Jaffareadstoo is delighted to welcome you all to our Summer Picnic
Summertime is here
I'm delighted to welcome Leilanie Stewart to our Summer Picnic
Welcome, Leilanie. Which favourite foods are you bringing to our summer picnic?
Tomato and mozzarella salad with olive oil and avocadoes, a summer treat, especially as I’m a low carb fanatic.
What would you like to drink? We have white wine spritzers, locally brewed beer, traditional Pimms, sparkling elderflower cordial or a thermos of tea or coffee?
Black coffee is my go-to, though I wouldn’t say no to a white wine spritzer.
Where shall we sit, by the pool, on a beach, in the garden or in the countryside?
On a beach. The sound of the waves is so soothing, and I could get lost in a daydream looking out across the sand dunes.
Do we have a wicker hamper, tablecloth and cutlery, or is everything in a supermarket carrier bag?
Wicker hampers are definitely quaint, though I’m a practical kind of person, so I’ve got to go with a supermarket carrier bag – reusable, of course.
Which of your literary heroes (alive or dead) are joining us on the picnic today?
If Homer was a real person, then I would invite them. If Homer was actually a series of Ancient Greek bards who recited the Iliad on street corners in ancient Athens, rather than one person, then I’d invite all of them all to our picnic. The peplos tunics would add a touch of class to our beach-side gathering too.
Do you have favourite place to have a summer picnic?
This summer I have enjoyed picnics at local beaches in Holywood and Bangor in my home country of Northern Ireland. The nice weather doesn’t last too long here, so it has been great to seize the moment.
Do you have a summer music playlist? And if so will you share with us a favourite song or piece of music that makes you feel happy?
Not especially so, though I enjoy listening to Jazz if I’m feeling mellow: Thelonious Monk and Charles Mingus are always great. I’m getting sentimental over you by Thelonious Monk is a favourite.
Which summer read are you bringing with you today?
My stack of current reads is always huge, but I’ll narrow it down to River of Destiny by Barbara Erskine. There’s a water theme within the first section that I’ve read so far, so it would be fitting with our beach picnic.
When you are writing do you still find time to read for pleasure? And is there a book you would like to read but haven’t had time for …yet!
Yes, I’m always reading at least seven or eight books at any one time and I read a little every day. I tend to read in the morning at breakfast time and write later in the day. A book that I haven’t yet read, but is on my to-be-read list, is Revelator by Daryl Gregory. The premise sounds intriguing and I’m a fan of literary horror.
Where do you find the inspiration for your novels?
Real locations tend to stimulate ideas for me, even though I then fictionalise the details in my books. A river walk down by Wandsworth Bridge in London spawned the idea for my debut novel, Gods of Avalon Road, particularly the idea of mudlarking and I chose to set the novel in Hammersmith and Fulham. My second novel, The Buddha’s Bone, is set in a small town in rural Japan called Tottori. My third novel, The Blue Man, is set in my hometown of East Belfast and ties in local urban folklore with real settings – especially the Harland and Wolff shipyard – where Titanic was built.
Have you a favourite place to settle down to write and do you find it easier to write in winter or summer?
At home I write at a desk where my laptop overlooks the garden. I can watch the birds coming to the feeder and get lost in my thoughts as the honeysuckle bush swaying in the wind slowly hypnotises me – so calming. Out and about, I bring a tablet and wireless keyboard with me to write on the go in parks, or cafes, wherever I get a moment to squeeze in a few words.
When writing to a deadline are you easily distracted and if so how do you bring back focus on your writing?
When I’m focused on a writing task, I tend to prioritise that, so I rarely get distracted during that time. If I need to get a manuscript draft to my editor, proofreader or ARC readers for a certain date, I tend to let people know a rough date estimate and stay within a week of that commitment, just to give myself wiggle room. I would tend to get distracted more during the earlier stages of drafting a novel – the option to watch Netflix and have a cuppa is always present – but I try to get a little writing done every day. Even if it’s only a sentence, or just tweaking and editing something I had previously written, it keeps the story moving forward and so I still consider it progress.
Give us four essential items that a writer needs?
1. Access to a computer or laptop to write: whether you own one, or if you’re on a budget, using one at the local library – typing up your work is essential.
2. A pocket notebook to jot story ideas on the go – lest they be forgotten.
3. A chapter planning and story outlining notebook. I’d be lost without mine.
4. Business cards to help spread the word about your books. You never know when your writing might come up in conversation with someone.
What can you tell us about your latest novel or your current work in progress?
My latest novel, The Blue Man, is a ghost story and literary fiction book set in Belfast. It follows teenagers Megan and Sabrina twenty years ago, who destroyed their friendship after unleashing a sinister force into their lives when they shared the terrifying Irish urban legend of The Blue Man. Now in the present, as mothers-to-be, they reunite once more to confront the horror and trauma, in the hopes of burying the past and changing the fate of their families.
Two best friends. An urban legend. A sinister curse.
Twenty years ago, horror loving Sabrina told her best friend, Megan, the terrifying Irish folk tale of the Blue Man, who sold his soul to the Devil in vengeance against a personal injustice. What should have been the best summer of their schooldays turned into a waking nightmare, as the Blue Man came to haunt Megan. Sabrina, helpless to save Megan from a path of self-destruction and substance abuse as she sought refuge from the terror, left Belfast for a new life in Liverpool.
Twenty years later, the former friends reunited thinking they had escaped the horrors of the past. Both were pregnant for the first time. Both had lived elsewhere and moved back to their hometown, Belfast. Both were wrong about the sinister reality of the Blue Man, as the trauma of their school days caught up to them – and their families.
Why did the Blue Man terrorise Megan? Was there more to the man behind the urban legend? Was their friendship – and mental health – strong enough to overcome a twenty year curse?
More about Leilanie
Leilanie Stewart is an author and poet from Belfast, Northern Ireland. Her writing confronts the nature of self; her novels feature main characters on a dark psychological journey who have a crisis of identity and create a new sense of being. She began writing for publication while working as an English teacher in Japan, a career pathway that has influenced themes in her writing. Her former career as an Archaeologist has also inspired her writing and she has incorporated elements of archaeology and mythology into both her fiction and poetry.
In addition to promoting her own work, Leilanie runs Bindweed Magazine, a creative writing literary journal with her writer husband, Joseph Robert. Aside from publishing pursuits, Leilanie enjoys spending time with her husband and their lively literary lad, a voracious reader of sea monster books.
Leilanie, where can we follow you on social media?
Leilanie, thank you for sharing your summer picnic with us today
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