Today I’m delighted to celebrate the new release of Tracey Gemmell’s second novel, More Or Less Annie. Gemmell is a talented British expat author, and like me she lives in the USA (for now). We connected over shared themes in our debut novels, and I’m thrilled she’s now followed up with a highly engaging tale which expands on the concept of home.
I asked Tracey to write a piece for us today, sharing her inspiration for More Or Less Annie.
Hireth: The Search for Home
How exciting to be a guest blogger! Thank you for this opportunity, Pauline.
Though Pauline and I live thousands of miles apart, one in California, one in Wisconsin, our British expat existence – and our anglophile novels – connect us. That, and our total inability to walk past a tea shop without stopping for cake. We should work on that, Pauline. But I digress…
Despite our shared heritage and profession, there are differences between us. (I’m not even counting the fact Pauline can run a marathon and I can’t run for a bus.) I suffer from chronic hiraeth. Pauline doesn’t seem to. Or she just hides it better. Probably by running marathons. Anyway, hiraeth, a Welsh-Celtic word, has no direct English translation. It describes a longing for home with a sense of loss, maybe for a home that never was. The Portuguese word saudade is similar, meaning a deep state of nostalgia or longing for something or someone loved and missed. Well, I love and miss and long for England. In my writing, I use the Cornish spelling, hireth, because my novel, Dunster’s Calling, is set in Somerset. That’s closer to Cornwall than Wales – unless you have a boat to cross the Bristol Channel.
Here’s another way Pauline and I differ. Pauline became a United States citizen early on in her residency on this side of the pond. It took me twenty-five years to take the citizenship oath! I finally bit the bullet in April. I’m often asked why it took me so long. All I can say is my heart remains so firmly in England, I couldn’t imagine aligning myself with anywhere else, even if only on paper. That darn oath was hard for me to say! I don’t expect anyone who hasn’t been through it to understand the emotional context. The good news is, dual UK/US citizenship allows me to travel unrestricted between countries. My son now lives in England and my daughter’s finishing university in the US, so unimpeded travel’s important. Day-to-day living may not be impacted, though I’m sure I’ll feel strange entering this country on a US passport for the first time!
Despite my extended stay in America (I’m looking at you, Californian hubby!), the centre of my soul’s universe remains Exmoor, a national park straddling Somerset and Devon on the Southwestern peninsular of England. I spent my youth and early adulthood there, riding horses, eating cream teas, and revelling in the stunning moorland and coastal scenery. I left Exmoor for love, but Exmoor never left me. A sense of locational disconnect colours my writing.
In Dunster’s Calling, the main character knows exactly where her home is; that place she sleeps the best and breathes the deepest. Her struggle lies in how to get there after many years away. (Hmmm … sound familiar?) My second novel, More Or Less Annie, also addresses the search for home but from a different angle. Despite living in the same English county all her life, Annie has never felt a connection. A stroke of luck and a twist of fate throw her into a global search for roots and security. Will it be back where she started or somewhere she’s never even imagined? Annie epitomizes hireth as it relates to a home that maybe never was.
I set More Or Less Annie in Hertfordshire, England, and Costa Rica for selfish reasons. Just as Dunster’s Calling allowed me to spend my writing hours vicariously on Exmoor, Annie transported me from the freezing winters of Wisconsin to Guanacaste. This Pacific Coast region of Costa Rica has been a favourite hangout since I discovered it in 2011. There’s a delightful sense of calm in Costa Rica. Its coastal, rainforest and volcanic beauty is second to none, but its eco-friendliness, its pace of life and its amazing wildlife make it truly special. The inspiration for More Or Less Annie came to me during a conversation with friends about where we would spend the winter if we could go anywhere. Costa Rica was a natural choice!
No matter where I reside, travel is an important part of my life, meaning it’s an important part of my writing. Next stop: Provence! Life Like Lavender, currently in the works, is set in London and the medieval French village of Les Baux-de-Provence. I was fortunate enough to live in France in my younger days and, once again, I make no apology for spending my writing time there now. After that? You’ll have to wait and see.
If you fancy a holiday somewhere exotic, I’d love to see you in my novels or on social media. Consider it a warm-up for your next visit to wonderful Saffron Sweeting with Pauline. Take my advice: don’t let your passport expire or you’ll miss out on some great literary adventures!
Wishing you bon voyage in your own search for the place you sleep the best and breathe the deepest.
More Or Less Annie
Discovering home isn’t home and you aren’t you is no walk on the beach.
Life’s turned out just as Annie expected. Unfortunately. Low self-esteem, abandonment issues and a twenty-year-old marriage that’s going nowhere trap her in a dull existence. Browsing luxury travel websites is her only pleasure, but escape from her gossipy English village seems nothing more than an internet reverie. That is, until Luck launches a new window and whisks her away to Casa Luna.
Taylor controls everything about her penthouse Chicago life until scandal sends her tumbling down Luck’s corporate ladder. Unemployed, and unemployable, she packs her Louis Vuitton suitcases full of vengeance and heads to Central America. There, her former boss is rumoured to be setting up a new venture. If she’s going down, he’s going with her.
Annie and Taylor collide in the exotic waters of Costa Rica, where life becomes anything but a walk on the beach. Why has a tabloid reporter followed Annie to paradise? And what’s a fifty-year-old cold case got to do with it? As Annie’s past slides into shocking focus, Taylor smells opportunity. Annie has a decision to make: Give up control of her life once and for all ‒ or wrestle command from past demons.
Spectacular tropical beaches and luxury villas beckon as More or Less Annie sweeps the reader along on a journey of hope and self-discovery. Join Annie as she fights for a new identity ‒ one piña colada at a time.
About the author:
Tracey Gemmell is a British writer based in the USA. An obsessive search for home finds her ricocheting through countries like a malfunctioning satellite navigation system. Tracey has been featured on BBC Somerset Radio and received an honourable mention for her short story ‘Scooby-Doo and Hobnobs’ in the Jade Ring Contest, 2018. She is the author of two novels: Dunster’s Calling and More or Less Annie.
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Thanks so much, Tracey, for sharing your new release with us!
I adored reading More Or Less Annie. The characters are engaging, the Costa Rica setting is delightful, and there was just the right level of intrigue in the plot to keep me turning the pages. I think you’ll be rooting for Annie from the beginning.
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