Category Archives: Interview

An Interview With Nirvana Brewery

It may be “dry” January but there is no need to forgo that pint of beer, lager or stout because the brewers at Nirvana Brewery believe that outstanding beer doesn’t need alcohol, that award winning flavour isn’t tied to ABV and that drinking with friends doesn’t have to mean a slow start the next day as you try to clear your thumping headache and feeling of nausea. Nirvana Brewery is Britain’s only dedicated low/no alcohol brewery – their beers are also low calorie, vegan , and have women at the helm! As I sup my chilled glass of the flagship lager, Bavarian Helles Lager, let me welcome onto the blog Becky Kean who runs this gem of a brewery … Hi Becky!

Hi! I’m Becky, the founder of Nirvana Brewery. We’re the UK’s only dedicated no-alcohol brewery, based in East London.

What inspired the launch of Nirvana Brewery in 2016?

We set out to brew really great alcohol-free beer when my dad gave up drinking. But I suppose the true inspiration began with our love of beer. As a family we loved sharing a beer together and enjoyed sampling beers from different craft breweries. When one of the family was no longer drinking it didn’t seem fair that they should be left out

I am really impressed that your brewery is Britain’s only dedicated low/no alcohol brewery.  And that the beers are low calorie and vegan ! I definitely like your flagship lager, Bavarian Helles Lager.  Which of your current drinks is your favourite?

Thanks! Our lager is our most popular beer and absolutely one of my all time favourites, but to be honest my beer of choice changes all the time. At the moment I’m really enjoying drinking the stout; the chocolatey, roasted flavours go down really well in the winter months.

Which drinks would you say are best sellers amongst your customers?

Well as I said our lager is definitely the best selling beer in the range. Lager is generally the most popular style of beer in general, but from a brewing perspective its one of the hardest beers to get right, especially when brewing alcohol-free. The fact that we’ve managed to brew a 0.3% lager that tastes just like a full strength beer, whilst also having the same clean taste and complex flavours of a craft lager I think is why people really love it. That being said our Classic IPA and Hoppy Pale Ale are a close second! They are really refreshing, modern hoppy ales that have all those delicious fruity and tropical hop flavours that most beer lovers look for in a craft beer.

Is it difficult to put together suitable “recipes” for your craft beers that live up to your ethos?  Where do you get your flavour inspirations from?

It is super difficult to brew beers under 0.5% alcohol, let alone keeping them within our remit of healthy, natural and vegan. But we’ve spent quite a few years tweaking and developing our methods and recipes and now I’d say we have that bit down pretty well. So creating new recipes is fairly straight forward and a lot of fun! Our last project was brewed with the help of our social media followers who put forward their suggestions of their ‘Heaven’ flavour and their ‘Hell’ flavour. Our brewer picked her favourites from the responses and we’ve now got a Heavenly Orange and Thyme Sour, vs our Hell-ish Jalapeño lager!

Traditionally beer contains quite a bit of alcohol and calories; so how have you managed to brew craft beer without the deadly calories and alcohol … do you follow a different process than other breweries?

Good question! For the most part our process looks exactly the same as you would see in any other craft brewery. The difference in our brewing is all in the fermentation; we have to control the fermentability of the beer by using different temperatures, yeast strains and less fermentable sugars. We do use less malt which is the base of the alcohol-forming sugars, hence why there are fewer calories in our beers. Ultimately there is less sugar for the yeast to ferment, which results in fewer calories.

As you are based in the UK, are your beers available to purchase worldwide?

Yes we have a growing export business which we are very excited about. Our beers are sold throughout Asia and the Middle East as well as in Canada, and as far as Australia!

What do you enjoy most about running a brewery? 

I love working in the drinks industry, its a really fun industry to work in. You get to be out there in the city, meeting with pubs and restaurant owners and see the interesting things happening in hospitality. But I also enjoy the physical nature of producing something tangible from fresh ingredients, and something that I can physically open and enjoy at the end (or middle!) of the day. Most of all though I love working with our amazing Nirvana team. We are close-knit team and I think we have a really nice culture here.

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

Well, as a brewery owner I would look totally out of place in anything too formal! So mostly I’m found in jeans and trainers, and sporting my branded Nirvana T-shirt and hoody. In my spare time it’s not too different, perhaps with a nice shirt instead of a hoody!

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I suppose my favourite place to shop would have to be farm shops or foodie markets. I take so much delight in discovering interesting and different food and drink producers, I’m always looking for something new to try! When it comes to clothes shopping preference, I would have to say sites like Vinted as I’m trying to declutter and stop filling my wardrobe with ‘new’ stuff!

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

My weakness is probably trainers. I can never have enough! I wear them all the time so each new pair seems to be worn out within 6 months. I also seem to need a different pair of trainers for work, running, gym etc. so I can never have enough. At the moment the next item on the wish list would probably be a new pair of running trainers for when the sunny weather starts again (I already have my winter running shoes sorted).  😉

Boots or Shoes?

Shoes because they are more flexible and versatile!

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

Yes, you can check us out on any of the channels below:

nirvanabrewery.com

facebook.com/nirvanabeerco

instagram.com/nirvanabeerco

twitter.com/nirvanabeerco

Also find us on Ocado or Amazon!

Thank you for chatting to us today Becky. I love the Bavarian Lager – very refreshing and it tastes of lager!!! 😊 I haven’t yet sampled the Pale Ale or Stout but I will do so.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Nirvana Brewery ( apart from Pinterest photo – by Linda Hobden)

DISCLAIMER ALERT:

My thanks goes to Nirvana Brewery for the mixed case of beer for me to review for the purpose of this post however all opinions expressed are 100% mine

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Spotlight On The Lumberjills

I recently received a copy of a new wartime saga called “The Lumberjills: Stronger Together” by Joanna Foat to review. It is a well written, enjoyable novel about a group of girls from different backgrounds who joined the Women’s Timber Corps. What impressed me more is that this book is Joanna’s first work of fiction – and what a fabulous non stop page turning debut – but Joanna has written a non fiction book about The Lumberjills, has spoken to more than 60 former Lumberjills and has spent 10 years researching her subject. That’s amazing! So, I’m really pleased to welcome Joanna onto the blog….Hi Joanna!

Hi, my name is Joanna Foat. I am an author, speaker, environmental communications consultant and love adventures in the great outdoors.

The Lumberjills: Stronger Together” is your debut novel – a historical novel based on the Women’s Timber Corps, a mostly forgotten division of the Women’s Land Army during the Second World War. What inspired you to write a novel? 

I remember the day I first heard about the Lumberjills when I was working for the Forestry Commission. I was sitting at my desk in a wooden hut at Alice Holt Forest looking out the window at the birds and passing deer, while researching stories about women in forestry. When the woman at the other end of the phone said there were thousands of women working in the forests felling trees with an axe and saw during wartime and they were called Lumberjills, a shiver ran through me. 

I thought, how come I’d never heard of them? I have to find out more about these women. I knew that only a few, if any, could still be alive. At that moment, I realisedI had to meet these women. Once I had tracked them down and heard their extraordinary stories, I just knew I wanted to write a book about them. I felt it was such an important story to tell about strong women. And if I didn’t, it would be forgotten forever. 

Were there any aspects of writing your novel that surprised you, either by being harder or easier to write about than you expected (considering you have written a non-fiction book about the Lumberjills also)? 

First, I absolutely loved doing all the research, travelling the country to meet those inspiring Lumberjills, visiting museums and trawling through archives. Discovering these wonderful pieces of history was just like a hugely rewarding treasure hunt. 

There was a big difference between writing the non-fiction and a novel. Non-fiction is like a collage of newspaper cuttings, old photos, letters and words from interviews. You find the best stories and curate them to create a big picture. 

Whereas fiction is like a broiling witches cauldron swirling with emotion, people and places. You have to make the fire first and then start adding all the ingredients, keep stirring, tasting, smelling and simmering for a long time and hope the magic spell works. It feels like a much more dynamic process and so I found writing a novel much harder.

I was terrified of writing dialogue to begin with. But that was because I hadn’t done enough character development. After spending a lot of time of getting to know my characters, I could tune into them quickly and now I can hear their voices speaking to me as I write.

I love the different characters in the story – feisty bohemian Keeva, the cockney East Ender Rosie and wealthy Beatrice were my personal favourites… do you have a favourite character? Which characters or storyline were the hardest to portray?

I had a lot of fun writing Beatrice, putting words into her mouth that made me wince or squeal with laughter. You can have a lot of fun making your characters misbehave. I want to have more mischief in my next novel.

