Category Archives: Books

Art London

I do so love art and I do so love my city of London, where I was born & bred, so you can imagine my excitement at being given the privilege of reading a preview of the fantastic book “Art London” – a guide book with a twist. It’s a book every art lover should have on their coffee table – but used like any other well thumbed guide book. It is a guide to places, artists and events – author Hettie Judah has sniffed out some hidden gems in back streets and in otherwise non descript buildings; has given information on the more well known galleries and museums; found some enticing galleries to add a picture or two to your collection; and details on every event to fill your diary. But, the book is so much more. It is jam packed with stories and historical data on everything art, including but not limited to, the artists, galleries, statues, architecture, public artwork as seen in the subways of the London Underground, as well as the general art scene. The book is a little mine of information! It has renewed my enthusiasm to revisit forgotten galleries and discover new places – adventures I hope to write about in future blogposts. Oh, and I mustn’t forget about the innovative photography in the book by Alex Schneideman! Superb! In the meantime though, I caught up with art critic and author of “Art London”, Hettie Judah …. hi Hettie!

Photographer Alex Schneideman

Hi! I’m Hettie. I’m an art critic and writer – chief art critic for the British daily newspaper The I, and a regular contributor to The Guardian, Frieze, Vogue International, Art Quarterly and lots of other publications with ‘art’ in the title. I talk about art at events in galleries and museums.

“Art London” is a guide book extraordinaire – I was enthralled to read the history of some places that I had previously walked past eg the statues of Parliament Square and the building above St James Park Station, and not really taken much notice – and now I have my “tourist goggles” on ! What made you decide to write “Art London” in the first place?

Most Saturdays when I’m in London I spend the afternoon catching up on exhibitions in small commercial galleries clustered around a particular area. I was relying on a few mapping apps to locate the galleries, but realised that I was missing a lot – unbelievably there was no one app, book or website that offered anything close to a definitive list or guide to London’s small galleries. There also wasn’t much information about their history – I walked past the amazing Autograph gallery for years without realising that it was the gallery of the Association of Black Photographers, and that it had a very important history. One thing that’s fascinating about London is that it has such a diverse population and history – it was important to me with the book that I represented that as best I could, offering a set of parallel art histories for the city. I wanted Art London to be a friendly paperback rather than a glossy coffee table book: I’m hoping people will find it approachable, informative and entertaining, and most of all be able to get out there and use it.

White Cube, Bermondsey; Tracey Emin, A Fortnight of Tears (2019), photographed by Alex Schneideman, 2019 and included in the book, Art London by Hettie Judah for ACC Art Books, 2019

I liked how you wrote the book – I enjoyed reading about the established galleries I visited as a child – such as William Morris Gallery and the V & A Museum Of Childhood in Bethnal Green;  I can’t wait to explore the new modern art galleries and hidden gems; I was fascinated to read the mini biographies of artists of old and new – the book is packed to the rafters – how long did the book take you to write? What was the hardest part(s) to write about ?

Thank you! I’m guessing you must be a North East Londoner? I really enjoyed researching Art London – there was a lot of reading, and exploration – I hope that comes through in the writing. The book has taken about a year from start to finish, though I was drawing on knowledge that I have built up over a long career writing about art: there are stories such as the Tradescants’ Ark, or the husband and wife team behind Kelpra, that I have had in mind for years. The hardest part was knowing when to stop – the book could have been ten times the length – there are no end of fascinating stories. Every few days now I come across something or someone that I wish I’d had space to include – in June I interviewed Penny Slinger, who is a wonderful artist who was active in London in the 1960s. She is an ardent feminist, very sexually liberated: some of the stories she told would have been wonderful for Art London. Who knows, maybe I’ll do an expanded edition in a few years?

Whitechapel Gallery; Is This Tomorrow? exhibition (2019) photographed by Alex Schneideman and included in the book, Art London by Hettie Judah for ACC Art Books, 2019

Oh you guessed right Hettie! I was born in Stratford & brought up in the Leyton/Leytonstone area of East London; I went to college in Tottenham in North London – so yes, the north east corner of London was definitely my childhood “stomping ground” 😊 Have you got a favourite art gallery or museum?  Whilst researching your book, what were the hidden gems that surprised you the most? 

There are some very special art spaces in London – I love Dilston Grove in Southwark Park, an atmospheric space in an old church building. I’m great fans of 6A Architects who converted the new South London Gallery building in an old fire station: their buildings always feel airy and welcoming, full of natural light and a sense of the space beyond the walls. I’m ashamed to say that didn’t know about the Jean Cocteau murals in Notre Dame de France before I started researching the book: they really are hidden gems. We all move so fast in this city: sometimes we need to be reminded to look up and pause. I don’t think I’d taken in the Henry Moore carvings on the Time Life building until a curator friend posted them on Instagram – I’d been walking past the building on Bond Street for years without looking at them properly.

Work by Anish Kapoor in the gallery at Pitzhanger Manor, photographed by Alex Schneideman, 2019 and included in the book, Art London by Hettie Judah for ACC Art Books, 2019

I loved discovering new artists and learning about their historical background, such as Mary Beale, Britain’s first female professional portraitist. Have you got any favourite artists?

So many! Hogarth has a special place in my heart. He was a great observer of raw human nature – drunk, lusty, ambitious, destitute – but I think he appreciated simple everyday pleasures around him too. Gwen John’s paintings are exquisite – there are a couple in Tate Britain’s collection that are definitely on my ‘would steal’ list (sorry Tate…) ditto sculptures by the Geometry of Fear generation: Lynn Chadwick and Bernard Meadows. I don’t think I’d fit Phyllida Barlow’s work into my house, but her recent show at the Royal Academy was glorious. And our cover star Gillian Wearing has done so much great work – and with such wit.

 “Art London” isn’t your first book – and you have written about art in many top name publications.Have you always enjoyed writing? Are there any genres you would like to have a go at, but haven’t as yet?

I’m afraid I was that cliché as a kid: a bookworm and a daydreamer. I’ve not changed much. I enjoy research, and I don’t have a natural flair for plots, so non fiction is probably my natural home. I have written all kinds of things in the past, from poetry to scripts for short films. Even comedy sketches. And like most writers I have an unfinished novel lurking in a bottom drawer…

Graffiti, East London, Photographed by Alex Schneideman and included in the book, Art London by Hettie Judah for ACC Art Books, 2019

Are there any new writing plans in the pipeline?

Funny you should ask! I’m just back from a research trip in Mexico City for a short biography of Frida Kahlo – unknotting biographical fact from fiction has been fascinating, she was a great teller of tall tales. Frida will be coming out this time next year with Laurence King.

Knowing you’re a bookworm … what is your favourite genre and/or authors? Kindle or actual book? 

I buy a huge number of second hand books – I get through hundreds and hundreds in my line of work. As a result  I don’t get much chance to indulge in fiction – perhaps only one or two books a year, depending on whether I get the chance to take a holiday. If I do manage to squeeze in some holiday reading I try to reset my brain with something totally different, usually science fiction: China Miéville, Stanislav Lem, Ursula K Le Guin ….

Is “Art London” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes! And please order it through local bookshops if you can, they need our support.

4Cose, Bethnal Green. Photographed by Alex Schneideman and included in the book, Art London by Hettie Judah for ACC Art Books, 2019

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

Always flat shoes – Converse or Supergas – art critics spend a lot of time on their feet. I’m usually in a dress: my frocks start life as evening wear and slowly filter down into my everyday wardrobe and then my dog walking and gardening outfits over the course of a decade or so. Like many in the art world I struggle with an unshakeable attraction to black clothing.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Vintage costume jewellery from eBay.

