PAul hardisty

On location with Paul E Hardisty – The Abrupt Physics of Dying

PAul hardisty
Paul Hardisty

I am due to meet Paul Hardisty for a chat about his new and debut thriller. We’ve arranged to meet on a dusty beach to recreate the feel of the story in Yemen. He’s also explained that the food he’s bringing instead of our usual cuppa and a cake will require an outside location. What can he mean?

Well, as soon as he appears into view, I know what he means. He’s brought a fish. Freshly caught it seems. Now I understand the need for the beach. Then I notice it’s not cooked – he directs me to a pile of twigs, bringing more and piling them up – then he starts to explain how we’re going to cook this thing. From nowhere he gets out some salt flakes and spices. As it cooks he gets some newspaper from his bag and some flat breads which he places on the sand ready. No washing up he winks.

What’s for desert? I wonder. Should I have brought a cake? We have eye balls to enjoy he says…..I am not sure what to say to this. I hope its a sweet Yemeni cake of some kind just with a strange name.

Hi Paul! The fish is ready and I’m told to rip it off in pieces like Bear Grylls. The fish is looking at me suspiciously. I fear the Yemeni cake might not happen….

Your background as the Director of Australia’s National Science Agency has certainly given you the insight and the knowledge of your subject. But what made you want to write your debut eco-thriller?

My engineering and science background is a major influence on my writing.  The projects I have worked on around the world, and the places that work has taken me, have been a source of inspiration and experience.  In the case of The Abrupt Physics of Dying, acts of willful destruction of precious water that the poorest people depend on, sparked the story.  The drive to write, however, has always been there.  I have published a couple of technical books, dozens of  scientific papers.  I even wrote an environmental newspaper column for five years for the Cyprus English language daily.  But in the background has always been the fiction, accumulated in stacks of notebooks lining my shelves since I was young.  

Wadi Hadhramat Yemen
Wadi Hadhramat , Yemen

The book is set primarily in Yemen. What kind of research did you do to portray the land and its people?

I worked all over Yemen, from Sana’a and Aden to the Masila and Hadramawt, over a fifteen year period in the eighties and nineties.  It was a wild and dangerous place then, still is now.  And as I went, I wrote.   It’s the kind of place that burns itself into your brain, and the memories of the people and the places are still there fresh and real and present.  One of the problems was that there was too much that I wanted to put in, had to cut a lot out.

Yemen is not a country covered much in literature so what can you tell us about Yemen and a country and its people?

Yemen is a lost place, a country and a people still only hanging on to the very edge of the present.  It’s almost as if the magnetic pull of the past is continually drawing them back.  Traditions, religion, harsh and inaccessible country, fiercely independent heavily armed tribes, the unremitting dry – all these things pull them back in time, and make Yemen the place it is.  I’ve never seen a more harshly beautiful place, but a lot of what you see makes you want to cry.

The subject of your novel is very current – but you portray both sides of the argument of the terrorists and the oil company – what do you hope people will take away from your novel?

I hope people will enjoy the story and the language, get a kick out of spending a bit of time in Yemen, go along for the ride – there’s a lot of action.  I’ve tried to concentrate on that and not let the themes overwhelm.  The themes are there, but as an undercurrent, I hope.  Money, oil, power, greed, betrayal, trust, faith – these are the main themes.   When faced with a situation that is clearly wrong, how far would you be willing to go to do the right thing?  And what is the right thing, in this modern world, when you are in the middle of an ancient place where the rules are very different?  In my writing I’m trying to blend science and literature, action and ethics, make it as real as I can.  

We love the way you’ve woven the Arabic language and the numerals into the book. Do you speak Arabic yourself? Which languages do you speak and does that help with your writing?

French is my mother tongue.  That’s what I grew up speaking, reading and writing. I even learned my science and math in French. I also studied Russian and Latin when I was a kid at school, and later, Spanish.  I still have trouble sometimes when speaking English: I know the French word I want to use, but can’t find the English one.  I worked in the Middle East for a long time, and worked pretty hard for a while at learning Arabic. It wasn’t much of a success.  I know enough to make people there smile.  My Turkish is better (it’s a much simpler language).  Knowing other languages, and, for instance, being able to read Maupassant in the original French, I think makes you a better writer.

The flag of Yemen
The flag of Yemen

Your backstory is just as impressive if not more so than Claymore’s. What has been a highlight or a memorable moment from your own work?

The chance to live in many different places, go there not as a tourist but working with the local people and having the time to let the places really get into you so you can feel them, so that they stay with you, has been great.  I’ve been very lucky.  Early in my career, still in my twenties, I started an engineering consulting firm with four partners. We spent the best part of 20 years building it up to a thousand-person enterprise, sold it in 2006.  Working for ourselves allowed the freedom to go after the kind of work we wanted to do in the paces that interested us. I was young and did things you can’t and would not do now.   A few highlights:  spending time with Yuruk Kurdish nomads on the Turkish-Iraqi border, eating with them, learning their language, falling in love (for a very short time – it was always going to be impossible, and dangerous);  finally finding the woman who by some miracle was made for me and eloping with her to Ghana in West Africa where I’d been working rehabilitating village water wells, and getting married in a village ceremony deep in the forest in a tiny village, our nuptials toasted by the village chief;  crawling up the to the edge of a river at night in Ethiopia, drunk and the world spinning, and looking out across into Eritrean rebel held territory as the Mengistu regime was falling, hearing the gunfire up and down the valley and the tracers looked so beautiful, like night rainbows. 

