‘On the front line with the women who fight back’ Stacey Dooley

on the frontline with people who fight back
Source: http://www.penguin.co.uk

‘On the front line with the women who fight back’ by Stacey Dooley is a biographical novel that looks at the women Stacey has met throughout her years making documentaries. The book looks at women from all walks of life who all deal with different issues and events daily. Throughout Stacey Dooley’s time making documentaries she has looked at a multitude of difficult and harrowing topics from sex trafficking in Cambodia, to Yazidi women fighting back in Syria. These experiences have inspired this book as at the focus of the majority of her documentaries are the strong and brave women in a variety of different circumstances.

Throughout the book, we are introduced to many women who Stacy has met through her documentaries and we are told their stories. Many of these women face unbelievable circumstances and have difficult lives. This book looks at these issues and shares them respectfully in a very educative way much like her documentaries however we do get to see an insight into Stacey’s own opinions and how these have been changed or strengthened throughout her journey meeting these women. Although Stacey shares her opinions, it is very much up to the reader to create their own and decide for themselves what they think about these circumstances.

I also feel that this book shows that Stacey is great at sharing a topic and teaching about what happens in other countries in an inspiring and enlightening way and she tells it respectfully and with real passion. She shares stories that she herself is inspired about and that transpires. She knows what she thinks and isn’t scared to share that which is admirable.

I find the book inspirational in many ways. We are given the opportunity to see what people are dealing with elsewhere in the country yet we see these strong and determined women. The book is ultimately there to raise awareness and is there to show “what’s going on in the world so that people can make up their own minds about how best to fight back”. (On the Front Line with the Women Who Fight Back, Stacey Dooley)

I think having watched some of the documentaries is a bonus because as she tells you about a certain topic you can look back at the documentary but with extra insight and information but I don’t believe it is necessary at all as you are giving all the information in the book. I would fully recommend this book as it looks at serious topics beautifully and provides education into these issues.

Many thanks, Caitlin x

(PS please feel free to comment your thoughts on this book or you have any other books that share the same theme)

‘Between Shades of Grey’ and Author Q&A

between shades of grey only
Source: http://www.amazon.co.uk

Between Shades Of Grey is a book set in 1941 during the Second World War and is based on first-hand family accounts and memories from survivors. It is a story of a young 15 year old girl, Lina, whose life is turned upside down when her and her family are dragged from their home in Lithuania and deported to Siberia by Soviet officers. It follows her journey to a labour camp in Siberia and what she has to deal with during this horrible time in her life. She deals with life changing events at the age of 15 which I feel no young person should go through. She sees members of her family die and people she has met along the way become her friends only to be ripped apart. She is separated from her love interest during her journey but is reunited at the end once she has been through the worst moments of her life. This book is incredibly powerful and shares a story of a strong and resilient young woman that would inspire anyone, especially young girls.

I asked the author, Ruta Sepetys, if she could possibly answer some of my questions which she did so I am extremely thankful for that.

Ruta Sepetys is a Lithuanian-American author of historical fiction. She is a New York #1 bestseller, international bestseller as well as a winner of the Carnegie Medal.

ruta sepetys
Source: http://www.twitter.com/rutasepetys

Q&A

  1. What made you decide to become an author?

 

I wanted to be an author when I was very young. I wrote my first book in 3rd grade. But after a while, I lost my courage to write and feared I didn’t really have a talent for it. When I picked up writing again I did not start with historical fiction. I wrote a mystery for young readers and shortly after wrote the first chapter of “Between Shades of Gray.” An agent read both the mystery and the first chapter and told me that my authentic voice was in historical fiction. I’m so grateful for his advice!

 

  1. Were you inspired by any specific authors/books?

 

Yes, I was very inspired by Roald Dahl, Edith Wharton and Lois Lowry.

 

  1. Regarding your book ‘Between Shades of Grey’, why did you choose to write a novel about such a hard and difficult era and compelling story?

 

I’m interested in WWII because my father was affected and involved. My father fled from Lithuania as a young boy and some of his extended family was deported to Siberia. That inspired “Between Shades of Gray.” My father himself was a displaced refugee for nine years and that partially inspired my most recent book, “Salt to the Sea.”

