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Blog Tours Q&A

Blog Tour: Q&A with Fiona Valpy

Happy Monday Bibliophiles! Today I’m delighted to be sharing a Q&A with author Fiona Valpy as part of the blog tour for her latest novel, The Storyteller of Casablanca, which is published tomorrow.

What drew you to writing? Had you always wanted to become a novelist?

From early childhood I’d always been an avid reader and lived in a home filled with books. Often, I would finish a book and think ‘I wish I could have written that’, but all my time was filled with my career and motherhood until we made a move to France. There, I found both inspiration and the time to write my first books. Now I can’t imagine my life without writing.

What made you want to shift from contemporary fiction to historical fiction?

While the countryside and contemporary culture of France were the initial inspiration for my writing, the country’s history – especially the legacy of being occupied during World War 2 – are all-pervasive and soon claimed my attention.

I still wanted to include a contemporary slant to my books, though, and so I began writing dual timeline novels. There’s a challenge in finding the connection between two separate eras and pulling them together in a way that’s convincing. I love the sense of interweaving two storylines which may seemed disconnected at first, but which later converge. And of course, our histories are such a part of who we are today.

What is it about the Second World War that you think readers are so fascinated by?

It’s still just within living memory for some, although of course that generation is slipping away fast and so there’s a sense of urgency in recording their first-hand testimonies and making sure their voices will still be heard as the years go by. We’ve also reached new milestones in terms of documents being de-classified and information released, allowing previously unknown facts to come to light and enabling new interpretations of wartime events.

While subsequent generations have been fortunate to live in a time of peace, life can still be challenging, and I believe we can learn a great deal from understanding how others have suffered and faced up to difficulties. In particular, in some ways the war gave women an opportunity to break free of the limitations society placed on them and prove themselves in new ways, playing their part in the fight against oppression.

I believe women are incredibly resilient and have qualities that are absolutely vital in today’s world – not just strength and endurance, but also kindness and compassion. I hope my books help women to see themselves in this light.

What research did you do for The Storyteller of Casablanca?

I’d organised a research trip to Morocco but the global pandemic stymied those plans. So I had to find other ways to fill in the gaps and ensure I could still transport the reader to that other time and place. I studied travel guides and pored over maps, but also read more widely and around my subject, including novels by Driss ChraÏbi (The Simple Past), Paul Bowles (The Sheltering Sky) and Anthony Doerr’s Africa-based short stories (The Shell Collector). Meredith Hindley’s book Destination Casablanca offered a wealth of insight into the city during the war years and Hal Vaughn’s FDR’s 12 Apostles was a useful source of detail about the establishment of espionage networks in North Africa prior to US invasion in November 1943.

Videos on YouTube helped me visit the sights and souks, and the internet offered up additional information on some of the real-life characters that appear in the book, including the inspirational Josephine Baker and Hélêne Cazês-Bénatar. Other such characters, like Dorothy Ellis, proved to be frustratingly elusive despite all my research efforts though, so I hope I have done her justice.

In The Storyteller of Casablanca there are many different stories told in different ways. Can you tell us a little more about this?

I’ve included storytelling in many different forms in the book – there’s everything from Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre and the murder mysteries of Dorothy L. Sayers, La Fontaine’s Fables, and traditional African and Berber Folk Stories, to the Tales from the Thousand and One Nights.

It’s one of the key themes of the book. I wanted to explore how the stories we tell are an important part of our history and at the same time can inspire and shape our future, as well as illustrating the common ground between different cultures in the past and present. There’s a universality in the human need to tell our stories and make our voices heard that transcends borders, cultures, race, religion, age and gender.

What’s next for you?

I’m working on a novel set in Italy during World War 2 at the moment, as well as revising my first three books (The French for… series of contemporary novels) which are to be re-issued in the coming year, so my writing continues to keep my busy!

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I don’t know about you, but this interview has made me even more excited to read The Storyteller of Casablanca. Still not sure? Well here’s some more info to whet you’re appetite…

SYNOPSIS:

In this evocative tale from the bestselling author of The Dressmaker’s Gift, a strange new city offers a young girl hope. Can it also offer a lost soul a second chance?

