Meet Nancy Habbas

I met Nancy a few years ago when she first moved to Mersin. Nancy allowed me to join her on many photography expeditions around Mersin (and even further afoot), introducing me to places that I would probably have never found by myself. She is a well-renowned photographer, having taken part in photography exhibitions and festivals around Türkiye and internationally, with her most recent exhibition in Istanbul this month being a near sell-out!

One of the things I love about Nancy is her desire to get the best photo possible. She doesn’t hold back and will climb over rocks, wade through silt up to her knees or even dodge traffic to get the shot. For those of you who follow my Instagram stories you would have noticed a number of stories featuring Nancy and her crazy high-jinx’s as we travelled around Mersin taking photos and researching for the book.

These are a few of my favourite photos of her:

Sunrise at Kizkalesi. Beautiful, yeah? Gorgeous? Breathtaking?

Sunrise at Kizkalesi is all of those things and so much more. In an effort to get the photo for our cover Nancy climbed onto a long-abandoned dock resulting in her slipping in the pre-dawn light, nearly impaling herself on a metal pylon and looking like she had just done five rounds in the ring with Mike Tyson.

She also had quite a few encounters with the local dogs who were more than willing to model for her and a few even more curious four-legged friends who thought that she may or may not be available for, ahem, other things.

Nancy was never afraid to climb to the highest point of any sinkhole, ruin, mountain or cliff face dragging me kicking and screaming along for the ride!

And on-coming traffic is never really a concern… I mean they’ll stop, won’t they? Won’t they?

Mersin: All Over comes is available on Amazon on 1 June 2022. If you’re visiting Mersin, or just want to know more about the area you can pre-order your ebook here. Paperbacks will also be available on Amazon from 1 June 2022 and hopefully for those of you living in Türkiye I’ll have some available for you as well.


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Mersin: All Over

I know I’ve been threatening to do this for a while now but it looks like it’s really happening… Mersin: All Over is being formatted as we speak and will soon be live to purchase on Amazon, IBooks, Kobo, and many more!

If you’re thinking of visiting Mersin, or maybe, like me, you visited family each year and always found yourself wandering around aimlessly having no idea where to visit next, then this is for you:

MERSIN: ALL OVER

Written with 20 years of experience, expat Jane Gundogan, has assembled her knowledge, anecdotes and research into Mersin: All Over. This is the ultimate guide to uncovering the real story of this fascinating part of Türkiye. For the first time ever, this area is getting the recognition and resource it deserves, catering to a little of everything, from hidden castles to the author’s favourite restaurants. You’ll be surprised by what this often-overlooked part of the Mediterranean has to offer.

In Mersin: All Over you’ll visit the Big Five of Mersin including the incomparable Kizkalesi, historical Tarsus, the stunning dining experiences at Mersin Marina, the almost hidden Alahan Monastery, the recently-discovered Gildiere Caves and, of course, the unspoilt beaches of the Mediterranean coastline. This book will give you the inside information to discover little known places and the juicy stories behind them that bring the area to life.

Inspirational colour photography by the well-renowned photographer, Nancy Habbas, does more than just provide pictures of Mersin, her images prepare you for the beauty of what you will see. Mersin: All Over doesn’t stop at giving you helpful guides and information on places to avoid, it is also filled with hilarious anecdotes, and tips to fit everything into your day. Jane shares her expert advice for exploring the wonders of this little-known province so you can make the most of your time in Mersin.

Release date: 1 June 2022

Pre-order available soon.

And for those of you living in Türkiye I am currently in discussions with a Turkish publisher so you can buy direct at an excellent price (none of those pesky international postage charges that we all loathe).


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Inside Out In Istanbul

The passion for traveling has been something that people have been doing for centuries now, but being able to document and blog your traveling adventures is just awesome.

Lisa Morrow is a great example of an expat and blogger who has documented her life in Istanbul. With her very popular blog, Inside Out In Istanbul, and four best-selling books released to date, it’s time to get inspired and discover what it’s like to live in Istanbul with my excellent interview below.

