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Author Interview: Asya Semenovich

Summertime and the weather is balmy, lay on a sunbed and while away the hours with a good book 
. so say me! 😊 And I have another great book to recommend and add on to your reading list – ”Fire Of The Dark Triad” by Asya Semenovich – a psychological sci-fi page turner. It is a futuristic tale of power, lust, betrayal and obsession. I loved it! Thanks to Ben Cameron for forwarding me a copy for reviewing.

BOOK SUMMARY

The ”Dark Triads” are a group of humans born with a DNA that makes them dangerous and for centuries they have wreaked havoc on Earth. Dark Triads are a rare breed, however, and display elements of narcissism. The Earth’s rulers tried to purify the human race by removing this particular gene from future generations
. but civilisation on Earth has become
. ”boring”?! Anyway, people on Earth now lacked creative spirit, so Earth’s leaders recruited an elite group of Head Hunters to recruit Dark Triads from other planets to come back to Earth. Meet Nick, the best of the Head Hunters, whose routine mission didn’t go exactly to plan
.


AUTHOR INTERVIEW

I am so pleased to welcome onto the blog author Asya Semenovich 
.hello Asya!

Thank you, Linda! Hello, I am Asya. I was born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, lived there until the time when the iron curtain started lifting, and in 1992 I left for graduate studies in the US. I got my PhD in Mathematics in 1997 from the Penn State University. After graduation I joined a tech start up, and later I worked in financial technology on Wall Street . I started writing my novel Fire of the Dark Triad while working full time as an Executive Director in Morgan Stanley. I really liked my job, but the book was progressing too slowly, and eventually I decided to leave my full-time position to focus on writing.

I live in New York, the city I love, with my husband and a daughter.

“Fire Of The Dark Triad” is a futurist tale of power, lust, betrayal and obsession. Where did you draw the inspiration to write this futuristic novel? 

I always wanted to write about things I was passionate about – freedom, especially, freedom of creative expression, the soul crushing reality of totalitarian regimes, the dangers of genetic engineering, the nature of creativity in various areas of human activities, the power of love and the great lengths people are willing to go for it.

When I learned about the psychological concept of the Dark Triad, I found that it could serve would serve as a rich and exciting basis for a sci-fi futuristic novel, and at the same time help me weave together the themes that I wanted to explore with my readers.

The Dark Triad recognizes the interplay between three character traits: Narcissism, Machiavellianism and Psychopathy. Individuals described by this syndrome have little regard for others in their desire to get what they want. Many autocratic leaders such as Vladimir Putin  are perfect examples of this kind of person. In fact, in the sequel to The Fire of the Dark Triad, I’ve based the major antagonist on him. 

Can you tell us a bit about the interesting or exciting projects you are working on or wish to create?

Currently, I’m working on an audio version of the novel and the sequel which will follow many of the original characters on a new adventure.  

I have to thank my many readers for inspiring me to pursue the sequel. I thought that I said everything I wanted to say in my first novel.  But many of my readers said that they wanted to know what happened to Nick and the other characters in their world. I also realized that there were many more ideas, I could share in a new book. 

The main theme of the sequel is the nature of manipulation:  by governments, by the media, by other people. As I thought about it, I found that the scariest part of this issue is just how easily people tend to embrace being manipulated. Perhaps it is because they feel more comfortable abandoning their free will and following someone else’s agenda. I wanted to make people think about it and search for the reason why it happens. Since the principal goal of Dark Triads is to manipulate others to do their bidding, it seemed the perfect way to continue the story.  

I also continue to deepen our understanding of the relationship between creativity and the Dark Triad syndrome. I read an article  in Harvard Business Review regarding this very issue. It states in part that “
 the very thinking patterns that define the creative process and help lead to original thinking can have a maladaptive side. For example, creativity requires the inability to suppress irrelevant thoughts and inappropriate ideas.” In the sequel, I portray this connection from many different angles and pose the complex ethical problems they can cause.

 I loved the variety of characters – Who were the hardest characters to portray? Who were the easiest?  

While I tried to make all the characters multilayered and complex, the most challenging to portray was Nick, the protagonist and headhunter of Dark Triads. I wanted to write a believable male character by telling the story from his POV. It wasn’t easy, especially portraying the romantic and sexual interactions between Nick and other characters, and I am very grateful to my early readers for the feedback. 

The easiest character was the artist, Reish because I could identify with her on a deep personal level. 

I loved the main character Nick – and also the fiery flirty Lita. Do you have favourite characters? 

My favorite character is Nick, which isn’t surprising – we spent so much time together, and he was always a good company to have around thanks to his sense of humor, intensity and charm.

Lita is my other favorite character. Not only is she fiercely independent, but she is no afraid to fight for she believes in against all odds. The real life event that inspired me create her character occurred in 1968,four days after hundreds of thousands of Soviet troops poured into Czechoslovakia to crush the reforms of the Prague Spring. Eight Soviet citizens went into Moscow’s Red Square and held up banners denouncing the invasion and apologizing to the people of Czechoslovakia. These eight people knew in advance that the KGB would arrest them, but they decided they would risk their own safety to underscore their shame at their country’s behavior. Some were sentenced to lengthy terms in forced-labor camps in Siberia, some sent to psychiatric prisons, notorious for their cruelty, and some were forced into prolonged exile in remote, barren regions of the country. I wrote Lita to celebrate these heroes of freedom.

Were there any aspects of writing “Fire of The Dark Triad” that surprised you, either by being harder or easier to write about than you expected? 

I was surprised that the complexities of the main story and the various subplots came as easily as they did.  When I came upon plot point that was a challenge, I focused on my characters and let them lead me to a resolution. For instance, if Nick were caught between a rock and hard place, I would ask myself “What would be his next step? How would he get out of the situation?” And, he led me to find a solution.

If “Fire Of The Dark Triad” was to become a TV film, who would you pick to represent the main characters eg Nick, Lita, Hilgor, Reish, Elizabeth? 

I would love Nick to be played by Alexander Skarsgard. I had his picture (as Eric from the series True Blood) on my wall during the time when I was writing Fire of the Dark Triad. He was the inspiration for Nick – funny, sarcastic, intense and fantastically good looking just like genetically improved people I describe in the future Earth in the book.

I can imagine Jennifer Lawrence as a perfect Lita; Daniel Craig as Hilgor; Denée Benton as Reish, and Cate Blanchett as Elizabeth. 

Have you always wanted to have a career in writing or did you actually have other career aspirations? 

Ernest Hemingway, who was a major influence on my writing, once said: “In order to write about life, first you must live it.” I think I happened to do exactly as he advised, albeit unintentionally. 

Writing has always been my passion, but I didn’t have a chance to dedicate myself to it for a while. There were so many interesting things to explore in my life. I love theoretical mathematics, so I trained as a mathematician. Once I got my degree, my curiosity pushed me out of the ivory tower in the financial world. I worked on emerging technologies on Wall Street. It was an intense but fascinating experience where I met a host of interesting personalities. I used many of these life experiences in my novel.

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

Yes, I love to read, always have. Naturally, speculative fiction is one of my favorite genres. Michael Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita was a huge inspiration on me. I even used a short quote from it as an epigraphic to Fire of the Dark Triad. Bulgakov’s antagonist Voland asks: “What would your good be doing if there were no evil, and what would the earth look like if shadows disappeared from it?” It encapsulates one of the major themes of my novel: the conflict presents by Dark Triad in society. Julio Cortázar’snovel The Pursuer has been my artist manifesto since I read it as a college student. Stanislaw Lem’s novel Solaris is another example of a book that influenced my writing. William Gibson’s Neuromancer and Jeff Vandermeer’s Veniss Underground are two current sci fi works which I admire as well.  

