Interview with Literary Translator James Christian Brown 

To celebrate International Mother-Language Day we interviewed literary translator James Christian Brown. He tells us all about his journey into becoming a book translator, his recent work translating The Book of Perilous Dishes by Doina Rusti and the importance of reading books in translation. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself?  

I am originally from Scotland but have lived in Romania since 1993. I teach in the English Department of the University of Bucharest and translate Romanian books into English. My first book-length translation from Romanian to English was The Păltiniş Diarby Gabriel Liiceanu (2000). More recently I have translated Răzvan Petrescu’s collection of short stories Small Changes in Attitude (2011), the play Mihaela, The Tiger of Our Town by Gianina Cărbunariu (2016), the volume of philosophical talks About the World We Live In by Alexandru Dragomir (2017), and Doina Ruști’s novel The Book of Perilous Dishes (Neem Tree Press, 2022)

What was your journey into becoming a book translator?  

I kind of fell into translation. I had no plans. I have been teaching since the 1990s and there was a great shortage of native speakers who were very much in demand to translate Romanian into English, so people came to me with requests and I learnt how to do it. You don’t have to be a native speaker to be a good translator.  

What other work have you done? 

The first full size book I translated over 20 years ago was a philosophical memoir and since then I have translated a number of books and articles about Romanian history. This includes various short stories and plays. Recently, I have worked on a very different novel called In the Shadow of the Apocalypse along with The Book of Perilous Dishes.  

How did  you come to translate The Book of Perilous Dishes? 

I met Doina Rusti for the first time ten years ago at an event by the Romanian Cultural Institute. It was sometime later that we made contact and she asked if I would be interested in translating one of her novels. I jumped at this opportunity because at the time I was enjoying a book by Doina. We decided together that the one to work on was Fridays Cat which we agreed in English should be called The Book of Perilous Dishes which will become obvious to anyone who starts reading the books.  

What attracted you to the book? 

I was attracted to it because of the way Doina evokes the world of 18th century Bucharest and at the same time I was working on a non-fiction book dealing with the same place and time period. These were a number of journal articles about Romanian life, so by a happy coincidence everything fitted very well together. I was going from the scholarly research to the fictional recreation. 

What did you enjoy about translating the book? 

It is a very engaging story and it kept my attention from beginning to the end with a whole lot of surprises along the way. It combines the detailed recreation of the past that you would expect to find in a historical novel with a story about a young character. I was capitated by the fantastic elements and it combines a brisque narrative with the poetic imageries that you make you stop for a moment and think what it is about. That for me is the most satisfying part of the job and translating literature. It is solving puzzles, finding a solution that works when translating between two languages and of bringing to the reader what the author is trying to convey. However, there is never going to be a perfect solution. As translators we try out best to represent the author faithfully and give the readers a wonderful reading experience.  

Why is it important to read books in translation? 

It’s a question that is difficult to ask in Romania because most of the books in Romania are translations. In the English-speaking world, things are different because there are so many people speaking and writing in English than in Romanian. Think about what you would be missing because there are so many voices in the world, especially in the continent of Europe, expressing themselves in a variety of languages. We can’t learn to read all these languages of course, but at least we can read translations and find out what some of those voices have to say.  I hope that the enjoyment I had in translating Doina’s book will come across when you read the book and that I succeed in sharing some of my enthusiasm with those of you reading the book in English.  


The Book of Perilous Dishes is available to pre-order from your local book shop and online.


Watch James’ Interview Below


Q&A with Doina Rusti, author of The Book of Perilous Dishes.

With less than one month until the publication day for The Book of Perilous Dishes, we wanted to celebrate by interviewing Doina Rusti all about her journey as an author, the inspiration behind this dark magical tale and the process of translating her novel from Romanian into English.

The Book of Perilous Dishes Book Cover

An atmospheric magical tale based on real historical events and Romanian culinary recipes; The Book of Perilous Dishes is a page-turning historical fantasy that will follow readers long after they close the book.  

Bucharest, 1798. A slave-cook lives in Bucharest, sought after by everyone. His sublime cooking satisfies even the sophisticated tastes of the Prince, who lays claim to him, whisking him away to the Palace. However, no one knows that the cook has in his possession a witch’s recipe book, the Book of Perilous Dishes. His food can bring about damaging sincerity, forgetfulness, the gift of prediction, or hysterical laughter. And the rightful owner of this book is fourteen-year-old Pâtca, an adolescent initiated in the occult arts. Pâtca comes to Bucharest, to her uncle, Cuviosu Zaval, to recover this book, but she finds him dead, murdered, and the Book of Perilous Dishes has disappeared without a trace. All that Zaval has left her is a strange map… 

The Book of Perilous Dishes follows the story of Pâtca, who uses her powers to avenge the death of her uncle and retrieve a magical recipe book left in his keeping which has been stolen by Silica the cook. Travelling from Romania to France and on to Germany to do so, Pâtca’s family’s true past and powers are revealed, as is her connection to Silica the cook… 

Please tell us a little bit about you and your journey as an author? 

I started writing because I didn’t like the endings of the stories my family read to me as a child. In time, I realized that what I like is to build, and among constructions, the epic ones delight me the most. All occurrences of the world depict a fantastic element, that part that we sometimes call incredible, other times just bizarre, and I have always felt an attraction to the realm of shadows and unseen gods. 

Have you always wanted to be a writer? 

At one point, as a child, I wanted to become a confectioner, but I soon realized that I didn’t stand a chance. My grandmother wouldn’t let me into the kitchen. I had a chair by the door, and I wasn’t allowed to move away from that spot. If I broke this rule, disaster would follow: I would drop the dishes, shelves would crumble, and our plates would break. “See”, my Grandma would say, “you can’t be a confectioner! I know you’re trying, you poor thing, but you’re so clumsy! You’d better sit in your chair and just watch, and later, if you want, you can recount everything you found interesting.” And that’s how I became a writer. 

What inspired you to write The Book of Perilous Dishes (Mâța Vinerii)? 

It all started with a grievance, written in 1798 and kept at the National Archives. In this document, a woman complained that her cook had been stolen. Obviously, I was immediately drawn in and got curious about the dishes prepared by this cook, dishes so special that made someone want to steal him and someone else miss him so much that they filed a court case… The rest is literature. 

Can you tell us about some of the Romanian customs/culture that seeps its way into the story? 

There are 21 culinary and magical recipes in my novel. They originate in old recipe books, folklore books, written and unwritten traditions of the Romanians. Among the common spells used in my house was one linked to our bread, kneaded in the evening, peppered with chicory and mash foam cakes (instead of yeast), left to rise, and the next day spread on a round tray. From here on out, the ritual started. We would take the velvetleaf (Abutilon theophrasti) bolls, which adorned the dough with unforgettable shapes – lucky stars. We would add horseradish leaves on the edge and mix everything together with an egg yolk. Then we placed it in the oven and waited until it formed a delicious crust. Without this large bread, about the size of a cartwheel, life had no meaning. This is Crumilla cum animis (bread with many souls), a bread I mentioned in my novel, which infects you with generosity, and makes some people poor. 

