Hello Kath and Squizzey, thank you so much for letting me be a guest here on your lovely blog!

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Christina Courtenay, and I write historical novels with a hint (sometimes more!) of the Far East. As my second novel The Scarlet Kimono is going to be published soon, I’m following in the footsteps of my fellow Choc Lit-eer, Jane Lovering, by going on a blog tour, which is very exciting. And it starts right here!

First, a little bit about my novel – The Scarlet Kimono. Here is the blurb:-

Abducted by a Samurai warlord in 17th-century Japan – what happens when fear turns to love?

England, 1611, and young Hannah Marston envies her brother’s adventurous life. But when she stows away on his merchant ship, her powers of endurance are stretched to their limit. Then they reach Japan and all her suffering seems worthwhile – until she is abducted by Taro Kumashiro’s warriors.

In the far north of the country, warlord Kumashiro is waiting to see the girl who he has been warned about by a seer. When at last they meet, it’s a clash of cultures and wills, but they’re also fighting an instant attraction to each other.

With her brother desperate to find her and the jealous Lady Reiko equally desperate to kill her, Hannah faces the greatest adventure of her life. And Kumashiro has to choose between love and honour …

I was lucky enough to live in Japan for a few years when I was a teenager, and I fell instantly in love with everything about this country.  It is so different from anywhere else in the world, a place of contrasts where tradition mingles with the modern without either having to give way too much.  It is, quite simply, wonderful and I never tire of going back there whenever I can (which isn’t as often as I’d like).

Because of this, it seemed natural to set a novel in Japan and even though it’s a historical, I was able to draw on some of my own experiences as a foreigner there, such as learning about the customs, food and history, and trying to see things from their perspective.  As an impressionable teenager I was of course also struck by how handsome some of the local boys were and this partly inspired my hero Taro. However, I have to admit that he is mostly based on a sumo wrestler called Chiyonofuji – I know that sounds crazy, but he was very special in many ways. (If you’d like to know more about him and why he made such an impression on me, please have a look at my website where he has his own page). As a samurai warlord, my hero is of course just a tad autocratic (let’s just say he’s used to getting his own way in all things and he has thousands of men at his command), so I had great fun matching him with a heroine who wasn’t prepared to pander to his every whim like everyone else.

My research for this book was also greatly helped by the fact that I’m something of a squirrel (a good thing, right Squizzey? Definitely, Christina! Sx). I’ve collected Japanese and Oriental items ever since my time there and my home is filled with all sorts of things. For instance, I love the colourful fans with painted motifs, as well as kimonos, woodblock prints, lacquer objects and porcelain. Hopefully they’ve helped me to be more accurate in my portrayal of Japan – well, it was a good excuse for adding to my collections anyway!

The Scarlet Kimono (ISBN 978-1-906931-29-2) is published by Choc Lit on 1st March 2011. You can pre-order from The Book Depository and Amazon UK. If you want to know more about me, my website and blog are at Christina Courtenay.com and I also regularly blog in the Choc Lit Authors’ Corner.

If you’d like to win a signed copy, please leave a comment below by midnight (GMT) on Friday 11th February and tell me what sort of things you collect and why. I’ll let Squizzey choose the most interesting one as the winner!

Thanks for having me!