Can you tell us anything about your next book and where it’s set?

Orenda books has just agreed to publish the sequel to ‘The Abrupt Physics of Dying’ – it’s called ‘The Evolution of Fear’.  The first chapter of the sequel is included in the back of Abrupt Physics.  It’s set partly in Istanbul (my favourite city in the whole world, where I’ve spent a lot of time), and in Cyprus, in the Med, where I lived and worked for about eight years.  A fascinating place, with a history so deep and complex that once you get into it, feels like a maze with no exit.  The conflict between Turkish-occupied North Cyprus and the Greek south is the backdrop.  Evolution and extinction, life and death, renewal and loss are key themes.

Thanks very much Paul for meeting and having a chat. And for bringing that Hamour fresh from the Red Sea. I have quite honestly not tasted anything quite like this before. (We passed on the eyeballs funnily enough)  Oh what a taste and what a book!  Thank you for taking us to Yemen and for sharing your experiences and the history of the country. Quite a journey!

You can connect with Paul via twitter – @Hardisty_Paul  and his website – http://paulehardisty.wix.com/paulehardisty

Orenda Publishers –http://orendabooks.co.uk/  and @OrendaBooks

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!

Cuppa and a cake with Anne Blankman – Author of The Prisoner of Night and Fog

It’s pitch black and the cloak of darkness wraps around my shoulders as I hurry along the cobble stones, the empty echoes of my boots firing warning shots to the circling crows. I lower my head and try to find comfort in the thought that soon I will be safe. I clutch the parcel I have fastened with string in an attempt to keep its contents safe. For when I reach my destination, it will not be a welcome sight if the valuable consignment is crushed.

There it is, a light in the distance, a creaking sign announcing my approach. I can barely see anything now infront of me becuase of the fog, but carry on I must.

For now I have reached where I need to be – the darling little tea shop on the high street and as I open the door, I see Anne Blankman sitting there, her new book The Prisoner of Night and Fog sitting on the table, and I feel as if I have just walked out of a scene. Luckily the cakes I carry are safe. So, we tuck in (the lady behind the counter doesn’t mind as long as we give her a cupcake too) and the questions begin –

anne-blankman

Hi Anne! So lovely to meet you!

Thanks so much for inviting me today!   Personally I love learning about authors beyond just their books, so I’m glad you feel the same way!

Prisoner_of_Night_and_Fog_UK-(1)

Describe your book in three words.

Romantic historical thriller

The Grand Minster of York
The Grand Minster of York

Now for THE  booktrailer  question……What’s your favourite place?

Oooh, this is easy! York, England, hands down. During my third year at university in the States, I participated in an exchange program with St. John’s in York. I fell in love with the city–really, how can you not? The York Minster, the wide array of museums, restaurants, and shops, and the city’s friendly feel combined to make it one of the places dearest to my heart. This past summer when I flew out to speak at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, I visited York again, and it was every bit as wonderful as I had remembered.

Tell us something about yourself that most people don’t know.

I used to fence competitively. Yes, really! My weapons were foil and sabre. It wasn’t until my first competition, though, that I discovered most people who specialize in sabre are REALLY BIG GUYS. Needless to say, I got creamed, but I still adore the sport.

Favourite guilty pleasure?

Do I really need to answer this one? Chocolate, of course!

Chocolate

Can you tell us any secrets about your debut novel?

Its working title was Night’s Edge.

What was the craziest moment in your publishing journey?

Seeing my cover for the first time. I got my US cover before the others, and it was finished so early that I wasn’t expecting it at all. My editor emailed it to me out of the blue, and I must have sat at my computer for five minutes, staring at it with happy tears in my eyes. Seeing an image that represents the book you’ve worked hard on for over two years is surreal. And there’s something humbling about knowing that other people have worked on your book, whether it’s editing, marketing, or designing it, just to name a few. I love that collaborative aspect of the publishing world.

Thanks so much for having me!

You’re welcome. Now the fog and darkclouds have cleared, getting home should be easier!

Anne can be found at http://www.anneblankman.com/ and @AnneBlankman

Cuppa and a cake with Harry of Goldsboro Books

Booksellers are book ambassadors  – diplomatic when people ask funny questions in bookshops such as ‘ do you have the one with the blue cover?’, helpful when suggesting a new country to travel to via fiction and always partial to a bit of cake. Mr Harry Illingworth, of Goldsboro books in London or Lord Goldsboro as we named him a while back is like the Gandalf of the book world for he is more than an ambassador, he has special powers, special first edition powers that are a book lovers dream.

