Meet the Author: Beyond the Margin by Jo Jackson

Today we’re traveling to rural Shropshire in central England to chat with Jo Jackson about how an orphanage in Egypt, views of Wenlock Edge, a large wildlife pond, the Israeli secret police, Wembley Stadium, and spending the night in the Gaza strip come together as part of Jo’s past and current life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Jo Jackson. I am the author of two books, ‘Too Loud a Silence’ published in 2016 and ‘Beyond the Margin’ published in 2019. Originally from Birmingham U.K., I now live in rural Shropshire with my husband and dog. Our three children are grown up, married with families and careers of their own. My own career was as a nurse, a midwife and ultimately as a family psychotherapist.

Did you always want to be a writer?

Even as a child I enjoyed writing and English was a favourite lesson. My first book was typed, illustrated and bound by my junior school and put in the school library. I read it out in the school assembly as a very proud ten year old.

Fast- forward twenty years and inspiration was ignited when I returned to England after living in Egypt for two years with my family. Events there – abandoned twin girls, an orphanage, and a situation that for me was never resolved became the inspiration for my first novel. I still have the handwritten manuscript that I wrote at the time but career and family took over and it lay unfinished.

On retirement I joined a writing group and the story that had lain dormant for thirty-seven years was rewritten and became ‘Too Loud a Silence’. I set it in Egypt with a backdrop of the Arab Spring with a backstory based thirty years earlier. It was a story I needed to write for those little orphaned girls and for me. I then went on to write ‘Beyond the Margin’, three years later.

What is your favourite writing place?

I am lucky to live in a house in rural Shropshire with stunning views of Wenlock Edge from every window. My favourite writing place, in summertime is sitting with my laptop beside a large wildlife pond in the garden. I share the space with birdsong, mallards, moorhens and their chicks all busy foraging among the reeds. In winter you’ll find me in the conservatory or curled up beside the log burner. I love nature and it inspires description in my writing. My best time to write is early morning and I witness many beautiful sunrises.

Tell us three interesting facts about yourself.

– Driving home from Egypt in a car with Egyptian number plates we were stopped and made to get out while the car was searched by the Israeli secret police. They thought my husband, myself and our 3 blonde haired children, aged 4 – 11 may be Lebanese terrorists!

– We were once marooned on a small island off the coast of Taiwan for 5 days because of a storm. Eventually we were taken back to the mainland by boat, through mountainous seas – and survived to tell the tale!

– I have stood on the seats of Wembley Stadium singing ‘We are the champions’, after watching my son lift the FA cup with Everton in 1995.

Where did the idea for your most recent book come from?

My most recent book, ‘Beyond the Margin’ arose out of two short stories I had written. Within my work as a family psychotherapist I was privileged to meet many people whose lives were lived on the edge of society. The novel is a tribute to their courage and resourcefulness. I used the setting of a timber yard because I walk above one almost every day with the dog. The ordered rows of tree trunks and the quiet of the place in the evening when work has ceased inspired me. I began to write the novel when I was in Ireland for a month and the wild scenery in the west seemed the perfect backdrop to the story.

What do you do when you’re not writing or marketing your books?

I have a wonderful life! I paint, I study philosophy, I read, I garden, I walk and travel in both the UK and distant places in the world, Africa and India being particular favourites. We have lots of friends and seven grandchildren all of them a joy.

What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself through writing?

That I have the ability to deeply touch people emotionally through my characters and writing.

What is the craziest / most inspiring thing that has ever happened to you?

Spending a night in the Gaza strip, with my family, in the home of a very kind taxi driver who generously made the offer when we found ourselves stranded at the border. We have the fondest memories of him and his family and the wonderful Palestinian hospitality showed to us that night.

What do you miss most about being a kid?

Playing out in the street until it was dusk.
Lying in bed, reading a book until lunchtime on a Sunday morning.

A penguin knocks on your door wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he there?

‘”I know I look ridiculous but climate change is real. Don’t let anyone pretend it’s not.”

Which of your personality traits has been most useful and why?

My brother and I were always told, ‘if you start something, you finish it’. This message has stayed with me and fuels my determination. The other thing is I am always positive. I like people and see the best, not the worst, in them.

Describe your perfect solo date.

Somewhere in the tropics where I could walk through the rainforest and enjoy the songs of the birds and hear the call of the monkeys.

Tell us about your most recent book.

‘Beyond the Margin’

‘Its strength lies in its authenticity. A gritty bitter-sweet narrative that kept me turning the pages’. ‘Emotionally raw and brutally honest’. ‘A stunning piece of writing – and one of my books of the year’. These are just a few of the phrases used by reviewers of my most recent book. My thanks go to all of them for their encouraging words.

It was incredibly interesting learning more about you and your writing, Jo. I immensely enjoyed our interview.  You have had some amazing and wild adventures. Wishing you all the best! –Camilla

Blurb: Beyond the Margin

Is living on the edge of society a choice? Or is choice a luxury of the fortunate?
Joe, fighting drug addiction, runs until the sea halts his progress.

His is a faltering search for meaningful relationships.
‘Let luck be a friend,’ Nuala is told but it had never felt that way.

Abandoned at five years old, survival means learning not to care. Her only hope is to take control of her own destiny.

The intertwining of their lives makes a compelling story of darkness and light, trauma, loss and second chances.

Where to find the books:

Both books are available from: https://www.Amazon.co.uk in paperback or kindle

Stepping into Books on Amazon

Direct from Jo’s website http://www.jojacksonwriter.com and

Shropshire bookshops, libraries and Waterstones

Connect with Jo:

Facebook: Jojacksonauthor

Twitter: @jojackson589

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Meet the Author: What Lies Buried by Margaret Kirk

Today we travel to Inverness, the capital of the Highlands of Scotland, to chat with Margaret Kirk about how comic strips, Ragdoll cats, a spooky holiday flat, Scooby Doo, and Good Housekeeping come together in her past and present writing life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Hi, and thank you for inviting me onto your blog! I’m Margaret Kirk, a Highland Scot living and working in Inverness, the capital of the Highlands with my husband and two spoilt Ragdoll cats.

I’ve always loved languages and I lived in Germany for a while (where I developed a lasting love affair with Lebkuchen and Ritter Sport 😉 ). I worked in a mental health recovery unit for several years before taking the plunge and becoming a full-time writer.

In which genre do you write?

Scottish crime, set in the Highlands where I live. So I call it Highland Noir, which seems fitting!

How many published books do you have?

Two currently, Shadow Man and What Lies Buried. Book 3 in the DI Lukas Mahler series, In The Blood, will be published by Orion this summer.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?

Aargh, slightly embarrassing, but okay. This is where I own up to writing a terrible play, aged 10. It was set in ancient Egypt, involved a murderous priest and a princess in peril – so I suppose you could say I got the crime bug very early on! But even before that, I was writing little comic strips. So I think as soon as I could make stories myself, I wanted to do it.

What does your ideal writing space look like?

I feel really bad about this, because I have a lovely little shed at the bottom of the garden, which I really should use more than I do. But honestly, this winter it feels like it’s been raining for a thousand years, so I’ve been staying inside on my comfy chair with my ragdoll cat snoozing by my side! As soon as the weather gets better, I’ll start using ‘The Murder Room’ a little more.

What are you currently reading?

