Saturday 10 December 2016

The Hippo Hands Over to . . . . Alli Sinclair

I'm delighted to be going International today and I'm handing over to the very lovely Australian author, Alli Sinclair.

Alli's latest novel Under the Spanish Stars was released on 6th December here in the UK and she's here today not only to tell us about her book but also to share some of the interesting things she discovered while researching for her book.


Amid the vivid beauty of Granada, a woman entrusted with unravelling a family secret will discover the truth about her heritage--and the alluring promise of love…

When her beloved grandmother falls ill, Charlotte Kavanagh will do whatever she asks of her--even if it means travelling to a country that broke her abuela's heart. Can an unsigned painting of a flamenco dancer unlock the secrets of her grandmother's youth in Spain? To find the answers she needs, Charlotte must convince the charismatic and gifted musician, Mateo Vives to introduce her to a secluded gypsy clan.  

The enigmatic Mateo speaks the true language of flamenco, a culture Charlotte must learn to appreciate if she wants to understand her grandmother's past--and the flamenco legend that has moved souls to beauty, and bodies to the heights of passion. As Mateo leads her into the captivating world of the music and the dance, Charlotte embraces her own long-denied creative gift and the possibility of a future rich with joy…

                                                         About Alli
Photo courtesy of Alli Sinclair

Alli Sinclair is a multi award-winning author of books that combine travel, mystery, and romance. An adventurer at heart, Alli has climbed some of the world’s highest mountains and immersed herself in an array of exotic destinations, cultures, and languages. Alli’s stories capture the romance and thrill of exploring new destinations and cultures that also take readers on a journey of discovery. 

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                                         Uncovering Spanish Secrets

I love to write books set in exotic destinations, that are rich in culture and history, and take readers on a journey into a new world. Or, if the reader has been to the place I’m writing about, I love it when my stories help them reminisce and learn something new.

My new release, Under the Spanish Stars, is set in beautiful and historic Granada in southern Spain. It gives a taste of flamenco and the gypsy culture, while delving into the turbulent history of Spain in the 1930s and 40s. It’s a multi-generational story that explores the relationships between family, lovers, and self as well romance, adventure and a twist of mystery.

Before writing this book, I had danced flamenco but it wasn’t until I interviewed a couple of flamenco experts that I uncovered how complicated and fascinating flamenco is. I could easily fill an entire book with all that I learnt, but today I thought I would share some interesting things I learned during my research.

Flamenco is made up four elements – voice, dance, guitar and the rhythmic compás. The compás is handclapping, foot stomping or heel tapping, shouts (including the famous óle!). Flamenco is emotion lead and singers often improvise the words as they sing from their heart, just as the dancer pours out their feelings through movement. If you’ve ever seen flamenco, it’s easy to see the intense emotion the performers experience.  

Flamenco stems from the Romani people—gitanos in Spanish—who originally came from northern India and around 600 A.D. started a migration across Europe, with many settling in southern Spain. Southern Spain is a melting pot for many cultures, including Jewish and Arabic, and when flamenco was born, it borrowed from different cultures. If you listen to the singing, it has a beautiful Arabic sound, the dancer’s hand movements are reminiscent of traditional dancing from India, and the rhythmic beats are similar to what can be heard in northern Africa.

The gitantos have an oral culture which means flamenco music and lyrics weren’t written down, so it is up to each generation to preserve their ancestor’s music and song, by learning and passing down on to the next generation. Over the centuries, flamenco has had moments where it has almost faded into a distant memory and been lost forever, then, through performer’s hard work and ability to adapt to a changing world, flamenco has enjoyed a resurgence. In recent years, flamenco has enjoyed a huge revival, with flamenco schools opening all around the world. In fact, Japan currently has more flamenco schools than Spain!

One thing I discovered about flamenco was its very close ties with politics, especially back in the days when General Franco ruled Spain. At the height of Franco’s rule, he appropriated bullfighting and flamenco, using these traditions in a bid to woo travellers to Spain. As part of his rule, he exerted his power over flamenco, insisting the women become less powerful in their dance style and resort to the role of seductress. He expected the men flamenco dancers to become more macho and flamenco became a water downed version of itself as it was moulded into Franco’s version. Of course, there were many who defied his wishes, but those that did and suffered dire consequences. This fascinating combination of politics and art made for an interesting thread in Under the Spanish Stars, and through my research, I was able to weave a strong storyline exploring this very important part of Spain and flamenco’s history.

Writing a book that weaves culture, history and dance throughout the story has been such a delight. It’s also a privilege to have flamenco performers and Spanish historians help me with my research. As a history buff, avid researcher, and traveller, I’m lucky I get the chance to delve into lots of different cultures and learn more about the citizens of our world. How about you? Is there a culture that fascinates you? I’d love to hear what it is! 

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Wow, who would have thought that Japan would have more flamenco schools than Spain? What an interesting post Alli, you've made me want to learn more now, both about Flamenco and Spain itself. As for a culture that I'm fascinated with, it has to be South Africa. It's a place I've visited a couple of times now and I hope to go back and visit it again one day and see some more of the wonderful sights there.

Under the Spanish Stars is available to buy now from the following places:

You can find out more about Alli and connect with her on any or all of the places below:

I'd like to say a big thank you to Alli for stopping by today and to wish her lots of success with Under the Spanish Stars 😉


  1. Thank you so much for having me and thank you for your lovely wishes. :-)

  2. Ooh, I'd love to go to South Africa one day, it sounds amazing and the scenery looks absolutely spectacular. I hope you get to go again soon!

    1. The scenery is stunning, the food is wonderful (especially milk tart!) and there are so many amazing places to visit. We did a three week road trip through all nine provinces and into Namibia but it just wasn't long enough.

    2. Sounds like you DEFINITELY need to go back! Isn't it wonderful when you discover a place you love so much that you feel the need to return and keep finding new things to love?