Boots or Shoes?

A solid pair of boots – I’m on my feet for hours every day.

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

My personal Instagram account it @hettiejudah – artworks from the exhibitions I visit, and very occasionally a picture of my dog.I started a separate Instagram account for Art London. For practical reasons we couldn’t show all the artworks and artists mentioned in the book – it would have been thousands of pages long – so @artlondon_book is a picture gallery for curious readers.

Thank you Hettie – it has been such a pleasure chatting to you and it was such a privilege to read and thumb through the preview of “Art London”. I’m so excited to check out some new venues! I’m also looking forward to reading your biography of Frida Kahlo – sounds really interesting.

Linda x

Photos: All photos (apart from the last one for Pinterest) are by Alex Schneideman and have been published with kind permission from Hettie Judah and photographer Alex Schneideman. The Pinterest photo was taken by myself, Linda Hobden – Street Art at a Market in Shoreditch, close to Liverpool Street Station.

“Art London” was published by ACC Art Books.

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Agnes In Bloom

“Agnes In Bloom – A Memoir” is a very touching memoir of a gutsy lady, Agnes, and her life in Birmingham at the latter end of the Second World War and beyond. Lovingly written by her daughter, Karen, this memoir is extremely frank, and has rollercoaster moments where you could almost feel yourself in Agnes’s shoes….BUT not quite, as Agnes and her mother Rose, both had guts, inner strength and are both totally inspirational.

MY REVIEW

The story begins when Agnes is evacuated to the countryside and discovers her love of being on a farm and being embraced into the family of Mr & Mrs Johnson and their daughter Lily. Unfortunately, her sister Margie was evacuated elsewhere and her experience was the complete opposite -an experience which only came to light years later. Returning back home from the farm, as a young teenager, finding her feet in life with her more worldly wise friend as company, Agnes goes to a party where things didn’t go so well. Finding herself pregnant, Agnes gets her dream job as an usherette … until her pregnancy started to show. Agnes harboured a dream of meeting her own Mr Right … her own Mr Johnson…. and that’s when her dream man materialised in the form of Bob. Agnes and Bob were happy together, despite working hours to make ends meet, and each babe born was loved and welcomed. Agnes became closer, I feel, to her mother, Rose, who was supportive as the family grew. Tragedy strikes though … Agnes strives to help her sister Margie after her marriage collapse and breakdown; Agnes finds out love secrets between her mother and her real father; husband Bob takes on extra work to carry on providing for his large family but alas becomes ill and is taken to hospital for a routine operation; her mother Rose is discovered to have cancer and is in hospital at the same time as Bob; being pregnant with her 7th child, Agnes has to face life as a young single mum as Bob unexpectedly dies before being operated on; Agnes, in her grief, becomes anorexic …. but this is an inspirational story, about overcoming adversity and death. The story does have a happier ending…. the main thing is that 7th baby was Karen , the author. Delightfully written memoir, well recommended.

So, after reading the memoir, I couldn’t wait to chat to Karen, daughter of Agnes and author of Agnes In Bloom. Hi Karen!

Hi ! I’m Karen. I was born into the inner-city slums of Birmingham. The seventh child of a humble and loving family. I’m a mother of two amazing young women. Both work in the fashion industry. I have been an entrepreneur since the age of twenty-three when I established my own company. I’ve since lived and worked in Dubai, San Diego, Bali, Koh Samui and currently I reside in Marbella. I love to travel and live in sunny climates. I have travelled and sailed the world, writing my memoirs.

Your mother’s story is truly inspirational – an amazing woman indeed – but what made you decide to write “Agnes In Bloom” in the first place?

After years of listening to my mother’s life and how she triumphed over adversity. I decided to write it, initially as a family legacy,  but I soon discovered that it’s an amazing inspirational story and others would enjoy it too. I asked 65 ladies from random groups to read my draft manuscript and offer their feedback. They all loved it and agreed with me that I should offer it to the world. 

I enjoyed reading the book from start to finish. I liked how you wrote the book – I smiled at the part where Agnes was evacuated to a farm, and how much she loved the countryside; I was angry inside at the different experience her sister Margie had had; I cried when Agnes was raped at 17 , but was full of love and admiration for your father who accepted your mum and your eldest brother, and his overall love for all his family; my heart ached when Rose was ill, when Margie was unwell and when your father died whilst your mother was pregnant with you; I admired your mother’s coping mechanism and ability to learn to focus again when life dealt her a cruel blow;  I was in awe that despite everything, your steadfastness Karen, in hanging on and being born; I smiled when she was able to find happiness again.  Oh, and what fab siblings you have! The book is packed with plenty of antidotes that must have accumulated over the years – how long did the book take you to write? 

It took me 12 years to write it. I was running my recruiting business and travelling and sailing the world writing it. Writing for me is very therapeutic. A great relief from business. The main reason is that it’s a very emotional story for my mother. She sat with me to go over each event. It often made her tearful, which in turn made me cry too. 
 Once I had the story structure in place. I began to learn how to set scenes and write in omniscient and add dialogue. I wanted my mother’s story to be a perfect enjoyable, easy read. So that women of this era and their struggles are never forgotten. 

What was, for you, the hardest part(s) to write about in the memoir? 

As I’m writing this I’m in tears again. Just remembering those difficult parts. The chapter where my father dies is unbearable for me to think about and more so to write it in exact detail. The struggle that my auntie had was almost not added in the story, as my sisters didn’t want it in there. They were embarrassed by it. However, I think it’s extremely important that the abuse that Margie suffered, should be told. Especially because this horror, eventually gave her a nervous breakdown. We are all more aware of child abuse in society today. It should not be pushed under the carpet. It added so much more tragedy to my mother and grandmother. It’s part of their lives and I wanted my Auntie Margie to be remembered for her triumph over adversity too. My grandmother Rose had a hard life herself. How she coped with her own child abuse was incredible. It was as if no one cared about abuse back then and many children just got on with life, not realising that they are very effected by it. 
My grandmother was like a rock for my mother and her daughter Margie, through all their life’s tragedies. She also triumphed over adversity. 

Have you always enjoyed writing? Are there any genres you would like to have a go at, but haven’t as yet?

Yes I absolutely love writing stories. I’ve learned so much more by self publishing this first book. I have previously attended a creative writing course and joined various authors groups to keep learning updates on the benefits of self publishing. I would like to write more about female heroism. More current to our times. Before this book, I have written and published travel articles and training manuals for my recruiting business. I always received top marks at school in Literature. My teacher was very inspiring and told me to pursue a writing career, but back then it wasn’t possible for me to experiment with my career. I needed to earn a lot of money to buy my mom a house and pay her bills for the rest of her life and bring her out of poverty for good. I’m proud that I have accomplished this goal. 
I guess I wasn’t very confident as a teenager to become an author.

Are there any new writing plans in the pipeline?

Definitely, I am currently writing my own memoir to highlight the extreme differences between one generation of working class women. It’s a comedy. 

Are you a bookworm? What is your favourite genre and/or authors? Kindle or actual book? 

I am a book worm yes. I have a kindle because I travel a lot and can’t take my books everywhere with me. I do like the feel of a good book though. I’ve been reading biographies of famous people for years. Now I like to read stories about ordinary women who triumphed over adversity. I love true crime related stories too. I’m a glutton for a memoir and biographies as I like that they’re real stories. Gets me hooked. 

