Today is our stop on the blog tour for Twin Truths by Shelan Rodger, and not only is there a fab review from Ellen, but there’s also a Q&A with the author for you all to check out!
About the author:
Shelan’s life is a patchwork of different cultures and landscapes; she was born in northern Nigeria, growing up among the Tiwi – an aboriginal community on an island north of Darwin, and moved to England at the age of eleven. She then travelled to Buenos Aires after graduating in Modern Languages from Oxford, and stayed for nine years. Then another chapter in England, followed by six years in Kenya on flower farms by Lake Naivasha and the lower slopes of Mount Kenya.
Now, Shelan lives in Andalucia, Spain. She has learnt in and outside many classrooms around the world, teaching in some of them too. Her professional career has revolved around international education, learning and development, with an emphasis during her time in Kenya on anti-discrimination.
Shelan’s first book, Twin Truths, was published by Cutting Edge Press in 2014, followed by Yellow Room, also in 2015.
As of 2017, The Dome Press acquired the rights to these two titles and Yellow Room was released in October 2017, with Twin Truths following in March 2018.
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About the book:
What is the truth? And how do you recognise it when you hear it?
Jenny and Pippa are twins. Like many twins they often know what the other is thinking. They complete each other. When Pippa disappears, Jenny is left to face the world alone, as she tries to find out what happened to her ‘other half’. But the truth, for Jenny, can be a slippery thing.
Click HERE to get your copy!
Twin Truths is definitely a story of two halves and I have to admit to struggling with the first part told From Jenny’s point of view. She is such a provocative character and I didn’t gel with her at all, I much preferred the second part which is told by her twin Pippa. Pippa is the polar opposite to Jenny, quiet and reserved. It becomes apparent that something traumatic happened in their childhood and they each have their own way of coping. Jenny seems to cause a path of broken hearts and outrageous behaviour while Pippa retreats into herself.
After a tragic accident Jenny is left without her twin and undertakes therapy trying to understand why she behaves the way that she does and come to terms with her past. Jenny is very manipulative and is prepared to lie and use shock tactics to bluff her way through appearing as if she is coping.
There isn’t much more I can say about this book due to spoilers but it all comes together for the final chapter and the truth is hidden in plain sight all along. I had a suspicion but I got it totally wrong! A dark and compelling read.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I am a bit of a nomad really. I was born in Nigeria, grew up in an aboriginal community on an island north of Australia, moved to England aged eleven, and have spent my adult life moving between Argentina, England, Kenya and Spain. I love languages, teaching and learning, and my professional career has revolved around international education and learning & development. My unprofessional career began at the age of nine with the unsolicited launch of ‘The Family Magazine’ and I’ve been passionate about words and writing for as long as I can remember.
How did you get into writing? Is it something you’ve always wanted to do?
Story-telling, myth and metaphor were ingrained in the aboriginal culture of my childhood and perhaps that has something to do with my love of stories. But despite the pen and paper that accompanied me around the world, it was a long time before I embarked on the adventure of writing a novel. When I did, I was going through a tough period in my life with an undiagnosed illness that meant I could barely walk – perhaps it was this lack of mobility that triggered the introspection I needed to write a novel. At the time, it was a way of moving and escaping the walls of my immobility, but on the way, I discovered that this was quite simply what I wanted to do.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I don’t know how the lightbulb seed ever comes into being – for me it tends to manifest in the form of an idea, which then turns into a character – but I am certainly aware of the earth it has grown in: the multi-cultural mish-mash of my own life! I’m sure this has created a kind of questioning that explains the fascination with personal identity which fuels my writing.
I think there is also a strong sense of place in my novels and that is certainly grounded in personal experience. Twin Truths is set in Argentina in the nineties, where I lived for nine years. Yellow Room is set in Kenya, where I was living on a flower farm in Naivasha, one of the hot spots that was hit by the post-election violence ten years ago which killed over a thousand people.
How would you describe your writing to anyone who hasn’t read your book?
I aspire to write novels that are at once page-turning and thought-provoking. I love twists and I love the drama and symbolism of language. My stories explore the impact of trauma, secrets, loss and love in our lives.