But of course, there are many myths that have been absorbed by the novel, without preserving the folkloric form – they turned into structural elements of the world to which they belong. 

 The Book of Perilous Dishes (Mâța Vinerii) has been very popular in Romania, why do you think that is? 

I got lucky. Every book has its own luck. It was published at the right time, and readers connected to a fantasy story set in a historical era very close to my heart. Two years earlier I had published The Phanariot Manuscript, a novel which received much love and appreciation, and The Book of Perilous Dishes somehow followed in its footsteps. 

 How do you feel about publishing The Book of Perilous Dishes in the UK? How have you found the process? 

That was also a matter of great luck: unexpectedly, I found a literary agent interested in the theme of the novel, himself a writer, who convinced the publishing house to publish my book. But there are many people who contributed to this launch. It has been a long and difficult journey. 

How did you meet James, had you known of him previously / is this the first time you have worked together? What has this experience been like? 

James is a colleague of mine at the University of Bucharest, where the Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literatures holds annual translation workshops. Many of my writings have undergone this innovative treatment, especially my stories. James translated The Truancy and excerpts from several of my novels. Meeting him meant a lot to me. He is not only fond of Romanian literature, but also a refined connoisseur of its myths. Among other things, he is working on a volume of Romanian fairy tales, translating them into English. 

 Who is your favourite character in The Book of Perilous Dishes (Mâța Vinerii) and why? 

Pâtca, of course, the main character and narrator, who largely resembles me, because I, too, at the same age of 14 years old, went out into the world, opening the gate of adults, sooner than I should have. She inherits something about which she has little information and is left mysteriously alone, without any relatives. Moreover, she is driven by a curiosity that gets her into trouble, while a strange spiritist lurks in the shadows. But she is also blessed with unknown weapons: The Book of Perilous Dishes and crooked teeth that have the power to leave you speechless. For most of my life, I also had crooked teeth, thinking that I was trendy, honestly believing that they are a gift of nature, just as Pâtca considered hers. 

How long did it take you to write The Book of Perilous Dishes (Mâța Vinerii)? Did you have to overcome any challenges whilst writing? 

Not the period of writing is important to me, but the time before, when I share a home with my future characters, inside an unborn story. The actual writing took me 3 months. 

 What is your favourite recipe from The Book of Perilous Dishes (Mâța Vinerii) and why? 

Formicosus! The ant liqueur. It’s a potion that was used until recently throughout the entire Europe, against fevers (in fact, ants are still used in modern pharmaceuticals). In my novel, ant liqueur is for lunatics and it helps with fortune-telling. It also cures the damages caused by the rose cake. The recipe is simple: a handful of ants are macerated in alcohol, preferably plum brandy (the national Romanian drink), seasoned with other healing plants, including yarrow. I find this elixir interesting because it is engrained in the heart of history, between cruel reality and magic. 

 What is the one piece of advice you wish you could tell your younger self? 

If I met myself from the past, I wouldn’t give her any piece of advice because I know for a fact that I wouldn’t take said advice. Nothing in the world compares to the joy of discovering things on your own. Making a mistake and starting over is a more complex and beneficial undertaking than being at the top all the time. That is the very essence of adventure. 

 What is the ‘day in the life’ of a writer like? 

It’s full. I write whenever I can, during breaks, while I’m running errands through the city. I’ve always had a lot of jobs, carried out lots of activities. But constantly, from dawn to dusk, my future novel lives on in my mind. 

 Do you have any goals/milestones for the future you would like to achieve? 

I just published a short stories book with the title “Love Oddities in Phanariot Bucharest” and I am working on promoting it; I would like for it to reach as many people as possible and offer everyone at least a drop of my optimism.

About Doina Rusti

Doina Rusti is one of Romania’s most successful writers of historical and speculative fiction. Known for the originality of her novels, Rusti is the recipient of many major Romanian awards, and her books have been translated into multiple languages, including Chinese and German to date. Rusti is known for exploring aspects of fantasy and the supernatural, as well as tackling darker themes such as political corruption. She says, “I live in Bucharest, the happiest city in the world, even its name says it (The City of Joy). In all my novels I write about Bucharest. If this city didn’t exist, maybe I wouldn’t be a writer.”

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The Book of Perilous Dishes is available to pre-order from your local book shop or online.


Coping With The Loss Of A Loved One This Christmas 

There’s nothing quite like spending time with loved ones in the Christmas holidays. The festive season is for gathering together with family and friends.  

But for others, the holidays can be an incredibly challenging time of year especially if you’ve lost someone close to you. From greeting cards and watching festive films together to the traditions you once shared and the empty seat at the dinner table, there will be reminders everywhere. 

This sense of grief in heightened during this time of year because families come together, some traveling long distances, to spend time with each other. For a child who has lost a sibling, parent or even grandparent, these holidays are particularly hard and they will need extra support.  

According to a recent study by the Childhood Bereavement Network, 90% of parents whose partner had died in the last 10 years said the COVID-19 pandemic had deepened their feelings of loneliness and isolation and 80% said their children had also struggled with loneliness and isolation. 

Winston’s Wish, a charity dedicated to helping bereaved children, have produced a list of helpful suggestions for coping with grief in the holidays. We have edited  this list to share with you. Read on to also hear Kenneth Steven’s advice on coping with grief this Christmas. 

Here are some ways to help you and your children cope with your grief during these Christmas holidays: 

1. Talk together as a family about how you feel and what you want to do 

It’s easier for children if the adults in their lives talk to them about Christmas and the holiday period and acknowledge that this might be a difficult time of year for them. 

The festivities around Christmas can stimulate some powerful feelings for everyone and children may want to talk about this. By listening to your child, you are telling them that their feelings are expected and normal and that they are not alone. 

2. Make plans for the holidays that take into account everyone’s wishes where practical 

Grief is experienced in a myriad of different ways by everyone. You should try and talk together and see if you can make a plan that will be sensitive to everyone’s wishes. 

At the same time, it is okay to change your mind if you find it harder than expected. Take time for yourself and change your plans if this occurs.  

3. Take time to remember your loved one  

It can really help to remember the person who has died at Christmas. Here are a few suggestions: 

  • You could mark the memory of the person by doing something special. e.g.  lighting a candle, writing a card for them, or making a donation to a charity in their memory. 
  • You could create a quiet corner for people to go if they want five minutes to think about the person who has died.  
  • You could make decorations to hang on the tree in the memory of your loved one. 

Other suggestions: 

  • Let your children know that it’s still okay to laugh and have fun this in the holidays 
  • Look after yourselves and take time out if you need it 

Silverwing by Kenneth Steven

Silverwing Cover Design

Silverwing is a moving story of ten-year-old Douglas, who has recently lost his mother to cancer. The boy and his father haven’t been able to communicate since her death, and the house is a place of sadness.  