I vastly prefer reading printed books over ebooks. However, it presents only one inconvenience: a reliable way to locate a title in my library. No amount of arranging and rearranging my books by themes, periods, genres has ever helped me find a book when I want it. Sometimes I spend hours looking for a particular book on my bookshelves, and them I give up and buy a replacement just to find the original copy a week later. As you can imagine, I have many duplicates.  Otherwise paper over a screen, always. 

 Is “Fire Of The Dark Triad” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes, it is on every major bookselling platform online.

If you could travel to any place on Earth to get inspiration for your next novel, where would you go and why? 

I would love to visit North Korea. It is a country that is deeply affected by the manipulation of media. I would be very curious to know what everyday people in North Korean actually think, what they believe, how many know that the world outside of their country is completely different. Since the sequel is based on the premise of the power of political and psychological manipulation and the willingness of people to accept it without question, what has happened to North Korea over its many autocratic regimes is a living example of the theme.

You was born and brought up in Tashkent, Uzbekistan and emigrated to the USA in 1992.  What have you found are the main differences between the two countries?  What things have you missed from Uzbekistan? What things do you enjoy about the USA? 

I enjoy the freedoms to say and write what I want in the US. It is much more restricted in my home country. I do miss the rich cultural history of Uzbekistan and its food (although you can get more of it in New York City than any other place in the US).

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

My style can be described as Cyberpunk. I fell in love with this style as a teenager before I knew what Cyberpunk was, and over the years my devotion to this style has only been growing. To understand the style and distinguish it from goth, steampunk, rave, and industrial looks, one needs to remember the formal definition of Cyberpunk: “a subgenre of science fiction in a dystopian futuristic setting that tends to focus on a “combination of lowlife and high tech.” The cyberpunk fashion “speaks” to an urban dystopian landscape affected by highly advanced developments in science and technology. New York is a perfect example of this environment and my personal style fits right in. I love wearing black, a cyberpunk staple, zippers over buttons, snaps, loads of pockets and of course boots. 

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

My absolutely number one place to check for new arrivals every season is Y-3 by Adidas – a Japanese Style Cyberpunk Clothing Store in the style of Yohji Yamamoto. I have more items from this brand than from any other by a wide margin: my favorite boots, shoes, jackets, sweaters, hats are from Y-3. I originally ran into this store walking my dog in Soho, several blocks from where I live. I looked into the store window, stepped in and that was it. In fact, I love this brand so much that I named one of the main planets in Fire of the Dark Triad Y-3.I imagined its inhabitants all wearing Y-3 brand outfits! I recently mentioned it in the store, and salespeople were greatly amused. 

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

While I am waiting for the new arrivals to Y-3 store, I fantasize about wearing the outfit Del from Fire of the Dark Triad wears on Y-3. The upper part of her dress is a tight bodysuit made of soft gray materialthat covers the arms, chest and waist. At the hips it explodes into a haystack skirt of fluorescent red and white ribbons. The accessories are high-wedged white leather boots and black wristband studded with large pink stones. 

This dress is number one on my theoretical wish list.

Boots or Shoes? 

The answer is obvious because of the cyberpunk theme – boots, boots and boots of course! Plus, they are perfect for New York City streets. 

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

For pinning later

My website darktriadbooks.com is dedicated to Fire of the Dark Triad, the soon to be published audio version, and its sequel. It has a page where I share reviews, updates on the progress of my projects, an option to subscribe to a newsletter to get news via email automatically.  

Thank you very much for chatting with us today Asya 😊. My thanks to you and Ben Cameron for the copy of the book for reviewing.

Photographs  of Asya only are by Michel Nafziger https://www.michelnafziger.com

Photographs featuring the book are by Linda Hobden.

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Son Of The Secret Gardener

As a child, one of my favourite books I loved to read was the great children’s classic, The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The novel was published in 1911 and the story was based on her own beautiful and extensive garden at Maytham Hall in Rolvenden, Kent. The knowledgeable gardener in the novel was based on her Head Gardener, George Owen Millum, and he and his son, George Charles Millum, worked in various gardens in south England. Years later, Trevor Millum, grandson of George Owen and son of George Charles, discovered the gardening diaries from 1935 and 1949 of his father, detailing their day to day jobs and lives as gardeners in some of the grandest gardens in England. After doing some research, Trevor has now published a book based on the diaries with original snippets from the diaries, photographs, and charming illustrations by Twink Addison. ”Son Of The Secret Gardener” is just a fascinating account of life as a gardener in the 1900s and I caught up with Trevor to find out more – Hi Trevor!

Hello 😊 Trevor Millum here – writer and gardener, currently reading and weeding in North Lincolnshire.

What inspired you to tell the story of your father and grandfather? 

I’d always been interested in the family tales of Maytham Hall (Frances Burnett Hodgson’s home) and the gardens of the ‘big houses’ but I never had time – or perhaps the nudge I needed – to take my interest any further until I retired. I started sorting through my father’s papers from the loft and discovered so many intriguing things not just about my dad but also about his father that I had to something more than just put them back in store. There was a story that had to be told!

I found your father’s gardening diaries absolutely fascinating, even though I am not much of a gardener! I was amazed at just how much work went into keeping the estate gardens immaculate and how they kept going even in inclement weather.  Were there any aspects of the stories/work mentioned in the diaries that surprised you, pleasantly or otherwise?  

Yes, the amount of hard work was astonishing – and the repetition too. Days of pricking out plants, planting bulbs, sowing seeds
  I was also struck by the amount of time and effort given to cut flowers for the house. Another thing was the deadly pesticides and fungicides that were used; some of the things we still use today are bad but many of these were deadly!

Frances Hodgson Burnett’s novel “The Secret Garden” was my favourite book as a child growing up, so I was thrilled to discover that your grandfather was Head Gardener of Burnett’s estate at Maytham Hall in Rolvenden, Kent and that her book was based around her beautiful garden and your grandfather was the inspiration behind the gardener in the novel.  So, I am assuming you read the novel as a child, what characteristics did Frances give to the gardener that immediately made you think of your grandfather?  What other aspects of The Secret Garden novel resonated with you?

I didn’t make any connections when I first read the novel!  It only struck me later that my grandfather must have been the gardener at Maytham Hall while Frances was there. I then thought, well, he was a bit of a gruff fellow and so is Ben Weatherstaff (the gardener in Burnett’s book) …  But he must have been well liked by the staff because when he left they all signed a card with a fulsome dedication and ‘a purse’.  A walled garden has always had a fascination for me and here was the most famous one in literature! 

Growing up, have you always wanted to be an author or a gardener like your father & grandfather or did you have other career aspirations in mind?

There’s a poem I wrote about this which is in the preface of the book. My dad always said to me ‘Don’t be a gardener’ and that was because in his line of work the pay was so poor and he thought I could do better. So I never considered it as a career. I did, however, write stories and poems from an early age – but I always kept the day job!

The bricked up entrance to the walled garden which is presumed to be the old entrance to the Secret Garden at Maytham Hall.

 In your father’s diaries, he seems to have done a lot of weeding, mowing , pruning and potting, near enough on a daily basis?  Are you a keen gardener?Which gardening jobs do you find therapeutic and which do you find a chore? 

I don’t mind a bit of weeding and I enjoy pruning and general pottering. I’m not keen on mowing but we’ve gradually eaten into the lawn in order to have more room for interesting things, like plants so now it takes very little time.  We’re both pretty keen gardeners, my wife and I, so we share the work. It’s worth it, especially in spring when everything starts burgeoning.

