The Mountain Story – Palm Springs – Lori Lansens

the-mountain-story

Why a booktrail?

Four people go up a mountain near Palm Springs. Three return. What happened up there and why were two of them determined to go up that day in particular?

Story in a nutshell

Wolf Truly has a mission. He’s off to the mountain, his mountain – the one where his memories are not good ones. He takes nothing as he is not intending to come back.

However he is not the only one with a link to the mountain. Three women he meets in the cable car also seem keen to find something there. There’s talk of a secret lake they say, and they want to to find it.

This is not the landscape for being stranded on but that’w what happens when the weather changes and so their bed for the night is a lethal ridge with the lights of the city twinkling below, so close and yet so terrifyingly far away.

Whether anyone will get off the mountain is quite another story…

Place and setting

Palm Springs The region where the novel is set and the landscape is evoked. Coachella Valley The Cahuilla Indian inhabit the area and surrounding area Mount San Jacinto - http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=636 Inspiration for the fictional mountain although the author says that the geography has changed
Palm Springs
The region where the novel is set and the landscape is evoked.
Coachella Valley
The Cahuilla Indian inhabit the area and surrounding area
Mount San Jacintohttp://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=636
Inspiration for the fictional mountain although the author says that the geography has changed

Michigan – Before the mountain

The boys journey and tragic childhood take him from Michigan to a life of troubled days and alcoholism to what is hopefully a happier time with his father’s sister. Tragedy, memories of the mountain and memories of his past cause the young Wolf to pay one last visit, one last look at the imposing mountain –

We can’t take the tram. We gotta climb the bitch”

You shouldn’t probably call her the bitch considering she’s named after a saint”

The mountain – Palm Springs  -Mount St Jacinto is the model for the fictional mountain in the story

This is a story of survival in every sense of the word – and the landscape is harsh and unforgiving.

As we neared the lake I could smell the still water and the lichen frosted rocks and the endangered mountain phlox…the ground beneath us pulsed

Poisonous plants, rocky ledges, rock falls, ragged unsteady ground..and that’s not forgetting the animals they encounter along the way.

Fate isn’t kind to the careless

The day they get lost, Wolf speaks of his unease growing with every steo and his lack of desire to see this secret lake again. it might be nostalgic for one woman in the trip but for him it’s a crime scene.

I tried to remain calm but I knew we were lost. I’d never been lost before. At least not in a mountain setting…

And he has reason to worry for this landscape is unforgiving and raw. It will take you in seconds and stories abound of deaths in this area, dead bodies of people who have tried to survive this mountain and failed. Not all those who come here leave. Everyone knows of the story of the hiker who tried…

Wolf did not intend to leave and the women have reasons of their own for being there. With place names such as Tin Town,  Devil’s Canyon and the Secret Lake, this is a landscape of unforgiving harshness…. but wait what’s that noise? Has help come at last?

You can’t trust mountain acoustics. You think you hear things – waterfalls airplanes voices. It’s just the wind

But someone has heard something…..

Bookish musings

Blimey this was good. If you’ve ever been hiking and worried about getting lost  don’t read this! Ironic that Wolf should be going up the mountain to commit suicide but then find out that the mountain has a lot more in store for him that he realized.

The women he meets – when their stories came out it added to the weird isolation that was already more than building up. Desperate times call for desperate measures. That mountain is unforgiving and will wait for no one.

Four people on a mountain and only three come down…..the fate of the fourth person is tragic as it is the culmination of a series of events from that very first tram up to the mountain station.

The tension builds as the isolation and rawness of the mountain envelopes and pokes each one of the people there.

The legend stories told of men who had died there, poisonous plants and tragic details of the mountain really added to the overall sense of ‘how the hell will they get out of this situation’ the lights from Palm Springs below tends to mock them as they seem so close despite their being so lost.

A mountain tale which shows how suffering and survival in the wilderness show the extremes of the human spirit and how four people can come together under the most pressurized of situations.