It is a heart-warming story of loss, resilience, and connection with other people and with nature. Illustrated with gorgeous drawings throughout, this is a story that will stay with you even after you close the book. 

A note from Kenneth Steven on coping with grief this Christmas 

“With this story, Douglas and his Dad are at opposite ends of the house, hardly talking, both still missing terribly the Mum and wife they’ve lost. I suppose if I were to go through a smiliar situation I just hope more than anything I’d be there for my child. I hope I could find ways of talking with them and getting alongside them. I hope I’d be able to listen; not just to talk, but to listen. I feel very strongly that more and more we live in a society where everyone is talking and no-one is listening. I believe too we live at a time when we’ve never been so divorced from nature. Many of us have lost that connnection altogether, but it can be repaired. I find it incredibly inspiring reading the stories of children who’ve connected with the natural world and who’ve been set alight by the power and wonder of what they find. That’s all I can say because I don’t pretend to have all the answers. I took myself for a long and special walk with this story because I wanted to explore our connections with family and with the beauty all around us in nature. ”  

Click here to buy a copy of Silverwing

16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence 

Over the last sixteen days Hira Ali has been sharing key tips on her Instagram (@advancingyourpotential) from her latest book Her Allies: A Practical Toolkit to Help Men Lead Through Advocacy. She’s using her platform to take a stand against gender-based violence that has been incredibly prolific across the UK in recent months.  

According to a recent report from Karen Ingala Smith via Counting Dead Women, “there have been at least 129 UK women who have been killed by men (or where a man is the principle suspect) so far in 2021.” In addition, on 25th November 2020, a comprehensive 10-year report was published by Femicide Census which shows that “on average, a woman is killed by a man every 3 days.” 

To help highlight the gender-based violence that occurs in this country we have taken all sixteen of Hira’s posts and created this blog article to spread awareness. These beneficial tips aim to educate men, women, and young people on this issue by teaching you how to spot gender-based violence, take responsibility for your actions and how to call it out when it does occur.  

Day 1 – Educate Yourself  

You cannot change or address what you are not aware of. Make an effort to be cognisant of issues impacting women and how these challenges may have been exacerbated by the pandemic. 

Day 2 – Recognize Privilege & Acknowledge Responsibility  

Recognizing privilege is crucial to understanding how unequal access to power and resources impacts communities. We often don’t realise something is ‘missing’ because we are not used to seeing it and we’ve never known anything different. Pay special attention to intersectionality challenges. Everyone occasionally commits a faux pas, but what matters most is admitting your mistake and learning from it.  The best allies are not afraid to make mistakes because their intentions are genuine. 

Day 3 – Be Transparent & Authentic  

Reach out to colleagues, be as transparent as you can, and share what you know while being honest about what you don’t know. And if there’s any miscommunication, be quick to rectify and apologise. 

Day 4 – Avoid Victim Blaming & Do Not Engage In  

The “she asked for it” argument. The “why did it take so long to report it” argument. The “#MeToo has made it difficult for men” argument. The “not all men” argument. The “but men are victims too” argument. 

Day 5 – Ask If You Don’t Know  

The only way to become an ally ‘in the know’ is to ask the right questions. The more you know, the easier it will become to help women in your circle feel more comfortable. That said, how you ask is as important as what you ask. You do not want to sound intrusive, just naturally curious. 

Day 6 – Listen & Prepare to be Uncomfortable  

Active listening involves making a conscious effort to hear and understand the message while being conscious of your biases. When you ask questions with the intention to improve, chances are there will be unexpected feedback involved, which could be awkward, even unpleasant. Do your own work in advance, especially before engaging in difficult conversations. Self-awareness, but more importantly, self-control, are important to develop gender empathy. 

Day 7 – Believe Her  

When women share a grievance, believe what they say without attaching your own assumptions, and assuming positive intent. Even if you are cautious of validating before investigating, it is important to be empathetic. 

Day 8 Be Vigilant 

As an ally, it is essential to keep an ear to the ground. Actively scan your environment to spot visibly distressed & disengaged women. Women who seem distracted, scared, or frantic may be struggling to get away from a perpetrator or bully. 

Day 9 – Respect Personal Space and Avoid Using Diminutive Language  

Acknowledge a woman’s need for physical autonomy and understand that it may be inappropriate to hug or touch her without permission. Some women may prefer a large personal space when men approach them. Actively avoid, and discourages peers, from using pejorative terms such as, ‘love,’ ‘dear,’ or ‘hon’ to address colleagues. 

Day 10 – Question Sexist Humour & Comments 

 Sometimes small and seemingly harmless jokes and banter can snowball into truly ugly things that support the broader company culture that normalises disparaging, sexualising and objectifying women. If you view this content with callousness or apathy, it’s time to shake things up and avoid being an unintentional perpetrator, or worse still, a silent complicit. 

Day 11 – Talk About Consent With Children 

Understand the meaning of consent and actively initiate and engage in discussions that explore what consent means to those around you, including children. The concept of consent is still quite muddy and people often take advantage of the blurred lines to support their own agenda. NO means no. 

Day 12 Call It Out  

When a man suggests in a public forum that sexism has occurred, and thereby challenges the perpetrators, targets of sexism report greater self-confidence, as opposed to women who are often negatively evaluated when they personally report an issue. 

Day 13 – Invest in Women-Focused Initiatives  

Support gender enhancement projects and invest in in women-owned businesses. Promote gender lens investing which is investing in products and services that benefit and empower women socially and economically. Facilitate the work of gender advocates and NGOs. 

Day 14 – Support Inclusive Education  

As an ally activist, you can help direct personal and organisational funds towards global education. You can also push for formalising financial wellbeing education for young girls to help improve financial capability and futures considerations. Another way to positively impact education is to ensure a diverse curriculum, particularly in terms of history. Traditionally, contributions and achievements of women and other under-represented groups have been side-lined and it’s important to shine a spotlight on these untold stories. 

Day 15 – Champion Inclusive Government Policies, Laws, and Regulations  

Pro-women laws ensure future economies will be dynamic and inclusive, offering equal opportunity to everyone. Even if you do not hold a government position, you can still lobby for such laws, write letters and sign petitions as other activists do. Even small actions have value and can potentially make a huge difference. 

Day 16 – Call Out Media Bias  

Media is perhaps the most pervasive and powerful influence amongst the myriad influences that shape our gender views. Challenge and counteract media that intentionally or unintentionally undermines women’s rights; make your voice heard by raising your concerns and registering your complaints where appropriate. 

Inviting men to join the gender equality movement. 

The Male Allyship movement acknowledges that men need to step up to effect lasting change to women’s experiences in society. Her Allies is a practical toolkit that offers men the strategies they need to become powerful advocates for gender equality. The book is an invitation to all men who are willing to take that bold first step and transform good intention into meaningful action.   