I found Keeva the hardest to portray because she was such a moody teenager and I couldn’t get a lot back from her. She frustrated me. I even asked her once what she might do in a particular situation and she gave me a withering look and shouted at me, stop trying to put me in a box. She is so fiercely independent. I suppose I had my answer in one way. But I still felt none the wiser. I understand her more now.

Hypothetically speaking, if “The Lumberjills: Stronger Together” was made into a film, who would you love to see portraying the characters, especially Keeva, Rosie and Beatrice? 

If ever there was a great comparable to what The Lumberjills film would be like. It is A League of Their Own. I love the great mix of female characters, backgrounds, shapes and sizes. Real women. Grubby, muddy and misbehaved. There’s plenty of unknown actresses out there who need a break – this could be for them. The Lumberjills acted out by rising stars. I love that idea.

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

No. I didn’t really have aspirations as a child because I was so shy. Maybe I would have been a dancer. But I certainly wouldn’t have said that I wanted to sit still and write. Although I did write my first book age 10, which was 33 pages long and about a hard done by pigeon. I thought if I could get people to care about a pigeon, that would be really cool. I loved writing it but my older sister said it was rubbish.

Movement and sport are forms of self-expression and give me a sense of freedom and confidence. I discovered I wanted to write about that. I want to write how the Lumberjills muscles ached, what it felt like to cycle 20 miles before work and how strong they had to be felling trees all day long in the forest. My Dad bought me an axe for Christmas one year. So, I am sure, if I’d been alive in the 1940s, I would have jumped at the chance of joining the Women’s Timber Corps.

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

I wouldn’t call myself a bookworm, more of bookbird. I fly from book to book and sometimes don’t finish them. I love physical books with beautiful covers. A kindle doesn’t do it for me. I love the beauty of the myths and legends in Madeleine Miller and how nature thrums through every word in Delia Owens’ Where the Crawdad Sings.

Is “The Lumberjills: Stronger Together” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes, The Lumberjills is available worldwide and selling well in UK, US, Canada, Australia, and France.

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

I used to find myself on a muddy walk or doing the gardening in a heeled pair of boots and dress. So now I prefer wearing jeans, a green top and Converse. In fact,most of my clothes are Lumberjill green.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I have been brought up on charity shops and loved hand me downs from my friends and family. I have a fascination with Anthropologie. But I’m more likely to buy from Depop.

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

A pair of beautiful leather hiking boots and some running leggings. I am tempted to buy myself some dungarees too, Lumberjills style. Oh, and can I add in a vintage axe accessory here too? ;0)

Boots or Shoes? 

Boots. Shoes seem too small and flimsy and most of mine are high heels. As a teenager I wore Doc Martins and some German Army boots I bought from an old Army Supplies store. I still have the latter over 30 years later. 

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

www.thelumberjills.uk

fb. @thelumberjills.uk

insta and twitter @jofoat

It was brilliant to chat to you Joanna! I love trees too and I spent a happy childhood climbing up trees and making dens in the patch of Epping Forest close to my home in East London. I live in a rural village now surrounded by woods. I loved your novel – it was just pure escapism . Thank you Ben for the review copy of Joanna’s novel.

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Joanna Foat. (Pinterest photo by Linda Hobden).

Linda x

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The Witching Moon Book Tour

I’m so pleased to be part of The Witching Moon Book Tour (The Witching Moon by K E Bonner). The genre of this book is Young Adult Fantasy – and normally not a genre I’d go for, seeing as I am a “not so young” adult – but I really enjoyed this fast paced story.

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THE BOOK SUMMARY

Every once in an eon, when the Earth eclipses the moon on a winter solstice, an immortal is born under a witching moon. Anne has always had the strangest feelings—memories she couldn’t place; strangers she inexplicably yearned for. After she rescues the enigmatic Phillip from a shipwreck, her comfortable life on the island of Cusabo is shattered, and the mystery of her destiny starts to fall into place. Anne leaves behind the life she’s always known and sets out with Phillip on an arduous journey to Amaranth, where her ancient family awaits her. But the path is dark and daunting, and Anne’s powers have only just begun to manifest.

Publisher: Belle Isle Books
ASIN: B096ST3G4Z
ISBN-10: 1947860925
ISBN-13: 978-1947860926
Print Length: 298 pages

You can purchase a copy of Witching Moon on AmazonBarnes and Noble, and Bookshop.org. You can also add Witching Moon to your Goodreads reading list.

MY INTERVIEW

Salutations! I’m K.E. Bonner, author, reader, wife, mother, anesthetist, wanderer, gardener, and home chef. Fifteen years ago I found out I was dyslexic, which explained why I was labeled as a ‘slow reader’ in first grade. Note to teachers: never label anyone as slow, it hurts. Having dyslexia has taught me to never, never, ever give up. 

“Witching Moon” is your debut novel. Who or what inspired you to start your writing career? 

Have you ever heard of the book Twilight by Stephanie Myers? In 2005 all of my friends were obsessed with it, so I read it, loved it, and became determined to see why it was so hard to put down. I re-read it and then outlined the whole book to discover what secrets it held. A year later I met my friend, Leslie Muir, who shared with me that she had just signed with a literary agent. Suddenly being a writer seemed possible. I rushed home and began writing.

“Witching Moon” is a Young Adult  historical fiction/fantasy series – although I absolutely was enthralled with the story and it was fast paced enough to keep me engrossed to the last page.  I found your descriptions of places, the food, the characters and the even the “smells” very vivid. I loved the main characters, Anne and Philip – and I was mesmerised by their growing relationship!  Which character did you enjoy writing about the most?  Which character was the hardest?

Anne was the easiest character to write because I could hear her voice clearly and I spent so much time with her. Elodie was the most difficult character to write because she was a person of color and a runaway slave, and I am neither. It was important for me to honor Elodie, where she came from and her experience, so I read Fredrick Douglas’s autobiography, Beloved by Toni Morrison, The Color Purple by Alice Waters, and Caste by Isabel Wilkerson. I wanted to get inside of Elodie’s head as much as I could. It was important for Elodie to be a strong character with her own power because I didn’t want Anne to be a white savior. Anne saves Elodie but then Elodie saves Anne and Phillip by securing them a spot on the Underground Railroad. Kindness repays kindness.

The novel is set in 1865 during the American civil war in South Carolina. Living in Georgia yourself,  your depiction of the States is believable but I am intrigued by the island of Amaranth, off the coast of France. My mind conjured up a vision of Mont St Michel and the Ile de Ré …. but is Amaranth, the island, a figment of your imagination or based on a real place? 

Amaranth is based on Mont Saint Michel, a place I’ve never visited. I’ve been fascinated with Mont St Michel since I saw it in Mickey, Donald, and Goofy: The Three Musketeers. Cusabo is based on the sea islands of SC. There is no actual island named Cusabo, but the Cusabo people were the original inhabitants of the South Carolina low country.

As this is your debut novel, were there any aspects of writing the novel that surprised you, pleasantly or otherwise?

Writing is both an escape and therapy for me. When I go through a period when I’m not writing I don’t feel whole. There is no doubt in my mind that I was born to share stories. Witching Moon taught me how to write, my following books will share with readers what I’ve learned about how to cope, live, and forgive.

Iceland ….by ETHAN HOBDEN

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

Iceland. The Icelandic people believe in elves, faries, and trolls, they call them huldufolk or hidden people. In my mind’s eye the huldufolk are leading Anne across a steaming field of moss covered, gnarled volcanic rock. Iceland is a country brimming with magical realism and the huldufolk are calling to me.

If “Witching Moon” was made into a film, what actors/actresses would you like to see cast as the main characters, eg Anne, Philip, Mama Jane etc? 

Undiscovered actors should play Anne, Phillip, Elodie, and Rory. I love the idea of giving a talented and hardworking young person a chance. An indigenous actress like Morningstar Angeline would play Mama Jane. I like Mads Mikkelsen for Bello, Idris Elba for Rex, and Kate Winslet for Rowan. My brother, Brendan Murphy, would be my choice of director. He is an award winning video game writer and he wrote and directed the movie Speakeasy. 

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

I’m a real book kind of gal. I love the weight of a hardback in my hands, the texture of the pages, and the smell of ink. Few odors are as heady as the aroma of a secondhand bookstore; the dusty, woodsy, aged glue smell gets my heart racing. I adore southern gothic books, and books that introduce me to new places and cultures. Memoir, non fiction that broadens my mind, fat and colorful coffee table books, travel logs, little known histories, romance, true crime, spy-thrillers, short stories, and whatever strikes my fancy. Toni Morrison, Pat Conroy, Rick Bragg, Jane Austen, Mary Karr, and Maurice Sendack are some of my favorite authors. 

