Thursday, February 14, 2013

Leila Rasheed Author Interview

Book Nerd Interview

Leila Rasheed has gained an MA in both Children's Literature and Creative Writing. She started work at Reading Is Fundamental, a children's literacy charity, before moving to Belgium. Leila now works as the children's bookseller for Waterstone's in Brussels.

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Why is storytelling so important for all of us?

Storytelling isn’t just found between the pages of a novel. It’s everywhere and in everything we do. Politicians tell stories to win your vote. Advertisements tell stories to make you buy things. We think about our lives in terms of stories. Stories give our lives meaning, and if we can take control of the story and learn how to tell a better one, we can improve our lives.

What’s one thing that readers would be surprised to find out about you?

That I grew up in Libya and only moved to the UK when I was eleven. I am not Libyan, however. I am half English and half Bangladeshi.

Beyond your own work (of course), what is your all-time favorite book and why? And what is your favorite book outside of your genre?

I don’t think I really have a preferred genre. I like many different kinds of books. One of my favourite works of fiction is The Lord of the Rings – a great adventure that I fell in love with as a teenager. One of my favourite works of non-fiction is Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez, an immersive, powerful work of creative non-fiction.

What was the greatest thing you learned at school?

That’s a really good question! Perhaps the fact that all a teacher needs in order to be inspiring is to have a sense of humour and be kind.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?

I don’t remember who gave me this advice, but someone once pointed out that writers plateau. When you write, you try to get better at it. Sometimes you know you’re getting better. But sometimes you feel you’ve hit a plateau, your writing is not improving, you are not advancing. What’s really happening here is that you are assimilating the new things you have learned. Once you’ve mastered them, you will feel as if you’re progressing again.

Can you tell us when you started Cinders & Sapphires, how that came about?

Cinders and Sapphires is a publisher led book, which means the publisher – Emily Meehan at Hyperion – came up with the concept and characters. My job was to turn these into a novel. I was amazed but delighted that they chose me, a relatively unknown British author who had never written in this genre or for this age group before, to tell the story. Sarah Davies at the Greenhouse put us in touch and handled the deal. Without Sarah and Emily the book wouldn’t exist.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating Rose?

Do you mean in terms of the research for the character? I had a pretty good idea of how hard a housemaid’s job was already, but one of the things that is constantly horrifying is how vulnerable they were to sexual exploitation. Not being allowed locks on their bedroom doors is pretty bad.

If you could introduce Sebastian to any character from another book, who would it be and why?

I think Sebastian has had to grow a spiky, witty shell to protect himself in his life. But underneath I think he’s romantic and gentle and would love to return to his childhood – you see that from the way he acts like a big kid around the Set. I think I’d introduce him to Winnie the Pooh and let him play in the Hundred Acre Wood for a while.

For those who are unfamiliar with Ada, how would you introduce her?

On the surface, Ada is the perfect English gentlewoman. Underneath, she’s unconventional. She’s determined and intelligent and honourable… perhaps too much so for her own good. Someone as strong-minded as her is always going to find it difficult living in a world where women can’t even vote. And someone like her, who likes to be in control, is going to find falling in love a big shock.

What part of Ravi did you enjoy writing the most?

I liked the dinner party scene, where he sticks two fingers up at the British establishment. That was fun to write.

You have the chance to give one piece of advice to your readers. What would it be?

Wow. Um. Can I handle this responsibility? J If it’s a general piece of advice, I might say, don’t take women’s rights for granted. There’s a long way to go.

When asked, what’s the one question you always answer with a lie?

Not a lie, but when asked where I am from I often simplify and say ‘I’m British’ rather than ‘I’m British but I’m half Bangladeshi and have lived most of my life outside the UK.’

Where is the best place in the world you’ve been?

I’ve been to so many wonderful places – the ruins of Cyrene on the Libyan coast, the beaches of Bermuda, Singapore, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Italy, Belgium… I love anywhere that has ruins and mountains.

