I absolutely adore this book and will be sharing it with my 18 year old daughter. I enjoyed the different styles of poetry and prose mixed together with photography. It flowed beautifully. An uplifting, magical, sweet gem of a book. – Camilla
I interviewed the author of this book in March 2020. Follow the link to read more about M J Mallon.
Absolutely not my typical genre of choice. Yet, I interviewed the author, Wendy Holden, and have been making my way through books she’s written.
I very much enjoyed the story and am looking forward to seeing the movie now. I had a wonderful time getting to know the characters and being a part of the transformation for each of them. Loved it! –Camilla
“The Ink Garden of Brother Theophane” by C.M. Millen
**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.
Another book we really enjoyed. A wonderful fiction based on the monks of the Middle Ages from Ireland who established monasteries throughout much of Europe and parts of the Middle East. The monasteries were the place where books were made. The monks carefully translated and copied the great written works of antiquity. – Camilla
Today we travel to rural Somerset in the UK to chat with A.L. Lester about how chickens, plotting, Kew Gardens, growing up on a horticultural nursery, making butter-lamps, Roobard and Custard, and an inability to quit come together as part of their past and current life.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
Hi, I’m Ally and I write as A. L. Lester. I live in rural Somerset in the UK, on the edge of the Quantock Hills with Mr AL, our two children, a variety of chickens and animals and an unsuccessful permaculture vegetable garden.
In which genre do you write?
I write queer, paranormal, historical romance.
How many published books do you have?
Three, with a fourth coming out in April.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?
I’ve always written, but I didn’t hit my stride and find a publisher until 2017.
What is an interesting writing quirk you have, that we wouldn’t know by reading your biography?
I’m not sure I have any interesting ones…I can never remember the difference between it’s/its and I loathe plotting. But they’re not interesting quirks, per se, more irritating ones, I’m sure my editor would say!
What would you choose as your mascot, spirit animal, or avatar and why?
Dachshund. Morris the Emotional Support Dachshund is my real life mascot.
What does your ideal writing space look like?
Empty of people wanting me to brush their hair or find their socks or remember whether they’ve paid the gas bill.
What are you currently reading?
I’m currently reading a really fab gay historical romance by Lillian Francis called Under the Radar. It’s set on a WW2 submarine and the details are amazing.
List 3 interesting facts about yourself.
· I can pluck a chicken in twenty minutes
· I have no sense of smell
· I used to run a farmer’s market stall selling eggs.
Where did the idea for your most recent book come from?
My most recent book is called The Flowers of Time and is a romance between a lady botanist and a non-binary explorer set in the Himalayas in the 1780s. The idea was jump-started by a picture of some 1920s plant-collectors from Kew Gardens. I grew up on a horticultural nursery, so I felt very drawn to the whole botanical thing.
What do you do when not writing or marketing your books?
I knit, I home educate my frighteningly articulate twelve year old, I care for my life-limited eleven year old.
If you could have a fantasy tea or coffee date with an author or famous person from the past or present, who would it be and what would you ask them?
Dorothy Dunnett. I’d want to ask her about her historical research for the Lymond series.
What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself through writing?
That I’m non-binary. The Flowers of Time is basically me working that through!
What is the most enjoyable thing you’ve found through writing?
I’ve got a really nice circle of online friends from social media.
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?
Erm. I made my own butter for the butter-lamps in The Flowers of Time. I separated the milk, made the butter, clarified it and then used it with a wick for light.
At this stage in your life, what advice would your young self give to your more mature self?
Be less bothered about what other people think about you – just crack on and be yourself.
If you were trapped in a cartoon world from your childhood, which one would you choose and why?
Roobarb and Custard would probably be most realistic if I’m perfectly honest. Slapstick comedy and a dog and cat creating chaos.
Do you believe things happen for a reason? Do you have an example from your own life to share why you believe this?
Very much so. I believe very strongly in reincarnation and karma. Not karma in the ‘instant payback’ kind of way, but I believe that we get back what we put out, eventually, and that life is a series of learning experiences. If you don’t learn a lesson the first time the opportunity arises then you are presented with more opportunities to learn as you go through your life.
I think this is why I find questions like ‘what one thing would you change about your life if you could’ so hard. I wouldn’t change anything, really, not even the bad stuff, because it’s all shaped me in to the person I am and given me the life I have today.
If you could ask your pet three questions, what would they be?
· Why did you kill that chicken?
· Why do you keep digging a hole out of the corner of the garden and getting stuck down that badger hole?
· Why do you only jump on the bed when you’re muddy?
Which of your personality traits has been most useful and why?
Probably my inability to quit, even when that would be the best thing to do. I just keep plodding on and a lot of the time it doesn’t occur to me that I could give up!
What’s your favorite place to visit in your country and why?
