Whoever thumbs their nose at flea marketeers like me are more than welcome to do so, because unlike them I have no qualms whatsoever about wearing other people’s stuff. Weird? Perhaps. But then, I’m a historian and hack metaphysicist (see Smoke That Fattie, Yo Ho Ho) with a penchant for preservation, so why wouldn’t I be so?
Today I trolled the aisles of a wonderful place, the location of which I hesitate to share, because when it comes to a find as spectacular as this one, I am hard pressed to be magnanimous. In a single afternoon, I found a dress, completely mint and circa 1928-1930 with only the smallest of tatters around the hem. It wasn’t the bead work or heavy panel inserts that drew me to it; it was the name on the label that provided the piece’s provenance that got me: London—Magical, wonderful London, which I’d never been to, yet now held a hint of, in an incredible garment that buzzed with history.
Do you catch my fascination now?
Two aisles over, located between a mountain of spinning wheels (?), oil lamps and mono record players were the costume and not-so-costume jewellery cases that offered everything from every age, real, fake or frothy. And all these could be mine, so long as I had the dough and the knowledge to spot brass from filler.
Oh, Mylanta! What I found for $9.99; an Italianesque link bracelet of such weight, color and quality as to
leave me gasping—so much better than the worn and faded Sarah Coventry that I could not put out of my mind until I found this beauty. And real brass too.
But that wasn’t all. Many vintages ago, my old mum bought me a hand knit sweater at a fall fair for an astonishing amount. Because of the exalted price and genealogy of the giver, I wore that sucker until it fell to pieces never to be replaced.
The last aisle, which offered Elvis LPs, an original Marilyn Monroe Playboy—one of her many fine covers— and genuine shooting scripts from movies of considerable stature (My Fair Lady), also had racks of sweaters of the kind that brought the nostalgia back in Kleenex supported waves.
And all for the princely sum of $35 Canadian.
I love my sweater and my old brass link bracelet not just because of the price, but because of the time and distance required for them to find their way to me. Because like the vintage dress that I also bought, the owners of these fine articles may not be around any more. But I feel them, ya know? And why not a little shared human experience across the ages?
Adult, unapologetic and cognizant, I wish you good Monday. Let’s stay above it.
Today, I welcome international best-selling author Bernard Foong to the blog. Not only has Mr. Foong penned three sweeping non-fiction accounts of a wild life in progress, but I’ve also learned that a screen play is not far behind! Congratulations. His third book, A Harem Boy’s Saga III: Debauchery, has just been reviewed by yours truly (click here), and on the strength of it, I will check out books I and II. See synopsis and cover art featured below. Before jumping into the interview, take a moment and learn more about the man behind the words.
Young alias Bernard Foong is, first and foremost, a sensitivist. He finds nuance in everything. To experience the world he inhabits is an adventure which is mystical, childlike and refreshing. He has a rare ability to create beauty in a unique fashion. His palettes have been material, paint, words and human experiences.
By Christine Maynard (screenwriter and novelist).
Bernard Foong (designer) – A brief history
Born in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. At the age of 8, he was assisting his aunt and cousin, learning the art of sewing and fabrics/colors matching. He attended an exclusive private boarding school in the United Kingdom before obtaining his Diploma in Fashion Design at the Harrow College of Art & Technology in London, England. He went on to complete his Master of Design at the Royal College of Art & Design, London, England. During his college years he won several international fashion awards and was already retailing bridal and evening dresses to several well known department stores in England. Liberty of London, Selfridges, Harrods and Harvey Nichols to name a few that carried his designs. His Royal College of Art graduation wedding/evening wear collection was sold to Liberty of London and displayed in their store windows for the entire month of June that year.
For four years, he worked for Liberty’s bridal department as their in-house designer until a trip to Hong Kong, while working on a freelance project for ‘Bird’s’(casual wear) company, he was recruited by the Hong Kong Polytechnic University as their Fashion professor for the next 6 years. During his stay in Hong Kong, he freelanced for numerous fashion companies. From designing casual wear, swimwear, lingerie, and fur garments, men’s wear, bridal and evening fashions to accessories (bags, shoes, and head-wear). He also participated and organized numerous fashion shows, events, functions, and presentations in the Asia Pacific region.
Working for Keys Far East Hong Kong as chief lingerie designer – travelling extensively to the United States, he was soon recruited as an Associate Fashion Design/Illustration Professor to the University of Wisconsin, Madison and also lectured at the Minneapolis College of Art & Design for a couple of years.
