thinking small to enjoy the wonder of literature

Books. They’ve been around for everyone since about 1450 when Gutenberg invented the printing press. Almost overnight, instead of hearing the local vicar’s opinion of how the world worked, we started finding out for ourselves. Forever after, the best mystery novels of all time were no longer about heaven and hell and how to pick the right box. The Age of Enlightenment had begun. And never stopped.

The Enlightenment reminds me of the Buddhist funeral ceremony where the bereaved pours water into a cup, letting it overflow until the jug is empty…

Clara is Katy’s gifted Eurasian daughter and travels the world as a celebrated piano virtuoso known as the Jade Princess.

Clara’s musical performance is at the Pleyel Concert Hall in Paris and is itself the end of another story — a promise kept by two generations of Yehonalas to an old man who listens enraptured to Clara’s music.

The novel, The Diary of Katy Yehonala is a story of love as well as a love story. Three generations of amazing women face their personal demons and stand strong and proud against the challenges their tumultuous country throws against them.

- a conversation on kindness to fictional heroes

Having this discussion with Katy was very difficult, and not just for the obvious reason you might think. The conversation was hard because I don’t think she always agreed with me about what was in her best interest. Writers of multicultural novels and romances who overlook cultural differences do so at their peril.

Anyway, here’s the interview with Katy about The Diary of Katy Yehonala and you can see for yourself how unreasonable Katy can be. We’re talking about heroes in multicultural novels, or I was trying to…

Katy: First of all…

- changing times for ethnically and sexually-diverse writers

Amazon’s top-twenty best-seller list in the romance genre doesn’t exactly sparkle with heady tales of multicultural romances. Sci-fi romance is on the list, but I wasn’t so much thinking of love affairs between blue aliens with horns and nubile females, though its popularity ought to at least give a hint of a reader’s desire for stories other than between two white heterosexuals.

Nor do their titles feature gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender people as romantic protagonists. They are more the vanilla flavour; we’ll get to the Neapolitan, same-sex multicultural romances later. …

– Walking in the Footsteps of Family Ghosts

In this last of the “trilogy” of short stories of the Dowager Empress Cixi, it’s time to take a look at the legacy of this remarkable woman. And, naturally enough for me, how her make-believe descendants, Katy and Clara Yehonala, found their way into my own consciousness as my amazing, but equally flawed heroes, who are setting off to change the world. Or a small part of it anyway.

Firstly, back to the good, or not so good, Dowager Empress Cixi Yehonala. We’re people of our times and Cixi Yehonala was especially…

- Robert Barclay recounts a tale of magnificent Empires that will never be seen again

Born a year apart, Dowager Empress Cixi Yehonala and Queen Victoria both died at the turn of the twentieth century. These two women ruled over more than half the world’s people for more than fifty years. At the end of their lives their two empires were soon gone, brought down by their own hands.

The two women could not have been more different, either in their achievements or outlooks, quite irrespective of their ethnicity. Yet it’s Alexandrina Victoria von Wettin, née Hanover, better known as Queen Victoria, Empress of India, we know best. Most of us learnt at school how…

- the coming of age of wonder books

Don’t we all treasure those romantic fantasies created in the world of our imagination? For some, it’s making love scandalously in the surf like Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr, for others being seduced by, or seducing, a handsome rogue while Charleston burns down around you. Or, you may be the type clinging to memories as you’re torn away from your lover at a foggy airport in wartime Casablanca. Closer to home, who doesn’t like a trip down memory lane to that B&B where you fell in love once upon a time…

I wonder if our world is drowning in the…

- Robert Barclay begins a three part review of “Empress Orchid”

The year was 1851. A pretty sixteen-year-old Manchu girl named Miss Chao, who was destined to become the redoubtable Dowager Empress Cixi Yehonala, entered through the Gate of Divine Prowess into the Forbidden City in Beijing. She started life as a lowly concubine to the Xianfeng Emperor of the Qing Dynasty.

When the gates of the Forbidden City closed behind Miss Chao, she shut out a busy world filled with family, friends, fun, shopping at the vibrant markets, and a budding romance, to be locked within the limits of…

Robert Barclay

When not writing novels, I strive heroically to master classical piano and a nice shiraz, but not always in that order.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store