Saturday, August 12, 2017

Spotlight and Review: Dear Mona Lisa... by Claire Davis and Al Stewart

Today we shine the spotlight on Claire Davis and Al Stewart, and their latest book 

Dear Mona Lisa...

Dear Mona Lisa…

How to explain?

Each morning he notes the colours of dawn, listens to the birds and waits for the perfect moment. In one hand rests the balance of life and a terrible responsibility, in the other a wedding ring. Difficult days and the past loom, but his friends rally round and one by one the words come to life.

Everyone waits as Tom finds the strength to open up and set free the secrets of his heart in a celebration of family, friendship and love.

A quirky story of modern life, set within the breathtaking landscape of Bradford.

Get the book:

Al and Claire talking about Dear Mona Lisa over a pint of beer and a packet of salt and vinegar crisps…

Bradford - Claire

I lived in Bradford for years. It has a special place in my heart and is somewhere I remember fondly. The city is often talked about in a derogatory way but I was welcomed there. It was somewhere I called home. I worked at the very place described in the story; bang centre of town. (C sips pint and eyes up the crisps). After I left Bradford, I lost touch with the friends I’d made at work but they are ingrained in my heart forever. Someone I loved very dearly passed away a few years ago, so I tried to bring something of her personality in Dear Mona Lisa…I believe she would have really liked that.

Writing about my favourite landmarks was both bitter and sweet, as thinking about the past can so often be. (Starts on second pint).

I am very pleased to notice in a few reviews, readers giving their own Bradford stories. A few months ago, Al and I went to the restaurant mentioned, which incidentally is next door to an undertakers! (A shudders).

Weddings - Al

They’re a thing! (Waves arms). Lots of times I’ve almost written very personal stuff about weddings but held back, because once out there, it can’t be deleted. There’s always a thin line for authors between what to share and what to keep private, and I’m not always good at keeping that divide—as you might’ve spotted! Suffice to say, there are times in the wedding scene of Mona where that line is blurred.

When two people get married, all the messy threads of their lives get tied together. In the UK there’s a phrase ‘no wedding is a good wedding without a bun fight.’ Often, not all the guests are happy, and for many I think it can be a stressful day. But in Mona Lisa, clever Lou—and all Tom’s friends—have thought about this and planned so that it’s a celebration of many things as well as Tom and Loz’s love.

My fav image of this story is when Tom and Loz turn to face the guests and Kathy is the first person to stand. This is the moment! All our books have one moment which I think defines them. In this case, it’s beauty, strength, friendship and love that endures. (Gets teary. Slurps pint).

Character interview…Lawrence on synaesthesia

Hello! (Looks terrified).They asked me here to talk about Tom and his synaesthesia. To me it’s an amazing but bizarre thing, but to Tom—and Lou—it’s how they experience the world. And I do believe one of the authors sees things this way too! (Watches A playing with ice cubes).

From talking with Tom, it seems a very creative thing to live with, but of course he’s never known anything else. It’s like he has this extra sense—as well as gorgeousness, of course. He will look at something very ordinary—like a bird—but instead of seeing a bird, he will see it through other things like music and colours. It sounds very confusing, like a secret language, but many people experience this, which is thought to be a neurological mixing up of the senses. What it does mostly is make Tom completely lovable, and a bit other-worldly. I notice it most when he’s upset, or excited. He says I am orange, but Lou sees me as scarlet. I don’t mind being either, or both.

It was when we first met and he showed me his drawings and talked about his art that I found out about it, and of course I was fascinated. Many people have it in some form, but they are all different. Some see numbers as looming buildings, others think of days of the week as colours.

The authors told me this is the first time they have used synaesthesia both in the writing and as a storyline. They normally have to chop out chapters where sensory overload is too obvious because it might give readers a headache, and then they fight over how much to cut. Artists! (P.S. It’s Al with the synaesthesia.)

Thanks for joining Claire, Al, Loz for a pint in The Chemic pub! And thanks to Sandra and her team for having us.

Karen's review:

Why do we cry?

We cry for so many reasons…sadness, grief, heartache, loss, pain, suffering…so many heartbreaking reasons but there are other times that we cry as well…the good times, the happy times, and these are the best kinds of tears.

I cried when I got married, tears of absolute joy, and again when my son was born. These were wonderful events in my life but I have to admit it’s not often that I can say I cried because something was so beautiful, so breathtaking that the beauty of it brought me to tears…this book is one of those times for me. I’m not going to talk about the story and what happened in it because honestly my goal here is to share with you, my fellow reader, how beautiful I thought this story was so that hopefully when you get done reading what I sincerely hope won’t be a pitifully inadequate review, the first thing you’ll want to do is get your hands on a copy of this book so you can read it as well.

I’m not sure that I’ve ever read a story that wrapped itself around my heart so tightly in so few pages. ‘Dear Mona Lisa’ is about love. It’s about Tom’s love for Loz, for his beautiful daughter Lou, and for the other wonderful and not so wonderful people in his life, and it’s about their love for him. Yes, there is sadness in Tom’s life, and it’s shared with us through his memories, and, truthfully, if not for the pain and heartache, how would we truly know to appreciate and treasure the good. It’s all part of life. Thankfully Tom’s heartache is in his past, and while it’s shard with us it’s not the focus of this story…it’s his life in the here and now that’s important.

Have you ever felt like your life is leading up to one moment, that one pivotal event that will make everything else fall into place…this is the moment that we are being led to in Tom’s life and we view it through his eyes. Much of what happens may at times seem inconsequential but for Tom it’s not, and it’s all leading him to that one moment that everything else hinges on.

I could easily go on and on about this book, I loved it that much and when it came time to do my review I was torn because I wanted to find the words all the words that said this is one of the most beautiful stories I have read in a long time and I know I’ll read it again…probably more than once or I could share with you the review that I told my husband I wanted to write…it went something like this…



An ARC of ‘Dear Mona Lisa’ was graciously provided by the authors in exchange for an honest review.

About the authors:

Claire Davis lives in the beautiful UK. She works full time and reads whenever she gets a spare five minutes.

Al Stewart lives and works in the UK. He is an avid fan of cats, Vikings, cute slippers, chocolate and jam. One night he decided to take up a pen and, instead of poking it in his ear, he began to write.

Claire & Al write about people who are not perfect. Claire embraces the dark side, and Al the good side of the force. Their work is therefore a fusion of both, mixed often with kink and humour.

Find out more on their website.

Promotional materials provided by the authors.

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