Featured Slider

Sue Haasler Q & A: Half A World Away Blog Tour

Today I have Sue Haasler on my blog and I'm so excited to talk to her about her new book, Half A World Away...

1. Your book Half A World Away has just been released! Can you tell us a bit more about it?

Half A World Away is set in East Berlin in 1987 - two years before the fall of the Berlin Wall. East Germany was a country where it was best to fit in and be unremarkable. The main character, Alex, is doing just that, working in his father’s bakery and playing the saxophone in his spare time. Then he sets himself apart by falling in love with a girl from an “enemy state” (Britain), and attracting the attention of a man called Detlef - who is a complicated, troubled character with some very dangerous connections. Alex, who is essentially a very optimistic, open person, quickly learns that the country he lives in isn’t as benign as he always thought.

2. This book features music heavily. What is it about music that captivates you so much?

I love the way music can operate as a time capsule. You hear a particular song and it can take you back to a specific time or place in your life. The song ‘Half A World Away’ by REM  reminds me of visiting my boyfriend (now my husband) in Berlin at the start of our relationship. I often steal song titles to be titles of my books. Music can make you cry or it can cheer you up when nothing else can. It has such a direct connection to the emotions.

3. Now that Half A World Away has been released. Is there anything else in the works? Would love a little teaser...

I’m writing a book called Another Girl (a Beatles title this time!), set in the fashion world of 1960s London - Carnaby Street and that whole exciting, swinging sixties era. Cathy comes to London to escape a boring life a northern town and gets a job working for up and coming designer Diane and her business partner, Joe. It’s a life of pop stars and parties, but running through it is the mystery of a girl who vanished without trace ten years earlier. 

4. Is there any particular music you listen to that inspires you to write? Or is it different music for every book? 

It’s different music for every book. I can’t listen to music when I’m physically writing, though, as I find it too distracting, especially if it has lyrics. When I’m not actually at the laptop I often find hearing a piece of music will spark off an idea, or a mood, which I can then use. I’m listening to a lot of early 1960s music at the moment for Another Girl.  

5. I know you're also a non-fiction writer. How do the two differ in terms of planning and writing?

I’m not really a planner when it comes to fiction. I start off with the initial idea, and it grows from there. I like Stephen King’s analogy that writing a book is like digging up a dinosaur - you find a little bone, and another, and you’re not quite sure how they relate to each other or what the final shape will be, but you keep digging and finding more, and eventually you know what you’ve got. And then (in my case) you can go back and knock it into better shape. With non-fiction, I recently wrote a book about the TV series Holby City and that had to be planned carefully in terms of who I needed to interview and how to structure the book to get across all the aspects I wanted to talk about. 

6. Are there any books you'd recommend for anyone that loved Half A World Away?

There are lots of books about East Germany, but I found a lot of them focused just on the Stasi and not so much on the everyday. The book I enjoyed reading the most was Zoo Station by Ian Walker, which is out of print now. It really captured the different atmospheres of both sides of the divided city in the 1980s, with all their quirks and peculiarities.

7. Which authors inspire you to write?

As mentioned above, Stephen King is my writing hero. I love the way he gets into the heads of his characters, so you feel you know them. I was probably inspired to write by the authors I loved as a child. The first book I remember reading is Jane Eyre (I’m sure there were others before that, but it’s the one I remember) and I loved HG Wells. I grew up reading a lot of science fiction, probably because my mum was a sci-fi fanatic and she used to get books from the mobile library for me while I was at school. She had excellent taste.

8. What are you currently reading?

I’m reading a lot of background stuff about London in the 1960s for Another Girl. I’ve been buying books that were published at the time, such as London and the Single Girl by Betty James (1967) which hilariously tells you where to go in London to meet and ensnare your preferred type of man. 

BONUS: What instrument can you not play, that you'd love to be able to?

I can actually play the flute, but would love to be able to play it better (and my neighbours would love that too). I started learning about 10 years ago, on a whim - I just suddenly thought that I needed a flute in my life. Handily, my flute teacher (who is now a good friend) also plays the saxophone very well, so she could answer my saxophone-related questions. She let me have a go on one of her saxes and it’s so difficult! I could hardly get a sound out of it. 


Check out the other stops on the Half A World Away blog tour here:

I Am Thunder Review (Guest Post: Charlotte, Somewhere)

This post is from Charlotte, Somewhere, a contributor to nosaferplace. Charlotte is a wife, mother, cocker spaniel owner and someday Queen of the Universe. She can almost always be found with her face in a book and a coffee in her hand. She likes writing, knitting, crafty things, baking, eating, walking, taking photos and nurturing a close relationship with her sofa and blankets.







