Category Archives: Reviews

Author Interview: Kelsie Stoker

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

BOOK SUMMARY

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

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

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

THE INTERVIEW

Hi Kelsie and welcome to the blog 👋

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Is “Silenda” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes! It can be purchased on Amazon, via the Waterstones website, Palavro.org, Arkbound.com and Blackwell’s online!

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

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

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

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

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

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

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

Boots or Shoes?

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

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

Read my blog here: www.kelsiestokermode.com

Instagram: @kelsiestoker/insta

X: @KCStoker_Author / twitter

TikTok: @kelsiestoker/ tiktok

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

Linda x

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

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Author Interview: João Cerqueira

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

BOOK SUMMARY

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

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

INTERVIEW

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

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

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

Who or what inspired you to write “Perestroika”?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Is “Perestroika” available to purchase worldwide?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Those that are on sale, with low prices.

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

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

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

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Perestroika-Jo%C3%A3o-Cerqueira-ebook/dp/B0CP1B88PX/ref=sr_1_1?crid=INHATTANHBXU&dib=eyJ2IjoiMSJ9.aGY-KmHxpNGUgtIvG7Ovlw.fLTp-LrL2LDB5PMVFeopalbyTiNTZao8_SIUORkQ9Do&dib_tag=se&keywords=perestroika+an+eye+for+an+eye%2C+a+tooth+for+a+tooth&qid=1708537943&s=books&sprefix=perestroi%2Cstripbooks%2C141&sr=1-1

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Perestroika-Eye-Tooth/dp/1926716779/ref=monarch_sidesheet

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/202719173-perestroika

Author page: www.joaocerqueira.com

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

Linda x

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

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Mercy And Grace Book Tour

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

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

BOOK SUMMARY

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

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

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (September 19, 2023)

ISBN-10: 1662509219

ISBN-13: 978-1662509216

ASIN: B0BQNBFVBR

Print Length: 283 pages

THE INTERVIEW

Welcome to the blog, Anoop! 😊

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 Is “Mercy And Grace ” available to purchase worldwide?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

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

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

A white faux fur jacket.

Boots or Shoes?

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

Links you would like to share:

BOOK SUMMARY

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

Linda x

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

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Analyzing The Prescotts Book Tour

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

BOOK SUMMARY

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

Publisher: Black Rose Publishing

Print length: 308 pages

MY INTERVIEW

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is “Analyzing The Prescotts ” available to purchase worldwide?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

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

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

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

Boots or Shoes?

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

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

www.dawnrenolangley.net

Facebook: @dawnrenolangley

TikTok: @proflangley    

Insta: @proflangley  

Pinterest: @proflangley   

BOOK TOUR DATES

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

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

Linda x

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Author Interview: Joan Lewis

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

BOOK SUMMARY

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

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

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

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

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

MY INTERVIEW

Hello Joan and welcome… please introduce yourself….

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

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

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

Who were the hardest characters to portray?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

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

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

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

Boots or Shoes?

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

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

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

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

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Joan Lewis

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Book Review: Finding Katya

Happy New Year!

I always think about travelling at the start of a New Year – real and armchair travelling! So, I’m so pleased to kick off 2024 with a book review for a book that ticked off both two of my loves – wanderlust armchair travelling and a good read to boot. “Finding Katya” by Katie R Aune is part memoir and part travelogue .

BOOK SUMMARY

Finding Katya is the inspiring and compelling story of one woman who ditches everything to embark on an unconventional adventure through the former Soviet Union.

On her 35th birthday, Katie Aune was at a crossroads. Still reeling from a difficult breakup and longing to find more meaning in her life, she hopped on a one-way flight to start a year-long journey of discovery. Once a Russian and East European Studies major in college, Aune plotted a course that would take her through all 15 states of the former Soviet Union.

In a book that is part memoir, part travelogue, Aune takes readers along as she discovers places that are far off the typical tourist track, from riding the Trans-Siberian Railway across Russia and taking a cargo ferry from Ukraine to Georgia, to volunteering in Tajikistan and camping in the desert of Turkmenistan. Faced with the vulnerability of traveling solo through unfamiliar lands, she shakes off her insecurities, embraces the unknown and realizes that each journey is worthwhile, even if it doesn’t go as planned.

