Doing the Research… Chris Penhall

As Summer starts to arrive in the UK, so do the Summer choc-lit books and where best to start? By talking to Chris Penhall, about the research that goes into her books especially her newest The House on the Hill – A Summer in the Algarve.



The books I have written are all set in places I know very well, and I feel the locations are characters in the stories. So, when I frivolously say I research my books when I’m on holiday, I sort of mean it and I sort of don’t.

The landscapes, sounds and smells of Portugal and the south Wales coast are so imprinted on my mind that I call on them when I want to for a particular scene. In my new novel, The House on the Hill – Lagos, where its set,  is very much a part of the action. I feel it’s my second home, and as with all of the places I write about, because I only visit for short periods of time, my experiences when I’m there are always intense and very vivid.

There is a lot of yoga, meditation, Zumba and a bit of dancing in this particular book too, and although not an expert in any of them, I do all of them regularly. So, once again, I have used my own knowledge of participating in classes, although I have never taught any kind of sport, exercise or dance. I’m just there to enjoy myself…

There is also one small scene set in a radio station. I cannot reveal what it’s about, but suffice to say that most of my working life has been involved in working in radio in some way or another, so something was bound to seep into one of my books at some stage. This particular bit is entirely fictional, but, honestly, it really could happen.



When I’m writing – and I’m sure this is true of many authors – things that are going on around me can also find their way into the story. For instance, I did sunset beach yoga for the first time in October 2021 in Lagos, and after experiencing the real joy of watching the sunset on Porto Do Mos Beach, with only the sound of the gentle rolling of the sea next to me, It fed into the book somehow. Not in a big way, really, but that’s often what happens – these things often add extra layers to the story.

I think what I’m trying to say is that I subconsciously gather images and ideas wherever I go, and when I allow my imagination to run free, some of those memories find their way onto the page. So, I have been accidentally researching my novels for a very long time, and I never even knew it.




Layla is calm, in control and is definitely not about to lose her serenity for the man next door!
Surely it can’t be hard to stay peaceful at one of the oldest yoga and mindfulness retreats in the Algarve, surrounded by sea, sun and serenity? Mostly, owner Layla Garcia manages it – with the help of meditation and plenty of camomile tea, of course.

But keeping her grandparents’ legacy alive is stressful, and Layla has become so shackled to the work that, for her, The House on the Hill is fast becoming ‘The Fortress on the Hill’.

Then writer Luke Mackie moves to the villa next door, bringing with him a healthy dose of chaos to disrupt Layla’s plans, plus a painful reminder of a time when she was less-than-serene. But could his influence be just what Layla needs to ‘dance like no-one’s watching’ and have the fun she’s been missing?




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You can keep up with all things Chris related

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      indexChristine Penhall




RUBY-LOGO-RD-NSChris’ other books can be found here.


You can find other blog posts with Chris Penhall HERE


Which Books… Chris Penhall

About the same time as A Silent Child my 2nd book in the Lisa Carter series was released, I was recovering from reading an amazing book by Sarah Sultoon called The Source and I took some time out to talk to Chris about it, so it was only fair that on the eve of her book new book “Finding Summer Happiness” I returned the favor…


Which book do you wish you’d writtenIMG_0572.

There are many, many, many books I wish I’d written so it’s a very difficult one to answer. I’ve just read Grown Ups by Marian Keyes, and I’d love to have the ability to tell stories the way she does with such wit and warmth. Pride and Prejudice, obviously, as it’s perfect.

Which book cover have you looked at and gone that’s amazing.

I’ve just had a browse in my bookshelves and I’m going to pick two – The cover of The Muse by Jessie Burton is gorgeous and I absolutely love A Year of Marvellous Ways by Sarah Winman. Creating a cover that draws people’s attention and somehow evokes the heart of a book is a real talent.



Which was the last book that broke your heart.

I’m like a leaky tap so I can often be found crying at a book, but One Day by David Nicholls made me burst into tears on a plane to Portugal a few years ago. I was travelling alone so apologies to the people sitting next to me, whoever they were.




Which book would you rewrite in a different genre.