Is “Witching Moon” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes, On Amazon, Bookshop.org, and Barnesandnoble.com

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

I grew up watching my parents sit at the kitchen table struggling to pay the bills. My goal was to be able to pay my bills and travel. I went into medicine because I knew I’d always have a job. I’m lucky because I get paid to take care of people, but working in healthcare is stressful and hard on one’s body. My dream is to be able to support myself with my writing.

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

Comfort is very important to me. Brooks Adrenaline GTS is my shoe of choice, paired with jeans and a sweater or hoodie. I try to hit the gym everyday to either swim, lift weights, or do a spin class so I’m often in athletic clothes.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

I like quality well made clothes that I can wear for more than two seasons. Tori Burch for handbags, Nordstrom for  clothes, Athleta, Theory, J Crew, and American Giant. I like clothes that canbe worn with jeans or dressed up and that travel well.

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

My dream shoes are the Gucci lug sole loafers with gold bees embroidered on the heel, but they are crazy expensive. Even though I know I’ll be able to wear them for a long time, I can’t pull the trigger on them.

Boots or Shoes?

I love sneakers. I have two pairs of Taos Plim Soul sneakers that I wear with jeans, pants, and skirts that are perfect to travel with. I have a pair of black Born riding boots and a pair of Frye chelsea boots that I feel great in. I like classic pieces. I don’t mind paying a little more for quality clothes or shoes that I know I will wear for ten years.

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

www.kebonner.com

Instagram: @kebonnerwrites

Facebook: karenbonner

BOOK TOUR DATES

ALL PHOTOGRAPHS HAVE BEEN PUBLISHED WITH KIND PERMISSION OF K E BONNER , APART FROM THE HEADER PHOTO AND PHOTO OF ICELAND( BY ETHAN HOBDEN). THANKS ALSO GOES TO K E BONNER FOR A COPY OF THE WITCHING MOON FOR REVIEWING PURPOSES.

Linda x

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An Interview With Dalia Botanique

It will soon be Spring gardening weather and now is a perfect time to introduce a skincare range especially formulated for gardeners and those who love being outside. Using the power of botanicals, my guest Dalia has formulated a powerful skincare range to help repair the appearance of sun damaged skin and to moisturise dry , chapped skin . I caught up with Dalia recently to find out more about her skincare range and her love of botanicals. Hi Dalia!

Hi ! I am Dalia, the founder of a natural skincare brand – Dalia Botanique. I live in Yorkshire with my partner, our cat and chickens.

What was the inspiration behind the setting up of your skincare brand, Dalia Botanique?

I decided to redo my partner’s garden and became really interested in wildflowers and all sorts of stunning botanicals. It was the first year of Covid and I had lost my massage business so I had plenty of time! I decided to undertake some skincare courses as it had been a dream of mine to create products for myself and others. I used to make balms for my family and friends! Whilst doing the courses, I learnt that many of the botanicals I was growing actually had wonderful skincare properties! As someone who spends a lot of time outdoors running, cycling & gardening, I wanted to create a range of products for people like me and use all the botanicals I was growing. A french twist on botanical is ‘botanique’  (I have a French mum)! and dahlias are my favourite flowers so it seemed fitting to put the two together! I love combining botanical art in my product branding too.

Your brand motto is “From Garden To Bottles” – what botanicals do you use in your products and what are their benefits?  

I will pick a few of my favourites as there are so many! I discovered Lunaria Annua (Honesty plant) through gardening and studies. It has a really unique chain of fatty acids, sinks in well, feels luxurious and helps improve the appearance of sun damaged skin. Due to it being grown in the UK and cold processed, it has a low environmental impact. It’s also a great pollinator and bees love it! I source my oil from a farm around 100 miles away but I have also started to grow a lot in my own garden. White Poppy is really rich in Omega 6 and other fatty acids. It is also grown in the UK. Borage is another botanical I grow a lot of and I love seeing the blue star flowers bloom. It’s really good for dry skin and full of antioxidants. I must also give a nod to what I call “Old school country cottage favourites!” : Flowers and Evening Primrose, Lavender, Rosemary and Calendula. I remember making a hair rinse with Lavender, Rosemary and Calendula as a child! They have these wonderful healing properties that have been used for  centuries!

I do love a good body butter- so what are your most popular products? Do you have a favourite product?

My Lavender and Ylang Ylang body butter sells well in winter! I have favourites for different things. My own cleanser is the first facial cleanser that doesn’t strip my skin. I love the scent of my Rose Geranium body oil. It feels like I am wearing a luxury perfume! I like my Cocoa and Monoi balm as it’s really good for dry patches and I carry it everywhere with me!  When I have a cold I pop a bit around my nose where my skin has become dry and irritated. I love my facial oil as it’s so minimal, uses the UK botanicals I mentioned earlier and makes my skin bright and plump. It also has CoQ10, a powerful antioxidant which really helps repair the appearance of my weather damaged skin after long periods outdoors! I can’t imagine using anything else now! I use my own Rosemary and Green Clay shampoo bar and the smell of Rosemary reminds me of making the hair rinses mentioned above as a child. Rosemary is so wonderful for hair too.

Are your products suitable for vegans?

Yes! We use a plant based Keratin in our shampoo bars. We love animals and there is no reason to use them in skincare when there are so many plant alternatives. 

What other products are in the pipeline can we look forward to? 

I am working behind the scenes on a hand cream incorporating some interesting upcycled ingredients!  I also want to work with mushrooms in skincare too as there is some interesting research now coming out about their properties for our skin health.

I love the fact that with every order placed, a tree is planted in association with Ecologi. How important is it to your brand that your ingredients are ethically sourced, where possible? 

Very! I like to know how my ingredients are sourced and produced and I have a good relationship with suppliers. My UK botanical supplier is bee friendly and grows pollinators. I also re plant lots of bee friendly flowers myself. I am always looking for ways to reduce how much I take from the environment by cross using oils across my products. There is a future happening now where we can source nature identical ingredients that are produced in a lab. Meaning nature and plants can be left in their natural environment

Are your products available to purchase & ship worldwide? 

My products are available for UK and US customers only at present. After Brexit I was unable to sell in the EU and had to remove my products due to changes in legislation. One day I hope I can sell there again. 

Growing up, have you always wanted a career in the skincare business or did you have sights on a different career path?

When I was younger I wanted to go into a more therapeutic and holistic area but I felt like it was more socially acceptable to go into more of an academic role. Throughout life I have had so many different jobs and also wanted to be everything from a Marine Biologist to a physio! 

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

I spend a lot of my time running, cycling and gardening. I also love a good coffee shop and great coffee with friends! My partner is a wonderful photographer so I often go out with him to do photography. I love curing stunning botanical displays for photographing too. 

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

I’m so boring! Working from home in my other job, I’m usually in leggings and fleece top. Other times I will be in cycling, running or gardening gear-trainers, cycling shoes and wellies! It is nice when I do dress up though. I have a beautiful smart coat I LOVE to wear with some smart shoes. I love interesting and unusual clothes. 

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

My friend has a fantastic clothing brand called Home of the Soul and 80% of wardrobe is from her! I love how well fitting every piece is. I also love any gardening sites!

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

I really want some nice trainers, ones I can wear in the summer that are colourful and comfy. All my trainers are for running and I’ve been thinking for far too long now about having some casual but still smart trainers. 

Boots or Shoes?

 Wellies for the garden! Shoes for adventuring in!

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

Thank you for letting me share! Website: www.daliabotanique.co.uk  and Instagram https://www.instagram.com/daliabotanique/. Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/daliabotanique

Thanks for the chat, Dalia – I am really impressed with what you have achieved so far. I am also intrigued with the idea of mushroom based skincare – one to watch in the future!

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Dalia Botanique.

Linda x

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Author Interview: Christopher Bowden

I have just read and reviewed a book called “Mr Magenta” by Christopher Bowden. It is a contemporary mystery story with lots of subtle twists and turns as the reader goes from a house in a London square to a Brooklyn bookshop to the romantic theatre setting in Marseilles and up to the wilds of the East Coast of England. The story begins with Stephen Marling who inherits a house in a leafy South London square that belonged to his Aunt Flora, and he decides to take up residence, leaving behind his life in Brooklyn and his actress love, Nancy. Looking through some old papers of his aunt’s past, he uncovers a side of his Aunt Flora that he never realised existed, he reevaluates his own life and he tries to unravel who exactly was “Mr Magenta” . I found this novel a lovely read – just the book to curl up with on a winter’s night 😊 Author Christopher Bowden has written seven books so far, all with a colour in the title … a mystery I hope to solve and I am pleased to welcome Christopher onto the blog to find out… Hi Christopher!

