An Interview With Grams28

The “Man Bag” is currently experiencing a revival as a practical and useful item for the man about town. Menswear brand, Grams28, has just released its Sling Bag collection proving that not only that man bags are practical but are also a fashion statement. I spoke to Benjamin Chan, of Grams28 to find out more…. Hi Benjamin and welcome …

Hi, it’s nice to meet you. I’m Benjamin, co-founder and principal designer at GRAMS28. I was born in Hong Kong but I travel often to the UK for work. I really enjoy my daily coffee(s), going on drives, and working on new designs. I’m definitely a night owl, but I try to make the most out of daytime too. 

What inspired the launch of Grams28?

GRAMS28 is a brand of creations that I myself would enjoy, and that I think others would benefit from. I was looking for bags and accessories that were both luxurious and functional at the same time, and came up with almost nothing. I wanted to bridge the gap between luxury design and quality and practicality with GRAMS28, and this philosophy continues to fuel our new designs and product development.

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

Not necessarily fashion design, but I’ve always been invested in learning about and perfecting design. Growing up in an environment where I was exposed to concepts of architecture and product design at a young age, it always felt like a natural development for me. I think the final push that I had to grow into this role was discovering my own passion for creating something better than what already exists. 

I’m interested in your brand name – Grams28 – why did you specifically pick that name? Were there any other contenders?

GRAMS28 comes from two elements, the first one being 21 Grams, a film. The name of the film comes from the idea that a soul weighs 21 grams, which we wished to incorporate since we believe that every thoughtfully crafted and handmade product that we offer has a soul. Each creation provides something unique to its owner. We also hope that our products will be able to accompany our customers throughout their days and prove useful 7 days a week – thus the additional 7, which adds up to GRAMS28. The number itself in our name was something we thought quite a lot about, so the other contenders were all variations on a similar theme.
GRAMS28 comes from two elements, the first one being 21 Grams, a film. The name of the film comes from the idea that a soul weighs 21 grams, which we wished to incorporate since we believe that every thoughtfully crafted and handmade product that we offer has a soul. Each creation provides something unique to its owner. We also hope that our products will be able to accompany our customers throughout their days and prove useful 7 days a week – thus the additional 7, which adds up to GRAMS28. The number itself in our name was something we thought quite a lot about, so the other contenders were all variations on a similar theme.

Every product has a code embossed in white – is this just a trendy emblem or do the codes have some significance?

The codes are a distinctive part of our products – but more than that, it is part of our commitment to transparency and letting our customers know exactly what they are buying. Each code is made of three sets of numbers that corresponds to information about the material and origin of the product. We hope that through this, our buyers can feel at ease purchasing, using, and getting to know our creations. 

The man bag has had a recent revival and you have quite a collection. What designs/ products are most popular amongst your customers at the moment? Do you have a favourite item from your collection? 

The 157 Essential Sling has been a dark horse in our collection and has been garnering a lot of attention, especially from fashion enthusiasts. As for me, I’ve been really enjoying using our 132 Essential Case Pro. I’m really proud of this product, since it’s elegant in design and effective in organisation. 

What are the main features a customer would expect from buying one of your man bags?

Since we deeply value the balance between aesthetics, design and function, customers can expect to find smart organisation in all of our bags. We also only choose the best quality materials available to us, which is why you’ll find that we only use full-grain leather sourced from Italy. Opposed to other types of leather like top-grain leather or even PU leather, full-grain leather is extremely durable and can last for many decades if handled with proper care. 

Founded in Asia, are your items available to purchase worldwide?

Absolutely – we ship internationally from our independent online storefront. We’ve also recently launched a pop-up brick-and-mortar storefront in London in the UK, so locals are very welcome to come visit.

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

I’ve been wearing a lot of COS lately, they have a lot of great stylish yet versatile items. I also always carry my GRAMS28 backpack, which will absolutely be coming back to our lineup soon – if it hasn’t already by the time of this publication.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

That’s quite the difficult question – I have my eye on Club Monaco’s store at the moment. I also regularly browse the New Norm Magazine for new inspiration and ideas. 

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

I always feel drawn to other up-and-coming brands that have a meaningful vision. I’m looking forward to getting something from GREATS, a Brooklyn-founded sneaker brand, soon. Their Royale collection is definitely on my wish list.

Boots or Shoes?

Why not both? Style is your unique expression. 

For pinning later

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

Check us out at grams28.com! Ships internationally, and we have a lifetime warranty on all our products.

Thank you Benjamin! What a lovely collection!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with the kind permission of Benjamin Chan (Grams28).

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Author Interview: Adrian Gordaliza Vega

This week my guest is author Adrian Gordaliza Vega who has written an extremely topical book called “ The End Of Everything: A Society In Transition” …discussions on a variety of issues, posing questions and if you are interested in social issues from climate change to gender fluidity then this may be the book for you … a debate in a book! It certainly was thought provoking and I was very intrigued to find out from Adrian about his thought processes whilst writing his book …come and join me!

BOOK SUMMARY

“The End of Everything : A Society In Transition” is a thought-provoking book by Adrián Gordaliza Vega that explores various important topics of our time. It covers subjects like sex, relationships, the climate crisis, veganism, politics, gender fluidity, dating apps, social media, fake news, Covid-19, and LGBTQIA+ rights. It offers insights into the complexities of our society and the challenges we face.

MY INTERVIEW

A big warm welcome to the blog, Adrian….

Hello. My name is Adrián Gordaliza Vega. I am originally from Spain but I have lived in London for nearly 20 years. I was a language lecturer for several years but now I manage Premium Languages and Spencer-Vega Languages, providing language services (tuition, translation, etc.) for corporate clients and individuals.

Who or what inspired you to write your book The End of Everything ?

Probably a sense of FOMO (fear of missing out). I had the feeling that I was not really understanding what was going on around me. I could account for the recent and profound changes in our society(non-binary gender, veganism, post-truth, identity wars, wokism, mental health problems, etc.) but I could not find the intellectual root that supported that vision. I knew there was one, because social changes like that are not random. I wanted to make the effort of understanding the cultural shift that we are living right now. The alternative would have been to sitdown in front of the TV and complain about the new generation and how much better mine was. I didn’t  want to be that cranky and frustrated man. 

The End of Everything is certainly very thought-provoking, extremely topical and covers just about every social issue around!  I liked that every chapter had a theme, questions posed then discussed – and then summarised. It is a book you can dip in and out of, or read cover to cover (as I did!).  What topic did you find the hardest to write about and why?  

Mmm, I would say the chapter about climate change was the most difficult. I was worried that I might give the impression that I didn’t care or that I don’t believe there are changes affecting our current way of living. However, we have to be very cautious with what we say in the name of “saving the planet” because sometimes it can be a very politically-charged expression used to justify other things like taxes, regulation, adopting expensive technologies that very few can afford, and so on. 

For Pinning Later

Were there any aspects of writing the book that surprised you, pleasantly or otherwise?

Of course. One of the things that I loved when writing the book was the research phase. I learnt so many things that made the whole process worthwhile for me personally, even if the book were neverpublished. On a less positive note, I guess the publishing industry is a tricky one. There are so manybooks published every year that it is difficult for them to make money. In practical terms it means thatmany mainstream publishing companies prefer to play safe or to sign TV personalities and YouTube stars.

Being a Philosophy graduate with a Master’s in Contemporary Culture, what fascinates you most and originally attracted you to studying Philosophy?

When I was very young I didn’t even know what philosophy was but there was one volume of my student encyclopedia that was dedicated to philosophy. I was curious, but almost everyone I asked about the subject just shrugged their shoulders. Others told me that it was something very complicated and difficult to understand. Wow, my interest suddenly increased. The challenge of understanding that “secret knowledge” played a big part. I guess that if I were born in the middle-ages I would be attracted to alchemy for the same reason. Today, I am very interested in the transition that we are experiencing from modernity to post-modernity. In particular, I’m fascinated by the effects that it has on our daily lives and how technology and economics shape most of those changes. 

Are you a bookworm? Do you read other genres? Kindle or actual book?

I am a bit of a bookworm, yes, but I am also very physical and need to exercise. I need to be on themove. I love reading but I am not the type who can stay on the beach with a book for hours. I want to swim, build sand castles with my daughter, climb over the rocks and explore… reading is a more intimate thing I do, preferably at home. In terms of the format I prefer traditional books, and if it has a hardcover with a large print, even better. 

Is The End of Everything available to purchase worldwide? 

This is one of the wonderful things of our age. The printed book is available on five continents thanksto amazon and the ebook is available worldwide to download via Kindle. The End of Everything: A society in transition by Adrián Gordaliza Vega(paperback, illustrated, £12.99, 2023) is published by PL Press and availablethrough all good bookshops & internet booksellers. It is also available in Spanish.