Rural places with lots of trees and streams. But I don’t mind too much where, so long as it’s in nature somewhere. I love Exmoor and the Quantocks, which is where I grew up. Similar places really resonate with me.
Describe the perfect solo date you’d take yourself on … where, time of day, weather, place, etc.
In the morning, sunny but not hot, somewhere I could sit outside in nature with a pot of coffee and write, without interruption.
What are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on a romance set in the 1970s between a disabled farmer and a disgraced stockbroker. I’m about ten thousand words in and I’m aiming to have it finished by the end of March.
Tell us about your most recent book.
The Flowers of Time is the third in my Lost in Time magical universe. It’s a paranormal-historical-romantic suspense set in England and the Himalayas in the 1780s. It’s a love story between Edie, a determined lady botanist and Jones, a non-binary explorer. They travel across the mountains searching for rare flowers and trying to work out what killed Jones’ father three years before. There are monsters and yaks and a dog and mysterious caves and kissing. You can find it on all the major ebook platforms!
It was great having you be a part of MTA, Ally! I listened to the clip of you reading a chapter, and what a lovely voice you have. Captivating! All the best to you! –Camilla
Jones is determined to find out what caused the unexpected death of her father whilst they were exploring ancient ruins in the Himalayas. She’s never been interested in the idea of the marriage bed, but along with a stack of books and coded journals he’s left her with the promise she’ll travel back to England for the first time since childhood and try being the lady she’s never been.
Edie and her brother are leaving soon on a journey to the Himalayas to document and collect plants for the new Kew Gardens when she befriends Miss Jones in London. She’s never left England before and is delighted to learn that the lady will be returning to the mountains she calls home at the same time they are planning their travels. When they meet again in Srinagar, Edie is surprised to find that here the Miss Jones of the London salons is ‘just Jones’ the explorer, clad in breeches and boots and unconcerned with the proprieties Edie has been brought up to respect.
A non-binary explorer and a determined lady botanist make the long journey over the high mountain passes to Little Tibet, collecting flowers and exploring ruins on the way. Will Jones discover the root of the mysterious deaths of her parents? Will she confide in Edie and allow her to help in the quest? It’s a trip fraught with perils for both of them, not least those of the heart.
The first book, Lost in Time, is currently free for the next few days as part of a bundle the publisher has put together collectively for people stuck at home. They are mostly queer romance: https://www.jms-books.com/free-c-440/
Flowers of Time booktrailer:
A.L. Lester reading an excerpt of The Flowers of Time:
Top Three Countries With the Most Traffic to Meeting the Authors in February 2020:
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Today we travel to Toronto, Ontario, Canada to chat with Peter Staadecker about how Canada’s mountainous West Coast, mushroom picking, Cape Town, South Africa, vervet monkey thieves, being an unwilling soldier, and photography set the scenes of Peter’s past and current life.
Have you lived there in Toronto your entire life?
Not yet. I moved there in 1981 thinking it would be temporary because Toronto is flat and I missed the mountains. All these years later, it’s still flat, it’s still temporary. I’m still here.
Why are you still there?
Ask my wife. I would have liked Canada’s mountainous West Coast. My wife is from France. She says the West Coast is too far from her mother and family.
And you still believe Toronto is temporary?
Don’t trample on an old man’s dreams.
Tell us about yourself.
I was born and raised in Cape Town, South Africa. Africa back then had (and still has) some very wild spots. One night four of us were camped in Botswana by the Chobe River under nothing but mosquito nets when a pride of hunting lions walked through the camp. We had thought our campfire would keep them away. It didn’t. Another night, vervet monkeys stole freshly baked bread right off our campfire. We had thought the fire would … I’m not even going to finish that sentence. One monkey also stole some crucial antibiotics out of our parked car. We had detoured three days from Botswana into what is now Zimbabwe to get those precious antibiotics for a sick friend. The monkey thief sat out of reach in a tree, calmly watched our tantrums far below, opened the childproof lid with ease, poured the pills onto the ground, and took off through the trees with the empty bottle, the childproof lid and an enamel mug.
There are also wonderful mountain ranges in Africa. Did I mention mountains?
I’ve had jobs as varied as mushroom picking, salvaging a sunken yacht, being an unwilling soldier, etc. I studied and became a mathematician, worked in business and am now retired with time to write.
What do you do when you’re not working on your books?
You mean aside from time for books, house, garden, wife, children, pets, etc.? It depends on the season. Right now it’s still winter, which is cross-country skiing time if I’m free. For those that don’t know cross-country skiing, if you do it right it’s like flying. Unfortunately, I often plummet. I recently put up a video clip of myself x-country skiing, here https://vimeo.com/393348449. It shows both the flying and the onset of the plummet stage. The clip also contains some of my photography—another hobby when I get time.