Just finished ‘The Other People’ by C J Tudor – excellent as always! I love the current trend towards the gothic that’s creeping into crime and psych thrillers.

Where did the idea for your most recent book come from?

In The Blood is set on Orkney. It’s a place I’ve visited many times and which has a real hold on my heart. But the idea for this book came from an incredibly spooky holiday flat we rented one year – I’ve never felt an atmosphere like it, and it made a huge impression on me. I wouldn’t have stayed there on my own for anything! So of course I was always going to write about it one day …

What’s the strangest thing you’ve done or experienced to help create a scene or plot or to help you remember something if writing a memoir?

Well, I do have interesting discussions with my husband about blood spatter patterns – and I have enlisted his help on occasion to choreograph fight scenes!

If you were trapped in a cartoon world from your childhood, which one would you choose and why?

Has to be Scooby Doo. Love the not-terribly-scary ghosts – and that dog! Not Scrappy Doo, though – what the heck was that about?? Possibly I might be Velma’s more sarcastic sister.

If you could turn into one of your characters for a day, which one would it be and why, what would you do?

Hmm. I write crime, so not entirely sure I’d want to be dealing with the crimes Lukas Mahler has to solve! Though I am quite fond of his no-nonsense boss, June ‘Braveheart’ Wallace … I think I’d quite enjoy sorting his unruly Major Incident Team out.

What’s the last movie you watched and why did you choose to watch it?

I think the last one I watched was one of those superhero ones – Thor or something? As you’ve probably guessed, it wasn’t exactly my choice, so maybe ‘watched’ is putting it too strongly. I am looking forward to catching up with the second part of IT, though.

Do you believe things happen for a reason? Do you have an example from your own life to share why you believe this?

Broadly speaking, yes. Like my main character, I had to move back to Inverness after many years away when my mother became very ill. I enjoyed my job and it felt like quite a wrench at the time, but if I hadn’t made the move, I wouldn’t have had that experience of coming home to somewhere and not being sure for a long time where exactly I fitted in.

And of course, if I hadn’t bought a copy of Good Housekeeping one day, and happened to see their First Novel Competition advertised, I might never have dared to send anyone the opening chapters of what became Shadow Man!

What’s your favorite place to visit in your country and why?

Oh, so many places to choose from – living in the Highlands of Scotland, we’re completely spoilt for wonderful scenery and historical locations on our doorstep. Orkney has to be in the running for one of my favourite places, with wonderful, atmospheric settings everywhere you look – it’s a completely magical place. Then there’s Chanonry Point, where you can go dolphin-watching and shudder at the terrible fate of the Brahan Seer, a local psychic who came to a very sticky end back in the 17th century …

What are you currently working on?

Book 3 in my DI Lukas Mahler series, is almost ready to go. There will be at least three more books in the series, but right now I’m contemplating a slightly more gothicky standalone …

Tell us about your most recent book.

I can’t give too much away about it, but I absolutely love my strapline:

‘A missing child. A seventy-year-old murder. And a killer who’s still on the loose.’

It was wonderful to learn more about you and your writing style, Margaret. Thank you for being a part of MTA! All the best to you! –Camilla

Where to find the book:

What Lies Buried , book 2 in the series, is available from all good book stores (and please do use your local indie, if you can!), Waterstones, W H Smith etc as well as the Zon.

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07N6DRL4K/

Blurb:

Ten year-old Erin is missing; taken in broad daylight during a friend’s birthday party. With no witnesses and no leads, DI Lukas Mahler races against time to find her. But is it already too late for Erin – and will her abductor stop at one stolen child?

And the discovery of human remains on a construction site near Inverness confronts Mahler’s team with a cold case from the 1940s. Was Aeneas Grant’s murder linked to a nearby POW camp, or is there an even darker story to be uncovered?

With his team stretched to the limit, Mahler’s hunt for Erin’s abductor takes him from Inverness to the Lake District. And decades-old family secrets link both cases in a shocking final twist.

Connect with Margaret:

Blog: https://margaretmortonkirk.wordpress.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MargaretKirkAuthor/

Twitter: @HighlandWriter

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Book Shelf: Many Waters

Many Waters by Madeleine L’Engle

The fourth in the time quintet series, I enjoyed this one. Much more so than the last one, A Swiftly Tilting Planet. It was great getting to know the twin boys more and having an adventure with just the two of them. I didn’t really like how quickly the story ended, I suppose I would have liked a different ending. Yet, I’m prepared to go ahead and read the last book in the time quintet.

US Amazon: https://amzn.to/2wf67uh

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(The above are amazon affiliate links.)

Meet the Author: The Piccadilly Street Series: Mrs. Murray’s Ghost by Emily-Jane Hills Orford

Today we travel to North Gower, part of the greater Ottawa area in Canada, to chat with Emily-Jane Hills Orford about how country life, an antique spinet desk, playing the piano, needle-art, journal writing, Barbie dolls, being a dreamer, haunted houses, and ghosts come together to haunt Emily-Jane’s past and present life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am a retired music and creative writing teacher. Ten years ago, my better half and my muse (my dog, Duke) moved to the country in a little town called North Gower. It’s actually part of the greater Ottawa area (Ottawa being the capital city of Canada). I love country life. I have an antique spinet desk sitting in front of a large picture window that looks out onto our wooded front yard and my birdfeeders. I enjoy watching the wildlife while I sit at my writing desk, feeling a little like Jane Austen (although Jane Austen wouldn’t have used a laptop, even if she did write on a spinet desk like I do). In the spring, summer and fall, after my daily writing ritual, you’ll find me outside, walking Duke or having Duke help me putter around the yard, taking care of my gardens. I’m always involved in something creative, whether it’s writing, playing the piano or composing music or working on my needleart and collage paintings. When I’m not writing, however, I’m thinking about writing, plotting new stories in my head.

In which genre do you write?

Several genres, actually. I started my writing career writing creative nonfiction and memoir and I still enjoy writing a few short memoir stories. More recently, I’ve written raw, real-people drama (“Gerlinda”), historical fiction/fantasy (“Queen Mary’s Daughter” winner of the 2019 N.N. Light Book Award) and “King Henry’s Choice”), cozy mysteries (“Spring”, “Summer”, “Autumn”, and “Winter”), and Middle Grade fantasy (The Piccadilly Street Series: “Mrs. Murray’s Ghost” (finalist in the 2019 N.N. Light Book Awards), “Mrs. Murray’s Hidden Treasure” and “Mrs. Murray’s Home”), which not surprisingly includes a lot of memoir and creative nonfiction narrative.

How many published books do you have?

25

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?

As soon as I could hold a pencil in hand and write a few words. I come from a long line of storytellers, but as the youngest, I couldn’t get a word in edgewise. So, I wrote.

What does your ideal writing space look like?

I have a lovely antique spinet desk that I’ve positioned in front of a large picture window overlooking our forested front yard. I feel a little like Jane Austen when I sit at the desk to write, the only difference being Jane Austen would have used a quill and ink at her spinet desk, while I use a laptop.

What are you currently reading?

I just finished reading John Grisham’s “The Guardians” – I love his masterful storytelling narratives and I’ve started reading Tricia Mingerink’s “Midnight’s Curse” – a charming fantasy re-writing the fairy tales of old.

Where did the idea for your most recent book come from?

