“The Second Mango” (Interview With The Author)

Today, I’m taking a break from blogging boobs, bras, and body image to discuss another topic that I love: books. And something I love more than just books? Queer, feminist, fantasy books.

So, color me surprised when the lovely Shira Glassman dropped a line in my inbox, informing me that she had written just that. Would I like to feature her book on my blog? Hell yes! Would she, in return, be willing to answer a few “Ask The Author” questions for me? Another resounding “yes!” and this post was born.

Now, you’re probably wondering. A queer, feminist, fantasy book? Does such a thing exist? Enter: The Second Mango.

The Second Mango by Shira Glassman

The Second Mango by Shira Glassman

Queen Shulamit never expected to inherit the throne of the tropical land of Perach so young. At twenty, grief-stricken and fatherless, she’s also coping with being the only lesbian she knows after her sweetheart ran off for an unknown reason. Not to mention, she’s the victim of severe digestive problems that everybody think she’s faking. When she meets Rivka, an athletic and assertive warrior from the north who wears a mask and pretends to be a man, she finds the source of strength she needs so desperately. Unfortunately for her, Rivka is straight, but that’s okay — Shulamit needs a surrogate big sister just as much as she needs a girlfriend. Especially if the warrior’s willing to take her around the kingdom on the back of her dragon in search of other women who might be open to same-sex romance. The real world outside the palace is full of adventure, however, and the search for a royal girlfriend quickly turns into a rescue mission when they discover a temple full of women turned to stone by an evil sorcerer.

Intrigued yet? 

Courtesy of Shira Glassman

Courtesy of Shira Glassman

I had the opportunity to have a virtual sit-down with Ms. Glassman, who happily answered a few questions for me.

1. As a writer myself, I always want to get to know the brains behind the characters! Tell me about yourself! What made you want to start writing and what (this one I find is my most common problem) keeps you at it? 

The simplest answer is that I write when I love something with all my heart and it still leaves me wanting and feeling a little hungry. If I didn’t love it so much, it wouldn’t matter that it doesn’t satisfy all my wishes. I guess that’s the way I felt about fairy tales and fantasy/adventure stories–I love the magic and wonder, I love the dragons and the fancy clothing and fabulous buildings and messages about conquering adversity and finding love–but I don’t love being left out completely. There were no fairy tales with LGBTQ+ characters when I was growing up, and so for years I longed to write a fairy tale with a lesbian princess. I also grew up around a million stories of knights fighting dragons to rescue princesses, and I wanted, instead, for the dragon to be the good guy. In my story the knight and her dragon team up to rescue the “princess” (really a young queen who hasn’t stepped properly into her role yet) from herself.
My mind is an overactive storyteller, and that’s what keeps me writing. I’m happiest when I’m making up new things, fussing over details, figuring out what happens next. Writing scenes with characters I already love, such as those I’ve created for The Second Mango, is like getting to hang out with them, or getting to “play with my dolls”. That’s why there’s a sequel, Climbing the Date Palm, due out next July — and a third book that’s only six chapters in. I just really like my characters and didn’t want to leave them be!
 2. Your book is definitely one of a kind! Feminist literature, with varying sexual orientations and a fantasy byline. What inspired you to write this particular tale? 

I think it was a way of playing dress-up with real life–I’m bisexual and Jewish, and my spouse has a gluten problem. All these things are a constant presence in our lives, so I wanted to write my feelings about same-sex romance and culturally Jewish themes and “not having one’s allergies taken seriously”, but I wanted to write them against the background of swordfighting and wizards and magic potions (and, of course, the dragon) that doesn’t usually include people whose problems and hopes and dreams and joys are just like ours. We’re worthy of those adventures, too!
As for the feminist angle — that was also very important to me. I believe very firmly in women supporting each other and all standing up for each other. Often, the feminist answer to fairy tales is that the damsel in distress should rescue herself. In my version, I show a woman being rescued by another woman. It’s not unfeminist to need to be rescued from time to time, and rescuing someone else is a very cool sign of empowerment, if you ask me. I also just really wanted to write about relationships between women in general–not just romance, but also friendship, or just any interaction that doesn’t involve fighting over a male character. The sci-fi and fantasy and superhero epics central to our culture have a tendency to feature one amazing female character mixed with a troupe of men. It leaves her unable to have significant on-screen interactions with other women.
 3. From what I can tell, your first book is having some pretty positive successes. Any plans on writing more? (This is the part where I say “Please, please, please do! The world needs more queer feminist reading material!) If so, is there anything you can share about your next project?
The sequel, Climbing the Date Palm, is due out in July 2014, also from Prizm Books. The summary:
Queen Shulamit is eager to help Kaveh, the youngest prince of a neighboring country, when his father throws his engineer boyfriend in jail for leading his workers in protest over underpaid wages. But if she can’t find a peaceful solution that will keep everybody happy, the two countries could wind up at war.
Where the first book is very much a friendship story focused on personal growth, the second book is a bit political in that it takes a stand in favor of worker’s rights. My spouse is a labor activist and I’ve been jokingly referring to the second book as “Occupy Fairyland.” I also get more into bisexual visibility in the second book, which has two bisexual characters front and center, including Prince Kaveh.
I love it. I love, love, love it. Feminism? Bisexual visibility?! Be still my beating heart! Ms. Glassman is truly touching on topics that are either glazed over or ignored altogether in the modern literary world. If the storyline sneak-peek doesn’t grab you, the lovely woman that we’ve had the opportunity to get to know should. Shira Glassman is a passionate author, with a keen understanding of her subject matter, and an obvious love for the characters she has created. She is a new voice in writing–a voice that has something to say, and a voice we should take the time to listen to. Still not convinced? Take a look at the first few pages, available on Amazon. There, you can pick up your own copy for Kindle, or grab it directly from the publisher here!  Want to know more about the brains behind the book,? Check out Shira Glassman’s blog!