One Night in Mississippi – Mississippi, USA – Craig Shreve

one night in misssippi

Why a booktrail?

A dark period of American history. A family torn apart by the events in Mississippi and a brother’s desperate search for the truth

Story in a nutshell

One Night in Mississippi is the story of Graden Williams and his brother Warren. When Graden is murdered one night in Mississippi, the brutality of the crime is shocking and so Warren dedicates his life to getting justice.

Warren suffers heavily with guilt and regret, angry that those responsible got away with the crime. More than forty years after the death, laws are changing and so Warren may have the best chance yet of avenging his brother’s death.

He’s angry and wants answers so his search for the one man still at large takes him to a small town in Northern Ontario, Canada but what he finds there is not what he expects and he is forced to question what he has always held to be the truth.

Place and setting

 MISSISSIPPI - Jackson - Mississippi State Capitol MISSISSIPPI - Jackson - Jackson Municipal Court ILLINOIS- Chicago Jackson park Where Warren sits in his dream and thinks of freedom ILLINOIS - CHICAGO - Loyola University where Warren studies PHILADELPHIA - The home of the Liberty Bell and where Etta lives

MISSISSIPPI – Jackson –
Mississippi State Capitol
MISSISSIPPI – Jackson – Jackson Municipal Court
ILLINOIS- Chicago Jackson park
Where Warren sits in his dream and thinks of freedom
ILLINOIS – CHICAGO – Loyola University
where Warren studies
PHILADELPHIA – The home of the Liberty Bell and where Etta lives

1960s Mississippi – A shocking and brutal time in American history

In Mississippi , I learned that I was poor

Graden Williams is kidnapped one evening, tortured and cruelly dumped in a swamp. Warren never forgets this and spends all his life avenging his brother. why were the riots started in the first place and why were the 1960s such a time of hatred and racism?

Mississippi in the 1960s was a time of racial inequality and it was a time when  people from the northern states would come to the South in order to get people behind their cause – fighting for racial equality and standing up for their cause. However well intentioned this groups were, the result was chaos, dangerous confrontations between white and black people in the street and the wrath of the white ruling elite.

The summer before Graden died, I sat beside him on a crowded school bus on its way to Jackson, There had been two meetings since the one that I had attended…

Such a world is hard to imagine yet it is evoked with such clarity here that you feel the pain and anger at every turn. Warren wants justice for his brother, questions why more white people don’t help – were they afraid and also threatened? – and vows to hunt the men responsible down.

In present day Ontario, in  a small (fictional)  town called Amblan, one of the gang responsible  – Earl still lives. His guilt at having been involved in that shameful episode comes back to haunt him and when the two men finally meet, Warren’s journey is far from over.

Two sobering viewpoints of a shameful time in history and of two men who come together and face up to their guilt and their part in it. for more information on this period and the Freedom summer efforts of 1964 which inspired this novel – http://mdah.state.ms.us or www.freedom50.org

Bookish musings

A short but sobering book and a unique viewpoint of two men who are on two different sides  and who were both affected by the events which unfolded. Short sparse prose really gets the events to stand out and shock even more. Hard at times due to the violence and even that which you didn’t see. I learned from this book and found the humanity and the hope within it a humbling read.

Mrs Hemingway – South of France, Cuba and USA – Naomi Wood

himngway

Why a booktrail?

Who was the real Ernest Hemingway? His four wives paint an interesting and contrasting picture of him and tell their side of the story not in any of his famous novels

Story in a nutshell

Ernest Hemingway was famous for writing novels and infamous for his love of women. He married four times and was either a hopeless romantic or an old fool depending on your viewpoint. Hadley was his first wife – the original Mrs Hemingway who opens the novel with her experiences and life with the legendary writer. Then each in turn, the other women in his life tell their story.

Told in four parts and based on real love letters and telegrams, Mrs. Hemingway reveals the explosive love triangles that wrecked each of Hemingway’s marriages.

Sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction.

Place and setting

 FLORIDA - Key West Hemingway house Duval Street and Sloppy Joes CUBA San Francisco de Cuba house FRANCE South of France -Antibes Where Hadley regrets that now things are done à trois for Fife lives with them here FRANCE  - Paris Shakespeare and company  where Martha goes to buy earnest a book The Ritz Hotel -  And the legend of the daring recovery of the Ritz from the Krauts

FLORIDA – Key West
Hemingway house
Duval Street and Sloppy Joes
CUBA
San Francisco de Cuba house
FRANCE – the South – Antibes
South of France -Antibes
Where Hadley regrets that now things are done à trois for Fife lives with them here
FRANCE – Paris
Shakespeare and Company
where Martha goes to buy earnest a book
The Ritz Hotel –
And the legend of the daring recovery of the Ritz from the Krauts

From his home in Key West Florida, to their summer vacation place in Antibes France, we travel with the Hemingways as their lives play out on the world stage but hidden from the world’s eyes. With brief sejours in Cuba and Spain too during the Civil war, this is a booktrail of some very iconic locations which formed the basis of much of Hemingway’s work.

Antibes - source Wikipedia
Antibes – source Wikipedia

Antibes and Paris, France

It’s the summer of  1926 and Ernest Hemingway’s first wife Hadley is staying with him in a villa in Antibes.

The morning is already warm and the light has turned the white cotton sheets nearly blue

At night fruit falls to the grass with a soft thunk and in the morning she finds the oranges split and stormed by ants

A vivid picture  – of something beautiful turned into something horrible so quickly – much like the Hemingway’s unravelling relationship. Yet the south of France locations shows how much the young Hemingways and their friends Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald were keen to live the good life where ‘ the livin is easy’ is evoked in both the dinners they have, the sitting on the balcony and the general easy living of that era.

Paris

But behind the scenes Hadley yearns for Paris, its grey skies and the simple apartment there but then this was the place where she discovered Ernest’s affair in a letter. Suspecting it after having seen them whispering in the cathedral in Chartres, the fallout soon follows. This is also the location for a further fling – Martha the war correspondent to buy Ernest a book from the Shakespeare and Company bookstore on the left bank. The literary side of the city is alive and well.

Flag of Cuba
Flag of Cuba

Cuba and Spain

Ernest spent much of his time here and its where Mary, wife four, spends time here with him. She likens it to Pemberley where she is Elizabeth Bennett – 

When Ernest had driven up the Finca, the morning of her arrival in Cuba, she had immediately smelled hibiscus and lime. Before her was the most enormous white mansion, bright as a pebble in the Caribbean sunshine.

In Spain we visit via Martha, wife three, who worked with Ernest as a war correspondent during the Civil war. She is abused by him – he calls her a bitch and slaps her when she drives his car into a tree. But still, like the others, she stays

“Rabbit remember Spain, we need war so we can feel the force of each other. Let’s not go back to Cuba”

Spain was an exciting time in Hemingway’s life and provided his material for some of his greatest writing but it was a place of chaos in both his private and personal life.

Key West Florida - pic from Wikipedia
Key West Florida – pic from Wikipedia

Key West Florida

Ernest’s home in Key West is where we are when Fife ;s story takes up – it’s where she remembers their first kiss

“Where the shutters  are open a breeze comes into the house from the Gulf crying in the scent of tamarind, frangipani, banana.

They, especially Ernest loves his old haunt of the Sloppy Joe’s bar and is where he ‘hides out’ when the going gets tough

The Hemingway is quite a journey across the world, via the voices of four wives as they each take it in turn to take us back in place and time – to their time with Ernest and life as a mistress then as a wife.

hemingway 1923

Bookish musings

What a fascinating account of a great writer by the women who knew him best (and for the worst)

Each of the wives/mistresses in turn gave a new impression of the man and together with the jump from place to place, date and time, this created a vast and deeply interesting portrait of the man. The villa in Antibes was a holiday haven for one wife only to become a house of sin soon after. A walk on the beach in paradise when the topic of conversation was divorce, was anything but. But as one mistress became the next wife, Ernest seems to have lined them up as easy as a game of skittles – when he knocked them down the fallout was just as noisy.