The land where Books rule
The land where Books rule

So when we were invited to spend time in his Goldsboro kingdom, we jumped at the chance.  He had made cakes, had put the kettle on…so we needed no further invitation……Be prepared to go on a very special journey into the Book kingdom that is the land of Goldsboro – 

Sir Harry of Goldsboro
Sir Harry of Goldsboro

So, have you always wanted to work in the book world? Have you always been a reader?

I’ve definitely always read. I loved Harry Potter in my youth, like most normal people, and I enjoyed lots before that, but I never was one of those guys who felt the need to devour all the classics really. In my late teens it was mainly rock autobiographies and similar, as I worshipped bands like Guns n Roses and Led Zeppelin, that kind of thing. It’s funny because now I read no non-fiction, although I’m definitely going to dive in to Kevin Pietersen’s and Amy Poehler’s autobiography. But I didn’t always know the book world was where I’d end up, in the position I’m in anyway, even though I studied English Lit and Creative Writing at university. If anything I wanted (tentatively) to be a writer first of all, but knowing that to be a dream to be contained I thought about getting into advertising. Then I realised that publishing had been staring me in the face the whole time and was exactly where I needed to be, and I’ve found myself in the perfect place.

 What do you love about your job?

Where to start? I should explain that my job takes on two forms – I work for Goldsboro Books and DHH Literary Agency. They are connected by David Headley who runs both businesses, and I am his assistant. I love the fact that I feel like I’m making progress towards my goal of becoming a literary agent, but on a day to day basis with Goldsboro there’s much to enjoy. I meet authors constantly, and other people in the publishing industry. There’s an amazing social aspect to what I do and I’ve been to some incredible places and events I could never have gone to otherwise. I do a lot of PR work for both businesses which I really enjoy, whether it be social media and/or newsletters. But in general, I’m surrounded by beautiful books every day, I get on great with my colleagues, and I get to read fabulous books before they are published and then shout about them and pass them on to other readers. For the agency, the ultimate thrill is discovering a new author and working with them and David to prepare their manuscript to send to publishers and hopefully getting them a deal.

Goldsboro Books is a haven of special signed and first editions. Any books you are coveting at the moment?

Pretty much all of them. Any special edition we produce at Goldsboro is because someone has either fallen in love with it or seen potential in it becoming collectable, so I always want to get one of those for myself. I also buy a lot of debuts. We’ve also got thousands of classics on the shelves and in the windows which I’d do anything for. We recently sold a rare signed and illustrated Bukowski that I’d never seen before and it was my favourite book in the shop. I was devastated when it sold, but I couldn’t afford it and it went to a great home; the man who bought it had known the illustrator and met Bukowski himself.

 

Book recommendation courtesy of Harry
Book recommendation courtesy of Harry

You’ve appeared on the Picador blog and recently had a Station Eleven display and event. How did that go?

Everything to do with Station Eleven was so much fun. It’s one of my top books this year and we teamed up with Picador to do a competition where we would create our own Museum of Civilisation and then donate it to a winner (if you don’t know what the museum is you must read the book…). We asked people to tweet us items that they would save in an apocalypse and I’m sure if you searched the #Station11 you would still find examples of items people told us. In fact, it was on the Picador blog I wrote that we announced our winner, @liveotherwise, who received the contents of the museum just recently. When Emily came over to the UK we also hosted the launch for the book which was a huge success, and I’m delighted that we have sold so many copies of what is a remarkable novel.

togheter-slection

 What have been your favourite books of 2014?

It’s hard to pin down ‘favourites’ but I’d have to say that this year, for me, these books have been a cut above (in no order…):

The Enchanted – Rene Denfeld

The Bone Clocks – David Mitchell

Station Eleven – Emily St John Mandel

Smiler’s Fair – Rebecca Levene

The Incorruptibles – John Hornor Jacobs

A Pleasure and a Calling – Phil Hogan

Fourth of July Creek – Smith Henderson

Tower Lord – Anthony Ryan

Red Rising – Pierce Brown

They’re all magnificent, for many different reasons, and I’d be here all day if I even began to start explaining why. But they’re all must-reads, in my opinion, and I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few!

 

Which author would you really like to meet that you haven’t and who has been a highlight?

I’ve been lucky that I’ve met so many incredible authors already, many of whom I’ve admired or loved for years, like Neil Gaiman, William Boyd, David Mitchell and Joe Abercrombie to name some. Whenever I read a debut novel that I fall in love with, I cannot wait to meet the author if they’re coming in to sign for Goldsboro and bombard them with questions. There’s so many I’d still like to meet, many of them American though which makes things tricky. I met Donna Tartt for the briefest of moments when I went to an event of hers and she signed my book for me after. She’s a real idol of mine so I basically froze, told her how much I loved her and made a fool of myself, but I’d really love to meet her properly one day.

Thank you so much for our visit today Harry. We’ll be back as well there’s still so much we would like to know about this fantastic book emporium of yours. So farewell for now…..and thanks for chatting today over cake!

