Tuesday 28 June 2016

Announcing Winners of the 3-Book Giveaway!

Thank you so much for everyone who took part in the Giveaway!

Yesterday, the Giveaway ended, and three random winners were picked to receive a signed copy of The Popish Midwife. And they might even receive it before everyone else, because I get to have advance copies! :-D

The Popish Midwife winners announced

The three lucky winners of the signed book, in the order they were drawn, are:

(1) Jennifer Stone (@JenStone4485 ) from the UK

Winner of The Popish Midwife: Jennifer Stone
(image: Twitter)

(2) April Parker (@AprilDParker ) from the United States

Winner of The Popish Midwife: April Parker
(Image: Twitter)

(3) Heather Wardell (@HeatherWardell) from Canada

Winner of The Popish Midwife: Heather Wardell
(image: Twitter)

Thank you to everyone who entered. If you didn't win this time, keep an eye on my Twitter page for other ways to win or get your copy in the future, or sign up to my mailing list (no spam, only good stuff - latest is my never-before transcribed poem written by Elizabeth Cellier, who was the Popish Midwife)

Monday 20 June 2016

Interview - Shellie Blum (Author)

Today, the book description of my guest, Shellie Blum, is a spot-on introduction to her and her life:

Shellie Blum
Escaping instantaneous death and paralysis from a hangman's broken neck, and shattered right jaw endured in a horrific watersking accident is only part of this unbelievable story. Follow Shellie on her journey from the Ozarks to Egypt and even the back alleys of Hollywood streets as she perseveres through more than her share of grueling set backs. You don't have to be a waterskier to enjoy this inspiring true story told by the first female freestyle waterski ramp jumper in the World!

Hi Shellie and welcome to Script Alchemy. I'm honoured to interview you today and highlight your memoir Waterski Girl Wonder. I'd like to look behind the behind the book, behind the horrible accident, and find out a bit more about you.

On the Channel 7 interview back in the 1980s, before your accident, we get to see your skill on waterskis - not only were you fantastic and daring, but you look like you were really enjoying it. Are you able to ski now? Do you do any water sports at all, or are you unable?

Shellie Blum interviewed for Channel 7 1980s
(image: YouTube)

Thank you Annelisa, that’s the thing about professional show water skiing. It’s our job to make it look easy and fun. After all, we are performing. It’s a skill to be working so hard, but be able to smile and enjoy yourself. It’s an underrated sport for the athleticism it takes to do what we do, the audience is busy just watching and enjoying it. In competition water skiing no one cares or notices if you’re smiling. Performance show skiers are expected to ski anywhere, any time, in any kind of conditions, sometimes doing 4 to 5 shows a day. It takes a lot more stamina and athleticism than they get credit for, which leads me to the second half of your question.

I could ski, but don’t! I wouldn’t know how to hold back. I have never held back and, unless I can do “my thing”, it really wouldn’t be enjoyable for me. For all of my water skiing days, I was performing. I was pushing the limits. I don’t think I could ever hold back and, having been told that if I took any high velocity falls I would be endangering my life, I just can't take the chance. I do enjoy the water though. We have a Sea Doo and I play around on it. I get my water fix through the speed, sights and smells while riding my personal watercraft.

Shellie Blum on her Sea Doo

That's a shame you can't water-ski now, but I'm glad you found a fun way to carry on enjoying the water (I'd love to try that - it looks so cool!). Apart from this, what other pastimes do you most enjoy now?

I spend a lot of my time on Social Media. Is that considered a pastime? I guess not really, but most of my day is spent communicating with my newfound family (friends) that I’ve made online. I’m also trying to get exposure for my memoir. I try to find a not so annoying way of connecting with people but at the same time self-promote my book project. It’s amazing the advice I get from fellow writers and even laypersons. Some of the advice is good and inspiring, some of it, not so much. In the beginning, my feelings would get hurt, when someone would say, “You know, I wouldn’t… (do this or that)'. Now, I just shrug it off and chalk it up to, “You can’t please everyone.”

Shellie meets King Hussein
(image: Shellie's Twitter)

Thinking about other ways the accident affects you, I understand from your LinkedIn page that, even now, you still suffer pain from your accident? How harsh is that pain? Do you feel that that reminder is a good or a bad thing? I mean, do you ever feel the pain, curse it, then remember where it's taken you today?

