Tag Archives: dance with fireflies

The Isolation Gallery

Since facing the prospect of weeks/months stuck at home, (Shhh..don’t tell anyone but it actually suits my hermit instinct) I decided  to start a virtual gallery on Facebook. It’s called The Isolation Gallery. Here’s how it works:

Everyone is welcome to join (we have over 4oo members already).

Each day by 10am (GMT) I post a word or theme for guidance.

You then go off and paint, write, draw….doodle pictures in the sand with a stick…whatever. Then upload your image to the site.

The purpose of the site is to create an online community of creative people.

Our strapline is: No judgement. Pure enjoyment….you can tell I used to work in advertising right! Haha :))

Anyway above are some of my sketches…I now have to think of tomorrow’s word. Want to know what it is? Come and join us. All welcome. No previous experience necessary!



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Food, love & Italy: a recipe for success in Jane Hugen-Tobler’s debut novel.

If like me, you enjoy a taste of Italy in the 1920’s, mixed with the promise of love and fine food then look no further for a great debut novel by Jane Hugen-Tobler.

Set in 1927 the ancient lemon tree sits resplendent on a farm in Italy. It holds the secrets of former kings and saints and has been protected through time by the Hugen-Toblers. 

The farming family’s future is in the balance when tragic events unfold, and the tree is threatened.

Corrado’s passion is cooking. When he leaves Italy for London no one knows the unimaginable effect it will have on the tree and his family…

In London, Margaret is trapped in a loveless marriage with an older man who has a dark secret. He constantly buys her shoes but cannot make love to her.

Shifting between drab, grey England and vibrant, sunny Italy, Margaret and Corrado find themselves embarking on life changing journeys; little do they know how inconceivably important it will become when their lives collide and cultures clash.

I think Jane’s novel has certain similarities to Dance with Fireflies. I can’t wait to tuck into this beautiful book.

I caught up with Jane to ask her my usual clutch of author questions:

What form does your writing take? What is important to me is family so writing mirrors my experience of life. I think it’s good to write about what you know. I also love to explore European culture, particularly because I am part Italian and wanted to connect with my roots and history. Food is a big part of our family life; I am also fascinated with the 1920s, so all these ingredients have come together in my fictional novel Love, Life and Lemons.

How often do you write? I don’t write as much as I’d like as I work full time in a secondary school, I am an English tutor for GCSE in the evenings and I also have a family. Fortunately I get the school holidays off and that tends to be when I write the most. However I think about writing every day – it’s like a huge jigsaw puzzle in my mind that I’m constantly trying to piece together. I have a journal with me at all times and jot down any ideas, sentences, scenes or characters that come to mind.

How does your writing make you feel? It makes me feel whole. I see it as a healing process – a way to make sense of the past – and move on from it. I love writing when it’s going well because I forget about everything. Time disappears and I get completely lost in another world. I have learnt that even when it isn’t going well it is a process towards getting it right so when I have writer’s block I try to write my way through it and hope that good things will come eventually.

Where and when do you write? I write on my laptop at my kitchen table because I have a small house. When my daughter left home I used her room as a study with my own desk; but she came back (which I’m very happy about!) I tend to write best in the mornings. I suffer from insomnia, like many women my age, and get up early so I have no interruptions while everyone else is asleep.

What do you write about? Relationships – the difficulties people face and how they resolve them. For the past 7 years I have been writing Love, Life and Lemons so that has taken all my time. I also write poetry, some of which is incorporated within my novel. Now I have started my new book which is inspired by my latest holiday. As I was 50 this year I have been doing 50 things to celebrate. One of them was going to the Amalfi Coast in Italy. My husband organised a boat trip for my birthday where we visited various wonderful places around the coastline. On the way back we visited a secret cave and my new story stems from that. It is about hope and giving women from history a voice. I feel excited to be back to trying to figure everything out again. Now I have written one book I have the belief that I can write another. My husband is a huge support to me and he helps me come up with the stories. We go on long dog walks in the Devon countryside and mull things over.

What is the best thing about writing? Creating a whole imaginary world and its characters. As a writer you want the people you invent to be three dimensional and seem real. Since finishing my novel a friend asked me if I was writing a sequel. I said I didn’t think so because I’ve got an idea for a new book. She was disappointed and asked me what happened to two or three of the characters. I laughed and said I don’t know because they’re not real people! That was a real compliment because to her they were obviously well rounded characters that she believed in.