Cuppa and a cake with Rachel Joyce (The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy)

Rachel Joyce is one busy lady – she’s been travelling around so many fantastic blogs on her official Queenie Hennessy tour that she is in need of a  nice cuppa and a cake we thought. The poor lady must be gasping for a cuppa! So, we invited her around to booktrail towers and while we didn’t have any cakes to hand, we did do a Granny spread of chocolate biscuits fanned out on a plate as we used to have as a child. We added serviettes, and a cup for Rachel with The Gaffer written on it (quite apt we thought)

The plate of treats
The plate of treats

Hi Rachel! Ah you must be exhausted! Come on in and put your feet up – I’ve bought some new slippers you might want to use to treat your tired and weary feet. And I’ve some questions in in exchange for cake. Now I’ve warmed the tea pot. Would you like milk? Sugar?

Rachel-Joyce-Photo

Got so much to ask you. Queenie’s story is such a brilliant companion to Harold’s side of the tale -Why did you feel that it was important for  Queenie to have a voice? Why did you want to tell her side of the story?

After the publication of ‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry’ I began to feel that I had missed an essential part of the story; after all it is a book about journeys and destinations and Queenie’s journey is the biggest one of all. I couldn’t have included Queenie’s voice in the first book because the tension lies in the fact that we, like Harold, don’t know if she can keep living whilst he walks. But I did feel that the story had to be completed. That Queenie had to have a life and a voice. It is like telling the story in reverse shot. It requires the balance.

Embleton Bay courtesy of Rachel and Queenie
Embleton Bay courtesy of Rachel and Queenie

What did you do to find the perfect home for Queenie in Embleton Bay?

I had a picture in my mind of where Queenie lived – the beach house and the view over the sea – and so I kept going back to that part of the Northumberland coast. The day I found Embleton Bay I felt a huge rush of excitement. It was as if my imagination had suddenly become real.

Tell us a little bit about Queenie

She is a woman with secrets. I love the idea that just because she didn’t say a lot in Harold’s car, it doesn’t mean she hasn’t hundreds and thousands of words and thoughts inside her. She has a robust wit too. I like that.

The scenes in the carehome were very sad to read. How were they to write?

They didn’t feel sad to me because there is also humour. Having visited hospices, it was important to me to present them in a very positive light. The patients are not there to die. They are there to live until they die. And they do. They grab life by the neck and hang on. There is nothing but the joy of the present moment.

On Harold’s route, what are the main stopovers that you would recommend for a booktrail?

I like all of them. Once you write about a place or a person, I can’t help but care for it.

Where do you think Queenie would like to visit?

I wish I could take her to a tea dance at the Waldorf.

The shoes Queenie would wear at a tea dance
The shoes Queenie would wear at a tea dance

Queenie and Harold’s story is about a letter which starts a journey – have you ever written or received such a letter? Do you think the art of letter writing is a forgotten art?

I have never received quite such a letter – though I have received letters that I keep. Shortly before he died, my dad wrote to me. It doesn’t quite make sense to me, his letter, which makes me think he was already in a different place. And I still have the last Christmas card my grandfather sent me. My husband and I exchanged a whole load of faxes after we first met. I keep those in a shoebox, although I was devastated to find when I last looked that most of the writing has faded to almost nothing. I suspect texts and emails have to some extent replaced letters and postcards – but if want to say something important, I still try to write a letter.

Heart map courtesy of  Queenie herself
Heart map showing Berwick courtesy of Queenie herself

Do you know Berwick well and if so what do you like about it?

I don’t know it well though of course I have visited. I gave a talk very early on about ‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry’ at the library and I have been back since, just to walk around the town.

On your tour of bookshops and signings, are you travelling as far as Harold? hehe

We are definitely covering as many miles! I try to walk every day in each place we visit, just to get a sense of where I am, but I travel the spaces in between by train or car. (Otherwise I will never get the chance to write another book.)

Thanks Rachel. I’ll put the rest of the chocolate biscuits in a box for you to take away with you  – the wagon wheels and the mint viscounts. We won’t eat them. I don’t know why we buy them to be honest….

Thank you so much Rachel for popping over. You can keep those slippers you borrowed – they’re new. Your feet need a rest after all that walking.

As Rachel leaves, there’s a whisper of a voice on the wind as I close the front door of Booktrail Towers…

It says….

49134d7cd421f2d578bd2d5523b2f274Rachel has now returned to her home at http://www.rachel-joyce.co.uk/ on twitter – @QueenieHennessy and on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/unlikelypilgrimageofharoldfry

Cuppa and a cake with Victoria Hislop

 Today is the reason that the kitchen here at Booktrail Towers is covered in sugar and flour and all kinds of cooking tools. I spent the entire day perfecting it (and eating the spoils) so now I am over the baklava hangover and am ready to start afresh with a very very very special guest.

Oh was that a car door I hear? (twitches the curtain) Yes it is! Ooh give me a minute while I welcome her in.

(Door closes, eager chatter fills the air.  Tea cups can be heard clanking on the tray. Someone exclaims ‘Ohh baklava!’)

victoria_hislop_white

Hi Victoria. So pleased that you were able to come and have a cuppa and a cake. Very excited and honoured

Now we haven’t got tea today. I feel strong coffee is the order of the day with the baklava? Sugar? Milk? Can I serve you a slice of my finest baklava. I thought you might like some Baklava for our cuppa and a cake.

