Interview With an Author - Christopher Meades

 A little while ago I did a review of the book 'For The Love of Mary', you can read what I wrote about it HERE (SPOILER- It's amazing).
It's definitely one of my favourite books this year.  The author, Christopher Meades was kind enough to take some time out and answer some questions for me about the book, his inspiration and life in general.  I really, really loved what Christopher wrote and I think it made me like the book even more hearing some of the stories behind it. 
Take a read of the interview below and then go have a read of the book after it....You won't regret it, pinky promise...

1. For the Love of Mary is such a quirky and original take on the YA genre. How did you come up with the story?

-More than anything, I wanted to write a love story, and I wanted to write it in first person (my first two novels were written in third person with multiple shifts in perspective). However, I think it would have been very difficult for me to write a straightforward romance like The Notebook. So I chose to intertwine the love story with a satire about small town churches. That way I could insert enough humour and hijinks to (hopefully) keep the reader interested. 
I wanted the meaningful connections Jacob makes with other characters in the book to sneak up on the reader, for the reader to be so busy laughing and wondering what happens next that they start to care about Jacob and Mary and the other players in the story without even realizing it. That way the emotional punch of the last quarter of the novel could resonate deeper.

2. Being from a small town myself I just connected so much to that aspect of the book. I loved the array of crazy and funny characters. I always say that people wouldn’t believe me if I told them half the random, weird things that go on in my town as they sound made up but small towns really do have the best stories to tell! What made you chose to set the story in a small community?

-Setting a story in a small town intensely personalizes the narrative. In the novels and movies I enjoy, universal truths are often revealed by narrowing the story’s focus to just a few people. Also, the town I grew up in was rife with odd, wonderful characters. There really was a bearded lady at our Dairy Queen and a youth pastor constantly hanging around the pretty girls at my high school. Also, my friend Moss was far too dirty for my mother to allow him in the car (although I made up the part about him being addicted to Cheetos). 
After writing THE LAST HICCUP, which was set in 1930’s Russia, I wanted to write something more contemporary, something that came directly from my own experiences. I set FOR THE LOVE OF MARY in 1996 because I (a) grew up in the 90’s and (b) really wanted to take technology out of the equation. I’m the only person I know who doesn’t have a cell phone and I wanted the characters in the book to communicate in person, for them to interact with each other rather than through their phones.

3. One of the main aspects of the story comes from religion and the tension between two warring churches, what was the inspiration for using religion as the backdrop?

-A few years before I wrote FOR THE LOVE OF MARY, I saw different news reports about churches of different denominations battling it out in the USA. A lot of times they were kitty corner to one another and couldn’t help but start a war. 
I think religion is such an interesting topic because people are so entrenched in their own points of view and have such strong ideas of right/wrong and good/evil, whereas in reality I believe we’re all connected. In FOR THE LOVE OF MARY, there might be sickly ferrets and inflatable Ms. Clauses and accusations of messiah self-love, but I hope the book depicts that the true strength you find in life comes from the connections you make with the people around you, regardless of their religion.

4. I know that religion can be such a fraught and passionate subject for a lot of people and I think that’s why it doesn’t seem to creep up too often in YA fiction. I loved though how you used religion not in a preaching way or in an offence way, you just showed it as part of life, which it is for many people around the world. You somehow managed to make it a source of a lot of humour but again not in a poking fun way but in a light-hearted sense. You showed that actually it’s ok to laugh and joke about these types of things whilst still be really respectful to your characters’ beliefs. I think it was such a perfect balance that you found, was this something that you felt was important for you to achieve with this subject?

-My biggest thing was I didn’t want to be mean. It’s really easy to write sharp, biting satire: you just make fun of people over and over again. I didn’t want to do that. You can’t make people laugh for 300-plus pages if you’re intent on offending everyone. 
In terms of keeping the book light-hearted, one thing I noticed after I completed the first draft of FOR THE LOVE OF MARY was that the narrator character Jacob was far too sassy, almost cheeky in the way he dealt with authority figures. In revision, I made a concerted effort to tone down the sass, to make Jacob a little amazed and befuddled by the world around him. That way the other characters (whether they have outlandish addictions or can’t stop warring with the church across the street) could be seen through his eyes in a humane, constantly-surprised-but-not-really kind of way.