Hello, Harlow!

Ever since the preview images from Harlow & Fox hit the lingerie circuit, my salivary glands have been working overtime.

In fact, I think it’s safe to say that any woman with functioning eyes and an interest in lingerie would be mopping drool from around their computers after eying up that sneak-peek. Being a wildly nosy blogger wonderfully caring blogger, I decided to reach out to the lovely Leanna Williams, brainchild behind the brand, to see if she would be willing to answer a few questions:

“Please, pretty please, may I have an interview?” I asked.

And the answer was: yes!

While our virtual-interview actually took place on my end from a messy hotel room, I like to imagine that we (eager to embody the class of the brand) were actually sitting in a quaint French Cafe, sipping mimosas in the warm late-morning sunshine.
(This is my interview, so we’ll do it my way.)

As the waitress sails by with a tray of croissants and another round of chilled drinks, we get down to business:

Tell us about you! Every line has a brainchild behind it, and I love knowing more about the “person behind the curtain”, so to speak. What are your interests? Have you always had an interest in lingerie and design?

“I’ve always loved design in all it’s forms, and would probably be an interior designer if I wasn’t making lingerie – when I imagine a new lingerie creation, I always imagine the room around it as well, and my mood boards are always full of the places and interiors I can picture the Harlow & Fox woman wearing the pieces! Pinterest has been my utter downfall with this, I have to ration my time on there as it could just be an endless journey into image after image of exquisite things otherwise! As with many designers, I’ve always had a love for vintage fashion, and the walls of my office as well as my wardrobe are adorned with beautiful vintage dresses and nightwear pieces I’ve collected along the years. I love to think of the stories they could tell.”

Harlow & Fox

Eleanor in Almond

Maybe it’s my own vivid imagination, but I like to think that every designer has a “light-bulb moment”, where it hits them that they need to create–and see their creation come to fruition. What was your “lightbulb moment” that lead to the birth of Harlow&Fox?

“I was re-fitted at Rigby & Peller in 2011, and discovered an entire new world of bras I hadn’t been expecting once I was no longer in the below-DD size range. I had always loved lingerie, and felt even though there were so many brands out there creating incredible DD+ options, what I wanted to find still seemed to be missing. It coincided with being made redundant from my job, as a registrar of marriages – a rather unusual career path! It just felt like the time was right to take the leap, and create what I wanted to wear, and what I believed other women would want to wear also. So the journey began!”

(At this point in the interview, I’d nod my head empathetically and nibble on my pastry, because let’s face it girls. We all know the feeling.)

By round three, we’re chatting away like old friends. The croissants are whisked away, replaced by crêpes filled with fresh fruit and jam, and with food on the table we turn our conversation to brand logistics. Harlow & Fox will be offering a size range including 30-38 DD-G, with bottoms offered in UK size 8-18. Not bad for the new kid on the block. However, inquiring minds will always inquire, and anxious buyers will always want more, so I had to ask…

You’ve got a pretty impressive size range for an up-and-coming brand, and people already love what they see! But you know, us consumers constantly are looking for “more”, and inquiring minds must know: any plans to expand that size range in the far-off future?

“As a small brand starting out, it’s important to us to create garments as beautiful, focused and well-fitting as they can possibly be. There has been some really enthusiastic feedback already about extending the size range, and that’s great to hear! As we grow and develop, we’d love to do everything possible in the future to make the collection available to a wider range of sizes if the demand is there. If anyone would like to contribute, we are running a quick survey at http://harlowandfox.questionpro.com to gather thoughts on sizing, styles, preferences, everything. It’s the perfect way to have all the information at our fingertips for what customers would like to see in the future, and which sizes in particular there’s a demand for. We’d love to hear from you all!”

(Seriously folks, fill out the survey. It’s quick, easy, it will help an incredible new brand, and it’s all about undercrackers. What’s not to love?)

As our interview comes to a close, I had to throw out a just-for-fun question; whether it was fueled by these (fictional) mimosas or not, I can not say. But Leanna, being a great sport, answers promptly.

If you had to choose just three pieces from your own line to take onto a deserted island–what would they be and why?

“Well, I would probably start with the Sophia kimono, as after I’d enjoyed lounging around drinking coconut milk and sunning myself looking glamorous, I might want to build a life raft to get back to civilisation (or just to go for a day trip to the other side of the island) and I think the kimono would make the ideal sail. As I can’t bear to be mismatched, I’d have to choose the other two pieces from the same set as each other, and I think the Eleanor bra and briefs in almond would be the perfect choice for that. It’s so classic, it wouldn’t matter how long I was gone. Besides, I’d probably ladder my stockings on a rock a few minutes after arriving, so there’d be no need for a suspender belt anyway.”
(Preach, sister! I shudder to think of the money I’ve spent replacing the stockings that I’ve torn with my less-then-ladylike tendencies.)

Leanna and I share a laugh and stand to depart, both filled to the brim with French pastries and chilled drinks. What a lovely (imaginary) afternoon for an interview about a (very real) up-and-coming brand! In all, I learned that what I had already thought to be true, is: Harlow & Fox is a brand that is filling in the “gaps” in the full-bust market by offering fine lingerie to the DD+ customer that is thoughtfully designed and brilliantly executed. I, for one, can not wait to see more of this up-and-comer in the future!

more teaser photos!