Friday, 18 December 2015

Triskele Talks to Author, Linda Kovic-Skow

Interview and Review by Liza Perrat

Linda Kovic-Skow is the author of the French Illusions memoirs: My Story as an American Au Pair in the Loire Valley and its sequel: From Tours to Paris. Today I'd like to welcome Linda to the Triskele Bookclub to talk about her writing of these fascinating memoirs.

But firstly, my review of French Illusions, which first appeared on Bookmuse:

French Illusions: My Story as an American Au Pair in the Loire Valley is the first of two memoirs based on the diary entries of the author, Linda Kovic-Skow. Back in 1979, when she was 21, Linda yearned to become a flight attendant. But this required speaking a second language, so she chose to learn French by becoming an au pair to a wealthy French family living in a château in the beautiful Loire Valley. Thrown in at the deep end, without knowing any French, Linda struggled to adapt to her new environment, not to mention certain difficult members of the family. And when she signed up for French classes at the university, and met another student, the handsome Adam, her life became even more complicated.

As an Australian living in France, I completely identified with the author’s predicament. Arriving here to take up with the Frenchman I’d met on holiday in Thailand, without a word of the lingo, I too floundered with the language, customs and traditions, yet immensely enjoyed the food, wine and history.

I felt I was reading the author’s diary entries a she was writing them, and as I accompanied Linda on her adventures and romances, I found myself sympathizing with her problems, and celebrating her triumphs.

By the end of the first book I felt I had truly come to know the author as a person; as she was then––a young girl struggling to find her way in a foreign country. Keen for more, I immediately purchased French Illusions Book 2, From Tours to Paris; which I also loved.

Highly personal and entertaining, as well as informational, I would recommend these stories for Francophiles and young girls thinking of becoming au pairs in France, or any foreign country for that matter.

Interview with Linda...

LP: Your story is very intimate and personal, so firstly, what decided you to write about your experiences?

LKS: In 2007 after my husband and I dropped our youngest daughter off at college, I went through a sort of mid-life crisis. I missed being a mom and I wondered how I would fill the void. Something was missing—but what? This prompted me to review what I like to call my "mid-life list." This is similar to a "bucket list," but instead of exploring things to do before you die, you refocus yourself, while you’re still relatively young, and figure out the things you want to do in your fifties. My list was short.

-Learn to play the piano

-Travel to Africa to see the elephants

-Travel to Tahiti and see the island of Bora Bora

-Write a book

At the time, I didn't own a piano and, with two daughters in college, I couldn't afford a trip to Africa or Tahiti. What about the last item on my list? If I did write a book, would it be fiction or non-fiction? What genre would I choose? The answers to my questions came to me in the shower (which is where many of my ideas seem to materialize, strangely enough). I decided to hunt down my diary from my au pair adventure in France and compose a memoir. I’d told the story on numerous occasions, and the reaction from friends and family was often the same: You should write a book! Now, I finally had the time. It took me three years and countless hours to write the first book in the French Illusions Series, and a few more to write the second, but now I can scratch another item off my mid-life list.

LP: What kind of readership is your story aimed at?

LKS: The simple answer is adult women. Set in the beautiful Loire Valley, my memoir will remind older readers what it was like to be young, adventurous and filled with dreams. Younger readers will relate to the difficult decisions women make as they transition into adulthood. My hope is that both of these groups will come away from my book realizing it's not too late to create your own memories. Go out and explore the world. Life's for living, after all.

LP: You obviously kept your diaries, to write the books, but did you have to fill in many details from memory, or did you have everything written down already?

LKS: I have to admit writing my memoir was a lot more complex than I initially imagined it would be. My diary offered a great outline of the events, but I had to create the dialog from memory and fill in hard-to-find data on the Loire Valley, the Loire River and the town of Tours from 1979. Internet searches produced most of the information and travel books supplied the rest. From the beginning, difficult questions emerged, such as how to deal with the French sprinkled throughout the book, and whether or not to italicize my thoughts. Oh, and I really struggled with how much detail to include in my own love scenes. I wrote and then rewrote these scenes until I could read them without rolling my eyes.

LP: Have you been back to France since this time? If so, did you see it in a different light?

