All posts by Linda

An Interview With Vartan Melkonian

I am privileged this week to talk on my blog with renowned composer, musician & conductor, Vartan Melkonian, who also happens to be UN Ambassador for Street Children.  Vartan’s life story is one of courage – he was born in a refugee camp in Lebanon, orphaned soon after, became a street child in Beirut, fled to the UK in the 1970s – but even on the streets of Beirut his musical abilities began to emerge… Hi Vartan!

Hello. I am Vartan Melkonian. I am a composer and musician and I work as the UN Ambassador to Street Children.

You are an UN Ambassador for Street Children. What does being an ambassador entail?

My work involves certain countries – developing countries – who ask the UN to give them advice on street children. The UN takes a team of experts to those countries. As I am a key-note speaker – I open and close the conference about life on the streets. I encourage the developing countries to adopt the programmes the UN suggests.

You were born in a refugee camp in Lebanon – your parents died when you were very young- you then lived in the Birds Nest Orphanage until you were 8 years old. You must have felt very lonely & anxious being an orphan in a strange country.  When you were 8 years old, did you flee the orphanage or was care only provided until you were 8?

I was 8 years old when I left the orphanage, to live on the streets. I was there till I was eight because boys had to go to the army compound to make room for new children. I chose not to work for the Lebanese army and took a cattle-train to Beirut. That’s where I started my life.

After leaving the orphanage, you then lived rough in the slums of Beirut. What was the worst thing about living on the streets?

People take moments of pleasure by looking at the sunset. For us, for me, it was the worst time of the day, there was nowhere to go. I had to find any alcove to sleep in. We, the children of the streets, were often chased away with sticks and stones (even by the police) so we were not seen on the streets, as if we were some sort of living plague.

 

Teaching your fellow street children how to hum in harmony so as you could all make some money by busking… how did you discover you had a musical talent? What other jobs did you do in order to survive? 

At the orphanage, I was chosen to be a member of the choir. I had a severe speech impediment but when I sang there was no problem. My musical skills must have been in-born – the gift of music.

I did many jobs to survive from shoe shining, selling chewing gum and shovelling sand onto lorries to illegal fishing and being a mechanic.

When civil war came to Lebanon in 1972 you fled to the UK and began to work as a singer, at the beginning on the Northern Clubs circuit – eventually at West End nightspots.  What sort of music genre did you sing?  What influenced your song choices?

I used to impersonate Engelbert Humperdinck and Tom Jones!

You wrote a symphony that was performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – and later you came to conduct the London Symphony Orchestra, the Philharmonia, and many other world-class orchestras in London’s most famous halls and around the world. When you started to busk as a young lad on the streets of Beirut, did you harbour musical ambitions? 

When I was in Lebanon I used to play the guitar, and I thought I was really good. Arriving in the UK in the early 70s, I went to Kings Cross Station and I saw a busker playing the guitar and my eyes widened. I thought ‘I know nothing!’ It was like being born again at the age of 26.

Looking back over your incredible life story so far, what do you think helped you to survive the conditions you faced? 

When you don’t have things, your imagination flourishes and when you achieve something, you’ve already lived it. If you want to, you will finish a race, not necessarily first, but you will get there if you aim for it.

Being a refugee is hard, I know.  What are the toughest things you face being a refugee? 

I was happy to leave Lebanon because it was the 1970s and the conflict was starting. I went from sunny Beirut to Skegness. The UK is a wonderful place. I am a guest in the UK. And I feel very welcome.

When you give speeches worldwide about street children, what are the main messages that street children would like to convey to the public in general?

The children of the street are not the problem, they are the assets of the country. Invest in them and they grow up to become someone like me who provides good things for the community.

Links you would like to share:

http://vartan-melkonian.com

Untold Stories – Animation of life of Vartan Melkonian

Thank you so much Vartan for taking the time to talk to me today about your life and your mission as ambassador. 

Linda x

All photos have been published with kind permission of Vartan Melkonian.

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An Interview With Incredibly Cool Events

Embarrassingly, I had always associated cheerleading competitions with America – along with baseball and American Football – until recently, that is, when I discovered that cheerleading competitions are alive and kicking in the UK too!  I’m delighted to introduce onto my blog this week, Kimberley Mason, founder of ICE (Incredibly Cool Events) who gave me an insight into the cheerleading scene in the UK. Hi Kimberley!
Hi! I am Kimberley Mason I was born in the West Midlands and was raised on dance classes and competitions.

What inspired you to start up ICE (Incredibly Cool Events)?

After running my community interest company and working in sport for disadvantaged communities I felt there was a big need for affordable accessible cheerleading and dance competitions.

ICE organises cheerleading and dance competitions, workshops & Coaching. What would a cheerleading team expect if entering an ICE event?

They would get a help from a friendly team during the lead up to the event, affordable prices and all the support needed to get their teams feeling confident so they could give their best performance on the floor. There are big trophies, a medal for each competitor and a beautiful back drop to perform in front of. We have a highly trained judging team that offers constructive feedback at each of our events.

When did you start “cheerleading” & what was it about cheerleading that attracted you ?

I started Irish dance at the age of 7 and although I loved it the heavy shoes were not for me. I then tried freestyle dance and loved it. Dance became my passion from then onwards and I took part in competitions on a weekly basis. I found cheerleading at the age of 18 and the more I learnt the more I fell in love with it. I loved the fact that it was a team sport and the way the competitions were organised. The cheer spirit and the team ethos were definitely the main attraction.

What are the benefits of cheerleading?

Cheerleading has many benefits; it improves fitness, helps with life skills such asworking as team work and co-operation, it helps build confidence and there is a fantastic social side.

Is cheerleading suitable for everybody?

Yes all ages and abilities, cheerleading is done on a level basis so there is a level suitable for everyone. There are different elements to a cheer routine, dance, tumble, stunt and jumps.

Do you enjoy any other genre of dance?

Yes I enjoy all styles of dance, we offer pom dance, jazz, contemporary, lyrical, hip hop and next season we will be offering Acro.

Although you are based in the UK, are teams outside of the UK allowed to enter your events?

Yes of course we welcome everyone.

What ICE events are planned for the rest of 2018/2019?

We have lots of dance and cheer events lined up for the next season and they take place all over the country :

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

At the moment I’m pregnant with my second baby so a big maternity dress with expandable sandals for my swollen feet. When not pregnant you will find me in leggings and jeans and flats, usually covered in George’s (my toddler) latest  meal.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I love ASOS because there is so much to choose from and outfits and shoes for every occasion.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

I would love some fashionable day wear but I have a feeling with baby boy number 2 on the way it will be a while until I make any major investments into my wardrobe, although I will be investing in some winter boots at the start of the winter season.

Boots or Shoes?

Boots, they look lovely and are very comfortable plus there are lots of different styles, long, mid length, ankle, flat etc so there is something for most occasions.

