Category Archives: Books

An Interview With Shannon Kyle – Ghostwriter

My guest this week is a lady you probably have not heard of and yet you may have read her books or heard of the books she’s ghostwritten. Out of the 10 books she’s ghostwritten, 4 have been Sunday Times bestsellers and her first book, “Forever In My Heart” by Jade Goody, sold over 100,ooo copies and was No 1 bestseller in 2009.  I caught up with Shannon Kyle recently to discover what it is like to be a ghostwriter ….Hi Shannon and welcome….image

Lovely to meet you. I am Shannon Kyle, a ghostwriter and journalist.

To date, you have ghostwritten 10 books, including 4 Sunday Times bestsellers for both celebrities and ordinary people with extraordinary stories. That is quite an achievement! What inspired you to become a ghostwriter?

I fell into it by accident. I had worked as a journalist for many years on the tabloids and women’s weekly magazines and was asked to write Jade Goody’s last autobiography, Forever in My Heart. At first Harper Collins were not altogether convinced I should as I’d never written a book before, but thankfully they decided to give me a whirl.

You are also a talented freelance journalist writing true life stories for publications such as Take A Break, Prima, Woman’s Own, The Guardian, The Mirror, Daily Express and Sunday People for over 15 years. Growing up, what were your career ambitions? Did they resemble your careers as a journalist and ghostwriter or did you want to be something totally different?

When I was 15, I won a competition in a local newspaper, The Medway Messenger, to write a ‘letter to the future’ which was then buried in a time capsule under a building site, I can’t actually recall where now! The prize was to have the letter printed, £50 and a trip in a helicopter over the building site. I was so thrilled to read my words in print  I decided I’d wanted to be a journalist one day.

As a child what books did you enjoy reading? What genre of books do you enjoy reading now?

As a child I loved reading autobiographies, like Roald Dahl’s Boy-Tales of Childhood and Going Solo, and Anne Frank’s diaries of course. At the time I loved reading ‘true stories’ as I knew events really happened. Today I love reading anything and everything. Recently I have finished Butterflies in November by Auður Ava Olafsdóttir. It’s a comic-noir novel set in Iceland I bought while on a short holiday there and it’s beautifully written and so funny. I’ve also loved Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey, a novel so incredible it just took my breath away. The last non-fiction book I read is Confessions of a Ghostwriter by Andrew Crofts, a very enjoyable take on the job of ghosting from one of the best in the business, that was insightful!

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Your first book as a ghostwriter was “Forever In My Heart” by Jade Goody that sold over 100,000 copies and was No1 bestseller in 2009. A fantastic start to your “ghostwriting” career but it must have been quite an emotional rollercoaster. What were the highlights and lowlights whilst working on the book alongside Jade and her family?

My own father died of bowel cancer (within two weeks of being diagnosed) just five months before I was asked to write this book. Cancer and grief were very much at the forefront of my mind so I was in a bit of a daze during the writing of Forever in My Heart. The absolute cruelty and unfairness of life was bought up so close, as Jade was only 27 and leaving two little boys behind who were her world. I felt it was a privilege to write this book and was under pressure too as it had to be written within three weeks! I had little time even to eat or sleep. What I took away was the love that surrounded her from her family and friends, and the incredible humour they all kept, including Jade, right till the end. A general low light was the senselessness of it all really. Dying while young is a very cruel senseless business, although through doing it publicly Jade highlighted cervical cancer and by doing this she saved many lives. Young women who wouldn’t have got tested otherwise came forward and had it done. She should also be remembered for that.

Your latest ghostwritten book, “The Race To Truth” by Emma O’Reilly was nominated for the Irish Sports Book Of The Year award 2014. Congratulations! When ghostwriting, do you have a hunch as to what makes a best seller?

Thank you! I don’t think anyone, even publishers know what will definitely make a best seller. One celebrity memoir I wrote was the life story a household name and garnered huge publicity and looked as if it would be a sure thing, but it didn’t sell particularly well. Then I’ve written a memoir of a girl who grew up in a modern day gypsy family and it reached number four on the Sunday Times bestseller list.. it’s so hard to tell. However I do trust my instincts on what makes a good story, I think it’s important to have a nose for that in this job!

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Have you ever had ambitions to write and publish your own book under your own name as author? If so, what book genre would you pick?

To date I have made two attempts to write a novel. The first one almost got bought by a big publisher but they pulled out at the last minute. I hope to one day. I hope to write something fictional for the women’s consumer market which is from the heart.

Hypothetically speaking, if you could pick to ‘ghostwrite’ the life story of any historical figure, who would you pick and why?

She isn’t historical yet, but I would love to do Yoko Ono’s autobiography. Being a huge Beatles fan I’d love to have done Linda McCartney’s book too, I identify with her as I’ve been a single mother living in a big city working in media, like she did in New York before she married Paul. I’d also love to interview Queen Elizabeth the First, and of course Anne Frank too.

What, in your opinion, are the best bits of being a ghostwriter? And, dare I say it, the downside?

Without a doubt the best bits is being able to get close to someone and ask them almost any question. I am always discreet and my authors need to be able to trust me. It’s a real privilege to hear people’s first hand stories. Being part of the process of writing a book from that first opening line to the end and seeing it in shops is also very rewarding.
The downside is editing and never quite knowing when the final manuscript is finally finished.

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

I love Levis and Goldsign jeans. The latter are an American brand and rather pricey so I make them last but they’re so flattering and comfortable. I’ve often got a pair of Converse on, my favourite ones are all white ones bought in a vintage shop. When I am writing I usually wear anything comfortable, even jogging bottoms as I try and go out for a run every day. If I am going out, I have a few Fever of London dresses I absolutely love, but that’s only on a special occasion.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

eBay is the place for bargains. I used to like Brandalley.com too, but try not to get tempted. ASOS is always good and my daughter quite often gets me to look on there for clothes for her. I have a favourite vintage shop in Camden, near where I live, it’s called The Thrift Shop. It’s tiny but a treasure trove of cool things.

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

I’ve been keeping an eye on eBay for a pair of Chanel sunglasses. I’m hoping for a proper pair a la Audrey Hepburn.

Boots or Shoes? 

I’ve been after a pair of good black leather over the knee high boots for a while, but I’ve yet to find the perfect pair. I’ve always been a fan of long black boots, they’re great in the winter time when it rains and you can wear them with jeans or skirts.

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

www.shannonkyle.co.uk
www.facebook.com/shannonkylejournalist

Thank you Shannon for sharing with us just a little of your ghostwriting world and I hope you eventually get that novel of yours published! I think it must be interesting to ghostwrite the autobiography of a historical figure like Nell Gwyn or as you say, Shannon, Elizabeth I …. dear reader, which historical figure would you pick to shadow? Do tell!

Linda x

Photo Credits: Header Pic – published with kind permission from Shannon Kyle; Book Photos – Linda Hobden.

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An Interview With Yasmin Boland – Cosmic Person

I’m heading Down Under this week for a truly cosmic interview with the lovely Oz cosmic person Yasmin Boland. Her website, www.moonology.com ,is one of the most popular astrology sites in Australia. She has astrology and New Age columns in publications such as the Sunday Telegraph; as well as being an author of several books about astrology plus she has written a couple of novels too.  Astrology fascinates alot of people and being a nosy Gemini myself (actually I’m on the cusp of Taurus/Gemini) I couldn’t wait to find out about Yasmin’s passion that has turned into her profession…and her ballet flats passion too… Hi Yasmin ….image

Hi! I’m Yasmin Boland, cosmic person!

You are an author, journalist and astrologer. When did you realise that your passion for astrology could be turned into your profession?

It happened very slowly. In my role as a journalist, I interviewed Jonathan Cainer who – after learning of my love of astrology – let me to do some writing for him on his site. After a few years of that, it so happened Jonathan was offered a contract with then-new Closer magazine in the UK. He couldn’t do it because of contracts elsewhere so – fatefully – he handed it over to me… That was in 2002, and it was the first professional column I wrote. Back then it paid something that’s now unthinkable-a-week (I won’t go into details but it was a LOT – it was before the recession bit!) It was actually enough for me to live on, especially as back then, I was single and living off the smell of an oily rag! So I let other work straight journalism commitments slip away to focus on that first astro column, and then another followed, and another and another… Then my site www.moonology.com and books and …

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How old were you when you started to get interested in astrology? Did you guess people’s star signs correctly just by observing their traits? (I’m Gemini, Aquarius moon & Libra rising – if you haven’t already guessed!)

I was interested when I was at school and in fact, some of my friends mentioned at my wedding about how I used to go around with an astrology book someone had given me and tell them all about their star signs. At Uni I met an astrologer who became a friend and at one point, gave me all her old astrology books after doing a feng shui clear-out – after that I became obsessed! As for guessing peoples’ sign, I do often guess them when I meet them, but I think that when it happens, it’s more clairvoyance than astrology. The thing is, you have to know someone quite well to see their Star sign – when you first meet someone, what you usually encounter is their Rising Sign. The Rising Sign is the ‘mask’ that people wear, so you see that before you see their Star sign, which is the real them!