I first met Lisa in Istanbul during one of my getaways from Mersin. I must admit I was a little intimidated by her because

she was such a successful author and blogger, whereas I was just a dabbler writing what amounts to “filth” in some people’s eyes (you’re welcome, by the way).

But I am happy to report that within the first moments of meeting Lisa my fears were unfounded. Here is a woman who, like me, is doing what she loves, and blessed to be doing it in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. A northern-beaches girl, a lover of Vegemite, and one of the most down-to-earth people I have ever had the pleasure to meet.

Your blog was one of the first blogs I found when I decided to move to Turkey and I think I read each and every post you wrote. When did you start blogging? And how, or perhaps when, did you make the decision to take what you’ve written and turn it into a book (or, more correctly, 4 books)?

Actually it was publishing the first edition of my essay collection Inside Out In Istanbul in 2011 that started me thinking about blogging. I wrote this book for people planning to come to Istanbul or those who’d already visited once, wanting to better understand what they see and experience in the city.

I was really new to the world of social media back then so it took me until 2013 to start my own blog. At that time most internet sites about Turkey were either commercial ones selling tours, travel insurance and so on, or personal blogs by people who had visited Istanbul but never lived here. I wanted to share the Istanbul I live in, the real everyday extraordinary of the city outside the well-known tourist areas.

For my blog I usually write short pieces capturing my impressions or put together photo essays. However my passion and I believe my forté is writing essays that combine Turkish culture and history with my personal experiences. The longer I live in Istanbul and the better my Turkish becomes, the more I have to write about, which is how my other books have come about.

Did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

Not really. I’ve always made sense of the world through words. I have to be able to accurately describe what I see and experience in writing, otherwise my understanding remains incomplete. It’s the feedback I’ve received from readers rather than the process of writing and publishing my books that’s had the biggest impact on me. Readers say they feel like they’re walking the streets alongside me in Inside Out In Istanbul. Strangers feel they know me after reading my memoir Waiting for the Tulips to Bloom. Turks no longer living in the country say Exploring Turkish Landscapes makes them feel homesick but also as though they’re back home at the same time. It’s gratifying and rewarding to hear all this and makes me want to continue writing in the same way.

Congratulations on becoming an Amazon top 10 seller with your most recent release, “Longing for Istanbul: The Words I haven’t said yet”. That’s an amazing achievement (I’m not at all jealous). Has becoming a Top 10 seller changed how you look at marketing? Do you market? Or do you rely on word of mouth or other reviews?

Thank you for the compliment. Selling is, as you know, hard work and marketing is key. Millions of books are published every year and even though books sales increased worldwide in 2021, unless people hear about your books they won’t know to buy them. Being a Top 10 seller is fabulous but statistics change all the time so I never rest on my laurels. Word-of-mouth is really important but my audience spans the globe so I do market on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Strangely, although the latter is based on visuals, it’s a good platform for authors. However reviews on Amazon and Goodreads do have a big impact. These days a lot of people want to know in advance they’re going to like your book, so a positive review, even a short one, goes a long way.

Speaking of reviews… do you read them? And how do you deal with less than favourable ones?

Many writers say not to read reviews but I do. Writing is a solitary occupation and a lot of the time it feels like throwing ideas out into space and never knowing where or if they’ll land. Positive reviews are the echo telling me a reader gets what I’m trying to do. Luckily I haven’t had too many unfavourable ones (fingers crossed saying this won’t jinx me). What I really dislike though is when a reader gives a one or two star rating and can’t be bothered to say why. Maybe they don’t like Turkey, possibly they don’t like something they think they know about me or it could be they really didn’t like my writing after all. Unless they give a reason, it just pulls down the book rating and doesn’t help potential readers decide whether to buy it or not, which is one of the major reasons to leave a review.

You recently had Exploring Turkish Landscapes: Crossing Inner Boundaries translated into Turkish (Türkiye’yi Keşfederek Sınırlarımı Aşarken). Why did you decide to have it translated and where is it available?