For Pinning Later

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/IncrediblyCoolEvents/
Website: www.incrediblycoolevents.co.uk
Twitter: @ICE_Events1
Intsagram: incrediblycoolevents

I wish you the very best for both your impending nappy event and your programme of events, Kimberley. I think the name of your company is incredibly cool too….

Linda x

All photos published with kind permission from Kimberley Mason (Incredibly Cool Events).

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An Interview With Tesalate

Ahh …Summer Sun! In the Northern Hemisphere the summer season has begun in earnest with the UK, USA, Canada and Europe warming up nicely with an impromptu heatwave …. and there is no better time than now to introduce Australian brand, Tesalate, to the blog.  Tesalate towels are not only beautifully designed but they are super absorbent and, most impressive of all, they are totally sand free. Co founder Jacky was lovely enough to answer my questions about her vibrant and eye catching designs. Hi Jacky!

This is Volkan – Jacky was too shy!

Hi! I’m Jacky, co-founder, designer and beach bum (tester). Volkan is my business partner.

What inspired the launch of Tesalate towels?

Volkan and I were hiking to a remote beach in the Royal National Park near Sydney. On the hike back, our towel was heavy, smelly, and filled our backpack with sand. So, we figured we can make something much better.

I love the eye-catching designs of the towels – my favourite is the Phoenix design. To date, what has been your most popular design?

In every country, a different one is popular. What we love seeing is that people are often adventurous. They will buy something really colorful and out there. 

What’s your most favourite design in your collection?

To Tuscany, but then again I’m a sucker for turquoise. 

I’m often interested about origins of some brand names – and Tesalate is one brand name I’m intrigued about. What is the reasoning behind the name?

Our original designs were all tessellations (repeating patterns).

Apart from being beautifully designed the towels are compact, super absorbent, lightweight … and astonishingly are totally sand-free!  What are the towels made of? How do you care for them to help maintain their absorbency?

We spent a year developing our own fabric called AbsorbLite. It’s made of a form of microfiber, which means it has a lot of performance features. Our finish and processing allow it to be completely sand-free. 

Growing up, did you all have dreams of being a designer or did you have other career plans?

I always knew I wanted to create something. Design for us is more than the towel. It’s how we interact with customers and it’s the environment we create for our employees.

As Tesalate is based in Australia, are your products available to purchase worldwide?

We ship worldwide for free. In fact, we have shipped to over 100 countries since we’ve launched.

If you could visit any place in the world to get inspiration for a new towel design collection, where would you go and why?

Sydney! Luckily we live here. There are a hundred different nationalities, and every area has its own subculture. I’ve been to a lot of amazing places, but I have never been to a place where it is a mix of so many cultures. Plus, we have a world city, we have amazing beaches, and we are surrounded by national parks. Can you tell I love Sydney?

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

Beachwear or anything that is comfortable. 

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

There are too many to mention. But generally, I like to shop at sites selling beachwear.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

Nothing definite comes to mind right now. But quality should matter most when it comes to choosing any product. 

Boots or Shoes? 

Neither. I like going barefoot since I love going to the beach.

For pinning later

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc so that readers can find out more about Tesalate.

Official website – www.tesalate.com

Facebook – www.facebook.com/tesalate

Instagram – www.instagram.com/tesalate

Pinterest – www.pinterest.com/tesalate

Wow, dear readers, what do you think about those towel designs? I love each and every one of those designs and I still think that being totally sand free is just amazing!  Thank you Jacky for taking the time to chat on the blog about your fantastic product. 

Linda x

All photos published with kind permission of Tesalate.

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An Interview With DJ China L’One

Today would have been my dad’s birthday and as my dad was a great music fan, I think he would have loved reading about my guest on the blog this week.  The utterly gorgeous DJ China L’One is gracing my blog – she is a top international female DJ as well as being CEO/Founder of London’s 1st All Female DJ agency.  Did I mention she is drop dead gorgeous too?! I couldn’t wait to ask the stylish diva some questions…. Hi China !

Hi! My name is DJ China L’One, I am an International Female DJ, and the Founder and CEO of London based No1 all female dj agency “We Run The World Female DJ Agency”.

What inspired you to become a DJ and also, what inspired you to start London’s first all female DJ agency, “We Run The World Female DJ Agency”?

It all began when I was unexpectedly invited to take the DJ position at a friend’s birthday party in 2000. The crowd just loved the music and the vibe my presence gave that I was inspired to take DJing up as a way of earning money. Since then my profile became more public but I soon realised there was not an agency that catered for solely female DJ’s like myself. And so I began to build up my own agency, independent  and hard-working as I am!

The music you play includes funk, R & B, hip hop, house, remixes, classic commercial sounds –  but do you have a favourite music genre?

I grew up listening to POP music, so I don’t have a favourite music genre per se. If the music is “popping” it’s a big tune! Hehehe.

You have performed at many of London’s top clubs such as the Ministry of Sound, Pacha, No 5 Cavendish Square – to name a few – do you stick rigidly to a set playlist or are you able to ascertain the mood of an audience and adapt accordingly? 

I never set a playlist, I play accordingly to the crowd and audience.  I read the crowd, based on their age, and the type of event.

What are the highs and lows about being a DJ?

The highs are getting to DJ for super cool brands, events, venues and travelling to different locations in the world. The lows have been when business is quiet and you are just waiting for gigs. .

Growing up, have you always wanted to be a DJ or did you have other aspirations?

Growing up, I wanted to become a singer, actress or dancer. I want to the famous Itali Conti Theatre school when I was 16 years old. I have recorded a few songs and have featured on other artist songs in the past. I did go to acting school as a teenager.

You have DJ’d in Norway, Sweden, Germany, Ibiza, Italy, India & on luxury cruise ships! Do you have a favourite party destination?  Is there any place in the world where you’d love to DJ but haven’t done yet?

I would  love to Dj in Las Vegas one day.

We all have our favourites…but what music genre are you not so keen on? 

I am not so keen on Trance music.

Apart from being a DJ, you published an e-book called “You Are What You Think” – a book about the importance of confidence and going after your dreams. You have certainly had the confidence to go after your dreams. What advice would you give to young aspiring female DJs?

Be single minded.

There are no rules to the game. Do it your way and with your own style.

Understand that some people will like and love you and others will not, and that is fine.

Do not change who you are as a person, your personality is very important as a whole.

Know your music. Knowing your music is more important then being able to beat-match a song to keep your guests dancing.

Don’t try to be like any other DJ, just be you!

Work hard and the right people will find you!

Although you are based in London, do you and your agency accept jobs worldwide? 

We are based in London, but work with clients worldwide, hence why we are named, “We Run The World Female DJ Agency”  hahaha!

Tell us a bit more about your clothing line. What inspired you to launch your own brand?

I wanted to create something where people can be confident about what they are about. For example, my t-shirts bear quotations that portray power-thinking messages. It was a venture that led me to sell products on-line.