Foong was then appointed as the Fashion Development Manager by an established department store – Parkson Grand (22 stores in Malaysia and one in Shanghai, China). Producing under the label, Natural Life by Bernard Foong, he designed casual-wear collections for the Parkson Grand’s flagship store in Kuala Lumpur. After a couple of years later, he was invited by the Temasek Polytechnic, Singapore to join their design school to establish a Fashion Design department. For two years, he assisted several founding members of the design school – working on the fashion department’s teaching curriculum.
The Fitzgerald Theatre Department, University of Hawaii, Manoa, Oahu, Hawaii awarded a full scholarship for Foong to complete his second Master of Art in Theatre Costuming. Now a resident on the Island of Maui, he has assisted many charity organizations in their fund raising events with his extravagant fashion and performance shows/presentations. In 2005, he and his partner, Mr. Walter Jay Bissett opened Fire Dragon Bistro Orient & Design Shop. He also designs costumes/fashions for numerous theatrical productions in Hawaii and abroad.
Appointed as chief lingerie designer for Cerie International Limited – Hong Kong, his lingerie designs can be found in major department stores in Canada and the United Kingdom.
He showcased the BERNARD FOONG R-T-W collections and BERNARD FOONG @ Modern Classic Ltd.(an established – Hong Kong bridal & evening wear company) collections in Hong Kong. His 2008 & 2009 bridal/evening/bridal lingerie fashion show, “Grace” & “Coming Up Roses” were premiered at Hong Kong Fashion Week in July 2007 and January 2008 respectively at the Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Center, garnering positive interest in many Asian press reviews, including a China nationwide television broadcast of his latest collection. Aika (International Opera Singer) wore several Bernard Foong special occasion dresses at her Japan & European tour in September & October 2009.
Foong was the chief Creative Director for Official (Special Occasion fashion manufacturing company) Guangzhou, China producing – BERNARD FOONG Couture (specialty one-of-a-kind creations), White (RTW – Wedding/Special Occasion wear), Foxy Cute (Smart Casual/Cocktail wear), SexZ (decorative bustier) & Diva Bitch (sexual lingerie inner/outer-wear) collections.
Besides working on his regular haute couture, R-T-W and lingerie collections he is a visiting consultant/advisor for:
Pivot Point fashion college, Chengdu, China.
Hong Kong Design Institute (fashion department), Hong Kong, SAR.
Hong Kong Poly/U, Hong Kong (School of Apparel Design & Merchandising), SAR.
Hong Kong Fashion Designers Association, Hong Kong.
Singapore Temasek Polytechnic – School of Apparel Design & Merchandising (ADM), Singapore.
Bernard is also writing his autobiography, a seven book series of Mr. Foong’s young life:
A Harem Boy’s Saga: A Memoir by Young.
This provocative story spanning 4 decades and 3 continents is about a boy who was sent to a very exclusive English boarding school in the 1960s where he was initiated into a clandestine sexual society and then spirited away to serve in wealthy and elite Middle Eastern harems .”
A Harem Boy’s Saga series is published by Solstice Publishing and is available in print and E-books internationally.
In his own words: The Interview
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I was born into a privileged Malaysian Chinese family. Following my brothers’ footsteps, I was sent to an exclusive boarding school in England. It is there that I was inducted into a clandestine organization, E.R.O.S. The Enlightened Royal Oracle Society. For four years, unbeknownst to my family, I was willingly and happily part of a Harem.
What do you do when you are not writing?
My hobbies include Zumba, swimming, reading and doing creative projects. Although I’m a semi-retired fashion designer, I still keep in touch with the international fashion scene; especially Asian designers.
Do you have a day job as well?
My day job is writing and promoting/marketing my memoirs/books.
When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?
I first started writing in 2010. I had a nagging calling within to document my unique adolescent life and education.
I believe my geographical location (being in spiritual and beautiful Maui, Hawaii) inspired me to pen my seven book series.
Now that I’m semi-retired from my once very active fashion lifestyle, it is time for me to reflect upon my unique early experiences and to inform the world what my positive experiences in the Middle Eastern harems were like.
I believe my early experiences shaped my adult life to who I am today.
I finished A Harem Boy’s Saga – book I – Initiation; a memoir by Young a year later – in 2011.
How did you choose the genre you write in?
I did not choose the genre. It chose me.
Where do you get your ideas?
Remembrance of things past. Luckily I’ve an abundance of photographs, diaries, journals to spur me to remember what transpired during those early years of my Middle Eastern harem experiences.
