Gazelle in the Shadows follows Elizabeth as she navigates a dangerous web of lies, betrayal and murder. What was the inspiration for the setup to this intriguing novel?
The inspiration for this book came many years after the events happened in my life. Over the years, I rarely spoke about my former life as a diplomat in Yemen during the Iraq/Kuwait war nor my student life in Damascus but to those I opened up to, I was encouraged to write a book. Then in 2011, the civil war in Syria began and I felt a conviction to let readers know about the traditions and kindness of the Syrian people and the history and beauty of the country I had witnessed before the devastation.
Elizabeth is an interesting and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind her character?
Elizabeth’s driving ideals are to make her father proud by proving herself to him and to find love. Once a daddy’s girl, her relationship with her father deteriorates in her teenage years as her father implements stricter rules on her than on her older brother. She had always been an avid reader, dreaming of traveling to foreign lands. Her travels help her to escape her father’s harsh judgment and provide her with an opportunity to prove her worth to him and to herself. Because of her sheltered life, first with a Catholic upbringing and then in a diplomatic bubble, she is both emotionally and physically unprepared for her journey to Syria. She is remarkably naive and trusting of others and lacks rudimentary information about the country in a pre internet era. Her journey opens her up to the harsh realities of life where people are not always as they appear and after a series of innocuous and seemingly unconnected events, she not only discovers love but betrayal too. Facing many dangers, her strengths and courage are put to the test and ultimately she comes to appreciate her family and herself in new light.
You are a former employee of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London. How has your experience helped you write this book?
I worked in the Foreign Office between 1986 and 1991, initially in London and then in the British Embassy in Sana’a, Yemen Arab Republic. My experiences undoubtedly helped me to write my novel as the genesis of the story was born from my three years serving in Yemen. As told in the book, I unwittingly met the infamous George Habash, the founder of the PFLP, in Aden. This actual encounter played a crucial part in the story. Other true stories from my service involving MI6, the British secret service and foreign diplomats helped to create the twists and turns in the story arc.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
After graduating from Durham University, I went to work in Dubai, UAE for an oil shipping company. As I like to write fiction based on reality, the sequel is based in Dubai and my experiences working there. I am currently writing a story which follows Elizabeth who enters the ranks of the MI6. She is sent undercover to Dubai where she unearths an Iranian plot to undermine British and American interests in the region. The question is, will she meet Hussein again?
In the mid 90s, Elizabeth Booth is a young British college student studying Arabic at Durham University. With some travel and work already under her belt, she excels at her studies and is sent to Damascus to immerse herself in the language. Taken aback by the generosity and kindness of the people there, she easy slips into a life in the ancient city. She has friends, her studies, and even a handsome boyfriend. But things aren’t always what they seem. Soon, in a world where mistrust and disloyalty are commonplace, Elizabeth finds herself navigating a web of lies, betrayals, and even murder involving MI6, deadly terrorist factions, and the shadowy Syrian secret police.
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In The Hay Patrollers, we see the results of characters who have lost themselves in a life of crime. What were some sources of inspiration for you while writing?
Having been in many gangs as a young person and spending over two years roughing it on the streets of London, I had never forgotten the past experiences I encountered and promised myself I will always help those in need, no matter of their age, gender or religion. I have since spent over 30 years in my spare time developed and implemented many youth crime prevention programmes in many of the countries, I have lived in. The Hay Patrollers was based on a successful programme is developed that not only gain media attention in Australia but also creating much-needed employment for young people, including those who may be on the other side of the law. You can see The Hay Patrollers by clicking the YouTube link: https://youtu.be/-UtENjE6j4w?t=11s
Were you able to put any of your personal life experiences in this book?
Despite both books: Degsy Hay, A Juvenile Redeemed/Book 2, Degsy Hay, The Hay Patrollers, were mostly fiction, I did manage to use a lot of my experience in both books. The street life, how I had to defend myself at such a young age was all true to life.
There are many characters in this book. Who was your favourite character to write for?
I think Degsy is my favourite character, but you see most of the characters were also from the first book. They all seem to blend in well and work well as a team.
Will you continue this story in a third book?
Yes, I have already the third book in the series in mind Degsy Hay, Unit 16 -21 a vision for the future. Not only as this been mentioned many times in both books 1 and two but Unit 16-21 can certainly become a real-life event. Just like the successful Hay Patrollers programme, Unit 16-21 is centred on Uniting and Empowering the young people to contribute to their own development.