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

I did not have a very clear idea of anything when I was growing up… hence I studied philosophy. When I was a teenager I was an avid reader, mostly literature from the 19th and early 20th centuries. I always wanted to be in a job surrounded by books and teaching was the most likely option. As for writing, I had to do it anyway. Since a young age I have always written, whether I was jotting down ideas in a notebook, composing poetry for some unrequited love or writing letters to friends.

Have you got a “favourite” weird/historical fact that you have uncovered whilstresearching for your book?

I actually really enjoyed learning more about the Norwegian black metal movement of the 90s. I am not necessarily a fan of the style but it was so intense, so seemingly out of place (Norway has a reputation for being a quiet and peaceful place) and the story of Per Ohlin (Pelle) is so violent and sad that it left an impression on me. 

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

Covid changed everything for me in terms of outfits and shoes. I used to  go everyday to the City or Mayfair to visit my clients/students. I enjoyed wearing a suit or a blazer (no tie) because it is so comfortable and you do not need to think too much in the morning. Now I am working from home most of the time and clearly my wardrobe has changed, but my wife works for Ralph Lauren and I still have some decent items. 

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

Ah, this is a great example of how technology shapes our tastes and ourway of life. Thanks to the Instagram algorithm I discovered some online brands that otherwise I would never have known about. I have recently bought some clothes from a brand called Tailored Athlete. It is rather minimalistic in style and the perfect balance betweensmart and casual. It is also very comfortable and that is a big plus.

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

I would love a cashmere jumper, please. 

Boots or Shoes? 

Boots. Always. They are so much more rock’n’roll.

Links you would like to share:

https://www.whoknowsblog.com

Spencer-Vega Languages: https://www.s-vl.co.uk

Instagram: #premiumlanguages

Thank you very much Adrián for the interview and for the preview copy of your book.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission from Adrián Gordaliza Vega.

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Alle C Hall’s Book Tour

I’m so pleased to join author Alle C Hall’s book tour for her fabulous book “As Far As You Can Go Before You Have To Come Back”. I received a copy of her book for reviewing and I found myself riveted from start to finish. As always, all my views expressed are 100% mine . Let me start with a book summary to whet your appetite, before welcoming Alle onto the blog!

BOOK SUMMARY

Carlie is not merely traveling. A child sexual abuse survivor, as a teen she steals ten thousand dollars from her parents and runs away to Asia. There, the Lonely Planet path of hookups, heat, alcohol, and drugs takes on a terrifying reality. Landing in Tokyo in the late 1980s, Carlie falls in with an international crew of tai chi-practicing backpackers. With their help, Carlie has the chance at a journey she didn’t plan for: one to find the self-respect ripped from her as a child and the healthy sexuality she desires.

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

ISBN-10: 1685131476

ISBN-13: 978-1685131470

Audio Book AISN: B0C3NVGNS

Print Length: 267 pages

Purchase a copy of the book on Amazon, Bookshop.org, or Barnes and Noble. Make sure you also add it to your GoodReads reading list.

About the Author
Nominated for The Pacific Northwest Booksellers Book Award and—tis just in—winner of The PenCraft Book Award for Fiction – Adventure, Alle C. Hall’s debut literary novel, As Far as You Can Go Before You Have to Come Back was winning prizes before its publication, including the National League of American Pen Women’s Mary Kennedy Eastham Prize. Her short stories and essays appear in journals including Dale Peck’s Evergreen Review,Tupelo Quarterly,New World Writing,Litro, Creative Nonfiction, and Another Chicago. She has written for The Seattle Times, Seattle Weekly, and was a contributing writer at The Stranger. She is the former senior nonfiction editor at jmww journal and the former associate editor of Vestal Review. Hall lived in Asia, traveled there extensively, speaks what she calls “clunky” Japanese, and has a tai chi practice of 35 years running

MY INTERVIEW

Hello Alle, and a big warm welcome onto the blog! Please introduce yourself….

Hello. My name is Alle, and I am in recovery from Bulimia, compulsive overeating, alcoholism, and sex and love avoidance. (Sorry for the default; that’s the only way I’ve introduced myself for 33 years!) I live in Seattle with such a great husband that after 25 years together, his kindness and humor and moral core still amaze me, given the kind of partner I was set up for. I have two sons, both young adults. I think they are launching wonderfully. 

As Far As You Can Go Before You Have To Come Back” is your debut literary novel – and what a brilliant debut! Who or What made you decide to write a novel in the first place?

I had been freelancing as a journalist, and had started to play with short fiction, I wrote some truly awful short stories. I mean, I’ve always been able to move a sentence right along, and I have a unique was of using words. But … a novel? Never occurred to me. Then, it did. I was at work—very low-paying job that involved a great deal of filing. One afternoon, I was filing away and hating it when I was flooded with the pain of having blown it. “Why didn’t I steal money and run away? I should have …. I should have … ”

The truth being, children who are groomed from a very young age do not run away, We adapt to trauma, and so are unable to see life beyond abuse. But a child who wasn’t assaulted until she was twelve could run away. And boom: I had the story.

Your book highlighted for me how quickly childhood sexual abuse can lead to problems with sexuality as an adult and other vulnerabilities/addictions. Were there any aspects of writing your book that surprised you, either by being harder or easier to relate than you expected? 

I had no idea how to write a novel, so I just sat myself down one day every weekend and wrote for about ten hours. I did that for seven years, until I had a draft that I could edit. I had no idea how hard editing would be. It took me many, many more years to come up with the novel you read. 

It was far easier than I thought it would be to explain trauma-things like, “triggered” or “abreaction.” In the first draft, I did a lot of hopelessly earnest explaining. By the time the book was accepted by a publisher, society had changed (thank you, Me,Too!) to the point that much of the lingo that were not commonly known when I first wrote the book, in the 1990s,were the a la mode.

I love your writing style.  I went through a range of emotions – I wanted to reach out and comfort Carlie and her siblings during the “shed”  episodes,  I was angry at the abusers, I sympathised and understood Carlie’s reactions to situations whilst travelling, I was annoyed at her parents for not realising the damage they were doing, I was glad when  Tai chi entered her life,  I was elated when she settled in Tokyo, …. phew!  A rollercoaster of a novel but one that was utterly believable. Did you base your characters and situations on people you’ve met and places you’ve encountered?

Thank you for that great compliment. It’s a primary reason we writers do what we do—to bring up all those feelings in readers. 

In a very, very loose way, I based characters on people that I knew: my therapist, a dear friend, two lemons of guys that I met traveling. But the moment you take a set of basic characteristics—perhaps a way of speaking or long, lovely hair or a worldview—and you put them into a character, and then put that character into a situation, that character changes from the person you know IRL. And every page on which that character appears adds to that change, until you forget the person you might have started with and you have a real character, with a backstory and a specific motivation and a reason for being in the book besides his/her/their relationship with the main character.

It never fails to amaze me, how characters just walk into the story. When Carlie first arrives in Tokyo, she ends up living in this big, old Japanese house that is based on one living situation I was lucky enough to find in Tokyo. My landlady and I got on like a house on fire, and so I put her gentle warrior self into to novel. Then I remembered a story a friend told me, a really beautiful and sad yet uplifting story, and I gave that to the landlady. So then she’s embedded. She glided into a couple more scenes. She’s one of my favorite characters.

For pinning later

Congratulations on your numerous awards and literary nominations for this novel -well deserved 😊 What advice would you give to aspiring writers who want to write novels that cover controversial topics?

Thank you again for the congrats. To writers who want to write controversial topics, I would say three things. The first: just write. Don’t let anyone dissuade you from your vision. If someone cannot be supportive, they become someone you talk about something else; the Mets or whatever. 

Secondly: don’t worry about sales trends. It can take years to find an agent and/or publisher, and once you sign a deal, it can take up to two years for your book to publish.

Lastly: let go of trying to control the readers’ experience with your book. Write the book you wish had been around when you were going through whatever circumstances lead you to want to write about the topic. 

Growing up, have you always hoped to have a career as a writer or did you have other aspirations?

I thought I was passionate about several careers, but I didn’t have it within me to pursue them because of the trauma effect on my sense of self. I was frozen in a way that made me come across as spoiled and unpleasant, as an employee. I got fired quite a bit, or not hired back when my contract ended. 

Are you a bookworm yourself? If so, what genres do you tend to go for? Book or kindle (ebook)?

Oh, my gosh. Book! I am particularly drawn to stories by women of color. I resonate most with fiction, but as long as the story (rather than data or research) is predominate, I’ll happily read nonfiction. I wish I were better about reading poetry. Seems to me the poets have the most to say.

Growing up, I was a bookworm. And I did a literature degree. But once I started writing, I had no time to luxuriate in books. It seems to me that of all the categories—family, friends, work, and fun with discretionary time—we get maybe two out of threeat any given time. I think it is possible to have everything; just not all at once. 

Is “As Far as You Can Go Before You Have To Come Back” available to purchase worldwide?

It’s in all the countries that Amazon sells in. If you want a store to stock it, or just order it for you, all you have to do is ask. I’d love that!