Victoria –  Baklava – absolutely delicious and only a little is needed – but you should counteract the sweetness of the honey and nuts with a real strong, authentic Greek coffee!  Definitely “sketo” – which means “without sugar”.

(runs into kitchen and fetches some honey and feels relieved that a bird told me that Greek coffee is the perfect drink with this dessert)

Oh I have so many questions. So tuck in and I’ll  ask away. Here is your wonderful book – such an evocative cover too!

HBJACKET

Why did you want to write the story of Famagusta?

When I saw it for the second time (with a thirty year gap since the 1970’s) – it seemed as if this empty, deserted city was a story just waiting to be written (and I am sure there have been and will be others!).  And I wanted to write it as a way of writing about the division in Cyprus – and how friendships between people can sometimes over-ride such division and transcend feelings of hatred.

 sunrise

I understand that you have stood beside the barbed wire fence and imagined what life was like in Famagusta. What other kind of research ‘on location’ where you able to do?

 

I visited the municipality building which is close to the barbed wire and spent lots of time on the roof getting an aerial view – which really gave me a sense of its scale and what its streets now look like – and found as many pictures as I could of how it was in the 1970s before occupation.  And of course spoke to people in London and in Cyprus (more than 40,000 people left in August 1974, so there are so many around who remember what happened).  And as ever, listened to music, spent lots of time in cafes watching people and how they are.

 

What do you love about Greece and Cyprus?

 

I love both Greece and Cyprus.  I would encourage people if they do go to Cyprus to go to the old part of Nicosia – it is still very atmospheric and also to travel all over the island.  It’s extremely beautiful.  

My favourite part of Greece…. it’s quite hard to say – but I would always suggest Crete and also on the mainland –  Athens and Thessaloniki – and I tell people if they go to the cities, to walk around and go into the lesser known areas – not just the tourist places.  There is so much to see off the beaten track.  I think people should always discover places for themselves, though I do always give a few restaurant tips on my website.  With hundreds of islands, everyone has their favourite – there are a thousand different images of Greece and a thousand different experiences according to where you go – but all of them are unified by blue skies and that translucent Greek light!

scene

What do you admire about the people of Famagusta like Savvas Papacosta, Aphroditi and nightclub owner Markos Georgiou on one side and Emine Özhan on the other?

 

I admire people who survive hardship – and who overcome adversity – and this strongly applies to the real people of Famagusta.  After the occupation, Cyprus made a strong economic recovery – people there are very entrepreneurial.  So I admire anyone who doesn’t give up.

 

The map as seen in the novel
The map as seen in the novel

You tell us so much about the political situation in Cyprus without any of the detail getting in the way. Do you want people to learn a little bit of history from The Sunrise?

It’s always a challenge to put across the historical background without it intruding on the story – and I work hard to do this.  In The Sunrise, I included a historical note as there were things I wanted readers to be able to refer to and it wasn’t appropriate to put them in the mouths of my characters.  So yes, I hope people learn some history – but even more so, I hope they might go and read some of the actual non-fiction books about Cyprus and what took place there in the 20th century – and then make up their own minds about why such mistakes were made.  My first intention is not to teach – to some extent I am learning along with my readers!

Victoria I don’t think you have any worries there – the historical background never intrudes on the human story which is what The Sunrise is all about. A remarkable achievement I think. Thank you so much for choosing to come to the booktrail and have a chat. Fascinating to get an insight from you on this. I really can’t recommend The Sunrise enough.

Now before you go, I’ve popped some Baklava in a box for when you get home. Enjoy!

As the Taxi rides off into the sunset, I think about The Sunrise, the baklava and the day I met the lovely, friendly and warm hearted Victoria Hislop. The story of Famagusta and its people could wish for no better person to show it to the world.

Visit Victoria here – http://www.victoriahislop.com/

or on twitter – @VicHislop

Cuppa and a cake with the Queen of Books – Leanne Leveaux – The Book Club

Super excited today as we’ve got that lovely Leanne coming over from The Book Club – she talks books and book related things even more than us booktrailers so we just had to get her on here. So the obvious thing to do was to promise her a pile of books if she came over AND a selection of the finest cupcakes this side of Hadrian’s Wall, plus all the tea she could drink. Turns out she would have come anyway hehe.

Well now, the table is all set, the books are in the book suitcase ready for Leanne to take on a booktrail….and the kettle has just boiled. (The doorbell rings) Ooh here she is! Dead excited I am. Hold on back in a minute….Here’s a lovely pic of the cakes we’re going to eat while I answer the door

Nom nom
Nom nom

(squeals of bookish excitement can be heard in the background)

Hi Leanne! So happy for you to come over today.  Isn’t it getting cold out there? Soon be wearing coats. Here I’ve got the fire on low and the kettle’s just boiled – warming the tea pot as we speak. Do you take sugar?

We get ourselves settled and we take our first cup cake of many. Leanne, I’ve been dying to ask you these questions for quite a while!

The lovely Leanne - all settled with a cup cake and a cup of tea
The lovely Leanne – all settled with a cup cake and a cup of tea

How did you start The Book Club? It’s a huge success so I’m very interested to know how you came up with the idea and where the passion comes from.

