#BlogTour #Review ~ Yellow Room by @ShelanRodger Q&A @DomePress

I am so excited to finally reach my spot on this fabulous blog tour and welcome Shelan here today. Yellow Room is a thought provoking book and Shelan has been kind enough to answer some questions below.

Haunted by a tragic childhood accident, Chala’s whole life has been moulded by guilt and secrets. After the death of the stepfather she adored, Chala is thrown into turmoil once again. Volunteering in Kenya seems to offer an escape, and a way of re-evaluating her adult relationships, although violence and hardship simmer alongside its richness and beauty. The secrets of the Yellow Room are still with her and she can’t run away forever…

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Dome Press (5 Oct. 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0995672377
  • ISBN-13: 978-0995672376

Purchase Here

About the Author

Born in Nigeria, I grew up among an aboriginal community on the Tiwi Islands north of Australia, and moved to England at the age of eleven. After graduating in Modern Languages from Oxford, I spent nine years in Argentina, followed by a chapter in the UK and then six years on flower farms in Kenya, before moving to Spain, where I live in an Andalucían village that was once a gold mine.

My professional career has revolved around international education and learning & development. My unprofessional career began at the age of nine with the unsolicited launch of ‘The Family Magazine’-  and has continued as quirkily ever since.

I care about tolerance, wilderness, and open doors.

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My Review

I have to admit I have not read anything by Shelan Rodger before but the blurb of Yellow Room piqued my interest and when I received the paperback the imagery on the front cover confirmed it was a book I needed to read.

The first chapter is harrowing, short and to the point and paves the way for the rest of the story. Chala holds this secret throughout while the reader is led on a journey which explores whether the actions of a child form the basis of an adult.

The characters are well portrayed, totally realistic, not all pleasant. Chala adores her stepfather Philip, but has a tense relationship with Paul her hubby. When Philip suddenly dies she is thrown into turmoil as she faces up to some of the secrets. She travels to Kenya as a volunteer to aid street kids.

The time in Kenya is vividly described, some of it extremely difficult to read especially if you are of a sensitive nature. A lot of the events are incredibly interesting and add a depth to the book.

This is a fascinating read which will captivate you from the beginning. The writing flows well and is easy to read and absorb with an achingly haunting sensation. It will make you question your own beliefs, discover the inner guilt of harbouring secrets and the affect they have on the keeper or those involved.

I really enjoyed Yellow Room and would happily recommend it.

Thanks to the author and publisher for my copy which I read and reviewed voluntarily.

 

Now over to Shelan to answer a few questions 🙂 

How long have you been writing and how did you get started?

I grew up on the Tiwi Islands north of Darwin. Story-telling and myth were ingrained in the aboriginal culture and maybe that has something to do with my love of stories and metaphor. At the age of nine, I surprised my parents with the launch of a more or less weekly publication, called ‘The Family Magazine’, which included slightly less willing contributions from my little brother and sister. But, despite the pen and paper that accompanied me wherever I went in life, it was years before I finally embarked on the adventure of trying to write a novel. At the time, I was going through a tough period with an undiagnosed illness which meant I could barely walk. Writing was an escape, a way of moving beyond the walls of my immobility – but in the process, I discovered that this was quite simply what I wanted to do.

Pitch your latest book to the world at large in less than 100 words.

If you like a multi-layered psychological tale with twists and dark undertones, a story which explores the power of secrets, the forces that shape our sense of personal identity, the grey areas that flow between the boundaries of relationships, try Yellow Room, a novel set in England and Kenya, with a poignant insight into the reality of poverty and the post-election crisis of 2008 that took over a thousand lives.

How important is your setting? (time and place)

A big chunk of Yellow Room is set in Kenya, where I was living on a flower farm by Lake Naivasha in 2008, when the country was shaken to the core by the crisis that killed over a thousand people and turned more than half a million into refugees in their own country. In some ways, the book could have been set anywhere, as the themes are universal, and yet Kenya plays an integral part in the story. Chala’s experiences here – the orphanage, the post-election violence, the landscape, the people – all of this interacts with and impacts on her own personal drama and the decisions she makes. I think of Kenya not just as a setting but more like a character who influences the story of who she is and who she becomes. And the depth of my own emotional connection to Kenya, where my father is buried and my mother still lives, made it very easy to choose this lovely, complex country as the backdrop for Chala’s own personal journey. It also felt important to share the human perspective, beyond the media and propaganda, of the events I lived through during the post-election crisis. Kenya nurses its own secrets; these are still playing out with many of the same players, in an atmosphere of tension and uncertainty, with the re-run of disputed elections due at the end of this month.