“The Piccadilly Street Series” is part memoir (memories of growing up in a haunted house) and part fantasy (dreams and imaginings of a young girl). I have fond memories of a certain old Victorian mansion and the ghost that continues to haunt it. As a ten-year-old girl, moving into a haunted house was terrifying at first, and then fascinating, as the ghost turned out to be quite friendly.

What do you do when not writing or marketing your books?

In the spring, summer and fall, I’m in my garden, in the winter I’m writing about my garden. I also enjoy walking my dog, reading, playing the piano or composing music and working on various needle-art projects. I always have something on the go.

Do you journal write or keep a personal diary?

Yes, I journal. Every morning, first thing, before life gets complicated, I sit at my antique spinet desk and write (cursive, long hand in a quaint little book with its own title on the spine: Diary) what happened the previous day, who I saw, what thoughts I have on various current topics in my life or in the news. I’ve chosen first thing in the morning to journal because if I leave it till the end of the day, I usually make the excuse of being too tired to write anything.

What do you miss about being a kid?

I miss my childhood home and the time I could spend creating my own little fantasies and acting them out with my Barbie dolls. My Piccadilly Street Series has the main character, Mary (who was really me as a child) frequently playing with her Barbie dolls. It may surprise some people today, but in the 1960s when I was 10 (and the setting era of this series) girls played with Barbie dolls until they went to High School – I know I did. It was tragic to pack away my dolls that last summer before starting High School. Today, it seems, girls give up playing with dolls about the age of 8.

If you could turn into one of your characters for a day, which one would it be and why, what would you do?

Mary, the main character in the Piccadilly Street Series. She was, after all, me as a child. So, to become Mary would be like stepping back into my own childhood and living again in the grand old Victorian house with its bats and the ghost and my many dreams and fantasies.

Do you believe things happen for a reason? Do you have an example from your own life to share why you believe this?

Definitely. I believe ghosts visit me for a reason. The ghost of my childhood connected with me, but not the others in the family. Whenever a loved one passed away, they always visited me at least once more before moving on. It’s sometimes scary, but also reassuring. After Dad passed away, he came to me in a dream and gave me a smile and a wave before walking into a large building. He was reassuring me that all was well. When my heart dog, Misty, passed away, he came back one night when I was asleep, I could hear him sniffing around the bed as he always did. He was just reassuring me that he was okay and he was still with me.

Which of your personality traits has been most useful and why?

I’m a dreamer with what my grandmother always described as a vivid imagination. It’s those dreams and the imagination to go with it that has helped me pursue my writing.

What are you currently working on?

A cozy mystery set in the prairies, following the mystery of an unrecorded piece of music in the original hand of none other than Johann Sebastian Bach.

Tell us about your most recent book.

The Piccadilly Street Series consists of 4 books: 2 have been published; book 3 is set to be released February 2020, all loosely based on my experiences growing up in a haunted house with a real ghost and a lot of dreams accompanied by a vivid imagination.

It was incredibly interesting learning more about you, your writing style, and the story behind The Piccadilly Street Series. Wishing you much success, Emily-Jane! Thank you for being a part of MTA! –Camilla

Book Blurbs:

Mrs. Murray’s Ghost: The Piccadilly Street Series Book 1 –

Mary’s family has moved into a huge Victorian mansion. She loves her gigantic new house, especially her room. But then she begins to meet the house’s other residents. Mrs. Murray was murdered in Mary’s new house. At first she tries to scare the new residents away, but there seems to be a force connecting the ghost to Mary. Even the stranded Brownies, the little people who live between the walls, feel that connection. When Mary becomes deathly ill, the Brownies and the ghost team up to try to rescue her, only to encounter a witch and her evil minions. Time is running out. They must rescue Mary from a fever-induced dream world before she is trapped there forever. As well as being a fun read for young readers, the story gives an historical perspective to childhood, as it dates to the 1960s. It also deals with some very current issues, specifically bullying.

Mrs. Murray’s Hidden Treasure: The Piccadilly Street Series Book 2 –

There is a hidden treasure in the grand old mansion on Piccadilly Street, in a place called London, but not the real London of English fame. There’s also a lot of mystery and a murder that’s been unsolved for decades. But it’s the treasure that captures Mary’s interest. Mary lives in this house along with her family, her Brownie friends and a ghost. When the ghost reveals her secret about the hidden treasure, there’s no stopping Mary, her Brownie friends, or her enemies from searching for this treasure. Why the intrigue? Apparently there’s a little bit of magic connected to this treasure. And so the adventure begins. Who will find the treasure first?

Mrs. Murray’s Home: The Piccadilly Street Series Book 3 –

Home is where the heart is, or so they say. It’s also been said that a home is a person’s castle. But home is also with family and friends. Mrs. Murray longs for home, the family home, a castle an ocean away. The Brownies also crave for home, the same castle Mrs. Murray considers home. And Granny? Mary’s Granny hasn’t been home since she was Mary’s age. It’s time to visit the homeland, Scotland. Mary’s excited to tag along with Granny, Mrs. Murray and the Brownies. And then there’s the witch. The one they thought they’d killed. And the treasure. The one they had found. And it all ties together, for better or for worse. Join the adventure in book 3 of the popular “Piccadilly Street Series”.

Where to find the books:

Available online and in bookstores:

 

Connect with Emily-Jane:

http://emilyjanebooks.ca

https://www.facebook.com/realpeoplestories

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1732544.Emily_Jane_Hills_Orford

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Meet the Author: Bowing to Elephants by Mag Dimond

Today we travel to San Francisco, California to chat with Mag Dimond about how travel, elephants, silent retreats, a blue leather journal, Bach, and the Dalai Lama come together as sign posts on the path of Dimond’s life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I live in my “hometown” of San Francisco, where I lived as a child and to which I returned about 15 years ago after moving around quite a bit. I was raised by an eccentric woman who didn’t much like being a mother and who was an alcoholic as well. I was an only child. She took me to Italy when I was 11, and that pretty much changed my life. I became an expatriate at a young age, fell in love with an Italian boy at 14, and grew up pretty fast.

I grew up thirsting for love and affection and understanding….

I married young and was a mother at the age of 20. It wasn’t until I was in my late thirties that I actually completed my college education, and following that I went into teaching writing at the college level (San Francisco State). I began traveling when I was in my thirties – with my husband and sometimes with my kids. Later on, when I was on my own I traveled alone and then with a newfound partner in my life. Travel in a way was an escape from the loneliness I felt in my life and it was also a way for me to learn about who I was…

I’ve lived in San Francisco, Ohio, New York, New Mexico, and of course Italy, and I generally feel at home no matter where I find myself.

I’m close to my two daughters, my five grandchildren, and I’m working on establishing a connection with my four year old great grandson who lives in Oregon.

I have been a Buddhist for over twenty years and attended many silent retreats – my life has changed profoundly because of this practice…. I love to cook, drink good wine, knit, play the piano, write, walk with my dog, read, go to museums, and be in conversation with dear friends.

In which genre do you write?

Non-fiction/essays/travel blogs/memoir

How many published books do you have?

One published book: Bowing to Elephants (pub Sept 2019) by She Writes Press

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?