Hello! Thanks for inviting me to cuppa and cake – how exciting!

My day job is in social media, and in my spare time I am obsessed with books, so I was looking to do something that meant I could combine the two without making a huge leap into the unknown, and this is where The Book Club was born.

I love speaking to people online about what books they have enjoyed, reading reviews and also following author Q&A’s. I had seen a lot of publishing houses doing their own sorts of promotions and activities for their authors, and I wanted to create something that allowed me to incorporate a wide range of authors and books as well as other aspects that people interested in reading would like.

You have amazing plans for the Book Club and for your new website. Can you share any secrets of what you have in store?

It’s all very exciting at the moment while I get everything set up and planned out, and the response and support from people in the book and blogging community has been really overwhelming. Everyone has been fantastically positive!

I don’t want to give too much away but I have some great giveaways planned, as well as some really interesting interviews with various people in the book world, so stay tuned!

What kind of books do you prefer to read if any?

Generally, I’m very open about the types of books I read, and I especially love when someone recommends me a book I wouldn’t ever have picked up, but that I thoroughly enjoy – it just goes to show, as the old saying goes, you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover!

I do have favourite types of books though, and the things I generally prefer to read are crime and thrillers, and I also have a real penchant for books set in an American History backdrop. My recent favourites have been The Son and American Rust, both by Philipp Meyer, Butcher’s Crossing by John Williams and The Road by Cormac McCarthy.

Leanne's suitcase gift from the book trail - ready for her next adventure!
Leanne’s suitcase gift from the book trail – ready for her next adventure!

Do you write yourself? If so what or which kind of book would you like to write?

I do write myself, and currently have a couple of things that I’m working on.

Generally I find the news to be really interesting, and I find inspiration in real-life events and people. I would love to write a story around a real-life event, and submerge myself in the process of the research that goes into writing something like this – I think it must be very interesting.

At a book club, you’re sitting with five writers living or dead. Who would you like to be there and why?

Wow, what a great question! Hmm, interesting. I would have to say, I would love to have Jack Kerouac, Harriet Lane, Jamie Mason, Charles Bukowski and Cormac McCarthy.

I’m sure it comes as no surprise I would have some American icons in attendance! I could spend hours just talking to them about the books that shaped their writing and also what inspires them.

Jamie Mason because I ADORED her book Three Graves Full when I read it for the Waterstones Book Club, and I would just love to discuss the story with her. And Harriet Lane because I am currently reading her novel ‘Her’ and it is so creepy! I would just like to tap into her brain and find out how she writes so well.

download

What has been your favourite book recently? An ultimate favourite?

Oops, I think I answered this in my excitement over the book club question!

My favourite books change all the time, though there are a selection that I would read over and over. Two of these being The Son by Philipp Meyer and Carter Beats the Devil by Glen David Gold. They’re both fantastic books!

Have you ever been on a booktrail? hehe

Sadly I haven’t ever been on a booktrail! Does this make me a terrible person? Haha! But I would love to, it sounds fantastic!

Perhaps this is the start of me embarking on one.. (the booktralier rubs hands in glee )

Screen shot 2014-09-29 at 09.53.44

Describe a day organising The Book Club and your new site! You must be so busy! What do you need to do? How do you plan everything and keep things organised?

A typical day organizing The Book Club and the new site involves a LOT of planning. I’m constantly writing lists about what I want to include, what I want to tweet about and when to actually make all of this happen!

I’ve been busy organizing interviews, as well as working with some fantastic people in the book community to help me push the word out – so it’s all go go go! at the moment!

You HAVE to visit Leanne’s new site as well, its essential viewing if you love books – the book club is of course essential viewing to and full of books that you can discuss, recommend and maybe try one that you haven’t considered before like Leanne herself. It’s amazing what you find when you just try a book you would not have considered before!

Thanks Leanne! Now there are quite a few cakes left. You got any room in that new suitcase of yours! hehe

Meet Leanne on Twitter and via the new fab site at – http://leanneleveaux.com/

The Book Club – https://twitter.com/_BookClub

Cuppa and a cake with Juliet West – Before the Fall

Juliet is smiling - we have her favourite cake here - that's why
Juliet is smiling – we have her favourite cake here – that’s why

Hello to the lovely Juliet West who has stopped by today for one of the booktrail’s famous Cuppa and a cake. We heard she liked fruit cake so we made one especially last night and have the lovely book to hand too. Love the cover! It’s based on a true story and is about the war seen from the women left behind – quite an emotional and heartbreaking read!

51JavGH2wvL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU02_

Hi Juliet

Now then – best take this napkin – this cake’s a bit crumbly

Tea or coffee?

Sugar?

now we ‘ve got the important things sorted – now for the most important bit – the chat!

before-the-fall-2

What compelled you to write this story?

I first read about the true story of Annie Baker and Richard Luck when I was working as a journalist back in 1997. I found it very hard to understand how the two lovers could have become trapped in such a desperate situation, and so it was a kind of horrified curiosity which prompted me to research the First World War period further. In 2010 I finally began to write the novel. I just felt that I needed to explore this story and try to make sense of it, because it had played on my mind for so many years.

