London has been the source of inspiration for countless writers with its fascinating history, charming architecture and thriving artistic and cultural scene. One of our favourite authors, Santa Montefiore, calls London home. But not just any old spot in this fair capital, one of our most beloved neighbourhoods – Kensington! Please welcome Sunday Times bestselling author Santa Montefiore as she shares with us a little bit about her writing inspiration, travels to Ireland and experience writing her most recent novel Secrets of the Lighthouse and some insider tips for what to see and do in London. Welcome, Santa!
London features as the setting, at least in part, for many of your novels, especially the Kensington and Chelsea neighbourhoods. What about London inspires you creatively?
I love London. As a city it’s very green. The parks are wonderful and the old houses so pretty. It’s more like a big town than a city. I think it’s also got a lot of character. Each borough used to be an independent town in the old days, so they all have their own personality and high street. I live in Kensington and I love the feel of the place. I wander about the shops and look up (people rarely look up) at the gables and roofs. They’re wonderfully colourful. London is very old-fashioned and I think it’s that which makes it romantic.
Where do you draw inspiration for your stories?
Life is inspiring. Just looking around at people gives me an endless source of inspiration for characters and plots. I love old houses, so I’m always on the look out for beautiful buildings, with character and charm. I’ve just returned from Dublin and feel so inspired I think I’ll base my next one in Ireland.
In your latest novel, Secrets of the Lighthouse, you take readers to Connemara on the west coast of Ireland. What drew you to this area what was it like capturing its beautiful landscape and traditions in your novel?
I had already written 12 books, set in South America, Italy, France and South Africa, so I wanted to write something different. I needed a different tone. So, Ireland popped into my head and I remembered my childhood holidays in Connemara and the strikingly beautiful countryside there. I also love the Irish. I think everybody does. I played the movie soundtrack to Lord of the Rings and allowed my imagination to take me back. I must say, I adored writing that book and felt very bereft when I had to say good-bye to Dylan, Conor, Peg and Ellen.
What’s your perfect way to spend a Saturday in London?
I’ll go to the gym on Kensington High Street, or run around Kensington Gardens. I’ll take the children to a museum or to Covent Garden, there’s always something going on there. We’ll have lunch at Da Mario on Gloucester Road. The food is excellent and as it’s our local, we know the staff and they’re so friendly. We’ll walk around Hyde Park, feed the ducks, have tea in a cafe. Perhaps we’ll watch a movie in the evening. I love going to the cinema and don’t go nearly enough. If I’m feeling energetic, I’ll have friends round for lunch.
What are the top 3 places in London that a visitor simply MUST go?
1. The Tower of London is just amazing! To have such an ancient building bang in the middle of a modern city is extraordinary – and with such a rich and bloody history!
2. Take a walk in Hyde Park and look at the Spike Milligan Tree – its next to the Diana Playground and full of beautifully carved characters. It’s behind bars for its own protection, but it’s still magical, especially for children.
3. Take a walk through the wonderfully old-fashioned streets of Soho and Covent Garden.