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

Yes, I always have two or three books on the go – fiction and non-fiction. I don’t really have a favourite author – I tend to go for word of mouth recommendations or books my children buy me.  I have a Kindle for convenience. I like books with interesting illustrations like ‘The Lost Words’ and you have to have a real book for that. 

Example of 1935 diary

Is “Son Of The Secret Gardener” available to purchase worldwide?

It’s available on Amazon, and other internet booksellers, so yes!

 If you could visit any famous gardens in the world, where would you go and why?

I have visited some lovely gardens and I think I would like to return to some of them rather than go to new ones. I loved Monet’s garden but of course it gets very crowded. There are some gardens in France that we’ve visited more than once – Maizicourt and the Agapanthuis Garden, for instance.

Illustration by Twink Addison

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

If I’m in the garden, a pair of crocs, jeans, shirt and sleeveless body-warmer – is that a gilet? And a hat usually.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

The Hive for books and eBay for most everything else!

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

A new hat.

Boots or Shoes?

Shoes unless I’m out for a proper walk. Boots take too long to fasten and unfasten. Espadrilles for holidays
 

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

For Pinning Later

www.mouseandmuse.co.uk     www.readingpictures.co.uk     
Facebook: trevor.millum

A perfect gift for all garden lovers, Son of the Secret Gardener by Trevor Millum(illustrated by Twink Addison) was published on 4th April 2022 by Quadrant Books (paperback, RRP £11.50) and is available through books shops and internet booksellers.

Thank you very much to Trevor for the preview copy of Son Of The Secret Gardener for reviewing and for agreeing to be interviewed! I did find your book very interesting!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Trevor Millum ; apart from the pinterest and header photo which are of my own garden 😊

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Until Next Sunday Book Tour

I’m so pleased to be on another book tour – this time it is to highlight an absolutely beautiful book, ”Until Next Sunday” by Audry Fryer. This historical romance is based on a true love story told via love letters.

BOOK SUMMARY

Rosina leaves Italy to build a better life, but the reality in America is nothing like the dream. She is far from the Italian countryside and the beautiful olive groves where she grew up. Here the work is endless, and the winters are cold and desolate. She never expects to find love in such a place. 
Then she met him. Gianni, the shoemaker’s apprentice, is gentle, handsome, and everything she never knew she needed in her life. 
But when Rosina falls ill and is quarantined, their future is at stake. All she can do is cling to the beautiful letters Gianni writes. Each week she tries to survive the long, lonely days until next Sunday for his brief visit. 
Will fate bring Rosina and Gianni together once more? Or are they destined to remain star-crossed forever? 
Until Next Sunday is a sweet Historical Romance inspired by a true story. It is based on actual Italian love letters which were discovered a century after they were written (some of which are contained in this book.) It is a portrait of the times, and a true immigrant experience. Feel the force with which these two lives find love, against all odds.

MY INTERVIEW

I was lost in a world of my own as soon as I started the first page and I really loathed to put the book down – a real page turner. Being based on a true story made the romance even more special so I couldn’t wait to chat with Audry about her collaboration with the family whose love this novel was based on and her delightful book. Hi Audry and welcome 😊

Hi, I’m Audry Fryer, author of Until Next Sunday. I have been writing fiction for over ten years. I have self-published two women’s fiction ebooks and one short story on Amazon prior to writing my latest historical romance novel. I live in Southeastern PA with my husband, three teen children, and two pugs, Pickles and Waffles. My oldest son is about to graduate high school. When I’m not writing, I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, working in my flower and vegetable gardens, hiking the local trails near me, or reading a good book.

Who or what inspired you to research and write  “Until Next Sunday”?

When my husband’s uncle remarried, his wife, Laurie, had a collection of over a hundred love letters from her grandparents. She had worked with her two other sisters, Linda and Susan, to get the letters translated from Italian to English. When they could finally read the letters, the sisters were astonished by the story they told. They first pursued creating a screenplay but were advised to begin with a novel. Knowing I had self-published, Laurie asked me to write the story and I enthusiastically agreed!.

I found your latest book, “Until Next Sunday,” delightful yet sad too in places. I was amazed at how Rosina was treated both in hospital by the staff and by her own brother and his not-so-lovely wife-  and how she was virtually a prisoner due to her illness  – and how she and Gianni were able to maintain a relationship via letter writing and weekly visits. When you were researching, were there any aspects of the stories told that surprised you, pleasantly or otherwise?

The letters held many surprises for me. They are love letters so I expected them to have ovations of love. And there are so many beautifully written romantic overtures. However, I wasn’t expecting how honest and emotionally charged the letters would be. Rosina and Gianni didn’t hold anything back from each other! They shared their day-to-day experiences, their fears, their frustrations, and their hopes and dreams. Their personalities shown through their words. Rosina had a flair for the dramatic and Gianni held steadfast in his love for her. Plus, I was amazed how long Rosina remained in the hospital system. And, I was fascinated by her stories of living in the sanitarium in Malvern.  

I know that  “Until Next Sunday” was inspired by a true story  –  I, of course, loved both Rosina and Gianni;  but I took an instant dislike to Nurse Edna! What characters did you find the hardest to portray?  Any favourites?

Nurse Edna was among the “villains ” in the story. These “villain” characters were fictional yet I tried to make them accurate to the type of people Rosina most likely encountered. I enjoyed creating the character of Nurse Edna and the unhinged character of Elizabetta at the sanitarium. However, Dr. Solomon was difficult to portray. I needed him to be threatening but not too overt in his advances. Also, I enjoyed writing about Rosina’s family in Italy, especially Seraphina, her “evil stepmother,” her cousin Filomena, and her Aunt Teresa.

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

Growing up, I was always being creative in different ways. Originally, I pursued a career in teaching. I have Bechelor of Science degree in Elementary Education. I spent many years substitute teaching in the elementary schools and teaching pre-school. I still work part-time with pre-school and elementary homeschool students with tutoring instruction. 

When my boy and girl twins were born and my oldest was two and a half, my days of leaving the house to teach were put on hold. That’s when I decided to pursue my interest in writing. I loved to read and felt inspired to try my hand at writing a novel. 

Audry’s adorable pugs – Pickles and Waffles

 Are there any new writing plans in the pipeline?

Right now, I don’t have a project that I’m working on. There’s been interest in adding onto Until Next Sunday with either a prequel, a sequel, or a short story. So, I’m open to that. Plus, I have other novel ideas I’d like to develop.

At the moment, I’m planning to expand my website to be resource for readers with helpful articles about book and reading-related recommendations.

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

I love to read. However, I’m a slow reader because I like to fully imagine the story (like a movie in my head) rather than skim it. My favorite genre is women’s fiction, historical fiction, and suspenseful fiction. Right now, I’m reading The Lost Apothecary and loving it. I read on an older Kindle that only displays books and no other distractions.

 Is “Until Next Sunday” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes, Until Next Sunday is widely distributed. Although most of our sales have been through Amazon, the eBook is distributed through Smashwords to popular vendors including Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, Kobo, and more.

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

Italy is on the top of my wishlists to visit. I’d like to tour the Campania area where Rosina called home, plus the surrounding regions of Tuscany and Rome. Also, I’d love to tour most of Eastern Europe and the UK. I find it so inspiring to explore new places.