Morocco, 1941. With France having fallen to Nazi occupation, twelve-year-old Josie has fled with her family to Casablanca, where they await safe passage to America. Life here is as intense as the sun, every sight, smell and sound overwhelming to the senses in a city filled with extraordinary characters. It’s a world away from the trouble back home—and Josie loves it.

Seventy years later, another new arrival in the intoxicating port city, Zoe, is struggling—with her marriage, her baby daughter and her new life as an expat in an unfamiliar place. But when she discovers a small wooden box and a diary from the 1940s beneath the floorboards of her daughter’s bedroom, Zoe enters the inner world of young Josie, who once looked out on the same view of the Atlantic Ocean, but who knew a very different Casablanca.

It’s not long before Zoe begins to see her adopted city through Josie’s eyes. But can a new perspective help her turn tragedy into hope, and find the comfort she needs to heal her broken heart?

You can buy the book here

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Fiona is an acclaimed number 1 bestselling author, whose books have been translated into more than twenty different languages worldwide.

She draws inspiration from the stories of strong women, especially during the years of World War II. Her meticulous historical research enriches her writing with an evocative sense of time and place.

She spent seven years living in France, having moved there from the UK in 2007, before returning to live in Scotland. Her love for both of these countries, their people and their histories, has found its way into the books she’s written.

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Please check out the reviews from the other bloggers taking part in the tour.

Thank you to FMcM Associates for the invitation to take part in the tour and the gifted copy of the book. And a special thank you to Fiona Valpy for taking the time to answer these questions.

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles ☺️ Emma xxx

Categories
Blog Tours Book Features Q&A

Q&A with Tim Ewins, Author of We Were Animals

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour celebrating the paperback publication of We Are Animals. This is our first official Squadpod On Tour and I’m excited to bring you a Q&A with Tim today.

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Q: What inspired the idea for We Are Animals?

I don’t really know what the idea for We Are Animals was. I just wanted to write a book, and my idea about writing a book about how to write a book fell apart pretty quickly, because I didn’t know how to write a book. Also, I’m pretty sure it’s already been written by much smarter people. I think We Are Animals started as a collage, with parts from my old travel blog and small facts about my relationship with my wife scattered around a very loose plot.

Q: Can you tell us a bit about the book?

I can! I can tell you a bit about the book in the style of an author: It’s a book about fate and love, but I wouldn’t say it’s a romance novel. I like the idea of it being uplit fiction, because at every stage of writing I wanted to reflect the goodness in people and in nature. And I can tell you a bit about the book in a very literal sense: It’s about a bloke on a beach that meets a kid on a beach and tells that kid his life story. They both get drunk and watch a cow dance to dance music.

Q: Who is your favourite character in the book?

I think probably Hylad’s partner, Michael. Michael is only a small character, and when he’s introduced, he comes across as quite grumpy and a little unlikeable, but as the plot goes on, we watch him put his whole life on hold to help and support Hylad. He’s the rock that keeps Hylad going. I think Michael is what every partner should be to their significant other. Also, I do quite like that dancing cow.

Q: What was your favourite scene to write?

There are a lot of mini-stories in We Are Animals which explain some of the smaller character’s backstories. They were always the most fun parts to write, and there was a certain pleasure in making these seemingly unconnected stories become relevant to the main plot several chapters later. There is one particular backstory which stands out though. I really enjoyed writing about the lives of Ebba and Olivia. The section only lasts a few pages, but I remember writing it and feeling so sad because their story is really quite tragic. That scene came out so quickly that I felt like I was reading it rather than writing it.

Q: What was the hardest thing about writing the book?

Time. Sometimes, even just writing a sentence, it’s hard to find the time to fi

Q: Are there any hidden ‘Easter Eggs’ in the book, e.g. that only people who know you would get?