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

I work at home, so I wake up, get out of my sleeping pajama, get into my sweats, and old t-shirt, and call it an outfit. When I’m putting on the dog, I go for Asian jackets with the button down the front over black slacks. I do like a sequined top. I have a dress cut like your classic little black with cap sleeves that is completely covered with sequins. It must weight twenty pounds. 

Do not show me a pantsuit. I love Hilary, but she did us no favors in that respect..

Do you have any favorite shops or online sites?

I can’t buy clothes online. I have broad shoulders and—we’re all adults, here—big boobs, so things can hang weirdly. IRL, I like 

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

So funny that you ask that. I have been eating Keto since June and I’ve lost 30 pounds that I very much needed to lose! Twenty more to go! But I am at the point where I desperately need to buy two- to three sizes smaller. I really want some stylin’ pants that hide a tummy but fit nicely across the tushie. Even when I was very heavy, I had nice buns, hun. 

Boots or Shoes? 

Sadly, shoes. I love a good boot, but the way boots are made, they prevent the ankle from moving freely. The constriction causes my legs to move awkwardly where they insert into my pelvis, and my lower back or neck risks going out of alignment. If I simply must wear boots, or any shoe a millimeter higher than a flat, I schedule a chiropractor appointment for the following morning.

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

Sure! Thanks!

Substack newsletter ​​https://allechall.substack.com

Facebook:​​​ https://www.facebook.com/alle.hall

Instagram​​​ https://www.instagram.com/allec.hall/

My site:​​​ https://allehall.wordpress.com

BOOK TOUR DATES

Thanks so much for joining me on the blog Alle, for the preview copy of your book and for inviting me onto your book tour! It’s been a blast.

Linda x

The photos of the books, and the shoes were published with kind permission of Alle C Hall. The header and Pinterest photos are by Linda Hobden.

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An Interview With Shyrdakjurte

This week I’m focusing on the beautiful rugs produced by the nomadic people of Kyrgyzstan, known as Shyrdaks. Shyrdaks have been listed since 2012 as part of UNESCO world heritage status. I had heard of Persian carpets but not Shyrdaks until I spoke to Henning Stirner, a documentary film cameraman who got to know Kyrgyzstan through working on a documentary film project. Shyrdakjurte is an idea born out of a desire to help the local people of Kyrgyzstan. I’ll let Henning explain…. Welcome to the blog, Henning…

Hello. I am Henning Stirner, 58yo, and since 1997 I have been working as a cameraman/DoP, based in Berlin, Germany. For exactly 10 years I have also been the owner of Shyrdakjurte. 2023 is our 10th anniversary! Notice, get 10% off on the whole stock! Code: Anniversary-10%

What inspired the creation of “Shyrdakjurte”?

I did a documentary film which let me get to know the beautiful country of Kyrgyzstan, the great people living there AND the gorgeous Shyrdak rugs. Kyrgyzstan is one of the poorest countrys in the world and we try to help families to get some income.

The beautiful rugs, known as Shyrdak, are made by the nomad people of Kyrgyzstan. What makes the Shyrdak special?

The Shyrdak carpets are listed as UNESCO World Heritage. The production has been made for centuries, made by hand with material growing just in front of the Kyrgyz people’s doors. The thick felt carpets protect the nomadic people in their traditional yurts and while staying with their cattle in the mountains. The fascinating thing about producing these rugs is, that the women gather together working in circles on one piece. Actually two pieces, because the rugs are made by placing two different coloured felt sheets in layers one on top of the other, cutting them in one step and stitching them on a rougher bottom layer. This leads to two identical carpets, one negative & the other one positive.

You have a lovely wide range of rugs (and felt slippers) on your website. What rug designs are proving popular amongst your customers so far ?

That`s really hard to tell. Last few years it turned out that maný people love the natural tones (grey, beige, brown) BUT there are also many customers choosing the very colourful & bright designs. Customers’ wishes are wonderfully surprising, diverse and difficult to predict.

Do you have a particular favourite design?

I love the ORSLON BIP style, unfortunately sold out. But like all the designs, it could be tailor-made & produced in individally desired colours and sizes.

As you are based in Germany, and obviously the rugs are made in Kyrgyzstan, are your products available to purchase overseas?

Yes sure, we`re selling worldwide! We do have costumers in the United States from the east to the west coast. We have sold some pieces to Australia. The most customers abroad we do have are in Switzerland. A lot people in Germany and in the EU order at shyrdakjurte.com or for the slippers in our shop on ETSY.

Apart from buying standard sizes etc, your company offer a customised service too. How long, on average, does it take for a single rug to be made?

An individually tailor-made Shyrdak needs about two months until it`s delivered at the customer’s home.

What’s the best way to take care of the Shyrdak?

Carefully vacuum. Stains can be carefully dabbed off. If you do have snow in winter, do as the Kyrgyz do: Place the carpet with the good side down in the freshly fallen snow and pat it out. Expose your Shyrdak rug from time to time to direct sunlight.

Having visited Kyrgyzstan many times whilst making your documentaries, and since your Shyrdak enterprise… what are the things about Kyrgyzstan you adore or would recommend to a visitor?

The friendly people, the great landscape with huge mountains. Various peaks with a height of 5, 6 and 7 thousand metres. Wonderful green plains with the healthiest, happiest and most beautiful horses I have ever seen. The beautiful, huge mountain lake Issik-Kul, the largest after Lake Titicaca.

You are a cameraman for feature films and documentaries- since launching Shyrdakjurte, how have you managed to balance your time on both jobs?

Since Shyrdakjurte is an online shop, that’s no problem at all. If I’m abroad for a longer period of time, my son takes care of shipping and orders.

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

Jeans, shirts or polo shirts and sneakers, leather jacket or goretex protection. Since my hair is decreasing, I wear hats in the summer to protect myself from the sun’s rays and in the winter from the cold.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

https://stetson.eu/de.html ; https://www.lederware.de/; https://www.veja-store.com/de_de/; https://www.nudiejeans.com/de

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

Shoes, dufflecoat & cap.

Boots or Shoes?

Shoes, I don’t want to be restricted, my ankle must remain freely movable

For pinning later

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can find out more about Shyrdakjurte
https://www.instagram.com/shyrdakjurte/?hl=de
https://www.facebook.com/shyrdakjurte
https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shyrdak https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shyrdak

Such beautiful designs and colours! Thanks Henning for the introduction 😊

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Henning Stirner.

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Author Interview: Fiona Graham

I have just finished the laugh out loud debut novel, The Chancer, by screenwriter Fiona Graham. It is such a great feel good story that it comes as no surprise that the novel has won the Bronze Medal for Comedy Fiction at The Readers International Book Awards 2023. A brilliant accolade indeed 😊. And I was even more chuffed that Fiona agreed to chat to me about The Chancer, her films and what lurks in her wardrobe, of course…. but first, here’s a book summary…

BOOK SUMMARY

In 1989, in the west of Ireland, Donnie McNamara, tired of being a family disappointment, buys a one-way ticket to Tinseltown to pursue his much-ridiculed dreams of acting.

Abe Nelson, a fallen Hollywood legend, now wallows in LA’s dive bars.

When their worlds collide, Abe becomes an unlikely mentor to Donnie and is catapulted into his fantastical plans to become a Hollywood actor. But will the journey to stardom end in red carpets or red faces?’

THE INTERVIEW

Hi Fiona 👋 Welcome to the blog

Hello, I’m Fiona Graham , an award-winning author and screenwriter based in County Galway, Ireland. I grew up in Glasgow, Scotland, but I have lived most of my adult life in Ireland. I live with my husband, daughter, and three dogs, Guinness, Skye and Pirate. 

Although you are a screenwriter, this is your debut novel – so who or what inspired you to write “The Chancer”?

William Goldman, who penned many films and books, including Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid once said that if you only write screenplays, it will rip your soul apart. I found that amusing, but there’s definitely some truth to it – a screenplay has a long journey to reach the cinema with big investments and so many people involved, and the majority of screenplays never reach the cinema. There is something wonderful about writing a book and people being able to read it as soon as it is complete. I originally wrote The Chancer as a screenplay and decided to also try my hand at writing a novel – I thoroughly enjoyed the process as I was able to tangent in different directions, and backstories and relay the inner thoughts of the characters, which is much more difficult in a screenplay because it’s all visual.

“The Chancer” is a hilarious story set in the 1980s about an Irish lad from the sticks having the dream of being a famous Hollywood actor, a dream much ridiculed by most people he knew.  I liked Donnie –  he made me giggle but I wanted to shield him from those who put him down !  His brother in law was just obnoxious and I wanted him to get his comeuppance from the very beginning! Did you base a lot of your characters on you and people you’ve met in life? Which character did you enjoy writing about the most?  Which character was the hardest?