 

  1. Why did you decide to make the central character a young teenage girl?

 

The idea for the character of Lina came from a woman I interviewed in Lithuania. She was a teenager in Siberia and her story was so powerful, her hope so strong. The Soviets had taken her family, her country, but she wouldn’t let them take her spirit. She found a way to speak, even though her voice had been extinguished. She became a role model for me so I used her to create Lina.

 

  1. Did you have a specific message you wanted to get across?

 

I am drawn to hidden history and stories of strength through struggle, so I look for topics that contain those elements. Writing historical fiction is like being a detective. I love discovering secrets and lost heroes.  Sometimes history can be perceived as boring. But through characters and story, historical statistics become human and suddenly we care for people we’ve never met, we can find their country on a map, and then—the history matters. Through historical fiction we can give voice those who will never have a chance to tell their story. That inspires me!

 

  1. I consider Lina to be an extremely strong, powerful and resilient who is also very inspirational, would you agree? And was this the intention?

 

Yes and yes! It makes me indescribably happy that you say she inspires you. Thank you!

 

  1. Did you do any research whilst writing this book?

 

For “Between Shades of Gray,” the research was particularly challenging because there was very little information in English on the deportations of Lithuanians to Siberia and Lithuanians hadn’t spoken of the terror for decades. For research I first read all of the nonfiction sources available. I speak with academics and historians. I then travel to the country where the story takes place to research the landscape, the culture, and the people. I generally interview many people while researching a book. I then weave stories from many people together into one character so that way I’m representing a larger human experience and not just one person.

 

  1. Do you go though any specific process whilst writing?

 

For me, the writing process involves:

  • Carefully researching the topic
  • Interviewing witnesses or survivors
  • Spending time thinking about the characters and story
  • Spending hours writing and achieving a state of creative flow
  • Revising, revising, and revising some more

 

  1. What would say was your favourite book/author?

 

I have many favorite books. Some are:

  • A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
  • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
  • All the Truth That’s in Me by Julie Berry
  • How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

 

  1. Do you have any advice for an aspiring author and/or avid reader in general or specifically when writing about a major event that happened in the past?

 

My advice for research would be to try to interview people who either experienced the time period or historians who have spent years researching it. Sitting down to speak to someone can sometimes yield more dynamic results than just reading about a piece of history. Once you have received testimonies and information you can then consult a historian or academic about the information you’ve received to evaluate the accuracy.

 

Books vs their Film Adaptations

book-to-film
Source: http://www.booksincommon.org

Films today are a huge part of getting people into reading as if you loved the film and find out it’s a book you often want to read the novel it was based upon. For example, books such as Harry Potter by JK Rowling or The Fault in Our Stars by John Green have all inspired young people to read the books if they haven’t already. When many lucky authors get the chance to be able to put their written novels into films or TV programmes, I believe can either work or not. This is my opinion of a few of those books:

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

By Stephen Chbosky

the perks of being a wallflower
Source : Amazon UK

I think this novel is a great book and a book I would 100% recommend. I think it brings a different outlook into teenage lives whilst growing up. It was written in 1999 and therefore you would think that a lot would have changed for teens in that time however I believe it is relevant as ever. I believe all of the characters and their stories which I think helps to deepen the storyline and add interest. Having a realistic set of characters is one of the main reasons I often become attached to a book. This book was then adapted into a film in 2012. The film is a good film and received many positive reviews including getting 86% on rotten tomatoes. Whilst I enjoyed the film, I believe it ruined the book for me a little. I read the book and watched the film in one night which I really don’t recommend as just as I was finishing and loving the book I was disappointed by the movie produced to represent it. It had a great and well known cast also, including Emma Watson, but I believe this was another reason as to why I wasn’t really a fan. As you read a book and you are given descriptions, no matter how much detail you are given you are always going to create a picture in your head that is different to someone else reading the same book. I don’t believe that those actors fitted my interpretation of the characters written by Chbosky. I know that it is a personal thing but I believe hiring extremely well known actors also hinders the aim of the novel as you recognise the actors from something else before even watching the film and I think that this affects the way you watch and interpret a movie. You are focused on their reputation as an actor rather than focusing solely on the character first.

I would say that I absolutely loved the book and I would highly recommend it to anyone. I would also suggest reading the book first so you can take the chance to enjoy the journey and creating your own pictures then maybe leave it a while before you watch the film in order not to ruin the picture you just created.