When I lived in Italy at the age of eleven… my stepfather gave me a beautiful blue leather journal complete with gold trim and little lock and key. I spent most afternoons with this journal, recording such things as loneliness, hunger for experience, questions about my mother’s eccentric behavior, excitement about what I was learning in school, and yearning for love. I was an only child and I had l a lot on my mind. I remember imagining then that one day what I wrote might eventually become published work that would be widely read. I had grown up around books and literature all my life, and this seemed a natural aspiration. Since that early time I persisted in recording my life in journals and notebooks, including my variety of travel experiences in adulthood. The journals were ultimately the scaffolding of my memoir, Bowing to Elephants.

What would you choose as your mascot, spirit animal, or avatar and why?

I would choose the elephant. For several reasons: the elephant represents the matriarchal culture which feels familiar and comforting, and draws me to it. The elephant has a prodigious memory, carrying information about not only its own experiences in the wild, but that of its family members. They say that the elephant has “historical memory,” which connects it to its distant past. Who wouldn’t want to have such a vast store of memory? It boils down to maternal love and memory. Growing up with a woman who couldn’t mother me, whom I tried to love, I always looked for this kind of love; in working on my book I discovered that my memory of the distant past was murky and full of holes, and this disturbed me. A therapist once taught me that when childhood trauma has occurred, it’s likely that memories of one’s early days will be lacking in detail, or may vanish entirely….

List 3 interesting facts about yourself.

I am a great grandmother and proud of it.
I am a terrific (gourmet) cook.
I frequently imagine these past lives: I was once a monastic studying in an Italian monastery, I was a mosaic artist in Venice who helped to create brilliantly colored church interiors…

Where did the idea for your most recent book come from?

It was born out of my amazing collection of travel journals (from Italy, France, Burma, India, Cambodia, Africa, Vietnam, and so on…). The raw material was all in those “diaries,” and all that needed to be done was figure out how to lay out the whole story as I wove in the important segments about my childhood.

What do you do when not writing or marketing your books?

I play Bach on my grandmother’s baby grand, I walk by the Pacific Ocean with my little dog Peaches, I meditate every day, I cook beautiful food, drink good wine, I’m addicted to British murder mysteries (Morse, Prime Suspect) on TV, I knit scarves in luscious colors, I read at least two books at the same time (currently into American history), I eat out frequently in my hometown of SF, I travel (of course!) either alone or with family members…

If you could have a fantasy tea with a famous person from the past or present, who would it be and what would you ask them?

If I had tea with the Dalai Lama, I would ask him to share his secret for accessing happiness, given the deep and relentless suffering he has endured in his long life. All humans want happiness – it is a universal desire – and this man is the embodiment of this emotion. I would like him to share his wisdom with me.

What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself through writing?

I’ve learned that despite my propensity for seriousness and looking into the darkness, I have a surprising capacity to be funny and irreverent at times!

What is the most enjoyable thing you’ve found through writing?

That moment where I know in my bones and in my heart that I have grabbed ahold of an elusive, murky, and important memory from the past and have made it come alive, have made it knowable to my reader.

What is the most inspiring thing that has ever happened to you?

The most inspiring thing was looking into the eyes of a giant elephant in Kenya almost twenty years ago; this humbled me, and transformed my mind and heart, and I can say I haven’t been the same since. I’ve been driven all these years to learn as much as I can about this extraordinary animal and to advocate for its survival. What I saw in those eyes: love, acceptance, gentleness, intelligence.

What do you miss about being a kid?

I had two very special friends growing up: Sue and Lynn – they were sisters. From the time I was four, we spent our days together as a threesome. They lived upstairs from me, and we alternated playing in my apartment or in theirs. We had piano lessons together with a very formal French lady, we made up plays, and we conjured things in the kitchen… They represented family to me, and their mother Josephine was a true bodhisattva, offering love and affection and food and laughter. With my friends and their mother, I felt like I “belonged.”

If you could ask your pet three questions, what would they be?

How does it feel NOT to have an obsessive brain like people have? Good??
How do feel about the job I’m doing, really?
If you could be taken anywhere, where would you like me to take you?

Which of your personality traits has been most useful and why?

My love of words. If it weren’t for my love of beautiful language (and in fact pretty much all beauty!), and my lurking belief that I had the capacity to use words really well, then my book perhaps wouldn’t have been completed. There was a sense that I owed it to myself to craft the most moving, lyrical, and honest work I could and offer it up to the world. I guess I was convinced my words needed to be read.

Tell us about the book:

Bowing to Elephants is a very intimate narrative about traveling in the world and ultimately discovering deep truths about oneself. Beginning as a series of travel essays, it then morphed into a layered memoir that peeled away layers from childhood to look at what drove me to explore the places I chose. I carried an insatiable need to find answers, connection with others, and ultimately to forgive myself for the darkness I held for my narcissistic mother. Thanks to travel, writing, and Buddhist practice, I found many of the answers I was seeking, and most importantly learned to love myself.

It was wonderful learning more about you and your history, Mag. Your book sounds fascinating! Sending you much love and blessings! – Camilla

Book Blurb:

BOWING TO ELEPHANTS, Tales of a Travel Junkie is a travel memoir… with a twist.

An unloved rich girl from San Francisco becomes a travel junkie to escape a dysfunctional family and a narcissistic, alcoholic mother.

Thanks to a journey of healing and self-discovery, the author navigates depression, loneliness, and loss while learning how to break down the false barriers that separate people.

Music, art, and food influence our hero as she finds her way to far-flung parts of the world.

By the end, Dimond accepts the death of the mother she never really had ― and finds forgiveness, peace and her authentic self in the refuges of travel and Buddhist practice.

BOWING TO ELEPHANTS is an epic adventure — Europe, Southeast Asia, Africa, India, and San Francisco — that transformed the author’s life.

More than a travel memoir, readers will be inspired by one woman’s journey of self-discovery, healing, and forgiveness… as they encounter strange lands, tantalizing foods, and mesmerizing characters (including a 14,000- pound African elephant).

Pub. Date September 17, 2019 Publisher: She Writes Press 
 List Price: $16.95
ISBN: 9781631525964

Where to find the book:

The book is available in all independent bookstores –

IndieBound.com for complete information on whereabouts of such bookstores. It is also available on Amazon.

Connect with Mag Dimond:

Dimond offers her free 10 minute mediation on lovingkindness for those interested in following her and signing on to her list. www.bowingtoelephants.com/gift

Dimond’s website: www.magdimond.com/news

Facebook: www.facebook.com/travelswithmag
Twitter: @DimondMag
Instagram: magpiesbeads

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Book Shelf: The Places That Scare You by Pema Chodron

The Places That Scare You by Pema Chodron

**Throwback to March 2016** – Have yet to read one of Pema Chodron’s books that I don’t find meaningful. So raw and real! Love, love, love!!

“We are being encouraged to remain open to the present groundless moment, to a direct, unarmored participation with our experience. We are certainly not being asked to trust that everything is going to be all right. Moving in the direction of nothing to hold on to is daring. We will not initially experience it as a thrilling, alive, wonderful way to be. How many of us feel ready to interrupt our habitual patterns, our almost instinctual ways of getting comfortable?”

US Amazon: https://amzn.to/2wyGTal

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Meet the Author: The Gift of Crisis by Bridgitte Jackson-Buckley

Today we travel to Los Angeles, California to chat with Bridgitte Jackson-Buckley about how Stephen King, journal writing, volunteering with the Peace Corps, asking questions, and Bill Murray come together as part of Bridgitte’s past and current life.