Is “Agnes In Bloom” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes my debut memoir is available to purchase globally from Amazon. I have entered their story teller UK 2019 competition. This means I cannot go wide on all platforms until the competition ends in October. I plan to go open on all of them afterwards. 


Having 7 siblings, what do you or did you like most about being part of a large family? 

Being part of a large family is priceless. As I’m the 7th child I have been given access to various musical genres and books. Not to mention the continuous support, love, affection and inspiration from my singings. I can’t imagine not having my large wonderful family. Now at 79 and more to be born. 

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

As I have lived in the sun for the last 12 years. I like to wear vests and shorts. Summer dresses and loose clothes. I wear a lot of bikinis. I love Autumn fashion but only buy a few outfits for when I go home to England.I love to wear heels 👠 when I have business meetings and always wear smart suits. 

Do you have any favourite shops or online stores?

I have worn a lot of designer clothes in the past and still have some designer items. Prada and Gucci. Some French fashion that no longer exists. But now I only buy clothes from high street stores like Zara and Mango and Top shop. I have purchased clothes online from ASOS UK. Bikinis from Bravisimo and a clothing line in Dubai. 

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

I don’t have a wish list as I buy when I need new. I have become aware of throw away fashion and the awful foot print that clothing leaves on our planet. I find that I can make do with clothes for longer now. 

Boots or Shoes? 

Shoes and sandals I have to wear in the heat, but I love boots for winter back home. I’ve always loved wearing boots. They are extremely attractive and comfortable. 

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

My Amazon link 
https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07SZ3K9BM
My Facebook page 
https://www.facebook.com/karenbradyauthor/

Thank you so much for chatting with me about your book, Karen. My own father was the youngest of 10 and as a young child he wasn’t evacuated – he stayed in the Leyton area of East London (born in West Ham/Stratford area as my grandparents, myself and my sister (in Leyton)). My mother on the otherhand, was born just outside Cirencester in Gloucestershire in a farmhouse, because my grandmother was pregnant with my mum and she was evacuated along with my mum’s older brothers. They stayed together and returned to London when my mum was a toddler. It is great that these memoirs exist – I wish I had asked my dad’s mum a lot more questions about life at the beginning of the 20th century but she was very Victorian in her ways (she was born in 1895) and as a young girl I was slightly scared of her! She died just before my 16th birthday.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Karen Brady

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Revisiting Liat Hughes Joshi

Back in February 2015 I interviewed on my blog author Liat Hughes Joshi (read the original interview HERE). Since then, I have spotted Liat on TV ; she has written a couple more parenting books and her child has become a teenager! It seems a great time, therefore, to have a catch up!

Welcome back onto the blog, Liat! Could you please reintroduce yourself !

Hi! I’m Liat Hughes Joshi, a parenting author, journalist and broadcaster. Also a mum. I’ve written five parenting books and have just signed up for a sixth.  I live in London but grew up by the seaside in a place called Lytham St.Annes in Lancashire. Most people who have heard of it have an elderly relative who lives/ lived there because it has traditionally been a retirement town but it’s really changing and if you’re in the area, it’s worth a visit for the independent shops and restaurants in Lytham centre in particular.    

What truly inspired you to become a writer/ journalist in the first place? 

I did always love writing and it was something I wanted to do as a child but there were other ideas too. I wanted to be an interior designer at one stage and a lawyer at another. I’m also very interested in business so spent nine years as a management consultant before finally giving in to the urge to write in 2002.I do sometimes make forays back into the corporate world, giving talks on parenting and family life for companies and working with brands on their campaigns.

Since we last spoke way back in February 2015, you have since published 2 more books “How To Unplug Your Child” (May 2015) & “5-Minute Parenting Fixes” (February 2018).Was your book “5 Minute Parenting Fixes” inspired by your own parenting journey?

Yes and no. I’ve been writing about parenting for 14 years and it does come from a lot more than my own experiences as a mum. The idea for 5-Minute Parenting Fixes came because I realised there was SO much information on parenting out there now and it’s easy to get bogged down after a simple search on the internet with overload and confusion. At the same time we all seem to have busier lives than ever. Or it feels that way anyway. So I thought mums and dads might welcome a single, reliable and sensible source of information, and something that can be read very quickly – picked up for five minutes to check out solutions to a specific problem. Just as the book’s title suggests! It covers all sorts of common problems for parents of 5 to 16 year-olds, from dealing with bullying to getting them off screens more, or doing their homework or chores with less fuss.

Apart from your writing, you have appeared on TV daytime [and news] show debates on various parenting issues. Do you get nervous appearing on TV? Any memorable or embarrassing TV moments?

I have no idea why but I really don’t feel nervous at all with TV interviews. I just go in and chat  and debate with the people who are there and don’t think about or worry about the audience watching on TV at home. Pretty much all the presenters and newsreaders do a great job of making guests feel at ease though. There has been one TV project recently that pushed me out of my comfort zone…but I’m not allowed to talk about it until it airs which won’t be for a couple of months (sorry!). It involves comedy but luckily I wasn’t expected to be funny, or else people would want their money back. And they weren’t even paying. Most memorable…probably that one and when I had a spat with Piers Morgan on Good Morning Britain.

Although non -fiction/parenting advice books are your writing genre, are there any genres you would like to have a go at, but haven’t as yet? 

I’d actually love to write a sitcom but see above I’m not sure I am funny enough. Perhaps more realistically, I’m keen to explore ideas for radio. I absolutely adore Radio 4 and it’d be a dream to write and present documentaries on there.

Are there any new books or writing plans in the pipeline?

Yes! I am just sorting out the contract for a sixth parenting book. This will be my fourth with Summersdale. They are fantastic to work with and it’ll be interesting to see how much is different or the same now that they are part of Octopus, which is in turn part of Hachette.

What book are you currently reading?  What book is on your kindle wishlist?

I’m reading Nutshell by Ian McEwan, one of my favourite authors. It’s narrated by an foetus and quite unusual but entertaining and clever. I have given up on Kindles and reverted to reading print books so I haven’t got a wish list. I wrote a feature about switching back to analogue in various aspects of our lives [https://www.telegraph.co.uk/family/life/happened-gave-tech-went-analogue-month/] and definitely find material I read in print sinks in better.

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Are your books available to purchase worldwide?

YES! Both the original UK published editions are sold via international bookshops online but also in various local versions and translations. Off the top of my head there have been editions of one or other of my books published in the US, Vietnam, Romania, Italy, India, Portugal and Slovakia, with Saudi Arabia and Germany coming soon.

Family holidays – which place is a particular favourite family holiday location?

In the UK, my heart belongs to the Lake District. I had so many childhood trips there, both with family and my school (which had an outward bound centre near Ullswater). Luckily my teenage son and I share similar ideas, at the moment at least, about what we like to do on a holiday. It would involve days spent hiking, with perhaps a run or a bit of kayaking, then a lovely, hearty dinner in a gastropub. Repeat for a few days!

What other projects do you have in the pipeline?

I’ve recently agreed to join the charity Kidscape as an Ambassador and I’m really excited about being involved with them. I was bullied as a child and it sounds like a cliché but it’s a subject close to my heart.  

