Author Janice Russell was a great fan of intelligent fiction with a humorous turn. Yet she noticed that the lighter women's literature (or chick-lit) had a decided flaw: it seemed to stop at forty. As if women in their twenties and thirties had an exciting time working out life, had passionate or disastrous affairs, and then – nothing. What happened to these hapless heroines? Did they just grow up, settle down, and know everything? Janice didn't think so, and so she tasked herself with creating an intelligent, strong, yet still somewhat bemused character – of 50. The result was An Algarve Affair, hilarious and poignant, intelligent and post-feminist.
Tell us about the moment you knew this book needed writing.
The seeds of knowledge that it needed writing were sown while I was writing A Waste of Good Weather. I was in my early forties, writing from the points of view of a couple in their thirties. I found myself doodling around with other characters, and a woman approaching 50. In our discussion groups, only two of us women were over 40, and we found ourselves having a slightly different take on life. So a background was written which in fact never found itself into the finished book, but it became apparent to me that Izzie needed to emerge as a feisty and intelligent woman who not only had a lot to say from her past, but was ready to embrace a future.
Your main character, Izzie, has some uproarious back stories and some deep and ponderous wonderings. How much of this is based on your own life?
It’s a bit kiss and tell that one. Much of the context is based on my life, though very different aspects of it, and through first, second and third perspectives. So yes, I was born in Birmingham, though unlike Izzie, I had two parents until very recently, and my mum was nothing like Atilla. I think though she had untapped potential educationally, and that’s I guess why I make Atilla branch out unexpectedly. I guess I’d have liked mum to have had the confidence to do that.
I am of the era when `free love’ had blasted somewhat ostentatiously onto the scene, and we were the first generations to have access to more reliable contraceptives. Some of the encounters I describe happened in some shape or form to me or to friends, some are a product of a fertile mind. I did work in a clinic which supported young people who were becoming sexually active, and I did work as both a counsellor and a tutor, which partly crosses into Izzie’s world.
As for anything else, fabricated, yet inevitably based on a characteristic here, an experience there, an encounter at the other. And the emotions – I am a mum who has experienced the gamut of emotions that seem common to women as they mature.
Why did you choose to set the novel in the Algarve?
I have family in the Algarve, a house, and lived there full time for a number of years. I love the magic in its molecules, the miles of unspoilt beauty, and the fabulous opportunities for eavesdropping on the naffest of ex pat cultural discourse, as well as the promise of holiday experiences for people of all ages, gender, and persuasion. I like the challenge that I see unfolding of second and third generation immigration, clashes of culture – it is still a more patriarchal culture in different ways from the UK, for example, and more family centred in some ways too. It's rich in promise and actuality. I love it.
Will Izzie be coming back?
Yes. She’s taken a little while longer than I intended, now her time is nigh and I aim to have The Algarve Way published late Spring 2016. She has to return, we leave her on the brink of adventure – my readers want to know what happens next!
This is a lovely, easy to read novel that I devoured in one day! It's a compelling tale that kept me turning the pages with enjoyment. The author paints an evocative picture of Portugal and I'm looking forward to reading the second instalment of the adventures of Izzie. Well worth a read!
Sounds like just the sort of month a girl would love! Very well written, witty, funny and thought provoking. Pool men of the Algarve watch out!
Janice Russell, PhD. is a matriarch, trainer, novelist and creative writing tutor. She spends as much time as she possibly can in the Algarve. Her other novels are Keeping Abreast and A Waste of Good Weather. Janice Russell has also written a number of non-fiction books for counsellors and coaches.
You can purchase An Algarve Affair in paperback, or on Kindle via amazon.co.uk. CLICK HERE.