Hello! I’m Christopher. I’ve lived in South London for 40 years and my interests include gardens and gardening, reading, films, theatre, galleries, travel.  All of which feed into the writing in one way or another.  My younger son, David, is the bass player of the Fergus McCreadie trio, nominated for the Mercury Prize this year.  I like jazz and that finds its way into the books too.

Mr Magenta is your seventh novel – all are standalone stories despite having colour in the titles – The Blue Book, The Yellow Room, The Red House, The Green Door, The Purple Shadow, The Amber Maze and Mr Magenta.   What inspired you to write novels with colour themed titles?  What comes first – the novel itself or the title? 

I have synaesthesia (in my case, seeing words, such as days of the week, as colours).  Colour brings the world to life and has intriguing possibilities in book titles.  The colour in each one is reflected in the plot or themes of the individual novels.  With the new book, it was partly the word magenta itself, with its slightly exotic connotations, and the alliteration in the title: Mr Magenta.  And partly the qualities of the colour: bright and vibrant but also ambiguous: not blue, not red, but somewhere in between.  Also the fact that it is an artificial colour, an invention (in the nineteenth century).  That too offered plot possibilities and resonates with what we come to know about Mr Magenta himself.  Oh, and the title always comes first and shapes what follows.

Photo by Linda Hobden ©

Mr Magenta is a mysterious figure – when Stephen Marling inherited a big rambling house in London from his Aunt Flora, he discovers through old notes and letters references to a Mr Magenta …. he wonders who he is… and then there’s the Brooklyn bookshop and Nancy Steiner that he left behind in New York whilst he is in London; add in a theatre in Marseilles and a windswept corner of the east coast of England where all is revealed.  A great mystery entwining past and present.  Who were the hardest characters to portray? Did you base any characters, however loosely, on people you know?

The hardest was probably Stephen himself; his character reveals itself gradually as the story unfolds and he is more complex and thoughtful than first appears.  His search for Mr Magenta becomes a journey of self-discovery and learning the lessons of Flora’s own life. All the characters are creations and do not correspond to real individuals.  That said, creating characters (appearance, voice, foibles, etc) inevitably draws on the stock of experience of people I’ve known or observed or simply overheard.

Were there any aspects of writing Mr Magenta that surprised you, either by being harder or easier to write about than you expected (considering you have written six other books)? 

The whole thing was a surprise in that I did not know how it would end when I began it.  As with the other books, I need a few ideas to kick start the process; after that, plot and themes develop in the writing.  Finding out what will happen is part of the pleasure of writing and, I hope, of reading the books too.

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

Having had jobs involving a lot of drafting for others, I wanted to write creatively on my own account. Eventually, it became like an itch that I had to scratch and I took a career break to give me the time and space to produce a draft of my first novel, The Blue Book.   After that, I got the bit between my teeth…

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

I live in a house full of books, many of which I have actually read.  Mr Magenta itself is full of references to books and bookshops.  My reading is fairly varied but tends to be at the literary fiction end of things. For example, Paul Auster and William Boyd for plot, character and evocation of time and place, Barbara Comyns and Barbara Pym for a certain kind of English quirkiness (or quirky Englishness), and the ‘strange fiction’ of writers as different as Shirley Jackson and Reggie Oliver. And always physical books.

Is Mr Magenta available to purchase worldwide?

Yes, on the likes of Amazon, Smashwords, and Barnes & Noble.  And also through any bookshop in the UK.

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

At the moment, anything warm and waterproof.  Clothes colour co-ordinated, of course.

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

More trousers!

Boots or Shoes?  

Shoes (suede if it’s not raining).  Boots (wellingtons) confined to the garden.

For Pinning Later.

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

www.christopherbowden.com

https://www.hive.co.uk/Search/Search?Author=Christopher%20Bowden

Thank you for the chat, Christopher! My thanks goes to Christopher Bowden (and Ben Cameron) for the advance copy of Mr Magenta for reviewing. All views expressed are 100% my own. All photographs have been published with kind permission of Christopher Bowden apart from the photo for pinning and where marked.

Linda x

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Rebirth Book Tour

I’m so pleased to be part of the Rebirth book tour! Rebirth, by author Kate Brenton, is an interesting book full of inspiring stories from people who dared to follow their dreams and born from the original Rebirth podcast.

BOOK SUMMARY

When life is calling, often we need only the space and the support to remember our way. Sometimes we lean into our expansion, and sometimes we bolt from our greatness. The biggest shock is that big change happens in small choices. In Rebirth you will find real-life stories of people who made courageous leaps, inspiring you to make your own. It’s time to step out of line and back into the spiral of life—that’s where the alchemy is. This book fits right into the side pocket of your bag + your life to inspire you as you read others’ stories of how they listened and learned to make embodied changes in their own lives.

Publisher: Inspirebytes Omni Media

ISBN-10: 1953445261

ISBN-13: 978-1953445261

ASIN: B0B3V3JQT7

Print length: 278 pages

MY INTERVIEW

Hello Kate and welcome onto the blog….

Hello, I’m Kate. I am (now) an author, a teacher, a mama and holistic mentor.

What inspired the launch of the “Rebirth” – the  podcast and book?

The podcast started as a postpartum creativity project. I quickly fell in love with talking to amazing women about how they leaned in to their intuition at a difficult time and succeeded on their own terms. The podcast was tagged, “women saving lives by living their own.” During this time, not-so-coincidentally a colleague reached out to tell me she was starting a publishing company and wanted to sign me as a writer. I signed a contract and six months into deep writers block (which I mentioned to no one), I had my publisher on the podcast. She called the next day suggesting the podcast be the basis for the book and everything fell into place. 


Your book follows the inspirational journeys of people who were not afraid to follow a dream. Is there any famous person, alive or dead, you would love to interview for your podcast/book, if you had had the chance?  

Cesar Milan, the dog whisperer. I know it might not be what you expected, but I am not much into celebrities, but I am enamored with dogs. I remember ten years ago watching him dog train on TV and seeing that he was really reading energy and teaching people how to manage their energy through changing their behavior for their dog. I was so inspired by him, perhaps because of a cross-point of interests—consciousness and dogs. I later came across an interview with him, where he said a quote that has served me. I hadn’t followed him personally, so I didn’t know he had fallen on hard times (divorce and his show collapsed a bit, which led him to consider some difficult solutions). Anyway he said: It’s easy when you are succeeding, you really learn through your failures. I think talking with him would be fascinating.

What or who inspired you to become a writer and holistic mentor? 

I was born in love with books. I always had a book with me,  and I was scribbling since my first Peanuts journal, with Lucy on the front cover, with a lock. So writing has been an innate gift I have held and developed personally and professionally.  I also taught English for over 15 years in public and private sectors. 

My holistic mentorship came to be when I was living in Hawaii and apprenticed with an Hawaiian elder, Kumu Alva James Andrews. Through him, I learned holistic healing work,  and that the essence of all change is seeded in one’s mindset. So I work with clients and groups sharing the legacy of his wisdom to empower and uplift. 

“Rebirth” also has infused in it your personal experiences – did you find recollecting your experiences harder or easier to write down than to express them “on air” on a podcast?

So much harder. In fact, it wasn’t until the first draft of the manuscript was written that my publisher and beta readers all said I was missing from the book. It was much easier for me to put the spotlight on the strength of others. It wasn’t until I was structurally pushed to insert myself into the book, that I sat and a good deal of unraveling of story and perspective arose. I was surprised personally, and yet, that is what writing does. It asks us to broaden and alchemize our perspective. Thanks for asking; this was definitely my growth edge of the book.

Making courageous changes to one’s life path is not easy to do – what do you feel prevents a lot of people from being brave and making that leap?  

Believing in themselves. It sounds cliche, but if we are taught to identify and trust our inner voice it would not be so hard. But in this world we easily fall out of ourselves and into others—because we need community, or I really don’t have that all worked out, why do we all fall out of alignment—but what I DO know is that when we come back into alignment with ourselves (and our soul or Spirit will call us back, again and again, from whispers to yells) it gets easier to hear what is calling us forward. Now, that doesn’t make it easy to do all the time, but I think having a purpose grants us courage and clarity. Often we don’t know or believe we are worthy of what is calling, so it is hard to listen and leap. 