Although, I’ve taken creative liberties when it comes to the individual dialogues spoken by the various characters in my autobiography. I remember the gist of what transpired.
I’ve also changed the names and places to protect the identities of those involved in the secret society and the unique school and Arab Households I was in service at.
Do you ever experience writer’s block?
I seldom get writer’s block because I let my thoughts flow naturally out of me as I remember the events. Although I cannot remember the actual dialogues spoken – I remember the gist of what was being said.
I also have an abundance of old photographs taken during those early years, documenting my life then. I use these to trigger my memories to document the events in the books.
I do need complete silence when I write – which is 8 – 10 hours daily.
Do you work with an outline, or just write?
I just write. I’m very discipline when it comes to setting time for my daily writing schedule.
Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
The Sleeping Beauty Trilogy by Anne Rice was one of the influences because I have a presage that Ms. Rice went through a similar harem experience like I did.
Anderson Cooper 360 documentary on the devastating treatment of effeminate boys also influenced me to tell my story.
The abundance of school bullying and shootings also prompted me to tell of my unique education.
Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?
The first two books in A Harem Boy’s Saga series were self-published. The easy part is the writing but when it comes to marketing books, it’s an entirely different ball game.
I was lucky to have literary agent Emerantia Antonia Parnall-Gilbert (Gilbert Literary Agency) after almost 6 months of non-stop searching for a publisher and agent. I wrote to close to 160 publishers/agents before I had a positive response from Gilbert Literary Agency.
I’m lucky to have Solstice Publishing interested in my autobiography. Solstice will publish the entire 7 book series. It was Emerantia who hooked me with Solstice Publishing.
If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?
I would have found myself a publisher and literary agent and not self-published.
How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?
Through the usual channels: Twitter, Facebook, Authors/Books promotional organizations. Enter book award competitions and joining international book fairs. Connecting with book clubs, etc.
Have you written a book you love that you have not been able to get published?
No! The books/series I’m currently writing is what I love doing and it’s an inner calling form a higher power to tell my story to the world.
Can you tell us about your upcoming book?
I have two:
No Distance Between Us is a coming-of-age gay true love story (based on my sexual experience). It is a provocative story about a young man (me) initiated into a clandestine sexual society. Spirited to the Middle East, from his UK boarding school,he attended the Bahriji School (Oasis,) in The United Arab Emirates in preparation for serving in Harems for the wealthy and elite.
It is also a love story between the youngman (me) and his ‘Valet’ who served as his chaperone and mentor during the boy’s Harem service.
A Harem Boy’s Saga – IV – Turpitude; a memoir by Young is the continual saga of A Harem Boy’s Saga – I – Initiation, II – Unbridled and III – Debauchery.
Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
My memoirs are based on my own experiences. Although, I’ve taken creative liberties when it comes to the individual dialogues spoken by the various characters in my autobiography. I remember the gist of what transpired.
I’ve also changed the names and places to protect the identities of those involve in the secret society and the unique school and Arab Households I was in service at.
What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
The erotic scenes because I remember the situations very clearly and am able to express my emotions and feelings I felt at the time with all my sexual partners and lovers.
How did you come up with the title?
It comes to me through a higher source, knowing what the title for each book is going to be either before, during or after the book is completed. It’s my guardian angel whispering in my ear on what to write down to the names for each chapter. I listen to my inner voice and heed its messages.
What project are you working on now?
I’m currently working on A Harem Boy’s Saga – IV – Turpitude; a memoir by Young.
My Yuletide short story book No Distance Between Us (a true to life coming-of-age gay love story) is scheduled for release on Nov. 21st 2014.
I’m also working with Solstice Publishing on having A Harem Boy’s Saga series made into audio books.
I’m also working on book II – Unbridled screen treatment and overview for Emerantia, my agent to submit to producers for consideration for films/TV mini-series and Stage Musical productions.
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author?
I don’t dwell on negatively only positivity. Therefore the best compliment would be:
5.0 out of 5 stars OMG, OMG, OMG – I can’t believe this is a real story!, September 22, 2014
This review is from: Initiation (A Harem Boy’s Saga Book 1) (Kindle Edition)
Never have I read a story that has me exclaiming “OMG, OMG, OMG” every few chapters. This autobiographical story shares the intensely personal journey of a young boy as he comes of age in the midst of a male harem in the Middle East. He experiences all the things that are forbidden and taboo…you know those “unmentionable elephants in the room” that we are warned about from an early age. I had to readthis real life adventure to find out how messed up and damaged he must be. Imagine my surprise to meet an emotionally healthy young man who successfully grabs all life has to offer and does it with an innocence that is simply beautiful.
