In the spotlight today is author of Flip-Flops, Fiesta and Flamenco, Donna Hepburn. Thanks for joining me Donna. First of all, would you tell my blog readers a little about yourself? I live in the North East of England with my partner and two beautiful boxer dogs; Floyd and Freya. When I’m not writing I […]
Marrakech will be featuring in the second instalment of the Meditteranean Dream series, so I thought I would give everyone a taste of this vibrant, colourful city
Marrakech is made up of two areas; The Old City (also known as “Medina”), which is home to the souks (markets) and Modern City, where you will find Guéliz (the commercial quarter) and the residential area or l’Hivernage.
Photo credit; Jay Galvin
Djemma El Fna, is the hub of Marrakech and it is here you will find street performers such as belly dancers, snake charmers and musicians along with some of the best street food in the world.
” Walking through the archway into the Souk, Abby felt an immediate assault on her senses, fingers brushing the apricot paint of the ancient walls, which flaked away when touched, she gazed in astonishment at the chaotic labyrinth before her.
The noise hit her first, shouts from the sellers and unfamiliar music ringing in her ears, the putrid smell of tanneries along with the aroma of a million spices, scented oils, coooking, scorched metal, animals and sweat making her nostrils flare”
A riad is a traditional Morrocan home with rooms around a central courtyard or garden. When Lou gives Abby a birthday gift of a cookery course in Marrakech she has no idea how it will change both their lives.
To tell of my new Moroccan Love,
Ô, I court her everyday.
But just as a pearl in the mud is a pearl,
So is my Love just an Arab girl…
in that I offer her constant, loving woos,
but she’ll ask me in return that I give her flooze*.
That’s when I kiss her and shrug, and I say, “Someday.”
And she gives me her love free anyway.
* * *
Ô, my Love is a child of the souks.
In Casablanca born.
A gypsy thief, “Soukaïna” named.
We met in the souks of Marrakech,
It was here my heart she tamed.
Ô, she came at nineteen to Marrakech,
In search of wild fun.
And she lived in Marrakech seven years,
Before my heart she won.”
― Roman Payne
So, My debut novel Flip-Flops, Fiestas & Flamenco has been out a few weeks now and I have been doing a few interviews lately for blogs. Surprisingly many people seem interested in my eclectic reading taste, which got me thinking; maybe I should do a feature on here?
As an author, I find the other authors fascinating, I could do book reviews, I certainly read plenty, but there’s already lots of reviewers and wonderful people they are too! Anyhow, I thought I might do a monthly feature on authors I love.
Starting with one of my favourites Khaled Hosseini
“Learn this now and learn it well. Like a compass facing north, a man’s accusing finger always finds a woman. Always. You remember that, Mariam.”
Khaled Hosseini was born in Kabul, Afghanistan on March 4, 1965. The eldest of 5 children he had a privileged upbringing and remembers fondly flying kites with his cousins in the city
His father was a diplomat and the family were living in Paris during the April Coup of 1978; unable to return to Afghanistan they sought political asylum in the US in 1980, where 15-year Khaled went to San Jose high school, California
After graduating from college, he trained as a doctor and went on to work at the Cedars- Sinai medical centre in Los Angeles
He has published 3 outstanding novels, The Kite Runner, (2003) A Thousand Splendid Suns (2007) and And the Mountains Echoed, (2013) all of which I have loved
All Hosseini’s work is beautifully written and the prose is exceptional something I aspire to and am a long way from achieving as yet. Words like powerful, haunting, mesmerising often appear in reviews of his works and I for one, think the man is a literary genius.
My personal favourite is A Thousand Splendid Suns, not only are the protagonists in this one female but the story shows how women should help each other and not see others as competition, at times harrowing, hard to stomach and unimaginable this novel stayed with me a long time after I read it and no matter your religion, creed or colour is worthy of being a classic.
“It was only a smile, nothing more. It didn’t make everything all right. It didn’t make ANYTHING all right. Only a smile. A tiny thing. A leaf in the woods, shaking in the wake of a startled bird’s flight. But I’ll take it. With open arms. Because when spring comes, it melts the snow one flake at a time, and maybe I just witnessed the first flake melting. – Amir”
― Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner
As with the other two books, Hosseini focuses on the complexity of relationships and creates a moving masterpiece that pulls the heartstrings
The bittersweet story of two women finding refuge in each other in the midst of Afghanistan’s troubles is a truly special one and A Thousand Splendid Suns is one of the books which I would place in my top 20 books of all time.