What have you been reading recently?
Last year, I was bowled over by J.L. Carr’s “A Month in the Country.” I’ve reread it three times to analyze it and to steal the secret sauce behind J.L. Carr’s magic.
And the secret is?
I don’t know. Each time I read it, I forget that my goal was industrial espionage; I become an entranced reader all over again. I’ve given up trying to analyze it.
Another thing that bowled me over recently was an award acceptance speech by the late poet/musician/singer Leonard Cohen. You can see a video version at
It’s a wonderful example of a poet using language to put a spell on his audience.
Did you like the movie version of A Month in the Country?
For me, the magic is in the book, not the movie.
Did you always write?
Not before the age of about five. But after that, yes. I tried to publish a magazine when I was about ten. I sold one copy. Since then I’ve written occasional journal or newspaper articles and published four books.
My first book, and the one I’d like to focus on today, is called “The Twelve Man Bilbo Choir.” The closest genre it approximates is historical fiction. Specifically, it’s based on an actual historical event, but it fictionalizes the event and transports it into modern times.
How did you get the idea for it?
Toronto has no mountains—did I already mention that—so, I started sailing on Lake Ontario. As a sailor, I became aware of an 1884 sailing tragedy that set a legal precedent for much of the world. Three men and a cabin boy survived a shipwreck in the Atlantic. They were adrift in a lifeboat for 24 days. The digits 2 and 4 look so harmless in print, but think about it: twenty-four days. I won’t spoil the story by revealing the key events that took place during those 24 days. The survivors were rescued and returned to Britain. The British Home Secretary took an interest in the events. He decided to bring two of the men to trial in spite of the public support the men had received. Again, I won’t reveal details for fear of spoiling the story. What I will say is that I discussed the trial with my teenage boys. I told them why, although the case was controversial, I supported the judge’s ruling. I found to my surprise that my boys were totally opposed to the judge’s ruling.
Fair warning: do NOT EVER, ever, ever find yourself shipwrecked with my teenagers. They are savage little so-and-so’s. You have been warned.
Anyway, I couldn’t get the case out of my mind, so I wrote the book. I was delighted to find it shortlisted for the Kobo-Rakuten Emerging Authors prize. I’m also delighted that copies are held in the USA by library of The National Registry of Exonerations and by the Equal Justice Initiative.
What advice would your now-self give to your younger-self?
Don’t camp where lions hunt. That’s stupid.
If you like the smell of freshly-baked bread you’ll be at peace with all creatures.
If you like the taste of freshly-baked bread you’ll hate vervet monkeys.
Also, find out in advance where your future wife refuses to move to.
It was great having you be a part of MTA, Peter. I very much enjoyed your sense of humor and wish you all the best with your books! –Camilla
Where can readers find your books?
Two of the books, including “The Twelve Man Bilbo Choir”, can be found on kobo.com in epub format
All the books can be found on Amazon sites world-wide in Kindle format, and in paperback wherever Amazon sells paperbacks
Most bookshops can special-order the paperback versions
A while ago my 14-year-old son asked me to help him find some juvenile and young adult fiction books having to do with mental health issues. This is one of them. I decided that instead of just giving him a list, that I’d read the books too.
It’s about a 16 year old girl who has a hell of a time with her spiraling thoughts. I really enjoyed the story and loved reading and getting absorbed in it.
However, I had something odd happen that is unique for me as something in the story triggered some issues from my own childhood and teenage years. This caused me to not like the ending of the story (but had to do with my own triggers). Seriously, it was pretty wild. I was angry and irritated for two days after finishing the book. Had to walk into the issue in my morning journal writing so I could connect with some issues, feel the discomfort of it all. Once I looked at it, embraced it and stopped rejecting it, I was able to move past it.
Again, totally unique to my situation as it triggered some deep hurt and pain within me from my past. Yet, that’s the beauty of life … We never know when or what is going to invite us to release past issues buried within.
Having said all of that, I did enjoy the book and I’ll be adding his other book, The Fault of Our Stars, to my list.
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.
Meeting the Authors has had an incredibly successful beginning. The website launched in May 2019 with interviews from the get go. It has been a pleasure to meet such a wide and diverse group of authors from around the world.
Thank you for being a part of the MTA launch and thank you to those who have asked how you can help. Here’s to many more fun and quirky interviews in 2020! – Camilla
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It’s clear I’m in for the long haul with this series. I have much catching up to do as this was published in 1996 and Nancy Atherton is still writing this series! I’ll be reading them for a while! HA!
Since this is still near the beginning of the series, more characters were introduced and it was great getting to know them. I loved the mystery to be solved, yet, this has been my least favorite so far. I still very much enjoyed it and enjoyed learning about the history of Lori’s husbands family.