Author Interview: Kelsie Stoker

I recently read “Silenda” by Kelsie Stoker – it’s a young ( and not so young as it turns out!) adult fantasy novel by 22 year old debut Scottish author, Kelsie Stoker. This story is set in an alternative universe but explores human reactions over life after death. It is a young adult book and yet I found the book interesting, the storyline entertaining and thought provoking. and wow, what a powerful debut! I would certainly recommend the book to those not so young adult readers too! After reading the book, I couldn’t wait to chat to Kelsie about the inspiration behind her novel. But first, here’s a quick book summary…..


Silenda’ is told from the perspective of two alternating narrators. Horatio Young is an introverted bystander to his own life, afraid of his own agency, but afraid of feeling ‘static’. When he is thrust into a life-threatening situation, he must act. Carson Whitmoore doesn’t know a lot about herself. In fact, she knows hardly anything at all. Carson wakes up in an empty apartment with no memory of how she got there. She must retrieve her lost memories and expose the source that took them. 

Horatio and Carson are forced to navigate a world split in two – the Umbras who believe in eternal nothingness beyond the grave, and the Luxies who believe in an unending afterlife. 

When terror strikes the city and political tensions rise, Horatio’s powerful uncle recruits him as an insider to exploit Umbra secrets, but Horatio and his friends uncover something far more sinister – an underground organisation named Silenda who will go to dangerous lengths to uncover the ultimate truth; what really happens when we die?  


Hi Kelsie and welcome to the blog 👋

Hi ! My name is Kelsie Stoker and I am a 22-year-old fiction writer from Glasgow. I’m a passionate feminist and a lover of the arts! I adore fashion – I think the body is a canvas and that self-expression really extends our influence and gives life meaning. In ten years’ time, I’d like to see myself in some big-shot New York apartment clutching a glass of red wine, but for now I can be found listening to Hall and Oates and cuddling my mini poodle. ‘Silenda’ is my debut novel and I think a lot of my personality shines through in it – I’d say I’m like a hybrid of Astrid and Horatio!

“Silenda” is your debut novel – a young adult fantasy story set in an alternative universe.  It is a politically aware book exploring aspects of religious diversity, sexual orientation, labelling, life after death and how society rejects the “grey” areas of life. Who or what inspired you to write “Silenda”?

When I was fourteen, I was diagnosed with a brain tumour. I think having that sort of diagnosis at such a young age very much accelerated my existential thinking – it was the first time I became very aware of my own mortality. I was brought up in an atheist family, so I’d never really had a relationship with God, but after my diagnosis, I had a lot of questions for the guy – if he existed, why would he do this to me? So, for me, it’s a struggle to believe in any divinity, but I found myself envious of those who could. I’ve always felt my emotions very intensely so trying to find somewhere to direct my faith was an intense personal struggle. I’m a very empathetic person, so it’s always been very important to me to respect and try to understand people from different walks of life. Having a committed relationship with God is something I can’t really relate to, so understanding it really matters to me. 

I’m a lover of people – I think we are all just so complex and fascinating. We are all made from the same material but we are moulded and transformed in such different ways. We aren’t born with a purpose, the universe doesn’t seem to have prescribed us one, so we spend our whole lives trying to find one. For me, embracing the ‘grey area’, means not exhausting ourselves trying to belong to anything or conform to the confinements of something because we think we’re supposed to. Fluidity is so important, to learn to just be, and if whatever you are doesn’t have a name, that’s okay! Our language is a system that is supposed to cater to us, not the other way around.  

You are a young adult yourself – so are your characters based on observations of people you’ve come across in the past and incidents you’ve experienced ? Who were the hardest characters to portray?

I think I realise now, having written the novel, just how much my characters are an amalgamation of people I know. When I was writing it, I didn’t consciously mould a character to fit any particular person. I’m not really a planner in any aspect of my life, and the same applies to my writing. I let the characters make their own decisions based on what I learn about them as the story goes on. I think we write what we know whether we realise it or not – or we write interpretations of things we don’t know – which just end up being reliant on the things we do know! It’s all very subconscious but influence from people I know is definitely in there. When I was writing for Horatio, I was writing pretty much as myself, I think. His existential thinking, his struggle with his bisexuality and his fear of being static, is definitely straight from my own brain! With Carson’s perspective, I definitely felt that I was trying to channel someone other than myself. If I was in her position, I’d probably just cry. In regard to my other characters, the only other influence that is obvious to me, is Hayden’s dark and snappy sense of humour – that’s definitely my sister, Nikki!

Were there any aspects of writing your novel that surprised you, either by being harder or easier to write about than you expected ? 

I definitely wanted to write a story that I would love to read – so the story came easy to me, which was lovely. It’s packed full of things that I care about so it was a very cathartic process. However, because it’s a very politically aware novel, I definitely felt under pressure to do it well. There’s always the fear of being branded ‘too woke’, but I wrote things the way I see them, and the way I believe them – it’s my version of the truth, so it’s all I can really do! I wanted to make some sort of point about straight, white, cis men in power, but I tried to make that apparent without having any of my characters say anything outright about it. I wanted to make it clear that the diverse, colourful and fluid group of young people at the centre of the story, were not being represented by their leadership. 

I also tried very hard to simplify complex issues and use ‘umbrella’ terms for religious / spiritual and non-religious groups. I really did not want to imply that I was writing about any particular faith, because that is not the case, and would go against the whole point of the story!

Hypothetically speaking, if “Silenda” was made into a film, who would you love to see portraying the characters, especially Horatio and Carson? 

Seeing ‘Silenda’ on the big screen is a dream! I think Sadie Sink would be a great fit for Carson. I imagine Carson to be petite with red hair. I think Sadie Sink would be great at embodying Carson’s innocent look paired with her fiery ambition. Coincidentally, I met my boyfriend, Sean Munro, after the novel had already been written and he looks eerily like how I imagined Horatio…he’s also an actor so has helped me with promotional content. 

As for my other characters, it’s hard for me to cast them because they are so original in my head. Although I think a young blonde Evan Peters would have made a great Hayden!

Although “Silenda” is based in an alternative universe, is your fictional town/urban area inspired by any city/town/area in the “real” world?  If so, what was it about this place or places that ignited your imagination and got the creative juices flowing? 

Yes! The Rowleys is entirely influenced by the Gorbals, a historical part of Glasgow that has been infamous for its social problems; poverty, deprivation, and gang violence. Especially in the 1920s and 1930’s, the Gorbals were a very undesirable place to live, although many did due to overcrowding. The Gorbals became pretty synonymous with the working-class, and possibly even the marginalised. In 1954, the legend of ‘the Gorbals vampire’ was born, with the story spreading among school children that a 7-foot-tall vampire with iron teeth was on the loose! This legend inspired ‘the Rowleys vampire’, a story terrorising a derived part of the city.

West Town is a bit of an amalgamation, with the landscape inspire by the mountainous beauty of Glen Coe and Bellumside village inspire by the architecture of Edinburgh Old Town. I love my country so there is a lot of Scottish influence, but The Urb is a very futuristic city, channelling aspects of Tokyo. I think it’s crazy that in the post-modern world, such contrasting architecture can exist in such close proximity to each other.

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

I am a bookworm! Reading stories that excited me as a child definitely inspired me to write. I used to read a lot more than I do now because I’m always thinking about what I could write next, but when I can find the time, it’s so relaxing. I love fantasy novels and grew up reading a lot of YA fiction, but I love Gothic Horror, especially the classics, i.e. Shirley Jackson, Mary Shelly, Henry James…

The first YA book series I became really invested in was The Hunger Games, it’s still a favourite!

I 100% prefer a book, I think the smell of a good book is part of the reading experience!

 Is “Silenda” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes! It can be purchased on Amazon, via the Waterstones website,, and Blackwell’s online!