ISBN-13: 979-8988365907

ASIN: B0C5B6MR8Y

Print length: 286 Pages

MY THOUGHTS ON FINDING KATYA

Obviously Katie’s journey took place before the Ukraine/Russia conflict – embarking on such a journey over the last year or so would be unwise. There’s some sort of mystique still about the former USSR and I have read books about similar journeys – such as The Amur River by Colin Thubron. Katie’s book takes travelling in the former states of USSR to a different angle – this is a female solo trip. She teaches English in Russian households, she faces hostility from macho Russian men on the cargo ferry, she finds love, and her experiences most definitely have not been sugarcoated. As I read her book, my emotions were like a yo-yo… I enjoyed her ups, envied the sights she saw, laughed at some situations and was concerned at others. A great, refreshing read.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Katie R. Aune is a recovering tax attorney who has worked in nonprofit and higher ed fundraising for more than a decade while also dabbling in travel blogging and writing. Despite not traveling overseas for the first time until she was 25, she has been to nearly 70 countries and all seven continents. Born and raised in Minnesota, Katie is currently based in Washington, D.C. and has a habit of rooting for sports teams that find ways to lose in devastating fashion.

You can find her online at:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/katieaune

Instagram: https://instagram.com/katieaune

Threads: https://threads.net/katieaune

Facebook: https://facebook.com/katieaune

LinkedIn: https://linkedin.com/in/katieaune/

BOOK TOUR DATES

All photographs have been published with the kind permission of Katie R Aune.

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Author Interview: Mitesh G Desai

I’m finishing off the year with an interview with author Mitesh G Desai and his novel “ The Big Shot Trader”. This entertaining and funny novel is based on the world of market trading where everything is driven by money and status. And Mitesh should know because he was a former trader!

BOOK SUMMARY

Does Kerpal have what it takes to get ahead in the high-pressure world of finance? Young, naive and drawn in by the excitement and the money, can he keep up without losing who he really is?

Kerpal has just landed a job working as a trader at an investment bank. He’s about to crash land into a seat where the pressure and expectations are sky high and the tolerance for naivety and mistakes is close to zero. Follow his journey as he fumbles through work, love and family all whilst trying to discover what it takes to be a big dog.

The Big Shot Trader is a fast-paced comedy with real insight into the world of finance and the sacrifices, risks and moral choices that those in the industry make in order to survive, thrive and get paid.

THE INTERVIEW

Hi and welcome to the blog! Please introduce yourself…

Hi! I am Mitesh. I’m an author and have just published my debut novel, “The Big Shot Trader”.  I grew up in North London (the green suburb bit, fortunately, rather than the slightly destitute inner city bit) and then following an Economics Degree I found myself living in New York working for one of the biggest banks in the world. It was 2008, the financial crisis was unfolding and it was a crazy time. Every morning there were protestors outside the offices and nobody seemed to have any idea what the next day would hold in store, let alone the next week or month. Things were so volatile at the time that nobody had the capacity to think about years. 

I found my way back to London and continued working in finance for five years. Following that I did lots of stuff; I taught Economics for A-Level students at a school in Hertfordshire, wrote a textbook about how to pass an exam to study social sciences at Oxford and eventually ended up running an E-Commerce business which I still work in to date. I also got married in the midst of everything and am now blessed with a two year son and a mother in law who could win awards for her cooking. 

What inspired you to write “The Big Shot Trader” ? 

It actually started off as a blog. I was working in the City and was increasingly disillusioned with my existence. It was a cathartic experience to write about this fictional character and the way he felt as things just happened to him. It probably helped me to exercise some of the demons that were troubling me day to day as I started to plot a life outside of finance. 

I spent a long time ignoring the book and constantly thinking I should really get it finished but not making a great deal of effort to do so. When I discovered my wife was pregnant I decided it was now or never so worked on it consistently until it finally got into a place where I could feel happy with it. 

