Seasons Greetings!

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A Christmas tree we “discovered” while hiking in a park in Colorado, where we’re visiting family for the holidays.

A big thank you to all my followers for your contributions, reading and sharing throughout the year. I’ll be back in the new year with more book reviews, blog posts and a few little surprises too. 🙂 So, watch this space! Meanwhile, have a very merry Christmas and a joyous new year.

Happy Holidays

With Christmas and New Year fast approaching, it’s time for me to log off and take a break. So, wherever you live and whatever you celebrate, I hope the season brings you and your loved ones peace, hope and joy. Thank you for following this  blog and for all of your contributions, reading and sharing throughout the year.

Have a wonderful holiday. I’ll be back in the new year.

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Interview with Carol Lovekin, author of Ghostbird

Today I’m welcoming the delightful Carol Lovekin to my blog. Carol is the author of the magical and poignant novel Ghostbird which is published by Honno, the Welsh Women’s Press, an independent co-operative press run by women and this year celebrating 30 years of publishing books exclusively by women.

In case you missed my review of Ghostbird, you can read it here: https://kendraolson.wordpress.com/2016/09/07/my-review-of-ghostbird-by-carol-lovekin/),

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Welcome, Carol! Thanks for coming by to talk with us today about your novel.

It’s my genuine pleasure, Kendra. Thank you for inviting me.

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Credit: Janey Stevens

Firstly, could you please describe the story for readers?

My central protagonist is Cadi Hopkins, fourteen years old, lonely and surrounded by ambiguity. She lives with her emotionally distant mother, Violet, in a remote Welsh village where each year it rains every day throughout the month of August. Next door lives Cadi’s witchy aunt Lili, guarding a secret she knows she should never have agreed to keep. It’s a frustrating existence for Cadi – all she knows is her father and little sister died not long before she was born. When the ghost of her sister attaches itself to her, Cadi begins a search for the truth. The rainmaker and an ancient myth cast spells and the secrets wake up. In the process, each of the three Hopkins women comes of age, proving you are never too young or too old. The myth of Blodeuwedd – from the Mabinogion – is a thread running through the story and one of its meanings is the origin of the book’s title. In Welsh folklore the barn owl – the bird Blodeuwedd is changed into – is known as the ghostbird.

What is it that makes this story unique?

I’m not sure any story is unique. What sets Ghostbird apart is, perhaps, my ghost. She’s little more than a baby and although at first she scares Cadi it’s less from evil intent than frustrated confusion. And I’ve written a consciously female-centric narrative; reimagined Blodeuwedd’s story from her perspective. I used my vision of her change, together with my imagined metamorphosis of the ghost, as a device to illustrate the transformations of Cadi, Lili and Violet. (My male characters are, I trust, as sympathetic as they deserve to be!) My aim when writing the magic was to make it unobtrusive; incidental almost because it’s part of the Welsh landscape. It’s as authentic as my reader decides it is.

When did this story begin, for you as the writer?

What a great question! Nothing comes from nowhere; all stories begin somewhere and many years ago when I first moved to Wales and read the Mabinogion, I found myself particularly fascinated by the story of Blodeuwedd, a woman created from flowers, by men, for their political ends. How, as a punishment for her perceived betrayal, she was cursed by being turned into an owl. To my mind, being turned into a bird meant Blodeuwedd would gain her freedom. Wouldn’t she? This seed lay dormant until I was ready to make it germinate.

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revolves around the lives of three women – Lilwen, Violet and Cadi Hopkins. Why did you choose to put women and their stories at the centre of the novel?

I’ve always considered fiction an excellent vehicle for telling women’s stories. Dramatizing real narratives gives them an added dimension. Writer and reader can delve deep; explore their own lives and experiences beyond received wisdom. I am a great delver! I’m also a feminist and women’s stories matter to me. From the moment I read Blodeuwedd’s I wanted to reclaim it – give her a voice and tell her story from her viewpoint. (Cadi came to me out of another blue somewhere on the wings of a bird, fully formed and in agreement. She became my ally.)

Traditional Welsh village life features in the book, yet in many ways the themes are quite modern. Was this conscious on your part and, if so, how did you navigate the literary terrain between the modern and the traditional?