Can you tell us a bit more about your holistic work and the changes you made to follow your new path?

This is a much longer story which I will tell one day, but I’ll give you the highlights. I was (happily) an English teacher in Pennsylvania when I went to Hawaii the first time on a friend’s retreat half as an attendee, and half to help. So I saw a lot.  I was astounded. I had never seen life lived the way I did in Maui. Four months later, I arranged to be in Kauai for the whole summer. I taught and summered that way for two more years, until the pull to move got really strong. I quit my job and moved to Kauai. I thought I had work lined up (accepted an offer), a whole calamity of things dissolved, and after 9 months of living there, I surrendered and thought to move and get my teaching job back. I had given it my best, and nothing worked. I gave myself 3 months to do whatever I wanted to close this chapter. Within a month of that decision I was called into a training for Hawaiian lomilomi massage and began my apprenticeship with my Kumu (teacher) Alva Andrews, and I was offered a part time position at the community college. My whole life changed. I lived there for seven years, teaching and being taught. I left Hawaii when my teacher passed, to travel and teach for one year, intending to go back…but life had other plans. I have stayed connected and supportive of my Hawaiian o’hana (family) and those that I still work with. I continue sharing my holistic mentorship and healing work, while also working with mission-led authors to get their work out in the world in a cohort called Sit & Write. It is all the same really. I work with people’s stories.

For Pinning Later

Growing up, what were your initial career aspirations?  

Books, being outside and dogs. That was the younger years. Then I almost caved to being a business major in college, but my mother, bless her, told me only go study what I loved, and   I picked English  as my major, then later my masters in education. At my core, my whole life, throughout numerous industries, I am a teacher. I didn’t have a career aspiration, but I have always had the intention of being curious, and wanting to unpack what the world is doing.

Is your book, Rebirth, available to purchase worldwide?

Yes! It is! Let me know how you enjoy it. 

Are you a bookworm?  If so, do you prefer “actual” books or kindle?  What genre(s) do you enjoy reading?

Absolute bookworm. Obsessed with actual books and bookstores. I normally have 1 – 3 going at a time. In my stack right now is: The Alphabet versus the Goddess, by Leonard Shlain;  Prayers of Honoring, by Pixie LIghthorse, and Remarkably Bright Creatures, by Shelby Van Pelt. I like to have a well written fiction and a philosophical text going at the same time.

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

Winter me is jeans and wool cowl necks with brown leather boots.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Madwell.com for clothes, thriftbooks.com for books and I love everything ever made here: https://www.aromabliss.com

Boots or Shoes?

I love this question. My first choice is alway Chaco flip flops. If I could wear flip flops all year long I would, I love to be as close to the Earth as possible.  But oddly enough, I go from flip flops to boots. I love good boots and have all kinds of styles.

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

www.katebrenton.com

https://katebrenton.substack.com/p/making-versus-having

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/rebirth-real-life-stories-of-letting-go-and-letting/id1451833998?i=1000589257607

https://www.instagram.com/katembrenton/?hl=en

Twitter: @katebrenton

BOOK TOUR DATES

Lovely to chat with you Kate and I enjoyed reading the variety of stories featured in your book -all are definitely inspiring. I’m glad I share your love of bookstores!!! Thank you so much for the copy of Rebirth for reviewing purposes too.

Linda x

All photographs are published with kind permission of Kate Brenton

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An Interview With Children’s Author Heba Hamzeh

Born in Beirut , but brought up in the UK , my guest on the blog this week is children’s author Heba Hamzeh. Retaining her love of Middle Eastern adventure tales and myths from her childhood, she regaled her own children with her exciting adventure fantasy stories and now every child can be enthralled with her tales of Prince Zaaki and his kingdom. I caught up with Heba recently to find out more about her Prince Zaaki series of books that appeal to children and teenagers alike. Hi Heba and welcome..

Hi! My name is Heba Hamzeh and I am the author of The Prince Zaaki trilogy.  My third book, Prince Zaaki And The Knights of The Altar of Truth was released in October this year and I am excited to share it and the whole trilogy with your readers.  I have lived in London for most of my life, due to fleeing my home country, Lebanon, at a very young age because of the civil unrest and war.  When my three children were young, I would make up bedtime stories for them and these stories evolved into the Prince Zaaki books.

Your 3rd book in your Prince Zaaki series for children/teenagers has just been published. Who or what inspired you to start your writing career? 

My children inspired me to write these books and continue to inspire and motivate me.  They love the stories I weaved for Prince Zaaki, especially my son, who, at bedtime, always asked me what is Prince Zaaki doing today and so I would come up with another adventure for Prince Zaaki.  Also, my faith and culture inspired the adventures and storyline within my books.  As a young child, growing up, I would hear stories of family members remembering their past lives and souls passing from one body to another.  One of the beliefs as a Druze is reincarnation and this fascination with transmigration led me to unknowingly write about it in my books, in a fantastical and enjoyable way for children to understand and begin to ask questions about this topic.  For me knowledge is power and I like to write something meaningful and thought provoking to put to the readers, although the books are fiction fantasy, they do contain some form of reality.

“Prince Zaaki” is an adventure/fantasy series, that tells the story of a boy growing into his purpose of life and becoming King of his kingdom.  It is filled with wizardry, magical beasts and adventure that all good bedtime stories are made of. Did you base a lot of your characters on you and people you’ve met in life? Which character did you enjoy writing about the most?  Which character was the hardest?

The protagonist, Prince Zaaki, is based on my son, Zaaki.  He is kind and caring and always tries to help others.  The two Goddesses are based on my two daughters, Lulu and Ella, who since they were both very young showed wisdom beyond their age.  As my father would say, they are old souls.  I enjoyed developing Prince Zaaki’s character as he is a young teenager in the first book who is a Prince and heir to the throne.  By the third book he becomes King of his Kingdom.  His travels across his Kingdom, open his eyes to what reality is like for his people and this changes him for the better. The challenges and obstacles he faces, make him stronger and want to stand up to injustices.  He becomes the Knight of Justice.  The hardest character to write and develop would be General Scarytis as he is the sly antagonist in the first two books.  I don’t want to give too much away but I will say the reader will see General Scarytis’ development throughout all three books and there is a big transformation at the end of the third book for the evil General.  

You were born in Beirut, Lebanon but have spent your childhood living in the UK and your love of Middle Eastern adventure tales and myths shows through your writing. However, if you could visit any country/place in the world, to base a future novel in, where would you go and why?

I would love to spend some time in the Buddhist monastery set up by the Dalai Lama in Dharamshala in India.  I actually sent my books to the Dalai Lama and he responded very kindly to me, which I am very grateful for.  

As a child, my father was the storyteller at bedtime  – sometimes from his imagination, other times he read Enid Blyton’s Famous Five/ Secret Seven series… but yes, still adventure stories !  I carried on reading to my 5 children at bedtime & it was a shame when they no longer wanted me to read to them – one of my sons was in his early teens as he enjoyed it!! I know you tell stories to your children, but who wove their love of stories spell on you?

I used to read Enid Blyton’s Famous Five when I was younger as well! But I would have to give credit to my English primary teacher, Miss Gamble, who has sadly passed. She was amazing in all sense of the word! She gave me my first poem to memorise, The Tyger by William Blake and as soon as I read it, I fell in love with poetry and that was the beginning of my journey into the world of books.


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

I love reading and my favourite would be Khalil Gibran who was a Lebanese author, poet, philosopher and painter.  His words carry so much knowledge and wisdom.  The Prophet is one of my all time favourite books.  I also enjoy reading Paulo Coelho’s books and my favourite would be The Alchemist.  Call me old fashioned but I love holding a book and turning the pages. The earthy smell of an old book gets me in the mood to sit down and read and read and read.

Are the Prince Zaaki books available to purchase worldwide?

The Prince Zaaki books are available worldwide on Amazon, and other good bookshops.

You taught mathematics at an International school for year but growing up had you always wanted to be an author, a teacher  or did you have other career aspirations?

As far as professional careers, I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I was at school. Some days I thought I wanted to be a lawyer and some days I thought maybe I would make a good doctor.  Most days I dreamt of publishing my own book. Mathematics came very naturally to me and so I took the easy route and pursued that subject.  Teaching mathematics for many years, was extremely rewarding and I enjoyed creating projects for my students to see why mathematics is so important to everything in our lives.  After having my three children, I found my love of creative writing thus began my journey with the Prince Zaaki books.

