as I’ve been greatly involved in amateur dramatics over the years.

What do you enjoy reading? 
I love historical fiction. As a young girl I read everything published by Anya Seton, Jean Plaidy and Norah Loft. Now that historical fiction is back in fashion I indulge myself when not writing by reading my favourite authors: Elizabeth Chadwick, Philippa Gregory, Susanna Kearsley, Kate Morton, Rachel Hore, Anne O´Brien and many more.

Where were born, and where have you lived since? 
I was born in Lancashire, and brought up behind my parent’s shoe shop. I still remember my first pair of clogs, made by my father. Writing was always a dream, but considered rather exotic so I qualified and worked as a teacher until moving to the Lake District in the early years of my marriage. While my children were young I opened a book shop and became far too busy reading catalogues and being a mum to find time to write.

 After nine years of this I moved out onto the Lakeland fells for a ‘rest’ and became thoroughly involved in rural life, keeping sheep and hens, various orphaned cats and dogs, built drystone walls, planted a small wood and even learned how to make jam. The Good Life was on TV at the time. Fortunately the weather was so bad I was forced to stay indoors a good deal, which gave me ample time to write.

We then moved to Fowey in Cornwall where we lived for a number of years, and loved it, using it for the setting of some of my books. Now I’ve abandoned my thermals, built a house in an olive grove and spend the winters in Spain, although I still like to spend the rainy summers in the north-west of England.

What are your plans for the future? 
To keep on writing.
You can find out more here:


Niebla and it's castle

The village of Niebla (which means fog or mist in Spanish) is about 30k from Huelva, west of Seville, situated on the shores of the river Tinto.

It’s a beautiful walled village of great historic interest, dating back to Medieval times, and quite prosperous.

Originating before the Roman period it is packed with narrow streets, lovely houses, restaurants, a church, originally a Mosque, and squares, gates, monuments and turrets. Beyond the confines of the wall, there is a Roman bridge and aqueduct.

The most interesting place to visit within the enclosed town is the castle. This was the alcázar or fortress of the Count of Niebla.

It is large and rectangular set on two levels with rooms that include the Countess’s Chamber, a kitchen and Armoury, and Dungeons complete with equipment of torture set in and around the courtyard. There’s even a floor below this if you wish to go down the ladder into the deep and dark interior.

You can also climb up a long flight of steps to walk around the upper walls of castle where there are yet more rooms to investigate. There are wonderful views from here of the surrounding area.

It’s a most quiet and charming village.

You can find out more here:


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Christopher Columbus

Muelle de las Carabelas is a fascinating museum close to Huelva, just west of Seville, in Spain. Its main exhibits are replicas of Christopher Columbus’s three ships, the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa María.

Pinta, Santa Maria and Niña

In 1992 to celebrate 500 years since the discovery of America, these three replica ships sailed the route of Columbus’s first voyage to the Americas. They’d taken two years to build.

I loved exploring these quite small ships, even if climbing up and down the ladders had to be done with caution. Below deck there are replicas of food stores and work areas with statues of sailors working and climbing the ropes up the masts. There was also a display of cottages around this dock with statues replicating the natives. There is also a small area depicting the homes of ordinary English folk, food, and an imitation market of that time. It’s quite inexpensive to visit, and there’s a little shop, of course.

Columbus’s plan to explore the world was rejected by his home country of Italy, the Portuguese and initially by Isabella of Castille and Ferdinand of Aragon, as they were focused upon a war with the Muslims. He continued to work hard to persuade them and once the war was over in January of 1492, the Spanish monarchy agreed to finance his expedition.

He set out on his first Voyage to the New World in August of 1492, sailing from Spain in the Santa Maria, together with the Pinta and the Niña. His aim was to reach Asia (the Indies) via the western route, where he hoped to find gold and other riches. After over a month at sea they finally spotted land, not Asia but the Bahamas.

You can find out more about Columbus here:


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Doñana National Park

This is a magnificent area that stretches for miles. It’s situated west of Seville, quite close to El Rocio, which is also worth visiting.

We went on a bus tour that started quite early in the morning, fortunately they have a cafeteria so we were able to have breakfast before the tour started at 8.30. The bus was for about 20 people and had huge tyres to cope with the natural domain of sand and woodlands.