© Linda Hobden

As you were a former trader, are your characters based on observations of people you’ve come across in the past and incidents you’ve experienced ? Who were the hardest characters to portray?

On the one hand  the characters are fictional and yet it’s amusing that all of my friends who work in finance can identify so readily with each and every character that appears in the book. I’ve fielded at least five phone calls where I’ve been asked if it was their specific boss or colleague that I was depicting. I think the truth is that so many people who work in finance fit a certain character mould and so there’s a lot of reality in the behaviour of the people in the story. 

My protagonist, Kerpal, was really tough to bring to life. He arrives at the start of the book as this smart guy and it was hard to craft a story in which he remains relatively passive throughout. This felt true of the finance experience; it’s quite rare that a junior banker can do much beyond doing what their told and hoping they get asked politely. I think there are places in which it will frustrate the reader as they think, ‘but I would treat this so differently’ but in the context of a high pressured environment it’s not realistic to think you would stand up to someone who is far more experienced and towering over you as they shout and push you to comply with some method of working, regardless of legality or any other moral consideration. 

I also loved writing about Kerpal’s family. The moments where you take him out of the work environment and make him a child again at a dinner table is a chance to show he’s immature side. This kid is only 22 years old and gambling millions of dollars by day and I felt like it was important to show readers he was so much more than just this City Boy.

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

Having the idea to write was easy, the rest was really challenging! Planning a story and then trying to put it together is so difficult. I have always loved reading but have a newfound and epic amount of respect for writers who have churned out a lot of novels in their careers. Like lots of first time authors, I was working a full time job in the background and trying to balance family, friends and all my other committments and then when you throw in a new baby too it was a real challenge to find the motivation to sit down and write in the gaps. I settled into this groove of putting my son to sleep and then writing for an hour before then giving myself an hour to unwind before bed. It was slow and inefficient, probably, but eventually I got there.

Hypothetically speaking, if “ The Big Shot Trader ” was made into a film, who would you love to see portraying the characters, especially Kerpal? 

This is such a tricky question! I loved Kunal Nayyar (Raj in the Big Bang Theory) but not sure if they could make him look young enough to get away with playing a young trader. I think Aziz Ansari also has the right kind of face and stature to play the role. 

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

I think when I was young I was guilty of falling into the trap of thinking that finance was the only career worth aspiring towards. I was sold by the perceived glamour, status and wealth it could provide. It’s a reflection of my own stupidity that after completing internship after internship and not enjoying the experience I still took a graduate job with a bank. That really should’ve been a wake up call to go and find something to do that I was passionate about but that thought never occured to me at the time. 

I love writing so much but I think I have always seen it as a hobby. I have a note pad with about eight book ideas and I don’t lose much sleep wondering if I’ll ever write any of those novels to be honest. I contribute to a football website (my other passion) regularly and love writing to entertain. I am always pleased when I write something and, this is particularly true of football, people can take off their tribal hats and just be amused or tickled by something for what it is. 

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

I am a huge reader! I love fantasy but try to stop myself falling into the trap of only reading fantasy novels. That said I recently read the first two books in the “Six of Crows” series by Leigh Bardugo and just loved everything about them. I can’t wait for the third to be released. 

I always think the way to judge a favourite book is based on how many times you’ve gifted it and on that basis my favourite book is definitely, “A Fraction of the Whole” by Steve Toltz. It is hilarious, awkward and a wonderful story. He is such a talented writer. 

For a long time I loved printed books but made the switch over to Kindle a few years ago and will never go back. First of all it’s much easier to travel with a kindle than with three books in your hand luggage, it’s more environmentally conscious (I hope) and I sometimes read late at night and if I am dropping off whilst reading it’s less painful when a kindle falls on your face compared to a 500 page book! 

Is The Big Shot Trader available to purchase worldwide?

Yes! It’s on Amazon now and I think a few independent book stores are starting to pick it up too. If you’re in London then Daunt Books in Marylebone is my favourite book shop on earth and I believe it’s available. I think it’s an old monastery and the bank has the original stained glass windows in place; it’s an utterly wonderful place to get lost in a story. 