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

To go out, I like to pair a pretty top or sweater with a pair of jeans. At home, I’m usually in active wear, yoga pants or joggers and a t-shirt or hoodie. For shoes, I live in sneakers in the spring and fall. In the winter, you’ll find me in cozy boots. In the summer, I adore wearing my aqua blue crocs around my house.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I got into using Stitch Fix when the pandemic limited shopping at stores. But I often frequent Target and Famous Footwear. When I go to the outlets near me, I shop American Eagle, Anne Taylor Loft, and Eddie Bauer. 

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

My daughter talked me into buying a cute pair of white Berkinstock sandals. They’re both comfy and a great look. They were on my wishlist for a while. Now I need a couple of sundresses to wear to my daughter’s upcoming dance recital and my son’s graduation ceremony. 

Boots or Shoes?

Since I own more pairs of boots, I’ll go with “boots” over “shoes.” I like the look and comfort of boots. 

For Pinning Later

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

The best place to learn more about Until Next Sunday is my website: https://www.audryfryer.com/until-next-sunday/

You’ll find purchasing links there. And I’ll list them here:

Amazon:

Smashwords:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1132176

Apple Books

https://books.apple.com/us/book/until-next-sunday/id1609872396

Barnes & Noble

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/until-next-sunday-audry-fryer/1141003188?ean=2940165782619

Kobo

https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/until-next-sunday

For my social media, go to:

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/AudryFryerWriter/

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/audryfryerauthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AudryFryer

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/awdry/_saved/

Thank you so much Audry for letting me be part of your Until Next Sunday Book Tour – I really enjoyed reading the book and was mesmerised by the story that unfolded. Thank you for the review copy of Until Next Sunday. I look forward to the sequel 
. hint hint 😊

Linda x

All photographs were published with kind permission of Audry Fryer

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Spotlight on Margate Bookie Festival

“Oh I do like to be by the seaside 
. and I do like to read a good book 
 and when you put the two together 
 it’s definitely worth having a look!”

OK, my poetry skills may need polishing but I can’t think of a better place to wallow in everything books, writing and storytelling. From the first tiny audience of 80 people in 2015, the Margate Bookie Festival has grown to 5,000 a year. In 2022, The Margate Bookie Festival will be running from 2nd June to 5th June with a bumper programme of workshops, book launches, author readings, live performances, poetry recitals
. all by the sea! I caught up with CEO & Founder Andreas Loizou to find out more
Hi Andreas!

Hi! I’m Andreas, and I started the Margate Bookie in a single room in a warehouse in 2015. The Bookie’s grown in ways that I never imagined. We now host a four-day day litfest at different venues in Margate, including the iconic Turner Contemporary gallery. Audiences are bigger, more people want to get involved, and I no longer have to explain where Margate is.

What was the inspiration behind the setting up of the Margate Bookie Festival?

I wanted the events that didn’t exist when I was a bookish youngster growing up in the town. It was fun from very the first moment. Everyone told me I had to continue. So I did!

Margate is heaven for writers. Big skies, lots of cafes and bars, long strolls along the huge beaches. We’re lucky that so many want to come down to Margate to talk about their work.

What are going to be the main attractions of the 2022 Margate Bookie?

It’s a big festival this year. Really big. The line-up includes Maggie Gee, Dr Radha Modgil, Daisy Buchanan, Lauren Bravo, Rosie Wilby, Jude Cook and Felicity Hayward. I’m knocked out that Monique Roffey, who won the Costa Book of the Year, is joining us. And we’ve got children’s events, a poetry slam, the launch of our zine, hip hop and workshops. And it all finishes with a special live reading of TS Eliot’s The Waste Land directed by Richard Skinner, who heads up the Faber & Faber Novel Writing Academy.

You are going to be launching your own new book “The Story Is Everything” at the Margate Bookie this year – an enjoyable experience I’m sure it will be – do you get nervous at book launches? What do you think is so special about launching a new book at a book festival?

I split the world into two types of party people – you’re either a host or a guest. I’ve held a party every year since I was eight, so I don’t really suffer from party fears.

Writing a book is a big commitment. The Story is Everything took a year to write and a year to revise and edit. It’s good to mark its appearance in the wider world. There’s something magical about seeing your original ideas printed in a beautiful book. It’s a moment to celebrate, the time to crack open a bottle of champagne as she slides down the slipway


Apart from being founder of the Margate Bookie and an author, you also teach business storytelling and writing skills at companies and universities around the world. What does that entail?

I’ve taught courses all over the world to many different types of people. NGO workers from Madagascar, bankers in Rome, security chiefs in the shadow of a heavily-guarded oil terminal jutting into the Thames. All of my lovely students want to influence how their readers think, feel and act. They want to feel confident and in control as they write, and proud of what they publish. They smart ones are very clear about what they want to avoid – dull, corporate and boring are all on the shit list!

Have you always wanted a career in the world of literature or did you have other aspirations?

I’ve always wanted to do too many things. I like to be challenged and to learn. I’ve still got a lot more books to write.

What advice would you give to anybody thinking of starting a career in writing?

The more you imagine a single reader, the more your writing connects with many different people.

When I prepare my work, I always visualise the same listener, Clare, sitting in the chair opposite me. She’s a smart person, but not an expert in my subject. She has high standards when it comes to grammar, logic and presentation, but she’s also supportive and forgives my mistakes. If I keep Clare in her chair just through my words, I know I’m on the right track.

Think more about the writing than the career.

Personal now, what outfits/footwear would you normally wear at the Margate Bookie? Any “lucky socks”??

The Bookie is normally held during warm months, so there’s no chance for me to wear my lucky writing cardigan. Looking through the photos of the last seven years, it’s clear that red Campers and old Paul Smith workshirts have been staples.

Boots Or Shoes?

Got to be shoes. I cover a lot of ground during the litfest!

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can learn more about the Margate Bookie

www.margatebookie.com
@margatebookie on TW, FB and Insta

Photographs by Ben and published with kind permission. Header/Pinterest photo by Linda Hobden

Linda x

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Author Interview: Geoffrey Paris

I recently read a memoir/true behind the scenes account of a hotel manager spanning over four decades. The book, “More Sauce Madam? The Adventures Of A Hotel Manager” by Geoffrey Paris was an interesting account of how a shy and awkward young man coped with working long hours and being faced with embarrassing incidents from naked guests to drunken porters; and his gradual climb through the hospitality sector to become hotel manager, enduring fraudulent proprietors, incompetent waiters, con artist customers, prima donna popstars, royalty and love interests along the way. The book was an entertaining read, and it gave me an insight into the working lives of my own daughter who is a food and beverage manager (previously in hotels) and both my son and son in law who are both Head Chefs previously in hotels but both now cook in restaurants. I thought the book also gave an honest account of what to expect when working in the hospitality industry, especially useful if that is your intended career path. There is some swearing in the book and there are some adult themes discussed but neither are distracting the book flow. I received a complimentary copy of ”More Sauce Madam? The Adventures Of A Hotel Manager” for review purposes and my views are 100% my own.

So, after reading the book I managed to get a chance to chat to Geoffrey
Paris about his memoirs. Hi Geoffrey and welcome


Hello! I’m Geoff. Having enjoyed a 40 year career in hospitality, as a hotel manager, mainly in Devon & Cornwall, I have semi-retired from the rigours of the job to enjoy a bit of time for myself. Having attended weekly pottery classes, I was given the opportunity to teach pottery, which I still do once a week. I concentrate on modelling, mainly marine life and animals. After 6 months out of work, I began to miss the camaraderie of hotel life so went back full-time as a receptionist at a local hotel. Ironically I am therefore working 6 days per week. So much for semi-retirement!

What made you decide to write down your memoir & stories about life as a hotel manager?