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

I am super feminine so you will always catch me wearing a colourful dress, skirt or event shorts. I love wearing bright colours like red, yellow, and orange. I also love wearing different types of hats, together with jewellery and fashion accessories.

I love wearing heels, got to have a bit of heels at least, and of-course colourful shoes. I try to get away from wearing black if I can help it.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I do love Boohoo online, they do have some amazing colourful clothes and super cool accessories. You can also catch me at charity shops. You would be amazed at some of the coolest hats or bags, that you’d never see elsewhere. .

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

Errmm, I want to buy some pink, and orange open toes shoes, and a white hand-bag. I do like wearing white but its hard to find really pretty white shoes or a stylish white bag – you have to look hard to find them.

Boots or Shoes? 

Shoes!  Shoes makes me feel sexy and slightly taller ha ha!

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog can learn more about you and your work.

www.femaledjagency.com

https://www.facebook.com/Djchinalone/

https://www.instagram.com/djchinalone/

https://twitter.com/djchinalone

Thanks for sharing an insight into your DJ life and I love that you adore wearing bright coloured clothes too! I try to avoid black although I have to wear black for work.  I prefer navy blue if I have to wear a dark colour.  Keep on spinning those discs China! 🙂

Linda x

All photos are published with kind permission from China L’One.

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One In Eight Men

Prostate Cancer.  Did you know that in the UK, about 1 in 8 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in their lives? It is the most common form of cancer in men in the UK.  Prostate Cancer is killing more men than breast cancer in the UK, according to latest 2018 figures published in February. Women have screening for breast cancer and this is one reason why mortality rates for prostate cancer are now higher than breast cancer – there is no national screening programme for prostate cancer and research into prostate cancer lags about 20 years behind that for breast cancer.

What is the prostate?  Basically it is a gland about the size and shape of a walnut, sitting underneath the bladder and surrounds the urethra. It’s main job is to help make semen.

Unfortunately it is often symptomless at first – in later stages it can cause pain, difficulty in urination, sexual intercourse problems & erectile dysfunction.  The cancer cells can spread from the prostate to other parts of the body, particularly the bones and lymph nodes.

The average age for men to be diagnosed is between 65 & 69. Men under 50 can get it, but it isn’t that common.  Risk factors include: being male; aged over 50; having a father/brother who has had prostate cancer; having a mother/sister who has had breast cancer; if you are black – 1 in 4 black men are at risk, although the reasons why has not been discovered as yet but it may be connected to genes.

Prostate Cancer UK is the UK national charity looking to spread awareness about this cancer and this year my husband Adam is doing bike rides on behalf of Prostate Cancer UK, trying to raise money and awareness.  I interviewed Adam to find out more…

Adam, on June 23rd 2018 you are taking part in cycling the first stage of the Tour De France , on behalf of Prostate Cancer UK. What made you decide to take part?

I’m a man of a certain age and Prostate Cancer worries me. If I can do something to help those who are suffering or will be suffering in the future by pursuing a hobby I enjoy, then I’m more than willing to take part. I’m an avid Tour de France fan and having the opportunity to ride a stage of the Tour de France which my cycling heroes will be racing a week later, is a worthwhile challenge and a chance to make a bit of a difference.

Also on behalf of Prostate Cancer UK, you are riding in the Prudential London Ride 100, at the end of July, which you have ridden before. What are the toughest parts of the course?

Leith Hill. Absolutely Leith Hill. It is a very narrow and steep section of the road and it gets congested with people walking and pushing their bikes instead of riding, so it does become a challenge to maintain enough momentum to stay upright.

How are you preparing for the rides?

By riding lots. It’s all about hours in the saddle and the miles. Training up to 75% of both distances up to the events and lowering the mileage a week before.

Have you got other rides on your bucket list for the future?

If I tell you that  you won’t let me go! LOL! I quite fancy the Granfondo Campagnolo Roma ….darling! 😉 Maybe one day a mountain stage of the Tour de France rather than a flat stage, but I would need to lose a few pounds first!

What do you enjoy most about cycling?

I enjoy the exercise, my cycling companions, the noticeable fitness improvements, sense of achievement after finishing long rides, being outside & enjoying the environment.  I don’t enjoy busy roads and close passes.

Personal now – what clothes and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

Besides tight figure hugging Lycra …. cargo shorts, t shirts and trainers.  However, I do wear a 3 piece suit and Jeffrey West boots on occasions!

Favourite Shops/Online Sites:

Wiggle (online);  Cycle Evolution, a local bike shop in Colchester.

Boots or Shoes?

Trainers generally; flip flops in the summer; boots when I’m poshing up!

Links you wish to share:

http://adamhobden.com

 

Linda x

Photos: Linda & Adam Hobden

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An Interview With Lina Usma

I’m pleased to welcome onto my blog, the lovely Lina Usma, who runs the largest newspaper in London for the Spanish speaking Latin American community.  Originally from Colombia, Lina has lived in London for over 20 years and has been active in the local community. I wanted to ask Lina some questions about her newspaper and her career as a journalist … as well as her fashion tastes! Hi Lina and welcome!

Hi! I am  Lina Usma (short version of Lina Maria Ospina Usma) I was born in Colombia, in the beautiful city of Manizales, I am wife  ( not much a housewife!) a mother and a professional working woman.

What was it like growing up in Colombia?

I grew up in a matriarchal family with 3 mothers:  My mum, my auntie and my cousin all full of love, passion, hardworking and warm hearts.  Although there was no paternal figure in my house I have an uncle, but my mum was the dominant role in the household.  She passed away in 2012 and even in the last days of her illness, she was so strong and wise. I married quite young, to a great guy, who is very passionate about life. We have a beautiful daughter who is my proudest achievement – maybe all mothers say that, but for me personally she represents all that my mothers taught me about being a woman:  strong, professional, independent with a good heart and determination to do something good with her life.

We all have preconceived ideas of what a country will be like – what took you by surprise in England and what was totally opposite of what you thought it would be?

In 1996 we travelled to the UK, looking for a better opportunities for our family. We were a young couple with a baby. At the beginning it was quite difficult, adapting to the new city especially the weather and the society, as we come from a place where you can talk with someone in  the street without any prejudice, but here  even approaching someone to ask for directions was so difficult (remember 20 years ago there was not google maps). But as time passed and we worked our way through life, like many other people doing different jobs that we have never done in our lives:  like a waitress, cleaners, shop assistants etc.

What made you decide to launch Extra International?

I studied business management in Colombia, but here in London my profession focuses around media; together with my husband William we started a magazine as a business investment, since then we have run other publications and other related projects such  as Extra International newspaper which is now the most popular publication in the Spanish speaking communities in London.  I am an editor and journalist, and as my mother always said never stop learning”, and as a way of respect with the profession and colleagues,  I studied Media and Journalism in East London University, to learn and be able to do my job in a more efficient way.  

What do you enjoy most about running a newspaper?