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

I love a chunky boot! Pairing something very girly and soft with 70s boots is something I love to do. I also love a fur coat – faux of course! I think my style is very feminine – I love pink, leopard print and sparkles – it borders on mob-wife sometimes. I’m always trying to channel Barbie as well…I love how experimental she is.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I visited Vienna in December and stumbled across a store called ‘Glitzerwelten’. It was fabulous! Lots of faux fur, glitter and lots and lots of pink. I bought a gorgeous baby-pink fur wrap while I was there – I put it straight on! I’d love to go back.

As for online, I love shopping on Vinted – I think it’s very important to promote sustainable fashion. 

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

I’d really love some sundresses this summer – something quite elegant and classy. Maybe florals? Something that makes me look picnic-ready at all times! Maybe I could pair it with a thatched sunhat – that would be super cute.

Boots or Shoes?

Boots, definitely! I just adore chunky boots. I’m also 5’11 so a little platform empathises my height and makes me feel very confident. I love being tall!

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

Read my blog here:

Instagram: @kelsiestoker/insta

X: @KCStoker_Author / twitter

TikTok: @kelsiestoker/ tiktok

Fabulous chatting to you, Kelsie and congratulations on a fantastic debut book. Thanks also for the copy of Silenda for reviewing.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with the kind permission of Kelsie Stoker

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Disrupted Book Tour

Book tour time! I’m so pleased to be part of author B.Lynn Goodwin’s book tour promoting her excellent young adult book, “Disrupted”. “Disrupted” is Lynn’s 5th book and it tackles social issues, earthquake trauma, homelessness, grief, missing persons and a touch of young love in the mix. Phew! Upon reviewing the book, I found that Disrupted tackled themes head on in a relatable way, the characters and their mannerisms were believable and it was certainly a pleasant read to boot. Before I interview Lynn, here’s a quick book summary to whet your appetite:


The San Ramos High students are busy rehearsing their performance of Our Town when the school and the surrounding towns are rocked by a 7.1 earthquake. As a series of unusual aftershocks disrupt the town further, their school is deemed unsafe, and the show is postponed indefinitely unless they can find a way to turn that bad luck around. Dealing with their own personal difficulties and led by the stage manager, Sandee, who is working her way through the loss of her brother, they attempt to bring the community together, make the performance a success, and do their share to raise funds to rebuild. Both the show and life must go on!

Publisher: Olympia Publishers

ISBN-10: 1804393487

ISBN-13: 978-1804393482


Print Length: 238 pages


Welcome to the blog! Please introduce yourself😊

Hello 👋 Here’s the bio I usually send out: 

B. Lynn Goodwin wrote two award-winning books, a YA called Talent, and a memoir titled Never Too Late: From Wannabe to Wife at 62. Her newest book,Disrupted, came out on January 25th, 2024 She’s written author interviews, book reviews and article for WriterAdvice, since 1997 and writes for other sites as well. 

She also teaches, runs a Writing Extravaganza, and reviews books at Story Circle Network. She’s on the boards of Story Circle Network and the Women’s National Book Association—NorCal and judges writing contests. She edits every genre except poetry and loves helping writers improve. She lives east of Berkeley and west of the San Joaquin Valley with her husband and their lively Maltese.

Who or what inspired you to write “Disrupted”?

Good question. I wrote about Sandee Mason in “Talent”, and many people wanted to know more, so I thought about her life at fictitious San Ramos High School and how her world changed when her brother died. Then I started on “what ifs.” 

What if an earthquake disrupted rehearsal?

What if it closed down the school?

What if an earthquake cracked kitchen walls and took buildings off their foundations?

How would Sandee react if she was in the aftermath of an emotional earthquake?

I had great fun recreating her world and adding a boy who hangs out at Starbucks an awful lot.

Disrupted ” is a YA story set in California. The characters are a mix of High School students and their families – all struggling to cope in various ways following an earthquake. I had a fondest for the main character, Sandee. Her determination to bring her community together whilst coping with her grieving parents (plus her own grief), her budding romantic feelings, her concern for her close friends and her steadfast attitude to get Theatre show performance back on track is certainly admirable. She made me giggle at times too! Did you base a lot of your characters on you and people you’ve met in life?

As you know, memory distorts. I’m not sure if Sandee is a combination of the high school students I once directed in Our Town, the show Sandee is working on, or she’s a student I wanted to work with. Or both. I know teens love having friends and trying on new roles, and they did a lot of that in my drama classes. Maybe it spilled over.

Which character did you enjoy writing about the most?

I almost feel like a parent here, because I’m not sure I have any favorites. I like Sandee, of course, but I am proud of the way Nicole copes, and Jenn reminds me of airheads I’ve taught, and I feel for Diego, who’s afraid of his emotions, and Pete, who’s deliberately detached and putting on a show of his own.

Which character was the hardest?

 Until this moment I hadn’t thought of that. Sorry, but I have no answer.

What do you enjoy most about writing novels for young adults?

Technology may have changed the world but adolescent insecurities, needs, and aspirations haven’t changed much. I enjoy writing about their struggles and growth.

If you could visit any country/place in the world, to base a future novel in, where would you go and why?

You’re getting my brain churning here. I’d love to see the islands of Hawaii as those who grew up there see them. I’d love to experience the native residents’ views of tourists. I suppose this desire came from my work with an author who grew up in Hawaii and is working on her life story.

Are you a bookworm?

Certainly. Also a book hoarder.

What is your favourite genre and/or authors?

My favorite is also the book I’m reading at the moment. I’m sent lots of books for review, and I love women’s fiction, psychological thrillers, and realistic YA. I sometimes like books about people in politics and the state of the world. I like watching others solve problems.

Kindle or actual book? 

I like switching off between Kindle and actual books. I can adjust the print size in a Kindle or a PDF, but sometimes I want to sit in the sun, hold a book, and read in the old school way.

Is “Disrupted” available to purchase worldwide?

Probably. Certainly anyone can purchase either the print book or the e-book from Amazon,Disrupted- Goodwin, B Lynn- 9781804393482- Books.

Growing up had you always wanted to be an author or did you have other career aspirations?

That would be a good subject for a memoir. I wanted to be a teacher, and I’ve taught English and drama in high school and college. I also did a stint teaching adult literacy through At the same time I was taking care of my mother and discovering the importance of journaling for perspective. For a long time writing was on the back burner. Then it became a refuge. You can learn more at

I have an interest in Earthquakes although I have only experienced a small tremor but I did go on an earthquake simulator in Florida once that was supposed to replicate a strong 7.5 earthquake and that was pretty scary! Living in California, what is your own experience and did you discover any facts that you weren’t aware of when researching for your book?

I’ll never forget the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake, which shook us all up. The World Series had just started and since the Oakland A’s were playing the San Francisco Giants it was in the Bay Area. The TV went black, the hanging lamp over the dining room swung and I raced to get under a door frame. So it was a sliding glass door with an aluminum frame. I didn’t stay there because a lamp I’d inherited from my father was about to crash and I didn’t want it to break. Crazy times. At least our condo stayed on its foundation.

Apparently there was an earthquake this morning not far from Berkeley. Based on the Facebook posts, I suspect it extended up into Vallejo. We never felt it here though. 

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

My sister is the fashionista. Right now I’m dressed in comfortable black pants, an embroidered, long sleeved, salmon tee, and a jacket that goes with a different shirt. I have socks on but no shoes. Even though I dress casually and simply, I admire fashion and sometimes window shop on websites. My favorite top is a green sweater with a low V neck that makes me look thin. I’ve been known to dress up for readings and workshops.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

My mother used to shop at I. Magnin’s and later Nordstrom’s, but that was long ago. I still have some of the classic clothes from those stores, but these days I’m just as likely to go to Chico’s or maybe J. Jill or Macy’s.

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

I’ve worn out the arch supports on my walking shoes again, and I need to replace those asap. I’d like to try Naot’s again. I realize you haven’t met my feet, but they’re quite a challenge. I have plenty of clothes, but several pairs of pants have gotten quite loose, and while that’s a good thing, I’d like a really comfortable slip on pair suitable for spring and summer.