Back in 2019 I was interviewed by SBS Turkish radio (in Turkish) about why I moved to Turkey with my husband Kim, also a non-Turk. After it broadcast I received dozens of messages from people telling me I was THE topic of conversation in supermarkets in Melbourne, Australia, where the majority of Turks live. This was the first time they’d heard from a non-Turk who’d chosen to live in their home country and they were fascinated about why I’d done so and what it was like. Many of them were thinking of moving to Turkey themselves, even the Australian born ones, and they really related to what I said in the program. It was clear to me I should make my books available in Turkish because there was an audience keen to know more.

I chose to start with Exploring Turkish Landscapes because it covers my experiences in different parts of the country, and at different stages of my life and knowledge of Turkish language and culture. It’s available in Turkey as an ebook through D& R or internationally from Kobo and in paperback from Barnes & Noble and other booksellers.

I’m visiting Istanbul right now doing research for my next book… a literary pilgrimage, so to speak. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before you visit somewhere new?

When I first left Australia to travel to London and from there to Europe and eventually Turkey, I did very little research. The internet didn’t exist, travel guides were heavy and expensive and I preferred to party than check out books at the library. Now the internet provides thousands of websites, blogs and references and it’s easy to drown in too much information. I’ve been to all the main tourist sites in Istanbul, many several times, but these days I travel further afield. Every outing involves food in some way, whether it’s a new restaurant to try or going to a shop selling specialty Turkish foods or hard to get non-Turkish items.

Usually what happens is I’ll be on my way somewhere and spot something unexpected from a bus or the corner of my eye. A church tower or intriguing doorway I hadn’t noticed before, a sign that piques my interest or an unusual window display. Depending on my schedule (and my hunger) I might go in straight away, or just make a note or take a photo and research it when I get home. I use guidebooks and the internet to find out more and focus mainly on Turkish origin blogs and websites as they often contain more information than those written in English. However I read a lot of non-fiction books about Istanbul too, and when I come across references to places I don’t know about, I write them down and then go looking for them.

It’s the unexpected that excites me most so I prefer to visit a place first and research it later. Otherwise the joy of immersing myself in the atmosphere and discovering small beautiful details is lost in the act of looking for particular things noted in guidebooks. That’s the idea underpinning my essay ““Büyük Çamlıca Camii” in Longing for Istanbul.

Is there anywhere in Istanbul that you still want to visit, or perhaps a hidden gem that you’ve kept to yourself?

I think there will always be places I want to visit in Istanbul. My list expands all the time, partly because there is already so much to see but also because there are new discoveries being made almost everyday. Add to that long abandoned sites being restored and opened to the public and the possibilities are endless. My focus in the coming months (when it gets warmer) is to use Istanbul’s excellent public transport system to go further afield. I don’t drive in Istanbul so going to Beykoz, Atatürk Kent Park or Polonezkoy is a bit of an expedition. I enjoy it though, because being on trains, buses and ferries gives me what I call empty time, when I have the space to daydream and random thoughts often become concrete ideas.

One thing I really love about Istanbul is whether you’re rich or poor you can drink tea and eat a meal by the water, enjoying the same mesmerising views, no matter your budget. It’s very democratic in that way so my hidden gems are the places locals can go and feel like royalty, whatever their social status. Spoiler alert – they’ll stay hidden.

What surprises you most about living in Turkey?

How kind Turkish people are, no matter what’s going on in their lives. I’ve seen the Turkish economy rise and fall over the years and right now people are doing it tough. Yet that doesn’t stop them thinking of others. Last week I was on the way to my gym and an older man slipped and fell while running for a bus. He cut his forehead quite badly. I picked up his transport card as a younger man helped him up and both of us gave him tissues to help stem the blood. Two woman suggested he might need stitches so the younger man escorted him across road and directed him to the hospital. This level of assistance is normal. I tripped on a bollard once and fell over and people even crossed a busy road to help me!

