A Burning in the Darkness follows Father Michael serving at an airport when he becomes the prime suspect in a heinous crime. What was the inspiration to the setup to this thrilling suspense novel?
Essentially it was the opening set up/dilemma. An anonymous voice in a darkened confessional confesses a murder to Father Michael Kieh. Circumstance and evidence points to the Michael’s guilt but he remains faithful to the Seal of Confession and doesn’t betray the identity of a young witness. Michael’s dilemma is between remaining true to his ideals or saving himself from a long prison sentence.
Father Michael Kieh is an intriguing and dynamic character. What were the driving ideals behind the characters development throughout the story?
In relation to Michael, I often asked myself: Is it possible to be so good that it becomes self-destructive? Is it possible to have the same degree of love and imaginative sympathy for the entire human race as one’s family and not be overwhelmed? Even asking the question seems exhausting and tiresome but the answer is self-evident. You would be overwhelmed to the point of physical and psychological destruction. Yet Michael comes close to this form of destruction.
Michael’s childhood was forged in the horrors of the Liberian civil war, but he chose a life dedicated to the Good. Michael has the moral freedom and strength to be different to his environment. He was a child witness and was protected from harm so he knows the importance of the strong protecting the weak. But we all need a little selfishness to survive. And Michael certainly has a smattering of selfishness because he is not afraid to assert his need for love as a strong-willed lover. But the reader roots for Michael because he refuses to betray his higher ideals. I wanted the novel to justify Michael’s faith in the ideals of putting the needs of others who cannot protect themselves before your own needs. It’s easy to talk the talk on this, but entirely different to walk the walk when you have to make a big sacrifice.
I wanted to write a page-turner novel, but the action explores a deep morality without, I hope, being preachy and self-justifying. It’s also important to me that whether you’re a diehard atheist or fervent believer that you will be engaged by Michael’s character, dilemma and beliefs.
When you first sat down to write this story, did you know where you were going, or did the twists come as you were writing?
I wrote a 5 or 6 page outline which I tinkered around with for a year or so, not sure if it was working as a story. This gave me the main plot and character points. It was more like what they call in the movie/TV business ‘a treatment’. I’m a film school graduate, so it was part of my training. I spoke to a close friend of mine about the story and he encouraged me to write it. (By the way, I work as a cinematographer on TV drama.)
I find a problem in well written novels in that I always want there to be another book. Are you writing another book? If so, when will it be available?
Your kind and positive response makes me want to write another. Most of my time and effort has been spent getting A Burning in the Darkness published. Michael’s story is complete so there’s no room to revisit it. I am working on an outline for another novel. Actually, mostly researching it at this point.
A Burning in the Darkness took me a good 7 years to write. That’s too long! I’d also like to write a novella in the meantime. Maybe 80 to 100 pages. I’d like to be able to do it in about 6 months, but I’m a slow writer.
Sadly I lost my wife to breast cancer 18 months ago. I have three amazing teenage children who are the best thing about my life, but being a single dad and working to keep them fed and housed takes up a lot of time. But that’s my primary responsibility. Nevertheless, my kids are also a powerful source of moral strength and determination. And somehow writers always find the time to write.
A murder at one of the world’s busiest airports opens this simmering crime story where a good man’s loyalty is tested to its limits. Michael Kieh is a full time faith representative serving the needs of some of the 80 million passengers, but circumstance and evidence point to his guilt. His struggle to prove his innocence leads him on a charged journey that pitches love against revenge.
Michael’s loneliness was eased by a series of brief encounters with a soul mate. When she confides a dark secret, he is motivated to redress a heart-breaking injustice. Together they must battle against powerful forces as they edge dangerously close to unmasking a past crime. But Michael faces defeat when he chooses to protect a young witness, leaving him a burning spirit in the darkness.
Michael’s commitment to helping those in need was forged in the brutality of the Liberian civil war. Protected by a kind guardian, he too was a young witness to an atrocity that has left a haunting legacy of stolen justice and a lingering need for revenge. More poignantly there is a first love cruelly left behind in Africa because of the impossible choices of war. When Michael and his former lover find each other once again they become formidable allies in proving his innocence and rediscovering their lost love.
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Physical follows two women, Fatima who has given birth to twins in London and Kiki who finds herself stuck and alone in Northern Italy after her boyfriend leaves her for an ‘upgrade’. What was the inspiration for the setup to this engaging novel?