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Your website is one of the most popular astrology sites in Australia. I like the idea of the daily horoscopes adjusted to take in account the different time zones around the world, so that if you are in the USA , for example, you can actually read Monday’s stars on a Monday. What is the most popular feature or service on your website?

It’s between the Daily and Weekly Stars, the daily Moon Meditations and a little thing called the Nirvana Cards – here

Apart from having astrology columns in publications such as the Sunday Telegraph, Cleo and New Idea, Spirit and Destiny and Chat It’s Fate; plus writing the daily Stars for Yahoo! Australia and New Zealand; you have also appeared commenting on astrology on Australian TV and radio. What are the most popular/most requested astrology topics you’ve spoken about?

I give talks about The New Moon and the Law of Attraction – always fun – and one about Medusa and the Fixed Star Algol… Also end of year wrap ups and New Year ones too.

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You are an author too (such a busy bee!) of several books – two novels, a non fiction and a series of astrology based books published in UK, Australia and India and distributed internationally. Do you find writing therapeutic? What sort of book genre do you like reading? Favourite books or authors?

I live to write, basically. I am one of those people who, if I had to choose what to take with my on a desert island, would take a pen and paper (though I might choose my iPhone these days – can still write on it and I have a little Blackberry-like add-on keyboard for it, so I could go even faster!) My favourite genre to read is spiritual or autobiographical – Deepak Chopra’s Unconditional Life and Doreen Virtue’s The Lightworker’s Way really moved me. Right now I am reading Arianna Huffington’s Thrive and the Chalice and the Blade by Riane Eisler, and really enjoying both. I also love reading easy business books like The Curve by Nicholas Lovell, which is about working on the internet, which I do a lot of. Would love any more recommendations. Basically I am into non-fiction so it’s amazing I wrote two novels!

You were born in Germany of Maltese/English heritage and grew up in Tasmania before living and working in Sydney, London and Paris. How did you cope moving from a relatively quiet, rural place as Tasmania to 3 of the world’s most bustling cities? What were the main differences for you?

When I lived in Tassie, I would sit at the port and watch the big ships leaving for the “mainland” and plot and scheme and dream about how to make my own exit! I love Tassie – it’s a really beautiful and amazing place, but I always wanted to live in a big city. Always. My parents are from Europe so we travelled the world every year, to see their families, so I grew up with a world view, even living in Tassie.

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Hypothetically speaking, if you were given the chance to visit/work in any location in the world, what destination would be number one on your list and why?

Anywhere very hot and sunny with a iPhone connection, a swimming pool, fresh food and comfy place for my family and I to sleep! I’m thinking either a tropical island or maybe LA? 🙂 But I also truly love working in London. I find it so inspiring as a city, both in terms of the media there and also just talking to people and see the shows, exhibitions etc. And I love working in Bondi in Sydney as well, going to cafes with my netbook and writing away with a cafe latte. Right now I am in Paris and it’s also lovely! Have done a lot of work today and am about to go out for a walk to enjoy the place.

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

Sorry but mainly black… I know it’s not meant to be a good thing – spiritual people seem to frown on it – but I feel most comfy in it…

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Probably ASOS – I love their filters and they always have something new. I also love to flick through Net-a-Porter. I’m very mainstream, I guess! I like really work-a-day clothes and often buy two or three of something at a time, if I like it. Right now I am going through a black dress with leggings and boots phase. Though I have a friend who sells jewellery so I do jazz things up with earrings or a necklace!

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

Well right now in Paris I have only got two pairs of boots with me – ankle boots and some Chelsea boots – but it’s quite warm and am wishing I had some flats I could wear without socks. So am thinking they are next on my list. I actually want to buy a pair of black Chanel ballet flats – I can’t help it, I just want a pair. Actually two pairs. One in black and one is some kind of very pale brown trans-seasonal fabric (have seen a pair like this but not as yet ‘invested’, much to hubby’s relief I am sure!)

Boots or Shoes? 

Boots every day in winter and ballet flats in summer… I wore thongs (flip flops) every single day while pregnant and for about five years after my son was born. He is now 8. It horrified my French husband’s family, I am sure, but I just couldn’t shake the habit. I had them in all kids of colours. Finally, at some point, I started to realise it was outrageous to wear thongs non-stop and got some proper shoes. I started with some flat espadrilles from France in various colours, and slowly progressed to more and more civilised shoes, and as I say, the dream is some Chanel flats!

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers of the blog can follow you and your words of wisdom.

www.moonology.com
twitter.com/yasminboland
facebook.com/yasminboland
facebook.com/yasminbolandsmoonology

Thanks for sharing your cosmic world with us Yasmin and those Chanel flats sound a real good investment – I hope you manage to get a pair soon.  I wonder if fashion choices are governed by horoscopes too – being a Gemini, the ying & yang of the zodiac my fashion choices are either jeans, tee & leather jacket OR dressy dress, stockings etc – one extreme to the other!  Do you think your fashion/wardrobe choices reflect your sun sign in a fun way? Do let me know what you think!!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission from Yasmin Boland. 

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An Interview With Author P J Whiteley

If you’re looking for summer reading ideas, then perhaps “Close of Play” by PJ Whiteley should be added to your list.  This lovely gentle, romantic novel portrays rural England to a T – cricket, church, pubs and walkers – and unusually it is a romance written from a male point of view to boot! I loved the novel and I could picture the characters clearly in my mind as they remind me of similar characters I’ve come across in life! I was lucky enough to interview the author himself recently … Hi Philip, welcome to the blog….image

Hi, I’m Philip. I am a full-time writer: author, ghostwriter and journalist. I’ve written or co-authored eight non-fiction business books, the first in 2002. I’m fascinated by people’s beliefs, and idiosyncrasies, and eccentricities – how we come to view the world the way we do. Close of Play is my first novel, and it’s a romantic comedy.

Although you have other non – fiction books written under your name (Philip Whiteley) principally about management, you have just written your first novel, Close Of Play, under the name of P J Whiteley. It is a lovely romantic novel (I was lucky enough to read a preview copy :)) portraying rural England, cricket, church, pubs and walkers … all the characters are utterly believable and it’s refreshing to read a romance book written from a male point of view…So where did you get inspiration from to write this novel?

Thank you so much for reading it, and I’m glad you enjoyed the experience! The way it came to be written was through a very long evolution. I’ve always been fascinated by people’s beliefs – whether you go to church; which political party you vote for and why, etc. I wanted to explore these ideas by putting together two Christian individuals having doubts and troubles in middle years. He’s the better sort of Tory, she’s the better sort of left-winger. So they have differences. Originally, the romance was going to be the supporting role, and the faith issues dominant. But it was a bit too ambitious for me, and lacking in direction and narrative strength. So I turned it around to make the relationship central, and to introduce a bit of humour. Some passages were written 17 years ago, and were originally parts of different chapters, long discarded!

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Your boyhood ambition was to represent Yorkshire Cricket Club, and although you have now retired from amateur cricket you still play five a side football. Close of Play is the first in a planned series of sports-themed novels that also encompass human emotions such as love, loss, hope, life’s risks etc. What sports are you hoping to cover? What’s the next idea on the list?

My next idea is to take six Leeds United fans, including two brothers, on a pub tour of Belgium in August 2014. The idea came to me when my wife and I stayed in Bruges last year. As well as enjoying themselves, they’re going to visit the grave of the great-granddad of the two brothers near Ieper for the centenary of the Great War. There will be men and women, and different ages. Because the team’s glory years were in the 1970s, the youngsters are sometimes jealous of the older ones. And yes, there will be some romance. But I’m not saying any more because it’s supposed to come as a surprise. As with all ‘setting off on a journey’ sagas, the back stories emerge slowly and the characters learn things about themselves on the way. I’ve written nearly 20,000 words and I’m pleased with it so far. Working title is Marching On Together.

As a child what books did you enjoy reading? What genre of books do you enjoy reading now?

Up to the age of around 14 I read very boyish books: the Adventure series by Willard Price – very strong on environmental protection and beautifully written. I enjoyed the Silver Sword, and B Flight – both wartime dramas; occasionally a detective book like Hound of the Baskervilles. Probably my favourite books were the Jennings books by Anthony Buckeridge because they were so funny. I was never really captured by fantasy or sci-fi. Then in my teens it was mostly sport before moving on to grown-up novels. Nowadays, I don’t select books by genre. I like romances and rom-coms; some historical fiction and thrillers, and contemporary fiction generally. I’m a huge fan of magical realism and Spanish-language literature generally.