I deal with chronic pain yes but, compared to other people and what they have to go through, I try not to complain too much about it. I am blessed to be able to deal with it, and hope that maybe I can inspire others. I mean, you hear so much about people becoming addicted to pain pills. Not to sound too braggadocios about it, but I’m proud of how I’ve been able to deal with my chronic pain.

Shellie Blum x-ray after neck surgery
(image:Waterski Girl Wonder)

Do you feel that you developed the determination that had you trying over and over until you achieved your 'forward moving back flip', and was it that learnt determination that helped you work so hard at recovery after your accident? Or, did you always have determination to do what you planned to do, whether it was a really nifty ski move or whether it was to recover and live a normal life again?

This is one of those “chicken and the egg” questions, or even, “nature versus nurture” questions. Did I learn determination or can some of those traits be inherited? Perhaps a little of both, everyone grows up with their certain set of experiences. And everyone is endowed with a certain set of genes. I do think, though, that a person’s strength of will can ultimately be the determining factor towards success or failure. And even more importantly is that the labels of success and failure are determined by a person’s own perception of reality. What one person considers failure might be another person’s success. (a nifty ski move learned or living a ‘normal life’) I’ve always gone with the idea that if I never give up, within my physical and mental limits, no one can say that I’m not successful.

Shellie Blum practicing the Back Flip (the Gainer)
 that eventually caused her accident
(image: Waterski Girl Wonder)

That's very inspirational, Shellie. But not everybody is so positive. In Susanne Jenkin's interview Waterski Girl Wonder – Shellie Blum you say you are disappointed how some people close to you haven't been as supportive as you'd hope them to be. Who has been supportive, and would you most like to thank?

Well, to be honest, I’ve grown past expecting support from people that I thought would be more supportive. This whole process of self-publishing has been an uphill battle. My expectations were likely too high, especially in the beginning. I’ll admit I’ve been somewhat Pollyannaish about the whole process. And I’m glad that I have been. It’s been a protective shield that I think I’ve had all my life. To not see the negative in others, to always be expecting the best and most positive sides of people. I don’t even realize to this day when someone is put off by my enthusiasm for my memoir. I find myself naturally gravitating to the positive people. And in return, I think they have been gravitating towards me. They know who they are, and they know I am grateful for their support.

Bob Forgiana - one of Shellie's best buddies after the accident
(image: Waterski Girl Wonder)

What would you like to be the main message people take away from reading your book?

Keep on keeping on…

Waterski Girl Wonder (book cover)

I have to ask, now you've written a book, and your readers are giving it a big thumbs up (I've seen the reviews on Amazon!), you say in your interview on Ledger.com that you'd like to make the film of your memoir next. Do you have plans to write another book? Perhaps another non-fiction stemming from this one or, perhaps, an inspirational novel?

I think I might have another book in me, but I’m really busy with trying to self-promote this first one. The ultimate success for it would be a movie. Wouldn’t that be awesome? A true story action adventure movie with a female lead that never gives up, I’d pay to see that movie! And see… some people will read that and think, “Who does she thinks she is?” And other people will read that and say, “That’s Shellie, she’s Waterski Girl Wonder.” And I’ll just leave it with, “Hey, a girl’s gotta’ dream!”

Shellie Blum reading
(image: Pierre Ducharme, The Ledger)

Where else can we find you?

I am trying to line up being part of a couple of book fairs. If I can make that happen I will post about it on social media. Plus, I’m trying to convince a couple of brick and mortar bookstores to add my book to their inventory. We will see how that goes.

[Latest Update] Interview with Jane Waters Thomas: Writers Den #18; Jane Waters Thomas, Shellie Blum (Oct 10, 2016)

Other places to connect
Website: Waterski Girl Wonder
Goodreads: Shellie Blum
On LinkedIn
On Twitter: @shellieblum
On Facebook
On Amazon: Author Page  Book: Waterski Girl Wonder
On Google Plus

Read more about Shellie (then buy the book! ;-) )
Waterski MagazineWaterski Girl Wonder, Shellie Blum's Memoir
The Right Perspective: Introducing Author Shellie Blum (An Author Spotlight)
Susanne Jenkin: Waterski Girl Wonder – Shellie Blum
The Ledger:  Shellie Blum's memoir details life of stuntwoman on skiis
Curves Welcome: Interview with Author Shellie Blum
Just Fooling Around With Bee or The Bee Writes: The Bee Talks with Shellie Blum
Betrayal of TrustAuthor’s Corner: An Interview with Shellie Blum

Friday 17 June 2016

Interview - Madeleine D'Este (Author)

Today, I have the gorgeous Australian author, Madeleine D'Este, for an interview about her book launch of Evangeline and the Alchemist, a novella with a steampunk twist set in 1880s Melbourne.