In which genre do you write?

I write about spirituality and personal growth which often falls under self-help. My book is a memoir categorized under self-help and spirituality.

How many published books do you have?

This is my first published book!

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?

As an only child for 16 years, I loved to read beyond my skill level. I always carried a pocket dictionary while reading Stephen King books. I’ve been writing in journals since I was in the fourth grade and I still have every single one of them! Writing has always been my “go to response”. It remains my first choice of practice to reflect and give voice to what’s inside. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to write a book. I just didn’t know about what I would write. And then came the crisis…which brought about an unintended literary gift.

What is an interesting writing quirk you have, that we wouldn’t know by reading your biography?

Although I love it so much, it’s hard! I always feel such ambivalence; like there is something in me that wants to be said, swirling around inside constantly reminding of its presence. I don’t always know what wants to be said, so I wait until it’s clear or until the swirling and pushing is too intense to ignore. At that point, I start writing until I feel like there has been a purge. When it’s out onto the paper I can relax…at least until the swirling begins again.

What would you choose as your mascot, spirit animal, or avatar and why?

Neytiri from Avatar! She is all heart and means what she says. In short, Neytiri does not play around.

What are you currently reading?

I recently finished BEHOLD THE DREAMERS by Imbolo Mbue, which was an astoundingly profound and well-written read. “The novel is about the fragility of the American Dream as told through the experiences of two New York City families during the 2008 financial crisis: an immigrant family from Cameroon, the Jonga family, and their wealthy employers, the Edwards family.” This book resonated with me because Mbue lost her job in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, as did I, and was unemployed for a year and a half.

List 3 interesting facts about yourself.

I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Honduras.
I speak Spanish.
I LOVE to dance.

Where did the idea for your most recent book come from?

In 2005, during a disturbing turn of events, my husband was hospitalized due to the onset of symptoms for a stroke. He was 33 years-old. In every way imaginable we were unprepared to deal with the long term effects of the challenges that lie ahead. The financial distress, parental responsibility, unexamined emotional wounds, blame, resentment, fear and anger unearthed elements of our psyche that nearly destroyed us and our marriage.
The loss of his ability to work propelled us into the beginning stage of what became the most prolonged and difficult period of our lives. For the next several years, we experienced the devastating loss of our home through foreclosure, ruptured familial relationships, job loss and a steady decline of our marriage.

Throughout this period there were times when I believed myself to be the victim. It wasn’t until I turned to meditation, prayer and journaling to make it through each day and began sincere self-examination, that I was ready to understand the circumstances provided an invitation for growth.

For more than one year, I sat down in a meditative state to ask questions to help me mentally and emotionally navigate the difficult and uncertain times I faced.

During meditation, in addition to periods of silence after prayer, I began to ask questions to solicit clarity and guidance into my awareness. The more I posed questions during a meditative state, I began to notice answers would indeed come into my awareness. However, as soon as the meditation session was over, I forgot the guidance which came into my awareness.

The only way to remember was to write it down. It was at that time I decided to bring a journal to my meditation sessions.

In the midst of this silent struggle, I turned within for at least 20 minutes a day to be able to make it through each day. I continued to meditate and write in my journal. Meditation grew to become the most practical, accessible and effective way I found to calm myself of the anxiety-ridden thoughts that propelled me.

At the time, I had no idea the practice I created around journaling would become my first book almost seven years later.

What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself through writing?

Writing is absolutely a skill that can be honed. I used to think writing was an innate talent, but I now see yes, you can have a propensity to be good at writing due to interest. However, with effort, patience, practice and the willingness to allow space for something new, you can absolutely take your writing to unexpected heights.

What is the most enjoyable thing you’ve found through writing?

Here is a little piece I wrote last year that sums up why I write:

There once was young girl who loved to write. It was all she thought of, day and night, how to tell stories, how she could tell stories. With her stories, she wanted to share her heart, her hopes, her dreams, what she learned, what she had seen and all she hoped to experience. This way – writing stories – is her way to connect, to go deeper within her feelings and her spiritual life. She yearned to talk, to tell, to communicate, not because she wanted to be seen, but because this was her heart’s desire – the impetus to be of service in this way. She understood the power of the written word, the way it influences the heart and mind, the way it creates shifts, movements, and awakenings. She understood this because she experienced this and nothing has given her greater comfort, joy and pull to act. Through the written word, she wanted to tell her story to help others create a new story – not just for themselves, but for everyone.

You are about to speak publicly to a group and read from your latest book. How do you do to prepare yourself?

I wrote about this in an article for The Writing Cooperative on Medium. Here are questions of which I eagerly anticipate the responses at my book events:

Who traveled the farthest distance to attend the event? Select three members of the audience to share their favorite “word of mouth” recommendation for my book. How do they describe my book to someone who has not read it? Someone once described it as a ‘metaphysical thriller’!
Ask what was the unexpected or surprise take away they received from reading my book.

Every interview, conversation and presentation carries a different energy – an energy of its own. Sometimes I can prepare in advance and know what to expect and other times not. I find it refreshing and comforting to know regardless of what I am asked about my book, what needs to come through will come through. I don’t have to have it all figured out. Sometimes I’m compelled to say specific things and other times I’m not. I’ve learned to trust that what comes through is exactly what is needed and wanted to be said and heard in that moment.

What do you miss about being a kid?

Days with my grandmother.

What’s the last movie you watched and why did you choose to watch it?

I recently watched ‘What About Bob’ with Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfus for the hundredth time! I love this movie so much I almost have the entire movie dialogue committed to memory. “…come on, I’ve come so far. I’m baby-steppin’! I’m doing the work! I’m baby-steppin’! I’m not a slacker!…give me, give me, give me, I need I need I need…” This is by far one of the best comedies ever made.

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently sitting with the idea for my next book. It’s “swirling” but hasn’t revealed itself; therefore, during the waiting period I’m working on a spiritual sci-fi script with my screenwriting partners, continuing with my blog on Medium and hosting an online video summit!

In The Gift of Crisis Video Summit, each featured guest is the quintessential example of transformation that can take place when you undergo tough times or difficult circumstances.

While the summit title mirrors that of my book, the focus of the summit will be on 10 authors who have also undergone a crisis and share their experience and insights through writing. Over the years I have benefited tremendously from the writing of authors who poignantly demonstrate the gifts we can find and cultivate in our darkest times. It is an ongoing intention of mine to pay-it-forward by highlighting spiritually uplifting and important stories of hope, resilience, and compassion for self and others.

It’s been a pleasure learning more about your journey to a published book, Bridgitte. Thank you for being a part of MTA! – Camilla

Book Blurb:

Bridgitte Jackson-Buckley was one of the 8.8 million people who lost their jobs and experienced foreclosure in The Great Recession. With her back against the wall, faced with challenges many of us would find hard to survive, Bridgitte realized the only place she could go was within – exactly where she needed to go. Here, for the first time, she reveals how to explore crisis as a tool for courageous change, regaining your self-esteem with self-love and self-compassion. The Gift of Crisis will show how repeated crises can serve as a catalyst to reveal the underlying purpose, and how questions posed during a meditative state can reveal answers that can redirect your life. Practical and deeply inspiring, this book shows you how meditation and prayer can assist during any type of crisis as a means to a calmer, clearer, more courageous and purposeful life.

