On Saturday 25th November 2017, I attended a book signing event for my new novel, The Refugee, at the High Wycombe Library.
I was pleasantly surprised with the number of people who turned up. Every seat was taken, and an overflow of people had to stand at the back. Talk about pressure, right?
Anyhow, the author talk went well, and I managed to introduce myself and talk a little bit about the inspiration behind the story. I gave a brief overview of the plot and characters, then read three extracts from the book and then ended.
I opened the floor to any questions that people had regarding my writing journey or the book, and here are some of those questions along with my answers:
Q: What made you become a writer as opposed to going into the field of the BSc Honours Degree that you graduated in?
A: I have had a profound passion for writing and storytelling since I was a young boy. And it was only after I graduated that I realised that it was now or never. Unlike my more “sensible” peers, I chose to pursue that passion. So, I wrote my first Science Fictions Fantasy novel in my third year at university.
Q: What is your preferred genre to write?
A: My focal genre is Science Fiction & Fantasy, but I enjoy writing in a variety of genres. I write short stories, horror, suspense, comedy and children’s books. I have a Sci/Fi books called “The One Percent” and children’s book called “Alex the Extraordinary” due to be realised early next year.
Q: Is “The Refugee” a true story?
A: The Refugee is a fictional book, but it is the most non-fictional piece of fiction that I have ever written. The characters in the book are fictional, the protagonist, Ahmed is not real, however, there are thousands and thousands of Ahmed’s out there. Going through what the protagonist goes through.
The Refugee was inspired by true events. Although the book was written to entertain and engage, it has a strong underlying message and aims provokes thought concerning the world around us.
It all began on a sultry summers day as I sat in front of my desk writing a book called the Seventh Echo when I suddenly found myself unable to write – not another darn word! This was due to a thought, a thought provoked by a very uncomfortable conversation that I had with someone earlier that day. A conversation that shook my very core. Concerning a young boy who travelled a horrific journey, smuggled out of the country with his mother, father and younger sibling. They made it to a refugee camp with only the clothes on their backs and their lives. The 10-year-old boy was abducted from the camp and subjected to vile sexual abuse, then dumped and left for dead.
This made me question the welfare of the vulnerable people who have made it across the sea, and I began conjuring up a story to highlight this.
Q: Do you have writers that have inspired you to write stories like this, stories that highlight real issues?
A: Two of my favourite classical authors are Charles Dickens and George Orwell. And those who appreciate meaningful literature will know that authors like these used their talents to shape a lot of the society that we live in. Literature can be a very powerful tool to provoke thought and bring social reform. Orwell wrote interesting fiction but often wrote in allegory – with powerful messages buried deep within his writing. He was a genius.
Q: Can you talk about the current refugee crisis?
A: The refugee crisis has had a lot of media attention. The mainstream media have sensationalised the situation incredibly to help sell their tabloids. In my opinion, they have reported irresponsibly and have contributed to widespread hate.
My ambition was not to delve into far into the refugee crisis but rather to dig into a well-concealed issue of children going missing. Since the crisis began, it had been reported that 15,000 children have simply disappeared. This is an astonishing number and what is more incredible is the little attention that this got. Most people don’t even know about it, but everyone knows that refugees are swarming the seas like Vikings, ready to break down our borders and butcher our babies while we sleep. Right?
There are numerous, verified reports of child trafficking syndicates operating close by to refugee camps. They have taken advantage of the desperation of these people.
Most refugees are just ordinary people trying to escape war-torn countries. They are usually educated people, who had professions, money, homes, businesses. Most of them would have never left their homes had their lives not been threatened. Why would they? Let’s not forget that Syria was spirited, thriving country – once upon a time.
Q: Do you get emotional when writing something like this?
A: I got very emotional, especially when researching and unearthing the horrific facts. In fact, there were numerous occasions where I had to stop and do something completely different to prevent myself from breaking down.
Q: Were there any challenges while writing The Refugee?
A: The biggest challenge for me was whether I could do justice to such a sensitive subject. There were at least two times while writing the book that I stopped and refused to continue. I didn’t believe that I could give it what it deserved. It was only with the encouragement of my family and friends that I decided to complete it.
Q: How long it take you to write?
A: The book took about a year to write and then a further six months to edit. So, yes, it has been a journey!
Q: Do you get emotional when creating these characters?
A: I get very emotional when creating these characters. When I wrote from Ahmed’s perspective, I had to become Ahmed. And although I wasn’t in his dire situation, I had to try to feel what he felt. It often puts you in a dark place. It is sometimes a challenge to separate yourself after you stop writing.