Category Archives: Interview

An Interview With Rosie Wilby

From music journalist to musician performing at Glastonbury; from singer-songwriter to author; my blog guest, comedian and podcaster Rosie Wilby has been wowing audiences with her podcast ”The BreakUp Monologues” and the accompanying book and has toured some major world cities with her solo shows investigating love and relationships. She recently performed at the 2022 Margate Bookie Festival to promote her Break Up Monologues book. I’m so excited to welcome Rosie onto the blog …. hi Rosie!

I’m Rosie Wilby, a comedian and author who has been obsessively investigating the psychology of love for a decade for a trilogy of live shows, two books and a podcast. I’ve conducted surveys asking ‘what counts as cheating?’, participated in a sex lab experiment and even performed comedy at a sex party – all in the name of ‘research’. 

People know you as a comedian &  the podcaster on your podcast The Break Up Monologues; so what inspired the launch of the “The Break Up Monologues” and the accompanying book that has recently been published?

My fascination with breakups all started when I was dumped by email years ago. I did joke at the time that I felt better after correcting my ex-partner’s spelling. Ha! But in reality, of course, being dumped is such a bewildering experience. You lose yourself. So I really wanted to learn more about how heartbreak actually works – and ask other comedians and friends about how they recovered from it. 

You introduced the “The Break Up Monologues” at the recent Margate Bookie Festival; and you have performed solo shows investigating love & relationships with The Science of Sex and The Unconscious Uncoupling around various venues in the UK, New York, Los Angeles, Sydney and Berlin. What do you enjoy most about doing live shows?  Any notable incidents or highlights?

There’s something magical about communicating an idea or joke to a live audience. Although performers were glad of online events during the pandemic, it’s really not quite the same. The Breakup Monologues will be continuing to tour to lots of festivals this Summer. So look out for me and say hi! 

In the late 1990s you were a music journalist for Time Out London, NME and you had your own column “Rosie’s Pop Diary” in the now defunct Making Music Magazine. Interviewing stars such as Beth Orton, Suzanne Vega, Stereophonics (well jel😀) and the band, Muse;  did you interview anyone that made you a bit starstruck? Is there any musician,  alive or dead, you would have loved to interview if you had had the chance?

That all feels like a lifetime ago now. I was so young and naive! I once interviewed kd Lang and that was quite scary. She really is such a legend. 

Music also plays a big part in your life. What or who inspired you to become a singer-songwriter?   

I wrote songs from a very early age and formed my own band when I arrived in London in the 1990s. I think it just seemed like a great way to express myself. Especially for a shy young woman. It was only later in life, I was able to emerge from behind the guitar and do comedy. 

You performed at the Left Field Stage at Glastonbury in 2005. What was it like performing at such a prestigious music festival? What moments have personally stood out for you in your musical career?

Performing at Ronnie Scott’s was probably a bit of a highlight. They had us headline the Sunday night there back in 2000 when my album Precious Hours came out. 

Having performed on stage musically how easy or hard was it to step on stage to do stand up comedy?  What made you take the leap from music into stand up? 

My band broke up around the time my album came out. But I didn’t really enjoy performing solo. What I had noticed, however, was people laughing at my self-deprecating comments between the songs. So I entered a few comedy competitions, including Funny Women in 2006, and found myself getting through to the finals. 

Growing up Rosie, what were your initial career aspirations?  

Initially I wanted to be a cartoonist. I was obsessed with Snoopy and would spend time creating my own characters. 

Are your books, “Is Monogamy Dead?” and “The Break Up Monologues” available to purchase worldwide?

They certainly are. You can find them on most book sites or order from most book shops. I also narrated both of the audio books which you can download worldwide on Audible. 

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

I love actual book.

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

I love to be comfortable in jeans and a shirt. 

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I like getting clothes from All Saints. 

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

A really warm long winter coat. Although it’s the wrong time of year to be thinking about that I suppose. Ha. 

Boots or Shoes?

Trainers, particularly Vans. Do they count as shoes?? 

