Welcome to Tea with Mrs B, an author interview series. Here to share a pot of tea and to chat about her brand new book, One Summer in Santorini, is Sandy Barker.
Sandy Barker is an Australian writer, traveller and hopeful romantic with a lengthy bucket list and a cheeky sense of humour. Many of Sandy’s travel adventures have found homes in her writing, including her debut novel, a contemporary romance set in Greece, which was inspired by her true-life love story.
Hello Sandy. It is my pleasure to warmly welcome you to my blog, Mrs B’s Book Reviews. Thank you for joining me for Tea with Mrs B, an author interview series. To set the mood for our tea infused interview, what is your preferred beverage, tea, coffee or other? And side accompaniment, scone, cake or other?
I’d love a proper English tea with milk and a scone, please – with jam, no cream.
Can you tell us what genres you write for and how many books you have had published?
Before I signed a two-book contract with Avon Books earlier this year, I self-published two books – my first ever novel and the sequel. The first book has been reimagined and is being published as my debut, One Summer in Santorini. It’s a romantic comedy set on a sailboat in the Greek Islands, so travel plays an important role – as it does in all my books. I am currently writing book number four, which is set in Bali and Scotland.
Can you describe your new novel, One Summer in Santorini in just a sentence?
I think the tagline sums it up best: Ten days, two men, one boat and one big decision.
What came first in the creation of the novel – the title, plot, characters or setting when you first set out to write One Summer in Santorini?
I was inspired by my real-life love story. My partner, Ben, and I met on a sailboat in the Greek Islands. We were both travelling alone and fell in love over the course of the trip. I’ve borrowed our ‘meet cute’ for the start of the book, but that’s where the similarities end. In real life, there was only one ‘someone’.
Can you tell us about the research process to bring One Summer in Santorini to life? How did you incorporate this research into the narrative?
When I travel, I tend to take a lot of photos and I’ll write detailed accounts of places and adventures – either in a travel journal or on my blog. A lot of my real-life travel exploits end up in my writing.
I had already drafted this novel when Ben and I returned to Greece to embark on another sailing trip, and I spent a lot of time capturing the intricate details of our meals, the sense of being on the water, and various the locations we went to. I’ve really tried to evoke a sense of place in One Summer in Santorini.
Where did the inspiration for your characters come from?
My protagonists are often (loosely) based on people I know. There will be something striking about someone that sparks an idea and then I will start to fill in the story and supporting characters around them. With supporting characters, I’ve also borrowed traits from people I know, but when I write the villains – there should always be someone to antagonise the main character – I tend to draw from one unpleasant experience and flesh them out from there. The love interests seem to stem from a look. I almost ‘cast’ the role as though I am a film director, and then I’ll determine the conflict that will arise between the love interest and the main character. In truth, by the time I start writing, the characters are alive in my head. Often, I will just ‘follow them around’ in my mind and write down what they say and do.
What ingredients do you feel are necessary to compose a successful contemporary romance novel?
There should be humour, even if on the whole it is a dramatic story and not a comedy. People use humour for so many reasons – to hide their true feelings, to cope, to stall, to deflect. Humour is a human trait and it can be a great way to invite readers to fall in love with the main character.
There must also be some kind of growth. The main character is on a journey, working through conflict – whether internal, external or both – and they should discover something about themselves, or push their own boundaries. Love shouldn’t just land in their lap in a perfect form. That’s not realistic and can be very frustrating for a reader.
How long did it take you to write One Summer in Santorini?
I started writing it about six years ago and had a complete draft after a year. I edited and honed it over several iterations, then secured an agent in 2015. He was passionate about it, calling it ‘Eat, Sail, Love’, but we had no luck getting it published. I ended up putting it in a drawer until Ben and I returned to Greece and I was inspired to make another pass at it where I focussed on setting. That was the version I self-published in late 2017. Since working with Avon, it’s had another edit and I am really pleased with this version.
What do you hope readers will take away from reading One Summer in Santorini?
As well as the fun of vicariously travelling to Greece, I hope readers relate to Sarah’s journey. Post-breakup, she’s a shadow of her former fabulous self and her trip to Greece is about reconnecting with her love of travel. Although she really doesn’t want to meet anyone new, she meets two very different men and each brings out something different in her. Essentially, the book is about how travel can give you a fresh perspective on your life.
How will you celebrate the official release day of One Summer in Santorini?
I have thoroughly enjoyed all the mini-milestones on the road to publication – signing with Avon Books, signing with the Kate Nash Literary Agency, the cover reveal, completing the edit – but publication day will be special. I am thinking champagne and a fancy dinner out somewhere – unusual for a Monday, but what an incredible occasion.
One Summer in Santorini has been described as ‘the perfect holiday read to escape with this summer’. Where in the world would you most like to escape to?
Last year, Ben and I were on sabbatical for a year and we started in Bali, where we lived for two months. Simply, I love Bali. I loved living there and the people we met and the pace of life. I’d go back in a heartbeat, which is why I’ve set my fourth book there.
Aside from writing, do you have any interesting hobbies?
Travel! That’s probably obvious, but Ben and I met travelling and we love to explore new locations. We’re also wine enthusiasts and we have travelled to wine regions all over the world, tasting incredible varietals and learning from vintners in Australia, New Zealand, the US, the UK (great bubbles!) and Europe.
What is next on the horizon for Sandy Barker? Do you have any writing projects you would like to share with us?
I will soon start editing my second book for Avon and am working on finishing book number four. All four books are connected and readers will see favourite supporting characters get their own stories. After that, I have several ideas for contemporary women’s fiction, as well as a trilogy of modern romances based (very) loosely on fairy tales.
What 2019 book releases are you most excited to read?
Lindsey Kelk’s I Heart Hawaii is the eighth (and last) in her I Heart series, the series that inspired me to write my own romantic comedy. And I have a signed copy of Paige Toon’s If You Could Go Anywhere on my bedside table waiting to be read. So many of my favourite authors are releasing books this (northern) summer – I’m spoiled. I read every day – I have to, to keep up with my ‘to be read’ list!
If you could slip back in time, what era would you travel to and why?
The 60s. I’d love to be an adult in the 60s – not forever, but for a holiday of sorts. It just seems like an incredible time of fashion, pop culture, and cultural and political change. It would have been incredible to see it first hand – plus I’d get to hang out with my parents as young adults.
Finally, wrapping up our tea themed interview, who would you most like to share a pot of tea with?
Nigella Lawson. No doubt, she’d bring something scrumptious to eat.
Thank you for taking the time to visit Mrs B’s Book Reviews for Tea with Mrs B Sandy. Congratulations on the publication of One Summer in Santorini!
Thank you – I have loved being here!
There was something in the air that night. . .
Sarah has had enough of men. It’s time to rekindle her first true love – travel – so she books a sailing trip around the Greek islands with a group of strangers.
The very last thing Sarah wants is to meet someone new, but then a gorgeous American man boards her yacht… And when she also encounters a handsome silver fox who promises her the world, she realises that trouble really does come in twos.
Will Sarah dive into a holiday fling or stick to her plan to steer clear of men, continue her love affair with feta and find her own way after all?
The perfect holiday read to escape with this summer, for fans of Annie Robertson’s My Mamma Mia Summer and Mandy Baggot’s One Last Greek Summer.
One Summer in Santorini by Sandy Barker was published on 24th June 2019. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
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