Tag Archives: UKYA

Movie Magic

14 December 1984: There is the most amazing selection of films this Christmas: Raiders, Gallipoli, Mary Poppins, Superman II, Kramer vs Kramer, Nicholas Nickleby (!), phew! Am trying to persuade D to hire a video for the holidays. 

At 14, I fell on the Radio Times at Christmas and dissected the movie schedule with a forensic eye. I inhaled Burt Lancaster in The Crimson Pirate at 7.30am if I could crawl from my Laura Ashley apricot-sprigged duvet. 10am was entirely feasible for Arthur with Dudley Moore. A brief (often reluctant) pause over lunch before Charlton Heston and Ben Hur at 2, followed by tea and cake on a trolley. Thoroughly Modern Millie with James Fox at 5.30, and then, if my parents weren’t clamouring for The Generation Game Christmas Special (they weren’t the clamouring kind), John Travolta wriggling his serpentine backside in Staying Alive around 8.30. The films would all then be analysed in my diary, almost wholly in terms of romantic content and fanciability of characters.

28 December 1984: Watched most of Ryan’s Daughter tonight, lovely juicy bit with a not-too-badder and her having it off in the woods. 

Was this a terrible way to watch films? Aged 14, I knew reality was unlikely to present any real Matt Dillons. It wasn’t a shattering moment of heartbreak when I learned Rupert Everett was gay. My unchallenging diet of movie magic didn’t stunt my emotional growth. But for those phosphorescent moments on screen when the kiss loomed, I was completely and entirely happy. It still works. The Notebook, Serendipity, Maid of Honor, Brokeback Mountain. I’ll even take Mike and Eleven’s first kiss in Stranger Things. ‘You’ve been watching soppy movies again,’ my husband observes as I twine myself affectionately around him. And I probably have.

I’m easily pleased in fictional worlds. And I know that they are fictional. Doesn’t everyone? Even at 14, I never left a screen with my eyes pinned wide in expectation that I would have my own meet-cute with a misunderstood, blue-eyed bad boy.  When I finally got round to it, real kissing was just as thrilling, if a little more localised and peppered with skin conditions and, like any good film, mostly about the anticipation. Life shows you the truth whether you watch movies or not.

In my new book MOVIE NIGHT, Hanna escapes into movies, where everything is fixed by the ninetieth minute. But real life has loose ends and damp squibs. Romance for Hanna doesn’t burst forth in a great dramatic finale, but emerges from a quietness and a rightness, a familiarity and a conversation about hair straighteners. And on New Year’s Day, when everything has been resolved, Hanna goes straight back to watching Twilight or The Holiday and enjoys those phosphorescent moments as much as she ever did. And Sol probably makes his excuses and leaves, promising to meet her later at Starbucks because he’s so INTENSELY bored of Costa.

Do you blatantly watch movies for romance?

MOVIE NIGHT by Lucy Courtenay is out on 11 January 2018, published by Hodder. 

Choose your Wheels

The Algarve book (title TBC) is finished and I’m drifting about today like a jellyfish on a gently undulating wave of idleness. The sea continues to preoccupy me even though I pressed SEND yesterday.

This post isn’t actually about the sea. It’s about two vehicles driven by my three main characters Precious, Harry and Nathan. Two vehicles which couldn’t be more different.

First, the Porsche Boxster. White, of course. Spanish number plates. It belongs to Nathan’s dad, but Nathan is borrowing it to impress Precious. Are you impressed? I’m impressed.

‘Take the car. Girls like good cars.’

I feel a rush of wonder. My father is going to let me drive his car? He hardly lets me touch his car.

‘Treat it well,’ Dad says mildly.

The second vehicle is Green Doris, the Piaggio Ape. Ah, Green Doris. Who isn’t green. She looks like this. At first, anyway.

‘But it’s blue,’ says Harry.

‘It smells green. And it’s old. And it’s kind of funny because it’s blue. So Green Dor– forget it.’

Two guys, a girl and the big blue sea. Two vehicles, one cool and one not so cool. If you had to choose just one set of wheels in which to buzz around the Algarve, which would it be?

Be careful what you wish for.

‘Eternal tourists of ourselves, there is no landscape but what we are.’

Fernando Pessoa




Serendipitous Sebastian

Nice ruff. Hipster beard.

I love how important a country Portugal once was, and how little of that importance remains. When you think that one-third of the world speaks Portuguese, and then you think of Portugal as it is today, it’s a pretty graphic demonstration of its decline.

I’m setting my next contemporary YA romance in the wilds and not-so-wilds of the south-west Algarve. Rather like the wind and waves around that coastline, the story has never let me pin it down. Instead I have been led by the characters and the landscape on a strictly need-to-know basis, following blindly in the hope that someone knows where we’re going.

Some idiot broke this last year while taking a selfie.

And now I’ve been led by a ghost to a place I didn’t even know existed, a place where I am going to set my final and most dramatic scene.

Oddly, my ghost already plays an important part in the story. I thought he was just a background character, drifting across the view in a whiff of seawater and shiny armour. But it turns out that he’s been pulling my strings all along.

King Sebastian of Portugal, heirless and dead at 24 along with most of Portugal’s nobility in a crazy-eyed crusade in North Africa in 1578. The only thing Sebastian achieved was to give his country to Spain, waiting like a dog under the table for an inexorably rolling sausage.

Worst. Statue. Ever.

Sebastian’s father died before he was born. His mother abandoned him when he was three. He was brought up by priests and became madly devout, hence the crusade. He may have been sexually abused as a child, and might also have been homosexual. The few portraits that exist show a sensitive young man with a strawberry-blond crewcut and a heady line in ruffs and armour.

He apparently expired on a bloodsoaked field in Morocco. I say apparently, because his body was never found. A bit like Anastasia of Russia, he came back a few times to haunt the Spanish claim to the throne. The Portuguese cult of Sebastianismo anticipates his return to this day, rather like King Arthur, or Elvis.

Nice dog.

The Fortaleza of Belixe on the south-western tip of Portugal, the place I hadn’t even heard of until this morning, has his shield set into one crumbling wall. And that’s where everything is going to come together. Now, if only I could make Sebastian physically write this book as well as move me around like a chess piece, then everything would be dandy.

I’m off to the Algarve on Monday for research purposes. Also custard tarts and vinho verde. Expect updates.