For Pinning Later

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

Check out The Breakup Monologues book at https://linktr.ee/breakupmonologues

Check out the podcast at www.podfollow.com/breakupmonologues 

Check out my news and gig list at http://rosiewilbynews.blogspot.com/

I’m on Twitter @rosiewilby and on Instagram @breakupmonologues and I’d love to hear from people there.

Thanks for the chat Rosie !

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Rosie Wilby.

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An Interview With Kevin Gaskell

Adventure with a capital A this week as I chat to my guest this week, business entrepreneur and adventurer Kevin Gaskell. Kevin has led 15 companies; has been CEO for BMW, Porsche and Lamborghini (GB); written a book; was a member of the crew that set a world record for rowing across the Atlantic; has played international cricket; climbed Mount Everest; has walked both the North and South Pole; played in a rock band; is a keen skier, scuba diver and enjoys clay pigeon shooting. In 2024, he will be attempting the world record for crossing the Pacific ….. Hi Kevin & welcome….

Hello! I’m Kevin and I would say that I am a businessman who enjoys adventure! An engineer and accountant by qualification, I have led 15 companies of which 7 have been turnarounds or in need of significant re energising. I enjoy the challenge of building extraordinary companies and building world class teams. Outside the office, I maintain my enjoyment of adventure by my pursuit of extreme physical challenges. 

Being an entrepreneur and adventurer, what was the inspiration behind your book “Catching Giants” ?

The book is written with 3 elements – firstly the adventure story of how 5 novice rowers took on the world’s toughest row, won the race and set a new world record for the fastest crossing despite being hammered by storms and capsizing the boat in the middle of the ocean. Secondly, how did we use planning and preparation to defeat stronger and more experienced rowers including Olympic oarsmen. Thirdly, the lessons that we learned from the experience and how those lessons of becoming world class can be applied by anyone to their lives or their business.   

“Catching Giants” provides 80 step by step lessons/advice for business world leaders & having built 15 companies and have been CEO of BMW, Porsche & Lamborghini, what was the best business  advice you received from someone that you’ve passed on? 

The best advice that I was ever given was to focus on getting better at whatever you are setting out to do. If you do that, then bigger will follow. Do not chase numbers, rather build a great business.

It’s an understatement to say that you’re a serial adventurer – you are always on the go!  From being part of the crew that set a new world record for rowing across the Atlantic (in 2020), climbing Everest ( I haven’t climbed Everest – yet) , playing International cricket, walking both Poles and in 2024 you will be attempting the world record for crossing the Pacific.  Who or what first inspired your love of adventure? 

I grew up in North Wales and have been climbing mountains since I was about 12 years old. My love of outdoor adventure has just grown from there… Each adventure gets a bit bigger and a bit more extreme but it feels like a natural progression.

So, as we are talking adventure, I guess you don’t do tame hobbies!  What do you enjoy doing in your spare time or to relax? 

I enjoy clay pigeon shooting, playing guitar in a rock band and reading business books.

Back to business, as  you have had vast experience working with entrepreneurs, pioneers and global brands, what projects gave you a real buzz? 

The biggest buzz ever was leading the turnaround of Porsche. The business was in a very difficult position and, to my complete surprise, I was appointed MD of the UK operation. We had lost 90% of our sales and were in last place on the UK customer satisfaction survey. We had a mountain to climb but with every single member of a fantastic team pulling together for 4 years we led the business to the top of the table for customer satisfaction and thereby, profitability. It really was an incredible result. I have also enjoyed building technology businesses where we have turned good ideas into successful and valuable companies.   

In a similar vein, what type of adventures give you a real buzz?  

The Atlantic row was very special. Physically it was extreme exertion at a whole new level. We were rowing 2 hours on, 2 hours off for 24 hours every day for 36 days. With very limited opportunity to sleep, by day 12 or so we were hallucinating and each rowing shift was a trial. But we were an amazing team – we started as friends and we finished as friends despite the enormous physical hardship.

 As a child, what was your dream career? 

