Today is pub day for the Italian translation of White Chrysanthemum! I’m so excited to announce that Figlie del Mare is now available for Italian readers. My amazing publishers at Longanesi have produced this beautiful cover, which evokes loneliness and longing but also coveys delicate beauty.

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It’s pub day for the Swedish translation of White Chrysanthemum! My wonderful publishers at Bookmark Forlag created a stunning cover for Vit Krysantemum. I can’t wait for readers in Sweden to read Hana and Emi’s story.

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The Danish translation of White Chrysanthemum is now available! The cover is amazing and depicts the scene when Hana is taken away from the only life she has ever known on Jeju Island and sent to a military brothel in Manchuria. It is a pivotal moment that tears two sisters apart, forcing them onto two very different journeys. Thank you to my wonderful publishers at Gads Forlag for the opportunity to share this story with Danish readers around the world.

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Today is the first day of my fortieth year. After three glorious days of hiking through the Black Forest, I’m sitting in a cafe in Stuttgart, the city of my birth, looking back on the many events that make up my life. My proudest moment happened in January of this year with the publication of my first novel, White Chrysanthemum. (Some might wonder why I wouldn’t have said my proudest moment was the birth of my son, but if I have told you the TRUE events of that harrowing night, you already know it was more of a horror story that I survived rather than powered through with some sort of conscious or heroic effort). My novel was published in January and will be translated and published in many more countries throughout this year. Looking back, it seems as though I was always meant to arrive at this point, although it took me quite a while to realize how to get here.

How does a hopeful writer become a published author? There are countless articles available on this topic, but I thought that since I have reached the wizened age of 40 years +1 day, I would add my sage advice to the pile.

In one word: Stubbornness. I’m probably the most stubborn person I know (besides my aforementioned son whose birth didn’t make the top of the proudest moments list–it seems progeny take on our most absolute, and not always best, qualities), and I believe that sticking with writing, through all the terrible criticisms I received over the many years from tutors, peers and strangers, helped me get here. Why did the terrible criticisms aid me instead of the flattering ones? Because the harshest critiques pushed me to do better. I didn’t get to slide by unscathed as some writers seem to do. It took blood, sweat and cliched tears to find my way here. The fact that it was hard and nearly impossible, yet I kept writing even though I doubted myself and my work, makes it my proudest moment because it almost didn’t happen. I almost gave up.

I lost faith in myself as both a human being and a writer. I thought perhaps what I was trying to do for all these many years was a joke, not a dream. Imagine if I had left it there and didn’t finish my novel. Where would I be today? That’s a horror story I hope no writer ever realizes. My stubborn streak kicked in, and I finished my novel through gritted teeth, even though I didn’t think I was worth it or that my writing was worth it.

Fast forward to today. Over 800 people have read my book and posted their ratings on Goodreads in less than three months since White Chrysanthemum was published. That is amazing–so amazing that sometimes I wonder if I am daywalking through the best dream ever. I have heard from so many people who now have a personal relationship with Hana and Emi and have learned more than they would have thought possible about the tragic history of the ‘comfort women’ during WWII and the haenyeo divers of Jeju Island. I am humbled by the responses from readers, lovers of history and supporters of women. It is wonderful to hear from you and read your thoughts on my novel.

So on this, my first day of 40, I offer my sincerest thanks to everyone who believed in me and helped make this novel happen, and to everyone who has read my book–whether you loved it or not–thank you for supporting a debut author and making her dream come true merely by reading it.*

A word of advice for aspiring writers? Be stubborn. No matter what obstacles you face in your life, never stop writing. That is a dream worth pursuing no matter how many pieces your life happens to have shattered into. Pieces can be picked up, lives mended, especially while holding onto dreams. For what else can lift us off our hands and knees and fly us to heights previously unknown but our dreams?

My fortieth birthday wish? If you have read White Chrysanthemum, please leave a review somewhere. Reading your reviews fills my writer’s soul! Goodreads, Amazon, bookstore websites, twitter, Instagram or even my blog or FB page are great places to leave them.

Thank you, thank you!!! 🙏🤗❤️

*My dream when I started this adventure into becoming a writer was that one day people would read something I wrote, and that my story would make them feel what I felt while writing it. My book often comes with a ‘box of tissues’ warning from previous readers. That makes me smile every time. 😊😭

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There is no greater beauty in England than its many coasts and seaside towns. Visiting during the off-peak season is a special treat as the vibe is relaxed and there are no lines in sight. Photos turn out better, too, with fewer people around to ruin the shot. In February, I visited Lyme Regis on England’s southern coast and lucked out with sunny skies and mild winds. Famous for fossil hunting along the Jurassic Coast, as well as the film about a French Lieutenant, the village was just what I had imagined. A quaint fishing village with beautiful old buildings, some centuries old, crammed along the coast for the best view and sailing vessels of all sorts lined up beside the sea waiting for summer to arrive. Each morning at 7am I awoke and strolled along the shore in the crisp dawn light to swipe my credit card in the parking metre so that they wouldn’t tow my rental car. It was a chore to be sure, but an enjoyable one as the views on that short walk to and fro were a magical start to my day. If only London had the equivalent for a morning stroll along the shore–the Thames doesn’t come close. There’s something about the sound of the waves breaking on the rocky shore, the maniacal clattering the rocks make as the water is sucked back out to sea, and the sunlight glinting off the horizon that can’t be replicated anywhere. A trip to remember for sure.

(In this photograph, the Golden Cap rises out of the sea along the horizon. It’s a bit of a hike uphill through muddy fields strewn with cow bombs to get to the top, but definitely worth it.)

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Today has been the first day of pure writing I have had in too many months to count. I have snatched moments here and there, but never enough time to fully work out what world I am creating and who will inhabit it. Thankfully, all has been settled.

There’s a moment for every writer when you ‘know’ the story you are working on is ‘the one’. It takes time and many false starts to find the right storyline, POV and tone that fits the (let’s face it) masterpiece in your head. But once those three pieces fall into place, you finally have the freedom to pour your soul into draft one. And it is such joy to finally be able to run!

I feel so fortunate to have been shown so much love from everyone who has reached out to me about White Chrysanthemum and let me know how much reading it has meant to them. Their words inspire me to create another story that will touch their hearts just as much, and possibly more. Today is the beginning of that wonderful journey.

Happy (early) Valentine’s Day to readers and writers alike! I hope yours is full of stories that touch and inspire the heart 💘

[Artist: Nico, age 8, ceramic\mixed media]

Not possessing a green thumb, my window box has not fared well this past year. Every few weeks I’ve been forced to replace poor, dead plants with new ones in an effort to keep the winter gloom out of my small London flat. There’s nothing like flowers and heather to cheer up a cold winter’s day. Fortunately for me, the sun peered out from behind the clouds this afternoon and these lovely stalks bloomed. They also grew a few centimeters and now tower above the heather. Noticing the little things in our day to day can lead to a happier outlook on life, especially in a world demanding so much of our attention. Today it was a bit of sun and new growth. What will tomorrow bring?

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