The painting below, ‘Las Meninas’ by Velázquez, was used by André Gide to demonstrate the idea of mise en abyme – a technique in art where a copy of an image is placed within itself. So the effect can resemble parallel mirrors, suggesting an infinitely recurring sequence of images. It’s sometimes called the Droste effect, named after the 1904 Droste cocoa package, which shows a woman holding a tray bearing a Droste cocoa package, which bears a smaller version of her image.

Las Meninas (The Maids of Honour) by Velázquez



When character drives story the narrative no longer depends on ‘hooks’ or plot twists and satisfaction comes from seeing more deeply into personality. This kind of writing goes beyond ‘entertainment’ or ‘reveals’. It’s often quite personal, taking the reader into psychological space, so when the ‘ah’ moment arrives it’s usually a discovery about innerness or hidden feelings. Character-led writing values depth over cleverness, subjectivity over analysis, and may depend more on tone of voice than content. And because it’s person-centred it may feel ‘exploratory’ with very little happening until suddenly the protagonist’s mind shifts and the authentic personality steps forward. Continue reading CHARACTER-DRIVEN STORIES


Nadia Nadif as Yasmina in NEW ANATOMIES Battersea Arts Centre

I interviewed Nadia Nadif, actor and theatre activist. Appearing with innovative theatre companies in a wide range of roles, Nadia has taken part in family shows (including learning how to stilt walk!), plays about domestic violence, and performed a Sudanese trance dance as part of a production at the Edinburgh Festival. She has also toured the Middle East with a comedy-farce show.

I began by asking Nadia about the pivotal role she played in creating The Scar Test, a challenging exposé of the UK’s inhumane treatment of refugees in detention.

Leslie: You acted in ‘The Scar Test’. Can you explain the title and the content of the play, please? Continue reading NADIA NADIF: ACTING TO LIVE


Jane Davis

Part two of my interview with Jane Davis, the winner of the Daily Mail First Novel Award, covers her relationship with the book industry, how and why she writes, and her more recent work.

Jane, who has been acclaimed by The Bookseller, is the author of eight novels. Her 2015 novel, An Unknown Woman, was Writing Magazine’s Self-published Book of the Year 2016 and has been shortlisted for two further awards.

Leslie: Why did you move back to self-publishing after being adopted by a significant publishing house and sought after by agents? What conclusions do you draw from your experiences? Continue reading JANE DAVIS: WRITING NOVELS OUTSIDE THE BOX, Part Two


Jane Davis with her novels

I interviewed Jane Davis, winner of the Daily Mail First Novel Award 2008 and described by The Bookseller as ‘One to Watch’. Reviewing Jane’s earlier novels, Compulsion Reads wrote about her: ‘Davis is a phenomenal writer, whose ability to create well-rounded characters that are easy to relate to feels effortless’.

Jane says about herself: “I spent my twenties and the first part of my thirties chasing promotions at work, but when I achieved what I’d set out to do, I discovered that it wasn’t what I wanted after all. It was then that I turned to writing.”

Jane Davis lives in Carshalton, Surrey with her Formula 1 obsessed, star-gazing, beer-brewing partner, surrounded by growing piles of paperbacks, CDs and general chaos. When she isn’t writing, you may spot her disappearing up a mountain with a camera in hand. Continue reading JANE DAVIS: WRITING NOVELS OUTSIDE THE BOX, Part One


Meeting online can be a learning opportunity. In the case of two British authors, Gail Aldwin and Leslie Tate, it led to the following joint blog about writing fiction – how they both started and what has helped them grow and develop as authors…

Gail Aldwin writes:

I’m a late starter when it comes to writing and, to some extent reading. Unlike writers who had childhoods immersed in books, I didn’t like reading. Technically, I could decode a text, but I never saw books as a source of interest and pleasure. As for writing, I was a terrible speller and this seemed to be the only important thing. A legacy from this poor start in literacy meant I carried a pocket dictionary in my handbag for years to prevent me from making ghastly errors. Continue reading WHEN TWO AUTHORS MEET


Lucy Van Hove

In part two of my interview with Lucy Van Hove about theatre-circus, I asked her to share what she’s learned from training for contemporary circus as well as her personal recommendations for shows to watch.

Leslie: What circus acts do you perform yourself? What drives you to do them? What are the personal difficulties and rewards of this kind of work?

Lucy: I’m very much an amateur, learning a bit of everything, a Jill of all trades, mistress of none. What drives me? A love of fun and stepping outside of my comfort zone. The challenge more often than not is mental rather than physical – as a student I have complete faith in my teachers pushing me, but never beyond my capabilities. Sometimes, though, it is a real struggle to get my brain to send that message to the rest of my body! Time and again, the reward is gaining confidence, resilience and strength. Continue reading WHEN CIRCUS MEETS THEATRE – Part 2



‘Violet afterlife’ – a still from Mark Crane’s forthcoming animation inspired by ‘Violet’.

Part two of my novel ‘Violet’ is Beth’s diary. It begins six years after her first meeting with James. Writing her diary gave me the chance to tell the story in self-contained episodes that could jump back and forth between incident and incident. It also allowed me to fill in the six years between the two parts with memories of the teenage stepchildren and aspects of character not covered in part one. But writing it also threw up some interesting challenges: Continue reading WRITING BETH’S DIARY

Author and Poet