FROM Frederico Garcia Lorca to Gerald Brennan and, more recently, Chris Stewart, Andy Bailey and David Luddington, La Alpujarra has played home to many successful authors.
Its beautiful landscape seems to inspire wordsmiths of diverse genres to put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard.
Now, female authors are taking the area by storm, with three women from Orgiva launching their own novels from the same town where the Olive Press was born in 2006.
Hilly Barmby – Author of ‘From My Cold Dead Hands’
Hilly and her partner first came to the Alpujarra from Brighton in the early 1990s, to work as Wwoofers (willing workers on organic farms). They ended up above Lanjaron, helping on a farm there. Hilly later set up an arts and crafts shop in the municipal market in Órgiva. She left the area in 1995 but returned in 2016.
Hilly lives in an old ‘cortijo’ near Órgiva with her musician partner, Malk, and two rescue dogs. She has created a “wooden lady shed”, where she paints, makes crafts and writes her novels, taking inspiration from the view. “I look out of my window and can see the Lujar mountains, our vegetable patch, the wood pile and the dogs playing,” she says.
Although it has taken 20 years to achieve her “overnight success”, Hilly is now full speed ahead with various novels. Her first book – ‘From My Cold Dead Hands’, published by Bloodhound Books in July 2022 – is about a woman, Cassie, who has lost her memory: can she piece together the truth about her family, her life, and a friend’s murder?
The idea for the book came from watching Michael Moore’s film, ‘Bowling for Columbine’. Hilly thought: “What if someone wakes up with amnesia in a particular world/lifestyle? If she has a clean slate, would she view her world differently?”
Hilly’s has a three-book contract for her psychological thrillers. Her second book, ‘The Pact’, will be released by Bloodhound Books on 4 October 2022, and the third book is pending.
She also has a three-book contract to write a young adult trilogy for a different publisher, SpellBound Books.
‘From My Cold Dead Hands’ is available on Amazon worldwide, Barnes and Noble, Kobi and Waterstones. It has a 4.8 out of 5 rating on UK Amazon and 4.54 on Goodreads.
Sheree Griffin (aka Chloe Phoenix) – author of ‘Behind You’
Sheree visited La Alpujarra on holiday from Warwickshire in the UK, met her now husband, Mark, and fell in love with both him and the area, which is conveniently close to the “lovely Mediterranean coast”. She decided to retire early and moved to Las Barreras, near O?rgiva, with Mark and her cats and dogs.
Her novel, ‘Behind You’, is a “cosy, whimsical, mystery about a middle-aged nurse, Shona Jones, who comes to La Alpujarra for a holiday and finds herself solving a mystery with a tall, dark enigmatic man.”
Sheree based the novel on what she knew personally, and with an added flavour of La Alpujarra. It took her a couple of years to write and was published in 2021.
She has just finished the sequel, ‘A Strange Practice’, which continues Shona’s story, along with another mystery to solve. She is now working on the third book in the trilogy.
‘Behind You’ is available through Amazon in Paperback or Kindle edition, as well as on the shelves of Camac and Libreria Atla?ntida in Orgiva.
Amanthi Harris – author of ‘Beautiful Place’
Amanthi visited La Alpujarra after bumping into a lady who arranged concerts in La Taha and Poquiera valley – this prompted her to explore the area with her husband, and then their newborn daughter. In 2020, they moved permanently from London.
‘Beautiful Place’ is set in Sri Lanka, in a guesthouse on a remote beach along the southern coast. It follows the lives of the owners of the guesthouse, their friends and the actual guests.
Says Amanthi: “I wanted to recapture the atmosphere of my childhood home in Sri Lanka, where I grew up.”
The book took 10 years to write and was published in 2019 in the UK (Salt Publishing) and 2020 in South Asia (Pan Macmillan India). It has been praised in reviews from ‘The Guardian’, author Amit Chaudhuri and ‘Grazia India’.
Amanthi is now finishing editing a collection of short stories, some of which have been broadcast on BBC Radio 4, as well as planning her second novel. She is inspired by the “generous and creative folk of La Alpujarra.”
‘A Beautiful Place’ is available from Amazon, Libreria Inusual in Granada and Camac and Libreria Atlantida in Orgiva.
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