The beach is one of the longest in Europe, set between Matalascanas and the Guadalquivir river. The tour lasted for four hours, taking in the beaches, Dunes and Pine woods and marshlands.

Wild boar (jabilí)

As the bus travelled we spotted various animals and birds: fallow deer, stags, wild boar, linx, imperial eagles, kites, buzzards, stork and many more creatures. Absolutely fascinating. What I need is a better camera that zooms in closer.

A Stork


The bus stopped occasionally for us to take a walk around, including visiting a replica of an ancient village with thatched cottages.

Fishing very much a sport here.

I loved visiting this beautiful area. Absolutely amazing. Can highly recommend a visit. We stayed in the local Parador at Mazagon. This is the view from our room. An easy walk down to the beach.

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January 6th, Three Kings Day

Traditionally, Spanish children do not get their presents on Christmas Day from Santa Claus, or Papa Noel, as he is called. They have to wait until the Fiesta de Los Reyes. What we would call Epiphany. By now we’re packing our Christmas decorations away, but the Spanish are still partying.

In the run up to the 6th of January, children can meet the wise men at some department stores and tell them what they would like for Christmas, just as our children tell Santa Claus. On the 5th, the excitement starts in the late afternoon or early evening when there is often a parade through the streets of camels, yes, real ones, carrying the three kings, Melchor, Gazpar and Baltasar, who throw sweets into the watching crowds. A custom that no doubt started in Moorish times. A whole procession of dancers and musicians, trailers and even floats, will follow. Children run around with their little bags catching their gifts. It is truly a sight to see. The little girls dress up in their flamenco dresses, little boys as kings or drummer boys. And the shops remain open until after midnight.

Before going to bed the children leave their shoes on the door step so that the Kings will know who to leave presents for. Some Spanish families are starting to put presents under a Christmas tree, perhaps because there are too many to put in a shoe. And just as British children leave a mince pie and a drink for Santa and his reindeer, Spanish children also put out something to eat and drink for Melchor, Gaspar, and Baltazar, and water and grass for their camels. Well they do have a lot of work to do that night.

The children wake in great excitement the next morning to find their presents. For breakfast or after lunch, families eat the typical dessert of the day, the ‘Roscón de los Reyes’. This is a large ring shaped cake or sweet bread that is decorated with candied fruits, symbolic of the emeralds and rubies that adorned the robes of the three kings, sometimes a gold paper crown is often provided to decorate the cake. Hidden inside it are surprises ‘sorpresas’.

The one who finds the lucky prize is King or Queen for the day while he who ends up with the unlucky bean is expected to pay for next years Kings’ Cake – and they are not cheap!

We usually attend a wonderful day out watching a drama take place in the village square where King Herod is ordering his men to search for baby Jesus. There's a fair and market and lots of activities going on, people in fancy dress, very medieval and great fun.


Inspiration for Post War sagas

I’m always on the look out for ideas, finding inspiration from many sources: family memories, history of the places I’ve lived in such as the beautiful English Lake District and Cornwall. I’ve dipped into the more interesting parts of my own life, such as when we had a smallholding and tried the ‘good life’. Having fully exploited those ideas, I moved on to interviewing people for other fascinating stories.

 I begin by talking to people who either can recall such times themselves, or retell that of their own parents or siblings. I’ve met some fascinating people over the years, and what a joy it is to listen to these stories, so real and personal, vividly recalled and rarely recorded anywhere. Memories are fallible, of course, and facts need to be checked against whatever documentary evidence I can find such as newspaper reports, letters, diaries, biographies, as well as history books. The walls of my office are packed with books covering all the topics I love.

Writing sagas also demands a need to investigate natural history, geography, geology and topography. My farm or village might be fictional but the mountains, forests and lakes have to be entirely accurate; the walks my heroine takes actually trodden by me. The flowers must be in season, the birds on their migratory flights south from Scandinavia, carefully checked. The agricultural law of the period must be studied as well as weather reports. I cannot say 1945 was a beautiful summer if it rained all through July and the harvest was ruined. Nothing can be fudged, because unlike Medieval times, someone will remember.