I can’t help feeling sorry and relieved for Hadley  – she saw how Fife replaced her and then as we see the situation trough Fife’s eyes, I  felt karma come and kick her up the backside. Yet as Martha made her mark, I did feel sympathy for Fife….What’s going on here and how did Ernest manage to get so many women on side?

Would they really have jumped off balconies for him? Whatever the answer, this is a fascinating and only partially fictional account of one man seen through the eyes of a cycle, a merry-go- round of women.

Hold the Dark – Alaska – William Giraldi

hold the dark

Why the booktrail?

The Alaskan wilderness is all encompassing and eerily evoked

Story in a nutshell

Alaska

The wolves have come for the children of Keelut.

Three children have been taken from this isolated Alaskan village, including the six-year-old boy of Medora and Vernon Slone. Torn apart by grief, she seeks the help of nature writer and wolf expert Russell Core. She wants answers and think this is the man to help her – he understands harsh environments, he might understand the wolves.

But when Russell Core arrives on the mountain, nothing is as it seems.Someone is watching. There are eyes in the wooded darkness…

Place and setting

Denali “Denali makes its own weather. There're more lost planes in this state than there are lost kittens in a city.” Bering Bridge  the wolves are said to walk across this land here Skagway
Denali
“Denali makes its own weather. There’re more lost planes in this state than there are lost kittens in a city.”
Bering Bridge
the wolves are said to walk across this land here
Skagway

You might want to wear your thickest woolen cardigan when reading this book and have a cup of something hot in your hands as this book will give you the chills. Not sure if the idea of wolves coming for the villagers’ children or the landscape of snow and ice is the most chilling but when together, the result is eerie to the extreme.

The wolves came down from the hills and took the children of Keelut. First one child was stolen as he tugged his sled at the rim of the village, another the following week…..

Keelut is a small and remote village in Alaska. When Russell arrives on the plane he is immediately lost in a land of snow and ice, of snow up to his shins and hills which “loomed in protection or else threatened to clamp”

This place doesn’t have roads he is told so even his journey to Keelut from the airport is one fraught with danger. And once there his journey gets harder when he is told more about the wolves and the missing children. Torn between his love for the animal  since he has worked in Yellowstone park as part of overseeing their reintroduction since the gray wolf has been hunted to near extinction by that point.

The warnings that he shouldn’t be there come thick and fast-

Do you have any idea what’s out those windows. Just how deep it goes?How black it gets?How that black gets into you?

The warnings don’t come soon enough however for in his search for the wolves responsible, Medora Slone goes missing. This is the part of the journey where violence and grim grim reality come to the surface….

There are eyes in those woods and they are watching…

Bookish musings

A short novel at only 190 pages but one which packs a punch. Its writing is as stark and direct as the subject matter but this fits nicely to highlight even more the fear and the rawness of the story and landscape.

Disturbing in many places (more so than the blurb even suggests with the killing of children) and detached characters made this a short sharp shock of a novel. The landscape is both seen through the eyes of the ones who live there – the families who have lost their children but we as  readers see it through the eyes of the nature writer and traveller Russell Core who loves and fears the creatures but who tells us later on that he even disliked the book Peter and the Wolf for the way it taught us to hate and fear the creatures. So seeing him in this landscape, having to face the possibility that these creatures are responsible  for deaths is interesting.

Once Medora Sloane goes missing, the novel takes a new dark and twisted turn and the psychological study which follows is perhaps one of the darkest dips into the human mind that I’ve read in a while.

Grim but ultimately fascinating

Here I am – Asia to the USA – Patti Kim and Sonia Sánchez

Here I am

Why a booktrail?

