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I Felt a Conviction

Michelle Peach Author Interview

Michelle Peach Author Interview

Gazelle in the Shadows follows Elizabeth as she navigates a dangerous web of lies, betrayal and murder. What was the inspiration for the setup to this intriguing novel?

The inspiration for this book came many years after the events happened in my life. Over the years, I rarely spoke about my former life as a diplomat in Yemen during the Iraq/Kuwait war nor my student life in Damascus but to those I opened up to, I was encouraged to write a book. Then in 2011, the civil war in Syria began and I felt a conviction to let readers know about the traditions and kindness of the Syrian people and the history and beauty of the country I had witnessed before the devastation.

Elizabeth is an interesting and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind her character?

Elizabeth’s driving ideals are to make her father proud by proving herself to him and to find love. Once a daddy’s girl, her relationship with her father deteriorates in her teenage years as her father implements stricter rules on her than on her older brother. She had always been an avid reader, dreaming of traveling to foreign lands. Her travels help her to escape her father’s harsh judgment and provide her with an opportunity to prove her worth to him and to herself. Because of her sheltered life, first with a Catholic upbringing and then in a diplomatic bubble, she is both emotionally and physically unprepared for her journey to Syria. She is remarkably naive and trusting of others and lacks rudimentary information about the country in a pre internet era. Her journey opens her up to the harsh realities of life where people are not always as they appear and after a series of innocuous and seemingly unconnected events, she not only discovers love but betrayal too. Facing many dangers, her strengths and courage are put to the test and ultimately she comes to appreciate her family and herself in new light.

You are a former employee of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London. How has your experience helped you write this book?

I worked in the Foreign Office between 1986 and 1991, initially in London and then in the British Embassy in Sana’a, Yemen Arab Republic. My experiences undoubtedly helped me to write my novel as the genesis of the story was born from my three years serving in Yemen. As told in the book, I unwittingly met the infamous George Habash, the founder of the PFLP, in Aden. This actual encounter played a crucial part in the story. Other true stories from my service involving MI6, the British secret service and foreign diplomats helped to create the twists and turns in the story arc.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

After graduating from Durham University, I went to work in Dubai, UAE for an oil shipping company. As I like to write fiction based on reality, the sequel is based in Dubai and my experiences working there. I am currently writing a story which follows Elizabeth who enters the ranks of the MI6. She is sent undercover to Dubai where she unearths an Iranian plot to undermine British and American interests in the region. The question is, will she meet Hussein again?

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Gazelle in the Shadows by [Peach, Michelle]In the mid 90s, Elizabeth Booth is a young British college student studying Arabic at Durham University. With some travel and work already under her belt, she excels at her studies and is sent to Damascus to immerse herself in the language. Taken aback by the generosity and kindness of the people there, she easy slips into a life in the ancient city. She has friends, her studies, and even a handsome boyfriend. But things aren’t always what they seem. Soon, in a world where mistrust and disloyalty are commonplace, Elizabeth finds herself navigating a web of lies, betrayals, and even murder involving MI6, deadly terrorist factions, and the shadowy Syrian secret police.

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Gazelle in the Shadows

Gazelle in the Shadows by [Peach, Michelle]

Based on her own life, Michelle Peach has crafted an intriguing story in Gazelle in the Shadows. Some parts of the story are fictionalized according to the author. The novel opens with Elizabeth Booth who has been kidnapped. She’s battered and bruised and not sure who is responsible. Her British diplomatic immunity does not seem to be of any use to her at the beginning of the story.

We then cut to an earlier time on a cold, rainy April day in the north of England. She is in Professor Mansfield’s office, attending school at the Centre for Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies in Durham University. Not sure where she will succeed, she decides to enter the Foreign and Commonwealth Office as a Diplomatic Service and she loves it.

Most of her life seems to have been about finding out who she is in her family. She grows up wanting to leave home and go on adventures. The point of meeting with her professor on that April day is to convince him to allow her to do her study in Damascus. She is the only student from her class going there. On the flight to Damascus, she is told by the flight attendant that there are no hotel rooms and arranges a place for her to stay.

Starting with the people on the flight, I did have to suspend disbelief somewhat to make myself believe that she could be as naïve as she was behaving. It seemed odd to me that anyone would trust a man on a flight and follow him afterward, even if he did work for the airline. It does seem to me that it would raise red flags.

She is literally a stranger in this new land and finds herself offending without meaning to. For example, when she drops bread on to the ground, she does not realize that bread is a sacred food and should never be wasted. She finds that navigating this new, strange land is not as easy as she had expected. I did love her descriptions of the exotic locale. She really brings the countryside to life with her writing.

This story is filled with mystery and suspense. This story was interesting to be because, unlike most books I’ve read, it’s about a place I knew little about when I started reading. The cultural issues that arise throughout the story are every bit as interesting as what is happening in the story. The only negative about the book is that I felt I knew what might be happening early on in the story even though I was not entirely correct. Despite that, the author has crafted a story that kept me turning pages way past my bedtime.

Pages: 327 | ASIN: B07CPX2WH5

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