2013 Debut Author Interview: Cinders and Sapphires by Leila Rasheed

Welcome to Debut Author Leila Rasheed

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.


What is one book everyone should read?

A book I recommend to pretty much everyone and massively admire is Love That Dog by Sharon Creech. It’s simple, funny, sad, beautiful, and all in what must be less than 10,000 words. It’s the only verse novel I’ve ever read that’s also a poetry novel.

Please tell us in one sentence only, why we should read your book.

Because it’s great fun and perfect comfort reading for one of those days you just want to spend under the duvet.

Any other books in the works? Goals for future projects?

I’m working on a sequel to the first Somerton book, plus two more titles in the Witch of Turlingham Academy series that I write under the name Ellie Boswell, plus a middle grade supernatural suspense novel of my own. And many, many more ideas in the pipe-line!

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.

It has to be getting letters from children who read my first book, Chips Beans and Limousines, and wrote to tell me they loved it.

If you could jump in to a book and live in that world, which would it be?

The Lord of the Rings. I read the trilogy when I was a teenager and was overwhelmed by it. The films are fun, but they don’t do it justice – they are too literal and focus too much on action scenes.

What’s one piece of advice you would give aspiring authors?

Be proud of everything you achieve and don’t be discouraged. Also be prepared to listen to advice from expert readers, and expect the process of growth to hurt. 

How did you know you should become an author?
Because I wasn’t happy or fulfilled doing anything else.

Who are your favorite authors of all time?

Many, many. Authors I love include Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Herge, J R Tolkein, Lucy M Boston, Joan Aiken, Tove Janson.

Can you see yourself in any of your characters?

In the second Somerton Book, Rose is a fish out of water in a world where she doesn’t know the rules and doesn’t know how to fit in. I felt like that a lot of the time when I was a teenager. I think lots of people who end up being writers do feel like that – the odd one out.

How do you react to a bad review?
They’re upsetting, of course, but I try not to dwell on them.

If you were President for a day,what is the first thing you would do?


What one item would you eat for the rest of your life?

Chickpeas! In hummus, in salad, in curry, or just straight from the jar.

Scariest moment?
Having to read from my own writing for the first time in front of an audience. It was a requirement of a creative writing module I took, and it was an excellent requirement because it helped me get over the fear and now – after a lot of experience – I quite enjoy it. If anyone reading this has the same problem, there are two tips 1) Read much, much more slowly than you think you need to. 2) Look up from the page, at the audience, as much as you can. And remember, nothing bad is going to happen. You’re not going to faint or make a fool of yourself. No-one is going to laugh. Everyone in the audience is on your side. Breathe deeply and calmly and go for it!

Favorite restaurant?
La Cigale in Brussels, Belgium, where I used to work as a bookseller. It’s just a good, solid neighbourhood restaurant that does great steaks.

If you were not a writer, what would you like to do?

Something that involves physical activity and travelling – being a writer you’re basically stuck at a computer all day, that’s the downside of it. I’d love to have been an archaeologist.

Are you for or against books being made into movies?

It suits some books, usually plot-driven ones. When the main strength of a book is the prose rather than the plot, it’s hard to convey that in movie format. I don’t aspire to have my books made into movies  – if it happens that’s nice, but it’s not my ultimate aim. My ultimate aim is for it to be a good book.

What drives you insane about the writing process?

That it takes so long. I need three lifetimes to get everything done!

Cinders and Sapphires by Leila Rasheed

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.

Cinders and Sapphires will be released on January 22nd by Disney-Hyperion