How long have you been writing for? I’ve always loved English and written poetry for many years. It has only since I went back into education that I have really written stories. I had some difficult teenage years. My parents divorced when I was 13 and I suffered with anxiety and depression. This culminated in me stopping going to school, so I left with no qualifications. I had my first son when I was 18 and then the rest of my family followed. I decided to go back to studying when I was 40. I went to a GCSE English literature evening class, which I loved. Then I went to Exeter College and undertook an Access Course studying English and History – the equivalent of taking 2 A-levels in one year. It was hard going as my family were younger then and I also had a part-time job. It was like a dream when I found I had been accepted at Exeter University; however, I hated it there. Despite feeling privileged to have got in, I felt like an imposter and an outsider and cried a lot. I was so much older than all the 18 year olds, the majority who had been to public schools. Thanks to my husband and family I persevered. They were very proud of me when I graduated with a 2:1 and a more importantly the beginnings of my novel.

If you would like to know more about Jane Hugen-Tobler or fancy a taste of this family saga, click on one of the links below.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JaneHTLoveLifeLemons

Twitter – @lovelifeandlem1 // https://twitter.com/lovelifeandlem1

Blog: https://janehugentobler989252359.wordpress.com/

Amazon link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Love-Life-Lemons-Jane-Hugen-Tobler/dp/1072792923/ref=sxin_1_sxwds-bia-wc1_0?cv_ct_cx=love+life+and+lemons&keywords=love+life+and+lemons&pd_rd_i=1072792923&pd_rd_r=c936b386-a157-45f8-a6c0-8152a380b26a&pd_rd_w=ma9eH&pd_rd_wg=lrtJ5&pf_rd_p=e6929d27-d522-411d-816a-d675bc331519&pf_rd_r=YNZDGPE5RK6Z2CEG2BFE&psc=1&qid=1579110894






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Marseillan Book Club and beyond!




Marseillan is a beautiful town in the Languedoc region of Southern France. We spent a magical six weeks here as the long summer days slowly came to an end.  Our townhouse was in the heart of the old village. The tiny balcony gave us views of the narrow streets and the many resident cats who mercilessly teased the dog.  Our days were spent walking the vast windswept beaches, eating the fresh seafood (oysters are a big deal here!) and sampling the many vineyards offerings. We borrowed some bikes from our newly acquired friend (hi Martin!) and peddled our merry way to Meze… such a delight to cycle through vineyards …all helped by a few tastings en-route.

With so many distractions on our doorstep (the port with fine restaurants, the pretty cycle to the Canal du Midi and Agde beyond, sketching in Meze, driftwood painting and days out to Carcassonne and Gruissan to name a few)  it was hard to stay focussed on the job in hand : To complete book three!

One of our last memorable evenings in Marseillan was spent drinking Beaujolais Nouveau with our ever expanding group of lovely friends from all over the globe.

After a couple of glasses/bottles oops………the lovely Anita, thought it would be nice to feature Dance with Fireflies for their next book club choice. So here we are, a few months on and back in the UK. The Marseillan Book Club met for their January session. Here are some photos from that night and some comments too….

“Loved the book.  Enjoyed the feeling of adventure with the sense of foreboding. Good storytelling.  Realistic. When is the sequel coming out?”

I’m told the book club carried on the theme with curry for dinner and came up with suggestions for actors if the book would ever come out as a film. Elizabeth: Maggie Smith. Margaret: Olivia Coleman. Phyllis: Claire Foy.

The bad comment…Yes, only one! “The book ended abruptly.”

So thank you Anita and the rest of the lovely Marseillan Book Club and all our new friends that made us so welcome…..we had the best time ever….Hopefully see you all in 2020.

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My quarterly writing column goes live!

I’m very excited to be able to share with you my quarterly writing column.

The first in the series is an overview on how to get started if you are embarking on writing a novel and are unsure how to begin. That first blank page/screen can be a very lonely place… but once you get started it’s not so bad!

I’ll be sharing some more tips in my next column along with my latest book review and top reads.




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Devon Heaven


I never need an excuse to head off for a few days to wind up in glorious South Devon.