Her Allies takes readers on a progressive journey and equips them with strategies to become inclusive allies. It asks readers to (i) challenge themselves, (ii) challenge others, (iii) challenge their organisation and culture, and (iv) challenge institutions. Overall, readers acquire a methodology to become powerful advocates for equality and inclusion for all.  

About the Author 

Hira Ali is an inspiring leadership trainer and career coach, she has been committed to helping others achieve their potential throughout her award-winning career. She is an Associate Certified Coach accredited by the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and a licensed Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) Practitioner. Hira is also a successful entrepreneur who has launched several businesses to support her mission, including Advancing Your Potential, Career Excel, International Women Empowerment Events and most recently, The Grey Area, which focuses on decoding inclusion. Her work has been featured in Forbes, Huff Post, and Entrepreneur, among hundreds of other TV, radio and print outlets, and earned Hira several prestigious honours including the Top 100 Women-Lift Effects award, the Women in Media award, The Baton Awards Entrepreneur of the Year and recognition as an Outstanding British Pakistani by British Pakistan Foundation.  In 2019, Hira released her first book entitled Her Way to the Top: A Guide to Smashing the Glass Ceilingwhich earned outstanding reviews globally.  

For more tips and advice on being a male ally learn more here




2 Amazing Reads to Start a Conversation on the Environment Ahead of COP26 

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought devastation to millions around the world, disrupting many parts of the global economy. During this time, governments have stepped up to protect our lives and livelihoods. However, climate change continues to be an increasing threat to our planet. Around the world unpredictable weather such as storms, floods and wildfires are intensifying and increasing air pollution affects tens of thousands of people. Although the impacts of climate change are catastrophic there have been many advances in tackling this issue. With less than 60 days to go until COP26 it’s time to start a conversation and raise awareness of the environmental issues facing our planet.  

 The UK will host the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow on 31 October – 12 November 2021. This event will allow global world leaders to work together and take action against climate change to protect and restore our forests and critical ecosystems towards a more sustainable future.  

Below we share some of our favourite books for both adults and children, covering a range of meaningful topics about nature, including green technology, environmental activism, and the sustainability of renewable resources.  

Toletis by Rafa Ruiz 
Translated by Ben Dawlatly
Cover designed by Elena Hormiga 

Did you know spending time outdoors can actually improve your physical and mental health, combat illness, and make you happier?  

Recent studies have shown the tremendous benefits of spending time in nature, for both children and adults. This research indicates that kids who play outside are smarter, happier, more attentive, and less anxious than kids who spend more time indoors. Some other benefits suggest nature builds confidence, promotes creativity and imagination, it teaches responsibility and it also helps get kids moving around. Toletis by Rafa Ruiz encourages its readers to become acute observers and engage with the natural world around them; it’s the perfect antidote to smart phones and computers!  


The trees and grass are disappearing to make way for a new section of road. Toletis, his dog Amenophis, friends Claudia and Tutan are on a mission to find ingenious ways of replacing them and turning their little valley town, set deep in the mountains, lusciously green again. The odds are stacked against them. Can they succeed… with some very unusual help? A deep appreciation for nature, art, language, music, friendship, family, the passing of time, old age, loneliness, and the importance of sitting still and reflecting on life, pervade this exquisite story.  

This story is accompanied by gorgeous illustrations and has been used in schools for teaching descriptive and figurative language, art and crafts (with students exploring different media inspired by scenes from the book), and environmental awareness classes. 


“The values contained in the pages of love for the outdoors, animals and plants, friendship, family, being in touch with your emotions -make the world a better place. If you believe that the best hope we have for a safe, peaceful planet is to teach children to love the environment and one another, then I recommend that you read Toletis with the children in your life.” – Green World  


About Rafa Ruiz

A journalist and author who has a staunch commitment to culture, art and the environment, and the majority of his career has been focused on these three topics. He spent 10 years at Spanish newspaper El Pais and 15 years at their weekly supplement. He has written numerous children’s books and he co-directs the Mad is Mad art gallery in Madrid which gives a space to up-and-coming artists. He is also one of the partner-founders of the Press Association for Environmental Information (APIA).

Buy Toletis here

The Umbrella Men by Keith Carter 

You’ve probably never heard of rare-earth metals yet they have insinuated themselves deep into everyday life – in ways of which most of us are completely oblivious. For example, if you are reading this article on your smart phone, did you know you’re contributing to the consumption of rare earth metals?  

What are rare earth metals?  

Rare earth metals such as Neodymium, terbium and dysprosium give your phone the power to vibrate. Terbium and dysprosium are also used in tiny quantities in touchscreens to produce the colours of a phone display. 

The term “rare” doesn’t necessarily mean in short supply, but they aren’t plentiful either – they’re spread out in many different places on the planet, and extracting them can be hazardous and time-consuming. The mining and manufacturing processes also have very real environmental consequences such as despoiled nature, widespread pollution and serious health and wellbeing damage to workers and neighbours.  

Rare earth metals, the contradictions of the clean energy economy and their unintended consequences on everyday people are just some of the themes Keith Carter highlights throughout The Umbrella Men; a witty and acerbic novel for our times about corporate greed and the hubris of bankers.  


Finance, environmentalism, rare-earth mining and human frailties collide in a complex of flawed motives. We follow Peter Mount, the self-made Chief Executive of a London-based rare-earth mining company as he and his business are buffeted by crisis-torn Royal Bank of Scotland and by his own actions, real and imagined. Meanwhile in Oregon, Amy Tate and her group of local environmental activists do their contradictory part to undermine a component of the green economy, unwittingly super-charged by the Chinese state. The repercussions of events in pristine Oregon are felt in the corporate and financial corridors of New York and London with drastic consequences. This is a deeply involving novel about the current workings of capitalism, miscommunication, causes and unexpected effects, love and survival. 


“A highly entertaining romp that very accurately portrays the conflicting objectives and modus operandi of groups of investment bankers, hedgies, environmentalists and a small rare earth mining company as they each try to maximise their own positions, and with abundant human frailties on show.” – Waterstones Reviewer


About Keith Carter

Born in Scotland, he read Economics at Cambridge, taking a First in 1981 when he was elected a Scholar. He worked as an investment banker before going straight and running a small pharmaceutical company. Now a writer and business consultant he enjoys travel, politics and economics, reading and writing, languages, music and meals with family and friends. Keith suffered a spinal cord injury in March 2018 and since rides a wheelchair.

For more information on Rare Earth Metals read the articles below. 