What aspects of writing to do you find the most tricky?

Two things. First, finding time to do it! I have a full-time job and it’s hard combining this with my all or nothing approach to writing. And then, the monkey who sits in judgement on your shoulder if you let it, threatening to paralyse you by casting doubt on everything you write. I am very aware that I need to keep this monkey at bay, at least until I reread what I’ve written.

Do you have a typical writing day?

I dream about a typical writing day! I would rise early and swim in a tropical sea and eat mangos with black coffee, then settle down to a morning of writing on a veranda. Fresh fish and coconut for lunch (and just one glass of cold white wine!), more writing, and then yoga or a long walk in the sand in the company of a dear friend. Actually, I did this once for a week with a writing friend in Kenya – we rented a house on the coast and it was absolutely glorious. Now, living in Spain and juggling a full-time job, I still love to carve out writing weeks or days, when I can get completely lost in it – and I always write in front of a window, the metaphorical equivalent of a veranda in Kenya.

Is there one subject you would never write about as an author?

I love pushing the boundaries through my writing and exploring silent truths we avoid in everyday life, so I don’t really think of any subjects as taboo. The one area I am very reticent about is anything I think might hurt or be difficult for someone close, so I tend to avoid directly autobiographical stuff. Of course, I draw on personal experience and whatever I write comes from somewhere inside me and my life, but it mutates in the process. I love Alexandra Fuller’s writing, (e.g. Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, and Leaving Before the Rains Come) and I admire her blatant honesty, but I cannot imagine putting my marriage under a public microscope for example.

Naming characters: do you choose? or do the names come fully formed with the character?

Interesting question. My main character in Yellow Room is called Chala, after a lake in Kenya, and this just came to me when the idea for the book was born – in fact my working title had her name in it at first. I don’t think I consciously choose when I am naming characters; the names just seem to suit them (for all sorts of subconscious reasons and connotations I’m sure!), and sometimes I even have to change a name, if as I keep writing the character, it just doesn’t seem to fit.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing, and does it come in useful for your stories?

When I’m not writing (or working or reading), I like to spend time in nature or with friends. In nature I love walking, swimming, yoga and meditation. With friends, I love wine and good food, laughter, dancing, and thoughtful debate. I’m also part of a cultural association in Spain which raises awareness and challenges the status quo, through a combination of art and debate about some of the burning questions of our times. And I have recently started guitar lessons – my teacher is a humble but amazing flamenco guitarist and I am an embarrassingly bad student, but I love it. Does any of this come in useful for my stories? Well, I think anything that ‘disconnects’ us connects us in another way, freeing up and feeding our creativity and I think that creativity, like wilderness, is a need of the human spirit. So, yes, in a way, all these things nurture my writing.

Do you have music playing when you write? What are your tracks of choice?

In Spain, I often write just to the sound of cicadas in the cactus and bougainvillea outside my window and I love that – it’s almost a trance-like kind of music. In Kenya, I love the silence and birdsong of writing on my mother’s veranda. Otherwise, if I am writing indoors, I will often have classical music or Spanish guitar playing gently in the background.

What are you currently reading?

One of the books I am reading at the moment is Border by Kapka Kassabova, which explores the stories of forgotten people living on the scarred borderlands of Bulgaria, Turkey and Greece. The inside cover describes it as ‘a fascinating meditation on the borderlines that exist between countries, between cultures, between people, and within each of us’. It’s not a novel but there is something haunting about the way it is written – and the subject matter is peculiarly poignant at a time of fragmentation and the search for identity that we are experiencing across Europe in current times.

You have travelled a lot, do you have a favourite place/country?

Mmm, a hard question. There are certain countries that are emotional orbits in my life, all places I have lived in: Kenya, England, Spain, Argentina, Australia. The three that are in active orbit now are Spain, where I live in an unusually cosmopolitan and artistic village that has been in my life for over 30 years; England, where I have close friends and make frequent visits for work; and Kenya, where my extraordinary mother lives in a log cabin near Lake Naivasha and I visit whenever I can. The Spanish village I live in, once a thriving gold mine, is in a national park in Andalucía on a beautiful patch of wild volcanic coastline – and this feeds my soul. I love walking in the hills or on the cliffs – and I love the freedom too of not needing to worry about buffalos or hippos as I do on walks with my mother in Kenya! To be honest, the contrast and the back and forth between these three places suits me: I am a happy misfit in all three!

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