Blog Tour: Q&A with Leila Rasheed, Author of Cinders & Sapphires

Today Leila Rasheed, author of Cinders & Sapphires, has stopped by Nawanda Files for an awesome interview! Read more about the novel below and then jump down for the interview!

Cinders & Sapphires
by Leila Rasheed
Series: At Somerton #1
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Release Date: January 22nd, 2013

One house, two worlds...

Rose Cliffe has never met a young lady like her new mistress. Clever, rich, and beautiful, Ada Averley treats Rose as an equal. And Rose could use a friend. Especially now that she, at barely sixteen, has risen to the position of ladies’ maid. Rose knows she should be grateful to have a place at a house like Somerton. Still, she can’t help but wonder what her life might have been had she been born a lady, like Ada.

For the first time in a decade, the Averleys have returned to Somerton, their majestic ancestral estate. But terrible scandal has followed Ada’s beloved father all the way from India. Now Ada finds herself torn between her own happiness and her family’s honor. Only she has the power to restore the Averley name—but it would mean giving up her one true love . . . someone she could never persuade her father to accept.

Sumptuous and enticing, the first novel in the At Somerton series introduces two worlds, utterly different yet entangled, where ruthless ambition, forbidden attraction, and unspoken dreams are hidden behind dutiful smiles and glittering jewels. All those secrets are waiting . . . at Somerton.


Nawanda Files: What inspired you to write Cinders & Sapphires
Leila Rasheed: Someone once said ‘I write only when I am inspired and I make sure I am inspired at nine o’clock every morning.’ In this case the publisher inspired me to write Cinders and Sapphires: Emily Meehan at Hyperion  suggested it to Sarah Davies at The Greenhouse, Sarah suggested it to me, and I thought it sounded like  fun!

Who was your favorite character to write? 
Sebastian was a lot of fun.

Cinders & Sapphires is set in early 1900s England. What drew you to this historical time period?
Again, the initial impetus came from the publisher. However, it is a truly fascinating period. Have a look at this photo of an art magazine.
When would you say it dates from? 1980s, maybe? No – 1914.  The same period as this car.
As you can see, the period was full of change. Moving pictures, electricity, yet at the same time a massive divide between rich and poor. In 1914 the second Duke of Westminster had an income of £1000 a day (my source is Cannadine, David: Lords and Landlords: The Aristocracy and the Towns  1774 – 1967). Not year, day. In 1910, a maid of all work might have earned £13 - £18 per year.

( )Not day, year. These are today’s global imbalances, in a single country. Of course we still have the very rich in Britain, and some very poor, but things are less extreme. This was a world on the brink of tipping into the modern age, balancing on the fulcrum of a century that began in 1860 and ended in 1960. That makes it a very interesting time to write and read about.

Did you do any particular research for the book?
Lots. These are some of the books I read:
The Perfect Summer by Juliet Nicholson
Life Below Stairs in the Victorian and Edwardian Country House by Sian Evans
Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey by the Countess of Carnavon.

And some of the TV and films:
Downton Abbey (of course!)
The Edwardian Country House, an amazing reality series which I think also went out on PBS.
Electric Edwardians, the films of Mitchell and Kenyon. Real actual film of real people from the Downton era. Amazing.

The book has two leading ladies: Rose Cliffe and Lady Ada Averly. Which girl did you connect with most?
It’s hard to say. I admire Ada’s pride and her determination. Rose is just coming into her own in this book, but in Book 2 she takes centre stage and shows us who she really is.

Like BBC’s Downton Abbey, Cinders & Sapphires has all the juicy drama of the Upstairs and Downstairs. Are you team Upstairs or Downstairs at Somerton ?
I have to be Team Downstairs. My grandmother was in service, just as a maid of all work in a very small house.

Playlists for novels are becoming more popular. Did you write with music? And what song do you think best encapsulates Cinders & Sapphires?
No, I didn’t. I’ve never made a playlist for a book, in fact. But it’s definitely something I’d try in the future. The best fitting piece of music is probably something very English and classical, maybe something by Edward Elgar.

If you could describe Cinders & Sapphires in three words, what would they be?
Champagne bitter chocolate. (This is also a suggestion of what to eat and drink while reading it).

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Read widely and analyse what you read to see why it works. How did the writer make you feel suspense, terror, joy, excitement? How did he or she make you laugh? And just keep on working hard and trying to improve and sending submissions out. Persistence will pay off in the end.

Cinders & Sapphires is an amazing book, one full of juicy drama of the historical time period! I can't wait for the next installment of the At Somerton series, and I'll be sure to take Rasheed's advice next time and read it with some champagne and bitter chocolate ;)  

About the Author

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Leila Rasheed has gained an MA in both Children's Literature and Creative Writing. She started work at Reading Is Fundamental, a children's literacy charity, before moving to Belgium. Leila now works as the children's bookseller for Waterstone's in Brussels.

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