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If you were able to visit any place in the world to help give inspiration for a new novel, where would you choose?

Santiago de Chile: a fascinating place in a most beautiful country. I lived there for a few months in 1991 and I want to base my third novel, prequel to the second, in Chile. It would actually be set back in April 1991, when a Chilean football club won the South American trophy for the only time. The party that followed was quite something! But I’d want to go back for a visit to pick up on the lingo and history again.

As much as you like writing novels & business books, is there any genre you would like to dabble in that you haven’t yet tried?

Well, I’ve always done a lot of journalism, and an idea for a non-fiction book that I would like to consider – though the research budget might be beyond me – would be to explore some of the big stories that don’t get picked up by mainstream newspapers or websites. Some vested interest groups work hard to suppress media stories and we don’t really have a free press. I’ve come across this in my ghostwriting work and it’s quite a scandal.

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Hypothetically speaking, if Close of Play was made into a film, what actors would you pick to be the main characters of Brian (Colin), Elizabeth and the vicar, Godfrey?

That’s easy: Bob Daws was always in mind to be Colin, and by a weird coincidence – or kismet – he’s now a friend of mine through the Ampthill Literary Festival, and is giving a read-through at my launch! I think Samantha Bond to play Elizabeth. Probably the best actor for Godfrey is Timothy Spall, but I guess he’s too big a star for a fairly minor role, so his understudy, perhaps! …

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

I work from home, so often just tee-shirt and jeans, but I like to get suited up for a meeting in London. Single-breasted, Mod style preferably.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Bookshops, mostly! Waterstones.

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

New skinny jeans.

Boots or Shoes? 

I can honestly say this is the first time in 12 years as an author that I’ve been asked this question! Doesn’t come up in management mags. Shoes, I guess, but I am a massive fan of mid-60s music so I just may splash out one day on Cuban heels to look like Bob Dylan or Pete Townshend circa 1965 (the best year ever for popular music).

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

Twitter: @Felipewh
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/philip.whiteley.96

Blog: https://felipewh.wordpress.com/

Added treat:  Here’s the YouTube video of TV actors Robert Daws and Amy Robbins ( a real-life married couple) reading from Chapter 11 of Close of Play, called ‘Clumsy Angel’.  The YouTube video is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kPlkephSMqM

Thank you very much for chatting about your book and life – I wish you great success with this and future novels.  Philip’s book is on promotion at the moment in WH Smith Travel until 3rd June 2015 – so don’t forget to grab a copy for some sweet summertime reading.  When you’ve read it, let me know what you thought of the book – did you enjoy it as much as I did?  I really hope so!

Linda x

Photo Credits: Natalie Creative. Kind permission to publish video/photos given by P J Whiteley.

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Talking About Viva Voluptuous

Lately there has been an awful lot in the press and media about “plus sized” women and their fashion dilemmas as well as a look at the other end of the spectrum, the size zero model.  Whilst the debate continues, it’s refreshing to find  a fab novel about some plus sized women who are basically having a good time. The message it brings is about self –  acceptance for your body size (fat or thin) and not being afraid to show the world who you are.  It is definitely a book to put on your summer reading list! Without further ado, come and meet lovely author Sarah..image

Hi! I’m Sarah Clark, and I’m a freelance beauty, health and lifestyle writer with a penchant for writing books. I’m also plus sized – or in other words, fat. I live in Suffolk with my husband, Andy, and when I’m not writing, I’m quite often to be found passing the time of day on Twitter or Facebook. Oops.

Your 2nd book, “Viva Voluptuous”, is a novel about plus sized women who are basically having a good time – there’s a bit of rejection & heartache, a bit of sex, a lot of wine, a few flash mobs, the odd night out dressed up in burlesque gear at a gay bar in Brighton! The characters are real and engaging, the storyline is lighthearted whilst still covering some contemporary issues. Where did you get inspiration from to write this novel?

The inspiration came from my life, the lives of my friends and from a conversation I had with a friend online a few years ago about the way fat women were represented in the media as miserable slobs who rarely did anything else other than eat, were a bit thick, couldn’t get boyfriends and led really quite sad and pathetic lives. That didn’t sound like me! I said that I wished there was a fat super heroine who could sweep in and change the world. There wasn’t one – so I invented Ellie.

This story must have been a rollercoaster to write with its fun parts and its emotionally draining parts – one reviewer has said that “this book will resonate with those who ever felt the need to diet in order to date, to get that job, or to fit in in general”.Which parts of the book did you find most challenging to write and which parts have you enjoyed writing about the most?

I found some of the more emotional parts draining as I drew on experiences of myself and other women I knew who had been struggling with body image and eating disorders for years. I was very clear that I didn’t want the book to be a pity party for obesity, but at the same time I felt it would have been unrealistic to portray the life of a fat woman as being free from any kind of issues; that’s just not the case in the world we live in. There’s so much pressure on women to look and be perfect that if you’ve made a decision not to follow the rules, you’re going to get slated (look at Tess Holliday for example). It was great fun writing flash mob scenes, and parts of the book where Ellie and the girls were really having a good time. I loved imagining the festivals and celeb interviews, and the sex scenes were fun to write too! I actually wrote the book in 2012 when all the 50 shades of Grey hype was going a bit mad, and I wanted to make my sexy scenes more realistic, so I tried to write them as it is sometimes. You know how it is – you do things that don’t really work and just make you giggle, you feel a bit daft, you forget where you put the condoms in the heat of the moment, that sort of thing. They were fun to do, though.

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You are a freelance writer, editor and blogger too – in fact your first book, “Gorgeously Full Fat” was based on autobiographical blog posts and anecdotes. Did you enjoy writing stories as a child?

I really did, yes, and I was always doing it until I got to my teens when it wasn’t really cool to sit in your bedroom with a second hand typewriter making up stories.

Have you always wanted to pursue a career in writing or did you have other ambitions as a child?

I had a few ambitions job wise when I was younger; I wanted to be a surgeon because I was obsessed with the body and how it worked, then by secondary school I wanted to be either a fashion designer, writer or a lawyer. I actually used to produce a class magazine called ‘Girl’s Own’ when I was in junior school. I gave up wanting to be a surgeon when I realised that I didn’t like the sight of blood. I spent a while thinking maybe law would work for me, working in the court service and Trading Standards, and even went as far as to do an ILEX Paralegal Qualification. But in 2000 I started working as a writer for a beauty magazine, after spending time writing endless articles for start up websites when everyone thought having a website made you rich – and I was hooked. Now I write about health and beauty, feeding my obsession with the body and all its functions, and about law on the odd occasion, which covers the legal aspect. I also write about granite, driveways and paving, sometimes, which never really fitted into my plan! Never quite got to grips with fashion writing though.

Have you got plans to write other novels or books?

Yes, I’d love to do a sequel to Viva Voluptuous if I can find a publisher, and I have countless other book ideas but I never seem to get around to them!

What sort of book genre do you like reading? Favourite books or authors?

I love a bit of women’s fiction, and especially enjoy anything by Rowan Coleman, Lindsey Kelk and JoJo Moyes. My favourite book of all time is probably Rebecca by Daphne De Maurier. I wish I’d written that book! I’ve also started getting more into thrillers; I like the supernatural ones and have recently read Biblical by Christopher Galt, and The Three by Sarah Lotz. I also have a personal development book obsession. I bought e-Cubed by Pam Grout and I now have to work out how to make the universe bend in my favour…

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I love your cheeky book cover! Who came up with the idea?

Me! I chose the cover from a stock photo website and the publisher liked it so we went with it. I wanted something that not only reflected the books and the story, but would also attract attention…

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

I live in leggings because I work from home and I’m just way too lazy to dress up. I like wearing unusual tops and last year it was all about finding loud, bright skater dresses to wear over the top. I wear boots in winter, and in summer I’d love to say I wear something designer and elegant but I generally wear flats unless I’m at a posh do. I have one very old pair of Jimmy Choo sandals but they only get taken out of their box for weddings and parties…

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

I love the Joe Brown’s range from Simply Be, and I’m also buying more from places like ASOS Curve and Pink Clove these days. I buy most of my clothes online as I’m a size 22 and apparently don’t exist on the high street!

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

Oooh tricky one. I want to find a perfect pair of jeans; but don’t we all? I’ve got a posh wedding to go to in May so I’ll soon be scouring online to see if I can find something that looks elegant and not frumpy in my size. I actually got my own wedding outfit from Simply Be in 2013, because unless I wanted to pay the price of a deposit on a small house to have a dress made, or take a chance on a Chinese sweatshop, there really were very few options for me. I’d LOVE to design a plus size fashion range but I wouldn’t know where to start.

Boots or Shoes?