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

I’ve turned into something of a ‘uniform dresser’ in the last couple of years. I almost always wear blue, especially navy. If you were to open my wardrobe, you would not find an array of colours and tons of pattern in there that’s for sure.  It means everything goes with everything and I can throw set combinations on without thinking too much. That’s not to say I don’t care about how I look. I absolutely do! It’s always a treat if there’s ‘hair and make up’ on offer at the studios before TV interviews. My default outfit most days certainly involves skinny dark denim jeans (Levis Mile High Super-skinnies are top of my list currently). Fashionable or not, I’m too short to carry off those wider leg trousers everyone is wearing at the moment. I have noticed far fewer women in London seem to wear heels nowadays but I’m really quite short (5ft1) so do like a bit of a height boost, either via my flatform white Superga, some long boots, or espadrille wedges. When I do TV interviews, I have a favourite Reiss TV jacket. I’ve tried to diversify and find others that I like as much but it is just so perfect. It’s fitted, single-breasted and so flattering. And it’s navy (obviously).

Liat’s adorable dog!

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

As I’m short, I do struggle with finding things that fit. The majority of clothing ‘drowns’ me. Wandering round most clothing shops on a high street is a waste of time for me, as I’d simply end up frustrated in the changing rooms. Reiss and Boden are favourites because they do size 6 and the latter has a petite range that I’ve got a fair few things from.

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

I’ve got really quite minimalist so actually…I can’t think of anything! I often reorder the same favourites, such as the Levi’s skinny jeans, Jigsaw’s t-shirts and a fresh pair of white Superga trainers now and again. 

Boots or Shoes?

Boots…for daily walks with my dog and hiking! 

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

My website is liathughesjoshi.co.uk and I’m on Twitter and Instagram at @liathughesjoshi. My books are available on Amazon.  

It was great to catch up with you Liat! I’m loving the fact that you champion the colour navy – I wear black for work as part of my “uniform”, so navy is always the colour of choice for me when I want the smart and classic look. That goes for shoes too – I love my navy slingback kitten heels! 🙂

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of it Hughes Joshi.

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An Interview With Author Isabeau Kelm

Every now and then you come across an author whose writing just blows you away … and I have been fortunate to have read debut novels from a couple of authors this month whose talent for writing have been beyond excellence. This week I want to introduce you to Isabeau Kelm , author of “At The Blue Hour”, an historical novel set in Moldavia in 1583. It is a genre of book that I enjoy on occasions and this had not only history, but it was based in a part of Europe whose history is rich & vibrant and I hadn’t read many books based in that area. I love Isabeau’s style of writing. It is a classical literature style, full of description and clever use of words to set the mood of the day. “At The Blue Hour” isn’t an “easy reading “ style novel … the book slowly reels you in to the shadowy world of medieval Moldavia ….for me it got me hook, line & sinker by chapter 3 or 4. This book is English language/literature at its finest and would appeal to those readers who enjoy reading the classics. I was fortunate enough to have been sent a copy of the book by Ben Cameron of Cameron Publishing, and my views on the book are my genuine reactions. I loved it so much I’m looking forward to reading the follow ups…

After reading the book I just had to chat to the author! Hi Isabeau & welcome!

Hello. My name is Isabeau Kelm and I live in Madrid, Spain, with my fiancé and our daughter. I completed my Bachelor’s Degree programme in Art History at the University of Glasgow and later earned an MA in Creative Writing at Teesside University, Middlesbrough. I derive my ideas from my numerous travels and my personal interest in my own biographical roots. You can find my creative non-fiction works that explore my family history and my collection of poems under my pseudonym ‘I.W. Zilke’.

Your degrees in Art History & Creative Writing obviously helped to set the ball rolling towards a career as a writer, but what truly inspired you to become writer in the first place? 

I honestly think I was born with the desire to write. Whatever I see or hear inspires images and conversations in my mind that I often express in poems or stories. Like many other authors, I am prone to daydreaming and have been writing since I learned how to write, but it was actually my mother who encouraged me to write professionally and I am forever grateful to her for believing in my writing abilities.

“At The Blue Hour” is your latest novel – I enjoyed reading the book from start to finish. It was an interesting historical novel, inspired by true events, set in Moldavia in 1583. The young gypsy slave, Irina, who catches the eye of the Prince, had me mesmerised with her positivity; the Prince, who happened to be the great grandson of Vlad Dracula, annoyed me slightly with his possessiveness; Cornelius, the magician/advisor/teacher, what a character – I didn’t know whether to pity him or tell him to reveal his true feelings (never mentioned but I sensed the feelings!); the monks who enslaved Irina & her mother; the absent father; the villagers who were scared of Irina & her ilk, abusing them…. Which character/s did you enjoy writing about the most?  Which character was the hardest?

“At the Blue Hour” is actually my very first novel that I have written in German and published in 2015. It has been translated into English by my sister Eugenia Zilke, a certified translator, and edited by two professional editors. A Russian translation of the novel is available for purchase as well thanks to my mother Ida Zilke who has translated it. 

Since then I have published the sequel of “At the Blue Hour” which is called “At the Golden Hour” (there will be soon an English and a Russian translation for sale), and two creative non-fiction books and a collection of poems under my other pseudonym ‘I.W. Zilke’ which I have written in English. Two of these works contain illustrations created by my fiancé whose artistic name is ‘Enjolras’.

Right now I am working on the third book of the many adventures of Irina Botezata, the protagonist of “At the Blue Hour”

Before I answer your questions, I would like to thank you for reading my book. I am very happy that you found the story interesting.

Now to your questions. Honestly I enjoyed writing about all of my characters as each of them has very different morals and beliefs. This made the creation of them challenging but interesting at the same time as I had to tap into all the different elements of my subconscious. 

However, I enjoyed writing about Radu the most, Irina’s childhood companion and friend, because he is a rather mysterious and yet down-to-earth character.

The hardest character to write about was actually Irina because I constantly tried my best to portray her in a realistic manner, with flaws and all, in order to refrain from creating a stereotypical “Mary Sue”-protagonist. To me it was important to show that we as humans are all morally ambiguous to a certain degree, i.e. nobody is perfect. Additionally, she has experienced many traumatic events in her life, so I also had to envision what these experiences do to a person, how the personality of such a person evolves etc.

What is it about the turbulent history of Eastern & South Eastern Europe that inspires you?  

I was born in Soviet Russia, in Siberia to be precise. However, I was a toddler when my entire family moved to Germany. Since then I have visited Russia only twice. It is a vast, unexplored land in my mind which has been created by the many stories my parents and grandfather told me. I guess it is the exploration of my roots that fascinates me so much about Eastern European history.

As far as South Eastern Europe is concerned, not much is known about their history in the West. As soon as you start reading about the complex historical events that took place in this part of the world over the centuries, I am surprised that not more Western authors are inspired to make use of the vastness of inspiration South Eastern European history offers.

Although historical novels are your writing genre, do you enjoy writing other genres? Are there any genres you would like to have a go at, but haven’t as yet?

First of all, I would like to stress that although “At the Blue Hour” is seet in the past, I rather consider it to be a Bildungsroman with a touch of Magical Realism. The main theme of the novel is really the learning process of Irina and the exploration of what freedom really means. Nevertheless, my readers will learn a lot about the history of 16th Century Moldavia and of the Ottoman Empire as I tried to be as historically accurate as possible, so the novel can be considered a historical novel.

As mentioned before, I also write creative non-fiction books and poetry under my pen name ‘I.W. Zilke’. 

