Friday Night Drinks with…Aruna Vasudevan of The Literary Shed

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Tonight I am really thrilled to be joined on the blog for Friday Night Drinks by editor, writer and blogger….Aruna Vasudevan of The Literary Shed.

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Welcome, Aruna, and thank you so much for taking the time to chat to me this evening. First things first, what are you drinking?

A chilled glass of dry rosé would be lovely. What would you like?

I always find a gin and tonic relaxing on a Friday evening. If we weren’t here in my virtual bar tonight, but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?

Ah, Brasserie Zédel in Piccadilly. It’s a favourite. Great fun and beautiful inside. It was once part of the grand Regent Palace Hotel. In the 1930s, Oliver Percy Bernard redesigned its interiors and it was described as ‘just a trifle dissipated and naughty, but not sufficiently so to be vulgar’! Wonderful!

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That looks fabulous, I will add it to be my list of ‘must visit’ places for once we can get out and about again. If you could invite two famous people, one male and one female, alive or dead, along on our night out, who would we be drinking with?

Maya Angelou, because she’d be great fun – and she was the first writer who made me feel it was great to be female and Other, and Spike Lee, because he’s fascinating, a great, challenging filmmaker and I suspect is extremely funny. Humour’s important.

This poem, by Maya Angelou, is one of my favourites, and it is special to hear her reading it herself, so I’d love to share this with you and your readers if I may:

That is wonderful, and so moving to hear given current events, so thank you for sharing that with us.

So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. What have you got going on? How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

As well as being a book doctor, I make literary pure essential-oil based products, evoking the scents of books I love. I started with room fragrances, something to do that was creative and which could benefit others, as some of the proceeds go to charity. During Lockdown, to stop myself going slightly insane, I came up with a range of literary associated Castile soap products. I’m really delighted with them and use them myself. I have very soft hands! I’ve been dropping them on benches on the seafront where I now live, getting friends to test them! The feedback has been brilliant so I’ll start selling those soon. I’d planned to also make diffusers but that’s been delayed because of Lockdown.

How wonderful, I love scented candles. I will have to grab the limited edition one before they are all gone. What has been your proudest moment since you started writing/blogging and what has been your biggest challenge?

Setting up two writing circles, a local one, The Literary Shed Writing Circle, which meets (in normal times) weekly and is a supportive network for writers of all levels, and Pomegranate, which is an international virtual circle. Through both, I’ve met some wonderfully talented people and made some great friends. 

What is the one big thing you’d like to achieve in your chosen arena? Be as ambitious as you like, it’s just us talking after all!

 To write and publish something I am totally proud of, and for others to see it for what it is.

What are you currently working on that you are really excited about?

A novel set on a mythical island, paying more than a nod to the Golden Age of crime-fiction, in which race, colonialism, gender and the Other are themes. There are some rather lovely pink flamingos, too. Workwise, I’ve just finished editing a rather wonderful volume, The Gifts of Reading, with essays by Candice Carty-Williams, Philip Pullman, William Boyd, Robert Macfarlane and so many more great writers. That was a joy.

That sounds fantastic, I look forward to seeing that when it is published. I love to travel, and I’m currently drawing up a bucket list of things I’d like to do in the future. Where is your favourite place that you’ve been and what do you have at the top of your bucket list?

Favourite place, there are so many – a houseboat on Lake Dal, Kashmir. That was pretty special. Bucket list, I’ve always wanted to go to Ethiopia. I think that would be amazing on so many levels.

Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself that people might not know about you.

In my early twenties, I stepped on Maya Angelou’s foot in The Algonquin. She was a personal hero. I was wearing extremely high, spiky-heeled boots and was utterly mortified. She laughed, sat me down, bought me a drink and was terribly kind. That’s a sparkling moment.

That might be the best anecdote I have heard in this section. It even beats my Joan Collins story! Books are my big passion and central to my blog and I’m always looking for recommendations. What one book would you give me and recommend as a ‘must-read’?

Every year I buy myself a birthday present from my late mama, who died when I was in my early twenties. This year it was Charlie Mackesy’s utterly gorgeous The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and the Horse. The message is simple but so beautifully done and the illustrations stellar. I’d put it up there with Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince, which is one of my favourite books and I give to people at the drop of a hat.  

Enter the world of Charlie’s four unlikely friends, discover their story and their most important life lessons.

The conversations of the boy, the mole, the fox and the horse have been shared thousands of times online, recreated in school art classes, hung on hospital walls and turned into tattoos. In Charlie’s first book, you will find his most-loved illustrations and some new ones too.

I love this book so much, I gave copies as presents to some of my closest friends at Christmas. So, we’ve been drinking all evening. What is your failsafe plan to avoid a hangover and your go-to cure if you do end up with one?

Before, milk thistle. And after, if I have one, #waterwaterwater, then scrambled eggs with dill and a hit of chilli on very thin, dark rye toast. Then sleep. A lot of sleep.

After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?

A long bath with a tincture of my ‘The Holding of Memories’ essential oils’ mix (lemongrass, vetiver and black pepper), a pile of great books and long lazy lunches/suppers with loved ones, then walks by the sea.

That really does sound like the perfect weekend. Aruna, this has been an absolute pleasure, thank you so much for spending the evening with me.

Aruna is really lucky to work with words on a daily basis and they inform every part of her life, through her work as a book editor, which is an honour, as it’s a privilege to be able to help shape words, encourage voices and develop stories, to the Library of Scents, the 100% pure essential-oil based fragrances she makes. They evoke the landscape of books she loves (currently A Room of One’s Own (Virginia Woolf’s essay, the basis of her company The Literary Shed: organic rose, lavender, oakmoss); The Holding of Memories (The God of Small Things, for her mama who’s from Kerala: vetiver, black pepper, lemongrass); The Sweetest Hour (Jane Eyre: rose geranium, organic jasmine, cedarwood); and Tea with Alice (Alice in Wonderland: bergamot, lime, cypress)). They’re available (in normal times) through some independent boutiques, and also directly from her online (www.theliteraryshed.co.uk); a percentage of sales go to a women’s and literacy charity each year, both important to her late, fantastic mama. She’s also a writer and is working away on an old school thriller, with modern themes, set on an island off the transatlantic slave trade route, in which a serial killer, Eranko, the Beast, operates. It deals with race, identity and nature vs nurture. She’s very excited by that. Lockdown, while challenging for all of us, has proved a particularly creative time, for which she’s extremely thankful.

You can find out more about Aruna and her projects via her website, Facebook,  Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. #blacklivesmatter

Next week I will be joined by author, Jill Marsh, so please do join us then.

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