How I Brought Noir to the Middle East

I began my wri13754563_10155136016684768_1238295217281462868_nting career with novels that featured exotic people in ordinary locales. Most of them were female immigrants trying to make sense of their new lives in America. A book as a gift can be a quagmire. Not so for my Swedish friends who gave me my first copy of Nordic noir. Reading Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell in my twenties was a revelation. People in Sweden had problems? Those blond, leggy descendants of the Vikings maimed and killed like the rest of the world? I was hooked. Ten years, and three Stieg Larsson novels later, after publishing a coming of age novel and a contemporary romance of my own, this latent leisure reading habit reared its head in the form of a police procedural. The Nordic authors steeped me in the staples of solid crime fiction: grumpy detective, not so good at everyday life, unexpected crime thrown in his lap, with help of persistent sidekick, finds the villains in the nick of time.

But there was a catch.

I lived in the desert, in an Islamic monarchy, at the heart of an Arabian emirate. Not the snow filled cities of Wallander or Lisbeth. The glitz of some of the world’s richest countries was the backdrop of my tales. While the differences seemed glaring, similarities emerged: nations made wealthy by the sale of oil, promising utopia to their relatively small populations, and a harsh external climate. They (agents, editors, the marketing department) tell you to find a good story and unique selling point.

Both have come together in my latest writing project, the Crimes in Arabia series. Lots of work (and fun) went into The Migrant Report which brings those familiar genre elements into a new context: A grumpy Arab detective, a self appointed, veiled, female sidekick, and a region with the lowest published crime rates in the world.

You don’t have to take my word for it.

Readers said:

  • ‘A fascinating look at a different and complex place.’
  • ‘A brilliant, deeply layered novel.’
  • ‘An amazing look into the Middle East, and the hardships that befall the migrant workers that came there, looking for work.’

No Place for Women is inspired by the real life murders of two young women. Enjoy a unique look at the underbelly of life in one of the richest places on Earth.

What are you reading this summer?

Wanted: Title for eBook "Boxed" Set

The Clan of the Cave Bear box set in my living room

If you like to read books and you have a favorite author, chances are high that you have a shelf somewhere with a row of his/her works. They may even have come in a box; likely their covers and spines match.

There’s a digital version of this phenomena as well which is an eBook bundle or boxed set. Same concept: similar work by an author in one collection. I’m venturing into this territory this holiday season for those readers who may want to read my 3 books set in Qatar without having to download (or pay) for them 3 separate times.

Many of you have read the “Qatar” books which comprise 2 novels and 1 memoir: Love Comes Later, From Dunes to Dior, and The Dohmestics.

They’re not a series but three books set in the same place, Doha, and dealing with similar themes of identity, change, and culture.

I’m working on a title that will capture their variety but let readers know their common themes.

Which of these possible titles makes you most likely to click on or download a sample?
Share your preference by taking the poll or suggesting a title for the project. Sign up for my newsletter for a chance to enter to win the eBook boxed set on release day.

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Was I Robbed of a Bestseller?

UnlikelyLast week, I was battling (and losing) jet lag, the requisite wound for international summer travel. What saved me was Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. In sheets damp with sweat -we came back to a broken air conditioner – I turned pages until the wee hours of the morning. My perspiration could have been attributed to the plot which was full of twists and turns.

What resonated with me, however, more than the dramatic peaks and valleys of the thriller itself, was the structure. A husband and wife, each telling their version of their love story gone wrong, in alternating chapters.

In 2006 I set out to write a book about the decay of a relationship, with alternating voices and chapters, of a boyfriend/girlfriend. The editor I engaged to work on this – my very first project – told me the structure wouldn’t work. I don’t remember the exact words but I do know that project is now in the 15 iteration and has a singular protagonist.

I’m not angry, honest I’m not. Only puzzled. Should I have stuck with my original idea? Could I have made those voices – characters who showed up during a writing workshop in the summer of 2006 – do my will, even if the editor didn’t believe in them?

I was reminded of this nagging feeling I had given up something when I read One Day by David Nicholls for much the same reason as Gone Girl. Boy and girl. Story of meeting, unmeeting, told in the past, then future, then present.

I don’t know if I didn’t have the confidence to tell that type of story. Or if it is better in the hands of experienced writers like Nicholls and Flynn, both of whose books went on to be bestsellers with movie adaptations (Flynn’s is forth coming).

I do know that over 15 books later, edited, fiction and non-fiction, I won’t make the same mistake again. If I have an idea, I will stick to it and give my characters a chance to make their debut in the world.

I have learned a tremendous amount working and reworking that manuscript into the soon to be released book now know as An Unlikely Goddess. I’ve stopped counting the number of revisions; we are somewhere around version 20 and I spent a few hours on Saturday tending to over 200 comments. When the book comes out it will be the culmination of nearly two years in self publishing and over ten years in writing, rewriting, and creating on my journey to becoming a full time writer.

What about you? Have you been given good or bad writing advice?


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