The funniest thing about writing fiction, whether a novel or for the screen, is that people always ask who the characters are based on. A few people have told me that they fell in love with the character of Summer in The Chancer and asked me who she was based on – they were very disappointed to discover she was entirely fictional! Having said that, I often do use people I know (maybe even just an acquaintance) and use some of their traits or quirks and mix them up with other people I know, add a large dollop of fiction and that might create a character. The character that was the hardest was Abe because I wanted him to be more than just a fallen Hollywood legend, sinking into despair. We’ve all seen characters in films and books who have fallen from pedestals so I wanted to show more depth to him. I hope I achieved this through his relationships with his sister and with Donnie. 

Were there any aspects of writing the novel that surprised you, pleasantly or otherwise?

I loved the freedom of writing a novel, not being constrained by the limiting structure of a screenplay – you have more time to describe things and dwell on the inner thoughts of characters. On the other hand, writing a novel is a much bigger piece of work, requiring a lot more writing!

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

I’m always more comfortable writing about places and situations I know well to ensure authenticity, and I also feel comfortable in the genre of comedy/dramedy. However, I also love a bit of sci-fi and watch every program on the paranormal and UFOs! So, it could be helpful to be abducted by aliens and taken to another planet and then I’d be able to write authentically about it – failing that, I’ll just have to make some stuff up. 


Author Fiona Graham with Vinney Browne (left), Charlie Byrne’s BookShop and her husband Sean Meehan at the launch of her debut novel ’The Chancer’. Fiona Graham is a screenwriter and author from Kinvara, Galway. She wrote and produced the award-winning feature film, ’Songs for Amy’. Her debut fictional novel, ’The Chancer,’ is set in Galway and LA in 1989 and is available online and in bookshops now. Photo:- Mike Shaughnessy

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

When we were growing up, my sister used to always say to me, ‘You’re such a bookworm! Always got your nose stuck in a book!’ I love reading but would like to have more time to read the growing pile of books next to my desk! I usually carry a book with me if I’m going to the hairdresser or the dentist or anywhere I know I might have to wait. I’m old school and often carry a notepad too in case I want to write an idea down. I do have books on Kindle on my phone in case I’m stuck without an actual book but I much prefer paperbacks. There are lots of genres and a variety of different authors I enjoy but my all-time favourites would be Nick Hornby, David Nicholls and Helen Fielding. I’ve also really enjoyed Gail Honeyman, Emma Heatherington and Noah Hawley. I enjoy a good biography too. 

Is “The Chancer” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes.

Actors Diarmuid DeFaoite, Seamus Hughes and Tara Breathnach at the launch of Fiona Graham’s debut novel ’The Chancer’. Fiona Graham is a screenwriter and author from Kinvara, Galway. She wrote and produced the award-winning feature film, ’Songs for Amy’. Her debut fictional novel, ’The Chancer,’ is set in Galway and LA in 1989 and is available online and in bookshops now. Photo:- Mike Shaughnessy

Growing up had you always wanted to work in films, be an author/screenwriter or did you have other career aspirations?

Growing up I wanted to be an actress or a writer, which was sort of the inspiration for Donnie in The Chancer wanting to be an actor. As I got older, I had no interest in being in front of the camera and very much wanted to write the story. When I was about ten, my father was setting up a business from home, and he had a word processor (days before Microsoft  & Apple took over the world – I am that old). I created a school magazine on his computer, which I tried to sell in school for 2p per copy but it was confiscated by the headmaster, and my father was appalled as I had used so much of his paper, he couldn’t believe I was only charging 2p! A couple of years later, I wrote a book on his computer – it was awful, but I had the bug for writing. I also love films and could watch my favourite ones over and over again, so screenwriting was always something that really appealed to me, combining writing and film.

You are the producer of the award-winning feature film, “Songs For Amy” , working in the film industry and the hustle bustle of Hollywood… and yet you reside in Co Galway in Ireland which has a completely different vibe!  What do you miss about Galway when you are on a bustling film set ?  And vice versa, when you are in Galway?

A lot of Songs for Amy was filmed in Galway, so I didn’t get a chance to miss it! However, I spent a good bit of time in LA, and we also shot some of the film in New York and had several trips to London and Dublin, so there was a lot of contrast between Galway and the other places I was going. The city of Galway is very arty and also fashionable – when I moved to Galway from Glasgow, I dressed up a lot more. Now I live outside the city near a small coastal town called Kinvara, which is so relaxing, and I can walk the dogs off the leads in wide open spaces and wake up with birdsong or walk along the beach. I do love the buzz and excitement of the city, but it’s always lovely to come home. 

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

If I’m at home, I’m usually in jeans and a Fairisle jumper in the winter and jeans and t-shirt in the summer, but if I’m going out, it’s usually floaty skirts and denim jackets. 

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

Yes, I love Hush and Mint Velvet. I also enjoy small boutiques where you find something unusual. 

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

I can never have enough winter boots – I usually wear suede boots from Celtic & Co, and so far have never owned a pair of Uggs, but I can see the attraction to pulling something on your feet in the winter and running out the door. 

Boots or Shoes?

In the summer, I live in flip-flops and sandals, but in the winter, it’s always boots. I think they look better with jeans and can make most outfits more relaxed. Being only 5”3, I always prefer a heel on my boots so that I can see over small children’s heads. 

For Pinning Later

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

www.facebook.com/fgrahamwriter

www.twitter.com/fgrahamwriter

www.instagram.com/fionagrahamwriter

Thank you Fiona. I’m 5ft 3” myself so I fully understand the heels on boots reason … although nowadays all 5 of my offspring tower me whether I wear heels or not! By the way, Pirate is so cute 😊

Linda x

Thank you to both Fiona and Ben Cameron of Cameron Publicity & Marketing for the copy of The Chancer for reviewing. All photographs have been published with the kind permission of Fiona Graham.

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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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Journey Of The Twin Flame

I first interviewed author Richard Barnard nearly a decade ago ( see post HERE) in August 2014. His new deeply spiritual novel, “Religion’s Hidden Dark Secret – Journey Of The Twin Flame “ was an idea hinted at during my first interview with Richard , an idea he was toying with for a new book that looks into reincarnation and spirituality. And lo and behold, this book has now been published and I am so pleased to welcome Richard back on the blog to tell us more about his new book.

For Pinning later

BOOK SUMMARY

An alien from the future dies and the soul reincarnates, reborn back 10,000 years ago to a small African village beginning human life as what would become earth’s secretly hidden genuine Messiah and angels. The soul reincarnates a further five consecutive lives to the same village psychic soul tribe and throughout each incarnation visually multi-shares futuristic astral travel experiences with them. This practice enables them to see the future horrific atrocities of Africa and the Black race. 

The fifth incarnation the Messiah soul is born male named Koolah and in view of what’s ahead it’s decided this unique soul tribe perform a powerful ritual.  The spell insures they recognise each other and come together during each incarnation to carry out their joint humanitarian sole purpose, ultimately current day spiritually assisting Mother Africa to receive her reparation compensation for mass crimes inflicted by other sections of humanity. 

Welcome back Richard. It has been almost a decade ago since I last interviewed you in August 2014, when you hinted about an idea for a book that looks into reincarnation and spirituality and here we are with your latest deeply spiritual novel “Religion’s Hidden Dark Secret – Journey Of The Twin Flame”.   What inspired you to write a novel of this nature?

Thank you, it’s great to be back for this interview Linda and goodness ten years, that’s flown. Yes, I hinted the reincarnation vibe in my ‘Danny’s Boys’ novel and it got so many curious positive reactions from readers. The inspiration for ‘Religion’s Hidden Dark Secret, Journey Of The Twin Flame’ came whilst serving a 23-year jail term I received for being the principle organiser behind a massive cocaine shipment.  I felt getting caught and the harsh sentence a curse at the beginning but later realised it was part of a huge blessing.  Prior to that I’d lived an unhealthy life style: late night restaurant meals, endlessly smoking cigarettes day and night, constant partying, consuming and using excessive amounts of alcohol and cocaine, and to an increasing degree, smoking crack. The prison sentence saved my life and gave me a new lease of life, revealing who I am and what I’m born to do in this life.  It was during that prison sentence I gave up cigarettes, became a fitness fanatic and realised the universe, God had taken me to jail to get cleaned up, awakened and show me my calling and soul purpose of this life.  My life purpose is to use my writing talent helping Mother Africa receive her reparations and human equality.  The Arab & Transatlantic Slave Trade still has an effect on the Black race today.  Invaded, sadistically enslaved and forced into the slave master’s religious beliefs. Made to forget nature’s spirituality we’d practiced from the beginning of creation.  For sixteen hundred years forbidden to read or be educated in the religious slavers systems up until just over a hundred years ago.  This is one of the reasons the Black race is behind in society.  It hasn’t helped the colonist still has Africa divided and they’re bleeding the wealth not giving the starving people of the land anything. Western media in the west making us hate and kill one another and even hate our own appearance.  We’re demanding compensation in line with British and US law courts, a figure of £25 Trillion.  Reparation for 500 years of everything under the umbrella of European slavery, murder, rape, forced to work for lifetimes, forcing us away from Gods spirituality, compensated for the wealth obtained from stolen land, the list is endless.  Compensated for stopping one Black Africa developing into the wealthiest nation today.  The colonists are to leave all business interest in Africa and with our compensation and natural recourses we will build ourselves, carry on where we were before the intrusion. Further inspirations came from finding that I’m both spiritually and biologically part of the Jamaican Maroon tribe.  The inspirational magic runs ever deeper; three to four years ago the universe revealed my Twin Flame connection and what I’m here to do on earth.  I’m now in contact with my ancestors receiving spiritual downloads, novel material and amazing ideas for when Africa receives her reparations as are other Twin Flames helping the Native Indians, Aborigines and so forth.  I always felt odd as a child, my deep thinking about spirituality and the way my views on life never fitted with others.  Even Black children’s views for instance the Caribbean born Blacks teasing the Africans for the way the spoke and also the African’s reaction by saying, “we’re not diluted” Up until recently I’ve kept my spirituality secret from the people that don’t get it. But so many of us are waking up, thank God.  Yes Linda, if all that’s not an inspiration to write this novel, what is?