In many Welsh communities, traditional life remains a reality. The old ways still exist, even if they are largely disguised. I’m not a historical novelist in any sense of the word, preferring modern settings, and the myth is a trace – a hook to hang the ghost’s story on. Initially, her voice had far less prominence, hardly more than a whispered soundtrack. Once my editor, the astute and talented Janet Thomas, pointed out the ghost needed more of a voice, I wrote her story in isolation, slotted it into the main narrative and to my surprise discovered I was writing a proper ghost story!

One aspect of the novel that I appreciated was that you feature lesbian characters but did not highlight their sexuality to readers – in other words, their sexuality isn’t of particular importance to their character. Why did you choose to write your characters in this way?

The frivolous answer is I’m on a mission to change the world of fiction one lesbian at a time! You have already addressed the more serious one: Lili’s sexuality is of absolutely no importance in reference to her place in the story. She’s a lesbian, dear reader, move on! Lesbians (and gay men) in literature rarely need explaining. It pleases me that so few reviewers have commented on Lili’s and Pomona’s relationship, those who have, wisely noting how it doesn’t need to be an issue.

Dreams, apparitions, imagination and the subconscious all feature in the story. Some have referred to the novel as ‘magical realist’, myself included. Would you agree or disagree with this statement and why or why not?

In a way, this question feeds into the one you asked about the notion of a story’s uniqueness. If my reader interprets what I write as ‘magical realism’ I’m honoured – it’s a noble tradition. (Frustratingly it’s become confused with fantasy and is too often horribly misappropriated.) I write from a place I have been deeply familiar with for decades. If my reader can suspend disbelief and accept that a woman can have fingers so green her garden never needs weeding, I’m content. If she can accept the possibility of a rain spell, or a ghost in the shape of a child reincarnated as a bird, my work, so to speak, is done. Magical realism is in the eye of the beholder.

Did you encounter any challenges when writing the novel and, if so, how did you get around these?

Writing is a challenge, from first word to last and I enjoy it more than I can describe. As a latecomer, I’m writing to catch up. That’s the real challenge: getting all the stories in my head down on paper while I still have my marbles!

I understand that you’re currently working on a new novel. Are you able/willing to tell us anything about the story?

I’ve recently completed another ghost story. It’s also set in Wales, is darker than Ghostbird, and the ghost is Victorian. It’s another sister story (my favourite kind), features far less rain, an abundance of snow and some Cream Legbar chickens. The only other thing I’m able to tell you is it’s with my editor, pending approval.

Thanks so much for coming by to talk with us today! Best of luck with Ghostbird and with all your writing!

Thank you, Kendra! It’s been enormous fun. And may I say, as a writer, you and the other bloggers and reviewers who continue to support us are the bee’s knees deserving of our undying gratitude.

Thank you! 🙂

Readers can obtain Ghostbird from Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Ghostbird-Carol-Lovekin/dp/190998339X/

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Ghostbird-Carol-Lovekin-ebook/dp/B01AOMVP2U/

Honno the Welsh Women’s Press: http://www.honno.co.uk/dangos.php?ISBN=9781909983397

Learn more about Carol and her writing by visiting her website/blog: https://carollovekinauthor.com/

 

 

 

Review of Howl: A Small and Heavy Adventure by Miles Salter

Firstly I would like to thank Miles Salter for the opportunity to read this in exchange for my honest review.

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‘I do apologise, Mr Grindell,’ said Ms Lipps. ‘Most of our children are very good, but we do have one or two who can be a little bit…challenging.’

When class 5D at Rigor Mourtice Community Primary gets a new form teacher for the remainder of the year, James Small and his best friend, Neville Heavy, know they’re in trouble. But then, they always are. Even still, their new teacher, Mr Grindell, is particularly suspect, with his long yellow teeth and hot temper. Grindell isn’t too find of his class either.

Shortly after Mr Grindell takes over, James’s father is called on to take a temporary engineering job in France. While his father’s travelling for work is no longer unusual to James, on this occasion his mum will be accompanying him. Although his parents will only be away for two weeks, this feels a very long time to James. His younger sister, Emma, will be staying with a friend while they’re away. As Neville’s mum has just had a new baby, James will have to stay with an elderly childminder named Mrs Winters instead. She’s a total stranger to him as well as being a strange woman in her own right. However, James can’t help but soften towards her when he is offered a huge slice of homemade chocolate cake, before being shown Mrs Winters moped. But who is Mrs Winters really? And why has she asked James to keep an eye on Mr Grindell?