Absolutely! The boat Moondance has the same name as my dad’s fishing boat. My mate and I used to work in a box factory. I literally know Shakey – I go for a drink with him every week, and I met Manjan a while back in Malaysia. The reason Ladyjan isn’t typically Swedish looking is because Ladyjan looks exactly like my wife (and she’s from Whitby)… the list really
does go on. The guy who I used to work with in the box factory read We Are Animals recently and he told me after that finding the little easter eggs was his favourite part of the book (which, on reflection, may have been an insult).

Q: What was your journey to publication like?

I have a spreadsheet full of rejection and a list of the reasons why publishers and agents don’t want to work with me, so I think probably quite normal. Working with Eye and Lightning Books (my publisher) has been amazing though. They really care about all the books they publish, so I went from no-one reading my novel to a group of people taking the time to go through it with a fine-tooth comb and working with me to get it perfect. I don’t think I could have asked for anything more. When it came out it was on e-only format and now, a year later, it’ll be out in paperback, so I’ve been lucky enough to ride two waves!

Q: What’s the best thing about being a published author?

It is just so nice that people are reading the book. When I was writing, I never really knew if anyone would read it (other than my mum), but the fact that strangers are reading it now is beyond what I could ever have dreamed of.

Q: What kind of books do you like reading? Any current favourites?

I like anything a bit cute or surreal. I love Andrew Kaufman and Jonas Jonassan. I’ve recently been reading Ronan Hession’s books (Leonard and Hungry Paul, and Panenka) and I think I’ve found my new favourite author in him (he also makes nice music to write to under the name Mumblin’ Deaf Ro, so that’s a double win). I’m on a real reading streak at the moment so I could list a million books here that I’ve loved recently; The Smallest Man by Frances Quinn, Perfect on Paper by Gillian Harvey, Whatever You Are Is Beautiful by Richard Blandford, Marrow Jam by Susan A King. Honestly, the list could go on and on.

Q: When do you find time to write? Do you have a ‘writing routine’?

I made a joke earlier about time, which I can only apologise for, but it really is one of the hardest parts of writing for me (and plot, that’s hard too). I work a full-time job and have a toddler, so my writing routine has always consisted of writing an hour in my lunch breaks at work, writing on the bus to and from work and occasionally whilst watching Love Island. We Are Animals was written entirely on an iPad. Unfortunately, I couldn’t quite follow one series of Love Island as closely as I’d have liked to, but I hear they’re all on Netflix now anyway, so…

Q: What are you working on at the moment?

I’m waiting to get some edits back on my second novel, which I cannot wait to share. The story is very close to me. The main character is based on my Nan, and again, it’s about fate and love, but I wouldn’t say it’s a romance novel. Maybe after that I’ll try to write a book about how to write a book…

We Are Animals is out now.

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You can get 30% off your copy of the book using the code above until 8th August here

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SYNOPSIS:

A cow looks out to sea, dreaming of a life that involves grass.

Jan is also looking out to sea. He’s in Goa, dreaming of the passport-thief who stole his heart (and his passport) forty-six years ago. Back then, fate kept bringing them together, but lately it seems to have given up.

Jan has not. In his long search he has accidentally held a whole town at imaginary gunpoint in Soviet Russia, stalked the proprietors of an international illegal lamp-trafficking scam and done his very best to avoid any kind of work involving the packing of fish. Now he thinks if he just waits, if he just does nothing at all, maybe fate will find it easier to reunite them.

His story spans fifty-four years, ten countries, two imperfect criminals (and one rather perfect one), twenty-two different animals and an annoying teenager who just…

Will…

Not…

Leave.

But maybe an annoying teenager is exactly what Jan needs to help him find the missing thief?

Featuring a menagerie of creatures, each with its own story to tell, We Are Animals is a quirky, heart-warming tale of lost love, unlikely friendships and the certainty of fate (or lack thereof).

For the first time in her life the cow noticed the sun setting, and it was glorious.

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Tim Ewins had an eight-year stand-up career alongside his accidental career in finance, before turning to writing fiction.

He has previously written for DNA Mumbai, had two short stories highly commended and published in Michael Terence Short Story Anthologies, and had a very brief acting stint (he’s in the film Bronson, somewhere in the background).

He lives with his wife, son and dog in Bristol. We Are Animals is his first novel.