I always wanted to be a civil engineer and build exciting structures. So that’s what I did. My first degree was in Civil and Structural Engineering and I enjoyed every minute of it. After 4 years on construction sites though I realised that my ambition to build inspiring structures was, in reality, more likely to be digging drainage alongside a new motorway construction. At that point I decided that I needed to broaden my skillset and I went back to university to study for an MBA before moving into accountancy for 5 years.  

If you could visit any place in the world – either to pursue an adventure or to just holiday – where would you go and why?

I would love to trek through the Andes.

Is your book “Catching Giants” available to purchase worldwide? 

Yes, via Amazon.

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

Jeans, open neck shirt, sneaker type shoes – unless I’m going to a formal meeting in which case it would likely be a jacket and trousers and Chelsea boots.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ? 

I like SportPursuit for sports and semi-expedition gear, otherwise I tend to buy Gant shirts and Levi jeans.  

What’s next on your clothes/shoes wishlist?

I have just been measured up for my first ever bespoke business suit. This was with Alexandra Wood and it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. the accessories will follow in a few months when I have the suit.

Boots or Shoes?

Chelsea boots generally. I think they are more comfortable and interesting.

For pinning later photo by Linda Hobden ©

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

Website: kevingaskell.comlinkedin.com/in/kevin-gaskell, Instagram: kevin_gaskell, Twitter: @kevindgaskell

Wishing you all the best Kevin with your 2024 Pacific crossing attempt!!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Kevin Gaskell (apart from the Pinterest & header photo which are by Linda Hobden)

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Spotlight On Seasonal Eating

Ever wondered why eating local produce when in season is better for you healthwise, better experience for your tastebuds, better for your wallet and better for the environment? Holly and Toby, founders & chefs at the Kindling Restaurant in Brighton, whose menus and dishes are inspired by nature and the changing seasons, were kind enough to explain everything you need to know about seasonal eating …. and we talked about footwear too, of course! Welcome Holly & Toby…

Hello. We are Holly Taylor and Toby Geneen, best friends, business partners and co-head chefs at Kindling restaurant in Brighton. We met working in London and have worked together on and off for nearly nine years now. 

As founders & Head Chefs of the Kindling Restaurant in Brighton, how important is it to you that your menu is dictated by nature and that the seasons inspire the dishes that you create?

It’s the absolute heart of our concept. We are in a constant dialogue with our suppliers to find out when things are going in or out of season so we can adapt our dishes to showcase the very best of local produce 

What is meant by seasonality?

For us it means creating dishes around produce that is growing naturally in our locality at any given time of year. We complement this with ingredients we have preserved from other seasons so that we always have a variety of tastes, colour and textures. 

Photo Credit: Jo Hunt, Restaurants Brighton

What do you feel are the main benefits to follow a seasonal based diet?

Produce that’s grown locally and picked when ripe tastes better, is usually less expensive and higher in micronutrients. For example, British asparagus will hands-down beat imported asparagus for flavour and texture every time. 

I love that the seasons inspire your dishes – what are the popular dishes for each season? 

Our smoked tomato dish is always a winner on the summer menu. Cuttlefish stew which is only in season for 6-8 weeks is very popular in May. In the winter, the locally shot venison is a favourite. Dishes always change a bit from one year to the next because we are constantly innovating and improving things. 

Photo Credit: Jo Hunt, Restaurants Brighton

What is your favourite season, especially where food is concerned? What dishes do you personally enjoy making/ and or eating? 

We love them all for different reasons but we definitely get most excited about spring. We’re big fans of wild garlic, asparagus and elderflower. 

So … let’s play the name game … why did you  choose the name “Kindling” for your restaurant and the distinctive logo? Were there any other contenders? 

We cook the majority of our food over a fire which is the heart of our open kitchen, so it seemed natural to have a name that was connected to this. We had plenty of terrible ideas early on but eventually Kindling seemed like the right fit. The logo is a design based on combining the alchemical symbols for land, sea and fire. We wanted to embrace the three elements that are core to our cooking and Brighton location – food from the local land and sea, cooked over fire. 

Have you always wanted a career in the food industry or growing up, did you have other ambitions?

Holly – I wanted to be a chef when I was a kid but I was also pretty academic so I ended up doing university and some other things before eventually taking the plunge. Now I can’t imagine doing anything else!