This hilarious adventure story for children aged seven through ten will appeal particularly to boys, especially those who, like Small and Heavy, may occasionally be seen to be slightly challenging. Salter has a keen eye for children’s speech and thought patterns and is convincing at writing from a young child’s point of view.

Howl: A Small and Heavy Adventure is available now from Amazon UK and Amazon US: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/0993300014

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0993300014

You can follow Miles on Twitter: @MilesWrites

Visit his website: http://www.miles-salter.co.uk/

Like his page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/miles.salter.9

 

Interview with Claire Morley, the author of Tindog Tacloban

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Today we have Claire Morley here with us to discuss her novel, Tindog Tacloban. Welcome, Claire!

The inspiration for the novel / Typhoon Yolanda

Your novel is called Tindog Tacloban. What does this mean and why did you choose this as your title?

Hi Kendra, firstly thank you very much for this opportunity to speak about Tindog Tacloban.

The meaning of the title is Rise Up Tacloban and when I was volunteering in the city of Tacloban after the devastation wreaked by typhoon Haiyan (known locally as Yolanda) there were banners all over the place with those words on. I wanted to use it in the title as a testament to the amazing spirit of the Filipino people, who had suffered so much, but were rebuilding their lives.

What is the story about?

The story is centred around three main characters. A father, Izel, who desperately tries to save his children from the wrath of Yolanda, his eldest daughter, 11 year old Lika Faye, who gets ripped from his arms in the flood water and is unwittingly recruited into the world of Webcam Child Sex Tourism and Helen a volunteer in Tacloban who is trying to come to terms with her own tragedy.

One of the themes I picked up on was the fragility of family life and the importance of children to a community (both in Tacloban but also with Helen in England when she loses Charlie and her entire life seems to fall apart). This added a fascinating layer to the story as it showed that, despite our thinking otherwise, Westerners are just as vulnerable as those who live in poorer countries, if for different reasons. This was a very democratising and brave element to add into the story. If you had to describe the theme of your novel, what would that be?

How interesting, I hadn’t thought of that as a theme, but it is a very pertinent point. There are two themes to Tindog Tacloban really, firstly the effect of a natural disaster, not only on the day it happens, but also the recovery afterwards and secondly raising awareness of a previously little known form of sex trafficking, that of Webcam Child Sex Tourism, which is rife in the Philippines.

I understand that you were a volunteer in the Philippines following the devastation of Typhoon Yolanda. What was that like and how did this experience feed into your novel?

It was an incredible experience. I remember flying to Tacloban and looking out of the plane window as we came in to land and seeing everything flattened. It was always the coconut trees which struck me the most, if they hadn’t been uprooted, their fronds had been stripped from them and they looked so sorry for themselves. And then on the journey from the airport to the volunteer house, we drove through the tented cities, where thousands of people were residing after losing their homes, their belongings and often family members. It was very emotional for me and I wanted to try and illustrate the plight of these people and what they had gone through.

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Claire at Sagkahan School, Tacloban

I was very much drawn into the world of the Sombilon family as they struggled to survive Typhoon Yolanda and its devastating effects. Your writing really seemed to capture the experiences of the Filipino people and the terrible effects the typhoon had on their lives, from the immediate lack of food and water to the longer term psychological effects of poverty, the loss of family members and the general uncertainty such an event brings. How did you manage to achieve this?

I was very lucky soon after I had arrived in Tacloban to be introduced to a man called Fred Jaca, who had been a radio presenter before the typhoon. He kindly took me to meet survivors (and acted as interpreter when necessary) who I was able to interview and it was their experiences which I wove into the book to give, hopefully, a sense of reality of what it had been like for them during the typhoon and trying to survive afterwards.

What would you like readers to come away with, after reading your book?

Hopefully the understanding that it’s not only the day of a natural disaster that people are suffering, struggling to survive, but it is a long slow process to rebuild and of course, awareness of Webcam Child Sex Tourism, which I hadn’t heard of until I volunteered in the Philippines. And maybe to inspire people to volunteer, it is an amazing experience.