A beautiful story told in pictures about a young child who moves from Asia (we think Korea as this is where the author is from) to USA and tries to find his feet.

Story

How do you make a new country feel like home?

A young boy moves with his family from his homeland to New York City and for such a young child the move is overwhelming – everything is bigger,noisier and very very different.

Simple things such as how does he get to school are tricky and so he starts to feel alone and afraid. All he has in the world is  a little seed that he carries around in his pocket which make him feel safe and reminds him of happier times.

But one day he drops the seed..

Place and setting

A big big journey for a small small boy
A big big journey for a small small boy

Whether you are a child or an adult, if you have moved from one country to another this book (all in pictures) will resonate with you. It’s a poignant story of the confusion of a small boy in a new and scary world.

If ever the saying ‘ A picture says a thousands words’ as true, then this is the book to prove that is true. Each and every line in the drawing seems to have been considered with such grace and skill that the feelings of loneliness and overwhelming confusion are imbued in every stroke of the pen and brush.

Patti Kim herself emigrated from Korea to America when she was a child and this is explained at the back of the book. How lovely to have told this story in book form and to have given this as a gift to new readers young and old.

For those of us with experience of even living in a country for a short period, many of the emotions in the book will resonate, not least the boy’s expressions and sense of loss. The joys of the new world coupled with the confusion of it is neatly tied up here in stunning illustrations.

Ever felt the joy of a whole new world but then felt sad and confused when you can’t do even the simplest thing such as ordering a coffee as you don’t know the language or how to go about it? Think of this little boy who doesn’t understand the signs or the way on his way to school. The seed he has in his pocket is his way of holding on to some degree of certainty – a security blanket

Bookish musings

This book has no words but it brought me to tears – the fear and loneliness in that little boys face was very sad to see. The signås which appear gibberish at first soon become clearer and it was then that I started to cheer for the little guy as he becomes more confident in his new world.

This book is like a song which gets into your head and never lets go. Ever since I read it, it comes back to me and I see the boy in my mind and he has stayed with me ever since. I wanted to hug him and tell him that everything would be alright on many occasions and I would have done if it had been possible.

The book is so subtle that people who have moved countries will think the book speaks to them in ways that it does no one else. Its the small things that are weird in any new country – the everyday that you take for granted, the shock you feel when things are not the same.

.The illustrations are simply stunning and the layout which is decorative and not just left to right adds to the way in which  the boys thoughts are not clear cut. The story and pictures together pack quite a punch.

For old and young, this book is really a charming and poignant look at the immigration experience through the eyes of a child.

Summertime – Florida Keys – Vanessa Lafaye

summertime

A fictional yet very realistic account of one of the most devastating natural disasters in US history.

Story in a nutshell

Florida Keys, 1935. Hurricane Season.

Tens of thousands of men return home to the US after the war only to find themselves particularly abandoned by the government

Heron Key is a small and segregated community of the time and is suddenly the home of disturbed and broken men of all races and creeds for whom racial equality is the new battle they must face.

When a black veteran is accused of committing the most heinous crime of all against a white resident’s wife, tempers flare

And not far off the strongest and most intense hurricane America has ever witnessed is gaining force…..

Place and setting

Islamorada - the real victim of the hurricane - Heron Key in the book Florida Strait - the waters around Florida Key West - home of Ernest Hemingway Fiesta Key - a  new bridge built following the storm real photos of the hurricane and information about what happened - http://keyshistory.org/shelf1935hurr.html
Islamorada – the real victim of the hurricane – Heron Key in the book
Florida Strait – the waters around Florida
Key West – home of Ernest Hemingway
Fiesta Key – a new bridge built following the storm
real photos of the hurricane and information about what happened – http://keyshistory.org/shelf1935hurr.html

Summer time but unlike the song, the livin is far from easy…

A Fourth of July beach barbecue, in a small Florida village where many war veterans live sounds like an idyllic place to be. but the horror of what happens next will turn the peace on its head. And that is long before the hurricane comes around.