Boots in winter as they look good with leggings. Shoes in the the summer…depends on my mood really,

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

Gorgeously Full Fat: http://www.gorgeouslyfullfat.com/ https://www.facebook.com/GorgeouslyFullFat https://twitter.com/GorgeousFullFat
The Word Boutique (copywriting) http://www.thewordboutique.org
My books: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sarah-Clark/e/B00EQ1JBLI

Thanks for speaking to us today Sarah – I really enjoyed reading about Ellie – it was a refreshing and fun read.  Viva Voluptuous – got your copy yet readers?

Linda x

All photos have been published with kind permission from Sarah Clark.

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An Interview With Richard Betts

When the sun is shining what could be better than sitting outside lapping up the glorious rays, with a glass of wine by your side (pinot grigio preferably but I wouldn’t turn my nose up at whatever flavour is offered!) and a good book.  Yes –  wine, sunshine and books come up very high on my list of passions.  Imagine my excitement at discovering a book – not just any book – “The Essential Scratch and Sniff Guide To Becoming A Wine Expert”.  Scratch’n’sniff books … I can remember having a couple as a child where you could scratch the picture of a strawberry or an orange and a most delicious scent was emitted. Probably showing my age! I had a chat with the enterprising American author and winemaker Richard Betts to find out more…hi Richard, please introduce yourself 🙂image

No way. Okay, my name is Richard. My most lofty ambition is to smile and to make other people smile. I endeavor to do that by making wine and spirits easy and part of your every day life. See, I’ve got this ‘-ism’ that “Wine is a grocery, not a luxury” and if I have my way you will live by it too.

Believe me… I agree with that “ism” too! I’m going to jump in straight away & talk about your book – “The Essential Scratch and Sniff Guide To Becoming A Wine Expert”. I used to love the scratch & sniff books as a child ..and I’ve approached this book with as much glee! What was the inspiration behind the writing of this book?

Whelp, there is for sure no shortage of lengthy wine tomes on all subjects and I have nothing to add to that. BUT! Wine can sometimes be too stuffy and exclusive which stinks. I think the best way to engage and welcome is to knock wine off the pedestal, make it easy and make it fun and what better way to do that than with a Scratch and Sniff wine book?!

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When did you first discover the delights of wine and the realisation that you wanted to become a wine expert?

Living in Italy in the 90’s. I was totally blowing off my academic life and instead just living life – learning to speak Italian, to cook, to eat – and wine was an inseparable part of this. The table is not set until there is wine upon it and this matters.

In 2003 you passed the Court of Master Sommeliers’ Masters Exam on the first attempt, being the ninth person ever to do so – congratulations! So you do know your wine! What was the hardest thing about the exam did you feel and what do you think is the stumbling block that makes it very hard to pass the exam at first attempt?

The hardest part is for sure the tasting. Service and theory are more in your control because they are studied and you either know it or don’t. Tasting is different as we are different people every day. You know, we all have good and bad days and when you get one chance at taking the test you’re not really allowed to have a bad day, right? So the key is figuring out what are the ingredients that best set you up to have a great day and then making sure you heap them on when it’s time to perform. (For me that includes exercise, loud music and a beer.)

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Tell us a bit about My Essential Wine and your “as a grocery & not a luxury” ethos.

My ethos of “Wine is a grocery, not a luxury” was born out of that time when I was living in Italy and there was always wine on the table, at lunch, at dinner, without fail. It’s just a part of the whole. (Smart.) After selling my first wine project, Betts and Scholl, I wanted to start another project that really made good on my -ism/ethos and, thus, My Essential Wines. The idea is you’ve got twelve bucks in your pocket on a Tuesday and I’m your date! It’s that easy. The wines themselves (we make rosé and red) are also wines I love to drink because, after all, if you don’t drink them I have to and I’m prepared to do that so I might as well make what I like.

You are a fan of Bordeaux wine and having holidayed in that region of France for many years I, too, share your enthusiasm. What’s the origin behind the name of your Bordeaux wine, Saint Glinglin?

It too is an -ism, a French -ism for “When Pigs Fly” and it became the name of the wine when I told good friend Erin Chave that I was going to make great Bordeaux and make it cheap to which she replied…. 🙂

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You are currently touring the USA promoting your book, drinking and sharing wine. I am sure you are having a whale of a time! What do you enjoy most about being on tour? Any funny tales you can relate to us about life on tour?

Well, my girlfriend and I gave up our homes, flew to Miami, bought a car and called it home for 4 months. It was amazing – we drove all over this beautiful country and met the most amazing people. As a guy that flies so much, it was wonderful to slow down and actually take in what you’ve been flying over – I treasure the experience and hope to repeat it when we release The Essential Scratch and Sniff Guide to Becoming a Whiskey Know-It-All this coming fall.

What is (are) your absolute favourite wine(s)?

Any wine that tastes like a place. This is key, it’s the intellectual value of wine that can transport you around the world. It’s sometimes called terroir – a French term meant to describe everything that goes into the wine, that informs it and is specific to only that place in the world from whence it has come.

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Travelling to visit different countries and their vineyards – which place surprised you the most with its wine? which place have you got a soft spot for? which place would you love to visit and sample its wares?

Surprised, always, by Australia – there simultaneously exists a ton of tradition and a ton of innovation. It’s always better and always interesting. This, of course, makes it a favorite of mine too. I’ve also got a soft spot for the whole of France as well as Piedmont, Tuscany and Friuli in Italy. Oh wait, I have to also add Sherry in southern Spain – I have never been more amazed at a wine region and it’s wines. Very little has changed in forever and the wines are magic – for sure the best food wines on earth.

Your book is the perfect gift for a wine enthusiast! Is it available to purchase outside the USA?

Yes and I have no real idea how. I was recently passing through Vienna airport and there was a huge stack of them for sale. Which was cool 🙂

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

Nice Jeans like Simon Miller or Raleigh Denim. Vans, flip flops (favorite) or boots. I have a really beautiful pair I bought 10 years ago in France that are still the most perfect pair ever. And t-shirts. Easy.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

Raleigh Denim Workshop and Simon Miller are both really special. In Rome, I love Strategic Business Unit and in Paris, it’s always Merci.

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

Just ordered some stuff from Entree LS in Brooklyn, we’ll see how it is. Thinking Spring so always fresh sneaks too. Lots of them.

Boots or Shoes?

Boots or hi-tops – they’re just comfy like a warm hug.

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

www.myessentialwine.com is where we do wine things, I also make mezcal in Oaxaca,Mexico and you can check that here: www.sombraoaxaca.com AND we have something super duper top secret and very small happening in the way of a single new wine I’ve been working on for more than 10 years. Best to follow along via @yobetts on twitter/instagram/fb to catch the announcement very soon.

As the sun beams down on my part of the UK this Friday evening, I raise a glass to you Richard for chatting to us! I wish you continued success & look forward to sampling your new wines… Readers, have you got a fave wine? What “scratch & sniff” book would appeal to you? I’d love to know what you think!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission from Richard Betts.

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An Interview With Author Liat Hughes Joshi

Parenting – Traditional or Modern – which method is best when bringing up your offspring?  It is an age old argument amongst different generations that their methods are best.  Despite having 5 children of my own, who are currently aged 24 down to the youngest at just 8; each birth was accompanied by different sets of recommendations. Take weaning for example: with my eldest it was recommended to start weaning at 3 months …. by the time my youngest was born it was frowned upon any earlier than 6 months!  My personal opinion is to find a happy medium between the two styles that you and your offspring feel comfortable with ….and that’s why I was so excited to chat to this week’s guest on my blog, Liat Hughes Joshi, author of “New Old Fashioned Parenting” – a guide to help you find that balance between traditional and modern parenting. A big warm welcome, Liat….image

Hi! I’m a writer and journalist from London but originally from Lancashire. I specialise in writing about parenting and family life, with clients including national newspapers, parenting magazines and websites. I’ve also popped up on TV and the radio providing comments about parenting matters.

Your 3rd book on parenting, published on 12th February 2015, is the “New Old-Fashioned Parenting” – a guide to help parents find the balance between traditional and modern parenting.What inspired you to write this guide?

There were a few incidents that particularly crystallised my thoughts on just how very child-centred and over-indulgent SOME parents can be these days and the contrast with when most of today’s parents were kids in the 70s to early 90s. One time, I was in a coffee shop waiting to come out and two toddlers were playing by the door in the way. I waited patiently, not wanting to spoil their fun too soon, but then waited and waited some more. It was very obvious I wanted to leave and they were blocking my way. The parents were right next to them and definitely saw me but didn’t say “guys move out of the way for the lady” or similar. They carried on and on and there was just none of the consideration for others that surely should be there. A few days later, I was in a busy train station and whilst the children I was with were sat down happily, those from the adjacent table’s group were hurtling round getting in everyone’s way. Again, the adults they were with made no effort to get them to stop. When did we end up with such low expectations of kids’ behaviour? They can still have lots of fun but be considerate when needs be.

imageWhat are the main themes in the book?