But there is one genre that I would really like to have a go at – Science Fiction! My fiancé and I were thinking of a joint collaboration, that is he (a cyber security engineer)will help me by updating me with the newest and future advances in technology, and I will write the story. We would like to create a book that explores the many ethical implications of Artificial Intelligence that are sure to follow with the unstoppable advances in that field.

 Are there any new novel ideas or writing plans in the pipeline?

Yes, right now I am conducting historical research for the third book about the adventures of Irina Botezata and have actually written some scenes already. In the near future I would also like to finish my book about my family history, spanning four generations, that I have begun writing as part of my MA dissertation. And of course my very first Science Fiction novel.

 Are you a bookworm? What is your favourite genre and/or authors? Kindle or actual book? 

I am a bookworm, although now it is getting increasingly difficult for me to find time to read as I have a toddler at home to take care of as well. Usually I read when riding the subway. That is why I almost always carry a book in my purse.

My favourite author of all time is the French writer Marguerite Duras. I have read almost all of her books and each of them speaks to my heart and lets my soul sing and weep. She was able to write about her life in such a poetic and at the same time brutally honest way that I consider her to be one of the bravest writers in history.

To be honest, I love reading the classics – Maxim Gorky, Dostoyevsky, Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, Vladimir Nabokov…

I prefer reading actual books, but I can definitely see the advantage of reading on an e-book reader. My fiancé gave me one as a Christmas present and it is really amazing how many books can fit in one of these devices. However, nothing tops the smell of old books or the ability to make notes on the pages or underline some lines that I find particularly beautiful.

 Is “At The Blue Hour” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes, it is available to purchase worldwide.

If you could visit any place in the world to give you inspiration for your next book, where would you go and why? 

I have already visited almost all the places that I will mention or have already mentioned in my books. However, I have been obsessed to travel to the Congolese jungle since I have read Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness”. I think this is one of the few places on earth that harbours exciting secrets in many senses. Although I am not planning to write about Congo (maybe in the future?), I am still certain that this travel experience would give me writing inspiration for decades.

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

I do not shop often, although I love fashion! I don’t follow every trend though. 

You would normally find me wearing a plain-coloured dress in pastel or navy blue, and high-heeled shoes. Recently I have discovered mom jeans. They are surprisingly comfortable!

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

As far as designers are concerned, I love almost all the dresses created by Karen Millen. In order to find exclusive wedding gifts, the Ralph Lauren online shop is my go-to place. Zara is my number one high-street choice. Regarding personal care, I am obsessed with L’Occitane and Guerlain products. As a matter of fact, my signature perfume is called “L’Heure Bleue” by Guerlain, which means The Blue Hour. Talking about taking your own books to the next level!

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

Block heel sandals! No matter the brand, my only requirement is that they should be comfortable enough to walk around in them in the Spanish Summer heat for more than one hour. Next on my shoe wish list are white Christian Louboutin shoes for my wedding that we plan for next year.

Boots or Shoes?

Both because boots are useful in the winter and shoes are for having fun in Spring and Summer.

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

Yes, I would like to share some links where you can find out more about my works and me:

WEBSITES: https://www.iw-zilke.com/ & https://www.isabeaukelm.com/

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/isabeaukelm/ & https://www.facebook.com/AuthorIWZilke/

PINTEREST: https://www.pinterest.es/kelmisabeau/ & https://www.pinterest.es/iwzilke/

INSTAGRAM: https://www.instagram.com/isabeaukelm_iwzilke_author/

YOUTUBE: http://bit.do/AUTHOR-Kelm_Zilke

For Pinning Later

Thank you Isabeau – I’m so looking forward to reading about more of Irina’s adventures! Also I am so glad to meet a fellow kreader who not only enjoys reading the “heavy” classics but has also read Joseph Conrad’s “Heart Of Darkness”. It was this book that urged me to visit darkest Africa … although I have yet to experience Congo but I have visited the continent in the North, West & East so far…

And “At The Blue Hour “ has now added the countries in East & South Europe to my never ending bucket list…..

Linda x

Acknowledgements:

Thank you to Ben Cameron of Cameron Publishing for a copy of the book “At The Blue Hour “.

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Isabeau Kelm.

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An Interview With Elaine Robertson North

I’m an avid bookworm. I make no apologies for that. I read all sorts of genres – I do have my favourites such as thrillers, mysteries, travel based – I like the occasional romcom, autobiography, historical drama, English literature classics, classics from non English writers, fantasy. I like to read out of my comfort zone at times and when an author comes along whose debut novel just hooks me in on the first page, spins me along on a rollercoaster ride of emotions, makes me feel the characters inside out and upside down, each page a revelation that it is hard to put the book down and turn off the light to sleep – that’s when you know you have to spread the news far and wide to fellow bookworms that this is a book and author you need to check out. I was sent a complimentary copy of “I Can’t Tell You Why” by Elaine Robertson North to read and review. Apart from reviewing the book and leaving my 5 star review on Amazon, I couldn’t resist being cheeky and asking for a chance to interview Elaine herself….. Hi Elaine!

Hi, I’m Elaine. I’m originally from Scotland but spent most of my childhood in Berkshire. After three years in Bournemouth studying for a degree in Media and Communications, I couldn’t get to London quick enough to get my career underway and have basically been here ever since. I enjoyed an exciting career spanning all corners of the media but always wanted to write. There were sporadic attempts along the way but it wasn’t until I drew a line under my career and my youngest son started school, that I was able to make it my focus. Today, I’m happily married with two beautiful boys. I’m proud to call myself a wife, a mother, and finally, an author!

After working for 25 years in the marketing & communications field in the media & entertainment industries, including several years in a variety of senior executive roles in TV, radio & film; who or what inspired you to write a novel?

The need to write has always been there. It was just something I always felt I would do so I don’t think there was ever one person or event that inspired me. I think I’ve just been subconsciously soaking up the many characters, situations and events I’ve experienced over the years, waiting for the moment when I could put it all to good use!

“I Can’t Tell You Why” is your debut novel – and what a debut novel – I enjoyed reading the book from start to finish. Definitely a page turner, I got sucked into the novel straightaway.  My feelings towards the characters changed with each chapter – like a rollercoaster! Which character did you enjoy writing about the most?  Which character was the hardest?

Thank you! That really is lovely to hear. I’d have to go with the main character, Dani, as the one I most enjoyed writing about. I love the fact that she is strong and gutsy and able to handle tough work situations with a cool head. But personally, she’s massively flawed and getting that balance right was a real challenge, which also made her the hardest character to write. She’s a good person who makes some very bad decisions. It was tough, therefore, to make sure she was always believable and was someone who readers would still root for.

Were there any aspects of writing a novel that surprised you, pleasantly or otherwise?

I’m constantly surprised at how long it all takes! In many respects, writing the book is the easy part. It’s the endless rounds of editing that are obviously essential, but hideously time-consuming for someone annoying like me who likes everything done yesterday! I do love, however, when after days of struggling with an element of the plot, everything suddenly falls into place. That is very satisfying!

“Most people believe that affairs are wrong. That they lead to heartbreak and suffering for everyone involved and never end well. Most people think they know better. Yet they do it anyway….” Your book is about a powerful subject – love affairs – and the characters are all totally believable. Why did you pick this topic for your first novel and did your own personal opinions and thoughts about the subject material change as the novel developed?