Where to find the book:

THE GIFT OF CRISIS: HOW I USED MEDITATION TO GO FROM FINANCIAL FAILURE TO A LIFE OF PURPOSE can be found wherever books are sold AND in local libraries!

Connect with Bridgitte:

Medium: https://medium.com/@bjacksonbuckley3

Website: https://www.bjbuckley.com/

Social media links: Instagram and Facebook

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Meet the Author: A Very Important Teapot by Steve Sheppard

Today we’re traveling to Bampton in west Oxfordshire to chat with Steve Sheppard about how bingo, prison, Yackandandah, and cricket come together as part of Steve’s past and current life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I was born and brought up in Guildford in the heart of the Surrey stockbroker belt but, having failed to meet any stockbrokers, I moved to west Oxfordshire 23 years ago, where I now live with my wife, Anabel and the latest in a long series of recalcitrant cats in a quintessentially quirky, not-quite-Cotswold village called Bampton. This is of course the UK we’re talking about as nowhere else in the world can legally describe itself as not-quite-Cotswold. There used to be a son living here too, but apparently he moved out three months ago.

I have been many things in my time, including Bingo Manager, Estate Agent and Prison Officer, not forgetting many years selling unwanted goods and services to uninterested buyers. I now sit in the corner of an office four days a week making lots of coffee and trying to explain how offices used to function with just a Gestetner printer and one phone between ten people. I spend hours answering questions along the lines of: Was the whole world in black and white or was that just television? To which the answer is of course Yes.

I’m also on course to be the world’s oldest active cricketer, although active is an entirely relative term.

In which genre do you write?

Comedy fiction; in particular, as I have so far written just the one book, comedy spy thrillers, although I hope to branch out once I’ve written a couple more books in a series that has begun with A Very Important Teapot. The first draft of Book 2, as yet unnamed, although with a working title of Bored to Death in the Baltic, is almost finished. There may be some serious editing to go through, although hopefully I won’t have to knock 20% (20,000 words) off it like I did with Teapot.

How many published books do you have?

One, A Very Important Teapot, published by Claret Press, London in October 2019. Despite being older than Methuselah, I sincerely hope it won’t be the last (see above). I’d like to spend my life writing full-time but my bank manager does not currently think that is possible. Hopefully though, not too far hence.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?

I’ve always been a writer (probably inspired by my older brother) but it has taken me 45 years to actually turn that into an actual book. I had some poems published in an anthology back in 1972 but stopped writing poetry for good in my early 20s, advisedly as none of them were particularly good. Some weren’t awful though. My collected poetical works disappeared during a house move in the mid-nineties and the world is not a poorer place for their loss. Since then I have written short comic pieces, trivia, tomorrow’s fish and chip paper, for captive audiences (work mags, cricket clubs, drama groups, unfortunates like that). Over the years I’ve started several books that were intended to become full-length but always ended up 15 pages long. Good at starts, it’s the middles and ends that defeated me.

What does your ideal writing space look like?

It would look nothing like what it actually looks like, which is currently a small corner of the dining room with a wonderful view of a shed and the kitchen cooker. However, my son’s ex-room is being turned into a writing and music den. Somehow the room is smaller than it used to be, but at least I’ll have a bigger desk and a proper chair (and a view of the roof of the aforesaid shed).

What are you currently reading?

I only have about 20 books currently in my to-read pile. Mainly I’m reading Mick Herron. I only discovered him late last summer, so my research must be atrocious. I pride myself on my snappy dialogue but I am absolutely an amateur in that respect compared to Mick.

Where did the idea for your most recent book come from?

I was on holiday in south eastern Australia in March 2017. Literally on the flight home, I said OK, I‘m going to write from now until the end of the year and see where I get to. Don’t worry about an A to Z plot (I always managed to convince myself I couldn’t come up with a full-length plot), just do it and see. The result was A Very Important Teapot and, surprise surprise, it is very largely set in south eastern Australia. I even went to Yackandandah (yes, it’s a real place) and its folk festival, which feature heavily.

Do you journal write or keep a personal diary? 

No, although I did for many years through my 20s and into my my 30s. Think how many potential books those millions of wasted words equate to.

You are about to speak publicly to a group and read from your latest book. What song do you listen to before speaking? Or, what do you do to prepare yourself?

I wouldn’t listen to a song. I’d go to the toilet a lot instead.

How do you prepare yourself to discuss your book?

I’ll let you know. I have a library event coming up in Carterton, Oxfordshire on 24 July.

What do you miss about being a kid?

Not having to answer the phone. Who the heck had a phone back then? And I mean a landline. In a house. It was a novelty when we had one installed. All my mates came round to marvel at it.

If you could turn into one of your characters for a day, which one would it be and why, what would you do? 

I already have. Dawson is me, well for the first few chapters anyway. Except that he has more hair.

A giraffe knocks on your door and is wearing a bowler hat. What does he say and why is he there?

Well, clearly he’s a wrong delivery from a company called Animazon. In case that’s a confusing answer, you may wish to read http://stevesheppardauthor.com/short-stories/giraffe …. And actually, he doesn’t say anything but he does eat some toothpaste.

If you could ask your pet three questions, what would they be?

1. How the heck do you manage to sleep so much?

2. How the heck do you manage to sleep so much?

3. How the heck do you manage to sleep so much?

What are you currently working on?

I am currently desperately working on a title for Book 2. I set the titular bar pretty high with A Very Important Teapot. I need to find one before it gets published. I never expected this to be a thing. I’d come up with A Very Important Teapot almost before the metaphorical ink was dry on the first page.

It was such fun learning more about you, Steve. Love your sense of humor and the fabulous short story you wrote about the giraffe. Wishing you all the best, with much success on this book and future books! –Camilla

Where to find the book:

A Very Important Teapot is available everywhere. Obviously on Mr Amazon (.co.uk and .com) and all other online retailers in the UK, including Waterstones, Foyles, WH Smith etc, as well as many abroad (that’s abroad from where I’m sitting, obviously). Any bookshop can get it for you although only those in my immediate part of Oxfordshire will actually have it siting on their shelves. You can get it, signed if you want a damaged copy, from me via www.stevesheppardauthor.com.

Amazon UK:

US:

Kindle too!

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/46690093-a-very-important-teapot

Publisher: https://www.claretpress.com/idk

Blurb

Dawson is going nowhere. Out of work and nearly out of money, he is forlornly pursuing the love of Rachel Whyte. But Rachel is engaged to Pat Bootle, an apparently successful local solicitor who has appeared from nowhere.

Then, out of the blue, Dawson receives a job offer from his best friend, Alan Flannery, which involves him jumping on a plane to Australia to “await further instructions”. But instructions about what?

This is the start of a frantic chase around south eastern Australia with half the local underworld, the police and the intelligence agencies of three countries trying to catch up with Dawson.

What is Flannery’s game?

Why has Pat Bootle turned up in Australia?

Who is the beautiful but mysterious Lucy Smith?

What is the teapot’s secret?

What has folk music got to do with anything?

And how do guns actually work?

Dawson’s life will never be the same again.