It works on two levels, I hope. On one, more general level it’s about taking a step back and asking ourselves what’s really best for our children. Parents are bombarded with all sorts of messages about how to bring their children up nowadays and I think we’ve lost sight of the fact that more than anything we’re here to prepare them to be happy, well-functioning adults. Of course we want them to be happy along the way too, but sometimes the right thing for the long term doesn’t always make them content now. I’m definitely not suggesting making anyone unhappy for the sake of it just that sometimes as a parent you have to take a hit for the long term and do something they’d rather you didn’t. On a day-to-day basis though, there’s also lots of practical advice on everything from getting them to do more chores to preventing fussy eating, how to get the right level of involvement in their education and looking at issues of screen time and them growing up too fast.That’s the paradoxical side of modern childhood – on the one hand, we’re wrapping them up in cotton wool and not letting them have much freedom, but on the other we’re pushing them academically harder than perhaps ever and they’re growing up faster than we all did too thanks to media and commercial influences. This is one of the dilemmas I hope the book helps parents with.

Having 5 children of my own that span from the ages of 8 to 24 (!) I have encountered many idea changes on parenting. You have, like me, a 9 year old son – what parenting issue(s) do you find most frustrating when it comes to conflicting advice?

Wow you must be busy.. I’m one of four in my family and it was pretty hectic, although the age gap wasn’t so wide. I think all the child health advice is probably the most confusing because it changes all the time and then you just end up feeling guilty about something you’ve done/ fed them.

imageYou have written other parenting books – “Raising Children – The Primary Years” and “What to Buy For Your Baby” – as well as being columnist & feature writer for AOL’s parenting website (www.parentdish.co.uk). Have you always wanted to have a career in writing?

I did always love writing and it was something I wanted to do as a child but there were other ideas too. I wanted to be an interior designer at one stage and a lawyer at another. I’m also very interested in business so spent nine year as a management consultant before finally giving in to the urge to write in 2002.

You’re also a judge in the Annual Slow Toy Awards, launched at Selfridges in 2012, Harrods in 2013 and John Lewis in 2014. What toy(s) have you personally been most impressed with over the last 3 years?

This year’s big find from Slow Toys for me was this cool magnetic wooden block toy called Tegu. It’s been a pleasure to be part of it. It’s been interesting to see the awards evolve since 2012 and the entries and shortlist have got so strong – there were some brilliant toys entered this year. Outside of Slow Toys, LEGO is timeless and never fails to impress – I’m often going on about it but it’s the basic piles of bricks and people I’m into rather than prescribed models as they tend to get made and then what does a child do with them? They might play with them a bit or rebuild them once or twice but it’s much less imaginative.

imageYou are currently writing another book, due for publishing in May 2015, called “How To Unplug Your Child”. Can you tell us a bit more about that book?

It’s very simply 101 ideas to get children of all ages away from screens more. There are other kids’ activity books out there but this has the digital generation in mind and toddlers to teens, whereas most of the existing ones focus on the younger end. I’ve tried to have something to suit all kids in there too as a lot of the book’s competitors have a focus on arty and crafty activities. I have a deeply un-arty son myself so know it’s not everyone’s thing. Overall I don’t think we should fight screens altogether though as they can be brilliant in lots of ways and are part of our lives now – these are just ideas to get them away more rather than something preachy about getting them to give up gadgets altogether. It’s about sensible use rather than panicking that it’s all bad.

What sort of book genre do you like reading? Favourite books or authors?

My Kindle is loaded with contemporary fiction (I was really anti- e-readers at first but absolutely love it now). A favourite read of recent years was The Hundred-Year Old Man who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson. Utterly charming and very funny and I kept buying copies for people I know. (That’s one of my favourite books too, Liat)  

What was the best piece of parenting advice you ever received? And dare I say it, the worst (in respect that you followed the advice but it didn’t work out as you hoped)?

It’s a Mumsnet thing: “this too shall pass”. As in most of the stuff we stress about when they are babies and toddlers will be a short-lived problem. And believe me I did do lots of stressing when my son was a baby (why thank you colic!) The worst was simply the ‘thou shalt breastfeed no matter what’ pressure when my son was born. Of course evidence shows that it’s better wherever possible but that pressure can go too far and make you feel guilty about something that circumstances, health and the like sometimes get in the way of no matter how much you want it to work out.

A little bird told me that you are passionate about tennis – have you ever been tempted to write about tennis or do you play purely to rewind?

I don’t really understand enough about the professional game to write about the circuit and pros – I prefer to just play – but I have done a few features about tennis holidays/ resorts and used to edit the travel pages of a tennis magazine. It was not exactly hard work doing the testing of all these amazing resorts! A dream job for me in fact.

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

I am stuck in a fashion rut and this has got worse since we got a puppy this last year.. I throw on skinny jeans, a longish top and then boots before dashing down to let him out in the morning and it all needs to be suitable for walking the dog (I.e. getting covered in mud). I’m still determined not to be become a ‘frumpy dog lady’ so am trying to keep a vague element of style to it all with a bit of luxe knitwear and nice scarves at the moment.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

I’m pretty boring – high street stores such as Gap and John Lewis (especially John Lewis, I do love it) do me fine. If I won the lottery (which would be especially lucky given I don’t actually bother playing it), I might head to Paul Smith or Nicole Fahri more but really I’m happy with high street so wouldn’t change that.

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

Things that get me out of this jeans/ long tops rut. I’ve got a personal styling session booked with a fashion writer colleague turned stylist called Jo Payton soon and I’m hoping she will push my boundaries! And I so need a new pair of specs. They are kind of a trademark of mine but I have had these ones too long.

Boots or Shoes?

Wellington boots for the dog walking. Otherwise heels but ones I can walk in easily as I am short so need a height boost.

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

My website is liathughesjoshi.co.uk and I’m on Twitter at @liathughesjoshi.
The books should be hitting bookshops with savvy buyers soon and are available on Amazon and Waterstones websites for pre-order before publication:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/New-Old-Fashioned-Parenting-Balance-Traditional/dp/1849536724/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1407160295&sr=8-4&keywords=liat+hughes+joshi

http://www.amazon.co.uk/How-Unplug-Your-Child-Gadgets/dp/1849537194/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1420580462&sr=1-1&keywords=how+to+unplug+your+child

It has been smashing chatting to you Liat and I wish you much success with your books.  So, dear readers, what aspects of parenting or parenting ideas do you find bemusing?! Do share your views, I’ll love to know…

Linda x

All photos have been published with kind permission of Liat Hughes Joshi

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An Interview With Author Linda Finlay

It was quite a coincidence that over the last couple of weeks I have read two historical novels based on the young Queen Victoria – one was a moth eared paperback I spotted at my mother-in-law’s by Jean Plaidy (made a change from the kindle & it was enjoyable); the other was a first novel by author Linda Finlay,  a historical saga published by Penguin, that I downloaded, called The Royal Lacemaker.  This novel was equally enjoyable and highly recommended – perfect for fans of Jean Plaidy, Dilly Court and Katie Flynn. So I am really chuffed to welcome to the blog this week the delightful author herself and chat about her book, lace making and of course, her views on fashion! Hi Linda!image

Hi! I’m Linda Finlay, an image consultant and novelist with an avid interest in people, what they wear and what makes them tick.

Congratulations on publishing your first novel, a historical saga called The Royal Lacemaker. Where did you get inspiration from to write this novel?

Thank you. The past few months have been very exciting. The inspiration for The Royal Lacemaker came on a visit to Beer in Devon where I saw the sign for Ye Olde Lace Shop. Naturally I had to investigate and so my story was born.

Your novel follows the fortunes of a 17 year old orphan girl and the choices she must make when she becomes part of a secret commission to produce the Honiton lace for the wedding dress of Queen Victoria.  I hear you were taught lace making too – was the incentive to do so linked to getting a sense of reality to the story or was it something you’ve always wanted to do and now with your novel in place you was able to indulge yourself?

Research took me to All Hallows Museum in Honiton where I watched a demonstration of lace making. It looked such an intricate craft I had to try it for myself. I like to think my experience added authenticity to the story as I find it hard to believe women used to make lace in their cottages to supplement their incomes, along with the household chores and bringing up their children.

imageAs I’m somebody who cannot knit or crochet and can barely sew despite 3 years of needlework lessons at school, I really admire you! Was lace making hard to learn?

Although I love knitting, sewing is not my forte. Luckily I found a very patient teacher in Colyford, who along with her team of lovely ladies, kept my lace making on track. It really is as hard to go back and re work the lace as I indicated in The Royal Lacemaker. However, if I managed to make lace, you certainly can too!

Ha, ha … we’ll see! Swiftly changing the subject, what made you realise that you wanted to write books? Did you like story writing as a young girl?