I’m one of those people who has pretty black and white views about things so I love a moral dilemma when I’m forced into the grey! I was hooked on the idea that a perfectly reasonable and likeable person, can cheat and lie, even when objectively speaking, they know it makes no sense. Once I had that as a starting point, a compelling love triangle seemed like the most effective way to explore this. As for my opinions and thoughts, my starting point would always be that affairs are wrong. Simple! The reality is that of course, they rarely are, so it was great to explore why people have affairs, whether it’s ever possible to say that good can come from an affair, and also how our childhood experiences can have a massive impact on our own approach to relationships. 

Are there any new novel ideas or writing plans in the pipeline?

I’m about two thirds of the way through book number two. The central theme is about taking control of your own destiny and having the confidence to just be yourself, whatever life throws in the way. The tension comes from a ruthless desire for revenge and the backdrop this time is a newspaper. 

Are you a bookworm? What is your favourite genre and/or authors? Kindle or actual book? 

Yes to the bookworm! I’m probably a contemporary women’s fiction fan first and foremost, but I also like the odd thriller thrown in for good measure. As for authors, I recently discovered Sally Hepworth and immediately read every book she’s written, and also Kathryn Hughes. Read all of her books back to back too! I’m a big fan of Liane Moriarty and Lisa Jewell, and also Clare Mackintosh and Fiona Barton. The key thing for me is a book that has me hooked from the very beginning. I love actual books but have to confess I do most of my reading on a Kindle or my phone. I spend lots of time hanging around while my sons enjoy various activities, so being able to read while I wait is a massive plus for me!

Is “I Can’t Tell You Why” available to purchase worldwide?

The paperback and ebook are on Amazon in all key territories, so wherever Amazon is available, you should be able to buy it! 

If you could visit any place in the world to give you inspiration for your next book, where would you go and why? 

I’m tempted to say anywhere hot and quiet! Just having uninterrupted time to think would be a joy! That said, I’m a people-watcher and love bustle and noise, and as it’s likely I’ll be sticking with the worlds of media and entertainment for the time being at least, I’d probably go for somewhere like New York or Los Angeles.

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

At this time of year, it’s all about coats and boots for me! I walk my boys to and from school so am normally in jeans, a jumper and then it’s the coat that makes the outfit. I have a long padded coat, a slightly lighter-weight quilted coat, a parka, a raincoat that I love, a fur-lined bomber jacket – basically, a coat for every mood or weather condition imaginable! Ankle boots or trainers and that’s me sorted! 

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I tend to do most of my clothes shopping online. I’m a big fan of ME+EM and Finery when I fancy something different that I know I’ll feel really great wearing. I love an oversized jumper and have a couple from Baukjen that I would hate to be without. If I’m looking for a really great pair of boots, Penelope Chilvers would be the first place I look, but I’ll also happily browse M&S for everyday stuff.

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

I have a favourite pair of wedge heel ankle boots that are definitely past their best, so top of my list at the moment is finding a replacement. 

Boots or Shoes?

Definitely boots! Unless I’m going somewhere that requires a posh frock and heels (which is very rare!), I’ll always opt for boots. Whether I’m wearing jeans, a skirt or a dress, the appropriate ankle boot always works for me!

For Pinning Later

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

Facebook: @elainerobertsonnorth
Instagram: @elaine_robertson_north
Twitter: @RobbieNorth

Thank you very much Elaine for agreeing to be interviewed. I’m so looking forward to reading your 2nd book! My thanks also goes to Ben Cameron of Cameron Publicity & Marketing for sending me a preview copy of Elaine’s book in the first place.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Elaine Robertson North (apart from the Pinterest picture which is by Linda Hobden)

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What Happens in France: A Book Review

If you are anything like me, I do like a good book to read, especially when I’m on holiday.  I like a variety of genres… I must admit to loving the gritty thrillers, horrors and mysteries; although I just as readily delve into the realms of the classics, the historical sagas, the travel journals and the fun loving feel good romantic comedies.        So when I was given the chance to read “What Happens In France” by Carol Wyer before it’s publication  on January 28th 2019, it was a more than a pleasure.

Carol is an author I’m well acquainted with – I read her book Three Little Birds and was smitten with her feel good romantic comedy style. Thankfully she agreed to an interview (read the interview HERE) and I’ve been following her career ever since.  I’ve read every book she has written since then too. Carol has written romantic comedies like “Life Swap”; she has written non-fiction such as “Grumpy Old Menopause” which won the People’s Prize for non fiction 2015; she has written thrilling crime in 2017 – the 1st book in her DI Robyn Carter series “Little Girl Lost” shot to #2 best selling spot on kindle, #9 best-selling audiobook on Audible, and a USA Today top 150 best sellers; and now Carol has returned to writing a heart warming romantic comedy – “What Happens In France”.

“What Happens In France” in a nutshell….

For years Bryony Masters has been looking for her long lost sister Hannah.  When her father has a stroke, Bryony realises that time is running out and she is even more determined to find Hannah to reunite the family before it is too late.  Bryony spots an advertisement for candidates for a new prime time game show and  fondly remembering that Hannah was a TV game show addict, decides that applying to take part might be a great way of getting her search for Hannah in the public eye…hoping that Hannah herself would come forward.  Of course, Bryony gets through and that’s when her adventures begin…. a private jet,  stunning French countryside, a handsome team mate, interesting and unique personalities, game show antics….. and a delightful pug dog called Biggie Smalls….

What I loved about “What Happens In France”….

  1. The details.  Over the past year, I have spotted Carol on TV taking part in daytime game shows and I know that she has spent a lot of time in France … Carol has always embraced challenges in order to write truthfully about experiences – it shows in this book: the game show process, the characters, the knowledge of the part of France where the fictional game show is set.
  2. The characters.  Believable characters.  And the delightful pug dog, Biggie Smalls.   I loved how all the characters came alive in my head and were so relatable – the handsome team mate Lewis, the vain and pompous quizmaster,  Bryony’s ill father who asks for Hannah all the time.  Bryony is a fab character – she holds a place in my heart – I wanted her to believe in herself at times! 
  3.  The storyline.  It’s a different angle to most romantic comedies. It is really hard to do a review without giving too much away as quite often I want to tell every minute detail but although I want to  reveal all I am really going to zip it!  Suffice to say I really hope Carol follows up on this story with a part 2 … about  what happens  after France … I need to know what happens next! 
  4.  It is an easy going, feel good  romantic comedy that embraces friendships, family, love and laugh out loud moments. It is one of those books that the pages keep turning and you can lose track of time….  Ideal for relaxing by that pool, perhaps in France…. 
  5.   If you like authors such as Marian Keyes, then this book is in the same ilk. You won’t be disappointed. 

Book Info….

“What Happens In France” by Carol Wyer is published by Canelo. Release Date:  28 January 2019.                                                                                 ISBN: 9781788632768.                                                                                                   Pre Order from  Amazon  HERE.                                                                                

To learn more about Carol, go to www.carolwyer.co.uk or follow Carol on Twitter: @carolewyer. 
Carol also blogs at www.carolwyer.com

 For Pinning  Later.

Credits….

Thanks goes to Carol Wyer and Ellie of Canelo Publishing for giving me the opportunity to read the book before general release. I loved it. 

Thanks to Carol for her kind permission for allowing publication of the photographs (except the pinning photo which was taken by myself (Linda Hobden) in France).