The layers of tension are wrapped tight so by the time you peel them off, you feel the pressure and shock as each layer comes off – the racial undertone, the racial hatred and segregation, the men returning from war abandoned and deceived…Added to that the humidity and oppressive heat, and there is more than one type of storm brewing. For the weather is a character and setting here reflecting the action in the village of Heron Bay

Three hundred miles to the south, a tropical storm passes over the Bahamas. On the verge of dissipating, it receives a sudden mammoth infusion of energy from the super-heated waters below.

The real life event of the hurricane – which hit the island of Islamorada and the other keys in 1935 on Labor Day and was a category 5 storm. It was not something we knew anything about if we’re honest and to have this as a focus and a backdrop of the novel is a fascinating concept. And the fact that we discover Ernest Hemingway lived there at the time and helped with the clear up operation was also something we discovered.

The veterans who had fought in the war came to the Keys in order to join a government works programme. They were basically  forgotten and abandoned by the government and so had come here to try and rebuild their lives. They were outsiders however and their reentry into normal life was tough enough without the approaching storm.Their living conditions were fragile shacks. So, it was the veterans’ story which  the author says she wanted to tell. And tell it she does.  We hear their voices.

Thoughts

This book is  a story of human spirit despite devastation, the effects of a hurricane and the effects of another storm building – that of the tensions between war veterans returning home or moving to a place for the first time whilst trying to reintegrate into society. the racial aspects of course are uppermost in the events which take place but for me it was the human story, the war veterans story and the mix of people who found themselves in front of such a devastating situation.

This is a story worth telling and so is definitely one worth reading – it shows you the light and dark of the human sprit and the power of nature. It shows resilience and weakness, hope and destruction.

I felt sad after reading this  – the shame of the beach being separated into areas for blacks and whites, the fight between the inhabitants and the incoming veterans, the feeling that the veterans were angry at having been forgotten by the country they served….

None of that mattered when the storm came.

The Lebrus Stone – West Virginia – Miriam Khan

The_Lebrus_Stone_banner

Welcome to The Lebrus Stone promo tour!

Celebrating the book’s recent release, author Miriam Khan is introducing her paranormal romance read to the masses via a series of blogs. Perfect for fans of YA, readers are loving the book’s haunting cover and calling the story “vivid” and “compelling.”

Why not take a look for yourself:

  23440495

Synopsis:

“When eighteen-year-old orphan, Crystal Valdez, accepts an invitation to the small town of Blacksville, West Virginia, she hopes to have a summer to remember and a chance to learn more about her parents, to also get to know the family she never knew existed. But the Lockes begin to act strange and erratic; eerie movements in the night fuel her vivid and gruesome nightmares.

To complicate her summer further, she becomes attracted to the menacing yet handsome Cray Locke: her none blood related cousin.

He seems determined to keep his distance. The only bonus to her trip seems to be the housekeeper and gardener.
And when a local informs Crystal of the secrets buried at Thorncrest Manor, the kind consisting of a forbidden relationship and a war between hidden worlds, and witchcraft, she must decide whom to trust. Even if it means leaving behind those she has come to love.”

Click Here To Buy This Book – UK

Click Here To Buy This Book – US

Trailer: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tVt_asn59II

 

Excerpt:

I lay back and tried not to over think things to calm the storm in my head, but a knock on my door moments later interrupted it.

“Come in!” I called out, sitting up to retrieve my book.

Syd entered, carrying in what looked like a sandwich and a glass of her homemade lemonade.

I could have done with a hot soup.

But I blew a sigh of relief it wasn’t one of the Lockes.

“Isobel said to make sure you had some lunch by now,” she said, placing the tray on my bedside cabinet.

“Thanks, Syd.”

“Any reason why you’re hiding in here?” she asked as she sat on my bed.

