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Wednesday 30 October 2019

ℚ♫ The House that Alice Built - Chris Penhall

Today we have the pleasure of meeting up with author to talk about The House that Alice Built (, Ruby Fiction, 288 pages), a Contemporary Romance.

"Chris's writing is so good that she takes you on the journey with Alice, you root for her, as she becomes more independent and decisive, more fun loving and free. I think we all need to become a bit more Alice, a wonderful read and well written." ~ Tara K, Reader and Reviewer

|| Synopsis || Teaser: KCR Preview || Author Q&A || About the Author || Giveaway & Tour Stops ||

A very warm welcome to Chris Penhall; thank you for joining us on BooksChatter!

Before we start
, do you have a music playlist that you used in The House that Alice Built , or which inspired you whilst you were writing it?
"Alice is set in Portugal in the spring and summer, so I listened to a lot of summery sounding songs when I was writing and editing it to get me into the mood.  There’s reference to a few songs in the book, too, but the ones below are the things that would help motivate me."
Song for the Summer – The Stereophonics
     Summery, laid back, and the lyrics sum up how Alice’s is feeling is when she arrives in Portugal.
Break Out – Swing Out Sister
     I love this. Its happy, dancy and optimistic – which is sometimes how Alice feels (and sometimes not).
Home – Jack Johnson
     I listen to a lot of Jack Johnson whilst lazing under my favourite olive tree in Portugal, so I had to include something from him.  And as the book is The House That Alice Built, this feels apt.
At Last – Etta James
     When finally Alice allows herself to fall in love, I think she’d play this one very loudly.  Also, one of my regular cafes in Lagos in the Algarve plays a jazz radio station so we all sip our coffees and read our books feeling very cool.  This one is played regularly and I love it.
Hit or Miss – Tom Jones
     I’m a great fan and was lucky to see him perform live this year.  And this song is for Alice not wanting to be like everybody else.
Se A Vida E (That’s The Way Life Is) – The Pet Shop Boys
     It’s joyful, hopeful, happy and sums up looking forward and embracing life.
Ray of Light – Madonna
     Every time I hear this I feel I am in a car on the motorway driving between Cascais and Lisbon, because when we lived there, we heard it all the time.
Stop Right Now – The Spice Girls
     The Spice Girls were huge when we lived in Cascais.  I used to put this on when we were driving to Cascais Shopping and me and my daughters used to sing very loudly to it.  So, when I hear it, I am right back there.
Piu bella cosa – Eros Ramazotti
     Because he has a voice like honey and he was played constantly on the radio in the mid-90’s on the radio station I listened to in Portugal.
What was the inspiration for The House that Alice Built?
"The House That Alice Built is set in Cascais in Portugal, and it was whilst I was living there when my daughters were very young that I first started to write.

Being somewhere so unfamiliar and beautiful was a real inspiration and leaning the language, finding out about the culture and experiencing other people’s views of the world made a big difference to me and gave me a lot of confidence.

I now spend a lot of time in Portugal, so I wanted to show people what a wonderful place it is, and I also wanted to write about how being somewhere else can make you feel that you can be somewhere else, which is how Alice manages to grow and move on.  It’s partly my love letter to Portugal!"
How much of yourself is reflected in this book, and how?
"I lived in Cascais and love Portugal, so that is reflected in the book, and that knowledge and love for the place hopefully comes out.

I’m a bit like Alice, but not a lot – I am not so reserved and have had to confront things full on because of life, really, so I’ve never been able to run away like she has (although there have been times I wished I could….)

I have been known to empty the contents of my bag onto the floor to find my keys, though…and I do have a cat."
The first thing that draws me to a book is its cover. Can you tell us about your cover for The House that Alice Built - why you chose that concept and who the artist is.
"The cover was created by the Choc-Lit team and I think its absolutely beautiful.  I had nothing to do with the concept at all – I was sent three alternatives and they were all amazing, but the one that was my favourite was thankfully everyone else’s too.