I had always kept diaries as a teenager up to the age of about 30, which helped immensely once I started to write after a particularly bad experience as a Manager at a Torbay hotel. I felt the world needed to know what we went through.

Your book highlighted for me that there can be fun times, chaos, extreme hard work, stress, companionship and loneliness in following a hotel manager based career. What were your expectations about being a hotel manager before actually becoming a hotel manager? Was it better than you thought, or worse or just different?

I actually wanted to be a chef, perhaps aided by the fact that I was incredibly shy at the time, so would be kept out of the public eye. To my annoyance, my Dad, who was paying for my college education, forced me to study hotel management. Working as a member of staff in hotels was easy in the sense that responsibilities were minor. I looked at managers and how they operated (good and bad) but still thought it an impossible hill to climb. For instance how would I, a small shy person, tell a beefcake chef what to do? I have worked for some excellent managers, for whom you would do anything, as well as alcoholic and dishonest managers, who were impossible to respect..

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

Once in the mood, meaning no hangover, food and coffee easily available, no commitments that day, and several hours free, then I could go for it and the words just flowed. I enjoyed researching former work places on-line. Time was the main issue, what with the long hours worked in hotels, as well 6-day weeks on occasion. The editing and publishing process, with Mereo Books, being a totally new experience for me, was thrilling.

What main advice would you give a young person hoping to go into a hospitality career – aiming to become a hotel manager? What attributes do you think they should possess?

An HND or degree is one direction to start off, but chain hotels in-house training schemes are a good option, not afforded to me due to epilepsy, which in my younger days was regarded as a disability due to ignorance. You may have the opportunity to work overseas and meet some fascinating people. You may work long anti-social hours, but the rewards of seeing people enjoy themselves thanks to your hard work is satisfying. If you work your way up the ladder, which might at times be a challenge, you can end up at some marvellous hotels, have a good salary, and mix with the stars. Attributes – definitely a people person, positive, outgoing, eager to help others, and a can-do attitude. Patience, quick thinking, multi-tasking, and an eye for figures. Communication at all levels is a major factor. Understanding the needs of customers and staff.

So, we know you became a hotel manager, but as a child had you always wanted to have a career in the hotel trade or did you have other aspirations?

Yes I wanted to be a fighter pilot or work in submarines, but due to my epilepsy drugs, which as a teenager knocked me for six, could not pursue a career involving high academic standards. I couldn’t even become a chemist, which has always interested me. Chain hotels would not touch me, which nowadays would be classed as discrimination, so I was restricted to privately owned hotels. But I didn’t give up!

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

I don’t always have time to read, but since publishing my memoirs, all I read now are other memoirs/autobiographies. My favourite author is probably Thomas Hardy. ‘The Mayor of Casterbridge’ is a favourite. On holiday I might buy a thriller at the airport.

Is “More Sauce Madam? The Adventures of a Hotel Manager” available to purchase worldwide?

Most definitely. Through Amazon, WH Smith, Waterstones, Blackwells, etc, as well as from my publisher Mereo Books.

When you are booking a holiday for yourself at a hotel – what criteria do you look for when choosing where to go?

I always read the Trip Advisor reviews, both good and bad, and form a general opinion. I prefer leisure facilities, a good food recommendation, and a hotel with character. I also check the booking.com prices (if listed) to compare the tariff. Location is fairly important.

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

At home jeans and polo shirt. Slippers inside. At work, suit trousers, white shirt, tie, black shoes and socks.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Marks & Spencers where I buy all my clothes. Shoes from Clarks. Groceries/weekly shop stuff from Sainsbury’s.

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

Trainers, so I can go back in the gym
., but not in a hurry 😊 I need some more swimming shorts, different colours – from M&S.

Boots or Shoes?

Always shoes. I did have some boots once as a teenager, but it was too much of an effort putting them on/off. I can’t wear Wellington boots because I have smallish feet and large calves, so can’t get into a Wellington. If anyone knows where I can buy wider ones, please let me know!

For Pinning Later

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

Website: www.geoffparis.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/geoff.paris.5
Twitter: http://Twitter.com/ParisGeoff

And for my ceramics: www.geoffparispottery.com

Instagram: www.parisgeoffpottery

Geoffrey Paris is the author of More Sauce Madam? The Adventures of a Hotel Manager – a candid, eye-popping memoir of more than four decades working in hotels, restaurants and pubs. Geoff’s book is published by Mereo Books (paperback, £12.99) and available through the publisher, book shops and internet booksellers.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Geoffrey Paris – apart the foodie photo which is by Linda Hobden showing food made by my eldest son Chef Dan!

My thanks to Geoffrey Paris for the review copy of ”More Sauce Madam? The Adventures Of A Hotel Manager”.

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Interview: True Business School

Head or Heart? When it comes to business, things tend to orientate around the head and gut with decisions made from the heart often dismissed as being over-emotional. However, founder of True Business School Kat Byles disagrees – she feels that following your heart within your business can transform your success. I caught up with Kat recently to find out more 
. Hi Kat and welcome


Hello I’m Kat, founder of the True Business School for creative leaders, entrepreneurs, teachers, healers, artists who want to do business differently – business aligned with Source, your purpose and creativity, because this creates a happier, healthier, wealthier life, business and world. A few years ago, I followed my heart to the Caribbean Island of Antigua from Bath in the UK, and it has now become a home, in a village on the beach, with the sea as divine inspiration. 

What was the inspiration behind the setting up of the True Business School?

As a global communications director working with the biggest names in Sport I burnt out. I left with a desire to fulfil my purpose, make a contribution AND enjoy wellness, and time with my family and friends. 

My intuition guided me to Antigua, for a holiday or so I thought and, on the last day, I heard the words loud and clear: ‘You are not done. You need to come back for a month and float in this sea every day.’ I listened and went back 5 weeks later, walked barefoot on the sand, ate mangoes from the tree and floated in the sea every day. Nature restored my wellness and then began to feed me with inspiration. 

While swimming I clearly saw the True Business model in my mind’s eye – blending Source energy with the practical business structure – to create a business that is a full expression of who you are and what you came here for. The Caribbean Sea was the divine inspiration. 

What are the main differences between your approach to business and traditional business ideas? 

True Business leads with your creative spirit and orientates around the heart to fulfil your purpose and creative expression. 

Traditional business leads with profit and orientates around the head and gut, fulfilling shareholder returns. The heart is typically dismissed as airy-fairy, woo-woo, over-emotional, misguided, dangerous, weak. It is none of these things. 

The heart transcends the egoic mind, power struggles and agendas bringing connection, inspiration, vitality and wellness. The heart opens us to our higher nature of wisdom, compassion, understanding; into deep listening, intuition, receptivity and appreciation, which creates different outcomes. The heart liberates our true self, purpose, creativity, contribution and legacy. The heart is also a gateway to Source, universal energy and a world of possibility. 

By following the wisdom of our heart, we direct our energy and resources towards business structures that are expansive and yet regenerate and support flourishing and wellness. We create deep, authentic relationships. My experience is that the heart is deeply transformative and we build businesses more in harmony with our true nature, in harmony with the earth. 

You do run a business retreat in Antigua.  I know Antigua is a beautiful island, but why did you decide to base your school retreat in Antigua? 

My intuition guided me here. It’s the perfect place to immerse in nature, relax and receive pure source inspiration. It’s also relatively easy to reach with a relaxed, go-with-the-flow vibe. 

So, as we are talking Antigua, what would budding business entrepreneurs expect from your retreat if they attended ?