Boots or Shoes?

When I was 18 and going to college in Poughkeepsie, NY, I went searching for boots. The pair I found wouldn’t zip over my calves, and the clerk assured me that no one made anything wider. So boots were for skinny people. Slenderellas. People who didn’t look like me. I didn’t know then how many of us were facing the same problem and that there were stores where we could get fitted. I used to love nice shoes. Now I’m grateful for shoes that I can walk in.

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

X – @Lgood67334


Great chatting to you Lynn. Thank you for the review copy of Disrupted.
All photographs have been published with the kind permission of B Lynn Goodwin.

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Visit To The Bombay Sapphire Gin Distillery

On a chilly but clear Saturday morning in January – 10am to be precise – my husband and I found ourselves at the Bombay Sapphire Gin Distillery at the idyllic spot of Laverstoke Mill in Whitchurch, Hampshire. We had been given vouchers for the 90 minute tour of this famous gin distillery the previous Christmas from my eldest son and his wife and this was the day we booked. Tickets for the distillery tour need to be booked in advance and as it is a working distillery the tours only operate Friday to Sundays, Bank Holidays and a few selected weekdays.

As Hampshire is a 4 hour drive from where we live, and our tour was booked for 10.30 am prompt start, we stayed overnight at a campsite in our campervan just outside Winchester on the Friday and then it was around a 20/30 minute drive to the distillery from there. There is free parking on site for up to 90 cars . If you want to use public transport, the number 76 bus from Basingstoke to Andover route stops right outside the distillery. There was a tea/coffee shop and a bar at the distillery open to the public, so we had a coffee before we joined our tour.

Our tour started at 10.30am promptly. Considering it was January, in the morning and “dry January” season, there were around 10 people on our tour. That was a perfect number I thought – in summer it can get chaotic and rushed with 20+ people per group.

First stop was to the cocktail bar for a complimentary gin & tonic and lesson in how to make the perfect G & T. We scooped ice into our glass, then we poured in our choice of gin – traditional Bombay Sapphire Dry London Gin, Bombay Bramble Gin, the limited edition Bombay Sapphire Sunset Gin or Alcohol free Gin . I tried the bramble gin – gin infused with blackberries and raspberries; my husband went for the Bombay Sapphire Sunset – gin infused with mandarins, cardamom and turmeric. Our gin cocktails were then topped up with Fever tree tonic water and garnishes. Clutching our heavenly drinks we headed to the warm plush cinema with armchairs and side tables, where we could watch a 10 minute film on the history of Bombay Sapphire whilst sipping our drinks.

Bombay Sapphire is a brand of gin distilled by the Bombay Spirits Company, a subsidiary company of Bicardi. Bombay Spirits Co. Ltd , the brand, was launched in 1986 by English wine merchants IDV. Bombay Sapphire brand was launched in 1987 and was based on Bombay Original London Dry Gin. The name, Bombay Sapphire, was inspired by the famous Star of Bombay, a stunning violet- blue sapphire discovered in Sri Lanka. Hence the blue tinged bottles that are the brand’s trademark packaging.

After the film, we abandoned our drinks and headed off to the distillery proper – the stills and the glasshouses where some botanicals are grown. Laverstoke Mill, where the distillery is located, was originally an 18th century paper mill , mainly printing bank notes. The original buildings are still intact, including the row of workers cottages that the paper mill erected for its workers. The stills were massive. Bombay Sapphire gin uses a 200 year old formula that boils botanicals for vapour infusion. The gin is triple instilled using carterhead stills rather than the commonly used pot stills in other distilleries.

In the grounds are two enormous glasshouses, constructed by Thomas Heatherwick. These house the botanicals used in Bombay Sapphire gin. One glasshouse is heated to give a hot, dry climate; the other is heated to give a hot, humid setting. Being inside looking at the plants in the heated environments was a welcome relief from the chilly day outside. Off to the tasting room where dishes of the botanicals were laid out for us to sniff & taste to our hearts content. It is the Bombay Sapphire original gin bottle that has a distinctive blue tint, not the gin itself. Each drop of gin contains 10 hand selected botanicals from exotic locations around the world – including juniper, iris root, liquorice, lemon peel, almonds, Angelica root, coriander seeds, cassia bark .. no artificial flavourings are added. I must admit I was surprised to see almonds on the table!

The trip concluded with a trip to the gift shop. Apart from the countless bottles of gin for sale in a myriad of flavours, there were infused with the lemon, bramble & sunset smells – candles, wax melts, chocolate, tea & coffee. T shirts, bags, socks and tea towels were also available – although I thought the t shirts were pricey. So what did we buy? I liked the Bramble gin that I tried earlier in the day and my husband liked the Sunset variety; and the lemon smell enticed us to splash out on the lemon gin too. So, we purchased the 3 varieties along with a couple of bars of the corresponding chocolate – it was rude not too. Alas the chocolates didn’t last long enough to join in a photo shoot! 😀

My conclusion? I was surprised how much I really enjoyed the tour. It was informative and very hands on but so relaxed. I think the relaxed feel was because it was winter – I’m not sure if bigger tour groups in summer would be same…. who knows? The tour lasted an hour and a half – and it really covered everything. Afterwards, or beforehand, or even if you don’t want a tour, you are able to grab a tea /coffee/snacks in the little tearoom or there was a modern bar where you can have a gin cocktail or g & t . The site was fairly accessible – no major steps to climb – but check with the distillery beforehand if you are in a wheelchair . Wear sensible footwear – high heels and open toed shoes are not permitted. The tour isn’t suitable for anybody under the age of 18. Non alcoholic gin was offered to drivers . Visiting the area that housed the stills you had to remove your smart watches/ mobile phones (lockable lockers were available) … not entirely sure why but it may be to do with vapours? Before entering there was a sign warning that if you felt faint to alert the guide immediately. It did concern me at first seeing that sign, but I was either insensitive to the vapours or there wasn’t much vapour in the air in the 10 minutes or so we were in the room, as everyone came out of there feeling ok! 😊 10/10

Bombay Sapphire Distillery :

All photographs are by Linda Hobden

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Author Interview: João Cerqueira

This week I am so pleased to be able to welcome onto the blog the internationally published Portuguese author, João Cerqueira. João is author of 9 books and has been published in 8 countries. His latest novel, “Perestroika”, is a political/historical novel that was originally published in Portuguese in 2023 and was published in English in January 2024. Although it is a fictional novel, set in a fictional country, it is based on insights and incidents that occurred in the communist era of Eastern Europe during the 1970s/1980s. Here’s a quick book summary:


The story opens in 1978 and introduces the citizens of Slavia (a fictitious Eastern European country). Among them is Ludwig Kirchner, an artist who is struggling to survive in concentration camps whilst the terrifying elites of the regime live in luxury and moral depravity.

However, for the citizens of Slavia, everything changes in the late-1980s, with the advent of Perestroika. In the revolutionary turmoil that follows, former crime boss Ivan Fiorov leads the newly formed “Freedom Party”, heralding a wave of insecurity and oppression that resembles the previous dictatorship.


Welcome to the blog, João…. please, introduce yourself 😊

Hello. I am João. I was born and live in Viana do Castelo, Portugal. I completed a PhD in Art History at the Faculty of Letters of the University of Porto. I teach at the Escola Superior de Educação de Viana. I have written nine books, published in eight countries and I have won five literary prizes in the United States and one prize in Italy.

My childhood was spent in the countryside and on the beach, so I have always had a very close relationship with nature. Despite shooting birds and killing mice as a child, today I am a defender of nature and its creatures. I live on a farm where I grows fruit trees and vegetables with my wife and our daughter. I can’t have dinner without drinking wine, and I love champagne.

Who or what inspired you to write “Perestroika”?