I read all sorts of books but what comes out of my head is romantic fiction with some humour. I’d love to write a real laugh-out-loud comedy, and I’d also like to have the kind of brain that can produce historical novels. I think that being able to create an interesting and engaging story in which you learn historical facts too is an amazing talent to have.

Which book taught you the largest lesson about life.

That is really difficult as I find that reading books can be very cathartic. I think I’ll go right back to my childhood and my love of books like the What Katy Did series, Little Women and Anne of Green Gables. Each one had strong interesting female characters at their heart overcoming all sorts of things. Possibly to my young, impressionable mind that was a good lesson to learn.

Which three books would you take on holiday in 2021?

I have just been out browsing around one of my local bookshops planning what to read next. When I go on holiday I have a real read fest – it’s like a mini book festival for me!  I can get through a lot of novels in two weeks and absolutely love deciding what to take in paperback and what to download on my kindle. The first three books on my list are Sweet Sorrow by David Nicholls as I love everything he writes, The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes and Sweet Sweet Revenge Ltd by Jonas Jonasson as I thoroughly enjoyed The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of a Window and Disappeared.

There are a lot more books on my to-be-read list and I’m slowly working my way through the Choc Lit and Ruby Fiction author catalogue too.


Finding Summer Happiness by Chris Penhall

You won’t find happiness without breaking a few eggs …

Miriam Ryan was the MD of a successful events and catering company, but these days even the thought of chopping an onion sends her stress levels sky rocketing. A retreat to the Welsh village of her childhood holidays seems to offer the escape she’s craving – just peace, quiet, no people, a generous supply of ready meals … did she mention no people?

Enter a cheery pub landlord, a lovesick letting agent, a grumpy astronomer with a fridge raiding habit – not to mention a surprise supper club that requires the chopping of many onions – and Miriam realises her escape has turned into exactly what she was trying to get away from, but could that be just the thing she needs to allow a little bit of summer happiness into her life?





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You can keep up with all things Chris related

logo_thumb800Chris Penhall                     Facebook-XperiaChris Penhall Writes


      indexChristine Penhall




RUBY-LOGO-RD-NSChris’ other books can be found here.


I spoke to Chris last year as part of my meet the family series the interview can be HERE

If you’d like to listen back to my interview earlier this year on Chris’ blog you can find there HERE


Meet The Family – Christine Penhall

Meet The Family – Christine Penhall


Today, I have caught up with Christine Penhall to learn about the Portuguese paradise that awaits in her new book “New Beginnings at the Little House in the Sun”



Hi Christine and welcome to my blog “A Story About A Girl” I was so excited to get to sit down and chat to another member of the Ruby-Lit family and learn about this Portuguese paradise.



What inspired you to write “New Beginnings at the Little House in the Sun?”

New Beginnings in the Little House in the Sun is the sequel to my first novel, The House That Alice Built. Before that won the Choc-Lit Search for a Star competition in 2019 I had started planning another book altogether but decided that I wanted to find out what happened to Alice next. So New Beginnings follows her after she’s made a huge decision about her life and decides to settle in Portugal permanently. But things don’t go entirely to plan, because they never do, do they!

Congratulations for winning the choc-lit search for a star last year! I can’t wait to see what 2020 brings us.

What made you decide to submit with ChocLit?

I think Choc-Lit and Ruby Fiction are the perfect home for the kind of books I read and write, too. I was about to send my manuscript for The House That Alice Built to them, cat-1151519_640and when I visited their website found that the Search for A Star Competition was sponsored by Your Cat Magazine, and they were looking for novels that had cats in. Strangely enough, mine did – Alice ends up cat sitting Aphrodite when she arrives in Cascais. And so I went down that route.

If you could go back to when you first started writing what one piece advice would you give yourself?

I remember many years ago sitting down after work with a pen and a pad – it was long before everyone had computers – and deciding to start writing. But I didn’t get even one word on that page and got quite despondent about it. Looking back, I realise I’d read so many good books I had this subconscious idea that my writing should be  perfect from the start. It was only when I just began to write, knowing that I had to have something to work with that could be edited and re-edited that I actually got going. So, that’s the advice I’d give myself – just start writing.