One of the most interesting things about working in media is the opportunity to meet interesting people and talk to them on a level of closeness, where they can feel confident to talk and open up for more questions. I had the opportunity to interview figures like Shakira, Celia Cruz, Michael Schumacher ex F1 driver, Boris Johnson former Mayor of London, some presidents such as Juan Manuel Santos from Colombia.  I met  Hugo Chavez; writers  like  Isabel Allende and Vargas Llosa; Cressida Dick,head of Scotland Yard Police; also so many other important and relevant  personalities, which is a privilege in this profession.  Running a newspaper is challenging, especially in the world we are living now with the multimedia. I was very much into writing and editing writing articles – not so much visually;  but  today journalists need to have a digital presence so I am still learning how to deal with the cameras and lights, but it is interesting and you learn every day something new, especially when working with new technologies and devices.

Another string to your bow is your radio station. How did that come about?

To be able to reach other audiences and create an online presence, I started a radio show called “Mujeres al Dia“  (Women Today) which also has its own blog/website.   The aim of the show is to give voice to all fantastic women doing great things out there. I believe everyone has something to tell and that is why I am so happy to host this radio-show.

You are involved in many projects, apart from your job. Can you tell us a bit about them?

Besides my job, I have been involved in many projects related to our Latin communities, migrants and women. I  am a trustee member for Su Mano Amigo  ONG  providing support for victims of domestic violence in the UK,  also I am a trustee in FUNDAV an ONG  giving support for people suffering rare diseases in Colombia.

And in the last local elections in London,  I was a candidate with the Green Party. We came second in our ward, which was a great experience for me and put a frame to ideas and projects I have supported all my life.

Talking about myself is not easy, as usually I am the one asking questions but this interview has to help me a lot to review what  I have done in life!   

Personal now- what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

I wear a lot red and black. My daughter is trying to sort my clothes with different colours! 

Do you have any favourite shops or online stores?  

London is a city where you can find lots of different trends and the most importantly,  is that you can wear whatever you like! I am not a fan yet of buying online – I prefer to go to shops wandering around, trying before I buy.  

Boots or Shoes?

Forever shoes! I am always in high heels and for me, it is just a basic in my wardrobe. I can’t get used to walking in trainers, and I leave boots just for very cold winter days.

Want to know more?

If you would like to know more about me and my work you can follow us

www.extramedia1.com

www.mujeresaldia.co.uk

Thank you for answering my questions Lina … I hope it wasn’t too bad an experience! 🙂

Linda x

All photographs published with kind permission of Lina Usma.

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An Interview With Questlog

When I was younger, I used to collect pamphlets, tickets, postcards and all other paraphernalia, along with photographs, to stick in a photo album/scrapbook – memories of a holiday.  Nowadays, the urge to collect memories is still there … but the time to lovingly make up a photo album is not.  That is why I’m thrilled to welcome onto my blog, Frederic… he makes innovative storage memory boxes to keep your travel trip memorabilia in one place and they look more stylish than a row of photo albums taking up space in the loft! Hi Frederic!…

Hi, I’m Frederic,  I’m 29 and originally from the beautiful Black Forest in southwest Germany, where I am also producing the Questlogs. Some days of the week however, I live, study and work in Munich where I also got my business degree.

What exactly is a Questlog?

Functionally speaking, Questlogs are storage boxes for keepsakes collected while travelling. All those tickets, bottlecaps, leaflets, seashells and other souvenirs can find a place in a Questlog. However, on another level, Questlogs are instruments for preserving, enriching and sharing intercultural travel experience. They direct attention on the connection of geography, culture, experience as well as their anchors and manifestationsin the physical world.

What inspired you to start your company, Questlog?

Before I went to Taiwan for an exchange semester in 2013, I was looking for a good gift to bring that had some connection to Germany. Unfortunately, most stuff I could find were products that represented shallow stereotypes or were plain ugly souvenirs. Speaking of, many times when I came back from a trip and wanted to bring some gifts for friends, family and myself, I was staggered by the amounts of plasticky-miniature-landmark-keychain-scrap on display in tourist locations and airports. At the same time, I realized that “the best” souvenirs by definition were all those small items like tickets, bottlecaps etc. and that there was a lack of some attractive way to present them.  Combine those thoughts with the observation that people (me included) seemed to like collecting Starbucks cups, Hard-Rock Café shirts and similar universally designed object with local variations and voilà the basic idea for Questlog was born.

What is the Questlog made of?

Questlogs are laser cut from FSC certified Finnish birch plywood. Sanding, gluing, treatment with linseed oil and final touches are all done by hand.

When you buy a Questlog what do you get in the package?

Each Questlog comes with a small notebook that features some background texts on traveling, collecting souvenirs and reflecting on travel experience. Also included is a nail for hanging the Questlog on a wall and some information about the campaign we are doing in cooperation with Experiment e.V. to foster intercultural exchange of students.

What sort of “keepsakes” can you keep in a Questlog? Have you heard of any unusual items collected?

Questlogs are big enough for common formats of city maps and flyers. You can put printouts of pictures, handwritten notes, postcards, leftover cash or basically anything that would go in a photo album into your Questlog. On top of that, they provide that extra bit of space, which allows you to put more three-dimensional objects inside.  The most unusual collection I have heard of so far was from an old man at a market I went to. With gleaming eyes, he held a Questlog of Bavaria and said this would be the perfect box for collecting live beetles because they would get enough air in it.

I was a geography geek as a child (still am) with my head in an atlas or in a guidebook – I’m quite happy being an armchair traveller (reading & watching TV programmes) as well as exploring the world for myself. Did you have a fascination with countries as a small child?

I definitively spent many hours looking at maps and spinning globes, amazed about the size of it all compared to the tininess of the area that I had set foot on and seen with my own eyes. I remember virtually “flying” from city to city on google maps when it was first released. My dad travelled a lot for business and would always bring back seemingly mundane things like chewing gum and I was fascinated by the differences even in those everyday objects.

What was the first country you visited?

Growing up just ten minutes from the border to France and Switzerland, one of those was probably the first country I went to. The first long distance trip I have somewhat of memories of was to the US in 1995 when I was 7. My parents made amazing photo albums from our trips, which are some of the most precious items to me.  

Have you got any favourite destinations and why are they specifically at the top of your list?

Taiwan is for sure one of my favorite places, maybe because I was able to spend almost a year in Taipei as an exchange student. The country has a unique mix of bustling cities, beautiful nature and an extraordinary mix of Chinese, Japanese and indigenous culture. People are extremely friendly, and the food is beyond description. I highly recommend anyone who hasn’t been there to go and bring plenty of appetite.

What place is your least favourite and why?

In every place there are some areas and aspects I find more likeable than others, but so far, I haven’t been anywhere that I wouldn’t love to return to and spend more time at. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough time to do the exploration in every place that it deserves.

We all have preconceived ideas of what a country will be like – what country totally took you by surprise and was totally opposite of what you thought it would be?