The novel “Perestroika” results from the profound impact of the images of the fall of the Berlin Wall and people demanding freedom in the streets of communist countries. In addition to bringing freedom to half of the Europeans, Gorbachev’s Perestroika ended the Cold War and the threat of nuclear war. However, oddly enough, the topic was forgotten. To my knowledge, there is no film, TV series, or novel—except mine—that addresses one of the most important changes of the 20th century.

Furthermore, I visited Cuba three times and saw with my own eyes how a communist country works: there is no freedom of expression, there are no free elections, there are no human rights, and anyone who protests is arrested.

Additionally, some characters in the book are taken from European history: 

The painter Ludwig Kirchner, Lia Kirchner’s father, was inspired by the German expressionist painter of the same name, whose works Hitler considered Degenerate Art.

The People’s Commissar for Culture, Zut Zdanov, was inspired by the Stalinist leader Andrei Zhdanov, responsible for culture in the USSR, who defended socialist realism in art and banned modernism.

President Alfred Ionescu was inspired by the playwright Eugène Ionesco, creator of the theatre of the absurd – which brings us back to the absurdity of communist regimes.

I really enjoyed reading your book, “Perestroika” and I particularly enjoyed how you portrayed the characters of Lia Kirchner, Helena Yava, Silvia Lenka  & Ivan Fiorov. What character did you particularly enjoy writing about? What character was the hardest to portray?

I tried to ensure that no character was one-dimensional: good or bad. They are people of flesh and blood with qualities and defects who are forced to change their behavior due to Perestroika.

That said, my favourite characters are the Commissar for Education Helena Yava because she understands that she served a dictatorial regime and tries to redeem herself; and, of course, the main character, Lia Kirchner, the girl trained by the communist regime, who will become its main opponent.

Researching for your novel must have been quite interesting..… did you discover anything that shocked you or uncover some nugget of information that was unexpected? 

I consulted a wide range of books, including the works of Anne Applebaum Gulag and Iron Curtain, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s The First Circle and The Gulag Archipelago, Victor Kravchenko’s I Choose Freedom, Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon, and others.

The horrors of communist regimes didn’t surprise me. What surprised me was that the party members, as they rose through the ranks, began to live more and more like capitalists. The communist leaders were authentic bourgeois.

The novel is based in fictional country of Slavia – although reading the novel I could  visualise the images of the news reports on TV that I remembered seeing in the 1970s/1980s of Communist Eastern Europe. What were your reasons for picking a fictitious location for the novel?  

Perestroika could have taken place in the Soviet Union, Poland or another communist country. But that would impose limitations on my creativity. In order to be able to write the story I had in my head, it was necessary to create an imaginary country: Slavia.

Growing up, did you envisage yourself as a writer or did you have other career aspirations?

My love of books was instilled by my father, who bequeathed me a library with over a thousand books. I looked at those books and dreamed of doing something similar. I thought those writers were the most important people in the world. I wanted to be like them. 

In this library I discovered the classics of world literature. Among the reference books, I discovered, as a spiritual guide and instruction manual for the winding road of life, Erasmus of Rotterdam’s “In praise of Folly.”This is why humor is so important in my writing.

Is “Perestroika” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes, Perestroika is on Amazon and in the main online bookstores.

If you could visit any place in the world to inspire your next novel, where would you go and why? 

When I travel around the world, I always discover something that ends up in my books. More than the places, it’s the people who inspire me. On a tropical island or at the North Pole, human beings can show solidarity or fight each other.

Are you a bookworm yourself? If so, what genres (or authors) do you usually like to read? And are you a kindle or “proper book” fan?

I only read paper books. My favorite writers are Marcel Proust, Pär Largerkvist, Mikhail Bulgakov, George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, Phillip Roth, Paul Auster, W. G. Sebald, Italo Calvino, Henrique Vila-Matas,, José Saramago and Lobo Antunes.

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

I try to keep up with fashion and dress well. I like to combine classic and modern styles. As for shoes, I like Timberland and Fred Perry trainers.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Those that are on sale, with low prices.

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

I need to buy a brown blazer for spring and light blue shirts.

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

Amazon UK:

Amazon US:


Author page:

Thanks so much for chatting with me today João – “Perestroika” brought back memories of TV news and my travels in the 1980s! I loved the book, so thank you very much for my review copy.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of João Cerqueira.

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Mercy And Grace Book Tour

I’m so pleased to be part of the “Mercy and Grace” book tour, introducing a very emotional and well written story by author Anoop Judge.

My thoughts? This is a whirlwind of a story – the raw love of two young people from different religious backgrounds whose lives are torn apart; an “orphan” born out of love who discovers her back story in an unusual way; a mother reunited with her daughter; cultural differences, lives behind closed doors…. and things are not always what they seem. And an abundance of love in its many disguises. Can you tell that I loved the book?


At twenty-one years old, Gia Kumari finally leaves the Delhi orphanage where she was raised. With few prospects for the future, she receives an unexpected invitation from a stranger named Sonia Shah, in San Francisco: an internship at Sonia’s weddings and event company. Jia and America. It’s love at first sight as she navigates an unfamiliar but irresistible new world of firsts. 

It’s Gia’s first real job: her first meeting with her only known family, her uncle Mohammed Khan, and her first romance, with Sonia’s quirky yet charming stepson, Adi. But it might be too good to be true. Gia’s newfound happiness is unfolding in the shadow of a terrible family secret, the impact of which is still being felt in a place Gia now calls home. To save what matters most, Gia must come to terms with a tragic past she’s only beginning to understand—and a lifetime of lies she must learn to forgive.

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (September 19, 2023)

ISBN-10: 1662509219

ISBN-13: 978-1662509216


Print Length: 283 pages


Welcome to the blog, Anoop! 😊

Hello! I am Anoop. Born and raised in New Delhi, I now reside in California. I hold an MFA in Creative Writing from Saint Mary’s College of California and am the recipient of the 2021 Advisory Board Award, and the 2023 Alumni Scholarship. I am the author of four novels: “The Rummy Club”, which won the 2015 Beverly Hills Book Award, “The Awakening of Meena Rawat” an excerpt of which was nominated for the 2019 Pushcart Prize, “No Ordinary Thursday,” and “Mercy and Grace”. You may also recognize me from the show Gems of Ruby Hill, a reality-TV series streaming on @watchcpics showcasing my life as an author and writer. I call myself a recovering litigator: I practiced in state and federal courts for many years before I  replaced legal briefs with fictional tales. I am an Instructor at Stanford University’s Stanford Continuing Studies.

Who or what inspired you to write “Mercy and Grace”?

I was inspired to write “Mercy and Grace”, because the India that exists now is very different from the one I grew up in. Over the years, the religious right in India has used hate propaganda to push the country away from its inclusive, secular founding vision as envisaged by Mahatma Gandhi.  Hinduism used to be a very liberal and tolerant religion, but India’s current prime minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has created a distinct fascist ideology dubbed “Hinduvata” to distinguish it from Hinduism. “The movement does not demand a theocratic state or any explicit embrace of Hinduism as the state religion. Hindutva is a national-cultural rather than a religious category, seen as synonymous with the idea of India. Indians of other faiths, including Muslims, should therefore have no trouble accepting Hindutva, according to the Sangh Parivar. If they choose not to, they must be traitors to the nation.” (Ref: I have watched the growing trend of extreme loathing backed by physical violence against Muslims and Christians with fear in my heart. I am not a Muslim myself, but I am a Sikh, a minority religion derivative of Hinduism. I witnessed firsthand how fundamentalist group leaders coordinated and led frenzied mob attacks against innocent Sikh citizens when Prime Minister Indra Gandhi was assassinated by her own Sikh security guard who acted solely of his own volition. In spite of the divisive political administration in the last White House election, I do not exaggerate when I say that I feel safer in the United States than I do in India. So, I wanted to write a novel about how the giving and taking of religious offense against minorities affects innocent people, ordinary people who have no stake in politics but are only trying to live their small lives.

I really enjoyed reading your book, “Mercy And Grace ” and I particularly enjoyed the characters of Gia Kumari, Sonia Shah and Adi. Which character did you particularly enjoy writing about? Which character was the hardest to portray?