The objective of the program is to create future employment and secure housing for young people while they are training. The project aims to provide housing support initiative, training and skills building in a self-sufficient youth estate. The estate allows young people to interact with his/her community and develop emotional stability and interpersonal skills throughout their training/apprenticeships.
For the first time in his life, Degsy Hay is settled. He doesn’t have to worry about which bin his next meal is coming from, which snowy bench he’s gonna sleep on, or who he’ll have to fight to stay alive. Things are going well. His dream of setting up the Hay Patrollers, offering a safe alternative to gang life, has become a reality, and his crew of young people are making the community a better place, patrolling shopping centres, cleaning up the neighbourhoods, helping the elderly and disabled. He’s living with his best friends – Winston, Sheila and Mya – getting to know the brother and sister he never knew he had and learning to live without looking over his shoulder. Life is good.
Then, one night, his house is torched with him and his friends inside. He barely makes it out of the deadly inferno in one piece, and Winston is even less fortunate. He is alive but left in a coma, and it doesn’t look good. Someone out there has a serious problem with Degsy’s vision for a safer, gang-free London, and they ain’t gonna stop setting fires till Degsy gets the message.
As the police search for the arsonist, Degsy and the others try to keep life – and the Hay Patrollers – rolling on as calmly as possible, but life is anything but calm for Degsy when fourteen-year-old Sudanese immigrant Slope rocks up in his life. Slope is violent, aggressive, lost and in need of support – everything Degsy was at that age – and Degsy is determined to help him … even if it takes him as far afield as Australia.
Meanwhile, the senior Hay Patrollers are giving talks in school and prisons, sharing their stories with young people, showing how one bad decision can lead to a lifetime of regret. For Sheila, the experience of sharing her story of abuse, teenage prostitution and the death of a friend is too much to bear, leading to tragic consequences. For Mya, reflecting on the drug-dealing murderer she once was, and how she has turned her life around, leads her to search for redemption and forgiveness.
With Winston showing no signs of waking up, everyone scared, and the police getting no closer to finding the arsonist, Degsy steps up, scours the streets and tracks down an adversary far more dangerous than he had imagined. The only way out will drag him back down into a gutter he has fought so hard to escape: to violence, deception and criminal activity. And when he is forced to ask himself just how far he will go to protect his friends, family and the Hay Patrollers, even he is surprised by the explosive answer.
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It takes a bold artist to follow up a masterpiece. Far too often, the original creators can’t even recapture a work’s magic in its sequel. Sometimes though, the most devoted admirers are up to the task. Norman Whaler’s Tiny Tim and the Ghost of Ebenezer Scrooge – The Sequel to A Christmas Carol might be derivative, but it’s derivative in all the right ways. Whaler knows he’s trying to extend Dickens classic, and he succeeds.
Whaler opens his sequel by briefly summarizing the ending of A Christmas Carol – which quickly helps ground any readers who haven’t read it recently. Here, we see right away that Whaler makes the smart decision to evoke Dickens rather than imitate him. He echos Dickens’ source of tension in the characters’ lives: for crippling poverty still grips this corner of London. And with the newly philanthropic Ebenezer Scrooge now deceased, the citizens again find themselves facing an English winter without money for food or clothing.
My favorite part of the reading was hearing more from the side characters whose voices drive the plot. Unfortunately, the illustrations that start each chapter vary wildly in terms of style and medium. They all match the subject of the story well, but fail to match each other. Some appear hand drawn while others have been made on a computer. Even just applying the same filter to each illustration would have helped unify the novel.
Whaler clearly admires and respects Dickens, but I do think he missed out on an opportunity to be a little more self referential with the sequel – Dickens might very well have appreciated just such humor. Regardless, the voice and tone that first made this Christmas classic are there in full force. If you read the conclusion of Dickens’ original to your children while a cold winter blast beasts against the frame of the house, they might just turn up toward you and ask, as so many readers have over the decades, “what happens next?” In such an event, you now know where to turn.
Pages: 96 | ASIN: B076YGMGF9
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All Roads Shattered by Lisa Meyer is the third book in the All Roads collection. This collection of dark fiction stories and poems begins with The Outposts III, which satisfyingly continues with the story of Georgia and Mitchell who we have been following through both books one and two. As we left them in book two to come to terms with their new life together, in this collection, Lisa picks up with the journey the two still must endure.