The dystopian lake filled by the world’s tech lust – BBC Future 

Our smartphone addiction is costing the Earth | TechRadar 


Buy The Umbrella Men Here





In Conversation with Tatti de Jersey

Tatti de Jersey has worked in children’s book PR for over 18 years. During that time she has worked for both traditional and independent publishers as well as a wide-range of authors such as Michael Morpurgo and Judith Kerr. She now works as a specialist PR consultant helping to build authors profiles via media interviews, literary festivals and book tours. Tatti talks to us about how the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted PR over the last year, her advice for publishing hopefuls and the positive changes she would like to see within the publishing world.


To start us off, could you tell us a bit about your journey into children’s book PR?  

I began my career in children’s book PR 18 years ago when I started to work with Philippa Perry Associates. The main clients were Michael Morpurgo and Judith Kerr. In addition we worked across many literary awards including Wicked Young Writer Awards and Foyle Young Poet of the Year Award. 


Can you tell us a little bit about your role as a specialist PR consultant for children’s books? 

The work is varied in that this role. As a publicist you organise media interviews across all outlets including broadcast, TV, national and regional newspapers and digital platforms. In addition to build the authors’ profile you propose them for literary festivals and book tours, often you accompany them. Essentially you are always building their profile which leads to increase in book sales. 


How has the Covid-19 pandemic impacted PR over the last year? What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?  

All literary festivals were either cancelled or postponed. All book tours were cancelled. Where possible the festivals were put online but one of the most important elements of children’s book festivals is for the children to see and hear their favourite authors live. 


What words of wisdom/advice for publishing hopefuls out there? How can they best prepare for a position in book PR? 

  • As soon as you can in sixth form try to get an intern role or work experience in a publishing house so that you understand the daily routine.  
  • You could start your own reading/reviewing blog on your favourite authors. You can also offer to be a reviewer at various publishing houses.  


What are some positive changes you would like to see within the publishing world in the next few years?  

For publishing houses to give new authors opportunity to see their work published. Often big publishing houses stay safe for sales and keep the same authors on the front line.  


What trends do you see in children’s books for the next few years? 

  • Picture books will always remain popular as young children will always respond to colours and touch. 
  • I see more books about nature, climate change and self-awareness diaries becoming popular. 


Favourite publicity campaigns for book(s) you’ve worked on?  

  • Guess How Much I Love You 25th anniversary by Sam McBratney.
  • We are Going on a Bear Hunt 25th anniversary by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury.
  • The Gideon Trilogy by Linda Buckley-Archer.


 What are you reading at the moment – children or adult? 

I am reading Travellers Through Time by Ian Mortimer and Philip Pullman’s The Book of Dust Book 3 


Thank you so much for taking the time to share your insights with Neem Tree Press, Tatti! 



Find Your Perfect Summer Read with Neem Tree Press

Summer is the perfect time to catch up with that reading goal you set yourself all those months ago and whilst many countries have been added to the green list, still so few of us are able to travel abroad. As Stephen King once said, “Books are a uniquely portable magic.” In honour of helping those with wanderlust find the ‘perfect summer read’ – we thought we’d share three of our own fun and adventurous stories with you.  

Cows Can’t Jump by Philip Bowne 

From debut novelist, writer for The Wombles and winner of the Spotlight First Novel prize, this hilarious and poignant coming-of-age odyssey catapults 18-year-old Billy across pre-Brexit Europe.  

Literary fiction resonating with themes of family, faith, race, love, loss, taking risks, borders and barriers, downward mobility, and growing up under the shadow of Brexit.


17-year-old Billy has just left school with no A levels and he’s desperate to escape middle England. As a grave-digger, he’s working the ultimate dead-end job. Billy’s home life isn’t any better. In the evenings, he observes his dysfunctional family: his Grandad’s engaged to a woman half his age, his xenophobic Dad’s become obsessed with boxing, and he suspects his deeply religious Mum is having an affair. All the while, celebrities are dropping like flies and Britain is waiting for the EU referendum. Everything is changing, and Billy hates it. Meeting Eva, though, changes everything. She’s Swiss, passionate about Russian literature, Gary Numan, windfarms and chai tea, and Billy gambles everything for a chance to be with her. When things start to go wrong, Billy’s journey across Europe involves hitch-hiking with truckers, walking with refugees, and an encounter with suicidal cows. But the further he goes, the harder it is to be sure what he’s chasing –and what he’s running from. 

Just in case you’re wondering how Brexit will affect your travel plans see these articles below:  

What does the future hold for UK citizens travelling to Europe? 

How Will ETIAS & BREXIT Affect UK Citizens? 


About The Author 

Philip Bowne lives in London and works as a writer for The Wombles, a children’s entertainment brand. Like his protagonist, Billy, Phil attended a failing and severely under-resourced school in Bicester, Oxfordshire. However, unlike Billy, Phil ended up studying English Literature and Creative Writing at university. While studying, Phil published short stories in literary magazines and anthologies in the UK, US, Canada and Germany. After graduating, Phil spent time in Europe and the US, working and volunteering in various roles and settings: repairing boats at Lake Como, housekeeping at a mountain lodge in California and working with charity Care4Calais in the former Calais ‘jungle’ refugee camp. Cows Can’t Jump is Phil’s debut novel, which he worked on while managing a bar in London.  


The Three Hares: The Jade Dragonball by David Ross and Scott Lauder 

The first book of The Three Hares trilogy is a fast-paced adventure story that will teach young readers about history, art and the mysterious Three Hares motif found all over the world – from China to Cornwall  


Sara’s school trip to a museum in Beijing seemed pretty run of the mill. The last thing she expected was to find herself inside a 700-year-old Chinese silk painting—and that wasn’t the worst of it. It’s only when she’s running for her life on a dangerous mission to protect the world from an evil shaman that Sara finds out how much danger is lying in wait just below the surface. And she seems to be the only one, despite the help of the Eight Immortals, who has the power to stop it. Thrown between present day Ben Nevis in Scotland and the Palace Museum in Beijing to the metropolis of Kaifeng on the Silk Road in the Song Dynasty, Sara has to dig deep and find wells of physical and emotional strength to stay alive long enough to fulfil her mission.    

The Jade Dragon Ball draws readers into the historical settings the story opens up. The artworks introduced – the Qingming Scroll, the Ktisis Mosaic, the Jade Suit – are pivot points upon which the story is based and encourage interest in the actual historical and cultural context.  

For more insight into the history of The Jade Dragon Ball why not check out the videos below and immerse yourself on Chinese culture this summer.  

