Sunday, September 22, 2013

Book Review: Hidden Footprints of Unity by Raja Arasa Ratnam


by Raja Arasa Ratnam

Reviewed by Cynthia Collins for the US Review of Books

"The bottom line is tolerance and fair treatment by all, to all, irrespective of origins, language, religion."

This book describes the conflicts and unity of different religions as they, and the people who practice them, search for a common ground in Australian culture. It focuses on the spiritual aspect of what was White Australia during British rule. It can either be read as self-contained or in conjunction with Ratnam's previous books, Musings at Death's Door and The Dance of Destiny, that deal with the prejudices of language, race, politics, and employment during the same time period.

Ratnam grew up in British Malaya (now Malaysia and Singapore). His environment embodied multi-ethnic, multicultural, and multi-religious tolerance. That changed when he moved to Australia at the age of 19 in 1948. He watched the country change from "white" British rule to one where the different races, languages, and religions are celebrated as a part of the variety of cultures. He goes into a lot of detail of discussing the various religions of the world as well as the beliefs of psychics and scientists. He questions the obvious and not so obvious, and wonders if those who condemn other religions are hiding their own fears of insecurity.

This is a well-written book and recommended for anyone studying comparative religion, sociology, Australian history, civil rights, and ethnic cultures of Australia. It would be appropriate for high school and college students, civil rights and religious leaders, and historians. The author uses a quote from Hippocrates made 2,500 years ago to make his point. "There is one common flow, one common breathing. All things are in sympathy."


RECOMMENDED by the USR  

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Tayo Emmanuel: The IAN Interview



My name is Omotayo Utomi although I’ve authored my novel as Tayo Emmanuel. I like to believe I mean different things to different people – wife, mother, poet, writer, counsellor and analyst. My corporate working experience covers Corporate Communications, Marketing, Events Management, Customer Care and Business Analysis. I’m educated up to Master’s Degree and I have a Writing Certificate from the City University London. My world view is greatly influenced by my Christian faith and in my spare time, I volunteer for non-profit organisations; training, counselling and writing. I currently maintain a relationship column in Mentor Magazine and a blogging platform at www.rel8ing.co.uk




IAN. Please tell us about your latest book
T.E.  My latest book is my debut novel called A Bouquet of Dilemma. It’s a story about the love lives of two friends, Tobi and Maggie. But it focuses more on Tobi as the main protagonist - an undergraduate from a conservative family whose first experience of love is with Richard, a playboy from a relatively errant family. They both met at Maggie’s party and Tobi was totally besotted with Richard. Despite being warned by her friends, she starts dating Richard after her mind-blowing birthday treat. Ironically, Richard stays faithful and even gets engaged to Tobi before travelling abroad. The eventuality happened when Tobi gets a mysterious letter advising her to move on with her life, without Richard. To help her recover, Maggie suggests having a fling with Oba who had been wooing her for over a year. A week to Maggie’s wedding and on the eve of Oba proposing to Tobi, Richard shows up asking for forgiveness. The dilemma for Tobi is to make a choice between ‘charming, unpredictable Richard who spins her life inside out’ and ‘reliable, gentle Oba who was supposed to be just a distraction’. It’s an intense battle between her heart and her mind.

IAN. Is your book published in print, e-book or both?
T.E.  A Bouquet of Dilemma is in both print and electronic formats. 



IAN. What inspired you to write A Bouquet of Dilemma?
T.E. The starting point is that I am usually inspired to draw morals and learning points from life experiences, based on the belief that someone somewhere can always learn from an event. I’ve been a relationship counsellor and that makes me privy to a lot of issues about love and life. A Bouquet of Dilemma was inspired by the true life story of a lady whose first experience of love was with a guy that eventually jilted her so he could afford a better life abroad. A sneak into her life portrays different views and perceptions about defining love and finding happiness.

IAN. Did you use an outline or do you just wing the first draft?
T.E.  Yes, I use an outline, but the outline is a guide to put together my thoughts and see the end of the book before I start. But as the story unfolds, the outline is somewhat overtaken and consumed by the flow.

IAN. How did you come up with the title?
T.E.  A Bouquet of Dilemma came in a flash and I stuck with it. Before then, I had toyed with other titles and I wasn’t quite satisfied because I wanted a unique title that would be catchy and stand out from other titles. And that is based on an experience I once had on Amazon, when I was looking for a book and the title search brought up over five different books with the same title.

IAN. What do you hope your readers come away with after reading A Bouquet of Dilemma?
T.E.  Incidentally, African writers usually write to communicate morals or values. I want my readers to come to an understanding that nothing is cast in stone when it comes to love and life. People change, circumstances change, motivations change and history can be re-written by a simple choice to stay or to walk away. Maggie, the sub-protagonist in A Bouquet of Dilemma had to deal with tribal stereotyping and I want people to see how fitting individuals into pre-defined boxes doesn’t work in love situations.

IAN. How much of the book is realistic?
T.E. For me, the purpose of fiction writing, especially romance is to turn the ‘imaginary’ into the ‘reality’ by creating a plausible and believable story from scraps, otherwise it becomes a memoir. I was happy when one of my readers said, “That happened to me. I was like Tobi some years ago.” To that extent, the book is realistic, but it takes from a lot of unrelated events which I combined with real and historical events in the setting.

IAN. Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
T.E.  A Bouquet of Dilemma is based on life experiences of diverse people.