Then there is a three-part story in the form of People of Gods, a haunting selection of 12 pieces of poetry in the section titled Fragments, two further extended stories in the section The Enduring and finally, to end the collection, three small but perfectly formed short and simple stories which pack a huge punch in the section of The Oddities!
The Oddities features three ‘out there’ stories with Preacher, Crooks, and Helge. In a word, wow is what springs to mind when reading through each of them!
With Preacher, I never saw it coming at all, but the conclusion was oh so satisfying! Crooks was a great concept and equally mesmerizing. However, Helge had to be the most disturbing story of them all! I had, in fact, become so captivated by the last three stories that I wasn’t expecting the book to end when it did.
Helge produced some near awful visions in my mind as I read through, think Jack the Ripper style, back streets of grey and misty London; enough to give you nightmares. Yet, it was a tremendous and thoroughly satisfying end to a superb collection.
Having read both the first and second books in the collection, a part of me would have thought that perhaps by now Lisa may have run out of steam. After all, All Roads Home and All Roads Destined were for me, both 5 star reads. I couldn’t have been more wrong!
When you have read all three books, you may begin to feel that Lisa has a stronger connection to the futuristic sci-fi genre. This is perhaps because it is always the more extensive of stores and at the very beginning of each collection, with a continuation throughout the three.
However, in All Roads Shattered, the story I found the most compelling and atmospheric was Dinner with Myles. This was a story which I didn’t want to leave and could easily imagine Lisa writing a book based on this genre; such was it handled so well.
The ending to this story was, yet again, superbly accomplished by Lisa, as all her short stories have been throughout. However, I would still love for her to write a prequel to this one! Neil and Myles are wonderfully drawn, and complex characters and I could very well imagine them as partners working on crimes and investigating mysteries!
The great thing about reading Lisa Meyer’s collections is that each one gets better as you go along. That is particularly hard to achieve for many writers of such collections, but the All Roads Shattered collection is perhaps the most extensive and best written one yet.
It almost feels as though Lisa’s confidence has grown with each outing and this is therefore reflected in the intensity and broader scope of her writing. Her stories seem to expand and take on a deeper meaning in their unique genres in this collection, and I believe her writing style almost borders along the lines of perfection this time.
If you only manage to read one story, then Dinner with Myles should be that one. I can guarantee you that once you’ve sampled this nearly perfect piece of prose, you will feel compelled to read on.
Pages: 252 | ASIN: B0718Z38LD
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“Where shadows of past sins are revealed in the Light”
Abandonment. Dark Amish secrets. And an unforgettable romance between the daughter of an American minister and a famous British music producer tormented by tragedy.
When magazine editor Faith Edwards must take an assignment away from her tightly controlled life to travel to London—or else—she is not prepared for the series of unfortunate events that follow, or her intense attraction to David Ashton, a man who condemns all in life that she holds dear.
Set against the haunting backdrop of Cotswold, an English medieval monastery nestled high against the raging sea cliffs, and spanning an ocean’s width of unrequited love, Faith and David are forced to battle their greatest fears—unwittingly setting themselves on a course to bind their fragmented hearts together.
But will the dark chains of bitterness, not so easily broken, threaten the light of their future?
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Mari Reiza’s Triple Bagger is the intricately woven story of one man’s experience in a company that takes him everywhere but leads him nowhere. Triple Bagger goes far beyond the story within a story format to reveal Vittal Choudhary’s correspondence with an editor eagerly awaiting the completion of his work. Reiza’s Vittal, the main character, reveals the intricacies of the corporation for which he worked in a first-person account alongside excerpts from the story he struggles to complete. Vittal, a man determined to work his way upward through Enterprise despite his growing displeasure, gives up more than most to succeed.
Mari Reiza has bravely addressed the corporate world with her novel Triple Bagger. She includes distinct images of cities around the world–Rome, London, New York. She has completed quite the narrative on the loss of oneself within the complexities of ladder-climbing and the desire to succeed. Vittal Choudhary, the central focus of the book, is a relatable character. His confusion, his desire for more, and his dissatisfaction with the things his life has afforded him make him a character I found frustrating–a feeling that does tend to create interest for me as a reader. Anyone who has ever felt even the most temporary disdain for his or her profession will relate to Vittal as he grapples with accurately telling his experiences within his own written account.