Linda x

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Introducing Alphabetville

I’m pleased to introduce onto my blog this week illustrator Mary-Louise Hussey.  I have followed Mary on Twitter for a while now – her little creature drawings that make up Alphabetville, remind me of illustrations that used to be in my fairytale books as a child.  Her illustrations and the animal characters are delightful –  such a lovely way to introduce ABC.  I caught up with Mary-Louise recently to talk about her illustrations, Alphabetville and  life in the 1970s! Hi Mary-Louise!

Hello, my name is Mary-Louise Hussey and I was brought up in West Sussex in the UK.  I had an unusual childhood living in the wing of a grand old Victorian mansion, a preparatory school for boys.  I don’t remember being lonely, but looking back it was an insular existence to begin with spending long days in the nursery, or playing in the garden under the Old Lime Tree with imaginary friends, mostly of the wildlife kind.

When I left school I was sent off to various ‘courses for young ladies’ in London preparing me for life! One of these was Lucy Clayton modelling school, which taught me how to glide down a ‘cat walk’, and though tall and lanky apparently ‘my neck was too short for modelling’, something I am still self conscious about! Luckily this led me to look down other avenues.  Working in a glamorous fashion shop in Knightsbridge, the ‘heart of smart’ in London, gave me a lust for the latest fashions.  Mary Quant, Biba, miniskirts, hot pants, buckets of makeup and Beatles music were all the rage.  Inspired by this experience and with a small legacy from my grandmother I opened ‘Sheba’, my clothes ‘Boutique’ and fashion mecca in a charming little country village.  The 1970s were dizzy days and my confidence blossomed.

Later married and with two young daughters, we moved away to rural Herefordshire. Glorious countryside and friendly people, I took up painting once again.  With an urge to set up another business I fell into my new career.  Sheba Designs, a mail order catalogue selling ‘Personalised Gifts for Children’, most notably ‘Illustrated Name Pictures’.

What was the inspiration behind ‘Animals at Work’ who live in Alphabetville?

I’m so glad you asked me this as the memories are still quite deep. You remember the Old Lime Tree I was telling you about in our garden – I loved that tree?  Sadly in 1987 there was a hurricane which ravaged the countryside in the South of England.  We went down from Herefordshire to my old home, and I wept when I saw my Old Lime Tree had been whipped up and flung down, broken. Right then and there I determined that the memory of this beautiful old lime tree and the happy times spent under it with my imaginary friends should not be lost. On returning home I immediately set about designing my little animal alphabet ‘Animals at Work’ who now live in Alphabetville.  The design was a huge success in my business and when a Japanese wholesaler asked me at my trade stand at an exhibition if I had written stories around the characters, I crossed all fingers and said ‘YES’.  At home I feverishly created characters for my little animals and gave them the village of Alphabetville to make their home.  And that is where they are to this day making children everywhere happy.

You have written and illustrated 2 children’s picture books based on the antics of the animals of Alphabetville.  Can you describe Alphabetville in a nutshell and how the books can help young children in mastering their alphabet?

I love this question, but how to fit Alphabetville into a nutshell, and how to crack it without shattering the illusion? I’ll do my best.

The village is down in a little dell….not far from you actually!  Tarquin and Tarqueena the slightly eccentric Royals who live in ‘The Royal Oak Palace,’ leave all the essential running of the busy village to ‘The Animals at Work’.  From the School, the thriving Gift Factory and the Railway Station and Farm, to the Corner Shop and Church all is run fairly smoothly.  It’s not always a tight ship, but it’s fairly average really except that it is run by ANIMALS. Oh and did I say that they get into quite a pickle sometimes, well who doesn’t?

Our plan is at this early stage of learning the alphabet, for The ‘Animals at Work’ to become your children’s best friends – simple.  You see each animal’s name cleverly starts with a different letter of the alphabet. Ie.  Albert Mole head teacher of the village school, Boris Bear the chef who loves hot and spicy food,  Clarrie the caring nurse,  ‘Dodge’ Dougal the village policeman etc. So while the child becomes familiar with the characters and their names they soon begin to recognise the accompanying letters…. Here is the first tentative and enjoyable step towards learning their ABC.

I love the Alphabetville animals – my favourite is Gloria Gussey – a stunning lizard who is a super model with brains who hopes to become a doctor!  Have you got a fondness for any particular character?

I just have to say Emmie the talented faMouse artist or she would clobber me – because she is ME and my alto ego.  One major difference being that she has 12 little ‘mouselings’…. and I don’t!  I blame Emmie (Emeraldine) for the painting of all the pictures in my books, which sort of lets me off the hook a bit. Furthermore In a corridor in the Alphabetville village school you can find ‘Rogues Gallery’ where Emmie’s portraits of each of the pupils hang on their leaving.  She is now proud to have over 10,000 followers on her Twitter account. Have a peek @AnimalsatWork

When did you start designing and hand painting illustrated name pictures?

Both my daughters had started school and I took up painting again in earnest.  But one day trying something new, I illustrated a name picture with wildflowers for my goddaughter Amanda. It seemed to be a hit with those who saw it and I capitalised on that by taking a few orders from friends, then from coffee mornings, charity fairs, school functions and so on until I brought out my Mail Order catalogue and started advertising and even ventured into the wholesale market.

I can tell you are an animal lover – but are you scared or wary of any particular animal in real life? (I’m wary of cows and ants)

Yes, I love animals but I have to admit to being nervous of horses.  I was ‘plonked’ on a pony at the age of about 7 years and told to hold on tight.  The novice teacher led four of us off across a field at a trot.  Soon out of control I tumbled off and was promptly ‘plonked’ on again, whereupon the pony took off back to the stables with me hanging on for dear life. I love them but I have never trusted a horse since.

Growing up, did you always hope to have a career connected with art or were your dreams directed elsewhere?

I rather fancied myself as a pop star when I was in my teens.  I used to strum along on my guitar with friends and we spent hours recording ourselves on a big old fashioned recording machine, we were pretty awful but had lots of fun. I will soon be recording the songs I have composed for The Animals at Work.

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?

In a deckchair in the garden with the sound of birds singing in the trees, however that’s nearly impossible unless on holiday.  So as my husband goes to bed before me I crawl in to my side of the bed with my Kindle under the bedclothes and read till my eyes close. One of my historical novels will keep me awake like this for a short time but I usually find the Kindle still there when I wake up early the next morning.

Where can people purchase your Illustrated Name Pictures and books?  Is there worldwide availability?

Both through my website www.alphabetville.net                                                                                                                              The books and (eBook to come) –  self publishing at  https://www.blurb.co.uk/b/862c                                                                                                   Twitter @AnimalsatWork                                                                                              Facebook  –  Alphabetville

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

With long legs but rather thick ankles I normally wear trousers to flatter/hide my shape.  Colour is my thing, so my tops are many and varied.  Well cut shirts for style in linen or cotton, or silk skimming the hips, printed over tops, often with a matching scarf. Casual but neat flat shoes mainly or boots in the winter.  I’d be more wacky if I could find fun clothes for my age group.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

That’s a bit difficult really because I pick up clothes wherever I find them.  I used to be very fussy having had my own shop in days gone by, but now I seem to find clothes are all too classical for me and not adventurous enough.  It’s not fun anymore and after shopping in shops or online I seem to end up with the same dull old things.

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

I am now a blond haired person in a previously dark haired person’s clothing!  So I need to reassess my wardrobe completely really and go for subtle colours and soft flowing materials with drapes to hide unwanted lumps and bumps.  Flattering warm brown and light caramel colours with splashes of burnt coral. Short donkey brown boots and a large cashmere shawl to dashingly fling round your neck.  That doesn’t sound at all like ‘old me’, but then I’m not the ‘old me’ any more.

