See 1st installment and my review HERE
I was thrilled when Feather Stone accepted my invitation to be June’s Author Of The Month. Her book was phenomenal and will be one of my 2017 Best Reads. So without further adieu, let’s get to know this amazing author.
Do you draw from personal experiences and/or current events?
Current events certainly played a role in the creation of Forbidden. Ever since witnessing the destruction of the World Trade Towers on September 11th, 2001, I realized how little I knew of the Middle East and Islam. Immediately, it was obvious how hatred and fear overwhelmed every nation.
In my meditation practice, I prayed that the Light, the Love of God, Allah, would be the guiding source for world governments and people of all faiths. A few months later, a magical event connected me to an elderly woman from Afghanistan. I believe that’s where Forbidden’s roots came to life.
And, yes, because of my years as a paramedic, I was able to describe in detail Forbidden’s graphic scenes of murder and violence. The horrors of gun battles and the resulting wounds are all too familiar. I’ve been transfixed by the death stare of a child killed in a traffic accident. I’ve held the trembling hand of a man who knew he was dying.
Research is critical. Forbidden’s suspense had to feel authentic to every reader. I’ve spent a year reading about Islam, interviewing professionals, and getting hands-on experience.
I’m not alone while writing my novels. Another voice assumes control.
Writers call this source the muse. If my ego tries to take control over the plot and dialogue, the story soon grinds to a halt. The visions become nothing more than disappearing vapor. The characters’ voices are garbled. Experience has taught me to shut up and let the muse tell the story. I obediently go back to the page when I stopped taking dictation and delete pages, sometimes an entire chapter.
Over the years my muse and I have had numerous battles. I always lose. This year I have given ‘it’ a body and a name. Dear readers, meet Bart, short for Bartholomew. Or ‘Croak’ when I’m on the verge of murderous intent. He can be a royal pain when refusing to let me know where the plot is heading.
Ah, you were expecting a handsome dude. Now, how much work would I get done if the muse was a Sam Elliott copy? Oh, that sexy voice.
What was the inspiration for this book?
Perhaps I should tell you about the magical event. While following the media reports about the hunt for those responsible for the attack on the World Trade Towers, I felt sad for both Muslims and non-Muslims. I knew the Middle East people had been fed hateful propaganda about the west, and vice versa. In my heart I knew the farmer in Afghanistan was no different than my dad, a simple man tending to his livestock on our farm, wanting nothing more than to feed and protect his family.
My prayers for peace continued.
While driving home from work several months later on a minus 20C winter evening, I spotted a heavy set woman limping across an intersection. Her bulky clothing appeared to be more like that of our northern communities. Perhaps she is Inuit, I thought. As I drove on, I watched her in my rear view mirror.
A spell had fallen on me. I couldn’t get my mind off of her. As insanity seemed to take over, I pulled out of the flow of traffic and stopped. In the darkness, I couldn’t clearly see her face. She could be violent, maybe escaped from the mental hospital. Every reason for leaving her behind urged me to put my beat up SUV into gear and move on.
I rolled down the passenger window as she came closer. “Get in,” I beckoned in my most pleasant voice. “I’ll give you a ride.” Shock set my mind in turmoil. Are you crazy?
She stopped and turned toward me. Still I couldn’t make out her features buried in heavy clothes and scarves. She peered into my vehicle, hesitant to come too close. Spotting the torn leather below the window, she was about to turn away.
“Oh, my dog did that,” I smiled embarrassed. “Protecting me. You know how they are. I’ll give you a ride. You going far?” I motioned with my hands for her to get into my car. She leaned in closer, I supposed to see if anyone else was with me.
Now, who’s crazier? Her or me! Never in my life have I given a ride to a stranger.
I think it was the cold that convinced her to climb into my vehicle. We did the quick exchange of smiles and polite nods. After a moment of nervousness, ‘what the hell am I doing’ nausea, I pulled back into the traffic.
Within the next ten seconds, I realized the woman didn’t speak a word of English.
Our communication was through our eyes and hand gestures. After five more long blocks, I asked her where was she from. With my hand on my chest, I said,
“Canada. You are …?”
She said smiling, “Afghanistan.”
“Afghanistan?” I frowned as if I hadn’t understood.
With great pride, she repeated, “Afghanistan.”
Silence. I could barely think coherently. How did this woman I was praying for end up in my vehicle? She continued to point to where I was to drive. After another five minutes, we apparently arrived at her destination. When I parked, I offered her my hand and good wishes. I studied into her face.
She could have been my dear grandmother, the one who made me cookies and wiped away my tears. Instead of taking my hand in a goodbye shake, she enveloped in me in her arms and kissed my cheek. A loving spell had been cast, and Forbidden began.
Do you start with the conclusion and plot in reverse or start from the beginning and see where the story line brings you?
The short answer is I’ve never started with the conclusion. In fact, the ending is hidden from me until the last quarter of the book. My one goal for the ending is that it must be a happy ending and that all threads of the plot must be resolved. Before I begin to write the story, I start with the deep understanding of all the characters. I know them far beyond what is needed for the plot. Then they tell their story.
Your routine when writing? Any idiosyncrasies?
I do most of the ‘writing’ when I’m away from the keyboard. Forbidden’s plots were written while Bart and I were stuck in traffic, planting petunias in a pot, walking my shelties along forest trails, or stirring my mushroom soup. When I finally sat down at the computer, the movie in my head would flow for hours without hesitation. Sometimes it was exhausting trying to keep up with the images, sounds, dialogue, each nuance of hand gestures and facial expressions.
