The art and science of manipulation has been formally and informally studied and dissected a countless number of times.
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The first chapter of Lea Ann Vandygriff’s book, Seasons: Once Upon My Innocence, is entitled “A Quiet Little Town.” That’s exactly what Rhinehart is. Rhinehart is a southern ranching town where everyone knows everyone else and everyone else’s business. It is Mayberry-like and seems picture-perfect until things go a little off the rails. A tornado and a few menacing characters sweep through town wreaking havoc on the townspeople and shaking both their homes and their faith. Especially shaken are the town’s younger citizens who can’t reconcile one question in their young minds. “Why does God let bad things happen to good people?”
Vandygriff takes us through a season of disaster, desperation, hope, and forgiveness within this close-knit community. It seems like every time one thing comes together, something else falls apart. We are introduced to a cast of characters that range from sweet, Godly, and endearing to violent, neglectful, and unstable. Fortunately, there are more former than latter. Most of the book seems to center around 8th grader, Aubree, her brother Randy, and their parents, Clyde and Dolores. A large focus is also placed on a trio of brothers who have been dropped into the lap of their elderly grandmother.
Many parts of the book made me long for a time when neighbors were more than the people we wound up living beside. They were family. They were there at a minute’s notice to help with whatever was needed. Whether it was cleaning up after a tornado, helping an old lady with her groceries, or befriending the new kid with a bad reputation at school, the people of Rhinehart stuck together through it all. Being raised in a small, southern town myself, I found myself identifying with the town and the people. I saw myself and my family in the characters.
Vandygriff weaves a lot of scripture into her writing. Those who have suffered tragedies in the book are directed to the Bible for answers. Every meal in Aubree’s house is blessed. Prayer is always the answer. Church is a big part of the community. Aubree and her middle school friends find it so hard to comprehend why God lets bad things happen. They are always directed to the Bible and particular verses for answers, and reminded that forgiveness is a huge part of being a Christian.
One particular scenario did bother me in the book. Without going into too much detail, a man abused a young girl. There were no consequences for him. He was forgiven with hardly a blink. There was no accountabilty and no amends made, yet he was still allowed to be around the girl and her family as usual. I wouldn’t have been as forgiving. It was explained as the Christian thing to do, but I don’t know if readers will be able to reconcile themselves with this part. I couldn’t.
That being said, there are plenty of breaks thrown in to lessen the weighty themes the book contains. Plenty of comedy is exchanged through family dynamics and middle school friendships and drama. Often, situations in the book start out as tense and serious, but end with characters laughing. This eases the calamities and stress that the characters find themselves in.
There are some parts that are left intentionally unresolved. Some problems reintroduce themselves on the last page of the book. It is left open-ended. It definitely begs for a sequel.
I will say that there were several spelling errors that I think could have been caught with another once-over by an editor. I also had trouble, at times, pinpointing the era it is set in. Party line telephone circuits are mentioned, but other things seem much more modern in the story. Otherwise, the story seemed to flow well. The characters and the messes they find themselves in are interesting. I’d love to see what happens to the townspeople of Rhinehart next!
Pages: 274 | ASIN: B079647HZH
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Damaged Beyond All Recognition follows a man who is unwilling to accept an afterlife that provides nothing more than eternal self-awareness. What was the inspiration behind the idea for this novel?
I finally got around to reading The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut just before I started my novel. I was blown away by Vonnegut’s masterful handling of such a complicated story. It was the type of book that I had always wanted to write. So, I thought I would give it a try and see what would happen. I had a short story idea about a fractured afterlife, and I took it from there.
I enjoyed reading about your unique take on God and how the Creator is dependent upon others. What were some themes you wanted to capture while writing about this topic?
I always found it interesting that humans have such wide-ranging views about God. Some think that God controls our every action while others think He doesn’t even exist. We read about how God created man in His own image, but I haven’t run across too many who see him as another guy. What if He just has the necessary job experience that would come from living countless lives through the Planes of Existence?
I loved Paul and Maggie Mae’s relationship and admired their dedication to one another. Did their relationship develop organically while writing or was it planned?