I tensed. Being told I was hiding annoyed me, but I wasn’t annoyed at Syd, just at myself. I had come too far in life to start acting like a coward, especially over something clearly in my head.

I fingered the dog-eared cover of my book.

“I think I just need a quiet day to myself. It could be some type of…delayed jet lag.” It could be partly true, I thought. It had taken two flights to get from Salt Lake City to Blacksville; six hours in total. I smiled, pleased with the conclusion. Exhaustion could have been why I had such a freakish dream.

“I see,” Syd said, seeming unconvinced. “Well, do you think you’ll be joining the Lockes for dinner?”

“Do I have to?” No matter how much I was becoming fond of Syd, she worked for the Lockes. They could try and make her tell me what do.

“No.” She chuckled. “But I think you should try to interact. Cray’s alright, by the way. A little scratch like that won’t do a boy like him any harm.”

Boy like him?

So, I had hurt him. My chest tightened.

“Oh, don’t look so beat up about it, honey. The boy is as tough as old boots.” She chuckled again. “And luckily for you, he’s not as vain about his looks as you would think. He won’t hold what happened against you.” She patted my hand.

I gulped. “Has he…said something?”

“No. He left early this morning. He didn’t say where he was going, and Isobel never dares ask these days. He’s a very private person, as you’ve probably noticed. She respects that. We all do.” She looked lost in thought for a moment, then smiled in her sad little way, and asked, “So, are you ready to talk about what happened last night?”

My mouth felt too clamped to begin

“I have to say, not many girls would have left home to meet so many strangers. I admire your courage.”

Her comment only made me sound irresponsible. I gritted my teeth.

“I don’t feel very courageous,” I admitted. “I feel pretty stupid right now.”

Thanks for the added comment to make me feel even more naive, I wanted to add.

“I don’t think five months was long enough to think this through,” I said.

She nodded. “Maybe. But everything happens for a reason. You followed your heart. It’s all you can do in life. It’s your only real compass.”

I wanted us to keep talking. When Syd wasn’t nicely pointing out my flaws, she had a way of calming me until I felt optimistic about my trip again. But she had dinner to prepare, so she reluctantly left me after insisting I get ready to face my evening with the Lockes.

Something about her was becoming familiar. It could have been the warmth in her eyes and how they reminded me of Selma. She had always been as hospitable and over helpful.

I still missed her. Talking to Syd was like getting back something that had been cruelly taken away, too. It wasn’t just my parents I’d lost, but my pride, self-worth, my best friend, at times my composure. It had been an uphill struggle this past year or so. But I was finally feeling on top of things…I think.

I sure wasn’t going to let it keep me down.

Coming to Blacksville was my new start as the new and improved me. I really had to keep believing that.

Author Bio:

Miriam is from Cheshire, England and a family of six siblings. Her love for creativity led to acting at her local theatre before being a lead vocalist in rock bands. During those years, she often found solace penning her thoughts and feelings through lyrics or poetry. She chose not to continue singing in 2006, and two years later she woke up with the idea for The Lebrus Stone and began typing, revising and editing it for the next six years. She is now eager to see what readers will think.

Author Links 

Facebook | Goodreads | Blog | Smashwords

Cuppa and a rather posh cake with Kate Beaufoy -author of Liberty Silk

Today is the day that the lady who wrote this wonderful book comes round to Booktrail towers in her Liberty Silk dress and dainty shoes to share the story behind the story with us. It really was a book that made an impression on us – based on real life and the author’s grandmother no less! Given the nature of the novel and the time period in which it is set, we have the posh china out that normally is just reserved for royalty and have ordered a rather fine looking dress cake . Oh that’s enough polishing the cake forks….here is Kate herself…

Kate Beaufoy in the photographic style of Liberty Silk
Kate Beaufoy in the photographic style of Liberty Silk

Hi Kate, How honoured we are to have you over here today! It’s great to see you – your novel Liberty Silk was a firm favourite of 2014 here at the booktrail and it told a wonderful story! Thank you for bringing your photo album to show us as well.

liberty silk

What a remarkable story this is and based on real life? Can you tell us more about your story?