I understand that all profits from the sale of the novel will go to benefit organisations helping in disaster hit areas. What else can readers do to help?

There is an online petition to pressure governments to adopt proactive investigation policies in order to protect children against webcam child sex tourism which people can sign at: http://www.terredeshommes.org/webcam-child-sex-tourism/

IDV, the organisation I volunteered with, works with communities worldwide which have been affected by or are vulnerable to disaster. They help survivors to achieve sustainable recovery and build more resilient communities both before and after disaster. People can find out more on their website: http://www.idvolunteers.org/

Raul and his feeding programme, featured in the book were inspired by the Mobile Soup Kitchen for Kids (MSKK) set up by Reynold De Vera. MSKK is saving and changing lives, one soup bowl at a time. People can support and join them as they provide much needed help, nutrition and sustenance, to the children of Tacloban, Leyte, and many other areas affected by Typhoon Yolanda Their Facebook page is: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1556492901241816/?fref=ts

The writing of the novel / the author

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The famous creative writing instructor, Robert McKee, said “Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today.” What is your opinion of his statement?

After my time volunteering I wanted to write a book and my initial thought was non-fiction. My partner suggested that more people would be inclined to read a novel. I believe you are more likely to appeal to a greater audience through telling a story and if it is done well, it can inspire, provoke thought and encourage action from its readers.

What do you feel you gained through the writing of Tindog Tacloban?

Writing Tindog Tacloban has given me the opportunity to raise awareness of some subjects I feel very strongly about and provide further funding for the organisations I worked with. However, personally, it has given me a chance in a way to thank those people who gave me their time and sometimes heart-breaking survival stories.

Could you talk us through the evolution of Tindog Tacloban? How did you go about publishing the novel?

To be honest, like all authors, I was hoping to get the interest of an agent and have Tindog Tacloban on the bookshelves and be jetting around the world attending book signings! However, the reality is that it is such a competitive world out there and unless you have an ‘in’ with an agent or publisher, it is almost impossible to get a publishing deal. So after countless rejections or non-replies from agents, I decided it was time to try and self or indie publish. I decided if I was going to do it, I might as well go it properly, so I spent time and money on some courses about self-publishing and social media marketing – my background is marketing, but I wasn’t so up-to-date on social media, so thought it best to learn. And once I felt I have enough information, I did it all myself.

I understand that you are a graduate of writingclasses.co.uk. Do you feel that taking a course assisted you in writing your novel? And which came first, the class or the idea for the novel?

Taking the course with writingclasses.co.uk was a huge help with writing Tindog Tacloban. I had already started the book when I came across the course, but I felt with no novel writing experience, I would benefit from the guidance of my tutor and fellow course students. Not only did I benefit from the course, but my tutor, Anne Hamilton, thought my book showed promise and agreed to work with me as my mentor and editor once the course was finished and her input has been invaluable. Not only from the technical aspect, but she was always there with encouragement when I felt the book wasn’t good enough.

Are there any future novels in the works?

I have the seed of an idea, but to be honest, since taking on the publishing of Tindog Tacloban I have been so busy, I haven’t yet had time to put pen to paper. Having spent so much time learning how to publish and market an ebook, I felt I could put all that knowledge to good use and have set up a business to provide a service to help other authors and am currently working on a case study to show how people can benefit.

Thank you for the interview and a big congratulations on the publication of Tindog Tacloban!

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Kendra’s review of Tindog Tacloban:

Izel realised their only hope was to try and stay afloat in the foul water swirling beneath him. He could feel the debris twisting and turning in the sea water as it eddied around his legs. Adrenaline kicked in and his only thought was how to save his family.

‘Grab my neck,’ he screamed to Lika Faye, hoping she could hear the words before they were swallowed by the howling winds.

Tindog Tacloban is a gripping debut novel about the effects of Typhoon Yolanda on one family, especially their daughter.

When Typhoon Yolanda hits land in Tacloban, the Sombilon family are ill-prepared. As the wind grows stronger, Izel Sombilon, the head of a household of seven which includes his parents, his wife and their three children, realises they must reach higher ground, and quickly. But when the black water crashes through their home, he loses sight of eleven year old Lika Faye and five year old Ellijah. Are they gone from him forever, or might they have somehow survived?