Then there’s the traditional pay it forward schemes like askıda ekmek where you buy an extra loaf of bread for someone without means and the modern version called askıda fatura. People in need are carefully vetted by councils and the government so strangers can pay money towards their bills (fatura in Turkish). This level of humanity is rare in the world these days but it’s an everyday occurrence in Turkey,

I Googled you today. Not only are you an author and blogger but you also write for media outlets, like CNN. Have you got anything exciting in the pipeline you can reveal?

Yes I do. I have a feature on beaches along the Lycian Way coming out in CNN Travel in the next few months and have also had an article on Istanbul accepted by the New York Times. I don’t know when they’ll be published so watch this space!

Add your own question that you’ve always wanted asked but never has been…

I’ve always wanted someone to ask me what I find the most frustrating part of writing. The answer is finding the exact word to describe a specific moment, feeling, touch, taste, sensation etc. I want people to know how Istanbul smells, what it’s like to be bathed in urban sweat, the emotions you go through as you negotiate life in Turkey as a both a foreigner and a local, and that can be extremely difficult.

I grew up in a house full of books, played word games with my parents and am a former English teacher (both as a foreign and second language). I know words matter and choosing the correct one can be agony. However when I do find the word that expresses precisely what I’m trying to say, it fits into place seamlessly and gives my writing an almost organic character, as if it came into being fully formed. In truth it’s the result of hours sitting at my computer, staring out windows, making notes and writing the same sentence three or four different ways to see which one works best. Nonetheless, no matter how exasperated I get, I love writing. It’s a privilege to be able to share my words and thus my world with others.

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Pomegranates And Olive

For those of you not in the know I have finally released my follow-up novel Pomegranates and Olive. Curious? I know you are, so here’s the paperback cover:

I’m not going to bang on about how wonderful Pomegranates and Olive is, even though it is, in fact here are a few of the early reviews:

Not too shabby, eh?

Anyway, like I said I’m not going to bang on about Pomegranates and Olive but instead I want to talk about purchasing your book from Amazon Turkey and why it’s goddamn bollocks!

I’ve actually sold a few books already on Amazon Turkey which is really exciting because it is Turkey after all, but after I had a very, VERY, disappointed reader write to me recently about a book that she had purchased from Amazon Turkey I decided to get in and have a look at what is really going on there.

I can purchase a copy of Pomegranates and Olive from Amazon Turkey. I will cost me 125.89TL plus 90TL in shipping fee. That equates to approximately AUD$35.00. For your average Turk (or yabanci living and working in Turkey) that’s a LOT of money. But here’s the real kicker, if you purchase Pomegranates and Olive from Amazon Turkey it comes unbound. Yes! No binding, random paper. I’m picturing that scene in Love Actually where gorgeous Colin Firth loses his unbound manuscript in the lake and his housekeeper / love of his life dives in (or more correctly falls in) to save what he can. Okay, I’ve gotten a little off track right here but the fact is that the slightest breeze will rip that sucker out of your hands and send it every which way (and probably when you’re getting to the juicy bits).

So what does the average yabanci living in Turkey desperately trying to get their hands on Pomegranates and Olive (the hilarious follow-up from Salep and Ginger which a bunch of 5-star reviews already, in case you didn’t know)? Well, if you don’t have a Kindle or an Amazon account in either AU, US, UK or CA I have ordered a bunch of paperbacks be sent to me here in Turkey. I will only charge what they cost me (plus postage) so that may make this a little more attractive. When they arrive I will calculate the total and let you guys know.

If you do have an Amazon account you can order directly and they will post it here. And remember there is no tax payable on books so why not go a little wild and buy Pomegranates and Olive AND Salep and Ginger.

For those of you interested, the link for Pomegranates are below:

Go on, you know you want to.

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Cover Of The Month

I know I have been totally AWOL recently but there’s good reason. I have been hunkered down throughout this current world crisis completing book number 2 “Pomegranates And Olive”.

