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



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


Lucy Van Hove

I interviewed Lucy Van Hove, critic and participant in theatre-circus, and advocate for this innovative art form. Lucy describes herself on Twitter as: ‘London Mum of three, word painter & aerialist learning a few tricks. Curated Shhh! cabaret #Postcards2017. Now circusnavigating globe #sailingLaCigale …’

Leslie: How did your interest in theatre-circus begin, grow and develop?

Lucy: Organically… When I first moved to London to work as a trainee accountant in my 20s, I remember going to The Roundhouse to see an Argentine company called De La Guarda (now Fuerzabruta) where performers bungeed through a paper ceiling above us, signaling an evening of anarchic, surreal, madcap fun. They would clown around with the audience, rifling through bags (well, mine anyway) and sweep the odd spectator into the air. I remember thinking I would love to have a go.

Continue reading WHEN CIRCUS MEETS THEATRE – Part 1


Elizabeth Jane Corbett outside the Welsh-speaking centre Canolfan, named after Hywel Dda (Howell the good), the Welsh king credited with codifying Welsh law.

I invited Elizabeth Jane Corbett, who won the Bristol Short Story Prize and was shortlisted for the Allan Marshall Short Story Award, to write about how she discovered Welsh Mythology. Elizabeth lives in Australia, where she teaches Welsh, is an author and librarian, and her debut novel The Tides Between is published by Odyssey Books.

Elizabeth writes:

I am not an expert on Welsh stories. I didn’t even know they existed until my forty first year – not the fighting, red and white dragons, not the Lady of the Lake, or Taliesin, or the Mabinogion, or any of the strange tales of changelings and fairy borrowings. I’m not sure how unusual my ignorance is for the average Briton. But to me it is akin to an aboriginal Australian growing up without any knowledge of the Dreamtime. A travesty. I think that’s why the stories hijacked my Aussie immigration novel. Why, Rhys, one of my viewpoint characters ended up a storyteller. Continue reading THE TALES NO ONE EVER TOLD ME


Katherine Ashe, historian & historical novelist

In Part Two of her interview, Katherine Ashe takes up the story after being 30 weeks on the Amazon best-seller list. We talked about Katherine’s move into film production, how she works as a writer, and her views on fiction versus fact in historical novels.

Leslie: Could you describe the birth, growth and development of your film about Simon de Montfort please? Could you tell us about what you learned from the production process?

Katherine: First of all, the film has not been made. It is merely at the financing stage. With the budget at $200 million it may stick at that point forever. Getting that far, however, has been a lot of work already. Continue reading THE RISKS WE TAKE, WRITING HISTORICAL NOVELS – Part 2

Author and Poet