As they search amongst the remains of Tacloban, a neighbour tells him she thinks she may have seen Lika Faye, though she isn’t certain. Will a chance sighting be enough to sustain Izel’s search for her? His wife, Adelaida, would rather they put the disaster behind them so they can gather enough strength to rebuild. After losing their home and being without food or water, they need all they can muster just to keep going.

Meanwhile, back in England, Helen Gable decides to volunteer with World Disaster Response in the Philippines. When her group of volunteers meet Izel at a local school where he is helping to provide hot meals to children, they decide to take him on as a driver. They need help and Izel needs work. Helen learns that Izel’s daughter, Lika Faye, is still missing. Still recovering from the loss of her own son, Charlie, some months before, Helen can’t help but feel an affinity with Izel. But is Lika Faye still alive, and if she is, will they be able to help find her amongst so many missing and dead?

Tindog Tacloban is a powerful story which resonates far beyond its pages. It should be read and understood as much for its hopeful message of survival in the face of adversity as for what you will learn about the conditions of life in disaster zones and human trafficking. Morley crafts her story with skill and care, and her lifelike characters bounce off the pages in their need to be heard. This is an unforgettable story which will stay with me for a very long time.

Readers can obtain Tindog Tacloban from http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B014JGI0H0

You can follow Claire Morley on Twitter at: @clairemorley15

Catch up with her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/clairemorleyauthor

Learn more about her publishing business, My ePublish Book, which works with authors wanting to indie publish. As it is a time consuming process, they provide support to publish and market a book to get the best results for their clients. http://www.myepublishbook.com/

Interview with Anne Hamilton, the author of A Blonde Bengali Wife

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Today we have Anne Hamilton here with us to discuss her book, A Blonde Bengali Wife. Some of you may know Anne as the editor of Lothian Life, others as a writing tutor with writingclasses.co.uk, and yet others as an excellent editor.

 Welcome, Dr Hamilton!

Firstly, I’d just like to say a big congratulations to Anne on recently receiving her PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Glasgow! That’s a massive achievement, which I’m sure readers would love to hear more about. Could you tell us, briefly, how studying for an advanced degree has benefitted your writing practice?

Thank you very much, Kendra, and for inviting me onto your blog! The PhD has actually helped me in the most practical ways. The bulk of my thesis had to be a novel – and I’d never even attempted a novel before. Like most writers I know, I suffer from huge crises of confidence and having experienced and enthusiastic supervisors (both published writers) encouraged me to think I could do it, and that I am a good (enough) writer. Having a sounding board for ideas and being given clear deadlines was invaluable, but the most useful by-product was that I stopped procrastinating – believe me, I used to be the world’s worst procrastinator – until suddenly I had all this academic and creative work to do, as well as earning a living, and looking after my little boy.

When did you first publish A Blonde Bengali Wife and how did the book come about?

A Blonde Bengali Wife is now embarking on her second life. The original version, in hard copy and eBook, was published by LL-Publications, a Glasgow publisher, in 2010. My five year contract was up this summer, and this coincided with the publisher relocating to the USA. Since I was still selling a few copies and getting good reviews, I made the decision to self-publish this reprint.  

A Blonde Bengali Wife is a travel memoir, hopefully humorous, that tells the story of my first (of, to date, about twelve) visits to Bangladesh. In the West, this fascinating country generally only hits the news with stories of extreme poverty and the terrible floods and cyclones – with honourable mentions for the cricket – and I wanted to show that, yes, these are hugely significant issues, but there is so much more to tell. It emerged from a daily diary I kept during those first three months of 2002 when, as a volunteer with an international charity, I travelled around the country and I fell in love with it all.

You do a remarkable job of capturing the Bangladeshi people and culture. Was this difficult, seeing as you were an outsider? Or, did the experience of being an outsider make you more aware of your surroundings?