That would probably be Sonia Shah, because of how the religious upheaval in her life and her past, causes her to become a very different woman from the one she initially was.

Researching for your novel must have been quite interesting…for example, the wedding event business,  the Hindu/Moslem relationships, the orphanage, the Indian communities in California … although you were born & raised in India  and now reside in California, did you discover anything that shocked you or uncover some nugget of information that was unexpected? 

What a good question! My sister-in-law is a wedding coordinator of some note in the Los Angeles Indian community, so I do have quite a bit of insight into that business. I was legal counsel and president for 13 years of a 501 C(3) organization that provides financial support to more than 4000 orphan, destitute, or otherwise disadvantaged children via partner organizations in India. Therefore, I had firsthand knowledge of how orphanages in India operate.In writing this book what did surprise me was how frenzied mobs of Hindu fundamentalists hell-bent on Muslim blood resort to pulling down the underwear of Muslim men to see if they are circumcised or not as a way of determining if they are of Muslim faith or not.

Growing up, did you envisage yourself as a writer or did you have other career aspirations?

I was raised in a middle-class family in New Delhi, India, where education was key, fresh pomfret fish for dinner was a treat, and budget-conscious holidays in hill stations defined our summers. As a young girl, I was expected to apply myself at college, get a job that would allow me to be financially self-reliant, get married, and have kids—in that order. Given this worldview, “writing” was a bourgeois activity, encouraged by my mom, an avid fan of Reader’s Digest and Harlequin romances. My mom loved stories, and she made up endless tales on the fly—Ravan, the demon who was afraid of cake, the fairy who couldn’t find her magic, the princess who was forced to marry the tyrannical prince and was rescued just in time by the pauper she loved. She gave me those things, and that’s how I survived adolescence. My command over the English language made me appear smarter than I was—growing up in post-colonial Delhi, where your zip code and what your Dad did for a living was all that mattered, the only way for a young woman to stand out was her chutzpah and her ability to flaunt her knowledge of big, blocky English words.  Soon, I had a prolific output. At age eleven, my mother made my brother, and I compete in a war of words—we had to write an essay about an out-of-town family wedding we’d attended—and, from the way my mom’s dark eyes shone as she read my offering, I knew I’d scored. In my teens, I spilled my hormonal angst over pages and pages of a daily journal that began with the salutation, “Dear, Diary.” One summer, I did an internship at a leading advertising agency as a copywriter, coming up with pithy slogans and jingles. After high school, when I enrolled in Hindu College at Delhi University to pursue a bachelor’s degree in English Literature, no one in my family was surprised. But, convention dictated that I procure a practical degree that would result in a paying job. This catapulted me into law school after graduation. Writing remained my first love, though—while pursuing my legal studies, I wrote a column for ‘Mid-day,’ a weekly newspaper, titled ‘University Beat’, and I was a correspondent for All India Radio, submitting weekly news stories that were read aloud on air. While in my second year at law school, I was approached by a publishing house (Twenty-Twenty Media) to write a Dummies—style book for recent college graduates on the legal profession titled “Law: What’s It All About and How to Get in.”  When a mess of typewritten pages—loosely bound by a haldi-stained pink ribbon—of dozens of interviews with notable legal experts in New Delhi became a published book of 92 pages, I couldn’t get over the shock of it. It was an eye-opening experience to see how good editing and an attractive book cover could transform my word vomit into a brilliantly-structured, polished work. I knew then that when I had the time, I would write books that appealed me to as a reader—fiction that wove imaginary worlds and left me spellbound with the magic of it. When I met and married my husband and immigrated to the United States, I continued to pursue my legal studies, acquiring both a JD and an Esq. at the end of my name. Writing legal briefs that would persuade judges opened my critical eye and taught me how to turn a good phrase. When I left law practice and stayed home to raise my kids, I began writing in earnest. Ten years ago, my dream came true with the launch of my first novel ‘The Rummy Club’ (Daggerhorn Publishing; 2014) that gave voice through my story to the East-Indian diaspora in the context of 21st century America. In the last ten years, I’ve continued to learn the craft of fiction and write stories that have been published in many literary journals  The themes of recreating identity, immigration, changing roles of women, and racial conflict deeply resonate with me and inspire me to write. I am passionate about applying these themes to my background and the traditions I grew up with, as well as the new traditions I have co-created with my first-generation children while living in America. I’m fortunate that I have a literary agent who believes in my stories, and although the publishing industry is fickle—my fifth novel narrating the story of two estranged sisters based on colorism—-didn’t receive much traction from acquiring editors forcing me to shelve it, I continue to write. As Anne Frank said, “I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.” (Excerpted from Anoop Judge’s Nov 1, 2020 blog post.) 

 Is “Mercy And Grace ” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes, they are. Thanks to the power and reach of Amazon.

If you could visit any place in the world to inspire your next novel, where would you go and why? 

If I could visit any place in the world to be inspired to write my next novel, it would be South Africa. I found South Africa so different from every other place I have visited, with its safaris where you can watch the Big Five predators in their natural environment, and the country’s rich culture as manifested in its food and traditions.

Are you a bookworm yourself? If so, what genres (or authors) do you usually like to read? And are you a kindle or “proper book” fan?

Yes I am. The genre I like to read the most is what I write in which is book club fiction, also called upmarket fiction: a combination of commercial and literary fiction. It has universal and relevant teams everyone can connect to, and a hyper-focused plot but doesn’t necessarily end in doom, gloom and suffering. I always loved the feel of an actual book with pages, and never thought I would convert to Kindle, but my techie son who is an engineer got me started on Kindle. Now, I can’t give it up because it’s just so darn convenient. I’m always reading a book and it’s the first thing I turn to when I’m standing in a long queue, or I’m feeling bored.

Apart from being an author, you have appeared in the US TV reality series, Gems of Ruby.  Did you enjoy being in a TV reality show? Was it nerve racking? 

I enjoyed shooting the reality TV series, in part, because it was with friends I knew well; women who I consider my best friends and who would keep safe from any dark secrets I didn’t want exposed, haha. It was nerve-racking, only in the sense because we didn’t know what would finally come out of the editing room and how we would be portrayed on screen. It’s also crazy how addictive being on screen can be— the cringe-worthy aspect of seeing yourself on screen goes away very quickly when people begin to recognize you, and talk to you about the scenes they’ve seen you in.

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

I’m not a very casual person, so you won’t find me lounging around in sweats, except when I attend my Pilates classes. Usually you’ll find me in jeans with bright-colored blouses, and tailored jackets or in a dress if I’m going out.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I mix-and-match high-and-low, so you’ll find me shopping both at Nordstrom and at Shein. It’s what catches my eye. I don’t like to break the bank on outifits because I’m trendy, and enjoy being a seasonal shopper.

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

A white faux fur jacket.

Boots or Shoes?

Boots because they instantly make you look polished. I always like to be well turned-out when I’m going out because looking good instills a confidence in me, and makes me feel strong.

Links you would like to share:


Thank you Anoop for inviting me onto your book tour, for a review copy of the brilliant “Mercy And Grace” book and for agreeing to be interviewed.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with the kind permission of Anoop Judge.

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An Interview With The Butterfly Collection

March 1st – the official first day of Spring in the Northern Hemisphere, so what better to celebrate the changing of the season than a post about butterflies? Rakha Singh is the London artist behind The Butterfly Collection, who has developed a photographic technique to produce ultra high resolution images of butterflies and moths with detail so fine that you can actually see the individual scales and fine hairs. I caught up with Rakha to find out more about his love of photographing these beautiful creatures. Welcome to the blog, Rakha…

Hello, I am Rakha. I am an artist based in London, England and have developed a photographic technique to produce Ultra High Resolution images of Butterflies and Moths, at  100cm x 100cm. I believe, a Butterfly is one of the most beautiful of all insects, conjuring up images of sunshine, the warmth and colour of flowery meadows, and summer gardens teaming with life.  We are charmed by their gorgeous colours and very delicate wings.