5. The book is such a quirky coming of age story and I think it would just make such a great film, is that something that you’ve thought about and if so who do you see playing the characters?

-I suppose I’d like the main characters to be unknowns, except for Jacob’s father, Don, who I like to imagine being played by John C. Reilly (who is amazing in everything he does). And maybe Owen Wilson as either Shotgun or Blowpipe.

6. You’ve wrote a few books before For the Love of Mary, how did you get your start in writing and get published?

-When I first started writing seriously in 2005, I had a couple goals. One was to get published, which I think is every writer’s ultimate objective. But another was to get better at my craft. I knew that I had a lot to learn and set about reading dozens of books on the craft of writing, taking classes, seeking opinions on my work and trying to improve as a writer. I used to take paragraphs from some of my favourite authors (Patrick Süskind, Vladimir Nabokov and Janet Frame) and parse them out, studying how they used adjectives and prepositional phrases, until I understood exactly how they wrote. Then I would take my own work and parse it out and ask myself what worked and what didn’t.
Gradually my writing started to get better and after about a year, I won a contest for the Vancouver Province Newspaper (which was super-exciting as I’d been a finalist for the same contest a few times before winning). I’ve also been published in about 25 literary print journals. One of those journals was The Fiddlehead, Canada’s oldest and most respected literary journal. I was really tenacious about submitting to them. The Fiddlehead turned my short stories down 14 times before one was finally accepted. (You can read the story they accepted “Naked Girls and the Grinch” on my website, if you like). 
Writing is still a challenge. There are a lot of times when I sit down in front of my computer and wonder “How would one write a book?” And then one of my young daughters will come into the room and climb me like a jungle gym or eat crackers on my keyboard or insist on painting my toes and I’m still sitting there thinking “How would one write a book?” But I think the struggle is worth it, especially when readers connect with your work.

7. Can you give us a sneak peek as to what your new book will be about?

-My next novel is entitled HANNA WHO FELL FROM THE SKY and it’s going to be released by Park Row Books/HarperCollins in September 2017. I’m knee-deep in the final edits for it right now. 
I’m very excited as it’s my first book for a US publisher and I’m hoping a wider audience will get a chance to read it. It’s very different from FOR THE LOVE OF MARY as it’s literary fiction and there are no funny parts at all, but I assure you it’s awesome…

Here’s a tag line for HANNA WHO FELL FROM THE SKY:
A week before Hanna is going to be forced to marry a man twice her age, her mother tells her she wasn’t born like a normal girl, that as a baby she fell from the sky; that Hanna fell from the heavens and landed unscathed. Hanna must decide if her mother is telling the truth, whether she can leave her disabled sister and if she can she find it inside herself to escape the small town where powerful men take teenage brides.

8. And finally, as tradition goes here on Is This Real Life, what is the best piece of advice you could pass on?

-For writing, it would definitely be to read Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne. It’s a $3000 course stuffed inside a $12 book and I couldn’t recommend it more. It’s funny: I suggest this book to every aspiring author I meet and then inevitably, when I bump into them at a party six months later, they haven’t read it! It drives me crazy because I really like to see people put themselves in the best possible position to succeed. 

For life, it would be: Be kind. Be careful who your friends are. Avoid ‘The Clap.’ And never let ‘The Man’ get you down.

You can buy For The Love of Mary on Wordery and get free worldwide delivery. And you can buy it from Amazon and download it in the kindle store too.

Sleek Precious Metals Highlighting Palette Review

Sleek Precious Metals Highlighting Palette*

If you've spent any time online within the last month or so it will have been hard for you to have missed the hype around Sleek's Solstice highlighting palette, everyone has been obsessed with it even our queen Jaclyn Hill

As soon as I saw the palette I just thought it looked stunning  but just because of the colour choices in the palette and because of my skin tone I knew that I really wanted to try the Solstice's sister palette which is the Precious Metals one.

Ah honestly it's beautiful, I can't believe what you get for this price.  Sleek as you know is a 'drugstore' brand and is super affordable.  I don't know what has happened though as in the last year or so they have brought their game right up to such a high level and the products they have been bringing out have been so amazing, like the lipgloss I reviewed HERE.

