Friday, 24 October 2014

My interview with Hajira Amla of Seychelles News Agency

 Bev Spicer, author of Stranded in the Seychelles

Can you start off by explaining a bit about the Bev and Carol series in general and why you decided to write them?

Like most things in my life, Bev and Carol were sort of accidental.  I was talking to a friend who also writes, and when she found out I had worked at a London Playboy casino as a croupier in the early 80s, she said I would be mad not to write about it. People would be interested to know what it was really like dealing blackjack in the not so glamorous world of Playboy. That was the beginning of Bev and Carol, two friends with larger than life personalities and not a great deal of common sense.  So, Bunny on a Bike (Playboy croupiers in 8os London) was the first humorous memoir I wrote, but the second in the series.  Confused?  All will become clear... 

Are there any more Bev and Carol adventures in the pipeline since they were last seen jetting off towards Bangkok?

Aha! Well, there are three so far: One Summer in France (two girls in a tent)Book one, Bunny on a Bike (mentioned above) Book two and Stranded in the Seychelles (teachers in paradise)Book three.  I’m very, very tempted to go off piste with Bev and Carol next time.  Perhaps a hilarious sci fi adventure: Black Holes and Poptarts for example.  If you remember the 70s and 80s, Poptarts were a kind of mass produced flat cake with synthetic jam in the middle.  These delicacies were responsible for many a toaster fire as young people everywhere fed their addiction for sugar and animal fat.  Yummy. They do feature in the Bev and Carol books.  Perhaps Seychelles was lucky enough to escape them?

Stranded in Seychelles is a very tongue-in-cheek look at the islands back in the late 1980s - what would you want Seychellois readers to know before they pick up the book? 

Glad you asked this one!  Stranded in the Seychelles, like all the books in the Bev and Carol series, is meant to be entertaining but also interesting.  Hopefully, readers will see that the laugh is generally on one or other of the protagonists rather than at the expense of other characters who appear in the books.  The portrayal of Seychelles is from the point of view of two young women who are exploring a new and exciting culture where, for the first time in their lives, they are exposed to a society which is evolving at a fantastic rate.  There are aspects of Seychellois life that Bev and Carol find charming, laudable, refreshing and, at the same time, they come across social practices that test their moral and political yardsticks, sometimes leaving them baffled or overwhelmed.  During their time on the islands, Bev and Carol are delighted, challenged and terrified in turn.  Above all, I hope that the deep affection and pride I felt for Seychelles and its people will come through loud and clear.

What kind of person was Bev Spicer in those days?

Incorrigible, unstoppable, dozy, blonde, less wrinkly, and on the lookout for adventure.  I remember never wanting to settle in one place for too long because I might miss something.  The world seemed like a huge treasure chest and I wanted to dive in and pull out as much sparkle as I could.  I suppose I was lucky to have received a free university education, trained to be a teacher and to have had a father who only wanted me to follow my heart and be happy.  And so, in those days, I was a traveller, first and foremost.  I’ve lived in a lot of different countries and feel privileged to have encountered so much that is new to me.  Wherever I have been, I’ve always found amazing people.  People who smile no matter what life throws at them.  I had very little in terms of possessions in those days.  I felt free and unafraid of the future.

Have you been back to the Seychelles since your departure from the NYS? If so, what can you say about how the islands and the people have changed since then?

No, I’ve never thought about returning. Do you know how rich you have to be to holiday in the Seychelles?
I’m so pleased to have found your site, though.  Now I can keep up with what’s happening at the click of a button.  Amazing!

You say that the book is partly fictional and partly a true account of your experiences in Seychelles - how much/what parts of the book has been embellished with fiction and why?

Now this is a very leading question!  I would say that practically all of the events are based on my own experiences, with the occasional exaggeration for dramatic effect.  Fiction comes into play with the characters, who have been made as unrecognisable as possible from the real people I met.  ‘Carol’ is an entirely fictional character in all of the books.  The person who accompanied me to France, London and Seychelles, was nothing like Carol.  What is absolutely real, and what I have endeavoured to convey is the profound and treasured friendship that comes from knowing someone well and enjoying their company in a way that is effortless and genuine.  I sometimes think that Bev and Carol are probably more like two sides of my own rather strange personality.   

Are you still close to Carol (is that her real name)? How did she react when you told her you wanted to write this series?

I am in touch with my friend, yes.  Her name, as you’ve probably guessed, is not Carol.  How does she feel about the books?  I think she is quite impressed, and very happy for me.

Is the book only available on Amazon or do you have print versions available as well? 

All three memoirs are available on Amazon as kindle versions or in paperback.
Are you self-published?

Yes.  I like being self-published.  I have total control over content, cover, pricing and publication dates. 

 When was Stranded in Seychelles released?

The kindle version was released on February 27th 2014.  The paperback version on October 17th 2014.

How has the book and the series in general done in sales and have you received any interest from publishers?

All my books are gradually reaching a wider audience, which is very exciting for me. I try to spread the word using social media, but I try not to overdo this.  Most readers who buy my books do so after reading reviews on Amazon or by recommendation from a friend.  Interviews like this one generally help too!  I am always thrilled when someone chooses to buy a copy of one of my books and I’m lucky enough to have received excellent reviews for all of them.

Publishers?  I’ve had a great deal of interest, but nothing concrete, as yet.  I’m quite happy being an independent author for the time being. 

How many other books have you written in total and what kind of genres do they cover?