The biggest surprise was probably also Taiwan. Biased by the “Made in Taiwan” image of cheaply produced electronics, I had put it in a bucket with China, Vietnam and the like. When I arrived at the airport, I expected busy street merchants and taxi drivers trying to rip off tourists. I was instantly blown away by the friendliness, discipline and modernity of the country and people.

What place are you looking forward to visiting the most & cross it off your bucket list?

The UK is definitively in my top five. I have been to London twice and next time I really want to see and explore the countryside and other cities that are laced with monuments of the country’s rich history and epic myths that were some of the first stories I heard as a kid.

As Questlog is based in Germany, are your products available to order worldwide?

Questlogs are shipped to all European countries and also worldwide although the shipping gets quite expensive. However, I am planning to set up manufacturing in other big markets in order to reduce shipping distances.

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

I wish I had some fancy answer to this question, but truth is that I have never been the most fashionable person and usually resort to jeans, sneakers and whatever the weather dictates to keep my torso at working temperature.

What items of clothing/footwear/accessories are your “essentials” when travelling?

A comfy pair of shoes is the obvious essential but beyond that I have learned to love the benefits of light fabric shorts. And by shorts I mean shorts of a length I would probably not wear in Germany. Especially in humid climates I now feel miserable without them. An accessory I have learned to appreciate is a small foldable extra backpack for short overnight trips out of a major city, so I don’t need to carry my entire gear with me.

Boots or Shoes?

I vouch for shoes because they are just the lighter option but maybe that’s just my practicality and lack of sense for fashion.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog find out more about Questlog.

www.questlog.eu – For information and the shop.

https://www.instagram.com/qulog/ – For pictures of how Questlogs are made and used

Fabulous Frederic – thank you for joining me on my blog!  I am honoured that the British countryside is on your travel bucket list.  I think it is beautiful – but then, I am biased!  I was enthralled by the Black Forest & Lake Titisee when I visited a few years ago – the stories by the Brothers Grimm really came to life 🙂 Travel memories are so precious – and I think your Questlogs really help preserve them.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Frederic (Questlog)

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An Interview With Coral Turner Couture

“Don’t change to fit fashion, change the fashion to fit you” –  this fashion quote resonates strongly with my guest this week.  I’m chatting to Coral of Coral Turner Couture, an unique British label which caters for the discerning woman. Coral doesn’t believe in “throwaway fashion” and is an avid collector of fabrics – her designs are truly distinctive and I was privileged to interview this lovely lady who is championing the artisan craft of sewing … hi Coral…

Hi, I am Coral, and thank you Linda for inviting me to have this conversation with you and your audience.

What inspired you to become a couture designer and set up your own unique label, Coral Turner Couture?

The need for individuality expressed through clothes is definitely top of the list as to inspiration; then my private bespoke clients encouraged me to set up the one-of-kind ready-to-wear label so other women could have access to exclusive garments you wouldn’t find on the high street.

I love the “Truly Blue” Jersey Swing Dress –  totally gorgeous!  As your clothes are  unique investment pieces, what clothing items are most popular with your customers?

Thank you, that’s really kind of you.  It’s an interesting question, however, as each garment is exclusive in its own right, it’s not about one garment being more popular than other, the women who wear my designs love the unusual fabric designs, coupled with the shaping of the garments.

Out of all the outfits you’ve made, do you have any favourites?

All the outfits I have made and make are my favourites as they each have their own personality.

Have you always wanted to be a designer & dressmaker, or did you have other career aspirations?

I was a freelance PA for a number of years when I moved from my home town of Manchester to London; however my sewing was always in the background.  I always knew that one day I would have to follow my passion, my love of fabrics, making patterns, the creative craft of sewing, and designing my own clothes, I call it heaven at a sewing machine!  

Hypothetically speaking, if anybody could be the “face” of Coral Turner Couture, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

I have a great admiration for an African-American designer called Ann Lowe who dressed society women from all over the USA, as well as designing and making the wedding dress for Jacqueline Bouvier (Kennedy). This talented dress designer forged a path for herself despite obstacles, one of which being not being recognised by the fashion industry due to her being a woman of colour.

I hear you are an avid collector of fabrics – what do you look for when buying/collecting fabrics? 

How long have you got… I’m drawn to colour, textures and unusual patterns, however what is paramount is how the fabric feels and drapes.

If you could pick any place in the world to shop for fabrics, where would you go to shop until you drop?

That is such a hard question to answer as I am always searching out fabric shops on my travels, when I went to Paris for example I found a boutique fabric shop and it was so hard to pull me away, plus there are so many places I have yet to visit!

Bespoke dressmaking – if I wanted an outfit for a special occasion, what would I expect from a consultation?

First I would need to know what the occasion is, then your role, are you for example attending as a guest, or will you be involved? There are a myriad of circumstances that I have to take into consideration, all of which are integral to the design. We would talk about the colours you like, the style of dress you currently wear, shapes and silhouettes these are a few examples; meanwhile I am creating a mental picture of shapes that will complement and enhance your look.

As you are based in London, are your outfits available to purchase online worldwide? 

The garments on the website are available to purchase online, and yes they do travel worldwide; clients also visit me at my studio in East Greenwich which is by appointment,they can try on and purchase the garments there also.

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

Whereas the chameleon changes colour to suit its environment, my outfits do the same. I can be found wearing a Swing Dress with boots for my ‘Rock Chick’ look, my Multi Coloured Fleece Top with 1920’s style collar and trousers, Column Style Dress with band hem, ruffled collar and Tailored Jacket and heels.  I don’t have a set uniform; I like to mix things up.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites? (Apart from your own!)

Wordery, next to fabrics, I love books and reading.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

I’m a fan of kitten heeled shoes, I think they are so chic and are a timeless classic.

Boots or Shoes? 

Boots or Shoes, what about Boots and Shoes!  Definitely both, they can do wonders for adding the finishing touch to an outfit.

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Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can find out more about Coral Turner Couture 

This has been such fun, thank you; the website is www.coralturner.com, Instagram https://www.instagram.com/coralturnercouture or watch the videos on my YouTube channel Coral Turner Couture  https://youtu.be/LREiVZzWEhw

It’s been a pleasure to feature you on my blog Coral … I’m pleased to hear you are a fan of kitten heel shoes and books  … I simply adore them both too!  Your designs are just beautiful – thank you for allowing me to showcase them on my blog.

Linda x

All photos have been published with kind permission of Coral Turner Couture.

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An Interview With Daisy Mae

If you enjoyed “Sex In The City” and “Bridget Jones’ Diary”, then you’ll definitely will enjoy “Dating Daisy” by author-doctor-blogger-book reviewer- agony aunt columnist Daisy Mae.   I caught up with the bubbly Daisy to find out more about her chick-lit novel, her writing, her doctoring, and her love of dancing! Hiya Daisy!

