Double Weekly Review

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On My Blog

Interviewing a Writer – Ke Payne

Elsewhere in the JBlogosphere

Pragmatic Attic shares a recipe for Japanese Restaurant Salad and Chicken Sliders with Wasabi Sauce

Leora reviews Menahem Begin A Life

Lorri shares a story: Scent of the Moment

Nocturne and Mouse – two stories by Freya

Amichai Lau-Lavie discusses Dynastic Dilemma & my Cousin David, The New Chief Rabbi

Web articles and posts

At Lingering Visions Dawn presents the Lingering Look at Architecture Photo Challenge

The TES shares Where teachers live like kings

BBC Broadcast about The Story of the Talmud by Nafatli Brawer

For a Woman (Pour une femme): Film Review on the Hollywood Reporter

Shabbat Shalom!

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Interviewing a Writer – Ke Payne

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British author Ke Payne has kindly agreed to answer some questions for this blog.

Ke Payne, can you introduce yourself in a few words/lines?

I’m a British YA lesbian author with Bold Strokes Books. I was born and grew up in Bath, in South West England, but now I live in chaotic bliss in the Cotswolds with my partner, one scruffy Jack Russell terrier and two not-so-scruffy guinea pigs.

As a child and teenager what were the books that made an impression on you?

I remember reading Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol at school, and it making quite an impression on me. While I had a sneaky feeling that I wouldn’t be visited by ghosts clad in clanking chains in the night if I was mean to someone, I was certainly struck by how important it is to treat everyone equally and with kindness. A book suggesting that one person can be shown the error of his ways, make him stop and think about which way his life is heading, then have a rethink and emerge a better person is as important today as when it was written 160 years ago.

Who are your favorite authors today and do you think their writings influence your own?

I’m a fan of Kate Morton, and love both the intricacies and Englishness of her novels. I like that her stories sway from the past to the present and back again, so that you can see how everything that happened in a character’s past influences everything about their present and, possibly, their future.

I wouldn’t say her writing influences me though. I’d love to be able to write something as complex as she does, but I can’t ever see that happening!

Who are your favorite lesbian authors?

Sarah Waters is a firm favourite. Her descriptions of London – whether Victorian or Second World War – are so evocative I can almost imagine the smog and noise. I love the way she weaves a story, with its various twists and turns too. Even though I’ve read Fingersmith lots of times, I still really enjoy the twist in it.

I also love a good Gerri Hill novel which, on a long summer afternoon lazing in the garden, can be hard to put down.

How many books have you written so far?

I’ve been lucky enough to have four novels published so far with Bold Strokes Books: 365 Days, me@you.com, Another 365 Days and The Road to Her. I’ve just had my fifth, Because of Her, accepted too. That’s scheduled for some time in 2014, I believe.

Why do you write YA fiction?

I write YA because I can remember just how much a book written specifically for a teenager/young person affected me at that age, both positively and sometimes negatively. After I wrote 365 Days, I had lots of emails and letters from teenage readers telling me just how true to life it was, and how much it had helped them personally. I also got lots of correspondence from people in their twenties, thirties and forties telling me they wished they’d been able to read a book like it when they were a teenager and going through the same anxieties that Clemmie, the main character, was going through. As a writer, it’s immensely gratifying to know that something you’ve written might have helped someone, in whatever small way, realise that they’re not alone, and that there are others out there sharing the same worries and confusion.

What other YA authors do you enjoy reading?

Michael Morpurgo who wrote, amongst others, War Horse. I think it’s important not to patronise YA readers and not to write more simply just because your target audience happens to be teenagers and young adults. Michael Morpurgo does that perfectly.

What inspired you to write your first novel?

About five years ago I found an old diary of mine on a visit home. It was one from when I was struggling to work out who I was, and every day’s entry was more anxiety-ridden than the last. Even though it made me a bit sad reading it, remembering a time when I was confused about my sexuality and in love with a girl at school who didn’t even know I existed, it still made me laugh as I’d peppered it with humour as, presumably, that was the only way I could cope with things back then.

After reading my diary I knew I wanted to write something that showed that, although being a teenager can be fraught with angst and unrequited love, it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom, and that it’s important to find the funny in the most unfunny of situations. 365 Days was borne out of that, written as a diary, about a girl who, to all intents and purposes, is probably me…

Would you say that you write lesbian fiction or novels where lesbians are the main characters?

That’s a tricky question. I classify lesbian fiction as being fiction written exclusively for lesbians, so I would say I write novels where lesbians are the main characters. The plot should be more than just the fact they are lesbians – the fact that they are is secondary (and a bonus!) The main point is that each character is just trying to go about their lives, but inevitably a girl catches their eye and confuses things.

Did you know right from the start that you wanted to write this kind of novel?

No. I started life as a short story writer for UK women’s magazines but when a friend leant me some Gerri Hill books, I immediately realised that I wanted to write the kind of books that I would rather read myself.

I still write short stories (under a pseudonym) as they help pay the bills, but it’s writing YA novels that I enjoy the most.

Does it make a difference to be a British and/or a European author?

Definitely. 365 Days and its sequel, Another 365 Days are as British as afternoon tea and biscuits. My humour, too, is very British, and not everyone gets it. As I’m published by a US publisher, they do sometimes ask me to write things that are more universally understood, especially when it comes to brand names which could be exclusively British. Of course, I’m always more than happy to do that. However, I do still read comments from reviewers who complain that they can’t understand my English “slang”, and that, for them, it ruins the book.

