Friday, October 24, 2014

Friday Feature Author Caroline Sandon

Caroline's debut novel Burnt Norton now available in paperback from Head of Zeus is based on her own home and it's fascinating past. 

Gloucestershire, 1731. When his youngest son is killed in a tragic accident, Sir William Keyt, master of Norton House, busies himself in his fortune. The building of a second mansion on his grounds defies expense
and denies mortality; an emblem of the Keyt name for generations to come. Keyt can tolerate no obstacle to his desires - including his eldest son's love for a young maidservant. Molly Johnson has captured the heart of the heir to Norton House, dividing the household and the family she serves. Driven mad with lust and jealousy, Keyt sets about to destroy Molly's honour and her spirit, breaking the heart of his son, and ultimately, bringing about the ruin of his family. When the worlds above and below stairs collide, a family is destroyed, and a once-grand house is reduced to rubble. This is the tragic story of Burnt Norton.

Caroline Sandon won her first national poetry competition at ten years old and from that moment dreamt of being a writer. Her life however took a different turn. At eighteen she began a law degree and only a
year later got married. She left the law to become a model working for many years in the fashion industry. As her family grew she moved on from modelling and founded an interior design company working on many
great and grand houses in England. In 1753 what remained of Burnt Norton and its grounds was bought by
Caroline’s husband’s ancestor Sir Dudley Ryder, Lord Chief Justice and the first Baron Harrowby. It has remained in their family’s ownership for over 250 years. Caroline has lived and raised her family there for 15
years. Burnt Norton is her debut novel.

Caroline's Five Favourite Books

Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre

Irene Nemirovsky, Suite Francaise

Isabelle Allende, The house of Spirits

Daphne Du Maurier, Frenchman’s Creek

Nicholas Evans, The Horse Whisperer.

Caroline's Top Writing Tips.

1.   In my humble way I try to follow the example of Ernest Hemingway. “If a writer knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows” I will write a long, wordy paragraph, finish it and then I will go back again and delete anything unnecessary. You must always allow the reader to use his or her imagination.

2.  Don’t write when you are exhausted or when you have writers block. Go away from your work, close your computer and come back to it refreshed. Sometimes it may take days but it doesn’t matter, start something else.

3.  Learn your punctuation and try to avoid spelling mistakes.
When you are sending your manuscript to a publisher they will be annoyed if it is littered with mistakes. They see hundreds of manuscripts; remember yours will need to stand out.

4. Nicholas Evans who wrote the Horse Whisperer told me to always start my story with a bang. You need to capture your audience within the first ten minutes otherwise they might put the book down and move on to another. The first chapter is the most important. In my novel ‘Burnt Norton’ Nick told me to move the carriage accident to the first chapter. I followed his advice.

5. A novelist girlfriend told me to make a plan of each character. Chart the colour of their hair, their eyes, their eating habits, their likes and dislikes. In other words get to know your characters, love them or hate them. I really disliked Dorothy Keyt, and this made her become real.


1. Do you plan the story first and then do the research or does reading and research spark ideas?

To a certain extent I plan my novel and research my subject, but the research continues at every stage. As my characters develop, the story changes, obviously keeping within the historical parameters. New research throws up different ideas, different solutions.

2. Do you think historical fiction is enjoying a resurgence and why is that?

I am sure it is. More and more people are fascinated by the past, it draws us and why not?
It is a different world with different surroundings, but the characters live, think and breathe in much the same way as we do today.

3. What draws you to writing about the past?

I am intrigued by the past, what people wore, what they ate, what formed their opinions. I let my imagination take me into the past. In Burnt Norton Sir William Keyt burnt himself to death in the new mansion he had just completed on our lawn. What drove this man to make his greatest achievement his funeral pyre?

4. Do you have a typical writing day?

No I do not. It depends if I am on a creative roll. On those days I will write continuously, sometimes till four in the morning to the annoyance of the rest of my family who are food deprived and conversation deprived!!

5. What are you working on now?

My third novel ‘One More Day’. Even though it is in the first stages of creation I am very excited about it. My second novel Alessandra’s War is still in the editing process! Burnt Norton is out on the shelves and the screenplay for a four part television drama is being completed by Lynn Bointon.

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