Do you think social media helps in regard to promotion and drumming up publicity for a new book?
Yes, I’m sure it does – I just wish I was better at it! I’m also incredibly grateful to the community of book bloggers out there spreading the word and helping to keep the joy of reading alive.
What’s your most favourite thing about being an author?
It doesn’t happen all the time, of course, but writing at its best is like being in a time machine. You forget that time exists, you flow with the wave of words that wash through you; it’s almost like a state of meditation and there is something very earthy, connected, and transformative about this feeling.
What’s your least favourite thing about being an author?
The worst moments are when doubt creeps in and looks over your shoulder and tells you that it’s all a pile of crap and who do you think you are anyway!
Where do you see your writing career 5 years from now?
I would love to be writing full time, about to publish my fifth or sixth novel – oh and with a couple of awards and a film under my belt! The dream of any writer I’m sure!
What’s next for you?
I’m working on my third novel, another psychological twisty tale. It’s inspired by something that happened two weeks before my father died: he found a novel he’d forgotten he’d written, read it, changed the last line and gave it to me. This was the last time I saw him. In my book, a box of writing by the father she never knew falls into the hands of a dramatherapist called Elisa and takes her to Kenya, where a twist presents the one person from her past she never wanted to meet again.
I often wonder are authors voracious readers. Do you read much, and if so, what kind of books do you enjoy?
I love reading but I don’t read nearly as much as I’d like to because of juggling a full-time job with my own writing! I like books that are compelling but also make me think, books that make me want to turn over the page but also swim in the language on the way, books that push the boundaries, question and explore, books that linger with me after the last line. Books like Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro or The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold or A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki. Just three titles out of so many I could have chosen to show what I mean. My taste in reading – as in most things – is eclectic. Sometimes, I just want a book to make me laugh and P.G. Wodehouse is one who does it every time.
Can you tell me your all time favourite book, or if you have to, your top 5?
Well, a book I believe I will never tire of dipping back into is The Importance of Living, by Lin Yutang, first published in 1938, and possibly more relevant now than ever. The copy on my bookshelf was handed down to me by my father: hardback plain green cover, with yellowing water-stained pages and occasional hand-written notes in the margins. It is written with wonderful humour and humility, a refreshing, playful and life-affirming way of looking at the world, based on ancient Chinese philosophy.
Has there been any books you’ve read that you wish you had written?
Gosh, lots! The one that I think has had the most impact was The Alexandria Quartet, which I read in my early twenties. The whole notion of the same story told in different books from the perspective of the different characters absolutely blew me away and I remember thinking if I am ever a writer this is the kind of book I want to write.
When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?
I have a full-time job working for a UK-based international education group, which keeps me very busy and involves a lot of travel, mostly around Europe. I also live in a beautiful, wild patch of Spain and love to spend as much time as I can outside, either in the water or on land!
Have you any hobbies that aren’t book-related?
Yes, lots! In nature I love walking, swimming, yoga and meditation. With friends, I love wine and good food, dancing, laughter, and debate. And I have recently started guitar lessons – my teacher is a modest but amazing flamenco guitarist and I am an embarrassingly bad student, but I love it.
What’s your favourite holiday destination?
A hard question to answer, there are so many stunning places in the world! Right now, my answer would probably be Kenya, partly because it is a country I love and partly because my mother loves there, so I get to spend time with her as part of the holiday. It is also when I’m on holiday that I get to do most of my writing and her veranda, overlooking fever trees on the shore of Lake Naivasha, is a writer’s haven.
Last but not least, why writing? Why not something else?
Good question! I believe the creative urge is a human need and for some of us that just manifests through writing. I grew up in words, my father was a poet, and apparently, I used to imitate the act of reading as a small child before I even knew how to read – I would sit with a newspaper in front of me and deliberately move my eyes from one side to the other as I saw the adults did. In the end, I just think the desire to write is in your blood.
*Many thanks to Shelan Rodger for a great interview, Dome Press and Emily Glenister for having us on the tour! 🙂