You are a successful children’s /YA  author but have you ever written for another genre?  If not, would you and what genre would you loved to try?

I am not sure.  I have been told to write a cook book as I make Lebanese food for my children every day.  I call my style of cooking – Lebanese with a twist of Heba. The recipes I use are old mountain recipes from my Gran, mother and Aunty.

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

I like to be comfortable so blue or black jeans and a plain black or white t shirt/vest, converses during the spring, Uggs during winter (so now) and sandals in the Summer. For evening wear, I do love a pair of black stilettos – occasionally – accompanied by a black tux with a tie.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I do like to go to shops and try on clothes more than shop online.  I don’t have a preferred clothes shop.  I window shop a lot before I buy my clothes.

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

Christmas jumpers for me and my kids!

Boots or Shoes?

Right now – boots! Ugg boots! It’s so cold in London and need to keep my feet warm!

For pinning later

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

www.princezaaki.com WEBSITE FIRST BOOK: Prince Zaaki And The Royal Sword of Luella: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Prince-Zaaki-Royal-Sword-Luella/dp/1942549652/ref=sr_1_4?crid=1HFDPN9FXGDVE&keywords=prince+zaaki+book&qid=1670502809&sprefix=prince+zaak%2Caps%2C271&sr=8-4
SECOND BOOK: Prince Zaaki And The Momentous Battle of The Kingdoms: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Prince-Zaaki-Momentous-Battle-Kingdoms/dp/1955690103/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1670502869&sr=8-3-spons
THIRD BOOK: Prince Zaaki And The Knights of The Altar of Truth: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Prince-Zaaki-Knights-Altar-Truth/dp/1955690340/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=Heba Hamzeh books on Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Heba-Hamzeh/e/B09GYJHTZK?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid=1670503041&sr=1-1-catcorr

Fabulous to chat to you Heba – I’m glad to find a fellow Paulo Coelho fan – The Alchemist is my favourite of his too! It takes pride of place on my main bookshelf with a couple of other favourite classics 😊 Long may Prince Zaaki reign in your mind!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Heba Hamzeh.

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Author Interview: Andrew Tweeddale

I have just finished reading a delightful novel called “Of All Faiths & None” by Andrew Tweeddale, an historical novel following the families of renowned the architect Edwin Lutyens and his client, Sir Julius Drewe, during the building of Castle Drago on Dartmoor. The novel is two love stories rolled into one – the first is the relationship between Christian Drewe, Rose Braithwaite (a nurse) and Peter Hall; the 2nd is the relationship between Edwin Lutyens’ daughter Celia and Adrian Drewe . Then we discover Edwin’s wife, Lady Emily Lutyens, and her fascination with theosophy and with Jiddu Krishnamurti, the philosopher. All entwined with the building of Castle Drogo, and the start of World War One! The novel is based on true events but some characters are purely fictional… but the stories flow, and it is a book of many pages but I enjoyed it so much that I really didn’t want the book to end. I was fully immersed into their lives from page one! I just couldn’t wait to chat to the author of this tale… so welcome Andrew 😊

Hello. I’m Andrew. I started my working life as a chef, working in small hotels and grill-houses before taking additional ‘A levels’ in history and law.  I went on to university to study law and then to law school.  It was there that I formed a long-lasting friendship with three people who I had known from university and who loved history.  I also met my wife there. One of my friends lived near Exeter and one weekend I went to Castle Drogo in Devon which was designed by the great architect Edwin Lutyens. Castle Drogo feels like a shrine to Adrian Drewe, Sir Julius Drewe’s eldest son who died in the Great War, and it seemed to me to be the perfect place to set an anti-war novel. I therefore started writing.  The first draft was completed in April 2010 with the help of a writing group I had joined. However, work and a young family stopped me from taking it further.  In 2021 I decided to retire as a lawyer and went back to the novel.  With the help of two editors, a photographer and book designer the novel was polished up for publication and in September 2022 it went on sale.

Who or what inspired you to research and write your historical novel based on real events, surrounding the building of Castle Drogo on Dartmoor, and the families of the renowned architect Edwin Lutyens and his client Sir Julius Drewe?

I had written two books on arbitration law with my wife and wanted to write something different and had been thinking about an anti-war novel for some months. At the time I had marched against the invasion of Iraq.  My view was that we were too quick to enter that war and diplomacy had not yet failed. Tony Blair’s ‘dodgy dossier’ and the death of Dr David Kelly made me more sceptical about that war.  The rights and wrongs of the Great War were also questionable and there were some similarities with the Great War and the invasion of Afghanistan. When I visited Castle Drogo, it seemed to me to be the perfect place to set a novel, as it showed that war did not differentiate between the very richest and the poorest of society.  The design of Castle Drogo started in 1910 and therefore I decided to base my novel from that date to end of 1917. As it’s a real castle, I thought I had to use the real names of the architect and Sir Julius Drewe as well as their wives’ names.  However, the interrelationship between the characters is a complete work of fiction and therefore I chose to use fictious names for most of the lead characters; i.e., Celia, Christian, Rose and Peter Hall.  Adrian was the exception to this because there is a memorial room to him in Castle Drogo. I also kept the real names of many of the minor characters (Krishnamurti, Basil Drewe, Getrude Jekyll and Mary and Elisabeth Lutyens).

I really enjoyed reading your book, “Of All Faiths & None”.  Although the novel is based on real events, many of the characters are wholly fictitious (although completely believable). I loved the feisty characters of Celia, Lady Emily Lutyens and Rose Braithwaite.  Which characters were challenging to write about?  Do you have any favourite characters?

The hardest character to write about was Krishnamurti, who Lady Emily Lutyens looked after when he came to England from India.  The theosophists, including Emily Lutyens, thought that he would become the World Teacher – a new messiah. The problem with writing about a character like Krishnamurti is that you cannot have any idea what it is like to be hailed as a messiah and how you react to that kind of adulation.  Fortunately, there is a lot written about him so you can get some impression about the person he is and the person he becomes.

My favourite character was Christian and his relationship with Rose Braithwaite. There is an attraction between them but because of the constraints and prejudices of British society it is a relationship that is doomed.

I’m intrigued by the book title – Of All Faiths & None –  Why was it picked and were there any other contenders?

Lutyens designed the Stone of Remembrance, which was to be placed in every World War One cemetery where more than a thousand soldiers had been buried.  When you stand before those stones, knowing that over a thousand graves are behind you of people who were of all faiths and none, you experience the tragedy of the Great War.  ‘Of All Faiths and None’ are words used by the War Graves Commission for the Stone of Remembrance and it just seemed apt to adopt it for the title of the novel. I wanted to convey with the title the devastation that the war caused. The novel had a working title of Castle Drogo.  However, while Castle Drogo is a central to the story it lacks any emotive aspect and therefore I changed it. 

This is your first novel – what a debut! –  and it really comprises three stories entwined into one – the building of Castle Drago; the love triangle of Rose, Christian (Kit) Drewe and Peter Hall; the later relationship between Adrian Drewe and Celia. I absolutely loved the twists and turns and the interconnecting moments. Were there any aspects of writing “Of All Faiths & None “ that surprised you, pleasantly or otherwise?

Yes, it surprised me how the characters evolved in my imagination.  As a litigation lawyer I was used to writing statements setting out people’s recollections of events and motivations.  However, when writing about a fictitious character you need to hear them in your head.  I often have ideas for where I want the story to go but then struggle to get there with the dialogue, because the characters just won’t say what I want them to.  You then have to either change the story or change the motivations that effect the character. Often, I found myself going back and changing the nature of the characters.  This happened with Celia.

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

I wanted to be a graphic designer but just wasn’t good enough. 

In fact, as a young teenager, I hardly read at all except for Marvel comics. My parents used to tear their hair out at my complete lack of interest in reading. It was not my late 20s that I matured and started reading prolifically. I then became a lawyer and after doing a few years as a criminal barrister I joined a construction law firm.  However, I never envisaged being a lawyer for all of my working life and wanted to do something different. Writing historical fiction novels offers me the opportunity to be creative as well as constraining me by what has really happened.

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

That’s a difficult question.  I have been a bookworm at times, but at other times I hardly read at all.  Currently I am researching about the Mau Mau uprising in Kenya and have recently finished Caroline Elkins’ book and am currently reading Huw Bennett’s book, which are both history books on the subject. My favourite genre is early 20th century as I enjoy the style of writing.  There is an elegance in the prose that we have sadly lost. My favourite authors are John Galsworthy (Forsyte Saga); Somerset Maugham (The Painted Veil) and Evelyn Waugh (Brideshead Revisited).  I prefer reading an actual book to a kindle. I have only ever read one book on a kindle and that was two weeks ago (it may grow on me).