LKS: In the summer of 2001, my husband, my two girls and I spent a month traveling through France, Italy and Greece. It was a trip of a lifetime for all of us, and this time, I didn’t have to worry about running out of money! After a brief visit to the Atlantic Coast, we traveled to central France and toured many of the towns and grand castles I’d missed during my first visit in 1979 and 1980. Each time, before we arrived at our destination, we would pull out travel guides and read the history surrounding the town or castle. It was a wonderful, magical experience for all of us. We stopped briefly in the town where I had been an au pair long ago, and my stomach clenched as memories surfaced. It was a relief when we moved on to our next destination.

LP: Have you kept up your French language skills? And if so, have they been useful at all throughout your life?

LKS: After I returned to United States in 1980, I took French Classes and joined conversational French groups so I could keep up with the language. Once I married and had a family, my priorities changed and I put aside my French studies. When I returned to France with my family in 2001, I noticed how quickly the French words returned. I still treasure a conversation I had with an elderly man in Paris as we discussed the merits of his beloved city. I’ll never forget the look of admiration on my family’s faces.

LP: Can you tell us about the publication of your books? Did you take care of all the publishing aspects yourself?

LKS: With French Illusions: My Story as an American Au Pair in the Loire Valley, I chose to publish my paperback through a self-publishing company. They helped create my book, giving me control over design, editing, and pricing while allowing me to retain all the rights to my book. Then, I contracted with an eBook publishing and distribution company to create my eBook, which I published using my own Limited Liability Corporation called Dreamland Press. They were a good match as well because they charged a fee to create the eBook, but they didn’t take a percentage of the royalties.
This year, when I published my sequel, French Illusions: From Tours to Paris, and the French Illusions Box Set, the process moved along at a faster pace. I went directly to a formatter to create my eBooks and covers. Once I had the files, I loaded them onto the various sales platforms. For my print book, I contracted directly to a wholesale book distributer who offered print on demand.

LP: Have you any other memoirs, or fiction, in the pipeline?

LKS: There is nothing in the pipeline right now, but I have a few ideas for future books. Before my mother passed in August of 2014, I recorded four hours of her recounting her life story. She was born in the United States, but her parents took her back to Croatia as a young child, and the family endured enormous hardships during World War II. I think this would make a great historical novel. I’m also considering another memoir about my unusual childhood, something like “Growing up Linda.”

Thanks so much, Linda for answering my questions and I wish you all the best with your writing.


Linda Kovic-Skow is a best-selling author in travel in France. Originally from Seattle, she currently winters in Gilbert, Arizona, and spends summers on a boat in the Pacific Northwest Waters of Washington and British Columbia. She earned an Associate Degree in Medical Assisting in 1978 from North Seattle Community College and a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration from Seattle University in 1985. She has been married for 30 years and has two daughters. An enthusiastic traveler, Linda also enjoys hiking, boating, gardening and socializing with friends. “French Illusions: My Story as an American Au Pair in the Loire Valley,” was her debut memoir. The sequel, “French Illusions: From Tours to Paris,” recounts the rest of her adventure in France.

Retail link: Amazon

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Friday, 11 December 2015

What's in a Name? Rather a Lot.

by Ian D. Richardson

Back in 1996, when I left BBC World Service, I set up Richardson Media Limited with plans to write newspaper articles, do consultancies and teach television journalism. I did all three for a number of years, but then, by accident, I stumbled across the story of a tragic scandal in my extended family. This led to a screenplay and a book, both called God’s Triangle.

Having witnessed the unhappy experiences of a number of my former BBC colleagues who went down the traditional publishing route, I chose to self-publish. This was when I began to have doubts about my company name. Despite the growing acceptance of self-publishing as a legitimate route for authors, there is still the residual stain, if I can call it that, of vanity publishing.

It became clear when I first published God’s Triangle that it didn’t look good to have a book by Ian D. Richardson, published by Richardson Media Limited. Indeed, I was asked by more than one person “Weren’t you able to find anyone to publish your book?” The answer, whether they believed me or not, was “I didn’t try because I didn’t want to see months, perhaps even years, go by with God’s Triangle and my later books gathering dust in trays on the desks of various publishers.

Self-publishing worked with God’s Triangle because I had it in circulation in Australia and the UK within weeks and a couple of months after that, I had a film deal. But I remained uncomfortable about the name, so my wife/business partner and I decided to change it. But to what? We didn’t want to keep “Richardson” or “Media”, so that left only “Limited”.