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Don’t miss the Cake and Cocktail blast on August 3rd and check the hashtags to read reviews from the Squadpod Ladies.

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles😊 Emma xxx

Categories
Blog Tours Q&A Support Debuts

Q&A with Tammye Huf

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for A More Perfect Union. I’m delighted to be sharing a Q&A with the book’s author, Tammye Huf.

Q- Where did your inspiration for the book come from?
It came from the story of my great great grandparents. He was from Ireland and she was a slave. When they met and fell in love, he bought her freedom to marry her.

Q- What research did you do?
So, so much! A lot of reading. I especially invested time in reading first-hand accounts. Famine reports. Slave narratives. Political arguments. Laws. The laws a society passes say so much about that society and who and what they value.

Q-What is your creative process?
First comes the idea of the story, and then I like to flesh it out before I jump in and really get writing. I’ve done it the other way around before where you get a story idea or find a character and just start writing, seeing where the story leads you, but I’ve found that my story thread gets a bit tangled that way. I like to know where I’m going and then have creative freedom in how to get there.

Q- What were your biggest challenges when writing the book?
Knowing where to start, where to finish, and the events that should happen in between. I realise that sounds like everything but it’s not. For instance, knowing how characters would respond to a given challenge wasn’t nearly as hard for me as deciding on the challenge.

Q- Which character did you enjoy writing most?
All of them. Definitely all of them.

Q – Is there anything that didn’t make the final edit of the book that you wish you could have included?
There is so much more research that went into the book than you see on the page. It would have been nice to be able to include more of it, but it wouldn’t have been right for the story.

Q- Is there anything in particular you hope readers will take away from the book?
We are living at a time when racial tensions are at the highest they have been in decades. It can make us start to think that human beings are just this way. I hope that a story like A More Perfect Union could help to remind us that this isn’t true, and that individuals have always found a way to see past the things that divide us and come together, even during far greater periods of strife than what we’re dealing with now. Even though there are some hard realities in the book, I hope that on balance it is seen as hopeful.

Q- Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Yes. The practicality of earning a living or raising a family means, for most of us, that writing is something you have to scratch out time to do. I’m fortunate that lately I’ve been at a place in my life where I can devote more time and energy to it, but it took quite a while to get here.

Q- What books you’ve read have had the most impact on you?
This is impossible to answer. Different books have impacted me at different stages of my life and in different ways. For me, the questions isn’t so much what book is most impactful, but what is the cumulative effect of the many impactful books and authors I’ve been exposed to.

Q- What have you been reading in quarantine?
My current reads are The Book of Echoes by Rosanna Amaka and Here is the Beehive by Sarah Crossen.

Q- What are your go-to book recommendations?
The book I’ve probably recommended the most is The God of Small Things by Arundhathi Roy. The books I’ve recommended most recently include Days Without End by Sebastian Barry, The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead, The Long Song by Andrea Levy, Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid, Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

Some questions for fun –

Q- If you could have a magic typewriter or coffee cup that’s never empty, which would you choose?
A typewriter that magically transcribes my thoughts. That would be something.

Q- If you could go anywhere when you blink your eyes, where would you go?
Where wouldn’t I go? Could I also time travel with my magic teleporting blink? I’m afraid I’d spend my life blinking!


Q- What 5 celebrities – alive or dead – would make up your ideal dinner party and why?
I couldn’t possibly resist a chance to invite past authors who blazed a trail. The list is long but if it has to be five, then perhaps Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, and Octavia Butler.

Q- Lastly, what’s next?
I’m plotting out a new book, but at this stage of the process, I’m not yet ready to talk about it.

Thank you Tammye for answering my question and Emma at Myriad Editions for arranging the interview.

You can buy a copy of A More Perfect Union here.

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Tammye Huf is a former teacher, and now works as a translator and copywriter. Her short stories have been published in various magazines, including Diverse Voices Quarterly and The Penmen Review. She was runner-up in the 2018 London Magazine Short Story Prize.

Originally from the USA, she moved first to Germany and then to the UK with her
husband and three children.