The space and time to relax, let go, and reconnect with Source, universal energy that delights in creating and dive deeply into your heart to explore what you are called to create now in your business – when we let the creative lead it is full of vitality, expansion and growth, personally and professionally. The retreat is guided by the needs of the people there but can include morning meditations, swimming in secluded bays, creative immersion sessions on shady beaches, walks to hilltops and sea horizons, yoga, kayaking or stand-up paddle boarding, massages, supporting local businesses and immersing in the natural local environment. 

Apart from your retreat in Antigua, can you give us some details about the courses offered online?

PR with Heart is an online course to grow your audience, visibility and impact for a thriving business and world.

Your True Business is an online course to align with Source, your purpose and creativity for a happier, healthier, wealthier business and world.

The Creative Leader is a year-long program for established business leaders to amplify their impact and visibility, leading transformation from the heart.

I also work one-to-one with a few clients each year via Zoom and in person in Antigua. 

As you have had vast experience working with entrepreneurs, pioneers and global brand, what projects gave you a real buzz? 

So many!

I love seeing creative and spiritual entrepreneurs, leaders, teachers, healers, artists, writers and coaches arrive at PR with Heart, daunted by visibility, frozen by overwhelm, repelled by marketing and then, after just 6 weeks, opening up to inspiration, flow and a simple structure that allows them to fulfil their purpose, make a contribution and an income with joy and ease. Witnessing this transformation, the creativityand inspiration will never get old. 

A shout out to the Homeless World Cup because of the transformation it created in the lives of people who were homeless coming off drugs and alcohol, reuniting with families, finding homes, setting up businesses, becoming leaders in their community. And for the magic we created, the people it attracted, the countries we visited, the magnitude of it. I got to work with high calibre creatives at Nike, UEFA, international film makers, media, designers and event producers. 

Commissioning a documentary narrated by Colin Farrell that made it to Sundance Film Festival and commissioning a feature film that, 14 years later, has just been made for Netflix, creating magical events with the likes of Desmond Tutu, Eric Cantona, Lewis Hamilton were highlights. But I’m always left with the memory of a man in Chile who had spent 8 years living in a doorway taking drugs, now standing in the doorway of his home next to his pregnant wife, telling his story to national TV, as a leader of the football program inspiring other homeless people off the streets. Powerful. This was also the burn out project! But it inspired me to a new experience of being in business and life in Antigua.

 In general, what reasons do your “students” give for wanting to learn or improve their business strategy and find their calling by following their heart when it comes to business?

They have a sense of, or are already connected, to a higher calling, a desire to express their creative potential, and make a contribution. They are not primarily motivated by the sport of profit-making, are repelled by greed, corruption, destruction of the environment excused as ‘just business’ and may have experienced burn out. They are also repelled and overwhelmed by pushy, sales, formulaic traditional marketing as a betrayal of their integrity and authenticity. 
So, they are looking for a different way to be in business, a new pathway. They want a business that fulfils their purpose, makes a contribution, provides them with a great income, plenty of time and space to be with their family and to be creative, and enjoy a life they love. True Business does that – by listening to your heart, you create a business that builds a structure that meets all your needs for a prosperous life. 

 As a child, what was your dream career?

I always felt I’d make a contribution to business but never had an idea of a particular career. Guidance at school was unimaginative nonsense with options of being an accountant, doctor, accountant, lawyer or a teacher. I still remember a careers test that recommended a career as a car park attendant or prison officer.

I grew up on a cul-de-sac where all the kids played on the street together. We organised dance performances and fetes that brought all the kids, parents, grandparents together. We loved organising it all, making up different stalls, drawing up the signage and promotional leaflets. My 10-year-old niece is doing it now – last year it was a cake business, this year it’s a jewellery business. And I love this creativity and life experience as a kid that blends into a business as an adult.

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

Bikinis, shorts, the odd shirt to throw over, maxi dresses with beautiful prints and flip flops.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I love independent shops and online sites set up by people who are passionate about sourcing beautiful pieces and pay attention to sustainability like Tribe + Fable, established by Julia Watson. My Boutique in my Mum and Dad’s UK village in the UK, a family business is a wonderful part of the village community. And Portobello Boutique in English Harbour in Antigua run by Choy are my regulars

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

Bikinis – can’t get enough, mix and match.

Boots or Shoes?

Barefoot or flip flops!

Boots after a year of barefoot for the funny heavy clodhopping sensation!

For Pinning Later

Links you wish to share:

http://Katbyles.com

True-business-school.com

https://www.instagram.com/katbyles

What a picturesque place! Thank you for the chat Kat and long may the heart rule the Head!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Kat Byles.

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Waterbury Winter Book Tour

I’m so pleased to be part of the ”Waterbury Winter” book tour to celebrate the latest novel by author Linda Stewart Henley. Definitely a heart warming story that draws you in with its array of lovable characters – a story of friendship,and real life. This delightful story is a great book to pack in your holiday suitcase or download on your kindle to read whilst lying prone on the sunbed! I loved it!

BOOK SUMMARY

Barnaby Brown has had enough of freezing winters, insurmountable debt, a dead-end job, and his solitary life as a young widower with no one but his beloved parrot Popsicle. He yearns to move to California and reawaken his long-lost early life as an artist. But new troubles come in threes. His ancient car crashes into a snowbank. Popsicle escapes through a window carelessly left open. 

A New York gallery owner offers to represent Barnaby’s paintings—but is he on the up-and-up? All of it serves to shock Barnaby into confronting how low he has sunk, and he vows—again and again—to change. He has a few obstacles, starting with his heavy drinking and long-term neglect of his ancestral home. As he takes steps toward a better life, he re-discovers the value of old friendships and latent talents seen in new light, and finds the courage to consider a second chance at love. Rejoining the mainstream of life presents several startling mysteries he must unravel, with a few mortifying but enlightening stumbles.

A heart-warming novel about ordinary people reclaiming their dormant potential, Waterbury Winter celebrates the restorative value of art and the joy to be found in keeping promises.

Find out more about Waterbury Winter by visiting GoodReads or the author’s website. You can also purchase it on AmazonBarnes and Noble, and Bookshop.org.

MY INTERVIEW

It is with great pleasure to welcome Linda Stewart Henley onto the blog! Hi Linda!

Hello 😊 I’m Linda Stewart Henley , author of Estelle: A Novel. (Among other honors, it won Silver in the Independent Publisher Book Awards for Historical Fiction and was a finalist for The Eric Hoffer Book Awards as well as for the 2021 Nancy Pearl Award). Waterbury Winter is my second novel. I live in Anacortes, Washington, with my husband.

I’m an English-born American and I choose settings for my novels in places I have lived. These include New Orleans (Estelle) and Connecticut (Waterbury Winter)

Who or what inspired you to write “Waterbury Winter”?

During  a visit to see family for Christmas one year in a snowy part of the country, my husband and I stopped by a drugstore. It was December 26th. We were the only people in the store except for the cashier at the checkout counter.  He asked us how our Christmas was. Fine, we said, and asked him the same question. “Well, I was here, and my car broke down.” That man, unknown to him, became the model for Barnaby Brown, a lonely man who doesn’t celebrate Christmas and whose car breaks down.

I really enjoyed reading your book, “Waterbury Winter ” and I particularly enjoyed the characters of Barnaby, Julia, Lisa & Sean. What character did you particularly enjoy writing about? What character was the hardest to portray?

Julia was the hardest. I had to make her relationship with Barnaby believable. I think it worked because they were both lost, haunted by their past, and stuck when they met.

