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  • Lynne Shelby

A Sense of Place #2 Jenny Harper - Edinburgh, France and Sand in My Shoes

Today I’m delighted to welcome author Jenny Harper to my blog and to chat to her about her new summer novella, Sand in My Shoes.

Me: Hello, Jenny. What would be your ‘elevator pitch’ for your new book?

Jenny: Hi, Lynne. Sand in My Shoes is about a woman facing an uncertain future who decides to revisit a special place from her past. Might she find love all over again? And would that even be what she needs?

Me: I often find myself inspired to write by a visit to another country, and my novel French Kissing is partly set in Paris. I see that Sand in My Shoes is set in France. How important is the setting to your novels?

Jenny: Setting is all important! Most of my novels are set in Edinburgh, or in a fictional town called Hailesbank, which I have located east of Edinburgh. I’ve written five full length novels set here (the fifth is due to be published next year), and I’m beginning to have fans who tell me they’d like to live there!

Me: It sounds like you’ve really captured the town’s atmosphere on the page, Jenny. Is it based on a real town?

Jenny: Hailesbank is very loosely based on a lovely old market town called Haddington, in East Lothian, although there are many differences – my fictional town benefits from a railway station, for a start! I had a lot of fun with it. My publisher, Accent Press, wanted a series title for these novels and weren’t keen on my first suggestion (The Hailesbank Series). The idea of The Heartlands Series came to me while I was doing my aquafit class! So why Heartlands? Here’s what I have put in the front of every book:

“The first mention of The Heartlands was made by Agrippus Centorius in AD77, not long after the Romans began their surge north in the hopes of conquering this savage land. ‘This is a place of great beauty,’ wrote Agrippus, ‘and its wildness has clutched my heart.’ He makes several mentions thereafter of The Heartlands. There are still signs of Roman occupation in Hailesbank, which has great transport links to the south (and England) and the north, especially to Edinburgh, and its proximity to the sea and the (real) coastal town of Musselburgh made it a great place to settle. The Georgians and Victorians began to develop the small village, its clean air and glorious views, rich farming hinterland and great transport proving highly attractive.”

Me: I love the idea of having a whole fictional history for Hailesbank. Is there any connection to the town in Sand in My Shoes?

Jenny: The main character in Sand in My Shoes, Nicola Arnott, is the head teacher of Summerfield Primary School, just outside Hailesbank. She features in my first novel, Face the Wind and Fly. Because I was writing the novella for a summer read, I decided to set it in the gorgeous small seaside resort of Arcachon, just south of Bordeaux. Arcachon seems to me to be almost in a time warp – it’s absolutely delightful. My husband and I were there last year, and we hurled ourselves down the Grand Dune du Pilat (just as Nicola does). The Dune became a kind of metaphor in the novella.

Me: Sand in My Shoes sounds like a perfect summer read, Jenny. Are you working on your next book? And can you tell us anything about it?

Jenny: I’ve signed with Accent Press for two more books. Between Friends is coming out in the Spring. The cover tagline is, ‘They thought he belonged safely in the past: his return threatens everything’ and I think this tells you all you need to know – just read on! It’s set in Edinburgh.

Mistakes We Make is scheduled to appear in the Summer. It’s the first novel in the Heartlands series that follows on from the previous one – it’s not exactly a sequel to People We Love, but it picks one of the main characters (Lexie’s best friend, Molly Keir) and takes her story forward. By doing so, it also explains some of the events in People We Love. I think both stories would make sense alone, though it would definitely be better to read People We Love first if you want to read both!

Now I’m working on something completely new, but I’m afraid it’s too early to talk about it, except to say it’s another standalone novel set in Edinburgh and it features a grandfather, mother and daughter. I’m loving it!

Me: Thank very much, Jenny for being my guest today. I’ll look forward to reading Sand in My Shoes.

Jenny: Thank you, Lynne. You’re very welcome.

If you would like to purchase Sand in My Shoes or any of Jenny’s other novels, please visit her website:

Her books are also available from Amazon and Accent Press.

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