I’ve now started the editing process and hope to have the first edit done in the next few weeks.

But I’m now asking if you could send a little love my way.

They say not to judge a book by its cover but I need you to do just that. If you liked the cover of my book, Salep and Ginger, please vote for it for the Cover of the Month contest on AllAuthor.com – link right here:

https://allauthor.com/cover-of-the-month/8130/

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Janey! Vicious! Circle!

Disclaimer: Yes, I am a whinger. Yes, I tend to bitch first and apologise later. These statements are made by me and are, to the best of my knowledge, absolutely true!

If you had asked me two months ago just how hard it would be to get book sales, I would have said “Nah! It’ll be a piece of cake”.


Yeah. I’m clearly an idiot. I had no clue just how much work was involved. I whacked Salep And Ginger up on Amazon and sat back waiting on the money to roll in. It turns out I was wrong. Really, really wrong.

FYI getting sales is harder than being hit with a bucket of dried concrete.

Firstly, you need a great book. Now I think Salep And Ginger is freaking excellent, so that’s one tick in my favour.

Then you need customers to buy it. They’re a little harder to come by. It seems it all comes down to reviews… and lots of them… which is where I’ve come a little unstuck.

We all know that most people choose their books based on recommendations so leaving a review on Amazon is helping boost the book in Amazon’s magical algorithm. A book needs 25 reviews before it gets included in Amazon’s “Also Brought” and “You Might Like” lists and it takes approximately 70 reviews before the book really becomes visible to potential readers.

But leaving a review isn’t simple.

Amazon has this totally extreme requirement for adding a review. To do a review, you need to have spent a minimum of US$50 on the Amazon site.

Now I don’t want to sound like a Negative Nelly, but for those of us outside of the US, that’s kind of difficult to do. Yes, there is Amazon in the UK and Australia as well (where most of my sales originated); still, they too have the requirement of a minimum purchase (and Amazon really isn’t a thing, especially Down Under). Which sucks! So, despite the surprising number of sales over the past two months, it hasn’t equated to many reviews.

So for those of you who have purchased the book can you please try to leave a review. If you can’t can you please head over to my brand new Facebook page Jane Gundogan Author and leave a review there. Maybe pop by GoodReads as well. Loved it or hated it, every review helps.

And for those of you who have yet to purchase Salep And Ginger? Get cracking! Christmas is coming, and this book will make a great little stocking stuffer for those of you who love Istanbul and Turkey.

Oh, and to my Amazonian master. I serve no other God and am forever your humble servant. I swear!

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What Happens Next?

It’s been a little over a week since I released my debut novel, Salep and Ginger. HAVE YOU READ IT YET? If so, I’d love to hear from you! If not, get at it!

Once the nausea subsided I was able to take in everything that was happening – it was all terribly exciting! Again I had to learn that it is a process, sales can take time, but of course I was rather impatient with all the waiting. Between you and me, I’ll admit that I kept refreshing my “reports” until IT happened.  I had actually sold a book. Someone had paid real money to purchase it. I was now officially a published author!

Now for the self-flagellation. Salep and Ginger is not as polished as it should’ve been. It needed to go back to my editor one final time but I had delayed and amended so many times that it kind of became “now or never”. If I didn’t hit that publish button, I probably never would. So I know there were a few indentation issues and strange blocks of bold font throughout (and I still can’t work out how to correct it). I also found a few typo’s post-publishing. I nearly cried (and threw up again) because that meant I had to go back into the editing program and let me tell you I did NOT want to do that. The process of “creating” the book made me more than a little certifiable. I’m certain that the good people at Kindle thought I had lost the plot a few times over those last few days before publication.

But then I woke up on Monday to find that Salep and Ginger was ranked #2 in “Hot New Releases” in Erotic Romance and it got to #14 in that same category on Amazon UK’s site. Now that is exciting (and all without any reviews!).

And then I got my first actual review from a paying customer – and they left 5 stars! Woo hoo! Leaving a review is so important to boost the book (and my self-confidence) so if you are one of those who have read Salep and Ginger please take a moment to leave an honest review (if you can).

