Dexter and Paula

At eighteen, I decided I was going to write the stories in my head. However, life took over. After writing lots of stories while raising my son, getting divorced, later meeting and marrying the most wonderful, supportive, dedicated man and then suddenly realising I had turned 50 (!), I decided that the time had come to get one of my novels published.

More Links For Behind The Scenes Of The Grotto's Secret

Life-Changing Events

Moving to Spain fulfilled my lifelong dream to write full time. After undertaking a painstaking few months to find our new home in rural Andalusia, we finally walked into an overgrown, yet visibly beautiful and natural garden with stunning views down the Valle del Guadalhorce to Malaga.

Apart from a whitewashed village in the far distance, the valley is lush with green wheat fields and rolling hills ... shadowed by layer after layer of rocky mountains to the west.

Behind the Casa (house), the impressive and magnificent Sierra del Torcal is a jagged, steep chunk of rock.

My first sight of the Guadalhorce Valley took my breath away and gave birth to the fictional location of The Grotto's Secret. The view bubbled up images of fictional characters hiding in the hills, and my mind started creating my own secret world. 

A different story is already brewing in my mind about what happens on Sierra del Torcal mountain range ...

After my gorgeous puppy Dexter was poisoned by natural toxins (and thankfully lived) I started researching how some dreadful plants can kill, yet others can heal. Again, my head spun with ideas for killing some fictional characters and adding sinister plot twists ...

Here's the full story ...

Honeymoon Plotting

I started writing The Grotto's Secret on honeymoon in Italy. While I was sunning myself beside the bronzing God-like body of my husband, I took in the views of Serramonacesca, Italy and the surrounding Majella mountains. The road to our villa was fraught with sharp bends and steep cliffs and because the villa itself was in such a peaceful spot, we spent most of our time by the pool. Ideas started bouncing around inside my head. Pretty soon, my notebook was in my hand, and I was plotting a novel - with no name.

Back home, our quest to move to Spain took shape as she sold our home on Salisbury Plain. We also bought a lively Springer Spaniel Pup, (see Dexter on my Pinterest Board) and started our adventure in Spain.

In between all this, I continued to read fabulous books by incredible authors who have mastered the art of writing. The writing guides inspired me to learn to write a bestselling book that hooked my reader and keep them turning the pages as they worried about the characters. And I finished the first draft of my nameless novel.

Pooch Poisoning

An exciting move to Spain enabled me to fulfil my lifelong dream - to be a novelist. Here, at last, I have my very own writing room which has the most incredible view.

Within a month of our arrival in Spain, our darling Springer Spaniel puppy, Dexter, was poisoned. It was a night I do not want to remember, but will never forget. I won't go into the worry and trauma of seeing the life slowly ebbing out of him. I fought to keep him alive while we tried to locate a late night vet. Finally, we took him to a wonderful Vet at Laguna Beach in Torrox who spent the night with Dexter, saving his life.

It turned out that he had been poisoned by something in the Campo (the countryside where we lived). At the time, the local landowners were spraying weedkiller under their Olive trees, so we suspected it could be that Dexter sniffed and licked some of this.

But a month later he showed the same symptoms - large dilated eyes, wobbly legs, the inability to stand up straight (just like a drunk) and eventually falling over. We rushed him back to the Vet. Once again she treated him, and thankfully we fetched him after he spent the night with her.

Spanish Campo

During all of this horrible stuff going on, we bought our lovely new home in Andalusia and were champing at the bit to move in.

I started getting ready for my Kick-Starter project to crowdfund my book - still with no name. I found editors and book cover designers and POP! A new idea to improve the book's plot came into my head. I burnt the midnight oil, and woke long before Dexter needed his early morning trot or Ken cried out for a cuppa tea, to write another new draft with a medieval character.

I started feeling thrilled about this new draft, but WHAM!

You'd never believe that a THIRD poisoning soon after the second had Dexter back in overnight care. Being a strong and highly energetic pup, he recovered quickly. By now, the Vet was convinced that Dexter was munching on a poisonous plant in our area.

Oleander Borders

Determined now to prevent any more of this, we watched his every move and keep him close to us at all times. 

I started researching poisonous plants and was horrified to discover that the Oleander bush is a highly poisonous plant. And our rental home patio was lined with them. Worse still, our new home was bordered with the poisonous plants.

How can you get rid of a whole garden?! Spring Spaniels are bred to sniff and smell out all sorts of delicious goodies in the undergrowth so it has been a tough up-hill battle teaching him to 'leave it!'

Putting a piece of delicious sausage in front of him and teaching him to 'leave it' certainly helped, but we can only protect him when we see him foraging for new smells. If he's out in the Campo on our land and comes across some horrid creatures, we can only hope and pray the 'leave it' training will still be there in the back of his mind. But I doubt that, there are just too many interesting and exciting things in life for a curious little pup!

The Grotto's Secret Finds A Home

After moving into our new home (alive with poisonous Oleander bushes), more ideas for the book came to me ... and I realized I had found the perfect way to kill characters. When I first stepped into our garden, the view 'insisted' I had to use it as a setting in my novel. From the view of my new naturally wild garden, I could see lakes in the far distance, white villages and steep rocky mountain outcrops hiding in the hills. My mind immediately started creating my own secret world.

During one of my midnight oil burns, the medieval character - who just so happened to be one of the first female Spanish authors (even though she didn't know this) - started writing a short story about a woman herbalist who had found a secret herb with amazing healing powers (somewhere in my ... err, our valley).

She titled her book: The Grotto's Secret ...

POW - the title and story premise landed on my page!

Now, I had a true life event to add to my story, our experience of living in a beautiful part of Spain and characters who were squatting in my head, desperate for their story to be told.

And so The Grotto's Secret came to life for me. Hopefully it will do the same for you!

When you read the book, please do send me images of you with the book or any quirky thing you'd like me to share on my Pinterest Board.

Read more about my writing life in Spain. Or take a look at more images of Vista Prado on Pinterest ~ the stunning view that inspired my conspiracy thriller.



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