Hosseini writes like nobody else and his books should be on everyone’s TBR list
What do you think?
Which is your favourite Khaled Hosseini book?
Thank you Chells and Books for this fantastic review, so glad you enjoyed it
Flip Flops, Fiestas, and Flamenco is the first in a series of three books about two best friends, their lives, loves, and adventures after moving to a small village in the Andalusian hills.
Abby and Lou have been BFF’s since the first day at Uni. Despite being opposites in both looks and personality they were drawn to each other, sharing a flat, dreams and a love of animals.
Through the ensuing years despite heartache and divorce, they remain as close as ever.
Abby would be the first to admit her life needs an injection of fun. Middle-aged, divorced and slightly overweight, she’s a mother/general dogsbody to two layabout sons, a pink-haired Amazonian on-off girlfriend and an incorrigible British Bulldog named Chester. Her lifelong dream of living in Spain’s glorious sunshine has been long forgotten or has it?
Lou was stuck in her own rut, never fully recovered from a tragedy…
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How to name fictional characters
There’s been a lot of talk about the royal baby the last few days (Congratulations Will & Kate by the way) and much speculation about the new little prince’s name. While us common folk might toy with the idea of Moses, Mackenzie or Messi (yes, seriously one of my neighbours just lumbered her son with that beauty) the Royals have to stick to traditional choices. I’m plumping for James.
But what about naming characters in your novel? I was lucky when writing Flip-Flops, to be honest, the names just fitted the characters although I did have fun with naming the animals. However, after being asked the question several times in interviews, it seems that for some, the whole process can be difficult and filled with perils.
Of course, if you’re writing a book set in World War II it’s unlikely your heroine will be called Kylie or Jaiden and the name also has to fit, I mean Darren Smith and the Philosophers Stone doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.
Here are a few things to consider when christening your literary characters;
Say the name out loud, this is extremely important; if you haven’t already check out the story of Dickens Cider to see why. Also if your book is audio-enabled the name should be clear and easily understood.
A terrific way to draw attention to a character is to use alliteration, for example, Bilbo Baggins, Willy Wonka and Peter Parker but this can be overdone and you don’t want everyone in your story to have double initials.
The key is to mix it up have names that sound different and are of different lengths, avoid ones with the same endings such as Jason and Mason and god forbid don’t have any that rhyme such as Tina and Nina or Chelle and Belle
Ethnicity is also an important consideration no native North American Indian is going to be called Mabel and similarly, an English aristocrat is unlikely to be called Vladimir and as any author knows there are always people eager to point out mistakes
A good name should be easy to pronounce, roll off the tongue, be from the right era and perhaps most importantly fit the personality of the character, you’re not going to want to name a serial killer Peaches for instance.
Don’t name characters after people you know, especially not really horrible ones, you don’t want a lawsuit or them coming after you with a chainsaw
Think unique, meaningful and suitable and you won’t go far wrong and if you get stuck make like William and Kate and start scouring those baby names books.
Do you have any tips, when choosing names for your characters? Are there any characters you think were misnamed? Are there exceptions to the rule?
Thank you for a great review, glad it made you smile
The humorously written first page instantly grabbed me with myself being a fifty something menopausal woman and boy do we need to laugh at ourselves when we reach that time of life. Luckily, unlike Abby, my husband hasn’t run off with his Secretary. Mostly because his Secretary is me, but I love these stories of people who rise up from the ashes, especially when it’s written with humour.
Abby is offered the chance to go and live her dream in Spain with best friend Lou and, after dismissing it initially, she realises what a great opportunity it is and off she goes leaving her two grown up sons to fend for themselves. The friends pack up their belongings and head off to the continent with a dog and two cats and a box full of shall we say “interesting” items.
Author Donna Hepburn is a self-confessed non-lover of chic lit…
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Thank you so much for this fantastic review Samantha
‘Flip flops, Fiesta and Flamenco’ is the wonderful debut novel from Donna Hepburn, following the journey of two friends – Abby and Lou – as they move and settle in Spain after a surprise bingo win.
We see the lives the women both leave behind, one decisively better than the other, as well as learning about the history the girls have as long-standing friends. This is something so rare in reality and Donna really captures the essence of life-long friendships – the easiness, the comfort and the laughter from many years of memories. I loved these characters by the end of the book and was already harassing poor Donna on Twitter to put me on the top of the list for her next in the series!
Lou and Abby make friends along their travels; including some lovely Spanish hombres, the local ex-pats in the area, and lots and lots of…
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