Boo! – now that I have your attention! – I’m Daisy Mae, doctor, author and writer. In fact Daisy Mae is my pen name. I have kept my real doctor’s name a secret to help maintain patient confidentiality etc… I’ve been a Sexual & Reproductive Healthcare specialist for far too many years! – prior to this I was a GP. My special interest is Menopause (take a look at my Dr Daisy Blog at www.menopausematters.co.uk).

What was the inspiration behind your novel “Dating Daisy”?
I started writing my first novel Dating Daisy in 2014, and it took 3 years to finish.  Although it’s a fiction book, it’s based on my own internet dating experiences. Most people say they read and laugh at the internet dating scenarios, and then laugh  again at my tales of working as a doctor in a sexual health clinic.  That’s so good – as I love to laugh – don’t you? I did change all the details in my book – names, times, places etc… and embroidered the story of course – so the only person who knows the real truth– is me! So it’s a humorous fiction book, but with a difference! There are emails, jokes, limericks, poems and even a recipe for love! Don’t miss dating Daisys’ Kissing Tips and Anti-snoring Tips! One of my reviewers wrote “YOU COULD DIE LAUGHING READING THIS BOOK!” yes – in capital letters! Thank you Mahiraj!  https://www.datingdaisy.net/mahirajjajedareviewofdatingdaisy

In fact, there are numerous “Dating Daisy” book reviews on my website –https://www.datingdaisy.net/chicklitreviewsofdatingdaisy “Dating Daisy,” has been described as a cross between Bridget Jones’ Diary and Sex in the City, for example!

Congratulations on being self-published – how does it feel to get control over your book sales, etc? What was your main highlight and what proved most frustrating?

In 2014, aged 52, I found myself divorced after a 27 year marriage. Both my parents also died quite suddenly around the same time. It was a very low point in my life. We had been a close, and I thought happy family. Suddenly all my hopes, dreams and memories were shattered. I was completely devastated. However … being me, I managed somehow to pick up the pieces. Life is very much for the living. There are no dress rehearsals. I was already 52. I decided to turn my life around –took the plunge and started internet dating. I hadn’t had to think about dating for nearly three decades. I wasn’t confident even about how to use the computer! Things like writing a profile and uploading a photo seemed monumentally difficult. I had to get over the embarrassment of people seeing me on a dating site! Grim! – But the things that then happened to me were so unique and so funny, I felt I had to write them down! So Dating Daisy was created – a diary of my life events at the time.

I chose to pay for a publishing deal. This is because aged 52, I did not have time to sit around and wait for the inevitable rejections which all authors have. I wanted to be a writer, and I needed to see my work in print, and fast. I also knew nothing about the publishing industry. This seemed the quickest and most straight forward way to seeing my book for sale in a book shop. I never sent my book to any traditional publishers so I have no idea whether it would have been published or not. I do dislike the snobbery about authors and publishing and I wish other writers would realise that “vanity” publishing is not always a last resort – it may be a very positive choice. I am now however publishing by myself on Amazon KDP and I have parted from my original publishers. I had been pleased, especially with the publicity they organised for me. However eventually, I wanted to be in control of my book sales, advertising, book promotions etc ... Publishing by myself gives me so much more choice and flexibility.

“Dating Daisy” has been described as a cross between “Sex In The City” & “Bridget Jones’s Diary” – about a middle age woman who starts online dating who also happens to be a doctor in a sexual health clinic. Being a regular blogger yourself on Huffington Post & on your own blog, writing articles about internet dating & sexual healthcare interspersed with book reviews – did you find writing your novel harder or easier than you expected compared to your serious factual articles?

 Dating Daisy flew out of my head and onto the paper! It was easy and in fact I became addicted to writing and couldn’t stop! I made myself laugh all the time. And when something happened I couldn’t wait to get home and write it down! I used to tell my dates I was writing a book about internet dating and wait for the reaction! It was all quite hilarious at the time.

Writing as a blogger is more difficult than writing a novel, because you do still need a “voice, but a different kind of voice. Even though you are imparting information, it’s not the same as a text book piece. It’s more of an opinion piece, but also it needs to be engaging and factually correct. I don’t feel I always get this right.

I also write web content for a medical online agency, and this is different again – I have to stand in the shoes of the person who has just clicked online,  andwho may be worried or frightened. This means explaining medical conditions in everyday language. I try very hard to write empathetically. (Do contact me if I can help you as I am always looking for more web writing options.)

For each role, I have to wear a very different hat!

You are a NHS doctor working in the field of Sexual & Reproductive Healthcare, specialising in Women’s Health & the Menopause. Do you feel that writing factually about a condition or symptom in a novel helps spread awareness, eg sexual diseases & associated consequences?

 am passionate about sexual health, contraception and menopause. In “Dating Daisy,” as this has been my major interest for nearly 30 years!, I just couldn’t help myself write one whole chapter on contraception, and one whole chapter on Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI’s).  In a way, this may seem strange as this is a fiction book, but in it, there are two text book-ish chapters. However, as it’s my book, I decided that I could put in whatever I liked! This may be the first novel/text book cross breed! I rather hoped that anyone reading it, might decide to go and see their GP and make some good womens’ health choices. If they do, then I will have achieved something really worthwhile – through publishing a novel.
Growing up, did you always hope to have a career connected with writing or the medical field or were your dreams directed elsewhere?

My parents were huge believers in a good education, and they sent me toboarding school for seven years, just because they honestly thought this was best for me. I wasn’t so sure. However, I did well at school and got into medical school. As a young person, I always thought that I wanted to be a doctor. However, languages were naturally my strongest subjects and I was sorely tempted by English, French and possibly journalism. I do have regrets as medicine is not the sort of career most people might imagine it to be. Now, I am lucky to be able to combine both medicine and writing.

 

Apart from your medical articles , you also write a lot of book reviews. Where do you prefer to read – in bed, in a comfy chair, in a library surrounded by books or elsewhere? Do you prefer hardback, paperback or kindle? Favourite genre?

Reading is a fantastic pastime. I marvel at other writers creativity and powers of  expression. I love to read, and my favourite novels are always the humorous ones! I have just read “A Man called Ove,” by Fredrik Backman, and it was hilarious. https://www.datingdaisy.net/bookreviewamancalledove

One of my other most favourite genres are psychological thrillers – for example by author Barbara Vine. I have read all her books and adore them. It’s the chilling feeling in the spine that I love as something happens in the plot that’s often quite macabre. You will hear me say time and time again, that I just love a good story well told, and some of all time favourites are The Book Thief,” by Marcus Zusak, “A Thousand Splendid Sons,” by Khaled Husseini, and “The Pillars of the Earth” by Ken Follett. If you don’t read these books, you will be hugely missing out. They are incredible. I enjoy doing Daisys’ Book Reviews on my website.  I run “The Fabuloous Book Club” with 7 girl friends, and then post reviews on my site. Its super fun. I do review other books as well.