You’ve captured the essence of the whole book here, Kendra: it’s actually all about me being an outsider. I arrived in a country where I couldn’t speak the language, couldn’t properly dress myself (I was wearing the indigenous salwar kameez), struggled to eat with my right-hand whilst sitting cross-legged on the floor, and I had never previously seen a squat toilet!  It was a mutual thing; most of the people I came across in the rural villages had never seen a white, Western woman never mind one who was travelling alone. So, it was not only okay, it was expected, that we would stand and stare at each other, follow each other around, and ask endless questions through an ever-willing translator. I was always aware of my surroundings, physical and cultural, and that’s why I started to keep a diary long before I thought it would be a book – I needed to write everything down to make sense of it all.

I was particularly struck by the humour in the book, which was skilfully written and very funny. Do you find it easy to write humorously, and what advice might you give to those who would like to be funnier in their own writing?

I hope it is funny; it’s meant to be, but usually at my own expense. That said, I didn’t set out thinking I would write a humorous book, I just wrote in the way that came most naturally. I did have a lot of natural material though; everything that is described in the book actually happened and it did tend to veer from the sublime to the ridiculous. I also had the privilege of meeting some fabulous people who were real characters in their own right. In the end, all I had to do was describe everything that went on and it was endlessly entertaining – at least to me. As for advice on how to be funnier, all I can say is, don’t try too hard, you can’t force humour on people; they might ‘get you’, they might not. Write what you think is genuinely funny rather than cleverly funny!

What would you like readers to come away with, after reading your book?

If the book makes people stop and think about Bangladesh as an interesting country in its own right, instead of a place and people needing only our constant sympathy, then I think it has done what I wanted. I’d like readers to know that Cox’s Bazaar is probably the longest sea-beach in the world, that the Sunderbans is a World Heritage Site, that the Srimangal tea gardens are some of the most beautiful in the world; anything really, that they didn’t know before. And I’d really like people to understand what an unconditionally friendly welcome this insignificant, inept, mosquito-ridden, pale foreigner consistently received.

I understand that you are preparing to reprint A Blonde Bengali Wife as an ebook. Why did you choose to reprint in ebook format instead of in paperback?

Practicalities and timing. Over the past five years, eBook sales of A Blonde Bengali Wife slowly but very surely began to overtake the hard copy version (which may well be because the e-version was significantly cheaper). It seemed sensible to take notice of that. Then, the fact that I am self-publishing was important too; an eBook is technically easier to produce, and it doesn’t require printing and physical distribution. Finally, it’s the nature of the book that decided me. A Blonde Bengali Wife refers to events from 2002. I believe that it still has relevance for readers; I know that the Bangladesh I’ve written about still fundamentally exists – I go there frequently enough to see, and I still receive mail from readers who tell me so, and I think it’s a timeless ‘story’ anyway. In 2015, I would like the book to be available, to be read and enjoyed, and I believe that the eBook is the most accessible way for the largest number of people. (The original paperback version can still be purchased second-hand – and I’ll keep a stockpile of copies for anyone who doesn’t do eBooks!)

Bhola’s Children

Anne and her son Simon (back row), Allan (a fellow Bhola's Children supporter), and the children.

Anne and her son Simon (back row), Allan (a fellow Bhola’s Children supporter), and the children.

As a result of the publication of A Blonde Bengali Wife, the charity, Bhola’s Children, came into being. Can you tell us a little about the purpose of Bhola’s Children, how it started and what it’s doing at the moment?

Bhola’s Children is a home and school for children and young people with physical disabilities. It’s situated on Bhola, an island of a million people in the Bay of Bengal. Disability of any sort carries huge stigma there, and what we might consider ‘minor’ or treatable/manageable problems in the West, still cause children to be rejected and abandoned. The majority of the children are hearing or vision-impaired or have cerebral palsy, and at Bholas’ Children they can learn sign-language, have physiotherapy, learn a trade as a cook, a tailor or a carpenter. Most go on to lead independent lives. We also provide access to surgery for cleft palates and club feet, and there is a lot of awareness-raising carried out in the community. Many of the health issues are due to very young marriages and pregnancy or genetic problems arising from inter-marriage within close families, so we have programmes to discuss this, and to try and reduce the stigma of disability in general.

Chance played such a big part in it all. After I wrote A Blonde Bengali Wife, I began to approach literary agents. One of them, Dinah Wiener, was very candid, saying she wasn’t sure the book was commercial enough to sell to a mainstream publisher but she loved it, she would take a chance on it – and she was going to visit Bangladesh on foot of it! She did.  Whilst there, she met a man called Howladder Ali, who was single-handedly looking after a community of children with disabilities; when she came home, to support him, we set up what has become Bhola’s Children.