Blackburn Road, Accrington

The gritty northern street saga has its own requirements, format and boundaries and usually concerns a strong woman fighting against the poverty of her surroundings, as well as the trials and tribulations of the times in which she lives. My family have been weavers (or websters as they were once called) for generations on both sides of the Pennines. My mother wove parachutes during the war, and lived with her widowed mother while her husband was away fighting. I have vivid memories of my grandmother black-leading her range and donkey-stoning her doorstep. You could have eaten your dinner off her stone flag floors for although she was poor, she was clean. Therein lay her dignity.

When the war ended, new problems arose. Some men were less than impressed with their welcome home in a society gone to pieces. Relationships had changed, jobs and homes hard to find, shortages and austerity still prevalent. Mothers often still treated their sons as boys, instead of grown men. Husbands were unprepared for a more tough and independent wife, or could be suffering injuries, nightmares or depression. The effects of war are extremely traumatic and it’s fascinating to learn how such problems were dealt with.

1945: Christmas is approaching and Cathie Morgan is awaiting the return of her beloved fiancé, Alexander Ramsay. But she has a secret that she’s anxious to share with him. One that could change everything between them. Her sister has died and she wants to adopt her son. When the truth is finally revealed, Alex immediately calls off the wedding, claiming that the baby is actually Cathie’s, causing all of Cathie’s fears to be realised. As Cathie battles to reassure Alex of her fidelity, she must also juggle the care of the baby and their home. 

But then Alex crosses the line with a deceit that is unforgivable, leaving Cathie to muster the courage to forge a life for her and her nephew alone. Will Cathie ever be able to trust another man again and as peace begins to settle will she ever be able to call a house a home… 

Available from W H Smiths and all good bookshops.


The Black Market in Wartime Britain

The black market became very much a part of wartime life. With rationing, and rising prices, it held a certain appeal. This was even the case by the end of the war when people were sick of austerity and shortages. ‘Wide boys’, ‘Spivs’, or ‘Wheelers and Dealers’, as they were known, were very clever at flaunting authority and ignored the fact what they were involved in was illegal. They were making money, so why would they not be prepared to take the risk? These fellows had a certain style about them, often quite flashily dressed in a wide-lapelled suit and brightly coloured tie, sporting a trilby hat tilted rakishly over his forehead.

Surplus goods would fall into their hands out of clever conniving and trickery, which they’d sell on at a price. One of the characters in this book: Home is Where the Heart Is gets involved. On one occasion he arranges for a driver to leave his cab door open so that he can help himself to some goods left on the passenger seat. Did he get away with it? You’ll have to read the book to find out more.

Shopkeepers would hide stuff under the counter for registered customers who were special to them. Salmon and peaches were often supplied in that way. Where they got these products from was never asked about. This was considered to be a good way of holding on to their best customers.

Black market goods were often more expensive, although their quality not always reliable. As well as food these might include petrol, spare parts for a car, cigarettes and alcohol. Cosmetics, perfume and nylons were also hard to come by during the war, even though women were encouraged to look their best for purposes of morale. This created sales of the kind of cosmetics that were not necessarily safe.

The Ministry of Food would investigate any complaints brought by the public of those suspected of being black marketers. They could be fined, or even imprisoned. But more often than not they got away with it because people would avoid informing the authorities. The believed it was not their concern and they’d lose out if the black market disappeared. The government fought something of a losing battle with those involved in the black market, despite employing hundreds of inspectors to enforce the law.

But how would you feel if the man you loved got himself involved in this crime?

Christmas is approaching and Cathie Morgan is awaiting the return of her beloved fiancé, Alexander Ramsay. But she has a secret that she’s anxious to share with him. One that could change everything between them. Her sister has died and she wants to adopt her son. When the truth is finally revealed, Alex immediately calls off the wedding, claiming that the baby is actually Cathie’s, causing all of Cathie’s fears to be realised. As Cathie battles to reassure Alex of her fidelity, she must also juggle the care of the baby and their home. 

But then Alex crosses the line with a deceit that is unforgivable, leaving Cathie to muster the courage to forge a life for her and her nephew alone. Will Cathie ever be able to trust another man again and as peace begins to settle will she ever be able to call a house a home…

Published by Mira Books 17 November.

Buy from your local bookshop, Smiths, or Amazon.


Home Is Where The Heart Is by Freda Lightfoot

Home Is Where The Heart Is

by Freda Lightfoot

Giveaway ends November 29, 2015.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
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