The Song Dynasty in China | Asia for Educators 

History comes alive with animated classic Chinese scroll painting – YouTube 

Valerie Hansen Walks You Through the Qingming Scroll – YouTube 

Along The River During the Qingming Festival – YouTube 


The Three Hares: The Golden Monkey Key 

The second book in The Three Hares Trilogy, written by Scott Lauder and David Ross, transports readers to the 6th Century traveling along the Silk Road. Silk was once such a prized commodity that an entire trading network spanning 4,000 miles to connect Europe, the Middle East and North Africa with China was named after it. According to Chinese legends, Lady His-Link-Shih, wife of the mythical Yellow Emperor, was given the title Goddess of Silk as she’s credited with the introduction of silkworm rearing and the invention of the loom. This rich historical background sets the scene for The Golden Monkey Key as one reviewer notes “Depth, insights, action, and surprising twists and turns make this quest fantasy a standout production! – D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review 


Sanjeev’s dog Jigsaw is missing in the middle of winter in New Jersey. But this tragedy is dwarfed by what happens to him in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Has he really entered the 6th Century and become the slave to monks traveling the Silk Road to Byzantium -and might they just be murderers? Trouble is even if he figures out how to get out of this, he’s got other problems: someone, or something, is coming after him. Part of the answer might be Sara, a girl who contacts him on the net and keeps talking about the Immortals. But who or what are The Three Hares and how can they stop the darkness about to engulf the world? 

About the Authors 

Scott Lauder was born in Ayrshire, Scotland. Having taught in Greece, Japan, and England, he now lives with his wife and four cats in the UAE where he teaches English. In his free time, he enjoys hiking and drinking good coffee. His other books include The Right Thing, A Single Shot, and The Boy-King Tutankhamun.   

David Scott Ross has travelled and taught throughout Asia since he first moved there in 1987. He currently teaches in upstate NY, where he lives with his wife and two sons. When David is not writing or teaching, he dreams about becoming a chef, a rock star, maybe an actor, but probably not all at once. At present, he is wrapping up two projects: Pastimes, encounters with a Stone Age people, and Dim, a detective novel.   

If you want to find out more about the Silk Road, see the articles below. 

The Mystery of Silk and the World’s First Intellectual Property Theft 

History of Silk 

In Conversation with Victoria Olajide

Victoria Olajide founded TVOTRIBE in July 2019, a Pan-African community building culturally aware creatives in Africa and in the Diaspora. Olajide started this venture on her own and has since expanded her team and community to more than a thousand creatives all from diverse spaces with varying interests. TVOTRIBE recently celebrated their second anniversary with a range of activities focusing on one central theme: “The African Creative; Carving Your Identity.” Olajide talks to us about this event as well as the importance of remaining culturally aware within the publishing industry. She says “I believe that the most important aspect of sharing diverse stories is identifying how individual stories connect with others, and how this creative rhyming unites humanity.”  

As a poet, author, and editor can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into writing?  

My name is Victoria Olajide, I am a creative writer, storyteller and social entrepreneur. Writing for me was an intentional journey towards self-discovery. I started writing professionally in 2018. Even though I started out with my blog in 2016, I could not exactly picture myself as one who would take on writing as a career. I got into writing for leisure, sharing content on my then BlogSpot website that just reflected how I perceived life at the time. However, my creative journey was initiated by writing and has helped navigate my identity. I would say that writing is the foundation of everything I have become.   

You founded the TVO tribesmen writers’ community, how did you find the process of creating this community. What were some challenges that you had to overcome? 

TVOTRIBE is a community for and of storytellers. I would describe the process as a strong process of learning and becoming. I have been able to understand stories in a different perspective (via actively communing with storytellers).  

Building this space was a technical process and was quite challenging because we kept evolving and I had to expand my mind, ideas, the team, financial capacity and so much. Beyond that, I was a female entrepreneur and I had some gender stereotypes flashing at me.  

I want TVOTRIBE to be the global system where creatives can communicate Africa’s existence in the most cultural way possible and African writers can express themselves much more and envision much more for their continent. I hope to be an entrepreneur who would empower women and African Creative communities.  

Can you give us more insight into how you funded this platform and what its growth trajectory has been like over the last 3 years?  e.g. How many authors and creatives have signed up and how will you market and grow the collective?  

TVOTRIBE kicked off on the 19th July, 2019 and It’s been two years of collecting, sharing and promoting African stories and storytellers.  

I managed major expenses by myself. Some would come from little writing opportunities I got. Starting out, I would create designs. send emails and do most of the work by myself. However, later in 2019 five of my friends joined the team. They would help with most of the work, voluntarily. At that time we had less than 50 people join the WhatsApp community and very little on other spaces.  

 Right now we have more than a thousand creatives on the tribe. From diverse spaces and with varying interests. We have a team of about 21 volunteers, an advisory board (which are patrons and mentors, we call them Elders), Media and Publicity Partners across Africa, 10 awarded creatives, various literary publications on writing, reading, publishing and so much more.  

 We plan to have more than a million creatives sign up from every country in Africa. And we are constantly growing, teaching, collecting stories towards promoting community.  

 We have monthly literary engagements with creatives in our community and we have had sessions with publishers (Eleventh House Publishing, Shallow Tales Review) and great storytellers within Africa.  

We plan to reach more creatives, and open them up to greater opportunities in the coming year. 

I’d love to know more about your creative venture with TVOTRIBE, can you tell us more about this and how what inspired you to create this platform?  

TVOTRIBE is a literary community created to expand ideas relating to culture, community and pan-Africanism. Beyond these core reasons for creating the tribe, we want to have a mixed society with diverse perspectives and ideas that will be able to mediate through conversations and focus on the core essence of being African. The tribe started as a conglomeration of creatives like me. And is really a platform with a spiritual sense of community – which I needed at the time, to improve ideas and focus on the African narrative. I created what I couldn’t find, with the tribe.  

In building this Pan-African community of culturally aware creatives in Africa and in the diaspora, what has been the more important aspect of sharing stories from an array of different writers.  

Storytelling is fundamental to the Human experience. And Narration or foretelling can only be comprehensive or better told by a well-equipped narrator. Storytellers layer words, meanings to their story, surviving in a wide array of literary themes; they pass on words with the hope that an audience would find meaning in this strong convocation of letters. Literature explores identities and even beyond the story we want to find a position for the storyteller. A unique multiuniverse where individual identity beyond the characters matter. And with this chore of identifying the narrator comes understanding the cultural background and selective status of this person. I believe that the most important aspect of sharing diverse stories is identifying how individual stories connect with others, and how this creative rhyming unites humanity.  

How important is it that people remain culturally aware of others? How can people achieve this? In what ways can the publishing industry improve on their representation of African communities?  

It is indeed peremptory that everyone tells their own story. Various cultures intersect with peculiarities from different angles and families. However, we must remain intentional about being culturally aware. Because it is easy for us to reduce or ignore the impact cultural difference has on thought, perception and living in its entirety.   

Literature, Communication and Collaboration can help achieve a culturally aware society. Reading works from a diverse group, exploring art and philosophy. Because we cannot exactly “travel the world” to understand every society, but digesting materials from various sources helps.  

Publishing industries can help improve by supporting African Authors and their diverse narratives. It will help minimize cultural myopia, and expose true, relevant African narratives to a large audience.  

Congratulations on the second anniversary for TVOTRIBE. What have you been most proud of during this journey, and can we expect any upcoming events soon? 