Today, nearly ten years on, Bholas’s Children is thriving.  Howladder Ali is retired but the home and school (currently approximately fifty children) is run by an excellent director and his family, and a local, dedicated committee. Dinah and I continue to be among the Trustees, and we support, fundraise, and visit when we can.

Anne, her son Simon and Howladder Ali on arrival

Anne, her son Simon and Howladder Ali on arrival

Are there ways in which readers can get involved? 

Please buy the book and encourage everyone else to do so! The royalties from A Blonde Bengali Wife have always gone directly to Bhola’s Children, as has Dinah’s agency commission.  Dinah is now retired, but all profits I make from this reprint will continue to support them. Readers can also follow the charity on www.bholaschildren.org – and anyone wishing to fundraise, donate, volunteer etc, is always very welcome.

What do you feel you gained, as a writer, through the writing of A Blonde Bengali Wife?

Through trial and error, I learned the nuts and bolts of writing a book. It was the first full-length piece of writing I had attempted and I realised I could do it – the saying ‘writing is 10% talent and 90% perseverance’ has a lot of truth in it. But whatever I gained as a writer, I gained so much more as a person; in experiencing the events of the story, in writing them down and sharing them, I’ve gained a huge extended ‘family’ that have made my life so much richer.

Once your story was down on paper, did you have to do a lot of rewriting?

Oh, yes! Since it began as a diary, the first draft was virtually that entire journal with the worst of the repetition removed. The next draft killed off the excessive self-indulgence (I hope) as I considered what I really wanted to say and what ‘message’ I was trying to achieve alongside what readers might find interesting; as much of the interest is in the day to day mundanity of life in a new culture and country, that was a challenge. In hindsight, the editing could have been better… my responsibility! I had a baby at exactly the time A Blonde Bengali Wife was in publication, and I certainly didn’t check the edits or the proof-reading to the extent I have this time. In effect, this reprint has given me the opportunity to re-edit and reformat once more, which is both a luxury and a necessity.  And on that note, I must add that I couldn’t have done this without the expert assistance of Claire Morley at My EPublish Book (www.myepublishbook.com) and Marie Campbell, Proofreader (Twitter @mariecampbell72), or without people such as yourself, Kendra, willing to let me participate in their blogs! 

Do you have any future books in the works?

My PhD required me to write a novel. It has a working title of Chasing Elena, and I’m currently revising that. It was very well received by the PhD panel, who also gave me a lot of very helpful advice about ensuring it achieves a marketable balance of commercial and literary fiction. It certainly seems that a writer’s work is never done… but I wouldn’t change any of it.

Thank you for the interview and a big congratulations on the re-publication of A Blonde Bengali Wife!  

A Blonde Bengali Wife will be released on 3rd November and is available now for pre-order from Amazon http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B016UDI86I

You can follow Anne Hamilton on Twitter at: @AnneHamilton7

Read her blog: http://anne-ablondebengaliwife.blogspot.co.uk/

Follow her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ablondebengaliwife

And access WriteRight, her writing consultancy services at: www.annehamilton.co.uk

Kendra’s review of A Blonde Bengali Wife:

A heartfelt and humorous journey through Bangladesh

Anne takes the reader with her on her travels through Bangladesh, letting them experience each new adventure (and misadventure) alongside her. From the moment Anne lands in Bangladesh, receiving a warm welcome from a mysterious policeman who pronounces his undying love for her, it is clear that the people of Bangladesh will take centre stage. Through Anne’s experiences the reader discovers the real Bangladesh: a place of friendship, kindness and extreme poverty where the good nature and humour of the people carry them through (just). Anne is a skilful writer, who carefully weaves her story through a detailed travelogue and paints her scenes with vivid and unforgettable imagery. I would highly recommend her book to anyone who enjoys travelling and experiencing other cultures as well as to those who just like a good story well told. A testament to how much Anne cares about the people of Bangladesh is that all of the proceeds from the sale of her book go to benefit a charity called Bhola’s Children which was set up upon her return to assist orphaned and disabled children on the island of Bhola.