Madeleine D'Este (Author)

First of all, Madeleine, before we talk about your book, it would be lovely to know a little about yourself. 
I see from your website bio that you list your interests as 'podcasts, knitting, forteana, indie films, kettle bells and long blacks', so let's hear a little about these pastimes. What kind of podcasts do you enjoy?
I do a lot of walking (to counteract the vast amounts of sitting), so I love my podcasts. At the moment, I like writing podcasts e.g. The Creative Penn or So You Want to be a Writer or Science Fiction and Fantasy Marketing Podcast. I also like other non-fiction podcasts on personal development/entrepreneurship, films, health/wellbeing and forteana.

I understand 'forteana' is to do with Charles Fort (I remember the Fortean Times when I was younger) - what most interests you about this man, and how does it affect your writing?
Not Charles Fort so much but his legacy. I’ve been interested in the “unknown” for as long as I can remember, from aliens, ghosts, folklore and the unexplained.

And now, I'm dying to ask, what are 'kettle bells and long blacks' :-D ?
Kettle bells are cast iron weights with handles, originally Russian – fabulous for strength training workouts.
A long black is a black coffee in Australia, like an Americano but stronger. We take our coffee quite seriously in Melbourne.

Let's move to your writing career, and a little about you as an author. What was the first thing you ever wrote, that set you off on your writing path?
I might need to check with my mum about this one. I have been dabbling with writing for years and years, with countless unfinished novels in the drawer. I’ve also tried multiple genres, at one time I was trying crime, then urban fantasy but it didn’t seem right.
I was doing some soul-searching and realised that writing a novel was my number one goal in life, so I decided to get serious and have a proper crack at this writing thing.

I understand you have several other projects than your current release on the go at the moment (I'm sure you're dying to talk about your latest...patience, we'll get there in a minute ;-) ). What are they, and how have you managed to write them?

I’m currently querying with a dystopian female-led novel, Return to the Monolith which I wrote with the assistance of an editorial consultant. This is part of a trilogy. I also have seven other episodes of Evangeline in the works.

So, now we know a little about you, how about you tell me something about your book, Evangeline and the Alchemist?

Evangeline and the Alchemist (cover)
by Madeleine D'Este

In 1882, "Marvellous" Melbourne was flush with gold-rush cash and the British Empire’s second biggest city. Evangeline, a seventeen year old reformed urchin and acrobat, is settling into a new comfortable life in Melbourne with her long lost father, Professor Caldicott. But, learning to be a lady is awfully dull. Then, one day, the police arrive, seeking the Professor’s expertise in catching an Alchemist. Is this a chance for Evangeline to test out her new invention and save the day? With regular breaks for tea and cream buns, of course.
Cream cakes and inventions, fake gold and kung-fu, Evangeline and the Alchemist is a fun short read, perfect for a flight, commute or lazy afternoon.

That does sound fun. Have you any plans to write more about Evangeline?
Evangeline and the Alchemist is the first in a series of novellas of mystery and mayhem set in steampunk Melbourne. Other upcoming episodes in The Antics of Evangeline include Evangeline and the Bunyip – where Evangeline faces a mythical Aboriginal monster. I’m planning eight episodes in total.

Why Melbourne, and what was it that attracted you to setting the story in 1880s?
Steampunk stories are generally set in London but I was inspired by the history I see around me every day. In Victorian times, Melbourne was a major city, hosting the 8th World Fair in 1880. Even today, the streets of inner city Melbourne are filled with grand sandstone buildings and houses from this era.

I wanted to explore Victorian sensibilities in the Colonies, the clash of classes and cultures in the new world and the ridiculousness of wearing full coverage dresses with bustles in 40’C summers. All with a dash of science fiction fun.

What is steampunk?
Steampunk is a science-fiction genre based in the Victorian era but with anachronistic technology, generally steam-powered.