Is “Of All Faiths & None” available to purchase worldwide?

It can be purchased via Amazon in USA, Europe, Canada and the UK or as a print to order via Waterstones, the Book Depository and many other outlets. 

https://www.waterstones.com/book/of-all-faiths-and-none/andrew-tweeddale/9781739612207

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/of-all-faiths-none-andrew-tweeddale/1141953407

https://blackwells.co.uk/bookshop/product/Of-All-Faiths–None-by-Andrew-Tweeddale/9781739612207

So yes, its available worldwide.  Also, I have a few hundred copies in my sister’s garage and in can be ordered directly from me on my website https://www.ofallfaiths.com/product-page/of-all-faiths-none

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

Kenya as this is where the Mau Mau uprising took place. If I am going to write about a place I want to see the country and meet the people.  After that it’s India – because that’s where the third book will be based.

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

When I’m at home in Spain I often wear shorts, a white linen shirt and boat shoes.

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

Some new boat shoes … mine are leaking.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I love Turnbull & Asser jackets and Church’s shoes (I just can’t afford them any more).

Boots or Shoes?

Shoes …. You can’t go to the beach in boots

For Pinning Later

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

https://www.ofallfaiths.com/

https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100084161058019

(4) Andrew Tweeddale (@AndrewTweeddal1) / Twitter

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/62403348-of-all-faiths-none

Thank you Andrew for taking the time for a chat about your wonderful book. It was a splendid read and I’m looking forward to your next book that is based in Kenya, a country with fond memories that I visited in 1990. Many thanks to both Andrew and Ben Cameron of Cameron Publicity & Marketing who sent me a copy of Andrew’s book, Of All Faiths & None , for reviewing purposes. All views that I have expressed are entirely my own. All photographs have been published with kind permission of Andrew Tweeddale, apart from the Pinterest photograph that was taken by me, Linda Hobden.

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An Interview With Poet Clare O’Brien

If you enjoy poetry and you had a fondness for David Bowie, then my guest this week, poet Clare O’Brien, may be right up your street! Clare has written a collection of poems inspired by the work of David Bowie, entitled “Who Am I Supposed To Be Driving?” As I am a big David Bowie fan, I was certainly eager to read Clare’s poems and discuss David Bowie and his music with her. Hi Clare and welcome…

Hi! I’m Clare. Originally a Londoner, I now live and write by a sea-loch in Scotland with my husband, my wolfhound and my black cat.  That suits me much better!  My work has most often been described as speculative, neo-noir or modern gothic, but aside from writing, my main interests are history, mythology, art and the natural world.

What was it about the work of David Bowie that gave you the inspiration to write your poetry collection – “Who Am I Supposed To Be Driving?”?

I’d loved his work since I was 14, when I first discovered him through the ‘Ziggy Stardust’ album. Like many others of my generation, I saw him on ‘Top Of The Pops’ and was instantly captivated!  He was also the first artist I saw perform live onstage, and I was never the same again! Since then he’s remained an important part of my imaginative life and I’ve always admired the way he responded to challenges and to change.  He adapted to different times, different tastes and to his own ageing process brilliantly and creatively.  He was never predictable.

Was it difficult to pick a title for your poetry collection?  Why did you choose “Who Am I Supposed To Be Driving?” and were there other title contenders? 

It’s named after a spoken line of Bowie’s in an outtake from my favourite album of his, ‘1. Outside’…the outtakes are available on the internet as ‘The Leon Suites’.  It seemed to reflect the range of different characters and personae he’s adopted throughout his career.  That’s why I dedicated the book to “David Jones – the man behind the wheel”.  I never really considered any other title once I thought of that!

I found your poems fascinating. Your book’s preface states that the poetry collection is not a critique, biography or to explain his music but “an exploration of the emotions the work creates”.  Being a big Bowie fan myself, my favourite song is Heroes – so which album or song or character is your absolute favourite?

It was difficult to choose which albums to write about – I was limited to 13 as the call for submissions at Hedgehog Poetry was for a “baker’s dozen” of poems!  In the end I chose ‘Low’ to represent the Berlin trilogy because it’s a big personal favourite.  As for characters, the spaceman, who keeps coming back in different forms – from Major Tom to Ziggy Stardust to the Spaceboy to the dead astronaut in ‘Blackstar’ – is probably the most resonant character for me. As for songs – again, difficult to choose, but maybe ‘Ashes To Ashes’.  There’s so much packed into it.

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

I always wanted to be a writer of some sort, but for a long time I didn’t really have enough to say.  I’ve worked as a teacher, a journalist, and a PR, and dabbled in music – I was in a couple of minor indie bands in the 80s.  But poetry seems to be the form of writing I’m best at!

Although you have had poetry published in several anthologies, this is your first poetry collection.  Was it harder or easier than you expected to compose a collection? Are there any new writing plans in the pipeline?

Actually, once I had a topic, writing the Bowie collection was easier than I thought – the ideas really flowed and I ended up surprising myself with what I had to say about the music.  I’m working now on a bigger collection of poems on other subjects, called “Huginn & Muninn” after Odin’s ravens.  Their names mean “thought” and “memory”.  I’ve also got a novel about half finished – it’s set in the near future, and its working title is “Light Switch”.

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

Absolutely!!  I read all kinds of things and don’t have a particular favourite genre, although I enjoy science fiction (especially cyberpunk), historical novels, supernatural stories and folk horror.  My favourite authors are probably Hilary Mantel,  David Mitchell, and Alan Garner, although I recently discovered the work of the Edinburgh writer Jenni Fagan and love her novels and poetry.  Other poets I keep coming back to are Ted Hughes, T.S. Eliot, R.S. Thomas and Michael Symmons Roberts. In non-fiction, I enjoy biographies and books about the natural world. I prefer real books to reading on a Kindle.

Is “Who Am I Supposed To Be Driving?” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes!  You can buy it on Amazon and from lot of other online bookshops.

If you could visit any place in the world to give you inspiration for a new poetry collection or novel, where would you go and why?

Venice, I think.  Before it sinks under the waves!  It’s always seemed mysterious, atmospheric  and unsettling, full of all kind of resonance.  It’s also been the setting for some brilliant films, like ‘Don’t Look Now, ‘Death In Venice’ and  ‘The Comfort Of Strangers’.

Clare with her wolfhound, Hamish

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

I live deep in the country, so it’s often just jeans and sweaters under a waterproof!  When I venture into the city, I like vintage and slightly boho clothes rather then sticking to what’s in fashion.  I love deep reds, greens and browns – autumn colour.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

Nomads is a great site for ethically sourced clothes that are also hardwearing and practical as wel as pretty. I’m also tall – nearly 6ft and a size 18 – so Snag is a great place to get tights (in all the colours and patterns you can imagine) that actually fit!  I also love trawling the charity shops of Edinburgh – have found so many fantastic things there.

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

I’d love a pair of really stylish, sexy knee-high boots with heels!  I rarely get to wear heels at home because I’d sink into the mud, and my everyday boots are sensible flat chunky things.  But boots really make an outfit if you’re heading into the city in winter, especially with shorter skirts under a nice coat.

Boots or Shoes?

Boots for practicality and winter warmth.  But I love a pair of stylish sandals in summer.

For Pinning Later


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

Author website (where you can order signed copies!)http://clarevobrien.weebly.com/

Buy from publisher: https://www.hedgehogpress.co.uk/product-category/for-sale/hoglets/clare-obrien/

Buy from Amazon: https://amzn.to/3KSS1AN

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ClareOBrien

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/clareobrienwriter

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/insturbances/

Who am I supposed to be driving?  by Clare O’Brien is available now

ISBN: 978 191349 912 9    Paperback     Hedgehog Poetry Press    2022    RRP: £7.99

Available through booksellers, the publisher & clareobrien.weebly.com.

Thank you Clare for a fascinating insight into the music world of David Bowie via poetry. Thank you also for the review copy of “Who Am I Supposed To Be Driving?”….. a oh yes, I agree with you about boots! 😜


Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission from Clare O’Brien.

“Who Am I Supposed To Be Driving?” Book cover was designed by Clare’s son, Edinburgh based illustrator Ruairdhri Wright.

