The Refugee is a book that delves deeper than what the mainstream media have selected to sensationalise in the papers. As an author, I tried to read between the lines and concoct a story that stayed true to the accounts of the situation, and I think I did. But this did not come without repercussions.
The adversities began from the get-go. Before putting pen to paper, while researching the refugee crisis, I had already found myself in a dark place. Don’t get me wrong; I knew the situation was bad – the newspapers had conveyed that much, but I didn’t know the extent of the “bad”.
It was a good few weeks of painful research. I unearthed some horrifying facts, some I mentioned in earlier blogs, but the one that struck me the most became the motivation behind the story. The heart-wrenching statistic of 15,000 children vanishing without a trace. And although I write about it a lot and have passionately spoken about it publicly, it still shakes me up, just the way it did when I researched it and began writing.
The Refugee is a story of a fictional character, Ahmed, who while escaping a war-torn country, suffers the tragic loss of his wife. His view of the world becomes very narrow as his situation declines further – his 10-year-old son disappears. He fears he may be dead.
To accurately portray Ahmed, I had to, in a way, become Ahmed. Get into the head of a man who has just lost everything he held dear. He is panicking, frantic and willing to do anything to get his son back.
As I wrote the part of the book where Ahmed is roaming around a strange place far from home, I knew in the back of my mind that there are thousands of Ahmeds out there. There are thousands of children out there – lost. 15,000 children, if you want to try to quantify it.
There were many times where I had to stop writing, and although I would lie, even to myself, and say that I need a break from writing for a few days, or that I wanted to focus on other things, the cold fact was that I struggled with being Ahmed. I couldn’t fathom being in Ahmed’s situation, especially when I knew that he was real and there was more than one of him.
Midway through the book, I completely stopped and decided to write a children’s book called Alex the Extraordinary, I felt I needed to focus on something light-hearted, and I didn’t go back to the Refugee until I had finished Alex the Extraordinary.