The inspiration for the novel came from letters my grandmother wrote whilst on honeymoon in France and Italy in 1919. My grandparents met while doing war work in Rouen just after the Armistice. They fell in love at first sight, and were engaged just five weeks later. The backstory is based on these letters; however, the rest of the story is fiction. My grandmother in reality had such a carefree life that I had to make things a little more difficult for her, so as to lend the narrative some dramatic tension!

Kylemore Abbey School - Liberty Silk, page 243
Kylemore Abbey School – Liberty Silk, page 243

What kind of research did you do of the locations in the book?

The Irish locations I was already familiar with, especially the area around Kylemore Abbey, where both Lisa and Cat were educated: my daughter boarded there. Sadly, I didn’t make it as far as Hollywood, but I did travel to Italy, where I followed the route my grandparents took, as prototype backpackers. They spent some weeks in Florence – the pension they stayed in is still there, overlooking the river Arno – my grandfather made a sketch of the view. In the Piazza della Repubblica I sat at the terrace of the café where they celebrated my grandfather’s birthday, and where Jessie gave him the beautiful sketchbook that features in the novel. 

Antibes, 1920s - Liberty Silk page 321
Antibes, 1920s – Liberty Silk page 321

How did you ‘get into’ the time periods? Paris in particular

I am one of the few people I know who actually hates Paris! Any time I have visited, there have been rail strikes or museum strikes or it has been raining nonstop, and I can’t stand the snootiness of the Parisiennes. However, reading about the city was fascinating; biographies of Coco Chanel, Ernest Hemingway and Picasso were particularly helpful, and George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London was an invaluable insight into the seedy underbelly of the city.

The Hollywood sign. Until 1949, it read ‘Hollywoodland’. Liberty Silk, page 86.
The Hollywood sign. Until 1949, it read ‘Hollywoodland’. Liberty Silk, page 86.

As for Hollywood – I have countless books set around the time of its glamorous heyday, which were invaluable for research purposes. Writing the book gave me a great excuse to re-read Scott Fitzgerald’s novels, many of which are set in not just the places, but also the eras I covered.  

Are all the characters based on real people? Can you tell us more about your grandmother?

She was a true adventuress! One of the first women to graduate from Cambridge, she was passionate about the arts: in later life she hosted a literary salon in her house in Edinburgh. My grandfather – Scotch – was indeed an artist: he was the template of the rather sexy art master in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Celebrities in the novel – Coco Chanel, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Lana Turner, Picasso, Don McCullin – appear as themselves. The Greek Count, who is the most sinister of my cast of characters, met my grandparents in Florence. He was travelling with a beautiful child, and my grandmother genuinely feared for her wellbeing.

liberty silk

Do you own a dress from Liberty’s?

Yes – the actual evening dress that features in the novel came from Liberty, and now belongs to me. It was handed down from my grandmother, along with other artefacts that provide key plot points in the novel – the cabochon sapphire ring, the Egyptian charm, the leather-bound sketchbook and – of course – the original cache of letters. You can see images of all these heirlooms on www.pinterest.com/libertysilk/

the Liberty Silk dress as featured in the novel
the Liberty Silk dress as featured in the novel

If you could buy something from Liberty’s what would it be and why?

I would love to have the chaise longue that belonged to my grandmother reupholstered in archive Liberty print.

Which song or songs could we listen to when reading the novel – to get us in to the mood for the change of setting?

What a great question! It would have to be Ragtime for Jessie; Big Band dance music for Lisa, and Jimi Hendrix or early Rolling Stones for Cat.

And with that the cake is further demolished and we put a record on the gramophone and start up a ragtime number. Before we know it we’re both out of our chaise longues and dancing to the music. Best leave it there I think. We could be here a while. Take it away!