Reiza takes both meanings of “triple bagger” and manages to fit them neatly into the multiple storylines of her very involved novel. As Vittal writes, he addresses the definition as it pertains to one’s looks. The remainder of the book, the part in which Vittal details his life with Enterprise, builds on the interpretation of “triple bagger” as a corporate success story.
Though eloquently written, I found the style of Triple Bagger to be challenging. Reiza has chosen to include Vittal’s personal narrative along with letters to and from his editor, Nuria Friedman, in addition to text from the story Vittal is constructing. The jump from one perspective to the other and back again was challenging to follow. It is almost a story within a story within a third story. The constant shift between perspectives creates obstacles that detract from an otherwise memorable main character.
In addition to a complicated format, I found the rather large number of acronyms and long list of characters to be a bit overwhelming for the book’s length. Though each acronym was appropriate to the storyline and emphasized the absurdity Vittal felt with each of his positions as he made his way through the ranks of Enterprise, I felt they were too numerous from beginning to end. Reiza expertly defines a series of supporting characters. However, I found myself floundering a bit to recall each one’s particulars as the story progressed.
The plot itself has the potential to be much more gripping. Vittal’s disdain throughout the majority of the book is obvious, and the fact that he remains bewildered as to his corporation’s overall purpose is not lost on the reader.
Pages: 414 | ASIN: B06XWT55YW
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In Apollo’s Raven we follow a Celtic princess Catrin and her star-crossed Roman lover Marcellus on opposing sides of a fierce battle. What was your inspiration for the setup to this exciting series?
Since childhood, I’ve been an avid reader of mythology and legends that portrayed females as goddesses, warriors, and cunning sorceresses. I’ve always been drawn to bigger than life epic heroes and heroines who steered the destiny of their people. In my travels to London, I was struck by the statue of Boudica and her daughters riding in a chariot near the Thames River. I discovered that she was a celebrated warrior queen who united the Britons in a revolt against the Romans, almost throwing them out of Britannia in 61 AD. As I did more research, I became intrigued that Celtic women were considered as equals in this war-like society. The Roman historian Dio Cassius describes Boudica as having the mystical powers of a Druid. Other Roman historians wrote of Celtic women’s ferocity as they fought alongside their husbands.
The heroine Catrin is based on historical and legendary accounts of Celtic warrior queens such as Boudica in Britannia where women were held in higher esteem and could serve as warriors and rulers. The storyline of star-crossed lovers in Apollo’s Raven series is inspired by the legacy of Cleopatra and Mark Antony but with a Celtic twist. Archaeological evidence and sparse historical accounts suggest that Rome heavily influenced the politics of southeast Britannia prior to Claudius’s invasion in 43 AD—a political situation similar to Cleopatra’s Egyptian kingdom. I was also drawn to the tragedy of Mark Antony and his son, Iullus Antonius, whose downfalls were associated with powerful women. Their infamy cast a shadow on Marcellus, the great-grandson of Mark Antony, which will be further explored in the Apollo’s Raven series.
Your story is able to portray ancient Roman life in a believable yet entertaining way. What kind of research did you do to make sure you got everything right?
I did extensive research on the Roman life by reading books, journal articles, and blog posts by historians and archaeologists. Of particular interest are the written accounts by Julius Caesar which he sent to the Roman Senate as propaganda to support his military expeditions in Gaul and Britannia. I’ve also explored several Roman archaeological sites in Britain and France where scenes from the Apollo’s Raven series take place. Locations include Dover, Bath, Fishbourne Roman Palace, Colchester and Hadrian’s Wall in England, and Lyon in France.
As I researched Roman historical events and culture, I also tried to understand their mindsight. In Rome, the male head, the paterfamilias, had complete control over his family—wife, children, and slaves. If they disobeyed him, he had the power of life and death over them. Women were held in higher esteem in Celtic societies which is in sharp contrast with the paternalistic, empire-building Romans.
Catrin is a princess, yet she is not fragile. She’s tough and trains to be as strong as her sister. What themes did you want to capture while creating Catrin’s character?
It is my hope that modern women can draw on the rich traditions of the ancient Celtic civilization where females owned property and could become rulers and Druids. These women fought, hunted, rode horses and used weapons, just like the men, to protect their homeland.