Toby – As a kid I wanted to be a Professional Snowboarder / Rockstar / Sculptor / Astronaut / Barrister. I studied Design at University. I’m a Chef. I think my kid self would be at least somewhat proud. 

Personal now – outside of cheffing, what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

Toby – Adidas Superstars or Gazelles, or Nike Airmaxtrainers. Howies organic jeans and an extra large white t-shirt. 

Holly – also Adidas trainers, bootcut jeans and an oversize hoodie.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Brocery store, they make the best massive hoodies 

Carhartt 

Adidas 

Volcom

Paul Smith

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

Toby – new pair of superstars 

Holly – new pair of tall knee-high boots 

Boots or Shoes?

Holly – boots for comfort, I’m already tall so heels aren’t really my thing. Or just good trainers. 

Toby – shoes, they’re more comfortable. 

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

For pinning later

www.kindlingrestaurant.com 

IG @kindlingrestaurant 

FB @kindlingbrighton 

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Holly & Toby (Kindling Restaurant, Brighton)

Photo Credits: Kindling Restaurant; Jo Hunt, Restaurants Brighton @JoHuntPhotography

Linda x

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An Interview With Hayaty Natural Skincare

This week my guest is Randa Zaid, founder of Hayaty Natural Skincare. Hayaty is a natural, genderless skincare brand inspired by the wellness recipes of the ancient Egyptians. What really impressed me is that each bottle comes with a handmade piece of Egyptian papyrus to inspire us to love ourselves and the environment. Isn’t that cool? ! Without further ado, let us welcome Randa onto the blog… hello Randa!

Hello! My name is Randa Zaid, I am 29 years old and I am an experienced serial entrepreneur in the fields of hospitality, tourism and recently cosmetics as the current founder and CEO of Hayaty Natural, a clean, genderless, vegan, all natural, organic, cruelty-free skincare startup inspired by Ancient Egyptians’ self-care rituals. I hold a degree in cultural heritage from the Catholic University of Milan and I am currently based in the UK, although I was born in Egypt and raised in Italy.

I love remaining true to my roots when developing brands and concepts that can benefit and strengthen the community and I am an advocate for increasing awareness for diversity and inclusion in the work-space and I talk openly about body positivity after personally going through and healing from an eating disorder.

What was the inspiration behind the setting up of your natural genderless skincare brand, Hayat Natural?

When COVID-19 hit the world, I became mindful of the importance of safe and beneficial ingredients, pursuing a healthier lifestyle and ending years of my own personal struggle with eating disorders, and self-image.

Being very passionate about history and inspired by my ancestors, the pharaohs; and with the aim to go back to basics, and adopting a more natural, minimalistic approach to self-care; I started researching the approach Ancient Egyptians had to beauty, ingredients and the secret ancient formulas they used in their daily lives.

What really surprised me was that, for them, beauty was more than only an aesthetic aspect. It was about taking care of their souls and bodies.

Selfcare, back then, was genderless, as it was considered a sign of holiness more than just a beauty thing.

Men and women alike were known to adopt a holistic approach where the physical, emotional, social and spiritual wellbeing were taken into consideration, so that their bodies could function as a whole.

They had strong beliefs on the body’s natural self-healing process, and how important it was to add natural ingredients to support this process, instead of being aggressive or looking for quick fixes to any concern. 

Considering that they lived in a very challenging climate, where one of their biggest concerns was how to take care of and protect their biggest organ, the skin, they used some of the first recorded “cosmetics” made from rich formulas using medicinal botanicals such as Black Seed, Lupin oil, Fenugreek oil among others to protect and help the skin recover, and allow it to remain healthy.

After adopting and using these ingredients and seeing how much of a difference they made in my life and how much they helped me in my healing journey, I decided to bring them to life and share them with a larger audience, with the aim of creating a community that believes real beauty is more than just fitting into society’s standards; one that believes in adopting a holistic approach, that uses self-care not only to look good from the outside, but also to feel good from within.

I love finding out the origins of brand names – what does “Hayaty” mean and why did you choose that name? Were there any other contenders?