Connect with Steve:

http://stevesheppardauthor.com/

Twitter: @stevesheppard2

Facebook: @AVeryImportantTeapot

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Book Shelf: Dance of the Sacred Circle – A Native American Tale

Dance of the Sacred Circle – A Native American Tale by Kristina Rodanas

**Throwback to 2016** – From the time Thomas and Lillian were born I read to them nightly before going to bed; leading to some time in 2017 when we all decided to discontinue doing so. Their tastes in what interested each of them had solidified by this point. We all continue to be heavy readers, reading daily.

A tale of bravery and magic based on a Blackfeet legend …. “The old ones spoke of the Great Chief in the Sky, whose breath gave life all the world. They said he lived in a wonderful land far above the stars …. ” Another one we really enjoyed … –Camilla

US Amazon: https://amzn.to/39xmlgJ

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Meet the Author: Mad, Sad Dysfunctional Dad by Stephen Gillatt

Today we travel to Faversham in the South East of England to talk with Stephen Gillatt about how country walks, mental health, escapism, writing in the maternity ward, sea lions, climbing fences, and Denise the Menace come together as part of Stephen’s past and current life.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Stephen Gillatt, I live in a town, my hometown, called Faversham. It’s in Kent, in the South East of England. I live here with my wife and two young daughters. I refer to them affectionately as ‘my three beautiful ladies’. I write anywhere, as long as my phone has battery! But for self-care, I like going on country walks and going fishing. As well as reading autobiographies – I like reading about the challenges, successes, complexities, struggles and beauty of life. People are staggering.

In which genre do you write?

At the moment I write non-fiction (memoirs). I’m writing what I know!

How many published books do you have?

I was lucky enough to publish my first book in July 2019. It’s about fatherhood and mental health. But also explores addiction, self-harm, therapy, relationships and suicide. I talk and write about things a lot of people won’t or can’t. My friends describe my writing as uncomfortable but important. Being a parent is such a wonderful privilege, but for so many there can be a darker side, which is felt, but rarely talked about. I try to write in a way people can identify with; that might help someone who’s struggling, and hopefully provide their partners’ with a window in the lives of the people they love and worry about.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?

When I was very unwell, I started writing as a form of escapism. A lot of people say it’s cathartic, but for me, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes facing how you really feel and are, is painful and uncomfortable. But then I began to realise I might be able to use my experiences to help others.

What is an interesting writing quirk you have, that we wouldn’t know by reading your biography?

I write at any time, any place, anywhere. I’m only bound by my phone battery! And I do very little editing. Most of my writing is ‘one-take’ so to speak. It’s literally just like putting thoughts and memories on to paper. I also wrote an entry for my first book in the maternity ward, after the birth of my second daughter. But I’m not sure whether this is quirkiness or madness …. That’s for other people to decide! If you see me on my phone, I’m more likely to be writing than texting or using social media!

What would you choose as your mascot, spirit animal, or avatar and why?

I’m a fanatical Liverpool Football Club fan! I’ve supported them for as long as I can remember. So it would have to be the (mythical) Liver Bird. Which is on the club badge.

What does your ideal writing space look like?

I wrote my first book on my phone. On buses, trains, at work, before and after therapy. In bars, hospitals, everywhere. The world is my writing space! If I had the time to have a writing place; it would be sitting by the lakes near my house. The only background noise being birdsong and the lapping of the water against the bank.

What are you currently reading?

I have a ridiculously short attention span, so I have a few! Happyslapped by a Jellyfish (Karl Pilkington), The Rum Diary (Hunter.S.Thompson) Being Gazza (Paul Gascoigne) and A season on the Brink (Guillem Balague).

List 3 interesting facts about yourself.

I went to a full moon party in the world’s highest city – La Paz, Bolivia

I once had to eat my Christmas dinner through a straw

I swam out half a mile to swim with wild sea lions in Iquique, Chile. It was totally unsupervised. Five of them surrounded me. I felt totally safe. I was amazing.

Where did the idea for your most recent book come from?

My second book, which I am currently trying to place, is the culmination of years of people continually saying I should write a book about my life. My friends say you couldn’t make it up. So I started writing it. And the few people who’ve read the manuscript, love it. Now I just need to find an agent or publisher who loves it! But you know what? I absolutely love it. So I might even self-publish. I want my daughters to be able to read about the ridiculous and fun-filled life I have had. And not just my first book; about my challenges and pain. People are so much more than their mental and physical illnesses.

What do you do when not writing or marketing your books?

I work full time! I work in social housing, with organisations who provide support and housing to vulnerable people in society. I also have two young children… So time is at a premium! If I do get spare time, or time for self-care, I like walking, fishing, sport and reading.

If you could have a fantasy tea or coffee date with a famous person from the past or present, who would it be and what would you ask them?

Paul Gascoigne. I was lucky enough to see his greatest goal against Scotland in 1996. I want to ask him, (after the way he was treated by the press beforehand) how scoring that goal really felt; what the rush was like. He watched his best friend die when he was ten. I’d like to ask him, today, if he has forgiven himself. Or if he still blames himself. I’d like to ask him if he thinks there is enough support for men in society today. I’d like to ask him if he lived his life again, would he change anything? Would he swap being free of addiction and mental illness for not being a professional footballer? And I’d like to ask him what he would say to men who are struggling in their lives, in order to try and help them not go through what he has. What I have.

Muhammed Ali – I’d like to ask him about the stand he took against the Vietnam War. How he found the courage, to, at the height of his career (March 9, 1966) give up everything. And if he ever regretted the way he sometimes ridiculed opponents in the build-up to big fights.

I’d also love to sit with Lance Armstrong and just ask him ‘why?’

I generally only read non-fiction to my daughters at bedtime!

What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself through writing?

That I can write poetry. I now write a lot of micro poetry, so a poem the length of one tweet. I’m not even sure how it started, but I publish quite a bit on Twitter. And some people seem to like it, although it can be very dark. But I like them, and am proud of them. Writing should make us happy.

What is the most enjoyable thing you’ve found through writing?

That I’ve found a creative avenue that helps me process my struggles, while helping people with the struggles in their own lives.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve done or experienced to help create a scene or plot or to help you remember something if writing a memoir?

I’ll be honest. Despite having a short attention span; the memories I’ve used in my books are vivid. Like dreams I’ve captured and stored in my head. When I write, it’s often because I have a surge of memories (or creativity). I write them down. Then see how they fit into the manuscript I am working on. And then some random things when I reminisce with friends!

Do you journal write or keep a personal diary? Has this helped with your published writings? If so, how?

My first book is a diary! It was written over eighteen months. One year of daily entries, including from a set of therapy sessions. I was given permission to use exit and exit questionnaires, it’s real life. Then six months after I stopped, I experienced a very severe bought of paternal post-partum depression (PPPD). Research says about ten percent of men experience this. So it spans eighteen months in total. Which was my wife’s full labour, the birth of our second daughter, and then a very difficult time afterwards. Now my Twitter account is my (interactive) diary.

What is the most amusing, crazy or inspiring thing that has ever happened to you?

I was knocked over by a bus in the early hours of the morning in the car park of The Ataturk Stadium, Istanbul, after the 2005 Champions League (football) final. I traveled on my own, via Bulgaria, and it was an epic trip. I’ve written a sport travel memoir called ‘4000 miles of mayhem – An imbecile in Istanbul, and other countries’. Oh, and I’m the imbecile!