If you could co-author a book, who would that writer be?
I doubt there is an author with the required patience to co-author with me. I rewrite and rewrite and rewrite until I’m satisfied with the choice of words or phrases. It’s not done until Bart says it’s done. It’s not done until I feel the magic. And, my dear readers, that may take years. Forbidden went through three complete rewrites over a period of four years.
Are any of your characters based on you or people that you know?
Some of my beta readers believe the heroine, Eliza MacKay Ramsay, is based on my character. That was not intended. However, given she is a paramedic and is a risk taker. I can see how readers find her and me similar. The hero, Captain Sharif, is largely based on my late husband’s character. Forbidden is dedicated to him. He was my real life hero.
Your novel will be a movie. Who would you cast?
You may find this shocking, but I wouldn’t want to see Forbidden made into a movie. It would be changed and perhaps given a negative twist on Islam and Muslims. I attended a lecture given by Diana Gabaldon who talked about the challenges of watching her books turned into movies. She was prepared for the director to modify characters and scenes but didn’t always agree with the outcome.
Are you working on your next novel?
It’s in my head; or, rather, Bart is sending signals of a potential follow-up to Forbidden. Right now, my time is completely occupied with promoting Forbidden. Once I can give one hundred percent to the next novel, you might not hear from me again for a couple of years.
Can you tell us a bit about it? Title?
The working title is Forsaken. In essence, Forsaken will be an intensely dark struggle, alternating with moods of devotion, love and hope. Both hero and heroine (Sharif and MacKay) are thrust into separate paths with no hope to reclaim their passion for each other. Oops, have I said too much. Damn!
When can we look for it? Approximate publication date?
Given my reluctance to plan and plot an outline, I can see doing a draft, then rewrites. Then my beta readers and editor will have time to slash and advise. My first novel, The Guardian’s Wildchild, took ten years (due to taking writing classes at night). Forbidden took four years. Forsaken may be out in two, but please don’t send out the mob if it’s overdue.
Tell us why we should read this book.
That’s the million dollar question for which every reader deserves to receive an answer. Forbidden is like none other.
1. Readers hunt for something different. Forbidden is written in the point of view of a devout Muslim, a Middle Eastern cop, Captain Hashim Sharif. Absolutely unique.
2. The setting is the Republic of Islamic Provinces & Territories (RIPT) – my vision of the future of the Middle East. After the end of the current civil war, thirty years from now, I envision most of the Islamic countries joining to form one powerful nation. Sunni and Shia no longer are adversaries. The government is inclusive, democratic and Sharia law has been relaxed. However, deadly conflicts create chaos and a growing body count. The suspense does not end until the last paragraph.
3. Forbidden will enlighten readers on the basics of moderate Islam. I was guided by a generous imam, Mustafa Khattab; and a most wonderful friend who is a pediatrician and a Canadian Muslim. During the writing of the story, Dr. Sahar Albakkal provided valuable advice on the culture of moderate Muslims, Muslim names, Arabic terms, and interpretation of the Koran.
Who are some of your favorite authors?
I have an eclectic group of favorites: This incomplete list includes Diana Gabaldon, Nicki Elson, Pauline Holyoak,Yolanda Renee, Daniel Silva, Richard Goodship, Phoenix Rainez, and Christine Campbell.
What are you reading now?
66 Metres by Halema Begum – very exciting suspense/thriller.
Favorite leisure activity/hobby?
Honestly, I don’t have a favorite. My husband often complained that our house was full of various projects in various stages of completion. I’ve won awards for my needlework and received a congratulatory card from my mayor on the beauty of our front yard. I’m most happy while hiking with my two shelties, Sam and Jade. Lately, I’ve been working on becoming a water color artist.
Rib dinner at Tony Roma’s. The ribs – so tender. This is the stuff that legends are made of. The finest pork, beef and lamb ribs, richly seasoned with select spices, slow-smoked to mouthwatering perfection. Basted with your choice of one of their signature sauces. Accompanied by a glass of cold beer – HEAVEN! I’d love to meet you for dinner there.
Thank you for stopping by and visiting with us!
Gunfire echoes within the walls of a Middle East police compound. Screams of terror are brutally silenced. Police captain Hashim Sharif captures one survivor. Soon Eliza MacKay will wish she had died with her companions.
The vile act of terrorism is covered-up. Sharif becomes the reluctant keeper of his city’s bloody secret – and the witness, MacKay. His corrupt superiors have a gun rammed against his skull. Disloyalty to the mayor will be rewarded with being buried alive.
Whatever the cost, his government’s honor must be restored. Secretly, Sharif hunts forensic evidence. Who is responsible for the murder of fifteen American volunteers? And, why did MacKay lie about her identity? He can’t trust her. Her mental illness is going to get both of them killed.
When he receives orders to dispose of MacKay, his Muslim faith is tested. Murder an innocent in cold blood? He will suffer Allah’s eternal wrath.
CIA Agent Hutchinson has the lying Sharif in his cross hairs. Sharif dodges the agent’s traps almost as easily as the hit man on his tail. When Sharif discovers the shocking truth, he loses all hope of survival.
What is worth dying for? Perhaps it’s not bringing a madman to justice. Could it be saving the life of a woman who kick-started his numb heart? On the knife edge of risk, Sharif plots an act most forbidden and fatal.