Steampunk creates an alternate world where Victorian innovations are taken to new heights and fun inventions are inserted alongside the Victorian clichés of parasols, whiskers and London pea-soup fogs.

Cool, so now we know a little about it, where can we find Evangeline and the Alchemist?
It's now available on Amazon and through Kindle Unlimited. 

Thank you so much for taking the time to join us, Madeleine. 

Read more about Evangeline and the Alchemist, including an excerpt 

Madeleine D'Este

Other places you can find Madeleine are:

Website: Madeleine D'Este
Twitter: @madeleine_deste

Goodreads: Madeleine D'Este

Thursday 9 June 2016

Interview - Lily Amis (Author)

I've known Lily Amis for some time on Twitter, but only recently found out some of her harrowing and lonely background. Having had my children make a local collection for refugees in Calais, I am already cued into some of the awfulness of life in a refugee camp, but only from the outside. Imagine that it's you who escaped from a place where you might be injured or die, or at the very least live in fear of this happening every day, only to spend years in a life worse than poverty, worse than the bombings, because the country you've escaped to won't let you in, won't allow you your own life. Lily tells her first-hand account of escaping a middle eastern country at war, to raise awareness for people still suffering as she and her mother suffered.


Hello, Lily. Welcome to Script Alchemy, and thank you for taking the time to answer my questions about your life and your books. I have so many questions, but I'll try to narrow them down to the most relevant, to give folk a taste of  what they can read in your latest book, DestinationFreedom. Please tell us a little of what it was like to live in a war zone, so bad your mother, Sima, made the decision to get you out of there and escape with you, at the age of ten, from war-torn Iran to the safe haven of Switzerland. How did it compare to what you knew before the war, in your younger days?

Lily Amis (right) with mother, Sima

First of all thank you so much for doing this Interview with me Annelisa. I really appreciate your interest in me and my story.

Living in a war zone from one day to another is one of the most horrifying experiences in Life, whether you’re an adult or a kid. As a kid you don’t really understand what’s going on because not even the adults know how to deal with this life-changing situation. I still remember and feel the uncertainty, insecurity and fear of death. Your daily life and the behaviour of the adults changes drastically. All of a sudden, people that gave you comfort and security are helpless too. Every moment can be the last, and you are totally conscious of that when you clearly  hear the bombings day and night. People always assume that war only happens in other countries. The truth is, our world is, was and sadly will always be a bad place. Why? Because of the stupidity of some “powerful” people who are ruling/destroying our world for nothing but greed for more power and wealth. These people forget that none of us will live forever!

Despite a horrible emotional-setback by my father, who left us when I was just five years old, I had a lovely childhood. I grew up in a home and neighbourhood filled with love and harmony. My mother’s parents were amazing and my mom, Sima, is the most loving, selfless and sacrificing human I have ever met. My family treated me like a little princess. I enjoyed school and loved my teachers and my schoolmates. I was a happy girl. Leaving everyone and everything you love behind, just to survive, is an emotional sacrifice that anyone who is trapped in the same situation would do. We all wish a fearless and safe life. And that’s our human right, regardless of where we come from.

Cover of Destination Freedom by Lily Amis
Last year, you had some national exposure in the Daily Mirror newspaper, and Frost Magazine, but, I feel, not enough, considering your ambition to raise awareness for those that suffer in the way you suffered every day.
I can only imagine, it must have been truly awful for your mother to want to take you from it. But, what surprises me more, is what you say, that you think it "...would have been better to be killed by a bomb in our own home rather than to go through a permanent fight for acceptance in a foreign country and being treated like dirt and robbed of all our dignity." That puts into perspective how bad your life as a refugee was... it's hard to imagine. Can you give an idea how, for a child, this new situation was so much worse than the old?

Well your feeling is absolutely right Annelisa. I really didn’t get enough attention by the British media for my goal, which is as you correctly say, bringing awareness to a delicate topic and avoiding all the negativity and prejudice that refugees face.

What many people don’t know about my book Destination: Freedom is that I first published the book in 2005. In September 2014, I republished it after re-writing and polishing the first version. And, when I decided to promote my memoir in England, Germany, Austria and Swiss (because the book is also available in German) last year in June 2015, I could not have predicted that the refugee crises would become a global issue.