Deeper themes that will be explored in the Apollo’s Raven series as Catrin matures and faces new challenges on her journey of becoming a warrior queen are as follows:
- Coming of Age
- Power to change destiny
- Sacrifice and love
- Corruption of power
- Quest for redemption
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I am in the process of finishing Book 2: Empire’s Anvil, which should be available by the summer of 2018. The epic tale continues when King Amren accuses Catrin of treason for abetting her Roman lover, Marcellus. She must prove her loyalty to her father and people by forsaking all men and defending her kingdom even to death. Forged as a fierce warrior, she begins a quest to redeem herself and to break the curse that foretells her father’s kingdom will be destroyed. Yet, when she is reunites with Marcellus, she must face her greatest challenger that could destroy her life, freedom, and humanity.
The world is in turmoil. Celtic kings hand-picked by Rome to rule are fighting each other for power. King Amren’s former queen, a powerful Druid, has cast a curse that foretells Blood Wolf and the Raven will rise and destroy him.
King Amren reveals to his daughter, Princess Catrin, the grim prophesy that his former queen pronounced at her execution for treason to him.
The gods demand the scales be balanced for the life you take. If you deny my soul’s journey to the Otherworld by beheading me, I curse you to do the same as mine. I prophesize your future queen will beget a daughter who will rise as a Raven and join your son, Blood Wolf, and a mighty empire to overtake your kingdom and to execute my curse.
Catrin is trained as a warrior and discovers she is the Raven and must find a way to block the curse of the evil former queen. Torn between her forbidden love for her father’s enemy–Marcellus, the great-grandson of Mark Antony–and her loyalty to her people, she must summon the magic of the Ancient Druids to alter the dark prophecy that awaits her.
Will Catrin overcome and eradicate the ancient curse? Will she be able to embrace her forbidden love with Marcellus? Will she cease the war between Blood Wolf and King Amren? Will she save Ancient Britannia?
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I’m With You is a gripping novel that follows young Remiel as she tries to evade assassins sent by her father to avenge the death of his wife. What was the inspiration for the setup to this thrilling novel?
Remiel is the backbone of the story – I had the idea for her character first, and the plot evolved from there. I’m With You is a very character-driven story in general, so once I established the basic plot, my ideas shifted around to fit the characters. I shaped their personalities and relationships, then molded the remainder of the plot to connect them and aid their development.
The book starts in the industrial city of Kelvar. I found this backdrop to be detailed and interesting. What did you use as a starting point to create such a vivid backdrop to the story?
I did a summer semester abroad in England during my college years and spent a lot of time in London, but I also traveled to several other cities and towns, and I drew a lot of inspiration from the places I visited. During my time there, I got to study history, architecture, writing, and various other subjects, which influenced the initial framework for Kelvar and the nation of Empirya. I also aimed for a less “modern” time period and took additional inspiration from 1930’s/40’s America. For Kelvar specifically, I drew from particular parts of both London and New York City.
The relationship between Remiel and her brother Ciarán is intriguing. What themes did you want to capture when creating these characters and their relationship?
One of the main messages I hoped to convey through the story is the impact and significance of family, which is partly expressed through the sibling bond between Ciarán and Remiel. Even when their lives are flipped completely upside down, they can always rely on one another. I also utilized their relationship to illustrate the theme of acceptance, as Ciarán accepts Remiel for who she is despite her “gift,” and that encourages him to accept others as well. In a way, I view their bond as the heart of the narrative, which serves to fortify their connections to the other characters.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I am working on a YA fantasy novel that will (hopefully) become a series, and I hope to put it out soon! I also have ideas for a potential companion novel to I’m With You – like a collection of short stories or something similar – but nothing set in stone.
When fifteen-year-old Ciarán Morrigan eavesdrops on a conversation between his father and two mysterious strangers, his life–and the life of his little sister, Remiel–is changed forever. After their father makes a startling decision, the Morrigan siblings are forced to flee the only life they’ve ever known and embark on a dangerous adventure across the nation of Empirya. With the help of a disinherited vagabond, a cynical violinist, a fire-juggler with a fierce temper, an aspiring mechanic, and a cheerful librarian, Ciarán and Remiel must fight to escape those who have been hired to hunt them. But will Remiel’s dark secret prevent the Morrigan children from finding a place they can truly call home?
Posted in Interviews
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