Thursday, 10 October 2013

Alice Munro

While life, work and study has completely taken over my life for the last few months, I'm still keeping in touch with the world of writing as much as I possibly can - so to hear the news today that my favourite writer, the Canadian Alice Munro, has just been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature is wonderful beyond belief!

People love to ask writers who else, if they could and had to choose, they would love to write like, and my answer has always been Alice Munro.  Take this description from one of her stories, for example:

Her teeth were crowded together in the front of her mouth as if looking for a fight.

What wouldn't you give for that gift??

Several times over the past few years, Alice has said she'll retire from writing.  I SO hope she won't, for a very, very long time to come - but if she does, then what a wonderful and fitting achievement this award is, and a fitting recognition of a truly great writing life!

Miss Munro - you've been my inspiration since I was eighteen years old and first discovered you in James Thin's bookshop in Edinburgh as a student.  I was stunned and immediately in love then, and I still am.  Many, many congratulations!

Monday, 1 July 2013

The Lowdown on.....Megan Johns

It's been a while since I featured a writer at my blog, so I'm delighted to say that all changes today with my guest, Megan Johns.  UK-based Megan is already multi-published, and her latest novel A Shore Of Secrets, has recently been released by Muse It Up Publishing.  It's already getting some superb reviews.  With its Italian setting and its tangled web of family secrets, it's bound to be a superb read!  I'm really pleased to have Megan here to talk a little more about it.
Megan,  I’ve just begun to read A Shore of Secrets, you had me at the first mention of its Italian setting!  Italy is my favourite country to visit, so I’d love to know why you chose it, and why Venice, in particular?

'I just love everything about Italy - the generous people, the stimulating lifestyle, the atmosphere, the food. The landscape is beautiful and dramatic, whilst the place itself  oozes with culture both in its architecture and art. None more so than the unique and captivating city of Venice. It’s such a romantic setting, who could fail to fall in love there?' 

Absolutely.  Something that really intrigued me about your writing is that both A Shore of Secrets and your earlier novel, The Path of Innocence, seem to have family loyalties or family conflicts at their core.  What fascinates you about those sort of situations?

'Family life in Italy is particularly fascinating.  Families are so cohesive and tightly-knit, and the unit has a powerful influence over the lives of its members.  The deep-rooted loyalty within a family is demonstrated at its extreme by the Mafia.  Secrecy is an integral part of its make-up and this aspect of families inspired a central theme in A Shore of Secrets.  In the book, the closely guarded secrets of the Renaldi family play a key role in determining the storyline.'

It sounds like a gripping, complex read, a story to really get your teeth into.  I can't wait to get further into it.  Megan, now I have a few fun questions for you!  Let's start with this one - What would be your perfect day?

I love being by the sea. I would stare at the expanse of water until almost hypnotised, listen to the waves lapping against the shore, the sound of screeching gulls, inhale the smell of the salt air. The weather would not be important. There is nothing more therapeutic and invigorating than a brisk walk with a cold wind whipping into your face.
I so agree, being by the sea is wonderful.  What’s on your bedside table/nightstand? 
My bedside table tends to get rather crammed with all kinds of paraphernalia. Most important of all, however, is a small photograph of my late father and I always say ‘goodnight’ to him before I go to sleep.
What’s your favourite piece of music?
I like all kinds of music. I can enjoy listening to a classical piece like one of Mozart’s piano sonatas, but I’m more likely to opt for songs by strong female vocalists such as Streisand or Celine Dion. It all depends on my mood.
What your favourite sandwich, and where in the world is the best place to eat it? 
I love smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwiches. One of my favourite spots to eat a sandwich is St James’s Park in London which is an oasis of calm. I love watching the antics of the pelicans as they wade out of the water to sit on benches next to visitors. It is such an antidote to the hustle and bustle of London.
Yum!  And those little islands of calm in the middle of a busy city are wonderful.  Now tell me this - which household chore would you happily give up for ever?
Hoovering. I hate it and I have seriously been considering a robotic hoover. My main reservation, however, is how would the dog would react and who would win the battle?
Who would you invite to your ultimate fantasy dinner party?  

Silvio Berlusconi would ensure lively conversation and debate.  At 75, the man was unrepentant about his debauch lifestyle and defiant in the face of his critics. I would like to grill him to see if the man has any moral compass at all.
Yes, and since we last spoke, the Berlusconi saga has taken yet another twist, hasn't it?  Maybe the less said about that, the better!  Megan, what talent or skill would you love to have that you don’t have now?
I would love to be able to play a musical instrument, especially the piano, but that might be a tall order at this stage. Improving my French to a conversational level would be equally satisfying, and more achievable. 
What's your guilty pleasure?
Chocolate. It is definitely my bĂȘte noir. I tend to restrict myself to dark, semisweet chocolate and only in the evenings after a meal. However, show me a box of delicious Belgian chocolates and all my good intentions fly out of the window.
If you could retrieve one thing from your childhood, what would it be? 
Innocence. As a child, I was fortunate in leading a relatively carefree existence with few external pressures. We took pleasure from simple things and wanted for little without actually owning very much. It seems to me that modern children lead much more stressful lives.