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

Something comfy! I am lucky enough to run my own business so I don’t feel the need to conform to any particularly dress code. I’ll be in a pair of jeans, a jumper and a comfy pair of trainers most days. My marketing team sent me a “Mitesh toolkit” picture which showed my staple clothes items and it was incredibly (and alarmingly) accurate.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

I live in Marylebone so Daunt Books is amazing. I’m guilty of reading a book in there for an hour and nobody has ever kicked me out. The staff are so friendly and helpful and love books themselves. 

I don’t do a lot of shopping in truth but I like Reddit. Any website that can show me global current affairs, sports, a  good joke and a picture of a cat wearing a hat on a single page is going to get my vote. 

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

I am actually in the market for a pair of smart brown or navy shoes. The pair I own have seen better days and those better days were probably about a decade ago (like I said, I don’t shop much). I actually looked at getting them restored as a lazy option but the cost of restoration is not vastly dissimilar to buying a brand new pair! 

Boots or Shoes?

Generally I favour shoes. Boots are a bit too heavy and I feel like my feet get tired wearing them all day. I own a couple of really cool pairs of hightop trainers and I will avoid wearing them if I think I’m going to do more than 5000 steps in a day. 

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

You can find my novel here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Shot-Trader-Mitesh-Girish-Desai/dp/B0CKB12YH4/ref=sr_1_1?crid=1MCFSVUFG8AN&keywords=The+big+shot+trader&qid=1700658644&sprefix=the+big+shot+trader%2Caps%2C73&sr=8-1

I am on twitter as @mdesaiauthor but in the most sporadic and inefficient way that it almost renders the whole venture pointless. I should really get involved a bit more I suspect. 

Thanks for the chat, Mitesh ! I will definitely check out Daunt bookshop! 😊 Thanks to Mitesh for the review copy of The Big Shot Trader ( & Ben Cameron of Cameron Publicity & Marketing). All photographs were published with kind permission of Mitesh Desai, apart from where marked.

Linda x

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Spotlight On The Watchers Night Of Light

It’s getting close to Christmas and if you haven’t yet got your shopping done by now then I wish you good luck this weekend… it has been mayhem in the shops and roads where I live!

If you’re looking for something a bit different to read this holiday season, then check out the fantasy series The Watchers by Deirdra Eden. Her book number 7 in this series, “Night Of Light”, has recently been published.) I interviewed Deirdra way back in 2020 so for more information, check out the post HERE

The Watchers is an epic fairytale about finding hope and light during dark times. The story introduces you to a cast of engaging, down-to-earth, yet supernatural characters. There is someone for everyone to identify with and come to love, hate, and recognize in our own modern-day life. The story line leads the audience through epic adventures, young love, challenges, heartache, and very human experiences by otherworldly and apocryphal beings of legend. The mythology of the story is deep, yet easy to understand as it incorporates real historical events, places you can find on Google maps, and documented paranormal encounters from cultures and religions from all over the world.

AND IN THE NIGHT OF LIGHT….

The Watchers have returned and just in time for Armageddon.
Biblical plagues, wars, famine, and corruption in all forms cover the earth as the Watchers prepare for the final battle against Erebus and his army, and they are not alone. Auriella and Azrael attempt to acclimate and learn all they can about modern day before the behemoth and leviathan awaken.

IMPORTANT LINKS


Amazon affiliate link: https://amzn.to/3SNOqKt
Deirdra’s Blog: https://www.astorybookworld.com/
Deirdra’s Website: https://www.deirdraeden.com/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/deirdraeden
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DeirdraEdenWatchers/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/deirdraeden/

The Watchers is Published by Rogue Matter. Pst. You can get the first book for free on the publishers website. https://roguematter.com/project/the-watchers/

INTRODUCING DEIRDRA…

Deirdra Eden is an award winning artist and international bestselling author of The Watchers Series. Captivating audiences of all ages with her novels and fairy tales, her specialty is inspirational epic fantasy. Including documented historical phenomena, natural disasters of biblical proportions, and eyewitness accounts of the supernatural, she creates a relatable world for the modern reader with inspiring messages of hope. 