What would be harder for you, to tell someone you love them or that you do not love them back?

Probably to tell them I love them. It’s difficult to be vulnerable.

When was the last time you cried?

Probably soon after my baby was born, when he wasn’t sleeping!

What decade during the last century would you have chosen to be a teenager?

Definitely the 1970s. I am a David Bowie fan. I like his Berlin phase.

What's the loveliest thing you have ever seen?

The words: “We are delighted to make an offer of publication for your wonderful novel…” !

Where can readers stalk you?

On twitter at @leilar

One house, two worlds...

Rose Cliffe has never met a young lady like her new mistress. Clever, rich, and beautiful, Ada Averley treats Rose as an equal. And Rose could use a friend. Especially now that she, at barely sixteen, has risen to the position of ladies’ maid. Rose knows she should be grateful to have a place at a house like Somerton. Still, she can’t help but wonder what her life might have been had she been born a lady, like Ada.

For the first time in a decade, the Averleys have returned to Somerton, their majestic ancestral estate. But terrible scandal has followed Ada’s beloved father all the way from India. Now Ada finds herself torn between her own happiness and her family’s honor. Only she has the power to restore the Averley name—but it would mean giving up her one true love . . . someone she could never persuade her father to accept.

Sumptuous and enticing, the first novel in the At Somerton series introduces two worlds, utterly different yet entangled, where ruthless ambition, forbidden attraction, and unspoken dreams are hidden behind dutiful smiles and glittering jewels. All those secrets are waiting . . . at Somerton.

Leila Rasheed’s Cinders & Sapphires is a stunning story set in pre-war England. Sixteen-year-old Rose Cliffe has been promoted to the position of ladies’ maid for the rich and beautiful Ada Averly who treats her as an equal. Appreciative of having a place at the Averly’s Somerton estate, she ponders a life if she was born a lady like her friend Ada. In Ada’s world, she puts aside her happiness and must defend her family’s honor after a scandal has trailed her father from India. Her forbidden feelings for Ravi, a protégé of her father’s friend, will have to wait as she will have to choose between love and family honor. As more secrets are revealed within the Somerton estate, are there more scandals to be unearthed?

Author Leila is able to bring a pot of characters into one book that delivers plenty of conflicts and problems to keep readers interested. The story plot thickens with each page turned building the need to know what would develop. The setting has been described like the one in the British period drama Downtown Abbey. Even for readers who are not familiar with the setting, they will find enjoyment to its universal theme of longing for love. Leila’s writing style is very in-depth with details without overdoing it. The pace of the story is well-balanced and readers will get to know the characters really well. Each character has an important role in the story and they all played it well. Cinders & Sapphires is a beautiful story about the strong bond between people that went entirely against the rules of society. There is still much to the story and the second book is certainly going to be exciting.

You can purchase Cinders and Sapphires at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you Leila for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive one a copy of Cinders and Sapphires by Leila Rasheed.
a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Mmmm not really, I have a hard time remembering them :P

  2. Currently, one of my most recurring dreams comes in the form of zombies. I'm usually running from them. lol

  3. Not really, but I dream some stuff everyday, absolutely sure.

  4. The dream I most remember is when I was about 15yrs old my first boyfriend died from a car accident. The night he died we had a fight and he was really mad at me so he went out with his friends. I told myself that it was my fault that he died because if I didn’t fight with him he would of never gotten in the car with his friends. After his death I dreamed of him for a week straight. Now I never seen the scene of the accident, I dreamt of the scene every night with him just standing there with the truck crashed into a tree. His friend was driving and smashed into a tree and my boyfriend flew out of the windshield and died instantly. So I had this dream every night for I think 5 days or so and on the 6th night he finally spoke to me and told me, It’s not your fault.

  5. I havent had a recurring dream since I was a kid.

  6. I have a hard time remembering dreams

  7. I dont have a recurring one but last night I dreamt that I went to a Zombie dance. I was standing on stage watching all the Zombies dance and then they noticed me they started chasing me!