This highlighting palette has 3 cream highlighters and one powder.  There is two gold shades, one rose gold and one more iridescent shade with a gold sheen too it. I know the swatch isn't the best above but I wanted you to see the highlight you get with this rather than the shade as I think that's the most impressive part of the palette. 

I am genuinely blown away by the colour pay off, they really are so pigmented and glowy.  I love the cream highlighters for a more subtle glow and they are great for under powder highlighters too to make them pop.
There is one highlighter in the palette that has flecks of glitter in it and that's the only one that I haven't really used as I'm not a big fan of highlighters with glitter but its good that its there as I know some people like that and I guess it could work nice for an eyeshadow too.

I've been using the powder highlighter as eyeshadow and highlighter and its just so pretty for that.  I actually used it for both in my YouTube Everyday Makeup Routine video which you can have a peek of HERE.

Overall if your looking for a new budget highlighter in your life that is very glowy and gold toned then I think this is the one for you.

You can buy it from Superdrug

P.S What do you guys think of the new look of my blog?  I have been wanting to go for a big change like this for my layout for a while and I am super happy with it.  There are a couple of tweaks I want to make still until it will be perfect but I am really loving it.  I hope its a bit easier for you all to use and find your way around.  All my social media links are up the top on the navigation bar and you can have a peek around all my different blog sections much easier at the top now!

Natural Skincare - Jojoba Oil

The Jojoba Company 100% Natural Australian Jojoba Oil*

Skin care is a big deal for me. Not only because well, I just love anything beauty related but because I have skin that isn't the easiest to deal with.
I have extremely sensitive skin that is prone to take a lot of allergic reactions as I can't seem to pin point what is the handful of things that I'm allergic too.  I also have dry skin that has slowly turned into dehydrated skin over time because of the sensitivity.  If I load on too many products I breakout, if I don't put on enough my skin starts to flake off its so dry so it takes a lot to find something I like and that works on my skin.

As you know I now eat a plant based diet and through all my learning and research I've done because of that lifestyle change I have also inadvertently learned an awful lot about natural skincare and makeup.  I had dabbled a little with this in the past as I thought going all natural with my skin would solve all my allergies but it turns out that that wasn't true for me personally.  It seems to be high concentrations of anything vitamins, oils, chemicals etc on my skin is just too much.  But learning about all the really crazy and honestly sometimes frightening things that is legally allowed to be in a lot of our skincare has really made me want to change around my whole skincare and beauty products.  I know its a super slow process and something that I'm definitely not going to jump into but gradually replace products I own with natural versions.

So I was really excited when I got to give this Jojoba oil a go.  I had heard of the oil but had no idea of its properties and really didn't know if it would be suitable for my skin but for the past month I have been using it and it really is a skin saviour for me.

I use it on all the extremely dry areas of my face, on my spots and on the dehydrated lines that I can get on my face and its crazy how when you wake up in the morning they are gone.  It really is like injecting moisture into my skin which is exactly what its lacking.  I haven't had any kind of reaction either which I am so thankful for.

So what is Jojoba oil?-
Jojoba is actually a liquid golden wax not an oil even though it's often called an oil.  It comes from the Jojoba bean plant which is native to Southwestern North America.

Why is it good for our skin?-
Well, the Jojoba wax has now been scientifically proven to mimic our skins natural wax that helps protect the outer layer of our skin.  The stuff that keeps our skin hydrated, soft and smooth. And as we know over time or because of different factors, like medications, lifestyle, our own natural wax starts to deplete and make our skin less supple and smooth so basically Jojoba acts as a replacement for what we have lost.  It is also the only plant on earth that produces this wax that is so similar to our skin nothing else in nature is like this.