Deirdra enjoys horseback riding through open meadows, swimming in the ocean, hiking up mountains, camping in cool shady woods, climbing trees barefoot, cuddling her kitties, and going on adventures with her family and friends.

She is passionate about empowering people and helping them to reach their goals and overcome trials. 

She believes that we are all meant to be the hero of our own stories.

All photographs have been published with the kind permission of Deirdra Eden.

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Party Like It’s 2044 Book Tour

I’m so pleased to be part of Joni B Cole’s brilliant “Party Like It’s 2044” Book Tour. According to one review I recently read : “Finding the Funny is Ms Cole’s superpower”; and I agree wholeheartedly. Joni’s collection of essays in this book are really relatable and it was great to have a giggle or two. I am honoured to have not only read her awesome essay collection, to have not only be part of her book tour but to have interviewed the lady herself.😊. But first, here’s a summary of “Party Like It’s 2044” ….

BOOK SUMMARY

Author Joni B. Cole worries that Vlad the Impaler may be a distant cousin. She feuds with a dead medium. She thinks (or overthinks) about insulting birthday cards, power trips, and the real reasons writers hate Amazon. And she wishes, really wishes, all those well-meaning people would stop talking about Guatemala. At once irreverent and thought provoking, Cole offers a joy ride through this collection of eclectic essays that lands smack on the sweet spot between soul searching and social commentary, between humor and heft. Writes author and national book reviewer Joan Frank, “Here is a voice giving us a welcome break: vibrant, provocative, funny and flavorful…Cole’s deep and generous thinking makes room and fresh air: worth breathing deeply.”

Publisher: University of New Mexico Press

ISBN-10: 0826365566

ISBN-13: 978-0826365569

Print length: 240 pages

MY INTERVIEW

Hi Joni , please introduce yourself.

I could introduce myself with factual info. I’m an author, a writing teacher, a mom… But I’ve always loved those six-word memoirs, where you’re asked to distill who you are (at least in that moment) to just six-words. So I’ll introduce myself by saying that right now the title of my memoir would be, “Leave all self-doubt at the door.” At this point, I’m really trying to be someone who doesn’t let insecurity or embarrassment discourage her.

Party Like It’s 2044 is your latest essay collection. What made you decide to write the this book?

I love reading personal essays because they offer up real stories about real people. So the genre appeals to me as a reader, but I also like writing personal essays because they let me explore the meaningful moments and relationships in my own life. The process of writing this collection was full of surprises and insights about how I see the world; how my mind works, what I find funny; and aspects of my personality that could definitely use a little work. 

Your book was an utter delight to read and the topics were instantly relatable.  One review I read about your book said: “ reading the book was like you were their best friend, spilling the daily antics that had happened that week” . I know I certainly had a giggle! Especially the essay on Guatemala!  So, you’re in a coffee shop do you tend to people watch / eavesdrop? 

I love hanging out in coffee shops as much for the eavesdropping as the coffee. (And I’m a coffee addict!) For writers, paying attention to how people act and interact is a great source of entertainment, inspiration, and understanding. You mentioned the humor in the book and I think much of that was inspired simply by people-watching. After all, “humor” and “humanity” share the same root word so the more you pay attention to humanity, the more you find the funny, whether it’s funny peculiar or funny ha ha. 

As well as being an author, you have your own Writer’s Center in White River Junction, Vermont where you teach online and in person creative writing to adults;& you also lead a variety of writing workshops.  If a person wanted to attend one of your workshops, what would they generally expect?

Participants in my workshops can expect sincere appreciation for their desire to write and their courage to show up and share their work. They can also expect instruction on narrative craft and supportive, useful feedback. I’m all about helping every aspiring author write more, write better, and be happier. That’s the subhead of one of my books for writers and it isn’t just a catchy phrase. It really is my goal as a teacher and workshop facilitator.

AI is much talked about at the moment in the news.  What is your view about using AI to enhance the written word?

Don’t do it. In creative writing, the only truly unique quality you can bring to your work is your voice, your authenticity. My only experience with AI in my workshops was the time a sci-fi writer admitted after our discussion of his pages that he’d used AI to generate one particular section. No surprise, that was the section the other participants found the flattest. 