Thank you! It’s a bright moment for us at the tribe and we are excited about this season.  

I’ve been so proud of the encouraging support from literary agencies within the literary space, my resilient team (working through a very short time period), the immerse support of the Tribe elders and how we are -in the process of planning the anniversary- sustaining narratives and creating bold memories.  

Yeah! Our anniversary event – TVOTRIBEVERSARY 2021. 

TVOTRIBEVERSARY 2021 would shine a spotlight on top and emerging creatives from various creative niches, to showcase their art, tell defining stories and share unforgettable experiences.   

This event would also put light on defining historical moments of the past year 2020, with mentoring and education, as its core element.  

Our theme: “The African Creative; Carving Your Identity”, will focus on education and mentoring, with a view to instilling African creatives, with the consciousness of who they are or who they should represent. Featured Activities include: “The Identity Series – A DOCUMENTARY”, OPENING SUMMIT Event and BREAKOUT SESSIONS. 

For more information please visit ( 

Connect with us online @tvotribe on all platforms. 

What are you reading at the moment? 

I am reading Arts of Being Yoruba by Adeleke Adeeko at the moment. It is a collective documentary and array of essays sharing vastly how humanity connects with Yoruba aesthetics. 

What advice would you give to an aspiring writer? 

I quote, Prof. Wole Soyinka;  

“I don’t see any other responsibility for a writer, beyond expanding the horizon of his/her community of humanity.” 

Understand that Africans and Humans thrive in a network of stories. Share your story because storytelling is a big part of sustaining relationships and defining society. Whatever path you take, become a storyteller; slowly sipping every nib of that story. You have the power to define humanity with your words.  

Thank you so much for taking the time to share your insights with Neem Tree Press, Victoria! 


 For more information on TVOTRIBE click here: 

Find Victoria on Twitter: @TheVictoria_O

TVOTRIBE Instagram: @tvotribe

TVOTRIBE Twitter: @tvotribe




The Books You Should Read For Women In Translation Month! – August

August is Women in Translation Month (#WITMonth) – an annual celebration (which, if we’re being honest, might as well be yearlong for Neem Tree Press) of literature written by women that has been translated from a different language into English. The celebration started back in 2014 by book blogger Meytal Radzinski (@Biblibio) after she began to notice the lack of translated titles by women on her bookshelves. Radzinski grew up bilingual speaking both English and Hebrew, and her family often encouraged her to read literature in translation.   

According to an interview from The American Literary Translators Association, Radzinski wants to “hold publishers more responsible for parity in what they choose to publish.” However, she also says that “the problem [with translated literature written by women] definitely goes back further.” She goes on to say that “just about every step of the pyramid has its problems, from translator bias (men translating fewer women, according to Women in Translation) to a general lack of reviews and publicity to gender bias in other countries” but overall responsibility lies everywhere.  

At Neem Tree Press we are dedicated to the enthusiastic discovery of both British and international literature that will change and broaden perspectives, we are truly global in scope and have a number of titles under contact from across the world.  

This month is the perfect time to discover new independent authors and we’d love to encourage and challenge readers to seek out translated texts by women. For our blog today, we’ve bought together a selection of titles written and/or translated by women that we have published and are available in store or online right now!  


Distant Signs By Anne Richter 

Translated by Douglas Irving 

Distant Signs is an intimate portrait of two families spanning three generations amidst turbulent political change, behind and beyond the Berlin Wall. 

In 1960s East Germany, Margret, a professor’s daughter from the city, meets and marries Hans, from a small village in the Thuringian forest. The couple struggle to contend with their different backgrounds, and the emotional scars they bear from childhood in the aftermath of war. As East German history gradually unravels, with collision of the personal and political, their two families’ hidden truths are quietly revealed. An exquisitely written novel with strongly etched characters that stay with you long after the book is finished and an authentic portrayal of family life behind the iron curtain based on personal experience of the author who is East German and was 16 years old at the fall of the Berlin Wall. 

Click for information on Distant Signs:  

Buy Distant Signs:  

About the Author

Writer and poet Anne Richter was born in 1973 in Jena, in the former German Democratic Republic. Her degree in Romance languages and English included study periods in England, Italy and France. Since 2003 Anne has lived with her daughter in Heidelberg, where she combines her writing career with teaching German as a second language. 


About The Translator

Douglas Irving was born in Scotland in 1972. He studied German and Spanish at Aberdeen University, then in 2014 completed a Masters in Translation at Glasgow University. His first translation, Crossing: A Love Story – a later work by the great German writer, Anna Seghers – was published in 2016 in the US to positive reviews. His translation of Anna Seghers’ last work published in her lifetime, Three Women from Haiti, is set to follow. Another translation, Distant Signs, the debut novel by German writer Anne Richter, will appear in the UK in 2019. 


In The News 

Why East Germany was for lovers | Sleek Magazine 

Why young eastern German voters support the far-right AfD | Germany | News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 11.06.2021 

The dark side of German reunification | Germany | News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 21.09.2016 

Germany faces old problems 30 years after reunification | Germany | News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 03.10.2020 


Trees for the Absentees By Ahlam Bsharat 
Translated by Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp, Sue Copeland 

Young love, meddling relatives, heart-to-hearts with friends real and imagined – Philistia’s world is that of an ordinary university student, except that in occupied Palestine, and when your father is in indefinite detention, nothing is straightforward. 

Philistia is closest to her childhood, and to her late grandmother and her imprisoned father, when she’s at her part-time job washing women’s bodies at the ancient Ottoman hammam in Nablus, the West Bank. A midwife and corpse washer in her time, Grandma Zahia taught Philistia the ritual ablutions and the secrets of the body: the secrets of life and death. 

On the brink of adulthood, Philistia embarks on a journey through her country’s history – a magical journey, and one of loss and centuries of occupation. 

As trees are uprooted around her, Philistia searches for a place of refuge, a place where she can plant a memory for the ones she’s lost. 


Click for information on Trees for the Absentees:  

Buy Trees for the Absentees:  


About the Author

Ahlam Bsharat is a Palestinian novelist, poet, and children’s author, as well as a teacher of creative writing. She is a prominent and highly regarded author of YA novels in the Arab world, and her books have met with great success at the local and international levels. They have been included in IBBY lists, shortlisted for the Palestine Book Award (UK) and Etisalat Award for Children’s Literature (UAE). Two of her novels, Code Name: Butterfly and Trees for the Absentees, have been translated into English and her most celebrated recent Arabic YA novels are: “مريم سيدة الإسطرلاب ” Maryam Sayida al-Astrolab ,“جنجر” Ginger and “مصنع الذكريات ” Masna’ adh-dhikariyat 


About the Translators

Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp is a British literary translator working from German, Russian and Arabic into English. Ruth graduated from the University of Oxford in 2003 and completed an MA in Translation and Interpreting at the University of Bath.                                                                                               


Sue Copeland is a British translator working from Arabic, French, Italian and Spanish into English. She enjoys translating fiction and non-fiction, particularly that associated with human rights and refugees. 