This novel was inspired by a wine-fueled conversation between two close female friends discussing the past five years of their lives. Like in the book, one had given birth not too long ago, and the other one had recently been ditched by a long-term boyfriend. Both were distraught at the sharp decline of their self-esteem and loss of their identity in a matter of months. They exchanged passionate words of rage and desperation which grew more caustic the more they drunk. Just before collapsing from alcohol intoxication, they homed on actionable lessons from their almost opposite yet very similar experiences: desire was still ablaze inside them; sex continued to matter; and whatever else slightly alien seemed to be hijacking their lives, they deserved to seek physical fulfillment. The rest, is fiction.
Emotions run high in this book and you can truly feel where these women are coming from in their midlife crises. What were some themes you used when developing your characters?
On the side of Kiki, I was eager to explore ways in which a middle-aged female could cope with rejection including the weight of factors such as aging, the yearn for children, and the clash with societal pressures and surrounding family and friends. Of course, I also wanted to look at the role of sexuality and how it changes with age, and whether physical desire can remain determining even as mature life becomes more complicated.
On the side of Fatima, I focused on the potential result of taking away freedom and independence from a successful middle-aged woman, trapping her in a new ‘silent’ world. I wanted to push Fatima to the edge and see where she would run to re-find herself, and how much she would risk to regain happiness. I toyed with betrayal and whether it could be therapeutic and serve a purpose, as well as with a mother’s/wife’s guilt for her own selfishness versus her right to want fulfilment of all kinds including physical. I wanted Fatima to consider whether love means total trust and what trust actually means.
I felt that Kiki was sabotaging herself a lot through the story. Do you think this is reflective of her character as a whole or is this just a phase she’s going through?
Kiki is a woman of a different time. Full of ideas and ideals. Passionate and righteous but who has never been allowed to believe in herself too much. She would like to leave Italy but doesn’t find the courage. She would like to step out of her parents’ influence but loves them too much. She knows she’s very different from her friends but not sure she could do without them. She’s deep down uncertain of what she wants from men, but at times feels pressured she should follow every female’s ideal of marriage. She’s a strong doubter with a good heart for whom things finally work out. We need more Kikis in the world, for sure.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
Morte a Pisa: LIPS, LIGHT & LYRE will be out in June. It is a thin book with a trio of reflective short-stories around female death following a weekend in Pisa. The next full-length novel will be Caro M, where a lover misses her beloved Caro M after being abandoned; a wife is steered through her divorce from husband Caro M by her sweetheart psychiatrist; and a young girl has landed a fairy tale wedding to groom Caro M that soon becomes a nightmare her cousin wants to help fix. Naturally, someone somewhere will be the end of Caro M…
In a small town in northern Italy, Kiki feels worthless and angry when her longtime partner finds a new cool girl to ride on another decade of easy existence. Meanwhile in trendy London, Fátima, the wife of Kiki’s best friend, is losing her selfhood after giving birth to twins and being made redundant. Both heroines are determined to rebuild the passion and impunity of their youth, vitalising desires that will bring them to risk everything…
Themes covered in the novel include rejection, identity, betrayal, freedom and the right to happiness. The tone is humorous on the face of distress, often rejoicing in the terror of lives out of control.”
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Physical: The catastrophe of desire by Mari Reiza is a wild ride of a read. For both main characters, two middle aged women, Kiki and Fatima, it is indeed a catastrophe, but of their own making. Kiki is virtually strapped in a small town in Northern Italy and finds herself alone after her longtime boyfriend leaves for an “upgrade”. Fatima finds herself in a crisis of identity after having twins and struggles to find purpose in her enlarged family. Yet, both women feel pulled along by their baser desires to rekindle the energy and passion they had in their youth.
Overall, the book reads very fast pace, which for a shorter book is expected and I would say enjoyed it. There are moments where the book reads as if Reiza is experimenting with stream of conscious, but then it breaks away from that to continue in a more traditional narrative pattern. The change can occur on the same page or even within the same paragraph, which may be disconcerting to the careful reader.
The characters themselves are a varied mix of character strengths and flaws that can keeps the reader engaged. Kiki has a mouth like a sailor and clearly has a drive and motivation to make something of herself if she can overcome her very physical, base needs. There were times it was hard to follow her storyline given that she self-sabotages to a large degree. Fatima on the other hand seems to be the polar opposite, in the sense that she is in a steady marital relationship with children, something Kiki is allergic to. Fatima is no prude though and is as explicit as Kiki is about sex and the like. Both women seem driven to try and enliven their lives in any way they can no matter the cost, even if it dramatically disrupts their lives.