  8. I usually forget my dreams like 10 seconds after I wake up so I don't have a clue haha

  9. I don't have recurring dreams, but I have certain places that show up multiple times, like "my house" that isn't my house at all.

    Thanks for the giveaway.

  10. I don't have a story that reoccurs but I have people that reoccur. This a guy that I knew in middle school who is always in my dreams, at least once a week. Usually if I oversleep a little or if I'm stressed or excessively tired, I dream of him. Weird, huh?

    mestith at gmail dot com

  11. When I was younger there was this one dream that I had for about 8 times throughout a span of maybe 3 years. It was of me hiding my purse with a lot of money (it seemed like a lot that time) under a big rock and then some thieves came and stole bags and purses of the people around me. Mine was still safe under the rock. It was puzzling why I keep having that same dream throughout those years.

  12. i visit a building, kind of like a huge shopping mall, but everytime there would be something new in it.

  13. A few years ago after I had finished my last year of high school, I kept having this recurring dream of failing my Chemistry exam and not passing Year 12. It was because I absolutely hated/dreaded Chemistry and I was terrified of flunking the exam. Every time I'd wake up though, I'd feel this huge sense of relief. I made sure not to take Chem in Uni. :P

  14. i have a hard time to remember my dream...

  15. I don't actually. Thanks for the giveaway

  16. When i was little i had a recurring dream that i was being chased by a giant.

  17. When I was little I had a nightmare about a witch trying to get me to drink poison. It lasted for a year until some firemen saved me. I had a weird imagination.

  18. i don't think I've ever had one. I hardly remember dreams as it is

  19. I never remember my dreams. As soon as I wake, they fade away. It is actually really disconcerting.

    Thanks for the interview and giveaway!

  20. Not really, or I just don't remember :D

  21. My most recurring dream is one of a doll coming closer to my face and then vanishing. Scary.

  22. I have this dream just before I get sick (it's like a waring or sign dream)
    there's a straight line that suddenly twirls, curls and swirls.. and I have the desire to make it straight again, if I can't do that, then I'll get sick the next day..

    Funnily enough, I discovered just last year that my younger sister has that dream too before getting a fever,...

    weird but true!

    raffleocpter: Avie S.

  23. I used to have this recurring dream as a child. Well, actually there are a couple. There was one that I always had whenever I was sick. In my dream, when I reached out my hand to touch the wall (which I could normally reach in the real world) the wall would be so far away. Later in the same dream, I'd feel like someone was wrapping me up, mummy-style, in toilet paper. I know, I know...don't ask. I have no idea why I had these dreams all the time whenever I was sick.

    Another recurring dream was that there were lions outside my house! At some point, the lions would lunge at the patio doors and crash through and then I'd wake up.

    Both scary dreams!

  24. I can never really remember my dreams.

  25. my recurring dream was in the same place and i think I had dreamed in this place before

  26. I'm usually freefalling, not something I'm fond of.

  27. When I was little I used to have this dream that was sort of like the movie Coroline...

  28. Sometimes they have similar elements but I don't have the SAME dream that recurrs! Awesome interview! I'm SO excited to read this one!
    XX, Inky

  29. The last one I can remember was when I wake up and there's a family/friend gathering in my house. And nobody can remember me. This strange girl takes my place and she looks nothing like me. It was freaky. :(

  30. Hmm . . . I don't think I get recurring dreams, except for those weird ones where I see a bunch of amazing books but forget them and go on some weird journey. Yeah. Awkward.

  31. I have dream with zombies! Over and over again! I think I watch to much TWD but I just can't help it! (Ileana A.-rafflecopter)

  32. Have this recurring dream that I am in a physics seminar and that my dad keeps pulling me out of the seminar to tell me we are moving again. I think it means I'm worried about moving again! Thanks for the giveaway ladies! (Katherine B. -rafflecopter)

  33. Nope :P I barely have dreams and when I do they're always different.