Hannah and Daniel are two very memorable characters. Do you think most people will sympathise or at least understand why what happened happened?

The question of sympathy is so vexed. I think Hannah and Daniel (yes, these are fictionalised versions of the real names) are decent, good-hearted but ultimately flawed characters who are driven to make some very questionable choices in extraordinary circumstances. I didn’t want to judge them; my aim was to unravel why they acted as they did. The more I researched the period, the more I could understand how their options were gradually shut down. I do feel sympathy for Hannah and Daniel, and I hope readers will too, even if they can’t agree with their decisions.

Iron Bridge Bow Creek - photo courtesy of Juliet West
Iron Bridge Bow Creek – a location in the novel – photo courtesy of Juliet West

The novel looks at a woman’s struggle on the home front during the war and is an interesting premise for a war novel since most are written about the men. Was the struggle women faced important for you to get across in the story?

Definitely. As I researched, I was constantly struck by the difference between women’s lives just three or four generations ago and women’s lives today. Most working class women couldn’t afford contraception, and of course there was no welfare state. Their lives were ruled by pregnancy and motherhood. Household chores were gruelling and they worked long hours in paid jobs, too. If their husbands were away fighting, they had to work harder still. Women were expected to be patriotic, to do their duty to King and country, and if they stepped outside the moral boundaries they were likely to be ostracised by family and friends. I’m not for one minute trying to compare women’s hardships during the First World War to the horror of being a soldier in the trenches. However it was certainly an eye-opener for me to research this aspect of life on the home front.

Other characters were invented. Why did you invent characters such as Hannah’s best friend Dor, Daniel’s landlady Mrs Browne? 

The original documents give quite a lot of information about Annie and Richard’s lives, with details of their families and employers. But to build a credible fictional world for Hannah and Daniel, I felt that more detail and nuance was needed. Hannah’s friend Dor is single, and their friendship is a way of building backstory for Hannah, as well as further exploring women’s lives at the time. Daniel is a more enigmatic character, so it’s interesting to see him interacting with women other than Hannah, such as his landlady Mrs Browne and Sonia, the prostitute who lodges in the room next door.

the novel takes place around several locations in the East End of London
the novel takes place around several locations in the East End of London

The setting is of course vital to your story. Did you walk in the footsteps of your characters around London?

Before I started writing I visited (or attempted to visit) all the addresses which appeared in the original documents. It was crushing to find that almost all those East End streets had either vanished or changed beyond recognition, because they were bombed in the Second World War or bulldozed during later redevelopment. Luckily I was able to build a vivid picture of the East End in the early twentieth century using old maps, photographs and paintings. And it was still well worth walking the area, because many pockets of the earlier architecture and landscape remain, such as the Greenwich foot tunnel, sections of Poplar High Street and of course the Thames, Bow Creek, and the layout of the docks themselves.

what is left of Sabbarton Street in Canning Town - Pic courtesy of Juliet West
what is left of Sabbarton Street in Canning Town – Pic courtesy of Juliet West

Tell us something about WW1 and London that you found particularly fascinating

I’d assumed that air raids began during the Second World War, but in fact London – and particularly the East End – was targeted by German airships and aeroplanes from 1915 – 1918. People were terrified, cramming into tube stations, tunnels and basements to escape the bombs and the dangers of shrapnel from anti-aircraft fire. The initial air raids were unexpected, and at first there was no organised warning system – in many areas the best you could hope for was a policeman pedaling around on a bicycle, blowing a whistle and shouting ‘Take Cover!’.

Which setting have you chosen for your next book?

Book Two is set in London and Sussex during the summer of 1935. I grew up on the south coast, so I know this landscape well, and it’s a great excuse for field trips to the seaside. The London sections include Lewisham – where I lived for a while in the 1990s – and the Kensington area of west London. Again, I’m using old maps and photographs to re-create the geography of the time. I find these so inspiring and they really help to conjure a sense of place.

before-the-fall-2

Right then before you get the last piece of cake…..

Favourite place that you have been on holiday?

As a student I went inter-railing with friends and we had a memorable few days in Prague. It was 1990 and the Velvet Revolution had taken place a few months previously. I thought Prague was an incredibly beautiful city, and I’ll always remember that atmosphere of optimism and excitement. There was a bizarre moment, however, when an official car drew up in the Old Town Square and Margaret Thatcher climbed out. I can’t imagine what she thought when three knobbly-kneed teenagers started yelling: ‘No Poll Tax!’.

A place that you haven’t been yet but would like to go one day?

I’ve wanted to go to Kerala in south west India for years – ever since reading The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy.

Which book have you read that has transported to another time and/or place?

See previous answer. But if I could pick another, I’d go for Colm Toibin’s Brooklyn. Such a powerful evocation of Ireland and New York in the 1950s.

Thank you so much for inviting me on the booktrail. It has been a fascinating trip!