So what does happen next? Right now I’m going to go back to my regular (or somewhat irregular) programmed viewing aka an occasional blog post and get cracking on my next novel, tentatively named “Kiz Kalesi”.

Again I want to give each and every one of you a big shout out, I couldn’t have done any of this without you guys believing in me.

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So This Just Happened

Janey In Mersin was created by me when I first moved to Turkey. It became my only friend in a sometimes dark, desolate world, my safe place to go where I could hide from all the bok and my private diary left carelessly open for the world to see.

It also helped me make friends, journal my experiences, and gave you guys a glimpse of just how ridiculous life could be here with The Turk and his crazy family. But more importantly, blogging allowed me to take that first step to fulfil my childhood ambition of becoming a published author. 

As a child, I had lofty ambitions indeed. I had just finished reading “Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret” and I decided that I would surely become the next Judy Blume. I mean when it all comes down to brass tacks has there ever been a better piece of prose than, “We must, we must, we must increase our bust”?

By the time I finished school I had quickly realised I didn’t need to repeat that particular mantra over and over as my boobs were already a double D, so I discarded my dream of becoming an author and got on with my real life.

And then one morning as I sat on my terrace overlooking the Village, I wrote a couple of paragraphs about a girl who had fallen in love. I knew something about that at least, well, I did at the time anyway. That girl became Ginger Knox. She and I became firm friends (and occasionally mortal enemies) over the next year or so while I drafted and revised, discarded and re-visited Ginger’s story, time and time again.

Finally! I had written something that wasn’t completely heinous, but where do I go from here?

Full of moxie I emailed off my synopsis and first draft to publishers and waited to be inundated with offers. Now I’d like to think that I was mature enough to handle rejection but, as it turned out, I’m not. Instead, I morphed into a whiny-assed child when Harlequin rejected my manuscript, and I threatened to burn the world down when Mills and Boon passed on my literary masterpiece. “To hell with them all!” It was a battle cry shrieked from my rooftop in the Village all the while smearing blue paint down my face and brandishing my bottle of wine like a sword! They were trying to destroy my dream!

I decided it must be rubbish so I shelved it for a while.

After a little soul-searching I asked for beta-readers to give me some honest feedback. And I got it in spades! From the positive: “I needed a ciggie after that” and “When I wasn’t laughing at Ginger’s inner monologue and snappy comebacks, I was in desperate need of a lie down after all the naughty bits”, to the negative: “I feel there is an overuse of profanity that could cast a negative light on the story”, and even the down-right strange: “I will pray for you.”

All that feedback helped me shape Ginger’s story (and between you and me that last comment made me realise that I might be on the right track!).

I began to look at other publishing options. Self-publishing seemed the most realistic way for me to move forward. I had seen other well-known authors who utilised self-publishing and went on to see their novel become a huge success.

And so let’s fast forward to today. I’m excited and terrified and more than a little bit nauseous, but I’ve finally done it. I’ve published my slightly funny, definitely not autobiographical (this question gets asked a lot!), sexy, swoony, heartfelt romance. Rated R for raunchy, Salep and Ginger is probably not suited to those who don’t like being spanked or for those under the age of 18 years (full disclosure: there is no spanking in this book). It’s mostly the story of a girl standing in front of a boy… wait, no, that’s not right… maybe you guys should just read it for yourselves. 

Anyway, tell your friends, tell your neighbours, tell everyone you know (within reason, of course) to grab a copy of Salep and Ginger, available now from Amazon, either on Kindle or paperback from your usual Amazon e-store. Every sale will help support my wine habit and enable me to continue to live in the luxury (cough, cough) of which I have become accustomed. 

To those who do take the plunge teşekkür ederim (thank you)! If you loved it, please leave a review and hit up those stars on Amazon. I would appreciate it… and there’s a bottle of rakı on its way to you (there’s not really a bottle of rakı on its way to you. Sorry.).

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