I have always loved writing stories. Along with sport it was the only thing I was really any good at in school. Frequently I would lose myself in a story rather than tackle the other subjects I was meant to be concentrating on.

Apart from being an author, you are also an image consultant. What do you like best about both of your jobs?

I love people and helping them to make the best of themselves. It is rewarding to see a client leave my studio confident and smiling. I always try to champion my characters by making the timid grow stronger throughout my stories.

I know that this book has just been published, but have you started to think of ideas for your next novel? Would you stick to the same genre or would you try something different?

My next novel, The Girl With The Red Ribbon will be published in the Spring. It is about lunar gardening and millinery. Quite diverse subjects that are brought together by a common theme. I am now on my third novel.

What sort of book genre do you like reading? Favourite book or authors?

I love historical romance and stories that teach something of the period without being heavy handed. I find it satisfying to learn through an entertaining story. Phillippa Gregory is particularly good at this.

imageObviously living in Devon played a big part in the formation of your novel. If you could visit any place in the world to set your next novel in, which place would you love to venture to?

It would have to be the Norwegian fjords. My imagination could run riot there!

When you’re not writing or running your image consultancy, what hobbies/past times do you enjoy?

I love walking the coastal paths and exploring little villages and bays. A story always seems to pop into my head though, so I don’t really switch off – unless I’m shopping with clients of course. Then it’s clothes, boots, shoes and accessories all the way.

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

I love separates. Pencil skirts, polos, embellished shirts and shaggy gilets with ankle boots and opaques are this seasons must wears for me.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Wallis, Next, Very are all superb for topping up on seasonal fashions. They are always on trend with reasonable prices that don’t break the bank.

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

A faux fur jacket and faux leather pencil skirt are on my wish list, along with more ankle boots of course.

Boots or Shoes?

Both! They are my absolute must haves and a girl can never have too many! After all they update an outfit instantly.

Links:

amazon.co.uk/Royal Lacemaker – Linda Finlay

amazon.com/The Royal Lacemaker by Linda Finlay

Thank you very much Linda – I can’t wait to read your next novels.  After reading The Lace Maker,  I was partaking in a quiz when a question came up : “What craft uses bobbins and pillows?”  I was so pleased that I knew the answer (Lacemaking) which I wouldn’t have had a clue a month or so ago. So, there you go, not only a good feel good read but educational too! Check the book out and let me know what you thought of the book too! I’d be interested to know!

Linda x

Photos have been published with kind permission of Linda Finlay

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An Interview With Carol E Wyer

Bucket lists – have you ever made one?  A list of things you hope to see or do before you reach a certain age or before you die, perhaps?  I haven’t personally but my younger sons had preprinted bucket lists from the National Trust, I think it was, detailing a list of activities to achieve by the age of 11….including rolling down a hill, climb a tree, play pooh sticks, skim stones, etc My sons were chuffed that they had crossed off most of the things on the list.  Perhaps you’ve seen the articles on subjects such as 100 places to see before you die … a wishlist that would be nice to fill out… ; some bucket lists are a lot more challenging, thought provoking, and life changing.  I’ve been chatting to the lovely author Carol E Wyer  this week, whose 7th humorous book, Three Little Birds, was published by Safkhet Publishing on 15th August about this very subject…. a big warm welcome Carol:image

Hello! I’m Carol E. Wyer (no I won’t tell you what the E stands for) AKA Facing 50 although I am facing it from the wrong direction now. I write humorous books aimed at helping people to grow old disgracefully and hopefully make them laugh. Recently I took a crash course in stand up and now tour the UK and France with my comedy talk Smile While You Still Have Teeth – phew! Are you still reading or have I bored you yet?

Your 7th humorous novel, Three Little Birds, published by Safkhet Publishing was launched on the 15th August. Your book is based on two female best friends, one who has struggled after her daughter’s death and her divorce; the other coping with life after a riding accident left her paralysed. On New Year’s Eve, after consuming much wine, they write bucket lists that test their friendship and strengths. For the launch of this book you decided to undertake four of the featured in the book life-affirming challenges plus a bonus challenge – zipwire, belly dancing, bushtucker trial, indoor skydive and zorbing. Where did you get inspiration from to write this novel?

imageInspiration always comes from many sources and indeed takes considerable time to be structured into a novel. There were a few reasons I wrote the book. Firstly, I am one of those irritatingly cheerful people who thinks that no matter how old you are or what life has thrown at you, you can change certain elements by being brave and having a go at different things – whether that be changing your job, taking up a hobby or, as in the case of this book, writing a ‘carpe diem’ list. When I was in my late teens and early twenties I suffered from spinal problems that meant I spent far too much time in hospital and later after an invasive procedure, had a period of time when I was paralysed myself. Fortunately it was a temporary paralysis but it made me appreciate my life more thereafter. I wrote a list out in my forties and tried to complete all the physically challenging things on it as I have osteoarthritis, and at some point I’ll be struggling again, so best to get these things in while you can. Inspiration for some of the characters came from real people, including a lady called Priscilla who writes a blog called The Wheelchair Mommy who impressed me hugely with her vivacity and positive attitude in spite of her disability. Like Mercedes in the book she is a paraplegic. Charlie Blunkett, a hospital radio presenter for Coastway Radio became the inspiration for Charlie the radio presenter although she is only the inspiration and nothing like Charlie in the book and even Bert the mischievous parrot is an online friend! It is also intended to motivate others into having a go at challenges, after all, you have no idea where they make take you. There’s a list of 100 possibilities at the end of the book.

I hear you are a bit of a daredevil, having already learnt to fly a helicopter; driven a quad bike up a mountainside; swum with dolphins; took kickboxing classes; experienced working abroad; took a crash course in comedy…. so, with the extra “launch” challenges… which challenges have you enjoyed the most?

Haha! Not really a daredevil. These are quite tame compared to some of the possibilities available. I enjoyed them all although I kept getting the quad bike stuck on raised mounds. The biggest thrill was flying. There is not really much to compare to the adrenaline rush you get when you take off for the first time flying solo in a Robinson 22.

Your career started in teaching English in an American language school in Casablanca, Morocco before moving back to the UK to teach English as a foreign language in a private school. I guess both experiences have given you a lot of inspiration when writing. What are your fondest memories of teaching?image

I loved teaching. I taught all ages from small children to grown adults. The best memory though was at the American Language School where I taught three classes of children aged 8-14. At the end of the year all the teachers and classes had to sing a popular song. I am the world’s worst at singing but hey ho! It was my job so I chose something fun. My classes sang the Frog Chorus – We All Stand Together by Paul McCartney. They spent the afternoon making frog masks and sang it perfectly. At the end they all cheered like mad and applauded me until I felt like some sort of superstar. The ambience was terrific. All the proud parents kept thanking me and the students kept hugging me. It was very special.

You have written a series of educational yet amusing books for children, and since 2010 you turned your attention to the adult market. What made you realise that you wanted to write books? What impact did teaching make to your new career path?

I have been writing short stories since those days when I was stuck on hospital wards. I started writing then about the funny side of being on a ward. I sent all the stories to my friends and family who thought they were hilarious. Eventually, I got better, finished my degree and moved abroad. Morocco was the perfect place for inspiration. I would drive home on my velosolex motorbike, avoiding donkeys and come up with stories for children, then write them when I got home. They had titles like Humphrey the Camel and the Dustbin Cats. Teaching languages clearly influenced my writing because I then moved into stories, still with amusing animal themes, that taught French to young children aged 3 upwards and even had a series of songs produced to accompany them. They got used in schools with much success. It was when I was facing 50 myself that I decided there wasn’t enough humorous material for women my age. Chick Lit was for younger women, historical romances weren’t my cup of tea and I wanted to read books that had heroines and real characters in them that had lived life. My books aren’t so much ‘they all live happy ever after’ as ‘they started off happy ever after…now what?’ I decided that I would take my brand of observational humour and weave it into books and novels aimed at women (and men) over 40.

imageLast year you did a crash course in stand-up comedy and performed your comedy talk Smile While You Still Have Teeth to audiences in Lichfield and in October you will be on main stage at the Isle of Wight Literary festival along with celebrities Alan Titchmarsh, Katie Price, Sheila Hancock and novelist Katie Fford. Did you take to performing on stage like a duck to water or do you experience nerves before stepping into the spotlight?

I am such a media whore it is untrue! I can’t get enough of standing up in front of people and making them laugh. It’s a drug. I think teaching helped though. After all, once you’ve faced a class of six foot recalcitrant teenagers and attempted to teach them grammar, anything is easy. It helps too that I can’t see very well and my hearing is failing. I have no idea who is in the front row or if they have nodded off, or indeed, if they are heckling me.

You are currently writing a series of novels and articles aimed at the ‘older’ man and woman. Can you tell us a bit more about the topics you’ll be covering?