In the News 

Youth Wellbeing in the Occupied Palestinian Territory: An in-depth, multi-level and disciplinary study into wellbeing and gender equality among Palestinian youth – occupied Palestinian territory | ReliefWeb 

Children of Palestine – Humanium 

War Child in occupied Palestinian territory | War Child 


Code Name: Butterfly By Ahlam Bsharat 
Translated by Nancy Roberts 

With irony and poignant teenage idealism, Butterfly draws us into her world of adult hypocrisy, sibling rivalries, girlfriends’ power plays, unrequited love…not to mention the political tension of life under occupation. As she observes her fragile environment with all its conflicts, Butterfly is compelled to question everything around her. 

Is her father a collaborator for the occupiers? Will Nizar ever give her the sign she’s waiting for? How will her friendship with the activist Mays and the airhead Haya survive the unpredictable storms ahead? And why is ‘honour’ such a dangerous word, anyway? 


Click for information on Code Name: Butterfly:   

Buy Code Name: Butterfly:  


About the Author

Ahlam Bsharat is a Palestinian novelist, poet, and children’s author, as well as a teacher of creative writing. She is a prominent and highly regarded author of YA novels in the Arab world, and her books have met with great success at the local and international levels. They have been included in IBBY lists, shortlisted for the Palestine Book Award (UK) and Etisalat Award for Children’s Literature (UAE). Two of her novels, Code Name: Butterfly and Trees for the Absentees, have been translated into English and her most celebrated recent Arabic YA novels are: “مريم سيدة الإسطرلاب ” Maryam Sayida al-Astrolab ,“جنجر” Ginger and “مصنع الذكريات ” Masna’ adh-dhikariyat 

About the Translator

Nancy Roberts is an Arabic-to-English literary translator who also translated Salwa Bakr’s The Man From Bashmour, for which she received a commendation in the Saif Ghobash-Banipal Prize for Translation. 


Upcoming Books 

We are also in the process of publishing two international literary translations written by women. The first will be a fiction book written by Doina Rusti, translated from Romanian into English. The Book of Perilous Dishes won a ‘major grant’ from the Romanian Cultural Institute.  

About the Author

Doina Rusti is one of Romania’s most successful writers of historical and speculative fiction. Rusti is the recipient of many major Romanian awards, and her books have been translated into multiple languages. She is known for exploring aspects of fantasy and the supernatural,


The second book is a Young Adult Algerian crime novel written by Djamila Morani and translated by Sawad Hussain from Arabic into English. This book won a prestigious English PEN Translates grant and features a strong female protagonist who breaks cultural and historical stereotypes. 


About the Author 

Djamila Morani is an Algerian novelist and an Arabic language professor. Her first novel, released in 2015 and titled Taj el-Khatiaa, is set in the Abbasid period, but in Kazakhstan. All of her works are fast-paced historical fiction pieces. 


About the Translator 

Sawad Hussain is an Arabic translator and litterateur who is passionate about bringing narratives from the African continent to wider audiences. Her translations have been recognised by English PEN, the Anglo-Omani Society and the Palestine Book Awards, among others. 



We hope that’s given you some ideas for #WITMonth.  


Happy reading! 


In Conversation with Chris Moody

Chris Moody is the founder of Bang the Drum. He has over 35+ years of experience in publishing and has worked with some of the largest UK publishers prior to going freelance and moving to working with smaller publishers which he says, “was a real eye opener.” He set up Bang The Drum to handle sales to UK booksellers on behalf of independent publishers. According to Chris, “sales is a great place to learn about the business of publishing. You are exposed to customers, pricing, scheduling, content, marketing, profitability, the whole ecosystem- and you can use this experience and knowledge to make a real contribution to a publisher.”  Read on to get a further understanding of what it’s really like working in sales for the publishing industry. 


What does Bang The Drum do? When and why did you start it? 

Bang The Drum handles sales to UK booksellers on behalf of independent publishers.  I have been freelancing as a sales person for about 5 years and set up Bang The Drum about two years ago 


Tell us a bit about yourself, and what drew you to publishing? Do you think the route you took is possible in the current marketplace?  

I have worked in publishing for 35+ years, for the majority of that time in sales. I started at 18 as a publishing trainee at Hodder. This involved spending around 2/3 months in each publishing function within the business – from the warehouse to editorial – and at the end of two years you would be offered a permanent post. A mixture of a love of books and where I lived at the time (I was within walking distance of the offices in Kent) meant publishing seemed a good fit for me. I am sure this route doesn’t exist now– I was able to live at home initially (not London), I didn’t have a degree, and I got a great grounding in how the ecosystem of publishing worked. 


What’s been the most challenging part of running this business, before and during Covid?   

To be honest the challenges generally have been the same, getting books into the available customers. During the pandemic there were obviously fewer titles being published and fewer booksellers open. I was able to dip into government support at the beginning of the pandemic and as I sell across a range of different customers it meant I wasn’t exposed to relying on sales through one particular sector being forced to close.  


You’ve worked with various independent publishing houses over the years. How do you feel the size of a publishing house impacts your day-to-day at work? What are looming challenges or positives trends we should look out for in the next five years in book sales and distribution.  

I had worked at some of the largest UK publishers prior to going freelance and moving to working with smaller publishers was a real eye opener. When you are carrying an established publisher’s lists your emails get answered quickly and your phone calls returned. Representing smaller publishers has meant a lot of chasing customers and clients, constant following up and thinking about how to use fewer resources effectively. It took me a while to get my head around the change. Selling now means so much revolves around presenting titles at the right time with the right information to the right customers at the right price. Not all smaller publishers have the resources to do this– so part of my challenge is to work with them to maximise the return on their resource. I would hope that one of the positive trends that will emerge is indie publishers working with sales agencies effectively to combine their efforts, giving those sales agencies compelling lists of publishers with which to engage retailers,  


What are you most proud of in your publishing career so far? 

Still being here, having good friends in the industry and that people still come to me for advice. 

Favourite book(s) you’ve worked on at Bang The Drum? 

I have had the privilege to work on so many great books during my career both at larger publishers and my indie clients. If you are forcing me to make a choice from my Bang The Drum clients I would say Nature’s Toybox from Storyhouse, Chill With Lil from Ragged Bears and The Most Important Animal Of All from Mama Makes Books. 


Do you have any advice for people aspiring to work in the publishing industry and specifically in sales and distribution? 

Sales is a great place to learn about the business of publishing. You are exposed to customers, pricing, scheduling, content, marketing, profitability, the whole ecosystem- and you can use this experience and knowledge to make a real contribution to a publisher. I know many people who have married their knowledge of sales to a creative drive and made their way in corporate publishing or created wonderful indie publishers.  


Thank you so much for taking the time to share your insights with Neem Tree Press, Chris!