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Chasing Tarzan Book Tour

Aaah Tarzan …. can you remember the strong handsome man who ruled the jungle and swung on vines? The one who made you feel safe – in your mind at any rate – in the wild and hostile environment of the jungle, fighting poachers and ferocious animals alike? I loved watching the Tarzan films as a young girl … like my blog guest, Catherine Forster, whose memoir “Chasing Tarzan” describes how the role of imagination and her fantasy Tarzan helped her to cope with the trials and tribulations growing up.

CHASING TARZAN – BOOK SUMMARY

In the 1960s, a relentless school bully makes Catherine’s life a living hell. She retreats inward, relying on a rich fantasy life––swinging through the jungle wrapped in Tarzan’s protective arms––and fervent prayers to a God she does not trust. She fasts until she feels faint, she ties a rough rope around her waist as penance, hoping God will see her worthy of His help.

As the second of eight children, Catherine is Mommy’s little helper, and like Mommy, Catherine is overwhelmed. The bullying and the adult responsibilities together foment her anger. She starts smacking her siblings, and becomes her younger sister’s nemesis. Spooked by who she is becoming, Catherine vows to escape for real, before she hurts someone—or herself.

Catherine finds salvation in a high school exchange program: new town, new school, new family, new persona. A passport celebrity. In New Zealand, nobody knows her history or her fears. Except for her Kiwi “mum,” who sees through Catherine’s façade and pulls her out from her inner safe-house. Exposed, her sense of self implodes. Catherine must finally rethink who she is.

Publisher: WiDo Publishing (July 2022)

ISBN-10: 1947966618

ISBN-13: 978-1947966611

ASIN: ‎B0B6GFLXWC

Print length: 278 pages

Purchase a copy of Chasing Tarzan on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. You can also add this to your GoodReads reading list.

MEET THE AUTHOR

Hello, and thank you for the opportunity to chat about Chasing Tarzan. I’m Catherine. I am an artist and filmmaker as well as a writer. I have three grown children and recently celebrated my twenty-seventh marriage anniversary. As the oldest daughter and second child of eight children, I was second-mom by the age of six. I have lived in several countries and many different towns in the United States. Today, I live in the Pacific Northwest, where we are building a house on the South Sound––my biggest art installation yet!.

Chasing Tarzan” began life as a series of drawings and evolved into the written word;  what made you decide to write down your story? 

It wasn’t a conscious decision, but rather, an unfolding process. Initially, I created a picture journal with captions. I am dyslexic, not severely, but enough that words were not my friend. The idea of writing a book seemed pure folly, but words came to me, invading my thoughts and drawings. As my daughter was also the target of bullies, I elected to write private passages for her. These early writings became a series of short stories; the beginnings of a book.

Your book highlighted for me how quickly bullying can escalate, and about the role the imagination can play. What was it about Tarzan that helped you through your toughest moments? 

I had a crush on Tarzan. He was so handsome, so brave, so kind to Jane and the animals. Growing up, I never wanted to be the princess. So boring. Hanging on a vine, flying through the trees, riding a top and elephant, now that’s exciting. When the bullying started and no one intervened, I looked to Tarzan; he would help me when no one else would. Immersed in the jungle with Tarzan’s strong arms around me, I could handle anything.

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

I could fill a deep well with all the surprises. It took seven drafts to produce the book. The first four revisions were all about story; what exactly did I want to say, and how deep did I need to go (deeper than I ever thought possible). The last drafts were all about honing my writing, making the story cogent and accessible to readers.

Like many people, I’d buried much of my childhood, locked it in a box deep in my head. Unlocking that box was not easy. It was punishing to expose my powerlessness and my shame, especially considering how hard I’d fought to hide the impact of my tormentor’s cruelty. But the book would have been vapid had I not been unflinchingly honest. 

I loved your writing style and the honesty that shone through.  I went through a range of emotions – I wanted to reach out and comfort you during the bullying episodes,  I was angry at your bullies, I sympathised when you realised you were carrying out your frustrations on your younger siblings, I was annoyed at your parents for not realising what was going wrong, I was elated when you secured a place on the exchange programme to New Zealand … phew!  Did you find writing your story and sketching therapeutic? 

It was restorative and at times, meditative, but always a struggle. When stuck, the story evading me, I turned to nature. I’d go for a walk in the woods, or kayak. Alone, with the hum of nature enfolding, was when some of the most troubling memories surfaced. It was safe––not unlike the jungle with Tarzan, but real––and I let go. A heightened awareness of nature and my surroundings has been one of the biggest benefits of writing the book.

One thing I did feel was how strange it must have been for you to go from your own family where you had a lot of responsibility heaped onto you and travelled to New Zealand where the “kiwi” family functioned in a different way.  How difficult was it to adjust to living in a different country with a different family dynamic? Coming back home, what habits from New Zealand did you retain?

I still have residue of the accent. I have a keen ear for accents and they don’t wear off easily. I have traveled extensively, including living for ten years in London. As a result, I occasionally utilize words and phrases not normally used in the US, or pronounce common words differently. My children find this quite humorous. And it all started in New Zealand.

New Zealand was shock to me. I was completely disoriented. Now I was the popular girl, but didn’t know how to be one and feared being exposed as a fake. My host parents were so different––and in my eyes, too prying. Why did they keep asking me questions, want to know what I was thinking, feeling, doing? No one had enquired about my day before, had asked, “Penny for your thoughts?” It was terrifying and aggravating. I had to learn how to have a conversation about me. I also had to learn how to be a different kind of sibling. In my real home, teasing was our way of showing affection; in NZ it was deemed abuse. In time, I would learn how to be present, how to enjoy simple things like sitting around a fire in the evening, everyone with a book in hand. 

What advice would you give to a young girl  in a similar position?

That is a good question. I wish I had a magic solution to eradicate bullying, but I don’t. Despite anti-bullying programs, bullying has only increased. What progress is made on the playground is quashed online, where everyone can now be the target. 

Studies show that if a bullied child knows they are not deserving of abuse, they are less likely to suffer the long-term effects of bullying (substance abuse, depression, poor relationships, suicide). I hope the book provides evidence to those suffering, that they do not deserve this treatment. They are survivors, victims of cruelty that has nothing to do with them. I believed my tormentors: there had to be something wrong with me (fat, ugly, stupid) or otherwise I would not have been targeted. I hope Chasing Tarzan demonstrates that the bullying is an untruth, devised to hurt. They do not warrant attention.

I advise young girls to seek comfort in positive voices; a teacher, a parent, a friend, a kind stranger. We tend to clench on the negative, the cruel words and events, repeating them over and over in our heads. Hold on to the positive comments––not likes on social media––but real words and moments. Seek out allies and be one, too. Know that there are actions you can take, other than self-medication, or becoming a bully too. It is tough, it is horrendous, it is exhausting, but you have power too. The power you possess will surprise you, just as it did me.

Since your foray to New Zealand, you have travelled quite extensively across 6 continents – Any favourite destinations?  What’s top of your bucket list?

Italy. I love the food, the countryside, the people, the language. I lived in Milano for six months. It wasn’t always easy. My language skills weren’t great, communicating at work and on the street was a challenge. I was lonely at first, but Italy embraced me. Peru is also up there as a favorite. A four-day unrelenting struggle up the Machu Picchu Trail taught me I possessed a resilience I never knew I had. Plus, the Andes Mountains are breathtaking. On the top of my bucket list: Bhutan

 Is “Chasing Tarzan” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes. So far, I’ve received enthusiastic responses from readers in Iceland, Croatia, England, and New Zealand.

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

Ha! Right now, I am wearing boot-cut jeans and a navy sweater with stars embroidered on it. When I go outside, I’ll exchange my slippers for black suede boots.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I don’t buy clothes, textiles, or shoes online. I like to touch and feel what I’m wearing. Same goes for items like furniture, though I will browse in person and then buy online. Currently, my husband and I are building a house, so house items are big on my mind. Favorite online shop at the moment: ETSY

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

New pair of running shoes. Jeans, if I can find a pair that doesn’t have those ridiculously high cut waistlines. So uncomfortable, yet I wore them ages ago. 

Boots or Shoes?

Sandals and comfy flats in summer, boots in winter––one for hiking, and one for ambling around town. In terms of boots or shoes around town: boots! They just seem more put together. With boots, a casual outfit magically becomes fashionable.  

For Pinning Later

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

Website: https://catforster.com/

Website Tarzan page: https://catforster.com/chasing-tarzan/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/catherine.forster

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/catforster/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DizzCatk

BOOK TOUR DATES

Thank you for chatting to me Catherine – I loved reading your book and thank you for allowing me to be part of your book tour!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Catherine Forster.

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