Apart from my three humorous memoirs, I have three published novels and three published short stories, all kindle versions.  I’m aiming to get all my work into paperback by the end of the year.  Wish me luck! 

My Grandfather’s Eyes is a psychological drama featuring a strong female protagonist who some readers have described as evil.

A Good Day for Jumping is set on the island of Crete where I spent two years teaching, and is more of a character driven mystery involving a multilayered plot, a handsome libertine and a glamorous woman who has led a very unusual life.

The Undertaker’s Son is set in France, where I now live, and is rather more of a soap opera, with lots of local detail and a collection of rural and international characters.  There is romance, deceit, croissants, and a terrifying twist at the end.

I have also published three separate short stories: Angels is a metaphysical horror story, Strings is an apocalyptic sci fi and Peaches in the Attic is a rather disturbing tale about a grandmother and her granddaughter.

You now live in France with your husband and children - would you say your days of adventure, binge drinking and reckless abandon are over? 

I don’t binge drink any more, although I do have a glass of wine with dinner - this is unavoidable given where I live... and very enjoyable, too.  Would I give up adventure and reckless abandon?  I don’t know if I could ever do that!  

To go to Seychelles News Agency's online journal, click here: 

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

My French Life - Eating out

We don't often go out for a big celebration in the evening, here in France.  Lunch menus are simple, far cheaper and just as delicious.  But it was a special occasion and we let out our impulsive selves for once.  My husband and I.  'Come to dinner!' we said to his mum and dad.  'Would you like to join us?' we asked our enormous teenage sons. 

The restaurant is local and is run by a fabulous couple.  One English, one French.  The food is well above the quality you would expect from a rural location such as ours.  Lucky us, I say.

I tip-toed downstairs in some ridiculous shoes and a rather clingy dress, the boys lumbered out of their bedroom paradises, unplugged momentarily from their alternative realities, and, keeping to their usual dress code of summer shorts and tee shirts, began grinning at the prospect of being fed.  The in-laws arrived in a burst of Heinz tomato soup, Cadbury's Dairy Milk and explosive joie de vivre.  My husband donned a jacket, shook his mane of very long, very messy hair, and looked his usual delicious self.  We were all set.

Our hostess was there to greet us, as were a handful of bright-faced locals and a small table of international friends, who were having a Sunday apero.  The atmosphere was immediately convivial.  Having kissed and caught up with a little news, we went through to the dining room and were seated, boy-girl-boy-girl. 

I was suddenly very hungry.  I think we all were. 

The menu was interesting, if a little scary.  We made our choices.  For the entrée I had bar mariné au citron vert avec condiment croquant et sorbet poivron rouge. (lime marinated bass with a red pepper sorbet, beautifully presented with crunchy vegetable garnish). I hated it - but it was my own fault for foolishly ordering raw fish, when I don't like raw fish. I blame this oversight on the fact that I am a Midlands girl with experimental tendencies.

Luckily, I was less adventurous with the main course: joue de boeuf braisé avec champignons des bois, carottes et moelle (braised beef cheeks with wild mushrooms, carrots and bone marrow).  Once I'd stopped thinking about the anatomy of a cow, pondering the idea of cheeks, and wondering whether I should be eating meat in the first place, I was more or less okay.  It was, after all, very tender and tasty. 

I had decided early on that dessert would be one step too far for the seams of my lycra dress to bear.  Needless to say, the stolen tasters I got from various disgruntled members of my party were the best part of the meal, for me.  My favourite: Chocolat 'guayaquil' parfumé à la citronnelle, avec marmelade de framboise (chocolat mousse flavoured with lemon, with a layer of raspberry jam).  Exquisite!

Of course, everyone else enjoyed the whole menu.  Why wouldn't they? They were obviously much less squeamish than I am and proper gourmets into the bargain. 

My education in the appreciation of the finer things in life is ongoing, although it has to be said that I have ruled out several delicacies so far, including oysters, snails (including snail jam) and all forms of black pudding, (having seen a documentary about how this is made, featuring a sturdy woman, a wooden spoon, a bowl containing blood and animal fat, and finally, a reporter who made a hilarious unscheduled dive for the door as the mixture thickened).

I have to say, also, that the urge to simplify, as I grow older, is sometimes extremely attractive. With this in mind, and turning my back on the notion of a calorie, tonight I'm cooking fish and chips with homemade curry sauce (à la Jamie Oliver/Comfort Food). Mushy peas, too.  Hands up who wants some!

Happy days.


Monday, 20 October 2014

Monday, 6 October 2014

Peaches in the Attic

My new short story is similar in genre to the wonderful Tales of Mystery and Imagination originally broadcast  between 1966 and 1970 by the BBC.  I used to watch them with my grandfather.  My grandmother had gone to The Dogs with my mother... 

My grandfather and I were free spirits and generally immune to rules about anything to do with bedtimes or suitable television viewing.  I remember dastardly plots, secret rooms, ice-cold characters.  Horror and the supernatural on a Saturday night, with the fire lit and the horse brasses glinting.  I was all of a wriggle, eyes wide and ready to be amazed.

Although Peaches in the Attic is an adult piece, it is approved by my teenage nieces, who rate it as 'excellently evil'.

Bon appetit!


My new story, Strings, is pure science fiction.  At least I hope it is!  Apocalyptic, in a horribly playful sort of way...

Amazon UK
Amazon US

Angels is a metaphysical horror story about a mother's revenge for her daughter's untimely death.  It has received very positive reviews from Amazon customers.