What inspired your interest in butterflies and moths to develop the photographic technique to capture their gorgeousness?

To be able to see these beautiful creatures at such a scale adds another dimension to how we see the world around us.  These staggeringly beautiful creatures, in amazing colours, are stunning never-seen-before images on this scale. Printed onto Canson Baryta Photographique 310 gsm archival paper, gives the image a unique ‘painting’ like effect. 

What makes your photographic technique different from other butterfly prints?

It’s the quality and scale at 100cm x 100cm – I wanted to unleash the beauty of the butterfly kingdom with our Ultra High Resolution Butterfly and Moth Collection. Our specially developed photographic technique captures intricate details, allowing you to see individual scales, cells, and fine hairs with astonishing clarity. These stunning images showcase the incredible colours and patterns of these delicate creatures like never before.

You have captured some lovely images of butterflies I have never come across before. I particularly like the Yellow Jezebel Butterfly.  What is currently the most popular butterfly/moth image?

Monarch. It’s the world’s most famous kind of butterfly.

What’s your favourite butterfly/moth image?

Sunset Moth, Chrysiridia Ripheus – Madagascar

Where do you find these specimens to be photographed?  

The specimens photographed all came from licensed butterfly farms and died naturally.

When deciding which butterfly/moth to add to your collection, do you choose those that are available, most colourful/interesting, customer requests, your personal choice or all of those options? 

All of these options

As you are based in London, are your images available to purchase & ship worldwide?

 Yes we ship all over the world and can provide exact and bespoke dimensions.

Boots or Shoes?

Boots – My feet feel secure and I walk a lot

For Pinning Later

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

Lovely to chat to you Rakha, the images are certainly stunning.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with the kind permission of Rakha Singh (The Butterfly Collection)

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Analyzing The Prescotts Book Tour

This week I’m so pleased to be part of author Dawn Reno Langley’s “Analyzing The Prescotts” Book Tour. This is the first time I’ve encountered a book in the LGBTQ+ literary fiction genre and it was extremely impressive reading – the very dramatic storyline drew me in and as each member of the Prescotts unravelled their views to their therapist, my opinions changed and then I realised I was getting caught up in the private life of Cotton Barnes, the therapist too. It was definitely a hard book to put down …. And I couldn’t wait to chat to Dawn about her reasons for choosing this storyline in our interview, but first here’s a quick summary of “Analyzing The Prescotts”….


Cotton Barnes, a Raleigh, NC, therapist, leveled by a client’s recent suicide, is struggling to resume her practice when she begins working with the Prescotts, a family fractured when the father comes out as transgender and begins transitioning. They relate their stories in their chosen voices, each family member’s narrative in a different format. Journals, social media, and other nontraditional narratives challenge Dr. Barnes’ therapeutic skills. While each member of the Prescotts dodge land mines behind the closed doors of her therapy office, the Raleigh, North Carolina area is rocked by a series of LGBTQ+ hate crimes. As Cotton finds herself stalking the family, worried that she might not be able to “save them,” her husband slips away, and Cotton is forced to make a decision that will determine whether she saves her own marriage or the Prescotts.

Publisher: Black Rose Publishing

Print length: 308 pages


Hi Dawn and a big warm welcome to the blog 😊 Please introduce yourself to the readers …I

Hello, I’m Dawn Reno Langley. I’m a writer who has worked in every genre except screenplays (because I just like writing about everything!). Though I’m originally from the Boston area, I live in North Carolina with my scientist husband and my twelve-year-old Schichon, Izzy. I love traveling and am about to go on a new adventure — to Chile! 

Who or what inspired you to write “Analyzing The Prescotts”?

During the dissertation process for my PhD, I studied transgender authors and what they wrote both pre- and post-transition. Their works were fascinating to me for many different reasons, and the story about the Prescotts was inspired by their memoirs.

I really enjoyed reading your book, “Analyzing ThePrescotts ” and I particularly enjoyed the characters of Cotton, Hailey, & Janis.  I had sympathy for Gray too. What character did you particularly enjoy writing about? What character was the hardest to portray?

I’m so glad you enjoyed the story! That means a lot to me. I spend years with these characters, so when I release a book, it’s like sending my children into the world. 

I love all my characters, but I love Hailey and the kids most in this book. They are the ones who respond with love, while Gray is incredibly screwed up, and Cotton needs more time to recover from her breakdown before she takes on helping others. 

Cotton was the most difficult to portray, because she had to be professional yet skewed. She’s not a person really capable of helping the Prescotts, and she knows that her breaking points are affecting her ability to be an effective therapist. In essence, she’s not a bad therapist, but the Prescotts challenge her, and she probably shouldn’t be treating them. Ultimately, they teach her what it means to be a family, and I believe she is changed for the better, even though her own life falls apart.

Hypothetically speaking, if “Analyzing The Prescotts “ was made into a film, who would you consider to be great actors to play the roles of Cotton, Gray, Hailey, Janis, Marcus, Cherylynn & Cotton’s husband ? 

Wow, that’s a tough question. Hmm, I really think Meg Ryan would be a great choice for Cotton, because she has the ability to be both fragile and strong when portraying females caught in tough situations. For Gray, I think Lizzy Caplan might be a good choice. She has the ability to play a serious woman with a scary side. Hailey has to be Renee Zelwegger. She has proven to be a tour de force when taking on tough characters, and I think she’d be perfect for Hailey. As for Janis, Millie Bobby Brown can be tough and tortured, the way Janis is, and I think she’d bring an edge to the role that few others could manage.  Ella Anderson is perfect for Cherylynn. Ella has an innocent, happy face, as well as the depth to show the myriad emotions the middle child endures. Marcus could be played by Asher Morrissette, who has starred in soap operas and has a full range of facial emotions. Finally, I always imagined Thomas as Ethan Hawke–handsome, slim, and intense. That was a fun exercise!

The novel is based in North Carolina. What made you pick that location for the novel?

I live in North Carolina and know the area well. The place where Cotton lives is only minutes away from a house I used to own, the therapist’s office is based on one that I have visited, the Prescotts’ house is one I passed every day on my way to work, and the Raleigh/Durham area has experienced the type of gender bashing that I describe in the novel.

Growing up, did you envisage yourself as a writer or did you have other career aspirations?

I’ve been a writer since the age of 9 when my first article was published, but I never really thought I could make a living at this profession. I always wanted to be a flight attendant so I could travel. (And even though I’m not a flight attendant, I have travelled extensively, so that dream has been fulfilled). It wasn’t until I was in college and became editor of the newspaper that I realized all I wanted to do was write–and I’ve done so ever since.

Is “Analyzing The Prescotts ” available to purchase worldwide?

By the way, whether the book is available worldwide, we just released the audio book, and the book is now available in the US,  Canada, the UK, and Australia.

If you could visit any place in the world to inspire your next novel, where would you go and why? 

I’d love to visit Uzbekistan, because it’s a mysterious, fascinating place that is not “over-touristed.” I’m not sure what kind of story I’d place there, but visiting the country would be inspiration enough for many stories, I believe.

I’d also like to revisit Kenya to get more information for a follow-up story to my novel, The Mourning Parade. I have an outline already started for a new book, but it’s waiting until I finish editing a trilogy that’s set here in the U.S.

Are you a bookworm yourself? If so, what genres (or authors) do you usually like to read? And are you a kindle or “proper book” fan?

Oh, yes! I’ve spent my whole life with piles of books around me. When I was a child, I read every book in my little local library before graduating to the “big” library where I devoured biographies, books on traveling, and novels. Now, I read mostly literary novels (Barbara Kingsolver, Michael Cunningham, and Abraham Verghese are some of my favorite authors), but I also love fantasies, and I’d count books like Station Eleven, Night Circus, and The Ocean at the End of the Lane among my favorites. 

I love a physical book, but I have a Kindle because I do a lot of traveling and books are heavy!