To my surprise, even though my timing was perfect with an honest and eye-opening first-hand story, it was difficult to find a publicist to support me. Agencies in Germany and Switzerland told me I wouldn’t have any chance with my topic, because the journalists aren’t really keen on the refugee topic. As said, that was in June and look what happened ironically just a few weeks later. However, despite the support of a professional Book Agency in London and the perfect timing for my story, only three titles (The Mirror, Frost Magazine and Female First) of a hundred British national titles, supported me as an Indie-Author. The Guardian considered a story, but then didn’t published anything as hoped. But that’s fine.

As one of my inspiring Interview partners, the American Fiction Author, Bibiana Krall, quoted recently: “My spirit animal is the turtle. Dedication and patience wins the race.” I love her attitude and I also think that good things take time. The journey itself is what makes us who we are and not, the final destination. I also believe that I wouldn’t have become a blogger, if I didn’t feel unsupported by the media. Now I’m actually glad to speak out and reach people with my blog. And because of this lack of support and interest I have decided to support other creative people like myself. I feel it is my duty to help others on their journey. Selfless support is what Life is about and I love to help, because no ONE, except my mother, has ever supported me in my life.

Lily Amis and her mother, Sima,
work together at NasSima Designs

Now, to your next question regarding my brutal but honest quote. Honestly, without any exaggeration, my experience and fear of death during the daily bombings in my hometown were NOTHING comparing to what we faced later as refugees in Switzerland for over two decades! Rejection, humiliation, discrimination and a life in constant fear of existence were like a lifelong punishment - from the minute we entered the country as war-refugees until today, where we are (FINALLY) Swiss Citizens -That’s what I felt as a child and still do as an adult. A life without human rights, freedom and dignity is worth nothing!

Sadly, the news is full of how refugees are trying to escape from areas of upheaval and conflict and, after making sometimes dangerous journeys, they end up in refugee 'camps' like the one in Calais. Escaping the war zone is obviously only the start of a new set of problems. What was the worst thing you remember about the journey out of Iran, and settling into a new country?

Thank you for this question. There is something that bothers me ever since the daily mirror article about Calais was online. Someone has made an anonymous comment. I quote: “This is a very dishonest article. Here is a very attractive young lady who looks like a native of Europe. The millions who want to get here (and alas are succeeding) look nothing like this.”
Only a shallow and clueless man makes a thoughtless comment like this. I would love to ask this person: How would you look like if you had spent days without proper sleep and food? How would you look like if you had to fear for your life and leave everything and everyone that matters to you behind for a dangerous journey and an uncertain future?  These desperate people didn’t look like this, when they lived safe in their country. Nothing about this article was dishonest.

My journey from leaving my hometown and settling in Europe was, for sure, not as horrifying as the refugee’s fate now. We flew over 46 hours in less than a week and it was dramatic because of other reasons. (Don’t want to go into detail. It’s all written in Destination: Freedom) But, as you correctly say, the escape is only the start of a new set of problems. The journey is only the beginning of a lifelong misery. We see the images of the refugee’s journey these days, thanks to the media coverage, which is heart-breaking. But the actual tragedy begins from day one when they officially register as refugees in their new country.

Many refugees that entered Germany in 2015 full of false hopes decided to go back after just a few weeks of uncertainty in the refugee camps. I applaud them for this step. They may think that destiny was not on their side. But sometimes it is actually a blessing not to get what we wish. The children of these families will have a better future in their own homeland than having a future in a European country without any rights and dignity.

For me personally the worst thing was leaving behind my grandparents and my lovely home and personal belongings. That was an emotional disaster. I adored my grandparents and spent hours with my grandfather; who was also a father figure. I missed them like crazy. The first months without their love and care were horrible. It was also extremely challenging to spend months in a refugee house (in a room of 15 m) with complete strangers; families that I didn’t know. My happy world fell apart. Everything and everyone I knew was gone. My childhood was over and I had to grow up fast in a country, where I felt unwelcomed and rejected from minute one.  