 Is Party Like It’s 2044 available to purchase worldwide?

The English version is available wherever books are sold. 

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

I live in Vermont so I normally hang out in jeans, a super soft sweater or cute flannel, and chunky-heeled shoes. I love shoes! In fact, I have way more shoes than sweaters.

Do you have any favorite shops or online sites?

Ms. Mooz is one of my favorite e-tailers. But I’m open to all, as long as it’s in my price range. 

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

If you’d asked me this question a couple months ago, I’d have an easy answer. Tall, lace-up boots with 3-inch block heels, preferably in a fun color. But I just bought a pair of boots just like this in navy, so that itch (for now) is scratched. I also recently bought these cool black loafers with chunky heels and big silver buckles. I call them my hip Pilgrim shoes and wear them all the time. I do need a better pair of hiking shoes—the soles on mine are way are too slippy on the trail. I’ve picked out a pair from Scarpa but it’s harder for me to invest that kind of money in practical shoes. Ha.  

Boots or Shoes?

This is an impossible question! 

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

www.jonibcole.com

www.thewriterscenterwrj.com

FB Joni B. Cole

Insta: joni.b.colewriter

BOOK TOUR DATES

Thanks to Joni B Cole for a preview copy of her book, Party Like It’s 2044.

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Joni B Cole.

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The Unshakeable Road To Love BookTour

I’m pleased to be part of author Brenda Shoshanna’s “The Unshakeable Road To Love” Book Tour. Brenda is a long term zen practitioner as well as an author, and she integrates teachings of both East and West in all her work, including her latest book “The Unshakeable Road To Love” where she explores the differences between real and counterfeit love. Before I interview Brenda, here’s a quick summary of her book…

BOOK SUMMARY

The Unshakeable Road to Love (Value Centered Relationships) is based upon Eternal Principles from all world scriptures, including Zen. These tried and true Eternal Principles, the Pillars of Love, show how to build foundations for relationships where happiness and well-being are inevitable. And where pain and conflict can dissolve on the spot. 

A radically different approach to love and psychology, the book offers a completely new perspective on fulfillment and what is truly needed to thrive. For example, one of the Pillars of Love upon which the book is based is:

To Be Happy, You Do Not Have To Be Loved, You Have to Learn What It Means to Be Loving.  

The book explores the difference between Real and Counterfeit Love. We discover how all suffering in relationships is due to being caught in the trap of Counterfeit Love. And how easy it is to break free from bondage and leave that trap behind.

This is a book of practice, filled with Turning Points, Pillars of Love, Interventions, and many enjoyable exercises so the reader can practice these principles in all their relationships and in their everyday lives.

Written by a psychologist, Interfaith Counselor, and long-term Zen practitioner, the book combines the practices and principles of both East and West, helping us to discover and celebrate the best in ourselves and others.

Publisher: Brenda Shoshanna (October 2022)

ISBN-10: 1094378046

ISBN-13: 978-1094378046

Print length: 208 pag

MY INTERVIEW

A warm welcome to the blog Brenda …

Hello! I am Brenda Shoshanna, Ph.d. author of The Unshakeable Road to Love (Value Centered Relationships. A psychologist, author, playwright, speaker, long term Zen practitioner, and Interfaith Counselor.  Overall, my work has focused on integrating the teachings and practices of East and West and showing how to make them real in our everyday life. I’ve offered talks, workshops, and meditation sessions for many years. My workshops are focused on both personal and spiritual development, and living an authentic life. My favorite teachers are my children and  grandchildren. They constantly remind me to be playful, expect the unexpected and join them in all their different journeys, with an open mind. I’ve just started a blog called Turn The Page, where I hope to integrate what I have discovered in the many different streams of life.

Your book, “The Unshakeable Road To Love”, is truly inspirational – an integration of both East and West teaching. What made you decide to write your book in the first place?

I have been working with these principles for many years, have always been fascinated by the power of relationships and love in our lives. The idea to write the book came during Covid.  I was inspired to write thebook as, along with Covid, the epidemic of loneliness, anxiety and isolation was at its peak. I had come by then to realize that isolation, loneliness and anxiety could be easily dissolved through the experience of Real love. And often upset and conflict dissolved on the spot.