When was you first aware of your ancestral spirits and your purpose in life?

My first deeply spiritual encounter happened at around the age of twelve.  A young Romany gypsy lady Rosella assisted my first spiritual past life regression. Our joint regression reading reawakened our minds; conscious in ancient Africa to find in that life we hadn’t been forced into any man invented religious beliefs, instead deeply spiritual humans and part of a unique soul tribe. During the reading I knew after that life we’d continuously reincarnate meeting the same souls born into different bodies.  Throughout my life growing up I’ve always known this and had guidance from these souls, my deeply spiritual ancestors I’d met again during my childhood past life regression. To answer the question, looking back now that childhood regression reading was when I was firstly aware of my ancestral soul tribe and life purpose for this incarnation.  Since then after experiencing much spiritual phenomenon I’m now thinking the first and only time I met the Romany gypsy Rosella she may have appeared as a so-called phantom of if you like a ghost. 

I loved the intertwining of the characters (souls) – 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?

Linda, coincidently I met another elderly psychic medium and she told me I’m a writer in many past and future lives and often use the entwining method.  The style is part of my own unique style;a characteristic of the soul. The story features Rosella, it had to. Although she’s someone I’ve met just the once; Rosella and my first past life regression has impacted my life so much that I’ve entwined the experience, her name and character into the story.  Among others Rosella actually inspired part of the story.  Incidentally I’ve been reminded there’s no such a thing as a coincidence or a coincidental meeting or coincidental anything in the entire universe.  The character Koolah the Messiah was at first the hardest, but at the same time easiest to portray.   The reason for this is my mother forced us into Sunday school as children where the preacher indoctrinated a to be feared White God and Jesus into the minds of everyone in the church; many of whom were Black children; myself included so therefore at first I found it difficult to create a Black Messiah.

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

Yes, the surprising part was how my ancestors with the material contacted me.  I also based one of the characters, Yanson Bailey off some circumstances that surrounded my young life. Yanson Bailey was hard to write because a lot of his struggles are based on my unique childhood.  The uniqueness comes from being the middle Black child growing up in a household with four lighter skinned mix-race siblings in the nineteen sixties and seventies. I had to go back in time and finally face my own childhood emotional struggles, which has in a way been an amazing therapy.  Which reminds me when I was a young man around fourteen and the lighter skinned people were more favoured, my White soul mate girlfriend was totally aware of my circumstances and she labelled me the ugly duckling.  At first, I felt why would she say such a thing but remembering the kids’ story book tale I knew she was one of many Angels put on my path, another member of my soul tribe. 

Hypothetically speaking, if “ Religion’s Hidden Dark Secret – Journey of the Twin Flame” was made into a film, who would you love to see portraying the characters? 

When I began creating the novel, on the advice ofthe actor and friend Ray Winstone I visualised it as a TV series to be aimed at Netflix, Tyler Perry or one of the other huge TV producers. Back then I could only see Idris Elba playing Daniel Cottle and Ray Winstone playing the older Charlie Baker.  I’m in contact with Ray and Idris and it would be a dream to bring those guys together in a major production.   As it stands now ten years on Idris could still play the maturing Daniel Cottle in later seasons and Ray the dual role of Charlie Baker and the eighteenth Century Jim Morgan who reincarnates physically exactly identical to modern day Charlie Baker. There’s a sorrowful scene showing the elder legendary pirate captain Jim Morgan having previously been arrested on the island of Jamaica now in his London prison cell waiting to be taken to the Newgate Prison gallows. There’s only one actress I’ve ever visualised playing the dainty mix-race, quarter Black Haitian witch, Claudette and that is no other than Jan Anderson.  This particular acting talent would do it justice, exploding on screen with her natural psychic personality.  I love nothing more than rags to riches success stories and there’s so much talent around the world waiting to be discovered.  Linda, wouldn’t it be nice to find gems introducing unknown, upcoming British, American performers; giving underprivileged Haitian, Jamaican, African and Romanian acting talent this unique opportunity in what would be a massive online TV production.  My parents country of birth Jamaica produces so much talent in all areas of life and I’d also love to see a Jamaican descent male actor play the flamboyant sixties – seventies pretty boy gangster Nathaniel “Cutty” Robinson.  

I loved the fact that I knew the locations featured in the book from East London, where I also grew up, through to Jamaica, Ibiza and West Africa where I have visited; it somehow immersed me fully into the book. So, if you could visit any location in the world for inspiration for your next book, where would you go and why?

The follow up to ‘Religion’s Hidden Secret’ ‘The Truth’ is again set in Jamaica, Ibiza, Romania, Africa and additional countries.  I’ll be away from the UK touring, spending time in those locations when creating the later drafts of the novel to get a feel for the environment and spiritually. To also connect with my ancestral souls in those locations for inspirational purposes.

Looking through your face book social media platform I’ve noticed you’re associated with many famous celebrities, Idris, other fantastic novelists; Conservative Party politician Jonathan Aitkin among them, actors, footballers, Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard, Kieran Richardson, Olympic Gold medallist Greg Rutherford, major producers like Nick Love and many more. Richard, you know some fascinating people!

Many others say exactly that.  The universe has presented each and every person and spirit to me in this life, including you Linda for friendship and this interview.  I was introduced to Idris and after reading some early drafts of this novel he said I was a great writer, which I took as a huge compliment because he gets screenplays thrown at him regularly by seasoned professional, renowned Hollywood writers. I spoke to him quite regularly whilst he was filming a season of Luther and people around him explained I had an effect on him because he never usually spoke to anyone whilst filming. Ray Winstone’s another one, we constantly spoke when he was on set in South Africa, these guys just find my journey and soul purpose of interest.  You mentioned Nick Love; he showed up at my book launch event in Notting Hill on the 25th August just last month and I’ve always known in him I’ve found a soul mate; always on hand to help with advice. 


Past or present if you could sit and have a conversation with anyone, singling out one who would it be?

 That’s easy, my Twin Flame; other half of me of course.  Linda, imagine meeting the other half of you, other half of your soul in this lifetime. Ok, other than my Twin Flame another person who is alive today : the greatest that has ever graced the sport of boxing, Floyd Mayweather Jr.  I’m a huge boxing fan and firstly,  I have to say Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali is the greatest and I feel that Floyd would totally agree because not only what he did for boxing and other sports but influence he will always have on the entire planet. His stance on a Black man fighting in the Vietnam war and by the way I can’t remember word for word but this was his explanation for not going to Vietnam :“You want me to travel thousands of miles to kill a man that’s never enslaved , hated or racial abused me, has no problem with my colour or African heritage.  I’m to kill him for America where I’m just a nigger.  If I’m not shot dead or tortured to death in Vietnam; when I return to America I’m still a nigger, my wife and children not allowed in white schools, restaurants, segregated toilets and parts of buses. Legalised KKK terrorist doing what they wish.   Going to Vietnam would make me a coward in the eyes of my race and wife and I wouldn’t feel I deserve to share our bed.  Am I afraid of going to jail for a few years?  As a Black man in America I am already in jail.  So a few years in one of its jails is nothing. My ancestors went through lifetimes of horrific slavery, men  women and children so that I could be here today and protest for freedom and equality” . Most famous man in the world, if he’s not the greatest, who is?  Brazil are the greatest soccer nation in the world because they’ve won the most FIFA world cups.  Floyd is the greatest boxer because he has the best boxing record. Yes, for many reasons, I’d love to sit with Floyd, it would be a honour to be in his company, speak to him about his career and invite him to invest in our African project and also the TV series based on this novel.

Whose work is your favourite?

