Novelising the fascinating history of Spain

Joan is passionate about Spain and its history.
Joan is passionate about Spain and its history. / SUR
  • joan fallon, novelist

  • The Scottish author began her career as a writer soon after moving to Spain in 1998

Numerous foreign writers over the centuries have been influenced by the mysterious seduction of southern Spain. Some, like Washington Irving, George Borrow and Richard Ford, based some of their most celebrated works on their travels in Andalucía. Still today, Andalucía continues to inspire others who find its history just perfect for the content of their novels and non-fictional works.

One such writer is expat novelist Joan Fallon, author of numerous books, some on a Spanish theme. Joan lives in Benajarafe with her husband, where she has become passionate about both the language and history of her adopted home. This passion is reflected in her writing. Many of her books are set in periods of recent history, such as the Spanish Civil War and the Second World War, and they are meticulously researched.

A member of the Society of Authors and the Alliance of Independent Authors, Joan's reading taste is eclectic and ranges from Turgenev and Stendhal to William Boyd and Hilary Mantel.

A natural storyteller, Joan's novels centre on a strong female character and explore the emotions and relationships of her protagonist.

Joan was born in Dumfries, Scotland, the only child of a Scottish mother and an Irish father. A former training and development consultant for Bucks County Council, Joan was educated at Felixstowe Grammar School and spent her formative years living in Marlow in Buckinghamshire.

She left school at sixteen, instantly regretted it, and spent the next fifteen years catching up on her education. She earned her teaching certificate and became a primary school teacher in Buckinghamshire, but continued with her studies at the Open University, then a fairly new institution. Despite having a full time job, a husband and two young children she obtained an honours degree in History and Literature.

The sudden death of her son - a keen sportsman who rowed for England - when he was only seventeen, prompted Joan to make a career change and she took a post-graduate diploma in Management Studies.

“My son died of ventricular arrhythmia - sudden death syndrome. His death was a dreadful shock and it took me many years to come to terms with it,” Joan explains emotionally.

For a number of years she worked at Missenden Abbey, a 17th century conference centre that was part of Brunel University. Joan became Principal Lecturer in Leadership and Behavioural Studies, before successfully launching her own management and development company.

The Scottish author began her career as a writer after moving to Spain in 1998, where she settled in Benajarafe, which, at that time, was a quiet, picturesque fishing village. She completed an Open University course in Creative Writing in 2006 and began to devote herself to fiction.

“The writing was always something I wanted to do, but I never got the opportunity to write until I came to Spain. I'm not sure what it is about Spain and Andalucía in particular that inspires me, but since a very young age I've been fascinated with Spain and I used to read old travel books about the country. Since actually living here, I've found it even more fascinating. Everywhere you look there are reminders of the country's varied history,” Joan explains passionately.

Her first book was called Daughters of Spain, a non-fictional work based on authentic interviews with a number of Spanish women from all walks of life. The research for this book in turn encouraged Joan to write Spanish Lavender, a love story set among death and carnage in Malaga in 1937. Although the characters in the novel are fictitious, the historical details are based on actual events that took place during the Spanish Civil War in February 1937.

“I knew I had to write a novel about Malaga in the Civil War. Sometimes I end up researching a period where little written accounts remain, but if I can find enough information to write the historical background accurately, I use my imagination and logic for the rest. That's the best thing about writing fiction,” she declares.

Her subsequent novels have grown out of her experiences living and working in Spain.