Thanks to you Juliet. I’ve put the last slice of cake in a box for you to take home. Happy eating! and thanks for stopping by. It’s been fab indeed. you can visit Juliet West here – @JulietWest14

Cuppa and a cake with Tracy Buchanan – The Atlas of Us

We are very lucky indeed today for not only has the lovely Tracy Buchanan popped over for a cuppa and a cake but she has brought one of the nicest looking cream cakes we’ve ever seen. So pop the kettle on, take a napkin and tuck in with us! Just mind that you don’t end up with the infamous cream beard ….
Hi Tracy!
Tracy has popped over for a cuppa and a cake
Tracy has popped over for a cuppa and a cake
Your book The Atlas of Us really captivated us here at BookTrail towers and as well as a interweaving story of love, hurt and betrayal, it is a fascinating story that takes you all across the world from San Francisco, to Serbia to Thailand. Subjects such as the 2004 Tsunami and the hurt and frustration of infertility are explored and portrayed by main characters and the mix of everything is quite a stunning mix!
Thanks for the cake! it looks lovely doesn’t it?

Look at the lovely cream cake Tracy has brought! Yummy!
Look at the lovely cream cake Tracy has brought! Yummy!
Right cake first now I have some questions for you!
Wanderlust is so hard to put into words but this is something you must have felt as a travel writer as indeed did your character of Claire?
I did feel a sense of wanderlust, that desire to devour as many countries as possible, the sights, the sounds, the tastes. But Claire, one of the main characters in The Atlas of Us, definitely has more of the travel bug then I ever did, that yearning inside her to hop from one place to the next. I prefer to be rooted in one place so I can return to it again and again.
Your travels sound amazing – the countries you have ‘seen’ and experienced really jump off the page. which country or place really sticks in your mind and why?
I think Finland really resounds the most. It’s so beautiful with its pink skies and fluffy white snow. I adore snow (my friends and work colleagues will confirm this, I talk non-stop about it in the winter, hoping and praying it will fall in bucket loads!). So to be in such a winter winterland turned me into a child again, looking around me in awe. I loved zooming down icy roads on sleds (only way to get to the bar the bottom of the hill) and watching the northern lights. Such a beautiful place.
Screen shot 2014-08-26 at 12.05.00
You have an amazing ability to show us and allow us to experience a country or setting through yours and your characters eyes. How hard was it to write of the Tsunami and the Serbian events?
Thank you! Yes, it was very difficult writing about both events. First from a personal point of view, I remember being deeply affected by the Kosovo war while watching it unfold on TV as a child (my mum, like me now, is an avid news watcher) then the horror of waking to the news of the tsunami nearly ten years ago one Boxing Day morning. So it brought back memories from those times. As a writer too, it’s difficult tackling such subjects. You want to do it with the utmost sensitivity so it takes a lot of thought to ensure you get the emotions and the events right.
Louise and Claire are great characters. I particularly liked Claire for her writing career and admired Louise for her determination to find her mother. Did you base these strong characters on people you’ve known or met?
Neither character us based on anyone, they just appear to me out of nowhere! Claire has elements of me in her, her desire to travel and her experiences with infertility. Louise is a culmination of all the wonderful mothers I know, mainly full-time mums who sometimes get this sense they lose themselves. They’re both so very different but alike in the way they will fight and never give up on those they love.
Screen shot 2014-08-26 at 12.05.00
 Where would you like to write about either as a travel feature or a book where you haven’t been before?
I’d love to go to and write about Russia. It feels like such a romantic dramatic country, with such a rich history and, of course, snow, lots of snow!
the locations of The Atlas of Us
the locations of The Atlas of Us
Which books do you like to read and where do they take you? 
I like to read all sorts of novels, especially books set in other countries. I loved After the Fall by Charity Norman which is mainly set in New Zealand and really evokes the lesser known parts of that country. The Book of Summers by Emylia Hall is a fantastic read too, taking you into the sultry summer of the Hungarian countryside. The Snow Child is divine too, set in the deep wintry lands of 1920s Alaska. I like a novel that can transport me into a new place and that has a love story at its centre, whether that be romantic love or family love.
Which traveller or writer would you like to meet?
I’d love to meet Angela Carter though sadly that would be impossible now she’s passed away. But she’s one of my favourite writers and I’d love to pick her brain about how she manages to write such strong imagery.
Screen shot 2014-08-26 at 12.05.00
Who is your favourite fictional traveller?
Vianne Rocher from Joanne Harris’s novels Chocolat and The Lolipop Shoes. I love the way she sweeps into different towns and changes them from the inside out.
Picture courtesy of Tracy -book and map scarf!
Picture courtesy of Tracy -book and map scarf!
What do you recommend about ‘walking off the map?’
Not following the path society tells you you ought to. It’s so easy to get pulled along by the crowds and do what’s expected of you, go to the places that are expected of you. But sometimes you need to break out from your gingerbread cookie cutter mold and do something different.
Wise words and a lovely sense that there will be a novel full of snow bound mysteries coming very soon! Ah thanks Tracy  – for the cake and for the amazing novel with such a rich tapestry of travel insights as well as the darker themes you look at. Capitvating and Booktrailer highly recommended!
To say hi to Tracy 9 we can’t promise she always has lemon cream cakes on offer mind) she’s at @tracybuchanan and on http://www.tracybuchanan.co.uk/