If you weren’t writing what would you be doing?

It’s taken me a long time to become a published author, so I feel I have a lot of writing in front of me, but if my mind wasn’t full of stories, I would be looking forward to doing a lot of travelling in the next few years. Although I plan to do than anyway. Maybe I’ll get some ideas as I go.

How did you deal with rejections when you started out?

Like a lot of people, when I first started sending my novel out to agents I hawomen-1209678_640d this dream that I would get accepted immediately and it would all be plain sailing. However, after the first couple of very kind rejections, I just braced myself! Then I’d get despondent, pick myself up and send it out again. When I got the e-mail from Choc-Lit saying they wanted to speak to me I was at work and got three people over to my desk to check what it said as I was expecting yet another rejection!

What would you say to someone who wants to write?

I would say just start writing. Do it because you love it, not just because you want to be published, and don’t expect to be perfect as soon as you begin. Engage with writers groups locally and online, and find people who love books as much as you do, as they will help to motivate you. And most of all, never give up on your dreams.

Do you have any writing routines or rituals if so what are they?

The House That Alice Built took me many years to write and I fitted it around looking after my children and work so I don’t think I had any routines for that. For New Beginnings at the Little House in the Sun, I also fitted it around work commitments, but on a writing day I would write for an hour or so, potter, go out to a café and write some more, come home and do something else and have another writing spurt. I have a vague word count target, which gets more stringent the closer I get to the deadline!

Which authors inspired you to write?

I read voraciously like all authors, so I can’t pinpoint one writer in particular, as I think they all inspired me to write. But as books were part of my life from childhood I should go back there and say I loved What Katy Did, What Katy Did at School and What Katy Did Next by Sarah Chauncey Woolsey, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis, The Wombles by Elizabeth Beresford and The Three Musketeers by Alexander Dumas.

p04h6n0f(I went to see Top of the Pops being recorded behind the scenes when I was very young as my friend’s father was an engineer there. The Wombles were one of the acts performing that day and we passed through the green room briefly –   my dreams were shattered when I saw Orinoco wearing his head like a hat and smoking a cigarette….however, its still one of my favourite books!)

Who would you want to play the main characters in your book if your novel was optioned for tv / film?


I think that Emelia Clarke or Lily James would make a1d0d68f6f5595b0edc39b960141f0d2e great Alice, and Aiden Turner from Poldark would be perfect as Luis.


What can we expect to see from you in the future?

I’m writing the novel I’d planned before The House That Alice Built. Its set in the UK and is about Miriam, who has sold her business, and goes for a much-needed break to a house by the sea in a village she used to visit as a child. She needs rest, relaxation, no responsibility, and really wants as little company as possible. Due to an administrative error she gets anything but. There’s also something of a mystery to be solved as to the whereabouts of the owner of the house she’s renting.

More About Christine

Chris Penhall is the winner of the 2019 Choc-Lit Search for a Star competition, sponsored by Your Cat Magazine, with her debut novel, The House That Alice Built. The sequel, New Beginnings at the Little House in the Sun is published in August 2020.

Born in South Wales, Chris has also lived in London and in Portugal, which is where both books are set. It was whilst living in Cascais near Lisbon that she began to dabble in writing fiction, but it was many years later that she was confident enough to start writing her first novel, and many years after that she finally finished it! She has now completed her second and is busy writing her third.
A lover of books, music and cats, she is also an enthusiastic salsa dancer, a keen cook, and loves to travel. She is never happier than when she is gazing at the sea.


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@Christine Penhall





New Beginnings in the Sun cover thumbnail


Follow your yellow brick road ….

Alice Dorothy Matthews is on the road to paradise! She’s sold her house in London, got rid of her nasty ex and arranged her move to Portugal where friendship and romance awaits. All that’s left to do is find a place to call home.

But Alice’s dreams are called into question when complications with friends, work and new relationships make her Portuguese paradise feel far too much like reality.

Will Alice’s dream of a new home in the sun come true?



Pre Order Here


RUBY-LOGO-RD-NSCheck out Chris Penhall on the Ruby-Lit website for more information    on her  books!