You are a long term Zen practitioner and you have a weekly podcast called “Zen Wisdom For Everyday Life” … but when did you first realize this empowerment that practicing Zen can make a difference in love and life in general? 

I actually started reading about Zen practice when I was fifteen years old, was give a small book on Zen by a teacher in school and could never put the book down. I read it again and again. About fifteen years later I actually met my Zen Master here in NY. After the first night at the zendo (place where Zen is practiced, place for Zen meditation), I could not stay away. It called to me immediately. Then, sitting by sitting, month by month, year by year, the power and strength of practice became more and more evident in my life. It became my life. In fact there is no difference between true practice and one’s life. They interfuse one another.

Your book is jammed pack with hints, projects and situations to help on that road to love. Were there any aspects of writing “The Unshakeable Road To Love” that surprised you, either by being harder or easier to write about than you expected? 

It surprised and fascinated me, to realize again and again, how all encompassing and powerful the practice of love is, how important it was to keep mindful of it, and to keep practicing it myself. 

You have authored over 20 books, including self help titles, books on Zen, mindfulness and meditation- very impressive 😊 However, are you a reader too?  What genre of books do you read to relax?  

Believe it or not, I still love to relax with books on Zen, and also on the practice of releasing, love, and truths from all scriptures.

You are also the Playwright in residence at The Jewish Repertory Theater and the Ensemble Studio Theatre, both in New York.  When writing your plays,  do you use the same preparation as you would writing your books?  Would you (or have you) written a play based on the advice given in “The Unshakeable Road To Love”? 

I “was” playwright in residence at both of those theaters. I still write plays and actually, just received honorable mention from Tennesse Williams/New Orleans Literary Contest, for a play called “Searching For The Ox,” on Zen! The Master is the hero, it takes place at the zendo, and in Central Park among the homeless. 

When writing plays I approach them the same way I would fiction. I just allow the characters to arrive and to reveal themselves. I let things happen, unfold as they do. I don’t usually plot things out, but enter into a dialogue with my characters. And yes, yes, I use the tools I talk about in The Unshakeable Road to Love.

I welcome every character, grant them the right to be who they are and allow them to speak their truths. No rejecting them or trying to control them. In a sense it is a divine encounter I mention in the book. A true meeting.

Growing up, what career aspirations did you have?

I wanted to be an actress for many years. That morphed into being a playwright. Then I wanted to be a philosophy professor and also have a large family.

Is “The Unshakeable Road To Love”  available to purchase worldwide?

The Unshakeable Road to Love is available on amazon.com, bn.com, and other online platforms. Not sure about worldwide?

For pinning later

What are you working on now?

Just finished an Inspirational Memoir, called A Flash of Lightning. Working on finding the right agent and publisher for this work.

I’d love for you all to subscribe to my blog. There’s a place there to interact, and share your thoughts and feelings – The Forum. The blog will offer all kinds of articles on personal and spiritual growth, opportunities for dialogue, and a new upcoming podcast.

Also working on making the five and half years of my podcast Zen Wisdom for Your Everyday Life, into a series of books and also offering many articles based upon it on my new blog – TURN THE PAGE  (www.turnthepage.live)

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

I love colorful, simple, lively outfits, dresses, slacks and beautiful, printed top

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

I like Coldwater Creek, Orvis, Bloomingdales.

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

I love long, knit dresses as the weather gets cooler, slacks and beautiful sweaters.

Boots or Shoes?

I like boots outdoors and shoes inside. Shoes are usually easier to get around in, and to get into at home.

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

I am on Facebook: Facebook.com/brenda.shoshanna

 Instagram  Zenlife7

Goodreads  https://www.goodreads.com/sunflower777

 Linkedin.com   Dr Brenda Shoshanna

BLOGhttp://www.turnthepage.live

BOOK TOUR DATES

All photographs have been published with the kind permission of Brenda Shoshanna. My thanks to Brenda for the review copy of “The Unshakeable Road To Love “.

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