Don’t read this book if you aren’t ready for your ingrained beliefs and values to be challenged. Don’t read this book if you are not ready to delve into a side of our global society that is well hidden from most. Don’t read this book unless you too are ready to step into a new adventure. Initiation will change how you view the world.
Well done Bernard.
Wendy had summed up my series excellently and this is exactly what I like to say to my readers.
Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
Stay focused. My modus operandi: the 3Ps: Perseverance, Persistence & Patience.
Be diligent about setting a time frame/goal to finish your manuscript.
Not to worry about what you are planning to write. Once you begin with the 1st word, you’ll know what the next word is going to be. When I write, it’s like channeling a separate spirit/entity within my person. Thoughts flows automatically through me and I write what comes naturally out of my hand.
Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans.
Historical accuracy is an important factor to consider when I’m writing memoirs/autobiographies and biographies. I like spending time doing research and learning/discovering new techniques in photo-shop/enhancements.
Traveling broadens my mind. My life partner and I are planning an up-coming road trip to the S. of France.
These are some of the goals I hope to achieve through
A Harem Boy’s Saga:
Provide Tolerance to Sissy Boys by understanding parents/peers and the community.
Anderson Cooper 360 documentary on the devastating treatment of effeminate boys influence me to tell my story.
Bullying can be avoided through Big Brother/Big Sister volunteer programs in school or outside school system. Older students acting as mentors to younger students.
Support/mentorship program to all parties involved to foster understanding and acceptance of Gay kids.
Provide an Alternative Educational System;
Understanding Big Brother/adolescent mentorship programs in schools, BB as protector to keep younger kids from being bullied.
Human Relationship Building Program;
Between parents/teachers and young students on sexual topics/issues, especially when adolescent are just discovering their sexuality. They can be guided on a healthy and honest sexual journey instead of “don’t ask, don’t tell” hide it behind the closet policy.
A Harem Boy Saga; A Memoir Book 1 – INITIATION
This provocative story is about a young man who was initiated into a clandestine sexual society. He was spirited to the Middle East, from his UK boarding school. He attended the Bahriji School (Oasis,) in The United Arab Emirates in preparation for serving in Harems for the wealthy and elite.
It is also a love story between the young man and his ‘Valet’ who served as his chaperone and mentor during the boy’s Harem service.
I had a privileged and unique upbringing in Malaysia, where I was known as a “sissy boy.” Following in my brothers’ footsteps, I was sent to an exclusive boarding school in England. It is there that I was inducted into a clandestine organization, E.R.O.S. The Enlightened Royal Oracle Society. For four years, unbeknownst to my family, I was willingly and happily part of a Harem.
My story has been kept under wraps for close to 45 years. The correct moment has arrived for me to make known my unique education.
A provocative story about a young man who was initiated into a clandestine sexual society. He was spirited to the Middle East, from his UK boarding school. He attended the Bahriji School (Oasis,) in The United Arab Emirates in preparation for serving in Harems for the wealthy and elite.
It is also a love story between the young man, his ‘Big Brother’ and his ‘Valet’ who served as his chaperones and mentors during the boy’s Harem services.
This book follows the teenagers’ erotic and exotic adventures and experiences at their 2nd Arab Household Harem, the Sekham. They were apprentices and models, for the household patriarch’s controversial photography project, “Sacred Sex in Sacred Places”.
The author’s experiences present facts that are truthful. Through these truths, which are often demonized by contemporary societies that deem such behaviors inappropriate, the author hopes to dispel condemnations and negativity which relate to his experiences.
There are 5 – 7 volumes in A Harem Boy’s Saga series.
Debauchery is the triquel to A Harem Boy’s Saga
“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”
A provocative story about a young man who was initiated into a clandestine sexual society through his UK boarding school. From there, he was spirited to the Middle East to attend the Bahriji (Oasis) School in The United Arab Emirates in preparation for Harem services for the wealthy elite.
It is also a love story between the young man, his ‘Big Brother,’ and his ‘Valet,’ who served as his chaperones and mentors.
This book follows the teenagers’ erotic and exotic adventures and experiences at their third Arabian Household Harem, the Quwah. There, they became confidants to a prince, assistants in an international dance club venture, “Carousel,” and apprentices and models in a controversial photography project, “Sacred Sex in Sacred Places.”
This story is an account of the author’s experiences. Through these truths, often demonized by contemporary societies that deem such behaviors inappropriate, the author hopes to dispel condemnation and negativity related to sexuality, love, and personal freedom.