I think you're right.  One final question, then.  Aside from writing achievements, family, etc - what are you most proud of?
The thing I am most proud of currently is the fact that my daughter has just achieved a doctorate in science. Of course, I am proud of her in so many different ways. For myself, I am quietly proud of what I achieved during my career, but it still comes second to my family.
Back to family, again - I can see how much it means to you.  Megan, thanks so much for being my guest today, I've really enjoyed getting to know you.  Good luck with all your future projects.
A Shore of Secrets is available here at Muse It Up Publishing, and you can find out more about Megan here at her website.


Friday, 14 June 2013

Maggie is a Hot Mama!

Of course she is - Suzanna Safi's cover for A Different Kind of Honesty tells you so!  Come and find out more about Maggie as she features as this week's Hot Mama at Vicki Batman's blog today.  See you there!

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Curiouser and Curiouser!

I'm having a lovely time at Kathy Sattem Rygg’s ‘Sense of Fiction’ blog today, talking about my favourite book of all time, Alice's Adventures In Wonderland.  Kathy is a great writer of children's fiction herself, so I've really enjoyed visiting her.  I hope you'll join us!

Friday, 17 May 2013

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

If I'm so Retro, does that mean I'm Cool??

Do you remember Aqua Manda perfume? 

If you were a child of the 60s/70s like me, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about.  Aqua Manda was THE perfume of the early 70s, with its little brown bottle and flower-power hippy-chic label.  It went right along with Biba, Mary Quant hairdos, Dr. Scholl wooden exercise sandals, and The Sweet belting out Blockbuster on Top of the Pops.  I loved it, along with everyone else I knew.  If you weren't wearing Aqua Manda, you - well, you just weren't.  Full stop.

If that wasn't what you were dabbing behind your ears, what about Sea Jade?  Babe?  Tweed?  Charlie?  You mention those names now, they're a Bratz-type doll, a talking pig, a jacket your Dad might wear, and a proper one.  (think about it.)  But if they conjure up the hottest summer ever, Davis Bowie and Marc Bolan with their arms around each other ON TELLY, EEK, and dancing around your handbag of a Saturday night down a disco called Mr. Beaujangles, then welcome to what was my world.

Why the rose-tinted-retro nostalgia?  It's because the other day, as I was a-browsing eBay (I am an eBay tart) I spotted a bottle of original 70s Aqua Manda for sale.  Good seal to the lid, still had the original fragrance, so they said.  It eventually sold for £30.

THIRTY QUID!!  It probably cost 2/6 back then!

The same seller had another moment of my lost youth for sale too, but this time, one I've hung on to.  My Learn To Cook-Book.  Here's my original copy:  isn't it lovely?

And yes, I did learn to cook from it, all kinds of exotic things like Hot Dogs, Croque Monsieur and Pizza Pie.  Notice the Pie in Pizza!  We didn't have anything as exotic as actual Italian pizza back then.  It was the 70s, remember?  The most exotic foodstuff back then were Vesta boil-in-a-bag dinners, Mivvi ice lollies and pickled onion flavour Monster Munch.  Anyway, the copy of My Learn To Cook Book on eBay sold for just under a tenner. Amazing!
How things come back!  I remember pinching those wide elasticated belts my mum found in the back of the wardrobe.  She'd forgotten she had them, back in the 50s.  And when 50s fashion came around again in the 80s, I wept hot tears when she spoke fondly of vast collection of full skirts and net petticoats she'd once had and hadn't kept.  She never thought they'd come back into fashion, you see.  And now here I am, just like my dear old mum, finding the things of my youth in more demand than I ever was when I had them.
I used to be a fully paid-up, card-carrying member of the anti-70s brigade, you know.  I was of of those who truly believed it was the decade that style forgot.  But now that it's all the rage and Retro Is Cool, I'm willing to shift sides a little.  Especially as my kids are quickly approaching the age where pretty much anything their parents do is most decidedly uncool.  I'm hanging on to any wee bit of cool I might still have for as long as I can.  After all, I might never come back into fashion again.
There's a Post Script to this article.  I've since found out that Aqua Manda perfume is making a comeback!  I can't wait.  Sign me up for a dozen bottles and stick Starman on the stereo!
But I bet it'll cost more than thirty quid.  Or 2/6, for that matter!
What parts of your (mis-spent?) youth have come back to haunt you recently?