I often write about relationships, friendships, ageing process, dealing with retirement, coping with teenagers, grandchildren, enjoying life while you can and generally laughing at the banality of it all. Does it matter if we are getting on? No! What matters is that we make the most of what we have.

What sort of book genre do you like reading? Favourite books or authors?

I read anything and everything but I mostly enjoy thrillers, especially dark psychological thrillers with twists or something amusing like Terry Pratchett or Ben Elton. I am not keen on lengthy novels about Victorian women or war stories. I did English and French Literature at university so now and then I get an urge to go and read Camus or Proust or Chaucer. I really must get that under control.

As much as you like to attempt different challenges, is there any “challenge” or “experience” that would really freak you out or would be a definite no no?

I’d have to draw the line under those challenges that would be too demanding in a physical sense. I would not, for instance, leap out of a plane and parachute down in case I landed incorrectly. I wouldn’t want to spend another five years in hospital getting my spine stuck together again. Wingwalking would be on my list of ‘no ways’ along with anything to do with spiders.

Hospital Radio features in Three Little Birds as well as featuring in a chunk of your life when you were younger and spent 11 weeks flat on your back after undergoing spinal surgery. What songs did you request or enjoy listening to or was it the friendly banter that gave you some respite from being in pain as well as being bored? How important was it to you that in your novel you included the work of the hospital radio?

I remembering requesting Magic Fly by Space, Ma Baker by Boney M and 2-4-6-8 Motorway by Tom Robinson’s Band among others. My msic taste is as eclectic as my reading tastes. The music was important as it is with all teenagers but in truth, it was the presenters who made it all the more interesting and I listened to them all day every day. wanted people to be aware of the importance of hospital radio stations to those stuck in bed and I hope the book succeeds in doing that. I have been lucky to have been on many radio shows and lots of the BBC presenters started life in hospital radio and remember it with a deep fondness. It has given many an apprenticeship in radio and more importantly the radio stations connect those who are unwell and in hospital with life outside and keep them entertained.

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

Always something bright. I don’t do subtle. You’ll invariably find me in red, orange or bright blue trousers or with a bright scarf and very bright earrings. My shoes must match my outfit so today I have orange trousers and orange and red strap sandals. I wear a lot of trousers and jackets or jumpers. My favourite makes are Marc Cain and Paul Smith and I have a few pieces by both.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I don’t do online shopping for clothes but I go to my favourite shop in Solihull called Katherine Draisey that specialises in individual outfits. A couple of Times a year I head off to Germany to Hamburg or Munich and buy Brax trousers and fashionable blouses or jumpers. They always have styles, colours and sizes that fit me.

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

I desperately want a pair of Christian Louboutin boots. Ever since I saw Celia Sawyer on the show Four Rooms, I have wanted a pair. They are so me!

Boots or Shoes? 

Boots. Every time. I have twice as many boots as shoes. I can’t explain why but I feel much more comfortable in boots during autumn and winter than in sandals in summer. It’s probably because I have such big feet and I feel they look smaller in boots.

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

BLOG http://facing50withhumour.com/
WEBSITE http://www.carolewyer.co.uk/
SAFKEHT PUBLISHING http://www.safkhetpublishing.com/authors/Carol_E_Wyer.htm
FACEBOOK https://www.facebook.com/pages/Carol-E-Wyer/221149241263847
TWITTER https://twitter.com/carolewyer
GOOGLE PLUS https://plus.google.com/u/0/117914391843880994511/about
PINTEREST http://www.pinterest.com/carolewyer/
LINKEDIN https://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=116225863&trk
GOODREADS https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5061207.Carol_E_Wyer

Thank you Carol, I’ve really enjoyed chatting to you and I wish your novel every success!  Umm, I wonder, what would be on your Bucket List? …

Linda x

Photo credits: All photos have been published with kind permission from Carol E Wyer. 

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An Interview With Richard Barnard

One of my passionate pastimes is reading – I enjoy most genres but I do like thrillers, murder mysteries and such like as well as the English literature classics, like The Great Gatsby.   I came across “Danny’s Boys, An East End Tale”, a gangland thriller based on an East London criminal gang of kids from Walthamstow in the 1980s, by author Richard Barnard – not only did it tick boxes for me genre-wise, but having been a teenager myself in that era and area I was looking forward to reading about the places I knew.  So, this week I’m pleased to welcome onto the blog the author, Richard Barnard, to chat about “Danny’s Boys”, his Walthamstow memories and past lifestyle, his life now as a published author … and about his fashion tastes too! Hi Richard….image

Hello my name is Richard Barnard, author of Danny’s Boys, An East End Tale and expert analysis in high level criminality.

Congratulations on publishing your debut gangland thriller, “Danny’s Boys, An East End Tale”, the first book in your proposed “The East End Series”. How does it feel to be a published author?

imageTo me it feels strange my clairvoyant aunt predicted my writing career when I was just a small boy and at that time I had no interest in literature or school for that matter.

Your book is based on an East London criminal gang of kids from Walthamstow and their rise to the top during the boom of the 1980s cocaine era – obviously coming from and being brought up in Waltham Forest in the same era myself there are lots of memories I can relate to in the book – but non East Enders would still enjoy the thriller too!How much of your book (and the series) relates to your own life experience?

The trilogy is a fictional story based on how I grew up. It’s no secret I was a career criminal, stealing at infant stages, then progressed on to being the principle organiser of a major cocaine importation at the turn of the Millennium. Oh,and anyone can relate to the story, I get a lot of people from outside London, places like Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and even abroad praising the originality and realism of the skullduggery. It’s also nice to get an email from the ladies who appreciate a good love or sex scene. I’ve been told they’d had a few late night pillow scrunching moments, that’s keeping it mild!

imageHave you always enjoyed the written word, books and story writing as a child?

Going back to your second question, when my aunt told me I’d one day become a successful writer it saddened me because I thought, how boring. She said if my brother followed his true path he would become a movie star. I’m now grown enough to know without writers there would be no actors, movies or singers of music for that matter.

What made you realise that you wanted to write a book? What impact did meeting Jeffrey Archer whilst you were both serving time in prison make to your new career path? Did he offer any helpful hints and tips?

imageJeffery Archer, now there’s a character. I have no doubt, our brief encounter during the year 2001 was fate. The funny thing was at the time he was more intrigued about my life and mind than I was his. I couldn’t help questioning him in detail about the world’s corrupt governments, the Bush administration, Maggie Thatcher, cover ups and David Icke style conspiracy theories. Lord Archer said to me, if I were a writer my work would make for interesting reading. I do feel his statement got my mind’s literary cogs turning and ready to move through the gears. After a four month long court battle my fate was sealed, I received a 20 year sentence and needed something to occupy my time. My defending QC Stephen Solly, one of the most respected, said I was a man of remarkable intelligence. Coming from him I took that as a huge compliment. He was the junior barrister defending the high profile eighties Marijuana and hashish smuggler, Howard Marks (Mr Nice). He actually said myself and Mr Marks had similar traits, that particular observation put a smile on my face during some bleak, testing and troublesome times I have to say. After a while you get bored of other prisoners’ stories – them telling you how many they’ve killed, how much precious stones they’d heisted abroad or how many tons of cocaine they’ve shipped in from Columbia. If truth be known you get sick of hearing it! My daughter inspired me to give up smoking and I became a fitness fanatic, running half marathons around the exercise field. I began reading familiar best-selling crime novels and without being too big headed, I felt I had something to offer. I’d criticise a book, how they’d got the ending wrong, inconsistencies and regularly work out the plot. I grew up in the East End and some of the fictional character leading gangsters in stories would have got laughed off the manor. I can remember one morning waking up in my cell seriously thinking my writing career has begun. As the months went on I began making notes, then giving out chapters of Danny’s Boys to other inmates. There was no better place to have your crime novel criticised, Whitemoor Prison is Europe’s highest security prison housing the world’s top level sophisticated and most dangerous individuals. I continuously used the education department’s printer giving out a few chapters to major cocaine traffickers, armed robbers, hit men and IRA terrorists. The thing was no one had any negative pointers, I would often say, forget us being friends, I need the truth but they had nothing but praise saying they love that genre and it’s the most real they’d read. I’d often try to trick them, saying the text was written by a top author. They didn’t doubt it and most could tell it was written by a man who experienced it first hand. That was it, their words set the wheels in motion, I knew my destiny.

imageIn one of your interviews you quoted that “there is no fairytale ending in a gangster lifestyle. It just brings misery, prison and people getting killed”. Never a truer word spoken, Richard – so is that really the moral of “Danny’s Boys”?  How hard was it to turn your life around?

