Today I am very pleased to welcome Joanne Baird to my blog 🙂
Joanne very kindly agreed to answer 20 random questions from you lovely people. (A big thanks to all who sent a question!)
I am a married mum of two teenagers and live in Portobello, which is by the sea in Edinburgh. I’m a book lover (obviously!) and a keen cook and baker (I love the Bake Off!). I love that I live in a city but can see the sea from my window and can be in the countryside in about ten minutes. You can find me wittering on about books on Twitter @portybelle, on my blog portobellobookblog.com and on my Facebook blogpage https://www.facebook.com/portobellobookblog/
What started your love for reading?
I can’t remember not reading. I used to go to the library with my dad every week when I was little and couldn’t get enough of books. I remember being very excited when I was old enough to get a ticket for the main part of the library, not just the children’s section, and had access to a whole new range of books.
What books did you read as a teenager?
As I was moving from children’s fiction to more ‘grown-up’ choices, I remember absolutely loving the Virginia Andrews Flowers in the Attic series. I always think I must go back to re-read and see if I would still enjoy them. I had a bit of a phase of reading horror books, which I never read now, and read a lot of Stephen King and James Herbert. I also read lots of the Sweet Dreams series of books which were romances for teenagers.
How does living where you do affect your reading choices?
I’m not sure it affects it too much except that I do love reading books set in Edinburgh. I suppose like most people, I find it adds an extra depth when I know exactly where the action is taking place. I do also enjoy books where the sea is strongly featured.
What is the one classic book you haven’t read yet, but wish you had?
I haven’t read much Dickens and feel I should but I am going to choose Persuasion by Jane Austen. I would describe myself as a huge Austen fan but haven’t read this one.
Sue Shepherd would like to know what food you are going to make for her when she comes to admire your sea view?
Is she coming for a three course meal? We’d start with scallops and chorizo with some salad, then we’d have fillet steak in a red wine jus, with asparagus and dauphinoise potatoes. And for dessert I’d probably make a raspberry and chocolate cheesecake. I hope she’s not vegetarian! (WOW, can I come too?)
What sort of book would you write yourself (or maybe already going to write)?
People often ask if I would write a book since I read so much but being honest, I have no ideas! I’d be worried that I’d be influenced by the many books I’ve read. If I did come up with an idea I expect it would be some kind of contemporary fiction. Or I might write about something inspired by my family history research. There are so many interesting stories in my family, as there are in every family, that I’m sure I could find a story somewhere. One which particularly fascinates me is a great great great great grandmother who committed suicide in 1859 on the same day one of her daughters gave birth to an illegitimate child. It would love to have known the circumstances and if there was a connection between them.
What’s your favourite TV programme?
I can’t choose only one, although actually I don’t watch much tv! Programmes I’ve enjoyed recently are The Great British Bake Off, Strictly Come Dancing, QI, House of Cards, Fargo and Poldark.
What makes you choose a book? Cover? Blurb? Author? And tell us a little more about why?
It can be a bit of all these things really but the main thing is definitely the blurb. A cover can be deceiving both ways. It could look great but be disappointing or it could look a bit dull but be a fantastic story. Although I would of course look at books by authors I’ve read before, I’ve read some amazing debut novels too. So it’s definitely the blurb for me.
What’s your favourite foodie book (fiction or non-fiction)?
I’ll give you one of each. My favourite non-fiction foodie book is The Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson. I have all her books but this is my favourite and very well used. My two favourite recipes from it never fail and are always complimented: lemon drizzle cake and banana bread.
My favourite fiction foodie book is probably The Wedding Officer by Anthony Capella. It’s about a young British military officer in Italy who is supposed to be discouraging the allied soldiers from marrying local girls. The local girls have other ideas though and one of them becomes his cook. Love blossoms between them and there is a lot of passion! The food descriptions are mouthwatering and so sensual as well.
How do you relax in your spare time (if you have any)?