Have you seen one of my latest book reviews – it’s about the new best seller – “Little Miss Shy Goes Internet Dating,” by Roger Hargreaves!!  Do read it, both the book and my review!  Hilarious!

https://www.datingdaisy.net/littlemissshygoesinternetdatingrevi

Hmm … I do prefer to hold a real book in my hands, however, I am so busy now reading and reviewing, I use the kindle on my phone. This means I can read while I am queuing in the supermarket or on the train for example – I don’t need to waste a minute!  I usually read before bed time. I also listen to audiobooks while out walking. I love this! Audiobooks are such a great invention for busy people. I can’t recommend this highly enough. I do save books up to take on holiday and adore my holiday reading. I have a stash by my bed, one of which is the new Ken Follett, “A Column of Fire.” I will be reading this on my cruise to St Petersburg!

Where can people purchase “Dating Daisy”?  Is there worldwide availability?

My novel “Dating Daisy,”  is now only for sale on Amazon, as an ebook, paperback and an audiobook. It is on Amazon.co.uk, and Amazon.com. The iBook is in process.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dating-Daisy-Mae/dp/1911525751/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1523283284&sr=8-1&keywords=Dating+Daisy

https://www.amazon.com/Dating-Daisy-Mae-ebook/dp/B07BCK6J9H/ref=sr_1_1_sspa?ie=UTF8&qid=1523287156&sr=8-1-spons&keywords=Dating+Daisy&psc=1

When you are not reading, writing or working, I hear you are a bit of a dance fan! I love watching the Argentine Tango on Strictly Come Dancing. What types of dancing do you enjoy?

Dancing is absolutely my most favourite pastime in the world! I used to dance with Voldemort – my ex-husband – but when we split up, I lost my dance partner and didn’t dance for a few years. When I met Edward, we started together again from the beginning – as he had never danced a step!  It  has given us such incredible fun and joy to dance together. We have done all our medals: social dance, bronze, silver and gold and now we are doing gold bar one – in Ballroom and Latin. Our favourite dances are Foxtrot and Quickstep, although Edward is mad on Argentine Tango. I also love sequence dancing. I have written about dancing in Dating Daisy and in my new book, “Daisys’ Love Secrets” – due for publication any day soon. My poem “Learning to Dance,” has caused a lot of laughs at the dance school. – Yes, it’s in my new book!

We dance regularly, being part of a dance school (DM Dance Centre).We have made fabulous friends through dancing, and not only have group nights and private lessons, but we go to dinner dances, on dance holidays and to watch dance competitions. It’s given us so much to do together. Our highlight was doing the Viennese Waltz at The Johann Strauss  Viennese Ball in Vienna in 2016! Next on the agenda is an Argentine Tango in Buenos Aires! … watch this space. I always do what I set out to do!… and I’m looking!

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

Fashion is an issue for all women. You can’t get away from it. I suppose I have my own style?! On an average day working from home I will be in jeans or leggings and a T shirt/round necked top – usually I like bright colours like fuschia pink or red.  Over the top I wear a variety of comfy sloppy jumpers. In the winter I usually wear slouchy boots – black or grey suede. I prefer plain colours to floral prints. I often stick my hair up to get it our of the way. I like to think I have vaguely Goldie Hawn sort of look – but probably not! However, I love getting dressed up for a black tie event or a Ball. I have some beautiful long dance dresses and a fabulous array of sparkly  dance shoes. Edward and I always try to be colour  coordinated! I love the fact that I am now 56, and have a lovely lifestyle with lots of champagne  type events – at a time when I might have been having cocoa and slippers!
Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

 I am quite a traditional shopper. With clothes I do always prefer to try them on and rarely buy clothes on line. I tend to go to John Lewis if I’m looking for something special. It’s hard to find nice dance dresses and I have a tailoress who I go to who will adjust the length for me in my dance shoes. My favourite dress is a full length, evening dress in bright red, satin from Damsel in a Dress. I have a favourite Cha Cha Cha dress that actually I bought having hired it first, in a fancy dress shop! I have a beautiful Hobbs, long black dress, with nude, embroidered back panel, and it’s gorgeous. There is a taffeta underskirt so the skirt swirls out when you are walking or dancing. I adore it.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe/accessory wish list?

We are off on a cruise for our summer holiday to St Petersburg – Yikes!  – so I will be getting busy soon compiling a cruise wardrobe. This is exciting as there several black tie formal nights at sea, and it a great excuse for a few, new long dresses!  I love putting together the colours and the bling! On a cruise ship – the more bling the better! Of course its also important  to have nice day wear and sightseeing clothes etc… so I will be looking for thin, light weight summer tops and shorts/dresses. I always love bright colours. You can usually see me coming! Then in September we are going on our dance school holiday to Portugal – so  another week of dance clothes will be required …. so much shopping … so little time! Accessories are more difficult. I love earrings and bracelets, but for some reason I find necklaces difficult. I like my neck bare. Rubies are my favourite jewels, and Edward bought me a beautiful ruby ring last year. I don’t know if nails and hair are accessories but I regard them as such! I always have my nails done – acrylics and shellac. For women, beautiful hands are essential. I have had hair extensions for the past two years, and loved them, but I recently had to have them out for a while to give my scalp a rest. Actually they were really good for my own hair and helped the condition of my hair enormously. Instead I have a clip in pony tail which is great fun. My friends and I have started a habit of giving scarves to each other for birthdays, so I now have quite a collection, all bright colours of course! I love snoods, for the winter. And fake-fur wraps for my ball dresses.
Boots Or Shoes?

Shoes can make or break an outfit and are actually very important. I am tall – 5ft 9, but so is Edward, so when we are together I can still wear heels, and often do, as I’m often wearing wearing dance shoes. Putting on a beautiful shoe does something to your insides doesn’t it? It’s a Cinderella feeling!  However, I am sensible! If we have a day out for example in London, I will be in my flatties! I like to wear close fitting straight trousers, sometimes with a stirrup and little flat suede shoes in a contrasting colour. I have two pairs of suede boots that are old friends! I only wear them however with trousers, never with skirts or dresses. I’m very fussy about shoes – they have to be comfortable, fashionable enough not to be square, but not outlandish – I don’t like wedges, trainers or anything clumpy. I like shoes in plain colours – my favourite pair for going in at present, are bright red! Yes – I do try to match the handbag don’t worry!                         

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Get in Touch with Daisy Mae


Dating Daisy at AmazonKindle, paperback and audiobook – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dating-Daisy-Mae-ebook/dp/B07BCK6J9H/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1521122874&sr=8-1&keywords=Dating+Da

Dating Daisy websitehttp://www.datingdaisy.net

Email daisy.sharer@gmail.com

Dr Daisy Blog at Menopause Matters https://www.menopausematters.co.uk/daisyblog.php

Facebook – Daisy Mae – https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100018895352743

Instagram – datingdaisy – https://www.instagram.com/datingdaisy/?hl=en

Twitter- Daisy Mae – https://twitter.com/daisy_sharer

Oh Daisy, I have so enjoyed having you on my blog – it was such fun to have a giggle with you! I love your book Dating Daisy – and I’m sure a lot of my blog readers will enjoy it too! 