 Firstly film.  In my top thirty there’s many Black movies, Samuel L Jackson, in ‘Time To Kill’ Spike Lee’s ‘Malcolm X’, Denzil Washington in ‘Glory’ growing up as a bit of a lad I love all the gangster movies, Scarface, Goodfellas, Casino but it shocks people to say my favourite movie of all time has to be the Steven Spielberg masterpiece ‘Empire Of The Sun’ – it fascinates people when I say this because there is no Black characters but what got me was I aspire to be a great author such as the one who wrote the story J G Ballard and I watched the film during a difficult time in this life where I was on a deep survival mode.  The novel is based on the writer James’s life story where as a spoilt; well to do child in Japan in a split second his life was turned upside down and he had to survive.  I actually watched the movie before reading the novel and the novel was great but when reading back this novel Religion’s Dark Hidden Secret’ it sends shivers through me.  I read back parts of it thinking where did all this come from?  Then realise it was put into my mind by me ancestral soul tribe.  To answer the question the material my ancestors gave me is my favourite.  Also when this is made into a movie followed by an on-line series ‘Religion’s Hidden Dark Secret’ will push ‘Empire Of The Sun’ into my second place.

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

Whilst serving time and after release I’ve read some fantastic novels, Alexandre Dumas’s ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ Nelson Mandela’s ‘Long Walk To Freedom’ JG Ballard’s ‘Empire Of The Sun’ and other all time greats although I’m not actually a book worm as such, I’m usually too engrossed into creating my own material. I don’t mind a kindle or actual book.  Just to add, I spoke to an old flame a few years back and she reminded me I once explained the kindle idea to her way before it was invented.  That must be the psychic power within me. 

Is “Religion’s Hidden Dark Secret  – Journey Of The Twin Flame” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes Linda! The hardback, paperback and kindle can be purchased on Amazon and later the audio copy will follow.  We’re in the process of promoting it all around the world, beginning in the Caribbean and moving to the US. This story is designed to help eradicate racism bring equality to humanity and end world hunger.  Among the many points it makes, our bodies die and we as souls reincarnate.  As a woman of any nation conceives birth we souls begin life, Black White or any nation in any era.  I’ve known for a long time that there is no such a thing as individual races.  We were all Black at some stage but some nations have evolved to appear differently to deal with climates. There is only one race and that’s the human race. By the way Linda, I strongly feel you personally have lived some enjoyable Black lives and you’ve actually felt a familiarity when holidaying in Black homelands. The story goes deeper explaining Black Africa is the cradle of civilisation; the entire human race began Black.  When you look at those two points alone it just shows how pointless, vile and sickening racism really is. 

Ok Richard, the goal? You speak of your soul purpose, bringing prosperity to Africa and so forth. How do you plan to do this?

When this novel is a success,  I’ll have a voice.  I’ll begin by bringing together everyone with influence and empathy for to the long horrific destruction of the Motherland and today still oppressing the Black race. Invite them to join me in a project that continuously comes to me by way of beautiful dreams. The Rapper Akon, Roger Federer, Sadio Mané, Idris, Tyler Perry, Floyd Mayweather, Nick Love, Oprah and hundreds of others are to be invited to invest in this project where the west will teach African indigenous people to be self sufficient.  Anybody will be able to by shares in this fruitful and at the same time meaningful investment.  We’re to approach an underdeveloped country government to talk about investing in a Black financed and Black built West coast African town to rival Dubai.  Education, tourism, export businesses, airstrip and an international airport, training and employing local labour, wouldn’t that be amazing? We won’t stop there, put another tourist attraction town further down the coastline and train track right around the coast adding hotels building the tourism industry. Tourist trips to the slave forts, etc showing the world Black and White, even Arab tourists where they came from; slaves and slave masters.  Linda, this is where it goes deep.  The human body I have at present will eventually die but I’ll reincarnate in around two hundred years to witness all the colonists that are still today bleeding Africa dry, they’ll be gone, all greedy sell-out, corrupt Black politicians, gone.   Instead Mother Africa smiling again, a booming Black African economy. No man invented religion, instead nature’s spirituality, one leader, one country, one currency. You ever listened to the John Lennon track, Imagine? For me among the simplest and most positive lyric ever written. It’s my responsibility to help make this happen.  With the help of spirit we’ll be unstoppable.

Personal now and on a much lighter note – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

Sounds strange but even when going out partying, I like to dress casual in jeans, tee shirts, jumpers, especially makes like Hugo Boss, Replay. I’ve begun doing radio and televised events, which will lead to national TV talks surrounding this project and I suppose now I’ll have to treat myself to a new swanky suit or two.  Maybe Armani, Hugo Boss or another cool brand.  

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

All the shops I’ve just mentioned, Linda.  I’m also forever ordering a Nike training shoe from JD Sports.

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

With a little luck many swanky suits, which would tell me I’m headed the right direction with this amazing project.

Boots or Shoes?

I’m a boots type of guy, Linda. The reason being I find nothing more annoying than when the backs of your jeans or trousers keep getting caught inside the heel part of the shoe.  With boots you’ve no need to worry about this.

Links:

Thanks for the chat, Richard. I found your novel riveting and I really enjoyed the entwining journeys of souls connecting and reconnecting across time. Many thanks for the copy of the book to experience the journey myself .

Linda x

All photographs (apart from the fire eater photo – by Linda Hobden) have been published with the full permission of Richard Barnard.

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Destination: Ravello & the Villa Rufolo

Ravello …. a gorgeous town set high up in the cliffs, 365 metres above the Tyrrhenian Sea overlooking the Italian Amalfi coastline and the famous resorts of Amalfi and Positano. Being slightly inland from its famous close neighbours, Ravello offers a more peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle. Ravello offers the same shopping opportunities, has an abundance of bars and restaurants and a gorgeous square – that alone gives Ravello a more “airier and relaxed” feel. The jewel in Ravello’s crown is the stunning 13th century Moorish-style Villa Rufolo with its glorious terraced gardens overlooking the Amalfi coastline. It reminded me of the Monte gardens in Funchal, Madeira (albeit on a smaller scale). In the summer, Ravello is buzzing with the sound of music as the villa and gardens house the popular Ravello Festival – an outdoor music extravaganza with far reaching views. The Villa Rufolo and gardens are wheelchair accessible, according to the Fondazione Ravello who own the property – there were a lot of steps but I did see some slopes and signs for stairlifts.

Villa Rufolo was built in the 13th century by the Rufolo family. When the Villa was first built, it was said to have boasted that it had more rooms than the days of the year! Over the centuries though, the Villa had been slowly neglected and weather worn. It wasn’t until 1851 when Scottish industrialist Francis Neville Reid bought the Villa and began to restore the property and gardens. Although the original 13th century Villa had been a truly unique mixture of Arabic, Sicilian and Norman architecture; Francis added the romantic gardens. Sometime in the 18th century, heavy looking cloisters were bizarrely added. More recently, in 2007, modern facilities were added for the new owners – Fondazione Ravello, the Ravello Festival and the Centro Universitano Europea per I Beni Culturali.

My first stop as I entered the Villa Rufolo was the Moorish Courtyard. Originally columns surrounded all three sides of the courtyard, but today only 36 columns and 2 arches remain on the left hand side. It still looked impressive though. During some restoration work undertaken in the 1990s, the remains of two “ovens” were uncovered behind the courtyard, each had fire resistant vaults and lava bases. Traces of smoke was visible on the sides. Archaeologists believe that this was probably the site of the original kitchen.

La Torre Maggiore is the 30m high tower with views that overlooked both the mountains and the sea. The height of the tower suggests that the Rufolo family must have been pretty important people socially, economically and politically in the 13th century to have built this tall tower in such a strategic position. Today, the tower has just been opened to the public after some impressive restoration work. The tower has three floors and hosts a museum displaying artwork and some archaeological finds. There is also a flight of stairs leading up to the roof terrace that are made of steel and crystal!

The gardens though are lush! The gardens have been kept alive to this day thanks to the descendants of the original team of gardeners employed by Francis Neville Reid in 1851. The view from the garden terraces over the coastline is one of the most photographed panoramas in the world. Definitely instagram worthy!! Musician Richard Wagner visited the Villa in 1880 and was enthralled by the exotic plants that he apparently claimed he had found “the magical garden of Klingsor.” A plaque on the wall commemorates his visit on 26th May 1880.

The Upper garden looks out across the lower gardens to an area known as “Il Belvedere”. This is where the Ravello Festival takes place, with a stage that projects out over the sea. The stage is erected each year at the start of the Festival season.

During archaeological excavations undertaken between 1988 – 1998, the “Balnea” was uncovered – a site of baths, in particular a Turkish bath with remains of water ducts and an intact ribbed dome ceiling. Latest thoughts are that this complex had existed prior to the building of the Villa Rufolo in the 13th century!

WHAT ELSE TO DO IN RAVELLO?

Sit in the main square, Piazza Duomo , which has a lovely spacious feel that you don’t get in either Amalfi or Positano. Around the square are restaurants with outdoor seating .