Hayaty means “My Life” in Arabic. I couldn’t find a better word to express my journey and how starting Hayaty allowed me to get my life back. So, it was the only name I considered since day one. I love to hear it from other people too. It is a name that represents each one of us as it helps us regain control of our lives. An affirmation of life and to empowering others.

You have currently launched your two key products: Egyptian Recovery Night Cream and the Egyptian Blessed Night Seed Oil. What benefits does each product give to us? 

We call them THE PHARAONIC DUO.  The Pharaonic Duo offers a synergistic, holistic approach to the skin’s natural circadian rhythm and works alongside the skin’s regeneration process while you sleep. Also known as your 24-hour sleep/wake cycle, your circadian rhythm can influence body temperature, cell regeneration, water loss, hormone release, and the skin’s natural healing process. 

Egyptian Recovery Face Cream is a well-studied synergistic formula made of nature’s most potent medicinal botanicals backed up by science, including our hero ingredient Black Seed, combined with Plant Stem Cells, Frankincense, Mullein, Vitamin C, Algae extract and Probiotic for extra around-the-clock antioxidant protection and collagen stimulation.

Complemented by our signature antioxidant blend of Aloe vera, Lupin seed oil, Grapeseed oil, Shea butter, Sesame seed oil, Sunflower seed oil and Onion oil.

The aromatherapeutic herbs of Mandarin, Rose, Ylang-Ylang, and Geranium help de-stress and rebalance anxiety levels while easing the circadian rhythm of the skin.

The main benefits of the formula are that it is Restoring, Protecting  and Illuminating 

MeanwhileEgyptian Blessed Night Seed Oil harnesses many unique bio-dynamic oils, including Black Seed and Lupin oils, active antioxidants such as Vitamin E and Thymoquinone, carotenoids, polyphenols and endemic desert botanical extracts to help stimulate skin cells, increase ceramide and lipid levels, support optimal skin barrier function.

The main benefits of this formula are that it is nourishing, soothing and balancing.

Why did you decide to launch your brand with night cream and oil? 

Regeneration and healing have always been related to the night. Nighttime is truly the moment when we heal and get ready to wake up to a better, fresher version of ourselves each morning. Considering how overly stressed and exposed we are in our daily lives to blue light, digital devices and external aggressors such as free radicals, UV radiation and pollutants, I decided to focus on developing products for the nighttime in order to nurture the skin and strengthen it to fight back and remain resilient to what life may throw to us. Creating a routine that could repair the skin from aggressive beauty routines that compromise our skin’s natural barrier was also one of the core objectives when developing the formulas. The nighttime is the opportunity that our skin has to recover, so it is very important to use effective and rich formulas to support this process.  Each night is a night of intense repair and renewal to the damage that happens to your skin barrier throughout the day. Our skin already does so much for us that it is time that we give back to it.

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

We are developing a cleanser, a face mask and an intake vitamin to boost the skin’s immunity system from the inside out. 

I love the fact that each bottle is packaged in recyclable glass & card and comes with a hand made Egyptian papyrus! Also I love that the organic ingredients you use are sourced from local communities in Egypt and Italy.  What ingredients are especially found in Egypt and Italy that you use?

We source our Black Seed from the Ancient Cities of Egypt, which is the hero ingredient in our formulas. Other main active ingredients we source from organic farming in Egypt are Lupin extract, onion extracts, frankincense extract, Aloe Vera and fenugreek extract;all of which have been cultivated in Egypt since the Pharaohs’ time.

Other main active ingredients sourced from Italy are plant stem cells derived  from apple, sea buckthorn and oak bar, probiotic, Mullein flower extract and algae extract. In addition to those we have other 30 natural ingredients sourced as well from Egypt and Italy divided between both products, all well-studied to work in synergy and to deliver an effective product. We are huge believers in the fact that skincare should be minimalistic.

Personally, I believe that a rich, non-aggressive formulation can deliver more benefits, and can simplify a routine instead of using different products to get the same benefits. 

For me this minimalistic approach remains very sustainable for us and our planet. 

Are your products available to purchase & ship worldwide? 