It really sums up the feel of sun, warmth and blue skies and the gorgeous pink bougainvillea really sets it off.  Of course, there’s the little black and white cat too, which features in the story."
Why should we read The House that Alice Built and what sets it apart from the rest? What makes your book unique?
"I love books that have a real sense of place and can make you feel like you are really there, and that’s what I hope I’ve achieved with The House That Alice Built.  I want readers to feel they are in Portugal, like they are in this colourful, vibrant, happy place, with the sun warming their backs and the sea lapping at their feet.

I don’t think there are many contemporary romances set in Portugal, either, so maybe that makes this almost unique!"
Can you tell us something quirky about The House that Alice Built, its story and characters?
"Well, the only character that is based on real life is Elvis the Alsatian – we lived next door to him in Cascais.  He was too strong for his owners to walk so they employed an older gent to walk him instead.  We used to call him Mr Bom Dia man (Bom Dia means good day) as he’d wave at and shout it to us as he was being dragged down the road by Elvis.

Alice was named because I liked the idea of her being in some kind of wonderland, and there are some references to it in the book.  And Luis, the man who may or may not be in her life is named after the Portuguese poet, Luís de Camões – there is a statue of him in the square in Cascais where some of the action takes place.  I used to sit there a lot!"
Largo Luís de Camões, Cascais, Portugal
Who would you recommend The House that Alice Built to and what should readers be aware of (any warnings or disclaimers)?
"I would recommend it to anyone who loves romantic fiction and wants to be transported to somewhere beautiful and feel the characters change as the story develops."
If you could / wished to turn The House that Alice Built into a movie, who would be your dream team?
"I’d love the book to be turned into a film.  If Tom Hanks is reading – can you produce it?  And I’ve got a cameo role right at the end for you or Keanu Reeves if you want it…

I think Poldark’s Aidan Turner could pass for a Portuguese/Australian as Luis, and Lily James would be lovely as Alice.

It would all be set around Cascais, Lisbon and south of the Tagus as I’ve done a lot of research already! "
What do you like to write and read about? Do you stick to a particular genre or do you like to explore different ones?
"I read all sorts of fiction of a variety of genres, but what comes out of my head is romantic fiction with a bit of light comedy. I suppose that’s how I see the world, and I love character-driven stories with people and themes I can relate to.

I listen to my friend’s recommendations a lot and we all have different preferences, so that means that I will often pick up books by authors I’m not familiar with.

I love anything by Marian Keyes, Bridget Jones Diary [by Helen Fielding] is brilliant, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt is one of my favourite books, as are A Prayer for Owen Meaney by John Irving and Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe.  Plus Pride and Prejudice [by Jane Austen], obviously, and The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy.  There’s loads long have you got?"
What is your writing process?
"I come up with a general idea for a story and setting, then write profiles of the characters – what they look like, where they were born, what they like to eat etc, and do a long backstory.

Then I make notes, come up with a timeline and start writing. And all of that can change completely as I go along! It’s like a jigsaw of random ideas sometimes that I’ve stored for years in my memory and didn’t know I had.

Then once I’ve written it, I edit, and re-edit and keep doing it till I can’t anymore."
What is in store next?
"I wrote The House That Alice Built as a stand-alone story, but now I’ve finished it, I’m missing Alice, so I’m working on a sequel.  Life if full of ups and downs and challenges, and so she’s got a few more in store and fun adventures to have too."
And as a final quirky thing, to get to know you a little bit better... do you have a pet or something that is special to you that you could share with us?
"I do have a black cat with a fluffy tail called Isabella.  She trots around with her tail up like she’s a ballerina.  However, she’s difficult to pin down, so as I can’t get a photo of her that’s not blurred, you’re looking at a photo of my tap and salsa shoes.  I’m a very enthusiastic but not very good social salsa dancer and I’ve recently taken up tap dancing (same thing..enthusiastic etc.)"
Thank you for sharing, Chris, and lots of cuddles to Isabella!
We hope you are having a great tour!

The House that Alice Built
Available NOW!

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