DEAR CARRIE

Dear Carrie,

I came to your matinee concert on Sunday and I wasn't sure I'd be able to articulate how I felt in a blog post, much less a video review. Even as I'm typing this now, it's already taken me five minutes to write this much as I'm constantly deleting and redrafting. How do you tell someone that they've changed you; given you hope? (Without it sounding like the most cliched thing).

When I booked my ticket a few months ago, I wasn't even sure I'd be able to attend. I made sure I had cancellation protection in case I was unable to make it. I have severe anxiety and a debilitating chronic illness, you see. I've been in and out of hospital for the past few months, but there was something about this concert that I just knew was different. I would be going, no matter what.

I haven't travelled into London apart from hospital visits in 11 months. Almost a year. But here I was, walking into a venue that wasn't familiar, getting a drink, browsing the merchandise, finding my seat - on my own. I never thought I'd ever get to do anything on my own again. (Apart from being housebound, day in, day out). I found my seat; very near the front, to (your) right and anxiously waited.

I was already crying by this point. I'd achieved more than I had done for a very long time, and now I got to hear one of my favourite people sing live for the first time. The opening notes of Pure Imagination started, and your voice filled Cadogan Hall. I closed my eyes, and felt a fresh tear run down my cheek as I became completely and utterly lost in your voice. You came out on stage mid-way through the song and I was filled with something I haven't felt in a long time: hope.

I don't know why, and I'm not sure how, but for the first time in months I no longer felt trapped. I felt free and hopeful that I could still do things I enjoyed; still achieve; still believe.

I sat through the show in utter awe of you. Your presence, your talent, your voice - even your humour! I took it all in, with tear-filled eyes throughout. No one seemed to be singing beside me, but I was singing along to every word; feeling every emotion you were pouring out of each song.

Have you ever felt like you were meant to be at a certain place, at a certain time? I hadn't until Sunday. When Tom came out on stage and you sang When Will My Life Begin/That's When My Life Begins; that was one of those moments for me. When you sang the lyrics:

"Look at the world, so close and I'm halfway to it. Look at it all so big, do I even dare? Look at me, there at last, I just have to do it. Should I? No. Here I go...",

I was full on sobbing by that point. It felt like you were singing the thoughts inside my head; the daily battle I struggle with (and Tangled is my favourite Disney film...).

Before I got ill, I attended concerts most weeks, but nothing prepared me for how magical your voice would be live. You are the only person I've ever seen live that sounds better live than recorded. You gave me goosebumps. You gave me chills. And you just showed me what the epitome of hard work looks like.

You're an actress, a singer, an author, a recording artist, a performer, a YouTuber - and you still seem like the loveliest, down-to-earth person...and you're gorgeous. You're one of those annoyingly wonderful people that you can't help but love, even though they're good at everything.

I can't even put into words how incredible your guests were. Each one just blended perfectly with your voice. And the relationship you have with Oliver is probably the most gorgeous thing I've ever seen. I had three favourite songs (not that they weren't all fantastic); Let's Go Fly A Kite, Pure Imagination and the Tangled Medley.

I left the concert feeling hopeful, postive and happier than I'd been for a very long time. Keep doing what you're doing and spreading positivity. Whether it's through your videos, your books, your singing, your acting - I'll be there supporting every step of the way

Thank you for putting so much love and time into this album. Even though you said you were nervous, you really do seem at home on the stage and the love you have for music was felt by me with every note you sang. Thank you again for being so wonderful, and hopefully I'll finally get to meet you soon (and try to incoherently say this in person).

All my love and support always,

Zoe x

Starfish Review | BLOG TOUR

Starfish
Rating: 5/5
Buy/Borrow: Buy
Source: Copy courtesy of Ink Road Books (Released 5th April 2018)

A gorgeous and emotionally resonant debut novel about a half-Japanese teen who grapples with social anxiety and her narcissist mother in the wake of a crushing rejection from art school. Kiko Himura has always had a hard time saying exactly what she's thinking. With a mother who makes her feel unremarkable and a half-Japanese heritage she doesn't quite understand, Kiko prefers to keep her head down, certain that once she makes it into her dream art school, Prism, her real life will begin. But then Kiko doesn't get into Prism, at the same time her abusive uncle moves back in with her family. So when she receives an invitation from her childhood friend to leave her small town and tour art schools on the west coast, Kiko jumps at the opportunity in spite of the anxieties and fears that attempt to hold her back. And now that she is finally free to be her own person outside the constricting walls of her home life, Kiko learns lifechanging truths about herself, her past, and how to be brave.