Researching for your novel must have been quite interesting…for example, the brass button collections, the social work aspect, ice fishing 
 did you discover anything that shocked you or uncover some nugget of information that was unexpected? 

I didn’t know anything about Waterbury when I started the novel, so yes, everything surprised me. More about that in the next question.

The novel is based in New England and yet you live across the continent in Washington State. What made you pick that location for the novel?  

I wanted a location that had seen better days, just like Barnaby. Waterbury seemed right because its once famous brass industry had disappeared. It seemed like the perfect setting for the story of a man who struggles to redeem himself.

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

I never saw myself as a writer until my first novel was accepted for publication in 2020. Until then, I was just playing with words, trying to learn how to write fiction. I spent my entire career working as an administrator at institutions of higher education.

Is “Waterbury Winter ” available to purchase worldwide?

I’m not sure if it’s available worldwide, but it’s for sale through Amazon in the USA, Canada, Europe, and the UK.

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

My next novel is set in the UK at the start of WWII. I’d love to go there to confirm that I’ve accurately represented the places I write about there. I haven’t lived in England since I was sixteen. 

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

I’m not working, and most people in my part of Washington State prefer casual clothes. The rainy climate doesn’t allow for stylish shoes and many people enjoy hiking. So we wear a lot of hiking gear, even when we’re not on the trail. Having spent time in the Southern United States, where people tend to dress up more, I sometimes wish we had opportunities to wear more interesting clothes. I do have a few nice dresses, mostly summer ones. 

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I miss the big department stores like Nordstrom’s. I like clothing boutiques, places where the sales people want to help you find suitable clothes. The personal service is much more fun for me than online shopping. 

Boots or Shoes?

Both! I can’t imagine wearing street shoes in the mud and snow. I had to learn about this. When I first moved to Washington, I went on a hike in the Cascade Mountains. It was early spring, and the creeks were overflowing. It was impossible to keep to the trail without wading through the water. I wore hiking boots that I’d bought in California, and they weren’t waterproof. I walked all day with wet feet. After that, I went to REI and bought a sturdy pair of waterproof boots. 

For Pinning Later

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

              www.lindastewarthenleyauthor.com

              www.facebook.com/lindastewarthenley

THE BOOK TOUR DATES

Great to chat to you Linda! Thank you so much for the advance copy of your book and inviting me onto your book tour! I’ve had a blast!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Linda Stewart Henley.

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Interview: Brit Punk Artist Mark Sloper

My guest on the blog this week is Brit Punk Artist, Mark Sloper, whose artwork is collected by celebrities such as Sir Elton John, Sting, Boy George and Sex Pistol drummer Paul Cook, to name but a few. Probably most famous for his image of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II with blue hair, nose ring and tattoo; Mark’s new collection is based on antique flags of the world that played a part in military history. The new launch has been dedicated to the people of Ukraine facing the horrors of war with a warning that history can so easily repeat itself. I caught up with Mark to find out about his new art collection and about his love with punk too
. Hi Mark!

I’m Mark, illuminati, I’m a punk artist that uses fine art techniques. I like to use neon to finish my pieces. I’m Cornish by birth, from a long line of artists, I’m now based in Shepherds Bush, where the almighty Sex Pistols hail from.

After a career as a cameraman, director of photography for bands, documentary maker; what inspired you to become a Brit Punk artist at the age of 45?

I was always good at art – I went to art school in Sheffield, but having grown up skint in a council house, I thought that art would continue my life of nothingness, so I did extra studies in TV and fell into the BBC in my 20s and never really left. When I got to my 40s, I thought is that it?? So I learnt to fly a helicopter and took up art seriously overnight. I overload everything!

You celebrate the punk era & lifestyle  – what is it about punk that inspires you?

I got into punk at 12 years old and ran away from home with the then punk band Adam and the Ants. I still wear Westwood clothes, still see bands live and have never changed. I still have a questioning punk attitude which many find aggressive, but we grew up angry. I’ve had to kick down a lot of doors to keep a roof over my head

Your latest art collection is based on antique flags of the world that played a part in military history. What is the history and inspiration behind this collection?

I didn’t have parents as a kid, my grandad dragged me up. He incessantly rattled on about the war, jumping out of planes and killing the enemy with his bare hands. He was a champion bare knuckle prize fighter and a huge bear of a man. He would get out all his flags on royal occasions and the damp smell and raggedy feel of them has stayed with me. In my new flag collection, I’ve sourced flags from the Dunkirk rescue, French partisan freedom fighter flags, Italian fascist flags, WW1 German trench flags and some Victorian suffragettes flags. A whole load of history brought back to life.

You are probably most famous for the portrait of Queen Elizabeth II with a nose ring, blue hair and a tattoo! But do you have a particular favourite image that you have created?

I love “queen in residence”. I have one at home, they’re really special 1900s royal palace flags that are up when queenie is at home.

Your paintings are collected by many famous celebrities, and I am sure you have met many famous celebrities through your work as a cameraman, band photographer and documentary maker. Have you ever been starstruck or in awe of a celebrity?  If so, who?

Frank Sinatra. I spent a week backstage with him at the Albert Hall. He said I was a stupid punk and over the week tried to change me into a worldly gentleman. Didn’t work!


Do you paint in situ or do you take photos and illustrate from there?

Everything is from my imagination.

There are obviously topics that you can paint very well but is there anything that you find really difficult to depict?

Nope, there’s a technique to cover all aspects of art, however, you won’t find me painting animals, landscapes or the flipping sea!

Mark with Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook

Have you always wanted to be an artist or did your career aspirations lay elsewhere?

Its always been in the back of my mind, but you need a lifetime of experience to get out what’s in your head, to translate it into art.

When you are not painting, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

I love Soho, I love good restaurants and great wines. I’m lucky to have a beach shack in Spain so you’ll find me there a lot. I’m a mad keen biker so I love tearing around on my Triumph.

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

I’m head to toe in Vivienne Westwood and have been since I was 12! I also wear Lewis Leathers jackets and for special occasions I wear bespoke Mark Powell suits – he calls me the punk soho mp

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Yes, Mark Powell on Carnaby St, and Lewis Leathers on Goodge Street.

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

Anything from Westwood new collections, the clothes fit me perfectly and make me look smart.

Boots or Shoes?

Always boots, just bought a third pair of Grensons, really comfy and hardwearing. Everything I own doesn’t last long as it gets covered in paint.

For Pinning Later

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

@mark_illuminati.  Insta

Brill to talk to you Mark – my personal favourite is the Sid Vicious painting ( the one I used as the Pinterest photo). 😊

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Mark Sloper.

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Review: Calidad Home Silk Pillowcase

DISCLAIMER ALERT: The silk pillowcase has been supplied by Calidad Home for the purpose of this review however all opinions expressed are 100% mine.

Do you suffer from bed head hair in the morning? Are you battling to keep cool at night when your menopausal body is making you sweat? Are you looking for a hypoallergenic pillowcase? Then I might have the answer for you – the Calidad Home Silk Pillowcase! I was sent a gold silk pllowcase to try out and here’s what I thought
.