Boots or Shoes?

A good pair of stylish boots… or two, will take you anywhere and hide the thick ankles.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc. so that readers can find out more about you and the Animals at Work in Alphabetville.

Website: www.alphabetville.net

Facebook: Alphabetville

Twitter: @AnimalsatWork

Books:  1.  Animals at Work in Alphabetville,  2. Albert’s Birthday Surprise

Ahh…the hurricane of 1987..I remember it well as I had moved to my first house away from my parents who lived in London, to a small village in coastal Essex that very day the hurricane struck. We had a tree hang precariously over the bungalow but it was safely removed and thankfully, no other lasting damage! Sorry to hear of the demise of the Old Lime Tree, though.

Thank you for taking the time to chat to us about your beautiful illustrations and  Alphabetville – it has been a real treat! 🙂

Linda x

All illustrations/photos have been published with the very kind permission of Mary-Louise Hussey

 

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An Interview With St James Whitting

This week my blog is heading down under to chat to Australian interior design company, St James Whitting.  In the Southern Hemisphere, spring has descended and there is no better time to revamp and redecorate. Not to be left out, the Northern Hemisphere’s Autumn/Fall season is a great excuse to check out the fabulous rugs and cosy interior ideas. And the artwork is fab too! Welcome…

Catherine on the left; Kate on the right

Who are “St James Whitting”?

Kate St James FDIA and Catherine Whitting AssDIA, are two designers passionate about creating eco-friendly, sustainable interiors and products that are healthy for people and the planet.
London born Kate is the founding editor-in-chief of Grand Designs Australia magazine, Home Design and several additional magazines, a role she held for 16 years before co-founding St James Whitting.  Prior to her editorial role, Kate ran an interior design practice for more than 15 years in Brisbane and Sydney. 
Along with co-founding St James Whitting, Sydney-based Catherine also lectures interior design at The Design Centre, Enmore, Sydney’s pre-eminent college for interior design studies.  Catherine also ran her business Décor Instyle prior to co-founding SJW. The company creates interiors for residential and commercial projects. It also has a range of homewares called The Elementals Collection which includes five designs for Designer Rugs Australia; 147 paint colours across 21 palettes coloured by Resene paints and seven designs for fabrics with Hemp Gallery Australia and a range of products for social enterprise company, Vida.  There is also a fine art collection of limited edition Giclee prints, represented by The Curious Art Bar.

What was it about interior designing that made you want to pursue interior design as a career? What was the motive behind setting up St James Whitting?

Interior design allows us to indulge our creative sides, but it is also a practical skill.  Creating beautiful, well-designed spaces for people to live and work in is an exciting opportunity. We both understand how spaces affect the way people live and work, and how architecture and design can influence our lives in a positive way; and we love finding solutions to problems,and making people happy! St James Whitting came about after we met at an industry function and spent many hours talking about our passion for eco-friendly design and how we would love to design an eco-resort. While the resort is yet to be realised, we have created many beautiful residential and commercial interiors and look forward to continuing to change people’s lives through great design.

Inked Up pure wool rug by St James Whitting for Designer Rugs shown with the Inked Up Palette from the paint range

I love the custom designed rugs that you do. To date, what has been your most popular art work or item?

The most popular rug in the range has to be Alcatraz, although all designs have been well received in the marketplace.

What’s your most favourite item in your collection?

Our favourite piece in the rug collection is Inked Up.  We lovethe swirling pattern and the way in which the design suits both classic and contemporary styles.

When it comes to interior design, I do like pale clean walls (currently favouring pale silver grey and aqua shades of blue) with brightly coloured accessories.  What colours/styles do you tend to favour?

There are no specific colours or schemes we use as each new project comes with its own brief and we use colours that provide the best outcomes. For us colour is under, or poorly used in many situations and it is our mission to bring a greater understanding and use of colour to our projects. We created our own range of paints with Resene paints this year.  There are 147 colours in the range and we love them all!

Walls painted Teal Terrain from the SJW Elementals Collection coloured by Resene. Quilted bed topper in Ripples designed by SJW for Hemp Gallery Australia; cushions designed by SJW for Hemp Gallery Australia including Wildflowers, Ripples, Kindling Sticks and Firespike.

Kate, you’ve written 3 e-books on sustainable design & interiors; Ian is a passionate advocate for sustainability and the creation of low impact, sustainable urban communities. What ideas could a person incorporate when designing their home to make it adequately sustainable?

My top tips for creating a more sustainable home are:

  • Use passive-solar design principles when creating a new home design or renovation
  • Insulate – floors, walls and ceilings
  • Use double glazing to thermally control temperatures
  • Use zero VOC paints, glues and grouts, board and materials for a healthier interior environment
  • Select furniture and furnishings that do not contain or are manufactured with toxic materials
  • Provide good ventilation
  • Use as many natural materials as possible including FSC timber, hemp fabrics, eco paints, pure wool carpets and textiles, linen bedding and products with a clear provenance and chain of custody.

Growing up, did you all have dreams of being interior designers or did you have other career plans?

Kate: In my teens  I studied classical music and wanted to be an opera singer. However, a move to Australia halted those aspirations. I pursued a career in journalism in the early 1970s but after meeting husband to be, Ian who was studying architecture, I turned my sights to interior design.

Catherine: I studied art and painting; my  lifelong passion.  After teaching art, I moved into design and now I teach interior design when not designing for clients.

Nantucket Sunrise I & II by Kate St James and Catherine Whitting. Limited Edition fine art giclee prints of original mixed media

As St James Whitting is based in Australia, are your products available to purchase worldwide?

The rugs, fabrics and artworks can be shipped worldwide. We do not yet have any overseas stockists, but we’re working on that!

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

Catherine and I have been talking about Avignon of late, and we are also planning a trip to Italy next year. Both places would provide lots of inspiration.  But there’s nothing like the Australian landscape with its diversity of flora, fauna and topography, not to mention light and colour, to provide inspiration for our designs.

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

Kate: We both have a penchant for natural fibres including hemp and linen.  I love red and Catherine loves shades of green. My shoes  are flat and heels for Catherine.  We both wear black and love to dress this up with scarves from our collection with Vida, and jewellery by MisSMash.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

We both try to shop locally, in small boutiques where quality fabrics and local designers are represented. We rarely buy clothes online.

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

Kate: With summer on the horizon, more linen and casual pieces in soft colours and neutrals.  I love espadrilles as I live near the beach.  Catherine: I love hats – so perhaps one or two summer ones may find their way into my wardrobe. We are both very conscious of not buying too many clothes and prefer to buy quality over quantity and recycle them wherever possible or give them to charities.

 Boots or Shoes? 

Kate: Boots in winter, shoes and sandals in summer, for practical reasons.  I like tailored styles.

Catherine: I have a penchant for Victoriana; with laces!

For Pinning Later.
Elementals Collection coloured by Resene colour chart

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebooketc so that readers can find out more about St James Whitting

www.stjameswhitting.com

www.facebook.com/stjameswhitting

www.facebook.com/stjameswhittingart

www.instagram.com/stjameswhitting

Thank you for chatting to me ladies and I do so love your artwork and vision! I share Catherine’s love of Victoriana lace up boots too! Something very elegant about those boots… 

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Kate & Catherine (St James Whitting).

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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!                         

For Pinning Later
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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