Whilst that’s disappointing, it’s still slightly better than the comments I receive complaining about my “English mistakes”, when what they mean is “non-American English”. I guess you can’t please all the people all the time, can you?

How did you conceive the plot for The Road to Her?

My favourite British soap recently had a lesbian storyline, which was a first for that particular soap. It got me thinking: how would the two actresses playing these characters react if their on-screen chemistry spilled over into real life?

So I wrote The Road to Her, where my two main characters are well-known soap actresses who fall in love on screen, only to start to fall for each other off screen too. I wanted to know what they would do. Would they just see it as blurring fiction with real life, and ignore it, or would they act on those feelings? Maybe their careers would be more important to them? Or maybe they’re both just confused. So many questions needing so many answers…

Do you draw your inspiration for your main characters from real life? Or do you totally invent them?

They’re mostly figments of my imagination. However, there is a lovely character in me@you.com called Joey who might just be a little bit like my partner.

Do you have a favourite character? Which one and why?

I’ll always be very fond of Clemmie Atkins from 365 Days and Another 365 Days, possibly because she was my first ever character but more probably because she’s a total klutz and I love her for it.

Are you currently working on a new book? Would you mind telling us a little about it?

As I mentioned earlier, I recently found out that I’ve had another novel accepted for publication in 2014, so I’m really excited about that. It’s called Because of Her and features a main character called Tabby Morton whose life is turned upside down when she has to move to London when her father is headhunted by a major finance company. She’s enrolled in an exclusive school in the hope that it’ll finally make a lady of her, but she hates it. It’s only when the kind and lovely Eden Palmer walks into her classroom one day and catches her eye, that Tabby begins to think that life in London’s not so bad after all.

I’m also currently halfway through writing a sixth novel, provisionally titled Once The Clouds Have Gone, about a girl who has to return home after many years when father dies and she inherits his business. It’s another YA romance, so of course there’s a stunning girl waiting in the wings to stir things up a bit…

Thank you Ke for your availability and your time!

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Only Blogs Weekly Review

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On My Blog

Mango and Citrus Fruit Salad

Quick Pickled Cucumbers

Danish Drama – Skywatch Friday

Elsewhere in the JBlogosphere

Lorri reviews The Retrospective

Leora shares a beautiful watercolour

Don’t Panic, But You’re Representing Your Entire People – a post by Rivki

Rabbi Laura Kaplan’s unusual take on Tisha B’Av: From Tisha B’Av With Love

And On the Seventh Day, I Didn’t Check Email – a post by Gila on Jewish Value Online

Freya’s creative writing: Kriah and Genius

Shabbat Shalom!

Quick Pickled Cucumbers

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My recipe is a variation on chef Marcus Samuelsson’s pickled cucumbers. I have used his recipe as a basis and have added several ingredients (suggested here and there online).

Ingredients for one small garden cucumber:
1 tbsp salt
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1 cup sugar
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dry dill or 1 tbsp fresh dill
1 tsp hot red pepper flakes
1 tsp black peppercorns and Jamaican peppercorns

Slice the cucumber as thin as possible. Put the slices in a colander, toss them with the salt, and let stand for about 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, combine the water, vinegar, sugar, bay leaf, herbs and spices in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat.

Rinse the salt off the cucumbers, and squeeze out as much moisture as possible. Put the cucumbers in a clean jar and add the pickling solution; they should be completely covered by the brine. Cover and refrigerate for 3 to 6 hours before serving.

Mango and Citrus Fruit Salad

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Citrus sauce:
Juice of one grapefruit, orange and lemon (or lime)
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp cinnamon
½ of a vanilla bean, split and scraped

2-3 mangoes

fresh mint for garnish

Put fruit juice, honey, cinnamon and vanilla in a bowl. Stir until the sugar dissolves.

Peel and chop the fruit into bite size pieces. Pour over the citrus sauce and leave in the fridge at least for a couple of hours.

Serve with a sprig of mint for garnish.

End of Year Weekly Review

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On My Blog

On Holiday – Almost

French Tabbouleh and JPiX

Elsewhere in the JBlogosphere

Pragmatic Attic shares a recipe for Soft Baked Almond Bars

Rivki offers a Nine Days Menu Plan

Mrs.S. wonders But what’s the source?

Leora hosts JPiX – – Jewish Photo Bloggers Carnival 2013 and discusses Fashion and Modesty – the post includes her daughter’s art

Stash or Smash? When Sacred Stuff Becomes Bad Baggage – a post by Amichai Lau-Lavie

Vitality and Crude – Freya shares two stories

Web articles

Israel’s Ice Cream Gets Creative For Summer – a Tablet article

In The Times of israel Rav Shmuly Yanklowitz writes about A Growing Divide: The Ultra-Orthodox in the Army & Workplace

Shabbat Shalom!

On Holiday – Almost

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Work is now almost over for me: there were two meetings earlier this week and the exam results will be out tomorrow. This means that I’ll officially be on holiday.

Holiday is always relative when you are a teacher as reading and preparation are of course on the agenda. But at least this is something you can do at your own pace and on your own terms.

Therefore I will most certainly blog at a different rhythm too. Expect fewer posts and more photos. I will however try to post the weekly review.

Have a lovely and sunny summer!