Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
I was born and raised in Beirut, Lebanon, for the most part during the civil war. Those were turbulent years, fraught with danger and uncertainty. Books became a source of comfort, and literature an escape from the prevailing madness and brutality. Classes were disrupted endlessly, but I finally managed to graduate with a B.A in English Literature. I went on to complete an MLitt in English Lit at Oxford, at a time when the "City of Dreaming Spires" and war-torn Lebanon were poles apart. By then, I knew that I would want to work with books and languages, and ended up in editorial jobs for different academic and commercial institutions. Writing came much later, after my children were born. So far I’ve written three novels: BEIRUT IN SHADES OF GREY, which explores two polarized attitudes to war through romance; LEAH, a novel set on a remote fictitious island haunted by the drowning of a little girl thirty years ago; and more recently, THE MEMORY OF LOSS, which deals with self-delusions and different coping methods in the face of adversity, be it loss, war, or grief.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
It’s called THE MEMORY OF LOSS. I envisioned a young woman out of her depth. So, I chose as the main protagonist, a naïve nineteen-year-old South African girl on a gap year. The novel is set in 1986, when South Africa was virtually cut off from the rest of the world, because of apartheid and sanctions. Her foil, the woman she ends up caring for, on the other hand, is accomplished, worldly, and a survivor of WWII France. I wanted to explore how far people are prepared to go to make their life bearable, sometimes to the point of lying to themselves because after all, we all want to achieve a certain level of peace, if not happiness. So the novel is essentially about self-deceit and outright denial, which, despite their negative connotations, might be the answer to survival.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
None that seem unusual to me. But I do like to work in absolute silence. I’m very sensitive to noise, so when I’m writing, I prefer to hear nothing but the words I’m putting down on paper. It’s a way of staying attuned to the beauty of language and its rhythm which, to me, are extremely important.
What authors, or books have influenced you?
I would say I was inspired by many, albeit unconsciously. Of the contemporary authors, I would mention Kate Morton, Isabel Allende, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, John Boyne, and many other talented writers. Going back in time, I would say Russian classics, Steinbeck, Hemingway, and Erich Maria Remarque, among others.
What are you working on now?
My next novel is still taking shape in my mind, so I have nothing concrete yet. What I can say is that it’ll revolve around strong women and marital relationships.
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
I use Facebook, Goodreads, LinkedIn and AuthorsDen. I also try and get as many reviews as possible, be they positive or negative, so that readers who might be tempted to buy my books are better informed by other readers. For reviews, I approach bloggers.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
The truth of the matter is that the market is saturated with books. My advice would be don’t be discouraged. This should not prevent you from writing, if you have the urge to do so. But, because “making it” is so hard, write what you enjoy reading. The market is very fickle, in terms of tastes and demand, and even if you never become famous, at least you will have written something that gave you pleasure and left you fulfilled.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
Don’t quit your day job.
What are you reading now?
PORTRAITS OF A MARRIAGE by Sandor Marai, a Hungarian author.
What’s next for you as a writer?
A lot of freelance editorial work to keep me going. Also, I hope, the vision to think up new novels and worthwhile themes. And, finally, the patience and energy to whip my work into shape for publication.
What is your favorite book of all time?
I can’t name one to the exclusion of others.
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