THE BRAND

It was a chance conversation many years ago that founder Michelle had with a girlfriend about waking up with hair resembling a birds nest, and her friend remarking that she found sleeping on a silk pillow helped not only her hair but her skin too, that introduced Michelle to the delights of silk. Michelle did extensive research into silk, and after discovering the world’s most luxurious silk – 100% Mulberry Silk, 22 Momme, Grade 6A , long strand silk – Michelle began selling 100% Mulberry Silk pillowcases in 2018. Her brand, Calidad Home, was born. “Calidad” is Spanish for quality and is an apt name as these pillowcases ooze a combination of luxury, quality, thickness and durability. Apart from pillowcases, the website offers a variety of giftboxes – ideal presents for all occasions. The website: www.silkpillowcase.co.uk

PACKAGING /DELIVERY

The silk pillowcases are luxuriously packed as befits a luxurious item – the letterbox box had “silk” quotes on it and the silk pillowcase was well wrapped to prevent postal damage. There is currently free fast delivery in the UK (1 – 3 days) and, at a cost, next day UK delivery, standard delivery to Ireland and worldwide delivery also available.

THE PRODUCT

There are a range of delightful colours of the website, and there is bound to be a colour or two that will fit in with your decor. I received the pillowcase in ”gold” but other colours available include white, grey, ivory, light pink, charcoal, dark pink, tie dye pattern, dark blue, taupe, black, light blue, leopard print, aqua, jade, zebra print, snakeskin, and lilac. The pillowcase itself is 50cm x 75cm – fits standard UK pillow sizes.

SILK – THE BENEFITS

There are lots of known benefits about sleeping on a silk pillow :

  • it reduces fine lines and wrinkles – umm I’ve not had the pillowcase that long to say whether I have noticed a reduction to my wrinkles 
 so watch this space!
  • sleeker, smoother hair (no more bedhead hair) – My hair hasn’t been like a bird’s nest in the morning 😊
  • Hydrating glowing skin – when you sleep on a cotton pillowcase, cotton is an absorbent material that will suck the moisture out of your skin. Silk is a natural product and has an amazingly smooth texture that doesn’t snag or dry out your skin. My son has tried out the pillow for a few weeks – his acne has cleared up significantly.
  • Hypoallergenic – the pillow is a repellent against bed mites, dust and pollen. As both my son and I suffer from hay fever (grass pollen and tree pollen respectively) I found it greatly reduced my itchy eyes and my son currently has been ok too.
  • Cooling to sleep on – a big plus for me! I hate a warm pillow!! As silk is a natural product, the pillow will keep you cool in summer and warm in winter.
  • Durable and strong – not tested this aspect but silk is 5 times stronger than steel. Michelle’s own children have had pillow fights and the pillowcases haven’t suffered. I believe you. The pillowcases feel thick and substantial and are well made and finished.

LAUNDRY ADVICE

The pillowcase is fully machine washable. The advice is to wash on a cool wash (30°) inside out, the company recommends Ecover and no stain removers. I followed the advice to the letter. There were a couple of dribble stains that did not fully disappear after washing but are hardly noticeable. The pillowcase was quick to dry – tumble drying is not recommended and the advice was to dry laying flat. I don’t have an area where I could lie the pillowcase to dry , so I did put it on my washing line to dry. After washing, the pillowcase did crease a lot but a cool iron solved that problem quickly.

CONCLUSION

I like this pillowcase. It certainly looks good, has many benefits and is machine washable to boot. I love the variety of colours available and the silk pillowcase makes a gorgeous gift whether on its own, in a giftbox or as part of a larger pamper giftbox. My thanks to Michelle for giving me the opportunity to review, enjoy and reap the benefits of this lovely silk pillowcase.

For Pinning Later

All photographs were taken by Linda Hobden,

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An Interview With WAySTEaD

All the way from Japan, my guest this week is Japanese photographer, Hideyuki Hayashi, and designer/founder of Japanese fashion label WAySTEaD. By upcycling hot air balloons, seatbelts, air bags and plastic bottles into trendy coats, jackets and t – shirts, Hideyuki’s mission is to transform waste all over the world into treasures through fashion design. Hi Hideyuki and welcome 😊

Hello. This is Hideyuki Hayashi, the director of WAySTEaD and photographer from Tokyo, Japan.

What inspired the launch of WAySTEaD?

Firstly I launched my own small web media called TELLERS which represents the mixture of journalism and creativity. But I noticed that it was really tough to make profit out of it and will take quite long time to make it happen. So I decided to run another small business that related to the concept of media as a part of it. Since the concept of the media is something related to social issues and my background is fashion (my first career was as a fashion stylist) so the idea of up-cycling fashion popped up into my mind.

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

My first career was as a fashion stylist for around 10 years. Then I became a photographer but I kept my passion for fashion by taking fashion photos mainly. But I never imagined that I would be launching my own fashion label at that point.

I’m interested in your brand name – WAySTEaD – why did you specifically pick that name? Were there any other contenders?

The word is a mixture of Wasted and Way and Stead. I really can’t remember the process to deciding the brand name, but I do remember that I didn’t want to make it that clean and beautiful, so I decided to use the word “Waste”. I’m quite an intuitive person and the idea came suddenly and I decided to go with it quickly so I guess there weren’t other contenders.

I love the ideas of upcycling Hot Air Balloons, seatbelts, airbags and plastic bottles into wearable items!  How difficult is it to upcycle these products ready to wear as clothing?  What processes are involved?

It was absolutely tough to make it happen. There are lots of brands that make bags or shoes and other accessories, but making clothing is completely different. Basically these materials are really hard to be transformed. Sometimes they are stiff and unprintable. And clothing is basically composed of very complicated patterns (especially our brand’s one is crazy). So it was like sewing complicated clothing using leather bag machines. Also, they are not organised in rolls like ordinary fabrics sold in stores so it’s not suitable for mass production and it’s more like the couture process. So, some people might think that the price of our products is not reasonable but actually our cost ratio is higher than ordinary fashion labels.


Do you have a favourite item from your collection?

It is too hard to select which is my favourite, which is like selecting my favourite out of my kids. All of them were really hard to give birth to and I love all of them.

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

Yes we are going to be taking pre-orders from international markets on our website soon. I also want to distribute them in retail stores overseas, so am looking for sales agency as well.

You are also a photographer. What or who inspired you to take up photography? What genre of photography do you prefer to indulge in?

I always been fascinated by fashion photography. I especially love producing and being inspired by something unseen. When I was working as a fashion stylist in Dubai, the owner of my rep, who was a photographer, suggested to me to start photography and lent me his camera. At that point I used to be working like creative director rather than stylist, so he thought that it would be better that I utilised my perspective into photography directly.

If you could visit any place in the world to do a photography shoot, where would you go and why?

I don’t have a certain place that I want to visit taking photos at this moment, but I guess I want nature to play a part.


WAySTEaD’s mission is to transform waste all over the world into treasures through fashion design. So, you already have upcycled hot air balloons, seatbelts, airbags and plastic bottles –  what other items do you hope to upcycle in the future?

Yes, I think I need to keep finding other wasted materials and creating new products. Now I’m trying to develop new stuff with LAN cables that has been carved out in production and more ideas to come. But the most crucial thing at this point is selling the products that I’ve already produced because inventing new products costs a lot and is time consuming.

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

I mostly wear vintage or second hand clothing these days. I used to wear only black outfits before, but after I started to tackle this project, I found the joy of wearing colour, logos and graphics.

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

Not really, currently. I find American vintage stuff on ebay sometimes. I found an amazing Jeff Hamilton stadium jacket with a Mountain Dew logo patch on there recently.

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

Vintage painter pants which are incredibly wide.

Boots or Shoes?

I used to be pretty much a boots person, but now I’m shoes person for these last few years. Simply because when I moved to Dubai, boots were too hot (I’ve still put on boots sometimes though).

For Pinning Later

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

https://way-stead.com/

https://www.instagram.com/waystead_official/

https://www.hideyukihayashi.com/

https://www.teller-s.com/

Thank you Hideyuki !


Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Hideyuki Hayashi

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