IAN. How is A Bouquet of Dilemma different from others in your genre?T.E.  A Bouquet of Dilemma is in the Contemporary Romance Fiction and New Adult genre and the only way I can say it is different is that it’s original. Every original work of art has a distinct signature and I believe that no two voices are alike in the writing world. Yes, it is a story about two regular but diverse young ladies, but I haven’t read anything like it. And like I would say, maybe it’s because I haven’t read much. It focuses on the transition of a girl into womanhood from a Nigerian perspective. The book is also an expose on politics and the value systems in Nigeria as it affects relationships and aspirations of young adults. One of the recurring comments I’ve heard from non-Nigerian readers is that the novel has opened Nigeria to them in a new interesting light.

IAN. What books have most influenced your life most?
T.E. Kola Onadipe’s The Adventures of Souza and Akinwunmi Ishola’s Oleku taught me to enjoy African stories as a child. Wole Soyinka’s Trial of Brother Jero taught me to love satires, Shakespeare’s Julius Ceaser taught me to love plays and verses, Harold Robbins’ 79 Park Avenue and Jojo Moye’s  Me Before You have shown me how fiction should be written.

IAN. Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
T.E.  Apart from family, the entity that has supported me most is actually my  writing group called the Angel Writing Group. The group was started after we completed the writing course at City University, it’s a small support group where we critique one another’s work and share knowledge on everything related to writing.

IAN. Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
T.E.  Up till now, I always feel more comfortable expressing myself writing than talking. I developed a reading culture early in life. In secondary school one of my best subjects was literature, from where I started playing with words and writing poems. I read a numeric course in university, so I forgot writing until I started working and we started an official lifestyle magazine. Over time, I started contributing articles here and there in magazines. I've also worked in Corporate Communications which entails a lot of creative writing. Sometimes in 2010, I decided to compile some of my works and have it published as an anthology of short stories and poetry. Feedback from that spurred me to continue writing.

IAN. What was the hardest part of writing A Bouquet of Dilemma?
T.E.  The hardest part of writing my book was when I developed a mental block and didn’t have any inspiration to write. There was a time I set the book apart for almost four months because the pieces weren’t fitting together.

IAN. Tell us about your next book or a work in progress. Is it a sequel or a stand-alone?
T.E.  My work in progress is a stand-alone novel about a couple who are disenchanted in their marriage and struggling with infertility and infidelity.


Saturday, September 7, 2013

Claudia Burgoa: The IAN Interview

Claudia Burgoa lives in Colorado with her family and three dogs. Two beagles who believe they are human, and a bichon who thinks she's a beagle. While managing life, she works as a CFO at a small IT Company. She's a dreamer who enjoys music, laughter and a good story.


IAN. Please tell us about Where Life Takes You

C.B. Becca Trent lived her childhood next to a cruel woman—her mom—who lived to torment and neglect her. During her high school years, her mother married; bringing home not only a new husband, but a step sister her same age.

The latter took over her Mom’s role—making Becca’s life miserable. Including stealing Ian—Becca’s best friend and boyfriend—Lisa treated her worse than her mother had for the previous fifteen years. A couple of years later, things ended up in tragedy.

Becca buried that part of her life in the deep corners of her psyche, but that only work during the days when the nightmares didn’t come back to haunt her. Her best friend, Dan gives her that family love she always lacked. Everything was close to perfect, until everything and everyone from her past came back. Now, she’s trying to figure out how to survive and keep that bond which seems now to be held together by a thread.




IAN. Did you use an outline or do you just wing the first draft?
C.B. I just wing for the first draft. My stories start with an idea and the first words are a scene… any scene. From there I start sculpting it.

IAN. How long did it take to write the Where Life Takes You?
C.B. Between three and four months.

IAN. How much of the book is realistic?
C.B. A big part, after all, it is contemporary. The struggle Becca goes through, trying to overcome everything she buried from her teen-years is something that unfortunately, a lot of women go through. 

IAN. Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
C.B. Yes, some of them, rather not specify which. But a few are mine and some friends who sadly no longer live among us.

IAN. If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
C.B. Modern, I’d say it’s a tie between Sophie Kinsella, Meg Cabot and Nora Roberts.

Classic… I’d like to think that throughout the years I have learned from Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Cervantes, Wilde, Asimov, Dickens and Austin. Let’s not forget Shakespeare, who wrote about Italy without ever visiting the country.


IAN. What book are you reading now?
C.B. I just finished: The book of Broken Hearts by Sarah Ockler

IAN. Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
C.B. My friends, and also my social media friends. Members of Facebook I met five years ago and now from twitter, the community of indie authors is amazingly supportive. Not only with my writing, but on a personal level too.

IAN. Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
C.B. Young age, like Becca, my life wasn’t pleasant and I learned to survive and drift away by reading stories. Not too long after, I began to create my own reality. A happier one.

IAN. Who designed the cover for Where Life Takes You?
C.B. Danielle Fine did the cover of my eBook, and based on it Steve Caresser designed the print version.

IAN. What was the hardest part of writing Where Life Takes You?
C.B. Editing, my first experience doing so wasn’t gentle. But I think my first editor taught me a few valuable lessons and brought out more from me to the book that I was willing to share or deliver.

IAN. Did you learn anything from writing Where Life Takes You and what was it?
C.B. Yes, the biggest one was not to shy away and bring your best game to the keyboard… also proof it before publishing!

IAN. Tell us about your next book or a work in progress. Is it a sequel or a stand-alone?
C.B. Currently I’m working on the sequel of Where Life Takes You and finished writing Getting by, the first book of the Knight Brother’s series.

IAN. Do you have any advice for other writers?
C.B. Write, write, write and keep writing, don’t give up. Also read, read and why not, read after you finished writing. Don’t give up. Have I mentioned you should proof it before publishing the book?

Where Life Takes You is available in trade paperback and Kindle eBook at