At the moment, we are available only in the UK and Italy as we have our warehouses in both countries. One of our strategies to reduce our footprint is to have a warehouse or partner with third parties in each country we sell in, in order to avoid shipping long distances to the final customer. 

However, we are working very hard to be able to ship worldwide soon in a sustainable way.

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

It was always in the back of my mind, as growing up and visiting my grandma in Egypt during summer break, I remember she was always doing her own special  mix of natural ingredients to look after her skin, hair and body . I used to be fascinated by how they were so effective and natural and thought that maybe one day I could bring these magical recipes and ingredients to Europe. However, my path took me to get a degree in cultural heritage, then to work in the hospitality field, until destiny helped me to bring my little girl dreams to life. 

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

Working out is my thing. I like to read a lot and I enjoy listening to interviews or podcasts about inspirational stories as well. 

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

Growing up in Milan and working for Armani for a while helped me understand that it is not what you wear that is important but how you feel wearing it. So, I really pick my outfits based on how I feel that day – of course, keeping my schedule in mind – so sometimes it is casual, corporate or if it is only home office day, can be a tracksuit. 

I am a huge, huge fan of shoes. I used to love high heels but lately I am getting into cool trainers and flat boots. 

Do you have any favorite shops or online sites?

Usually, I like to shop in Italy, so when I am visiting any city, I like to go around and discover those hidden local shops. They always have cool stuff and for me is a way to support the local economy as well. 

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

It is a gold dress from the 2020 collection of designer Zuhair Murad inspired by Egypt’s ancient queens. I am so in love with it, I love the details and the cut. 

I have promised myself to get it next year to celebrate one year of Hayaty in 2023. 

Boots or Shoes?

Shoes. They always go with everything and make a huge difference to an outfit. 

For Pinning Later

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

https://hayatynatural.uk

https://www.facebook.com/hayatynatural/

https://www.instagram.com/hayatynatural/

https://www.tiktok.com/@hayatynatural

Thank you for chatting to us Randa – the gold dress for next year sounds like a plan! Gorgeous skincare, great philosophy, interesting ingredients!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with the kind permission of Randa Zaid.

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Author Interview: Asya Semenovich

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

BOOK SUMMARY

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


AUTHOR INTERVIEW

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, it is on every major bookselling platform online.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

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

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

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

This dress is number one on my theoretical wish list.

Boots or Shoes? 

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

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

For pinning later

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

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

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

Photographs featuring the book are by Linda Hobden.

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Son Of The Secret Gardener

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Example of 1935 diary

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

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

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

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

Illustration by Twink Addison

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

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

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

The Hive for books and eBay for most everything else!

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

A new hat.

Boots or Shoes?

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

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

For Pinning Later

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

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

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

Linda x

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

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Until Next Sunday Book Tour

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

BOOK SUMMARY

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

MY INTERVIEW

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Audry’s adorable pugs – Pickles and Waffles

 Are there any new writing plans in the pipeline?

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

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

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

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

 Is “Until Next Sunday” available to purchase worldwide?

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

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

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

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

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

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

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

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

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

Boots or Shoes?

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

For Pinning Later

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

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

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

Amazon:

Smashwords:

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

Apple Books

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

Barnes & Noble

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

Kobo

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

For my social media, go to:

Facebook:

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

Instagram:

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AudryFryer

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

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

Linda x

All photographs were published with kind permission of Audry Fryer

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Spotlight on Margate Bookie Festival

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Think more about the writing than the career.

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

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

Boots Or Shoes?

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

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

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

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

Linda x

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Author Interview: Geoffrey Paris

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

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

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

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

Boots or Shoes?

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

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

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

And for my ceramics: www.geoffparispottery.com

Instagram: www.parisgeoffpottery

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

Linda x

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

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

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Interview: True Business School

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So many!

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

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

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

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

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

 As a child, what was your dream career?

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

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

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

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

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

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

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

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

Boots or Shoes?

Barefoot or flip flops!

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

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Links you wish to share:

http://Katbyles.com

True-business-school.com

https://www.instagram.com/katbyles

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

Linda x

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

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