The story is told through both women point of view in alternating chapters and some heavy style choice make the narrative more “telling” than “showing”. But these are easy to push past as you get drawn into the struggle of Kiki and Fatima. The strongest point of Reiza’s writing is that you can truly feel where these women are coming from in their midlife crises. They are clearly tired and bored of their current lifestyle and need to do something to shake it up. It truly appeals to the deepest core beliefs that individuals can have when they have reached a “rock bottom” or stagnant part of life.
Overall, it is a classic contemporary fiction story. Of two women trying as best they can to beat back the overshadowing struggle of age and day to day responsibilities. Passion isn’t only reserved for the youth; it can always be rekindled later with a little help.
Pages: 143 | ASIN: B01N9ZU9XL
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Fractured is a captivating story of heroism, greed, and fulfilling one’s destiny. What was the initial idea behind this story and how did that transform as you were writing the novel?
Dune is perhaps my favorite book ever. I read it back in the day. After reading Dune Messiah, I was sure I knew what would happen next. When Children of Dune was published, I read it and threw it across the room, saying, “If Frank Herbert won’t write the book I want to read, I’ll write it.” I had no idea what I was doing, and I certainly had no concept whatsoever of where this first step of the journey would take me. But I knew I needed a “gimmick.” That’s when the idea of a world where sexism had never existed entered the story, but what began as a gimmick became an opportunity to define character with the facets of light and dark that exist in all of us rather than by the character’s genitalia and served as a significant guide to my world-building. Who are these beings that in their society there is no division of labor by gender? What differences between earth humans and the people of Garla (physical and mental) would bring such a thing about?
Lisen is a complex teenage girl that is brought to life by your writing style. What were the morals you were trying to caputre while creating your characters?
None of my characters is either all good or all bad. I revel in the gift of digging down deep and finding the darkness in the light and vice versa. For me, each character deserves the opportunity to show the reader all they’ve got and allow the reader to judge for herself. As for morals, I believe that one must know how to think before one can make any moral decision. Even then, the moral decision may not be the best decision at the moment. Sometimes, we have to sacrifice the “good” thing for the “right” thing (a major decision in book 2 illustrates that). Luckily, Lisen comes into the story with some pretty strong ethics that have been taught to her by the Holts, her guardians on earth. This allows me as the writer to challenge those ethics and see how she does.
What I loved most about the novel is that it plays with the idea of who is truly in charge of shaping our path in life. Did you put any of yourself or your experiences into this book?
I have always had a strong connection to the dead, but certainly not to the extent that Lisen does with her gift as a necropath. I think one of the most interesting aspects of the story is the character of Flandari, a woman too tightly wound to give her son any love at all and who is ultimately stolen away from Lisen before Lisen gets a chance to know her. My mother was a distant woman, and I realized after creating the character of Flandari that she was very like my own mother. Unlike me, however, Lisen finds a way to love. She makes a friend in Jozan, and there is clearly something going on with her Captain Cutie. She’s open to the possibilities, and this is thanks to her time with the Holts.
Fractured is book 1 in the Lisen of Solsta series. Where does book to take the characters and what do you invision for the series in the future?
There are 3 more books already available: Tainted, book 2, in which Lisen must come to terms with what to do about her brother (and which contains the true beginning of the match between her and Korin); Blooded, book 3, which finds Lisen struggling with this new mantle on her shoulders of Empir; and Protector of Thristas, book 4, which begins fifteen years after the end of Blooded because I wanted to know who these people became when they grew up. I am currently working on what was originally book 5 and the final book. However, it’s turning into a longer project than originally planned, and although it will still put an end to the story, it’s likely to be two books rather than one.
“Seventeen-year-old Lisen Holt only begins to realize that her life is fractured after a sorcerer abducts her from a California beach and brings her home to Garla. She awakens at Solsta Haven, a refuge for the spiritual members of Garlan society known as hermits. The sorcerer, Hermit Eloise, has returned Lisen?s body to its true form?a human-like marsupial with no visible breasts and a fuzzy pouch just above where her bellybutton once was. She then restores Lisen?s memory of her first ten years in Garla, leaving her earthly existence behind but not forgotten. Although she is Lisen of Solsta now, questions haunt her, questions Eloise refuses to answer. Who are the parents who left her at Solsta? Why did Eloise send her to Earth? And what is so important about her that Eloise has manipulated so much of her life? The answers will propel Lisen into a quest for a throne, and all that will stand between her and her birthright is her matricidal twin of a brother.”
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