It took many days and advice from family and friends before we settled on Preddon Lee Limited. So why that name? Well, first of all, we wanted something that meant nothing, so that should the company change its operations in the coming years, it wouldn’t matter. Some of the world’s most successful companies have names that mean zilch. They are just names. That said, we needed to avoid names that had negative connotations, such as Gloomy Limited, Downbeat Limited, Death’s Door Limited or Smartarse Limited. Then there were other equally important questions to consider: 1) Was a chosen name already registered at Companies House? 2) Was it similar to a company name that already existed? 3) Was it easy to spell? 4) Was the domain name available? and 5) Did the name have a good chance of being at the top of a website search page?

Our accountants assured us that changing the company name was “very easy” and would not cost much. They were right. It was easy and the fee was not much more than £100, but that proved to be a small part of the story, not least because it meant changing a business email address that had been in wide circulation for more than a decade. Then there was the legal requirement that I stop using Richardson Media Limited as a trading name at the earliest opportunity. This was not easy when I had – and still have, for now -- a website of that name that has been in existence for at least 10 years and still generates a great deal of traffic.

Such problems will eventually be solved, but let’s now move on to some other naming issues that have arisen in the past six months. First, there was the name that I originally gave my latest screenplay and book: The Moral Maze. Some of you will know that this is the name of a long-established programme on the BBC. I didn’t consider that a hurdle, because there is no copyright on titles and there were no other possible legal obstacles, other than, perhaps, accusations of “passing off”. This latter issue could not be a problem as my work is a screenplay and book, while the other Moral Maze is a debating programme on Radio Four.

No further thought was given to having the same name as a BBC programme until a remark by a friend made me realise that there might be a difficulty with the search engine ratings. And there certainly was! A quick search of The Moral Maze brought up tens of thousands of results, almost all of them to do with the radio programme.

Our initial reaction was to scrap the name entirely, but after days of head-scratching, we decided we would try The Mortal Maze, a title with an extra “t” and which still fitted the story. A rummage around the search engines proved very promising, and we also discovered that the internet domain name was available. My wife then had a brilliant idea as we organised the design of the book cover: How about inserting a different coloured T into the “moral”, thus giving the book two titles in one? This we did and we are thrilled with the results.

That dealt with, naming challenges still existed. Although my book is a work of fiction, it is openly inspired by my experiences as a senior news editor in BBC World Service radio and television. Therefore, I needed to take great care with the names chosen for the characters. As a further protection against legal problems, some of the holders of real BBC posts were switched from being men to women and vice versa.

I thought I had all that sorted until I realised just weeks before publishing the ebook version that the BBC had recently recruited a news executive with a name almost identical to my troubled anti-hero. So that name had to be rapidly changed. Then two days later, I was listening to BBC radio when I learned that a newish reporter had the same surname as another character in the book. So that also had to be changed. Worse, though, was when a friend pointed out that I had given a terrorist the same name as a prominent Muslim journalist working in TV news. It was at this point that I felt a family of luck-shattering black cats must have crossed my path.

Finally, after checking with BBC friends and double-checking with Google, I was confident that my story didn’t include names of real characters. All I can say now is that if there is a BBC television reporter called Jackson Dunbar, who has an addiction, who has been corrupted by the intelligence services, whose personal life is a mess and who reports from the Middle East, I am very, very sorry. I really didn’t mean to smear your reputation.

Paperback and ebook versions of Ian Richardson’s thriller, The Mortal Maze, can be found here: and his non-fiction book, God’s Triangle, is here:

Monday, 7 December 2015

London Launch - Our photo album

We had a fabulous launch at The English Restaurant in Spitalfields, London on Saturday 28th November. We had fizz, books, fizz, food, fizz and actors reading from the new releases!

Full details of the event can be seen on our press release:

We'd like to share some of our favourite photographs of the day with you.

Relaxed and ready to party!
Rohan Quine reads from Human Rites

Amanda Hodgkinson reads from The Better of Two Men
Piers Alexander reads from False Lights
Jill and her family looking fab in Triskele colours
Don't they look fabulous!
Say Cheese!
Liza & hubby Jean-Yves!
Jessica Bell reads from Blood Rose Angel
Kat, Amanda, Sheila, Jane
Gillian & Amanda

Kat and Jane welcome Jane Davis & Sheila Bugler

We are also very proud to have made the weekly pictorial round-up in the Bookseller!