Another setback was my Education. I was a very good student back in my hometown. I loved school and subjects like history, geography and biology. But, once in Switzerland, I first had to do a one-year preparation school for foreign kids. As a kid (at the age of five) I had already spent kindergarten in Germany because of a medical treatment I had back then. So in the back of my mind I understood the German language already. After the first year was over and I joined a Swiss Public School and I was shocked about the low level of education. When I showed my books from my hometown to my teacher he was very surprised. He couldn’t believe how further the level of schooling was in my own country. A higher education (also for women) was, and is still, extremely important in our culture. So, school wise, I was very unsatisfied and displaced. Unfortunately in the following years and during the most important time of Education I had to deal with a racist teacher, who made my life also a living hell. So, all in all, it was just a nightmare. I had lost everything that I loved: My home, my grandparents, my school, my lovely teachers and my schoolmates.

Everything I know today is from self-studying. I didn’t learn much in the oh so popular Swiss Schools. For example I learned English from watching cheesy American Soap Operas and not in School. God bless the Bold & Beautiful production and the Forrester Family! J

I see, from your website NasSima Design and YouTube channel of the same name, that you continue to be very close to your mother. You obviously have great respect for her. If you don't mind, I wonder if you would tell us something about this woman, brave enough to save you from a life of fear and bombs and travel to a strange country to start a new life? (Please be as expansive as you like. She is obviously as special woman.)
A young Lily Amis (left) with mother Sima

My mom is my BFF and the most loving, caring, understanding, independent and gifted woman I know. Without her strength, optimism and belief, we two wouldn’t have made it. Life was not easy on both of us. We had to overcome many obstacles and disappointments.  If anyone else would have experienced what my mom had as a single-mother, they wouldn’t have survived life.

As I said, I was raised like a princess and the new start in Switzerland was my emotional suicide. My childhood was immediately over.  But, I think, for my mom, the whole experience of becoming a refugee was much harder. Sima had lived in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Italy for many years during her twenties. She even lived in United Kingdom for six years and got married in London (Hampstead Heath). My mom lived in Surrey where her husband was studying Electric Engineering at the University of Surrey. In fact I have a half-brother, who’s a British and Canadian citizen. He was born in London (Surrey). Unfortunately, the marriage with my half-brother's father didn’t last and my mom returned to Tehran, where she met my father. My half-brother was very lucky; because of Education he stayed in London and moved later to Canada for University. Today he lives happily with his Canadian wife and my gorgeous niece in Toronto. He was lucky that he didn’t have to experience war.  

So, my mom was always used to live a free life in Europe. She sometimes even flew just for shopping with empty suitcases from Tehran to London.  But, when we left our country, because of war, and ended up in Switzerland (which was NEVER our destination) it was another story. After the revolution, and during the war, we were suddenly not welcome anymore. Sima already spoke fluent German and English and knew the culture and mentality very well. But the refugee law and bureaucracy didn’t care and treated us like sheet. My mom had to fight for us for years and I applaud her for her strong personality. Luck was never on our side. So Life made us stick stronger together. We have supported each other through so many emotional challenges in Life. Horrible men, terrible jobs, loneliness, social isolation, health issues, fear of existence etc. We are more than just mother and daughter. We are best friends, who could never rely on anyone else than on each other. No one has supported me like my mom. She is my rock! She is my everything. We complete each other and are also a great duo creative-wise. As naSima design we have worked on several projects and continue to do so. In fact right now we are working on a book (Title: The colours of Love) in which we document her incredible work as designer and her message for tolerance, hope, believe and faith.

She sounds like an amazing and inspirational woman, Lily. I have a lot of respect for people who 'do what they gotta do' with determination and bravery. You say no one beside your mom ever supported you. I can't help but feel sad about that. Nobody at all helped you, in all that time? Did you ever ask for help?

Oh, trust me, I did. But, even to this date, I feel that it doesn’t really matter what you say or to whom you talk to. People are too busy with their own life and no one really listens to what you have to say. Everybody is somehow trying to manage Life which is understandable. I learned from very young age on that you can’t and shouldn’t rely on anyone beside yourself.

Having said that, I have to mention one person beside my mom, who actually did try to help and heard my voice, my cry for help, so to say. It was in 2005, when I published the first version of Destination: Freedom. I sent a copy to many “powerful” people around the world to bring awareness about our hopeless struggle as refugees. I received encouraging answers but the only person who really cared and acted was Queen Elizabeth.

Our Queen? This I have to hear! Please tell more :-)

I wrote a very personal letter to Buckingham Palace and told her how my mom and I feel isolated, unaccepted, displaced and imprisoned (with our permission we were not allowed to travel outside of Switzerland for fifteen years).