Go shopping. The narrow shopping streets are lined with ceramic shops, clothing stores, shoe makers, limoncello outlets, sweet shops selling lemon and pistachio delights (yum!) and at the top of the Main Street is the most delicious ice cream shop – Baffone Gelato – the “lemon crumble” flavoured ice cream I had was absolutely scrumptious. Also , try the freshly made lemon slushies drink from the many vendors that line the streets – heaven on a hot day 😊

Go on limoncello tastings – a liqueur made from the town’s abundant lemon groves. Limoncello Spritzer is the latest trendy drink in the bars here too!

Lastly, take instagram worthy photographs. The scenery in this area is stunning. It is so easy to see why Villa Rufolo was awarded the Expert Choice Award 2022 by Tripexpert based on the positive reviews by Frommer’s, Michelin, Fodors, Lonely Planet & Afar Magazine.

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Historic info was provided by Fondazione Ravello;

Photographs by Linda Hobden

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Author Interview: Gethyn Jones

This week I’m interviewing former broadcaster Gethyn Jones who is also now a songwriter, producer and author. I was fortunate enough to read his debut novel “Fatal Equation” & listen to the accompanying EP of original songs by Gethyn performed by the band mentioned in his book, Coolstar. This is a book of two halves – you have the romantic drama and trials of an age gap relationship; and you have the music and the DJ life. It all cleverly intertwines and has enough drama to keep you on your toes!

BOOK SUMMARY

At the age of 16, his domineering father cruelly exiled Ali Kurmi to the south coast in order to protect the family name. Now in his thirties, he’s forced to work as an unofficial bailiff for his father’s property company, a job he detests. The only thing keeping him going is songwriting and DJ- ing. Ali invests all his cash in a plan to break into the notoriously unwelcoming music business. His off- beat passion for 70s and 80s music leads him into DJ work on the corporate events circuit, where he meets and is smitten with, a beautiful, older woman. Laura O’Brien recently inherited a fortune after the tragic death of her husband Frank, the internationally acclaimed Irish racehorse breeder. Determined to avoid returning to the bottle, she’s left Tipperary to start afresh in Hampshire – with plans to put her new-found wealth to good use. This unlikely couple’s happiness, and their plans to launch Ali’s music career, are soon imperiled when Ali finds himself being blackmailed by his own father – and innocently falling foul of a drugs cartel. Trouble’s brewing for Laura too, not least her unhinged and dangerous step-daughter, hell- bent on revenge.

THE INTERVIEW

Hi Gethyn and welcome….

Hi. I’m Gethyn Jones. I’m a musician, composer, author, web designer and for twenty five years I was a radio presenter with the BBC and Independent Local Radio. I laterhelped to set up a community TV station where I was News Editor/Head of Programmes and at one time I also taught senior military servicemen how to handle TV and radio interviews. Bit of a mixture isn’t it!

Who or what inspired you to write your debut novel, Fatal Equation?

 It started with a song called Fatal Equation! After a very long break from writing music I took it up again and before I knew it I had 18 professionally mastered tracks. Whilst it’s easy releasing tracks on Spotify, anyone can release a record nowadays – the trouble is, they do! It’s alleged that 60,000 tracks get uploaded to that platform every single day. Consequence? Most never see the light of day. So what to do with all those songs of mine?  Enter an experienced actor friend who suggested setting the songs into the context of a story – with a view to a possible TV drama series. The outcome of nearly four years work is: the Fatal Equation Book and three companion EPs of music featured in the storyline performed by the band Coolstar. There’s also the TV drama treatment waiting for when Netflix comes knocking (I wish).

I enjoyed the unravelling drama and romance of the age gap relationship between Laura and Ali ; the spitefulness of Laura’s stepchildren; the previous relationships/baggage of both Laura and Ali ; Ali’s family; and Ali’s budding music career. There were quite a few threads in the novel that seemed to gel well together. Were there any aspects of writing your book that surprised you, pleasantly or otherwise?  

Hands up – this is my first novel and whilst I have a lot of professional experience in writing, creating a novel was an awesome prospect. The very thought of embarking on the project terrified me. What came as a total surprise to me was how I ended up completely loving the experience. I’m very familiar with songwriting and how it can take you away from reality when you’re immersed in it. To my delight, writing this book had the same magical effect. I went somewhere else and not wishing to sound corny, the book kind-of wrote itself. I still don’t know where creative inspiration comes from – it’s ethereal, magic and addictive.

Copyright © Linda Hobden

My favourite character  was Laura – I liked her fondness for Ali and her strengthening love for him and their relationship despite a lot of setbacks.  Which character did you find easiest to write? Hardest? Any personal favourites? 

There’s a substantial amount of me in Ali Kurmi – I’ve always hankered for a place in the music business – so creating Ali’s character was a job half done. It was also really interesting exploring the other side of his persona: a troubled and traumatic childhood, a domineering almost abusive father, forced into a violent job he loathed – and the rest. But these negatives are ultimately outweighed by positives – as his survival instinct and determination to see his dreams through, kick in. I also love the idea that falling for Laura completely blind-sided him and turned his life around.

You are also a songwriter and a former radio broadcaster, so it should be no surprise that you have a companion EP of 6 original songs written by yourself and performed by Coolstar, the outfit mentioned in the book. So what came first, the book or the album? Why did you decide to have a companion EP?

I see Fatal Equation as a trilogy – an album of songs, a novel and a potential TV drama. In my head, the three go together. So we’ll see how that pans out. However, the project is driven by the music – that came first. Ali Kurmi is like me – he writes songs that vary in style dramatically. Heavy Rock, Country, Classical, Dance, Brass Funk and simple Abba-esque pop. All sung by different singers. 12 tracks out of 18 are already out there on two EPs. They’re all performed by the band Coolstar and varioussingers. The EPs are called Fatal Equation Vol. 1 and Vol. 2. Both are streaming and available for download in the usual places. Coolstar exists as fiction in the novel – and in reality too. Read the book – check out the tunes.

Have you always wanted to have a career in music or as an author or did you have other aspirations? 

I’ve always wanted to create music – but I’m not so sure about a career as that’s probably a little late in the day for me. Back in the day when I was working in radio I also belonged to JUGG MUSIC who wrote and produced music for TV shows duringthe 70s and 80s – RUNAROUND the kids quiz show is probably the best-known. That was very satisfying. But I have to say that what I’m doing now is giving me the biggest thrill so far. I’ve managed to create a project I’m deeply proud of and I hope to make the most of it. The Fatal Equation story has more to give and a second book is not out of the question!

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

I always have a book on the go – be it Kindle or physical. My reading is like my music – catholic with a small ‘c’. Anything goes. I love Lee Child, Stephen King, John Grisham, Erin Kelly, Sarah Winman, TM Logan, Mathew Hall, Stephen Fry and many more I can’t remember. Most of my reading is done in bed so my progress can be slow!

Is “Fatal Equation” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes it is. It’s available as an eBook or paperback at Amazon and the companion CDs by Coolstar are available to buy or stream – at the usual places.

 Hypothetically speaking, if you could visit any place in the world to base your next novel in, where would you go and why? 

I’ve visited Australia once – my wife has relatives there – and it was fabulous. A few days in the Blue Mountains was an unworldly experience and one I’ll never forget. So down under, it could be.

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

Straight jeans (occasional chinos and, mainly for weddings and funerals, non-double-breasted/non-waistcoat/very dark blue, black or charcoal suits); layered tee shirts, shirts, pure wool sweaters, and fleeces; leather loafers; gym trainers; ‘posh’ leather trainers for socialising. For studio sessions and client meetings: always have a large leather messenger bag over my shoulder.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

For clothes: often, M&S – their menswear is (by and large) good-quality and their post-purchase customer service is no-nonsense and stress-free to navigate.

I used to use John Lewis for the same reasons; however, they seem to have fallen behind in reliability and customer service, which is a shame because my wife and I enjoy visiting their stores to see the goods first-hand, then buying online and clicking and collecting from our local Waitrose. 

My wife often sources the most wonderful velvet blazers in a variety of colours from White Stuff – nearer the festive season, their website has wonderful choices.

For shoes: again, often M&S – not least because they cater for half sizes. I like some Kurt Geiger styles but they don’t seem to encompass half-size preferences. Shame. I also like Clarks nowadays. They used to be very old-fashioned but they have come on leaps and bounds. AND, they cater for half sizes. If I had one wish, it would be for them to focus more on genuine leather you can actually polish, rather than suede/nubuck finishes. 

My ‘best’ trainers have proved to be Bugatti tan leather. They always receive oohs and aahs when I wear them. A sound investment.

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

I hunt for clothes items that have clever ‘finishes’ – small details that set them aside from the high-street norms. It can be a classy button-down shirt collar; a different shade of sewing machine cotton; a fun lining to a jacket … often, this is a clever tool used by White Stuff. The difference is in the smallest details. 

For shoes, I hunt down good-quality, polish-friendly leather. I hang on to my shoes for years. I choose classic styles that don’t date, so I get longevity of wear. It makes sense ecologically. Choosing faux leather isn’t all it’s made out to be – the footwear just wears out prematurely, requiring more shoe turnover. I’d rather invest in footwear that you don’t have to bin prematurely.