 

The Fault in our Stars

By John Green

the fault in our stars
Source: Amazon UK

This is a book that I think is very good and emotionally engaging. Not only are the characters realistic but are reflective of many teens’ lives that are not necessarily represented in teen movies. I read this book one night sitting in my living room and as I reached the end I cried. It was the first time I had ever cried at a book and thought that this was a sign it was good. I had engaged and been a part of that story from the beginning and I was so invested in it that by the end I was emotionally drained. The book was released in 2012 and a film adaptation was released in 2014. There wasn’t a huge amount of time before it was decided that it was going to maybe made into a film and I completely understand why after I had read the book. I think that this film adaptation was one I was more of a fan of than Perks of Being a Wallflower as I didn’t know who the actors were and they fitted more into my idea of the characters. I didn’t find I was as emotionally engaged in the film whether that was because I knew what would happen or it just wasn’t the same however I did believe that it was a good film and good adaptation. I will forever say that the book is better than the film and I stick by this so therefore I believe that the book was better. I believe a books ability to create your own pictures and use your imagination to evolve the story is an incredibly magical thing and an experience that a film doesn’t give to me.

Overall, I would say that definitely read the book first and I would also recommend the film. John Green’s other novel ‘Paper Towns’ was also a book which was adapted for film and I would say the same for that to. The book is better but the films not bad either.

 

 Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption

By Stephen King

shawshank
Source: http://www.paperbackswap.com

This is a novella written by renowned author Stephen King in 1982. The book and the film are often seen as a symbol of hope and determination. It’s about never giving up on the truth and we see this through the character of Andy Dufresne who is wrongly imprisoned and he never gives up hope of being released. He also passes on hope to his friend in Shawshank Ellis ‘Red’ Redding who has long given up any hope of being released but through being friends with Andy his view changes and he believes he can survive outside of prison. The film and the book are both great pieces of work and the film adaptation has kept many things that were in the book and put them into the film. A lot of the dialogue found in the novella was used word for word or extremely similar in the film which shows for Andy’s court case as the script is exactly as found in the book as well as being in the same order. It can also be seen during the prison escape scene. There are however differences which can often be expected when looking at a film adaptation. For example the characters descriptions didn’t match the actors, or some of the characters took on multiple roles such as the warden as there was only one main guard in the film but multiple in the book. I watched the film before I read the book which I would say is the wrong order to do it but I was studying the film for my English class and before then I hadn’t had an interest or known that the film was based upon a book. It is not very often that I find that I prefer the book but in this case I think I do. Not by huge amount but in the ending particularly I found the films much more engaging and dramatic and the books less so. In the book the warden resigns from his job and in the film he resigns from life. It gives it a much more final ending. I would recommend both works and I would say that it doesn’t really matter in which order you do so in this case as both are very good. I would say that the film is definitely one of favourites through.

 

There are so many other books I could have written about but these are the ones I felt I had the most opinions about. Books such as the Harry Potter Series and all the Roald Dahl books that have been adapted for film I believe are good either way. I personally believe that the book is always better. It adds another element to exploring the story and characters as you let your imagination create the images and pictures inside your head and as much as you are reading a story that’s already written it allows you to put your spin on it inside your head.

 

Many Thanks, Caitlin x

 

(PS please feel free to comment your opinions on film adaptations of books or have any that you feel strongly about)

‘Those Who Lie’ and Author Q&A

those who lie

‘Those Who Lie’ is the first published novel by Diane Jeffrey and is a psychological thriller. It keeps you on the edge of your seat and is very engaging. It focuses on a character, Emily, life and how her past experiences and choices effect her present. She kills her husband whilst in a car accident but cannot remember doing do. Due to the fact it is a story which does feature an amnesia sub-plot it allows you to read the book without fully knowing what went on and discovering what happened alongside the character. It is a novel that is well written and is a great read! Especially for those who enjoy the crime/mystery/thriller genre. I would highly recommend this book to everyone who is looking for a new book to get involved in.

The author of this book, Diane Jeffrey was very kind and answered some of my questions without hesitation so I would just like to thank her for her involvement and time.