How does it work?-
Our skin recognises Jojoba as a similar molecule to what is already there so it basically accepts it and doesn't freak out like it can do with other products or skin creams and cause breakouts and not soak it all up.  Because our skin soaks up the Jojoba so easily it also gets into deeper layers of our skin and carries all the vitamins that it has (Vitamins A, D and E) so that is how over time it can really change the overall appearance of our skin as it isn't sitting on the top layer its actually penetrating the outer layer of your skin.  Also a lot of oils I find personally clog my skin and break me out unless I exfoliate often but because this isn't actually an oil and is such a similar consistency to our own natural skin it sort of does the opposite and lets you really give your skin a deep clean and dis-courage's spots from appearing as your unclogging your pores when your using it rather than clogging them up.

What can we use it for?-
So here is a little guide from the website of the brand, that I have copied below as there are just so many uses for the oil I didn't want to miss any out...

"Jojoba is naturally antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, analgesic, anti-inflammatory and hypoallergenic, so it is used to soothe a wide range of skin conditions.
Suitable for all skin types including oily skin and the most sensitive baby skin
There are many options for what you can use it for....
Scars, Burns, Rashes, Eczema. Dermatitis, Psoriasis
Nappy rash, Cradle cap, Acne, Wrinkles, Stretch marks
Dry and sensitive skin, Sun damage, Pigmentation, Uneven skin tone
Oily skin, Age spots, Nourish hair"

What does it smell like?-
I think it has quite an intense smell to start with, the nearest thing I could describe it to would be to olive oil.  It's not that it's even that strong it's just very distinctive.  It's not my most favourite smell in the world but its definitely not bad and it leaves really quick so it's not something that bothers me at all.

How do you use it?-
The directions are to use one to two pumps of the oil on the area you want to use it on but on my face I use like half of one pump as I find it goes such a long way, I personally would never need two on my face.  Same with on my hands and body I only use a teeny amount.  You can use it as a replacement to your moisturiser and use it morning and night after you cleanse also.

So there you have it, the first product in my natural skincare collection that I am building up and I couldn't be happier that its now in my life.  It really, really has worked for my skin and if there is something your struggling with that you think this might help with then I would give it a go.  This version is also completely free of process or anything added to it.  Its really yellow which is when you know it's pure too.

I know that was quite a lot of information but when I read about new skincare and products I always want all the info so I don't have to google it later which is why I've tried to fit all the science in too, so I hope it helps!

Let me know if your a fan of JoJoba oil and you can buy it on Holland and Barrett and read more on the official website HERE

Cream Hoodie

Hoodie - New Look via ASOS (P.S Asos are calling it nude but it's actually cream)
Jeans - New Look

I don't know why but a few months ago, all of a sudden I realised how much I needed a cream hoodie in my life and it took me until last week to finally find the perfect one.

I am in love with this one from New Look, its super over-sized so I would definitely go with your normal size, don't size up.  They have them in dusky pink, black and this cream and I am going to try and get one in every colour as it's just the comfiest thing in the world.

Even though it's got a fleece lining it's still pretty thin, its not a really heavy fabric which is great as then you can layer it, I've been wearing my denim jacket over it and its not too hot or stuffy!

Definitely my favourite buy in a long time.....!

The Fashion Set - Coffee Table Book Review


The Fashion Set*
"Featuring set design by the creative powerhouses that realise the vision of all the leading international fashion houses, this stunning coffee-table book is a celebration of the magic and majesty of the fashion show. A must for lovers of fashion, theatre, design and luxury."

Given the arrival of London Fashion Week, I thought this would be the most appropriate post for today.  This is a beautiful, luxurious coffee table book that features some of the most stunning fashion week show sets from all around the world.

Every designer you can think of is in the book and you get some really detailed and intricate photos of the shows, sets and designs. 

It's such a brilliant idea for a book as fashion shows seem to have been getting more and more elaborate as the years have went on and the sets have become a spectacle themselves before the clothes even appear. 

Each set that is featured has some information and details about what goes into the show and the inspiration and idea behind it.  I love so many featured in the book but I have to say that the Chanel iconic supermarket set is definitely a favourite of mine, the detail of every bit of the show just seemed immense and spectacular.

You guys know how big I am on coffee table books and my weakness are fashion related ones so I am a really big fan of this.  The whole design and concept of this book is very simple with very limited text and beautiful, bold images. It's perfect.

If you know a fashion lover who is having a birthday soon or you want to give yourself a visual treat then I would recommend this.

You can buy it on Wordery and get free delivery too.