Boots or Shoes?

Shoes – every time. As a teenager, it was all about boots, and I certainly followed the crowd. But the fact is, boots are generally less comfortable and can also end up being frustratingly air-circulation-deprived (!) I plump for shoes nowadays and am very happy with that choice.

For Pinning Later

LINKS: 

https://fatalequation.com

https://gethynjonesauthor.com

https://coolstar.uk

Book (Amazon)

https://amzn.eu/d/fJ6jG0l

EPs – Coolstar (Spotify)

Social

https://www.facebook.com/gethynjonesmusic/

https://www.instagram.com/gethynjonesuk/

https://www.threads.net/@gethynjonesuk

https://twitter.com/gethynjonesuk/

https://tiktok.com/@gethynjonesuk/


Thanks so much for agreeing to be interviewed, Gethyn, and I love your shoe enthusiasm too! I thought your debut novel was superb, as well as your music and I look forward to seeing the book made into a film! Thank you also for you the copy of your book for reviewing – my views are 100% my own. Thanks also to Cameron Publicity.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with the kind permission of Gethyn Jones; apart from the Pinterest photo, the header & the gramophone pic which were taken by me (Linda Hobden)

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Gypsy For God Book Tour

I’m pleased to be part of the “Gypsy For God” book tour. “Gypsy For God” is a Christian fiction book written by Yvonne M Morgan. In this book Yvonne has put together a novel that showcases not only her own love of travel but also her deep relationship with God.

BOOK SUMMARY

Kathleen is a middle-aged woman who loses her job, which leaves her doubting herself and fearing the future. This event sends her on a journey to find purpose and meaning in her life. She flourishes in a new career as a travel agent, but fear and doubt keep her from experiencing all life has to offer. Finally, an unexpected encounter changes everything as God begins to reveal His plans to Kathleen. Each new country she visits brings her closer to finding her real purpose. This story offers hope for readers seeking meaning in their lives regardless of their situation or age.

Publisher: Elk Lake Publishing

ISBN-10: 1649499280

ISBN-13: 978-1649499288

ASIN: B0C7NN5M41

Print Length: 332 pages

MY INTERVIEW

Please welcome onto the blog the lovely Yvonne to tell us more about her travels, her book and her faith …. Hi Yvonne!

Hi everyone. I’m Yvonne Morgan. A little about myself, I was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland and spent most of my summers there as I grew up and I also lived in Canada for eleven years before immigrating to the USA in 1974. I’m a mom to five children (two girls, an adopted set of twins and a son who lives in heaven). And, I’m a grandmother to five grandkids. I love Jesus, doing short-term mission trips and traveling.

Who or what inspired you to write “Gypsy For God”?

We started going on mission trips in 1983 to honor our son after his death. For many years, everyone wanted to know about the travel aspect of our mission journeys. So after writing my other books, I wanted to try my hand at fiction and include travel to other places. We learn so much when we travel. And as I got older and retired, I thought the book should inspire people who think they are no longer as useful in life. I didn’t start writing till I was in my 50s, so I know God can use any of us, no matter our age or circumstances. So all that came together as Gypsy for God.

I really enjoyed reading your book, “Gypsy For God ”and I particularly enjoyed the character of Kathleen. Researching for your novel must have been quite interesting…describing the various countries visited, for example. I know you love to travel and have done mission work too, so did you draw on your travel experiences? 

Yes, I drew on my travel experiences and each country in the book is one that I visited in my life. I wanted to really describe them in accurate detail for my audience, so picked the countries for that reason. Kathleen ends up visiting Spain, United Arab Emirates, India, Kenya, Nepal and Ireland. I found so much joy in revisiting those places in my mind as I wrote about them and digging out photos from my trips to make sure I got the details just right. I’m glad you enjoy the travels as I hoped and prayed that the travel sections would apply to lots of people as well as inspire them.

Streets of Dublin, Eire . Copyright © Photograph by Linda Hobden

Having been to some of the locations myself mentioned in the book, I admired how you described the coexistence of the extreme poverty alongside the extremely wealthier parts – as it is a total shock to the system when you first encounter this. I found this especially true the first time I visited with Kenya – especially when I saw the slums and “rubbish/garbage” hills of Nairobi. Where did you get your first culture shock?

My first genuine culture shock came on my first mission trip to Haiti. Even before my mission trips, I traveled a lot with my parents, but not to such impoverished places. In Haiti, we worked with children at a summer feeding program. Then one night, after dinner, I noticed our host agency collecting all our scraps from dinner. When she took them outside the compound to the trash area, dozens of children ran after her to claim the food we had not eaten. It broke my heart to watch them, but then it also encouraged me to keep trying to make a difference for poor children in the world. Somethingwe continue to do. As a side note, we are off to Kenya in the middle of August for me to teach at a women’s conference in a church outside Nairobi.

Prior to “Gypsy For God” you have written your memoir, a prayer journal, bible study books, Bible based children’s books … Gypsy For God book is the first Christian fiction novel you’ve written.  Was it harder or easier than you imagined to write a fiction book? Did you enjoy the experience? Were the characters based on people you know or met in your travels? 

Writing fiction was so much harder than I imagined after writing the non-fiction books and children’s books. I wanted to give up often because I thought it was too hard to make the transition. But God kept impressing on me to keep going, so I did and am thankful I did. During the process of editing, if you had asked me if I enjoyed it, I would answer, no. But now, I look back and I learned so much that I will try it again, probably with a sequel to Gypsy. None of my characters are based on actual people,but more of a combination of many of the people we have to meet or worked with over the years. I used the various personalities from the countries to comprise my characters.

A village on the island of Boa Vista, Cape Verde. Copyright © Photograph by Linda Hobden

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

I used to love writing poetry in elementary and middle school but then lived happened. I never pictured myself as becoming a writer. But, I pursued a degree in accounting and worked my entire career in the accounting field. So when I felt the nudge to write, I tried to laugh it off. But God kept nudging me to write, so I started about 8 years ago. After my first book, I thought that would end my writing because I had done what God called me to do. But He kept nudging me with other ideas and so I keep writing them. Writing is a journey I never expected, but it has blessed me so much.

Is “Gypsy For God ” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes, because it is available on Amazon and I think it holds a universal appeal for trying to understand our purpose in life.

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

 I have a bucket list, lol. I really like to travel to remote, unspoiled by tourism type places. So one place I really want to visit is Mongolia. The vastness and history of the country appeal to me and, of course, I could incorporate it into a story. The other place is Morocco. I love their food and culture and dream of visiting it someday too. In both countries, I could see my main character get lost in a search for some kind of divine guidance. I might have to schedule some trips and call it research, lol.

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 love to read and in some past years have read over twenty books in a year. Gypsy for God kept me busy for the last while. And I really do like all kinds of books. Right now, I’m looking over my books on Kindle to see if I can determine just one genre. So I love books set in other lands and full of adventure. I also like reading Christian non-fiction to strengthen my faith. I really love Alexander McCall Smith’s series called the “No. One Ladies Detective Agency,” set in Botswana. I’ve read all of them. I recently read the Gumbeaux Sistas series by Jax Frey. They are set in New Orleans, a city I love to visit so I can eat too much. And I just started “The Pinecraft Pie Shop” series by Tricia Goyer and Sherry Gore. These are Amish fiction books with great recipes. I prefer paperback books but use my Kindle when traveling on long trips so I can have more than one book available to me.

Menu from a Madagascan Restaurant copyright © Linda Hobden

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

I’m a casual girl. I live in Oklahoma City and our summer is very hot. So most often I will be in shorts and shirts or sundress. I love my sandals and running shoes. It’s fun to dress up occasionally, but I am most comfortable in casual clothes. And if I’m completely honest, a lot of mornings, I stay in my pajamas while I write and drink lots of coffee.

Do you have any favorite shops or online sites?

 When we travel, I like to visit grocery stores to see what things they sell that differ from here in the USA and to see the prices on staple items. There is a store in New Orleans called California Drawstrings that carries lots of the clothes I love. That includes dresses, pants and tops made of 100% cotton or gauze like material. 

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

I am going to a wedding in Toronto, Canada at the end of September so need to go shopping for the event. It will be semi formal so I’m looking for a sparkle in the outfit and shoes.

Boots or Shoes?

Shoes – it’s too hot most of the time in Oklahoma for me to wear boots. But I own a red pair of cowboy boots, which I love. 

Links you would like to share:

a. Author’s Page: https://yvonne-morgan.com

c. Twitter: https://twitter.com/ymmauthor

b. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/YMMauthor

d. Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/yvonnemorganauthor

e. Blog: https://turningmountainsintomolehills.org

f. Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17829417.Yvonne_M_Morgan

g. Charity work page: https://orphan-relief-effort.org

BOOK TOUR DATES

Thanks to Yvonne for agreeing to be interviewed and for a copy of “Gypsy Of God” . All photographs are by me, apart from the author photo and the book cover.

Linda x

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