Linda, I’ve said it a million times, there is no fairy tale ending in that life, it ends in jail misery or death. Even the ones that stop after accumulating mass wealth, they’re never out of the woods, they still worry about someone plotting their demise. They know when you’re on top of your game, the authorities are the least of your problems. I was more worried about the desperado’s flying in from abroad, they’d done their homework and knew who was flush or making large amounts of cash at the time. If they simply took your wealth and went on their way that wouldn’t be so bad but these guys play by different rules such as torturing family members including children until they’re satisfied you’ve given and signed over all you have.

imageNow that your debut book has been published and receiving rave reviews – I’ve downloaded the book and am enjoying it myself (not finished yet) – you are busy with the second installment. When is the second book due out?

The second installment realistically will be with us by the Spring of 2015. I’ve been touched by the public’s response to Danny’s Boys but in my opinion if they think that was good the sequel will be a phenomenon. The buzz I’m getting from the characters fills me with a tremendous energy, a feeling it has already been made into a hit movie. I actually believe the epic story is happening, the vibe of the novel is that strong.

Is it harder to write a follow up book or now that the juices are flowing, are your ideas/thoughts tumbling out?

Now the East End series has begun I can’t hold myself back Linda. Having lived the life makes it effortless, I have so much original knowledge. One old gangster I left at HMP Whitemoor, never to be released once pointed out “Son, who better to write an East End gangland thriller than a boy who lived and breathed it? Go on son, get out and make it happen for yourself, just send me a copy” he laughed. He was once a well loved fence but got put into a situation and being incarcerated indefinitely was the outcome.

Apart from the East End series, are you hoping to write more books in the future? If so, would you stick to the same format or would you try a different genre?

Whilst in prison I wrote an amazing first draft story, the basis being reincarnation. God forbid, but when your body dies your spirit will enter the fetus of a female just conceived and life goes on and on and on, a continuous cycle. In another life, Linda, you could have been my father or lover and our souls continuously meet in new lives we live, that type of thing. The thing is,  I have a secret amazing addition to add to this life cycle concept I truly believe in. It’s in first draft stages at the moment but when I get it right, the right film producers will have a block-buster on their hands. I get an amazing buzz and often smile and even laugh when scenes pop into my mind and I file them. What intrigues me most is where do all the inspirational, creative thoughts and ideas come from. It often makes me feel I never chose to become a writer, I feel more like I’ve been chosen, if you can make sense of that.

On your cover of “Danny’s Boys” you have the picture of the old Walthamstow Dog Stadium, which has now sadly been pulled down although the sign remains. I have had many enjoyable nights there, both as a child and an adult! What places in E17 hold sweet memories for you?

Most sweetest memories in Walthamstow – I’d have to say the Market as a kid hustling, stealing, robbing, making money. I grew up poor and treats were few and far between in our neighbourhood. I speak for many around the world when I say “There is no better feeling than earning readies”.  I love the memories of our local Stoneydown Park, off Blackhorse, kicking football and meeting up with friends to go out on the “thief”- sorry but for me those were the sweetest times for me in our E 17. I felt cursed as a child but now realise being deprived was a blessing, it gave me the backbone and made me the man I am today. I look in the mirror each morning and feel proud.

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

I like smart and casual clothing, Italian and French design Armani, Replay, Chevignon, that type of stuff. I often send a pair of boots I like the style of to Thailand to have them copied in a crocodile or snakeskin, other than that a nice trendy pair of Nike or Adidas trainers will do.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Yes, I shop online for Oakley sunglasses, my favourite.

Links you would like to share so that readers of the blog can learn more about “Danny’s Boys”:

www.facebook.com/dannysboys

www.richard-barnard.com

@RichardBarnard4

Thank you Richard…so, dear readers, if you are looking for a thrilling read whilst reclining on your sunlounger this Summer, get your copy now…

Happy Reading!

Linda x

Photo Credits:  All photos have been published with kind permission of Richard Barnard.

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An Interview With Janey Rosen

This week I’m so excited to be chatting to the delightful Janey Rosen, author of The Sebastian Trilogy, the trio of books that are rapidly making headway up the best sellers lists… Hi Janey, welcome to the blog …  JaneyRosenJune13

Hi, my name is Janey Rosen and I’m the author of The Sebastian Trilogy (Secrets, Dark Bonds and Retribution).  When I’m not making up stories and telling tales, I’m mum to 4 amazing children ranging from 6 to 21 years old!  I try and write when they are asleep.  I also run a business which cares for disabled adults, which I set up in 2005 having left nursing.  Overall I’m a busy bee.

What was the inspiration behind the creation of the Sebastian Series?
It was a story which came to me last summer, during a holiday in Brittany. The seedling idea quickly blossomed and I had to write it down.  
I know that the places you’ve visited in the South West helped to shape the settings of your novels, but what about the characters themselves?  Are they based loosely on people you’ve observed through people watching? 
SecretsCoverMarketing
Penmorrow was based on a crumbling manor house I visited in North Cornwall.  It is owned by a friend of a friend of a friend – a tenuous link which is why I got a huge buzz from sneaking around inside the amazing house, which has never been opened to the public (they would likely break their necks as many floor boards were missing!).  I loved finding the secret passage which led down to a smugglers’ tunnel.  With regard to the characters, I have often been asked on whom I based Sebastian … my husband likes to tell people that he is Sebastian … I like to tease him and say he’s Alan. My lips are sealed further than that.  There are bits of me in Elizabeth and friends who have read the books know which bits those are.  Similarly, a couple of friends recognised themselves in various chapters!
 
Have you got a favourite character?
I adore Scarlett – she is just so wicked!  I also like Ruth, Elizabeth’s BFF – nothing phases her, she is the best friend a girl could have.  I like Marcus least of all.  
 
I have still got my old English book from school where I wrote pages upon pages of stories – mostly about earthquakes & exotic countries, even though my only foray abroad at that time was a day trip to Boulogne in France! As a child did you write lots of stories with an ambition to be an author? If so, what were your stories mostly about?DarkbondscoverMarketing
 
Yes! Just like you, I scribbled story after story and recall boring my English class with regular updates on my fictional character, Ned, and his adventures.  Drawing and writing were my passion from a young age, I was not a sporty child, preferring to have my nose in a book or a pencil in my hand. Now, I love nothing more than making up stories with my daughter – our favourite are the adventures of Bowbelie and Maria, a girl and her fairy friend who lives in Oak Wood.  That mischievous fairy gets herself in trouble daily – usually I lead her astray, and my daughter finishes the story with a happy ending.
Reading is a minefield! … What sort of book genre do you like reading? Favourite books or authors? 
My early reads, as a teen, were the Flowers In The Attic series by Virginia Andrews.  Lately, my favourite authors are Stephen Leather (The Dan Shepherd series) and Peter James, both of whom write edge-of-your-seat thrillers and crime stories.  I also love ‘What Have I Done’ by Amanda Prowse.  I love trying work by new authors and believe in supporting indies.
 
Are there any new novels planned?  Are you sticking to the same format or going to be trying something different?
Yes! I am writing a thriller entitled ‘The Hidden Bride.’  It’s a story which has been rattling around in my head for nearly 2 years.  It’s entirely different to my ‘Sebastian’ novels.  I’m really enjoying getting inside the mind of the new protagonists – one in particular is intriguing to write as he is a hugely complex character.    
 
I belong to a book club – we are passionate about books and we do like discussing them over several glasses of wine! Do you belong to a book club? What do you think about the growing popularity of Book Clubs in the UK? 
Unfortunately not, but it’s on my ‘to do’ list!  I have a circle of friends who love books and we always suggest new books when we find a gem we love.
 
Is there a writing genre you would love to try and haven’t yet done so?
The thriller I’m writing is a new genre for me and therefore a new challenge.
Retribution Cover Marketing
Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?
Monday to Friday I will always be found in a skirt, blouse or top and heels – the ‘boardroom’ look helps me to mentally shift from mother to business woman.  I have a weakness for dresses and own more evening dresses than I have have the opportunity to wear! Favourites are Sonia Pena and James Lakeland.
 
Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?
Coast and Monsoon are my favourite high street shops.  I try and support small, local boutiques and am fortunate to have some great ones in the town where I live.  
 
What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?
I have my eye on a fitted suit by Armani – I just need to work out how to sneak it into my wardrobe without my husband noticing 😉

Boots or Shoes? 
At 5’10” tall I struggle with high heels.  I’m envious of every woman who can wear Jimmy Choo or Louboutins! I own one very high pair of black heels but have yet to find the courage to wear them.  I love boots in the winter (Nine West are so comfy), and my Unze sparkly sandals as well as a black crystal pair by Sam Edelmam.

Links you would like to share:
Twitter: @JaneyRosen

Thank you Janey! I wish you continued success with your writing – I look forward to reading your thriller but in the meantime I’ll settle for a summer of good reading with Sebastian & Co…

Linda x

Photos published with kind permission from Janey Rosen

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