This latest outing had a purpose though, not just a jolly. I was on a mission to see if guests staying in various lodgings along the South Devon coast (a location within the book) would be interested in Dance with Fireflies.

Armed with boxes of books and my new dinky flyers, a two hour drive found us in the heart of the English Riviera, Torquay. Husband and wife team, Nicola and Steve always offer us such a warm welcome at The Buckingham Lodge Guest House. Nicola was happy to display my novels in a cabinet for her guests to see on arrival. The leaflets will be placed in all of the 8 guest rooms. So after a hearty breakfast (best in Torquay), and a great nights sleep, we pack up the car and head off into the misty morning (it was supposed to be sunny!).

cary 1


A short drive along the coast to the sheltered haven of Babbacombe Bay finds The Cary Arms and Spa. It nestles snuggly into this charming cove with amazing views out to sea. I have high hopes for my book in this beautiful boutique hotel and happily picture their clientele enjoying the story of Phyllis living in Devon during WW2.


After a bracing walk along Babbacombe’s pretty harbour wall. We make our way to Shaldon. I love this cute little seaside village with its red sand river beach and jaunty rock called The Ness. I always picture Phyllis (my grandmother and protagonist of Dance with Fireflies) and the family living here, pushing the piano along the pavement to get it home, the bomb falling near the green and the telegram boy arriving on the doorstep with news of my grandfather’s death.

Lunch at The Ness (fish and chips) was delicious as we peered out through large windows to the lovely view of Teignmouth over the water. The Ness is a handsome pub with lovely rooms that have the most charming balconies. Rachel, the manager, was thrilled to hear that her pub actually features in my book.


The last of the day’s sunshine found us in The Langstone Cliff Hotel, Dawlish Warren. This traditional family run hotel overlooks the Exe estuary with amazing sea views from their expansive lawn dotted with tables and chairs. This is a proper hotel with Jazz and dance weekends, afternoon tea in The Lincoln bar and two swimming pools. I am very excited to have signed copies of my book on sale here….thanks to Louise… the granddaughter of its founders Stanley and Marjorie.

So a great weekend. Dance with Fireflies has 4 more stockists, from a B&B, boutique hotel and spa, traditional pub to a long-established hotel.







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U3A – Picture perfect book club meeting

IMG_0734IMG_0750IMG_0743dursley book group p1 letter

The summer of 2018 may seem like a long time ago now but I have just received these gorgeous photographs and simply had to share them. My mother, Maureen, was invited to a meeting by the Bookworms Book Club. They are a group of book lovers belonging to the Cam & Dursley U3A. They chose Dance with Fireflies as one of their summer reads.

I just love the setting of this book club meeting, in the stunning gardens belonging to Jo, one of the U3A members. The tablecloth, pretty glasses and umbrella could easily be a scene from the book, some of which is set in the days of the decaying British Raj in India.

Mum (in the white top) enjoyed sharing the family photograph album with the group who avidly searched out family members they felt they knew through reading the novel. “They discussed them as if old friends,” commented mum, who said she felt privileged to be the centre of attention.

Mum received a lovely letter….the answer to which is…Yes! the sequel is written. I’m on the prowl for the right publisher. Watch this space.





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March 2019: A familiar photograph!


Today I received my Nainital Nostalgia 2019 Limited Edition Calendar. I am thrilled to see the images of Barnes Restaurant adorning the month of March. The restaurant was run by my grandmother, Phyllis Dover and her sister Muriel in the 1930’s. From the hundreds of letters I have spent reading (for the research of my first novel – Dance with Fireflies), I think they ran it with great gusto and thoroughly enjoyed themselves! They held all kinds of parties that serviced the needs of the local gentry and army camp in Tallital. The British Raj was still in full swing, the piano was played (often by Phyllis) and the gramophone wound up, ready for action.

This beautiful calendar is the end result of a group of admirers and residents of this historical hill station who have worked together (with the help of Facebook) from across the globe….including India, Australia and the UK.

I feel very privileged to be part of Nainital Nostalgia; a Facebook group that started about 8 years ago. The warmth and kindness from its members along with their incredible knowledge of this remote town that meant so much to my ancestors is remarkable.

This will be a year-round reminder of this amazing place my family once called home and where my great, great grandmother is buried.


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