You are about to speak publicly to a group and read from your latest book. What song do you listen to before speaking? Or, what do you do to prepare yourself?

Well, I am lucky enough to have been invited to speak about my book at a Literary Festival on February 22nd, In Faversham, Kent. Where I live. I think I’ll have a cup of tea. Chill out, speak to a few of the people who have paid to come and see me (I’m donating all ticket proceeds to the mental health community garden where I’m speaking). As for a song? There are so many, Maybe ‘Mummy’s Boy’ by Wretch 32, or ‘Porcelain’ by Moby. I love travelling and The Beach is a favourite film of mine.

How do you prepare yourself to discuss your book?

I’ve been fortunate to have been asked to do telephone, podcast and broadcast interviews in the last year. The first time I was nervous, but as I got used to the way things work, the nerves ebbed away. I also absolutely believe in what I am trying to do. And I really enjoy it, and remember how lucky I am to be able to talk about things that are so important to me, and that people relate to. Mental health and mental Illness (I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and Bipolar Depression in October 2019) has, and always will be, a big part of my life. I’m now trying to do things in my professional and personal life to help people who are living, and especially struggling with mental health problems and mental illness.

What do you miss about being a kid?

How free I felt. The excitement of waking up on a Saturday morning. Meeting my friends. Climbing over a fence, so we could play football on a crisp, immaculate, school football pitch. The crunch of the frost underfoot. Falling over, laughing at ourselves. How the sun warmed us up, and we slowly stopped seeing our breath. Imagining being a professional footballer. And during those times, sharing our dreams, and on those mornings, the three of us, making them our reality. Walking home, just feeling warm. Not because of the sun, but because of the unconditional friendships we had back then. And the laughs we had, the stories we could tell, and the memories we were creating.

At this stage in your life, what advice would your young self give to your more mature self?

Don’t regret what you have done, your choices, and where your life it as. Be grateful for the friends you have and the memories you’ve made. Nobody is perfect, but you are trying your best to make a difference. And you still have time. But above all, do not feel like a failure.

If you were trapped in a cartoon world from your childhood, which one would you choose and why?

Definitely Dennis The Menace! I wasn’t exactly well-behaved as a kid, so his antics would be right up my street!

If you could turn into one of your characters for a day, which one would it be and why, what would you do? If you write non-fiction or memories, what fictional character would you invite into your story and why?

As I (currently) write memoirs, all of my characters are real.

But I’d like to invite Vito Corleone ‘The Godfather’ into my world for a day. I’d like to share authentic Italian food and fine wine with him. I’d love to hear his musings about health and family, mental health too. As well as his take on respect, values, success, failure, and leaving a legacy.

What’s the last movie you watched and why did you choose to watch it?

The Irishman (Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci). I love reading about the history of gangsters and the mafia. I love films made about it too. This history of the Bufalino crime family is really interesting. I watch the Godfather trilogy a few times a year. It’s a masterpiece.

A penguin knocks on your door and is wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he there?

He’s out of ice, and wants to go out for chilli!

Do you believe things happen for a reason? Do you have an example from your own life to share why you believe this?

Yes, I believe in fate… I was supposed to go fishing in Morocco for my 30th birthday. I missed my flight, so traveled to Leeds to party with some friends. Shortly after being back I met my second wife. We connected instantly. Now, we have been married eight years in April, and have two beautiful daughters. There is no way I would have met my wife if I had not missed my flight. I was planning to try to get a job in Morocco, and never return to England.

If you could ask your pet three questions, what would they be?

I have a cat. I’d ask what it would really like to eat? Why can’t you just sleep in the comfy bed we have bought, instead of the bloody sofa! Why do you wait until just before I want to go to bed before you want to do out! (we don’t have a cat-flap).

Which of your personality traits has been most useful and why?

Empathy. I have had a difficult life (who hasn’t) so I never judge anyone. You never really know what people are going through. You only ever know what they decide to tell you. Everyone leads a double life to some degree.

What’s your favorite place to visit in your country and why?

I live on the coast. So I’m lucky to have beautiful beaches a few miles away. I love water. I suppose this is why I like freshwater (catch and release) fishing. There is also a nature walk very near my house. I have been going there regularly for the last six years with my wife and daughters, and at the right time of year, we pick wild blackberries. It always makes me happy, even when the weather is bad… We just go puddle-jumping!

Describe the perfect solo date you’d take yourself on … where, time of day, weather, place, etc.

I’d take myself to a lake. Arrive under darkness and watch the sun rise. Cast my rods out and chill out on my bed-chair. Turn on the radio or a podcast, and maybe read a little. Even have a snooze. Then bask in the glory of the sunset. Enjoying a large hot chocolate (with a little splash of something as a treat) as I’m enveloped by dusk, eventually darkness, and a star-sprinkled sky.

What are you currently working on?

Finding a publisher for my second book, and writing my third book about mental health and social media. Its working title is ‘Making mental health social’ But most importantly, maintaining my (decent) mental health, and just enjoying every minute of family life as me and my wife watch our amazing daughters grow up.

It was wonderful learning more about you, your background, and writing style. Thanks much for being a part of MTA, Stephen! All the best to you and here’s to success with your writings! –Camilla

Where to find the book:

‘Mad, Sad, Dysfunctional Dad’ is available in paperback and kindle version:

On Amazon https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mad-Sad-Dysfunctional-Stephen-Gillatt-ebook/dp/B07TVLBPGQ/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=stephen+Gillatt&qid=1580309131&sr=8-1

The Conrad Press https://theconradpress.com/product/mad-sad-dysfunctional-dad/

Connect with Stephen:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/talkingcl

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/stephen-gillatt-26383816b/

Email: stephen@talkingchangeslives.org

A short television feature Stephen recently did for the BBC: https://www.linkedin.com/posts/stephen-gillatt-26383816b_mentalhealth-resilience-depression-ugcPost-6625164227432730624-HO53

About Stephen:

Stephen is a customer service, public relations and housing practitioner with twenty years’ experience across three sectors. Most recently working in income recovery within social housing and local council community development.

Stephen has been living with mental health problems for twenty-five years and was diagnosed as living with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) in October 2019. In his teens and early twenties, Stephen battled a gambling addiction which resulted in him dropping out of University. Six years ago, Stephen had a nervous breakdown. And two years later began writing his fatherhood and mental health memoir ‘Mad, sad, dysfunctional dad’ (published July 2019) in which he opens-up about post-partum depression, self-harm and therapy. The joys, and struggles of being a dad, and the pressure to just keep going. And how this pressure broke him. But also, how great things can come from the darkest places.

Over the last eighteen months Stephen has featured in several local and national interviews, and in January of this year, featured in a special report aired on the BBC. During this time, he also started event speaking, his first, a Housing Quality Network (HQN) which focused on income recovery, rent arears and mental health. He is now confirmed at an additional six event in 2020.

In February 2020 Stephen will be speaking about his book at the Faversham Literary Festival; and is now writing his second and third book. As well as writing for HQN in his spare time.

Stephen is passionate about mental health (especially men’s), and mental health in the workplace; recently designing and writing a set of workshops for staff, managers, students and prisoners under the banner ‘My mental MOT’. He is currently exploring other ideas to improve mental health in business and society.

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