Diane Jeffrey is an author from Devon who currently lives in France and is an English Teacher. ‘Those Who Lie’ is her first published novel and she is due to release a further novel in summer.

diane-jeffrey

Author Q&A

1 What made you become an author?

Well, I’ve always wanted to be an author. It has been my dream ever since I could write, really. I’ve always written, mainly short stories, one of which was recently longlisted for a competition and one of which was broadcast a couple of years ago on Irish radio. The first novel I wrote was unanimously rejected by all the agents I sent it too, quite rightly, too, as it wasn’t brilliant! That was about 14 years ago! But HQ Digital (HarperCollins) published my second novel in January 2017. It was quite a moment! (And quite a long journey!)

2 Were you inspired by any other authors/books?

I was inspired by other books in the genre of the psychological thriller, particularly Elizabeth Haynes’s Into The Darkest Corner, which for me really stands out in this genre, but more recently by Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, both of which I consider to be well worth the hype!

3 What made you decide to write in the crime/mystery/thriller genre?

I have quite eclectic tastes in reading, but I do like a good thriller! So I thought I’d try my hand at that. My first book (the unpublished one) was actually a Chick-Lit novel!

4 Regarding your book, ‘Those Who Lie’, why did you decide to write the story at different points in Emily’s life?

Hmm. That’s an interesting question. I wanted to show what had made Emily into who she was today. She has a past, which has shaped her as a person and affected her psychologically, and I wanted to use that to make her character as fleshed out as possible. She’s not necessarily likeable, so I felt that my readers needed to understand her if they were going to root for her. In addition, there are a lot of strange things happening to Emily in the present that are clearly connected to her past and so I decided on the dual timeline.

5 What made you decide to feature an amnesia storyline?

I love unreliable narrators and having the main character a little amnesic meant that I didn’t have to give the game away too early! It’s also very common for someone with the trauma that Emily suffered to block out painful memories.

6 Is there a specific reason you decided to make the majority of the main characters female?

Are they? I think my favourite character is Emily’s brother Matt. I suppose I killed off two of the important male characters in the first two chapters, which tipped the balance in the favour of the female characters!!!

I do like to have strong heroines as my main characters. This is also the case in my second novel, which is due to be published in July, in which a woman is prepared to put up with a lot more than she should for the sake of her child, but ultimately sets a trap for herself which she needs all her inner strength to get out of.

I’m currently writing my third novel and the main character in that is a male journalist. It’s proving to be quite a challenge getting inside an imaginary man’s head! I’m trying to make him a little arrogant and more flippant than I would be but I do want him to be loveable, so it’s hard getting the balance right!

7 Did you do any research or follow a specific process whilst writing this book?

Lots and lots of research. I learnt loads. I found every topic I researched so interesting that I then wanted to include everything in my book, but I ended up with whole chapters that read like an encyclopaedia or a page from Wikipedia, so I had to cut, cut, cut!!! I researched PTSD, bi-polar disorder, Han van Meegeren’s fake Vermeers, child abuse, the parvovirus in puppies, Lewis Carroll, blood spatter and ballistics… I was lucky to have a few very useful contacts who answered some very strange questions to help me along the way!

8 What is your favourite book and/or author?

My favourite book when I was younger (after I reluctantly came out of my Enid Blyton stage) was Wuthering Heights. In THOSE WHO LIE, Emily’s grandmother, who suffers from Alzheimer’s, buys her Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland every year for her birthday. This is based on my own grandmother, who had Alzheimer’s Disease, and who gave me Wuthering Heights as a gift many, many times. I reread it every time.

In recent years, I’ve fallen in love with The Hundred Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of a Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson and The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. These books just stay with me and I still miss the main characters although I finished the books a few years ago now!

9 Are you planning any other books to be released in the future?

My second psychological thriller is due to be published in July this year and I’m currently working on my third novel.

10 Do you have any advice for aspiring authors or avid readers?

Never give up. Keep writing. Keep reading. Get in touch with as many authors as you can on social media, especially from your genre.

I’m a mother of three and I work full-time as an English teacher and live in France, so I couldn’t do any of the wonderful courses available to people who want to learn more about writing. But I read a lot of how-to articles, particularly by Joanna Penn and Writers’ Digest (Brian Klem) and the tips they give are invaluable. The agent Johnny Geller also gives some very good advice for aspiring readers

Many Thanks, Caitlin x

(PS please comment your opinion on this book or any recommendations you have)