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

I’m a writer, so sweats are my go-to. I also teach yoga, so I wear lots of leggings and sweatshirts. However, I do like to get dressed up and for the launch party for Analyzing the Prescotts, I wore a winter white outfit — crepe pants, turtleneck top, and below-the-knee duster coat. My favorite colors are black or white, so that’s what I usually wear. (I could use some fashion advice :-)).

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Sundance clothing is one of my fav online shops. It’s owned by Robert Redford and features a lot of casual, funky clothing that I’d love to wear.

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

I’d love a pair of nice hiking shoes for the times when my husband and I are traveling. We walk/hike everywhere! 

Boots or Shoes?

I love boots in the winter, but usually wear Sperry’s in the summer.

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

Facebook: @dawnrenolangley

TikTok: @proflangley    

Insta: @proflangley  

Pinterest: @proflangley   


Such a pleasure to have you on the blog, Dawn. Thank you for inviting me onto your book tour and thank you for a copy of your book “Analyzing The Prescotts “ for reviewing … a book I thoroughly enjoyed reading so 10/10 for me 😊

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Dawn Reno Langley, apart from the clock header photo which was taken by me.

Linda x

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An Interview With Laura See London

This week shoe designer Laura See is under the blog spotlight. Laura has loved shoes from a young age and with her brand, she has focused on injecting colour and art into the shoes she has designed. Her footwear is not only stylish but her brand had an “Honourable Mention” in the 2021 Global Footwear Awards for Sustainability. That’s something definitely to be proud of 😊 Welcome to the blog, Laura ….

Hello. I am Laura See and the Founder of a women’s luxury, unique shoe brand, Laura See London. Although I am based in London our shoes are hand made in Italy. Our shoes are made for fun, fearless and positive women who appreciate fun designs matched with incredible quality and comfort.  All Laura See shoes feature a splash of my own artwork which gets printed onto the leather and a pretty gold Hummingbird – the brand’s motif – on the sole.

Who inspired you to become a shoe designer?

I have always had a passion and love for shoes, fashion and art and I had reached a stage in my construction career where I was not really creatively fulfilled. So I decided to apply for a short course in Italy, studying shoe design. I wanted to create something with my art that could be unique.

Have you always had an interest in fashion/shoe design or did you have other career plans whilst growing up?

Yes! Initially I wanted to be a fashion journalist, but then found a love for interiors and started working for a design and build construction company. My role was not overly creative – so something was always missing – but it did teach me about working with people, how to communicate and how to work well under pressure, to tight deadlines. But my interest in fashion has always been there.

I love the Hillstar10 design -especially in khaki and teal (love both colours!) ! What designs/colours are most popular at the moment? Have you got a favourite design?

People are going for colours that transcend across the seasons – so my Stellula 85 in steely grey patent is one of the most popular designs as they can be worn day or night throughout the seasons. They are so beautiful and can be dressed up and down plus really support the foot for those not so confident in heels- as they have a double ankle strap and blocketto heel. They are one of my favourites – as well as the ESMERALDA 105 in gold!

So, when you are designing shoes and colours to add to your collection, do you go for popular trends, customer requests, personal favourites or a mixture of all 3?

It is a mixture although a lot of the time it depends on the artwork as that often dictates which colours will make the artwork pop. But I also choose colours based on seasonless collections and what I think will look striking on most women. Gold always features in my collections….

The Hummingbird is the emblem of your brand, your shoes are named after them and they feature on the sole of every shoe.  Why did you choose the Hummingbird as your brand emblem?  

Because it represents beauty, freedom and determination. The smallest of all birds yet mighty and the only one that can fly backwards – so, also unique. It sits looking pretty on every sole and is visible when walking.

As you are based in the UK, are your items available to purchase overseas?

I am based in the UK and the shoes are available to buy online via the website, Laura See London. We do ship overseas. UK delivery is within 2 days but it takes longer for delivery anywhere outside the UK.

Congratulations on your “Honourable mention” in the 2021 Global Footwear Awards for Sustainability. You also have a zero plastics policy. How does your brand strive to ensure sustainability?

We never real exotic skins, only amazing imitations. I always try to choose leather that already exists in stock so as to not produce more leather. We only create small quantities to reduce our manufacturing impact. Also our shoes are made to last, investment pieces so won’t end up in landfill. The packaging we use is eco-friendly and supplied from a company that supports the Noissue “plant a tree programme”.

Hypothetically speaking, if you could pick any woman (dead or alive) to represent the “Face” of your brand, who would you pick and why?

I would pick Emma Stone. She is very cool, versatile and genuine. I could see her in a sharp suit with some gorgeously coloured Laura See London shoes.

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

Stellula, Esmeralda and Rufous. They suit most occasions and outfits and come in gorgeous colours.

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

I love REISS AND ALL SAINTS but I also love Kat Maconie and Aquazzura

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

I want to create a collection focused on texture and blurring the lines with masculine and feminine dressing.

Boots or Shoes?

This depends, I do love boots but I also like shoes that can be worn with chunky socks/tights and jeans and can dress up or down any look.

Photography: For Pinning Later

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

Website :

Instagram: @lauraseelondon

Thank you Laura for introducing your delightful shoes to us!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with the kind permission of Laura See.

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How To Take Photos Of Shoes To Sell

This week I have a guest post from the lovely Susannah Davda, The Shoe Consultant. How many of us try to sell shoes on Ebay and other selling sites? The secret is to photograph your shoes in a way that would make your shoes stand out to a buyer. So, along with photographer Rhian Cox, Susannah has given us simple steps to try. Over to you Susannah…

Do you ever open your wardrobe and look sadly at all the shoes you haven’t worn in years? Particularly those heels you feel are just too high? You have three options for dealing with your shoe stash:

1. Leave them where they are, unworn and unloved, collecting more dust.

2. Give them all away to friends, relatives or the charity shop

3. Sell them 

If you have never sold shoes online, the third option may seem daunting. Luckily, sites like eBay, Depop and Vinted make the process easy. The only part of selling shoes that takes a little more thought is photographing them.

Taking good photos of shoes may not be as simple as pointing and clicking with your phone, but the bar is set low on resale sites. You will find thousands of badly shot photos of shoes when you browse eBay and the other apps and websites. Making your shoe photos better than average will help your listings stand out so you sell your shoes more quickly.

These are my three tips for photographing your preloved shoes:

1. Shoot shoes on a table

It is really difficult to get a good shot while trying to take a picture of shoes on the ground. It can be difficult to get your phone or camera low enough, even if you are lying on the floor. 

To improve your results, place your shoes on a table. You can easily use Canva Pro or another programme to take out the background from your shoe photo if you don’t like the way your table looks. This will leave the shoe on a clean, professional-looking white background.

The two situations in which the floor rule does not apply are when you are taking an overhead shot of a shoe’s top or when you are taking flat lay photos of various objects or props. 

2. Don’t use one light

If you have attempted to take pictures of shoes using only one light source, you may have noticed unwanted shadows in your shots. Additionally, you may have found that certain details of the shoe were clearly visible while others were not. Ring lights are suitable for capturing photos and videos of faces, but they are not ideal for photographing shoes.

To prevent the loss of detail and eliminate shadows, it is recommended to use two lights to illuminate the shoe. These lights should ideally have the same brightness. They can be professional photography lights or even two bedside lamps if that is what you have available.

Position the lights slightly in front of the shoe, one on each side, pointing diagonally towards the shoe. Ensure that the lights are equidistant from the shoe, and measure if necessary. You will be surprised by how each light cancels out the shadow created by the other.

3. Phone works fine

Phone cameras have significantly improved, making them suitable for shoe photography. Try the tips and guides in my complete How to Photograph Shoes to Sell online course before buying more advanced equipment. Later on when you want more control over your shoe images, consider investing in a digital camera like a DSLR for adjustable settings and lens options.