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Daisy Mae.

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An Interview With Author Owen Jones

I am a big book nerd, as regular readers to this blog already know, and I read a variety of genres. It therefore gives me great pleasure to be able to interview an author whose variety of books have kept me entertained for a few years.  Welsh author Owen Jones  and his Thai wife currently live in Fuengirola in Spain, but his books richly detail places where he has resided over the years – from Thailand (Behind The Smile: The Story of Lek, a Bar Girl in Pattaya); from Spain (The Ghouls Of Calle Goya); from Wales (A  Night In Annan) … among others. I especially enjoyed Dead Centre I & 2 … but having written over 50 novels, I was looking forward to finding out about his writing inspirations and his latest audiobook project.  Hi Owen!

Hi! My name is Owen Jones. I am a writer from Barry, in South Wales.

Who or what inspired you to pursue a career as a full time author?

I can’t say that anyone inspired me to become an author. In fact, my friends and relatives from my hometown have all been decidedly lukewarm about it, but I have had such wonderful support from people I have never met, that I keep going.

You have written 50+ novels & 130 “How To “ niche manuals …that is pretty impressive! I have read a handful of them… and enjoyed them too! Your largest collection is the Megan series, consisting of around 23 novellas – Megan is a 13 year old with psychic powers (unacknowledged by the rest of her family) & her huge companion, a Siberian tiger called Grrr. The series is different from your first collection “Behind The Smile: The Story of Lek, a Bar Girl in Pattaya”. A lot of your books can be standalone novels in their own right, however, what do you enjoy most about writing a series of novellas? Do you find it difficult to not write a sequel to a book?

 

There are at least two reasons why a writer would produce a sequel, let alone a series. My second novel was a sequel to my first, because the heroine of the story dictated her story to me, although she was ‘only in my head’. I had done some research, and had discovered that a (first) novel ‘should not be longer than 120,000 words’, and mine was running past that, although Lek was still not finished. It was such an easy trilogy to write. Later, Lek came back to me and ‘we’ wrote four more novels in the series, although I was also greatly encouraged by fans. The same could be said of the Megan Series, although I had an idea of who Megan is or was – depending on your beliefs. The second reason why an author would want to write a sequel is because it is popular and the publisher or the public are asking for more.

What has been the most popular publication so far?

‘Behind The Smile: Daddy’s Hobby’ has been my most popular so far, but I think that that was inevitable because Orientals and Westerners have such a different outlook on life, and so do men and women, and most of the readers of this series are men, although women love it too. I have never met a Western woman in Thailand, who did not have respect for how Thai women deal with their lot in life.

What has been your favourite book that you’ve written, to date?

This is a very difficult question, because I get so involved with all my books and the characters in them. It would be very easy for me tho say ‘Behind The Smile’, because of Lek, but I like Megan a lot, and Wayne, Heng, Lily and Daisy (a new book). I like Dead Centre too, because I could imagine soldiers setting something like that up to help their distressed colleagues.

What is your latest novel, Owen?

It is called ‘Daisy’s Chain’ and is about a spoilt, rich girl living with her parents in Marbella on the Costa del Sol.

Let’s talk about the niche “How to.. “ manuals – which topic was, perhaps, the hardest to explain in manual form for you?

The ‘How to…’ series did not have its origin in inspiration as the novels did. Each of the them was once a website that I constructed because the title was a top key-phrase on Google. For example, I would check out the top key phrases of the day, and then write twenty articles around that phrase and bundle them into a website. One year, I discovered that I had written 1,200,000 words that year, and decided to try writing novels instead. I had already started writing about Lek at this point, but it gave me the impetus to put more effort into novels, and change the direction of my work. I had 145 websites in those days, now I have about twenty. The most difficult of them was probably on cancer, because I am not a doctor, and so had to be extremely careful with what I wrote.

Originally from Wales, and after living in The Netherlands, Thailand & currently in Spain, are your books available to purchase worldwide?

Yes, and not quite 🙂 They are available on Amazon, iTunes and Kobo in English worldwide, but strangely, it was only this year that I decided to get into translations. No Thai people have ever suggested that they wanted to read my books, but since I have been in Spain, friends of half-a-dozen nationalities have expressed such a desire, so I am trying to get my books translated. I currently have thirty-seven translations underway and four already completed.

You are currently getting 13 of your books narrated as audiobooks & translated into other languages other than English. The first audiobook, “A Night In Annwn” has just been produced, narrated by Andrew McGuirk. How did it feel listening to your book? Did you get involved in the production side/choosing the narrator?

Yes, it is quite amazing when I think about it… Andrew has a lovely voice and puts so much into the story. When I started getting involved with narration, I had no idea what it involved, but to the company that produces the audiobooks, my role as author, is secondary. I am the Director to them, and the narrator is the Producer. It is the Director’s job to choose a Producer and supply a set of guidelines so that he or she can get on with their job. I had to carry out interviews, choose the sex of the narrator, the speed of reading, the intonation and everything else including proofing and having bits re-read where necessary (not in Andrew’ case). In a way, I suppose, the author switches from being the scriptwriter to being the Director – just like in the films, but without a camera 🙂 I find audiobooks a fascinating medium… somewhere between a book and a film, because the narrator lends added atmosphere, but the listener still has to use his or her imagination to ‘complete the picture’.

Do you have any more ideas for your audiobooks?

Yes, several, but the one I would like to emphasise at the moment is a closed Facebook Club of readers and listeners to whom I can give free copies of my (audio)books, in exchange for an honest review. Please go here to register: https://www.facebook.com/groups/megansfreeaudiobooks/

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

Sixteen years ago, I would usually have been ‘well-dressed’ in a jacket and collared shirt, but fourteen years in a remote Thai farming village changed all that. I wore shirts and shorts in Thailand – three items of clothing, except to weddings and funerals when I had to wear long trousers, but no socks. I haven’t worn socks for sixteen years, but that still fits in with southern Spain, where I live now 🙂

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

No, not really… Amazon, I suppose at a push, since I spend more money on books that anything else. My wife tends to replace my clothes when she won’t be seen with me wearing them any longer.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

Nothing… but if I am to be practical, we are moving back to the UK this year because of Brexit, so I will need a coat… and socks.

Boots or Shoes? 

I have only worn sandals for sixteen years, but in the UK, it will be shoes.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc

http://meganthemisconception.com

http://twitter.com/owen_author

http://facebook.com/OwenJonesWriter

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00502ANBO

http://behind-the-smile.org

I hope your audiobook project is a success, Owen. I look forward to reading “Daisy’s Chain”  and I’m sure it’ll be just as good as your other books I have read.

Linda x

All photos have been published with kind permission of Owen Jones.

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