I read of course! On holiday I love going for walks through forests and by streams.
What’s the best thing about being a Scottish blogger (or do you feel more like a blogger of the world)?
The best thing has been connecting with lots of Scottish authors who I probably wouldn’t have come across if I hadn’t started my blog. Lots of meet-ups or book events take place in London, Leeds or Birmingham which are really too far for me to get to easily. Even though I can get there by train, unless I buy tickets way in advance it’s really expensive. And it would take a long time to get there which means making arrangements for childcare too. So I set up a Facebook group for authors and bloggers who might be able to get to Edinburgh occasionally and we have met a couple of times now. It has been lovely to make these connections and I’ve now read and reviewed quite a few of the author members’ books. Sao I feel I’ve been able to spread the word a bit about their work too.
How do you feel about Nicola Sturgeon?
Ah, diplomatic answer required! I tend to steer clear of politics on social media. I agree with a lot of the policies the Scottish Government have but not all of them. She is very popular in Scotland and I think she is a very talented politician.
What’s it like living in such a popular setting for books?
This is quite hard to answer because I’ve always lived in Edinburgh and know it’s a wonderful place! So it seems quite natural that authors set their books here. As I mentioned above, I do enjoy reading books set here. One of the Rebus books had him investigating a murder in Portobello and I think I worked out that it was probably in a house just round the corner from me! Portobello itself features in quite a few books such as Alison Baillie’s Sewing the Shadows Together and Doug Johnstone’s Gone Again.
What keeps you awake at night?
Nothing. I’m one of these people who has no problem dropping off at night. In fact, and especially at this time of year when it’s dark in the morning, I have more problems waking up!
Can you sell me your favourite book in six words?
Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks – emotional, sensual, powerful, hard-hitting, romantic, unforgettable.
If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be and what would you be doing?
I would be in Perthshire admiring the beautiful Autumn colours and going for a walk either at the Hermitage near Dunkeld or Killiekrankie. Then if I could stay at the Crieff Hydro with a swim in their gorgeous pool and have a massage, that would be a perfect way to round off the day.
Which five books would you take with you on a desert island and why?
Birdsong – as mentioned above, it’s my favourite book ever. It’s a beautiful, passionate love story but at the same time a powerful look at the futility of war.
Is there a Complete Works of Dickens? – I could take that as I would no doubt have time to finally read some. I suspect it would need to be on Kindle as it would be massive otherwise. Now all I need is for someone to invent a solar-powered Kindle….
Sense & Sensibility – it’s my favourite Jane Austen book and I’ve re-read it loads of times.
Gone With the Wind – I’ve always loved the story of feisty Scarlett and her disastrous love-life. I saw the film first and was surprised when I read the book to find how many differences there were. For example, she had children with all her husbands not just Rhett. An early lesson in how book and film versions often differ.
How to Thrive on a Tropical Deserted Island by Mike Riley – well, I’ve got to be practical!
Cheese or chocolate?
Which character in any novel would you like to be?
I have this as the final question in my set of author or blogger spotlight questions and have enjoyed reading everyone’s answers. When I answered the questions myself, I chose Elinor from Sense & Sensibility and I think I’d stick with her. It takes a while and a lot of heartache but her kindness and sensitivity wins out in the end and she gets her happy ending. I would like to be her in the Emma Thompson film version, though, so I can admire all the lovely men in that cast!
If you had 5 minutes with Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton, what would you like to say to them?
I’m answering this after the rather surprise result that America has elected Donald Trump! I rather fear that this would be a waste of time but I would urge him to please do something about gun control in his country. Far too often we hear about tragedies in the news due to what seems to be very lax gun ownership laws. Given all the racist and sexist things he has said during the campaign, I’d also probably want to try to convince him how wrong he is!
Thank you so much for joining in with my #AskMeAnything feature, Joanne 🙂
*If you’d like join in, please feel free to email me – firstname.lastname@example.org*