If instead of selling your own shoes, you would like to know what to look for when buying preloved shoes online, here are my three top tips:

1. Look closely at photos of the sole or bottom of the shoes. This will show the level of wear. Check to see whether one side of the soles and heels has been worn away more than the other. If this is the case, you will need to replace the soles which may not be possible or cost effective.

2. Avoid shoes with deep creases. These are usually across the front of the shoes where the base of the toes flex. Creasing may not look great, and it can also be uncomfortable, especially if your toes flex at a slightly different point than the original wearer’s.

3. Leather is better. Leather uppers of preloved shoes can often be cleaned and polished to look new or nearly new. This is far harder to achieve with textile or synthetic faux leather shoes. 

For pinning later

Who Are Susannah Davda and Rhian Cox?

Rhian Cox has been a professional photographer since 2006. The first shoe brand she photographed in 2015 was a luxury label requiring a high level of precision. Since then, she has photographed footwear for at least 10 other brands.

Susannah Davda has been working in the shoe industry since 1998, and helping people to start shoe brands since 2015.  Susannah believes that good shoe photography is the most important element of selling shoes online.                        

A big thank you to Susannah for some valuable tips! All photographs have been published with kind permission of Rhian Cox (apart from the Pinterest photo which was taken by me! )

Linda x

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Author Interview: Joan Lewis

In the 1970s in Britain, a disproportionate number of immigrant children were put into E.S.N (educationally subnormal) schools, considering them subnormal regardless of who they were or what they could achieve. This particularly affected the children of the Windrush generation who were from the Caribbean islands and had moved to England. “Because You Were There” is a powerful novel by author Joan Lewis is about the treatment of the Windrush immigrants. Although it is a work of fiction, the facts behind the story are very true. And Joan Lewis should know – in the early 1970s she was a young teacher at an E.S.N school in Bath. I caught up with Joan to find out more about her novel and her teaching career…. but first, here’s a quick book summary.


A stirring and compelling novel about the scandalous treatment of Windrush immigrants. In the 1960s and ‘70s a disproportionate number of black children who came to Britain were sent to special schools for so called educationally subnormal (E.S.N.)  children whatever their talents, starting their life in Britain at a disadvantage because of their race. This introduction to racism would haunt them throughout their lives.

The failure to encourage one particularly talented child, Tina, is seen through the eyes of Felicity, her special needs teacher who would have liked to help but didn’t. Fifty years later Felicity returns to the same town and realises that Tina has suffered from discrimination throughout her life, and her family too. Is it possible to make amends, or even to say sorry?

A book about belonging. Tina left Jamaica, where she was loved and valued, for a country that treats her like dirt. In spite of all this, she feels a strong attachment to Britain. Felicity, who was born British, is alienated and feels that Britain no longer represents her values.

Tina, a bright and rebellious ten-year-old from Jamaica, leaves her homeland in 1968 to join her mother in Britain. But instead of receiving a warm welcome, Tina is forced to attend an ESN school, where she is treated as inferior due to her Jamaican heritage. Eventually, in desperation, she writes a cry for help in the form of a poem, giving it to the one teacher she trusts. But her teacher, Felicity, ignores her hidden plea, though as the years go by she remains haunted by the memory of the vulnerable teenager.

Fifty years later, Tina and Felicity cross paths again, and as Felicity grows closer to Tina’s family, she is drawn into a racist hate campaign conducted by her neighbours against Tina’s daughter. Can Felicity ever make amends for all that Tina and her family have suffered?


Hello Joan and welcome… please introduce yourself….

Hello. I’m Joan. I suppose my adult life can be divided into two parts: pre-France and post France. I was a teacher and primary school headteacher in the U.K. for thirty years. During that time we brought up two sons, first of all on our small holding in West Wales where we had a much loved Jersey cow called Mildred, as well as sheep, geese and chickens. We then moved to Marlborough, in Wiltshire. I loved teaching, but sadly, the job has been made overly stressful. I’m not sure I’d choose that career path again, although I very much miss the inspiration of young children. We now live in the middle of a national forest, in a stunning part of Southern France. We had to work hard to establish a living from two gîtes, but it has been enormous fun, and we have made some lasting friendships. We now have more leisure, and enjoy spending time on our boat. I have always loved to write, and at long last I now have time to do so. ‘Because You Were There ‘is my first published novel. There will be more!

“Because You Were There” is your powerful novel – a fictional story based on very true facts, about the treatment of Windrush immigrants in Britain.   What inspired you to write a novel in the first place? Why this particular subject?

When I taught in Bath, I was young and impressionable. I have so many memories from that time. It was exciting to live and work in a beautiful Georgian city. Also the children with their special needs made such a mark on me, and I  remember  every single pupil with affection.  They were all so much more than their ‘handicaps.’ One particular pupil did not have special needs. Like a lot of pupils from the Caribbean at that time, she was wrongly categorised, and removed from her neighbourhood friends. She wrote a poem for me…just imagine! It was a cry for help. But I did nothing about it. This has haunted me ever since. Recently, I was shocked to learn about the Windrush scandal, when bona fide British immigrants from the Caribbean were cruelly threatened with deportation. Could that have happened to my ex pupil? This inspired me to write a story, so that everyone could see how wrongfully we have treated this group of people throughout their lives.  It is pure fiction, but it is based on real events.

Who were the hardest characters to portray?

Perhaps the hardest character to portray was my arch villain ‘The Colonel.’  Although in real life, most of my fellow teachers at the special school were very kind, one teacher was particularly harsh towards these vulnerable children. He was also very misogynistic towards me. Obviously ‘The Colonel’ is purely fictional and much exaggerated, but I do think that I created this character in order to wreak my revenge.

Were there any aspects of writing your novel that surprised you, either by being harder or easier to write about than you expected?

I was surprised at how quickly my story was written. I think that my memories were so powerful, that they all came tumbling out. It was also as if the characters I invented took me over and said: ”Look, Joan. This is how we feel, and this is what happened.”

Hypothetically speaking, if “ Because You Were There” was made into a film, who would you love to see portraying the characters, especially Tina and Felicity?

Obviously Felicity, the teacher, is very loosely based on me. How about Penelope Cruz?(I joke!)  Letitia Wright is an exceedingly powerful and intelligent actress, who moved to Britain from Guyana when she was only seven. She would be amazing in the role of Tina as an adult,  although she would have to age quite a bit.

Have you always wanted to have a career in teaching or writing or did you have other career aspirations growing up?

I always wanted to be a teacher from the age of four, like my mum. 

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

I have periods when I love to read exhaustively, but the conditions have to be right. Kindle for me, though books are definitely more precious. I mainly read contemporary literary fiction, mostly by women such as Rachel Cusk, Claire Keegan, Zadie Smith, Maggie O’Farrell, Anne Enright , Ali Smith, and others. I recently met Natasha Brown, who is the author of a startling new book called ‘Assembly,’ and am keen to read any novels she may write in the future.

Is Because You We’re There available to purchase worldwide?

 ‘Because You were There is available through Amazon, Waterstones, and The Gurdian Bookshop.  

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

I got married in the seventies in a pair of jeans, and have never given up on them, though recently I have discreetly started to wear denim joggings. It’s always been casual for me: trousers rather than dresses, and boots and trainers, rather than heels: and maybe linen trousers, or a short denim skirt and sandals in the increasingly hot summers here.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I always shop on line: Uniqlo, M+S maybe. I find that clothes I bought from Boden years ago have aged well. I still have an ancient pair of Boden velvet trousers for special occasions that I adore.

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

My leather baseball type boots from Rieker which I wear non- stop in winter, are wearing out. If the soles can’t be replaced, I’ll have to find similar ones. I love the side zips and they are soooo warm.

Boots or Shoes?

Low boots or trainers definitely!  We take daily walks into the forest , so that’s a must. 

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

I love to blog. When I’m not writing something longer, it kind a’ scratches that itch. I can be found on:

Thanks to Joan for the copy of her excellent book “Because You Were There” for reviewing. Also thanks to Cameron Publicity & Marketing.

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Joan Lewis

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