The Queen passed my inquiry to Mister Jack Straw (the Foreign Minister) and informed me about it. And, when I didn’t receive any answer from Mister Straw’s office after months, I contacted the Queen again. It took a while, and then the British Embassy in Geneva contacted me and tried to find a way for us to move to United Kingdom, because of my mom’s history in UK and my British half-brother.  As you can imagine this experience was amazing. I was so full of hope. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out, because my half-brother now lives in Canada. But it was a gesture of understanding and support that not many people have shown until this date. Queen was amazing. The world needs more caring people like her. God bless her.

What a lovely story. For us, the ones who were lucky enough to be born in a country without war, we see bureaucracy as an annoyance, an inconvenience, yet you say it was bureaucracy that made your life Hell. What changes would you like governments to make to reduce the misery and isolation refugees and their families are forced to endure?

Dealing with bureaucracy is a nightmare. I wish the governments would stop treating refugees like numbers of annoying folders on their desk. Behind every number is a destiny. And, for the love of God, Life is too short and precious to make it miserable for others. I want the governments to stop toying with people’s destiny. They didn’t choose to become refugees. None of them created war. They are only helpless and innocent victims of the stupidity of people in power. So instead of toying, support them and at the end everyone benefits. Include them instead of isolate them. Refugees are not a disease; they are human beings with the same desires as everyone else. Give them a life; give them the chance to build an independent life in dignity.

So, that's what the people 'in power' can do. What about ordinary people? It seems you weren't only isolated by the government's actions, but by those of the communities you moved within? How could they (we) have behaved differently to help you become an accepted part of them?

RESPECT, ACCEPTANCE, TOLERANCE and KINDNESS. That’s what I wish from people. That alone would help. Treat ALL people the way you want to be treated, when you are helpless and hopeless and desperate for understanding and emotional support. Easy as that!

All of us are going to die. Nobody stays forever. We all are nothing but guests on planet Earth. And the only thing that lasts is our actions of Love and kindness. Not what we have achieved (money, success, fame etc.) If you want to be remembered, leave a legacy of Love and kindness and not hate and betrayal. This year, almost every month, the world is losing a legend. And, once they are gone, it is totally unimportant what they have done professionally. All that we will remember is the emotions and feelings they created. The best example is THE Greatest Muhammad Ali. May he rest in peace and may people take an example of his exceptional personality and goals in Life. He used his voice for others until his last breath, despite his illness. It is not hard to be kind and selfless.

In Frost Magazine, you said you still feel like an outsider as an adult today. What makes you continue to feel this way, and what could authorities do to better integrate refugees and make them feel less as an outsider even after years of living in their country? Also, what can everyday folk do to help refugees and raise awareness of their plight?

Yes, I do feel as an outsider. Despite my Swiss citizenship, I still have to fight for acceptance. Regardless of what I do; in the eyes of Swiss people I’m not good enough. I still have to explain myself and apologize for my destiny as a refugee and as a foreigner in this country. That’s why I say: “Once a refugee, always a refugee. Once a foreigner, always a foreigner. “

The authorities and the folk should stop treating refugees/foreigners like criminals. They should stop punishing people like prisoners.  Discriminating people because of their look, race, nationality, skin colour, religion etc. is an emotional crime.

I was somewhat disappointed that the two images that represented what you felt as a refugee weren't in the online interview. Is it possible to share them here?

I love to share my work. Thank you for asking. Both drawings were done twenty years ago in 1996. The original size is 50X70 cm. One is expressing that my only hope to ever feel and find Freedom is death! And the other one is expressing how I felt as a Refugee in Switzerland. They both hang to this date in our living room.
Art by Lily Amis 1996

Art by Lily Amis 1996

Thank you for sharing your drawings, Lily. They are very special, but also, I think, a little disturbing, a reflection on the turmoil you've gone through, I suspect. I understand you're writing another two books about your experiences. Please tell us something more about them.

That’s right. Destination: Freedom is the first part of my trilogy. The follow-up story Definition of Freedom, which I published last year, is about the following years and the misery we went through, because of more bureaucracy and discrimination.

My mom and I lived in fear of deportation for the following years. We had to fight for acceptance and pure survival for almost two decades. So I missed out on Life. I really did. I feel as my whole childhood, teenager hood and adult hood was stolen only in order to be allowed to stay in Switzerland.  I was so busy with the bureaucracy nonsense that I have neglected the really essential and valuable things in life. When the government tells you to your face, after a decade, to either marry or leave the country, and you marry the wrong guy for the wrong reasons, your whole future is screwed.

Recently, someone who works in a government office told me something that is sad but true. She said we call the generation that experience war and becomes a refugee “The lost generation”. I am one of those lost generations. The fundament for a normal life was stolen once I became a refugee, and the result was predictable. After more than two decades of constant fight for acceptance and integration, I ended up having anxiety and depression. I never experienced true love, a caring and supportive partner, family, children or at least a career. This year I’m celebrating my round birthday and all I’m left with are my books.

Cover of 'Definition of Freedom
So, I tell myself, all this mess must be good for something. Maybe sharing my story is my duty to bring awareness about delicate topics such as Refugees' fate, discrimination, depression, bullying: false and thoughtless people, who poison your soul with lies, cheats and betrayal to achieve their own goals at your cost.

Definition of Love” is going to be the last part of my trilogy. But I must admit that I’m struggling writing it because of recent events in my life that I’m still trying hard to adjust too.

So I put the script aside and in the last couple of months I was working on the second part of my children’s book – series.Bon Voyage - Monsieur Jac & Lily travel to Europe” is going to be available in August 2016. Lily and Monsieur Jac will discover the beauty of the European cities and even have an afternoon Tea with her majesty, Queen Elizabeth in Buckingham Palace on her ninetieth birthday. They also do a sightseeing tour throughout London with Prince George and Princess Charlotte.

Cover of 'Angel of Hope & Lily'
featuring Monsieur Jac Couture

Cover of 'Bon Voyage: Monsieur Jac & Lily
travel to Europe'

Another exciting project I’m working on right now is my first Fiction book “America’s Royal Family”. I’m doing colourful Illustrations these days. Publishing this book with a provocative cover is kind of a trial for my long-term work as an Indie-Author. The story is reflecting the stupidity of our superficial society and I wouldn’t be surprised if I get more attention and readers with this book than with Destination: Freedom and Definition of Freedom. A funny and sweet story that turns out to be not as superficial and stupid as expected.

Do you have any plans to go back to your home country to live?

No. Never! Home country is where your house is and where you feel loved. A place where you are surrounded by your family. Unfortunately my beloved grandparents have both passed away. The other one live across the globe. Unfortunately war not only separates families physically but in away also emotionally. Also after living outside of my birth country for over three decades I feel more as a foreigner than home when I go back there for visit. But I also don’t feel at home in Switzerland. Never did, never will. So I don’t really know what home country means or feels like. I lost it when I was ten. And to be honest I have given up on the idea and desire of ever finding it again. 

I'm so sorry that you're life has been so hard since you left Tehran, Lily. And that you haven't felt accepted and welcomed is truly a sad state of affairs. But, I have to ask you, have you had any periods of happiness amongst all that unhappiness? Has it all been bad?

Yes, thank God we had moments of happiness. The first time we really felt Happy was when we felt FREE after fifteen years of being imprisoned in Switzerland and were finally allowed to return back to our home country. In the following years my mom and I travelled allot and each holiday was periods of happiness. It’s all written in my book “Definition of Freedom”. The highlights of all were our stays in America. We fell in Love with New York. In Europe London is the city where we feel home. Actually as soon as we leave Switzerland where we (still) feel unappreciated and unaccepted we are happy.

It’s ironic how people treat you differently outside of your new country just based on your passport. Showing the Swiss passport is like having an Academic title from Oxford or Cambridge University. I remember once we were in London visiting a castle where they asked us where we come from and when I said Swiss and we entered the Castle my mom and I were officially introduced as “The Queen and Princess of Switzerland”. That was hilarious! :-) Beside traveling music, Live concerts and Musicals are an injection of happiness for us.

Thank you for all your open and heartfelt answers, Lily. I'm sure others will find it as interesting and moving topic as I do, and I hope that you find peace with it all one day. Finally, where can people find you? 

Buy the book: DestinationFreedom
Twitter: @nassimadesign
Instagram: @nassimadesign
Youtube: sndesign2011
Website: www.LilyAmis.com