That relationship is based on a college romance that I had with the real-life Maggie Mae. She is the subject of a chapter (“There’s A Little Black Spot On The Fun Today”) in my first book, Damaged Right Out Of The Box, a humorous and wistful autobiography of sorts. The description of how Paul and Maggie Mae met and how their relationship flowered tracks what really happened. And it was my girlfriend’s career drive that prompted me to walk away. I couldn’t see myself playing second fiddle at the time.
But now I regret what happened and how it happened. So, I thought I would extrapolate the what-if. What if Paul and Maggie Mae said goodbye, but not a forever goodbye? What if he would wait for her while she proved to herself that she could be all that she could be?
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I’m working on the sequel to Damaged Beyond All Recognition. It’s entitled Damaged And No Longer Under Warranty, and it continues the story of whether the Paraverse was really the answer to preserving eternity. I hope to have it out in about 18 months or less.
Paul Tomenko is no stranger to the improbable. He became a magazine sweepstakes winner and celebrated counterculture writer by age 19. Now, after reaching for a can of Chef Boy-ar-dee spaghetti and meatballs, he’s traveling to and from God’s library somewhere outside the Universe to prevent the end of eternity.
Because of a DNA flaw, humanity no longer can ascend through the Planes of Existence after they die. They can’t access memories from countless past lives in previous versions of the Universe or acquire new recollections. That means no one will have the needed expertise to replace God when He dies. And, to complicate matters, Paul must enlist the help of his two lovers–Maggie Mae Monahan and Allie Briarsworth–because of their unique abilities. But the trio discovers the preservation of forevermore can turn someone’s soul inside out. Literally.
The novel chronicles the life of an ordinary man under extraordinary circumstances. Paul is unwilling to accept a broken Afterlife that provides nothing more than eternal self-awareness. He is also reluctant to choose between Maggie Mae, a brilliant geneticist who has the uncanny ability to “connect the dots,” and Allie, a novelist who inexplicably senses past and future events in the cosmos. The unexpected is to be expected from an unusual cast of supporting characters: Cher the Gatekeeper and Katharine Ross the Librarian, figments patterned after two celebrities for whom Paul has lusted; Gronk and Grita, two “resurrected” six-year-old neo-Neanderthals who are the most intelligent humans on Earth; Tsutomu Yamaguchi, an innovative bioengineer named after a Japanese man who survived nuclear bomb blasts in Hiroshima and Nagasaki; and Dr. Peter Lexington Townshend, the head of a genetics laboratory that already has prevented the Russians from stripping politicians in Washington, D.C., of all their memories.
Be prepared for a book that examines our metaphysical questions with a mixture of mind-bending possibilities, laughter, and tears.
Posted in Interviews
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Traits and Emotions of a Salvageable Soul helps one achieve a higher quality of life by realizing one’s own value. What was the inspiration that made you want to put your wisdom into a book?
The inspiration for writing this book came from God’s whisper. Although I have a beautiful heart, my walk in life hasn’t been so great. I love giving to other people, regardless of the color of their skin. One day I was reflecting on all the books that I’ve read and noticed that none of them spoke to my soul. I was looking for a touch of guidance and in doing so, I thought it would be a good deed to provide our youth with a book of wisdom. Now no one can say they were never informed.
This book covers many different topics from happiness to accepting criticism. What were some themes you felt were important to express in this book?
I thought it was important to express: Accepting constructive criticism, the importance of respecting our elders, appreciating and respecting woman and all of the other themes. 🙂 I can honestly say that this book is what my heart needed to express.
Why do you think some people struggle with finding value in themselves and in their lives?
I think some people struggle (as I have) with finding meaning and value for their lives because they weren’t taught about values, emotional intelligence, and how to show love to the next child, woman or man. “America, I am an example of how intelligent and compassionate your prisoners can be.”
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
My next book will be, Traits and Emotions of A Salvageable Soul, Vol. II. Truthfully, it’s already completed. In case you weren’t aware, $1.00 from every book purchased goes to St. Jude’s Children Hospital. A dollar from my next book will probably go to The Ronald McDonald House.
I can’t give away too many details, but I’m working on a deep novel titled, Silenced by a Predator’s Threat. You can look for Vol. II sometime in January or February of 2019. Please, tell the world about this book. Everyone can find me at Inkwater.com or via my Facebook link (below).
All people have their own remarkably intrinsic value, and it’s time we recognize it in ourselves and share it with the people in our lives.
From the wisdom of elders comes Traits and Emotions of a Salvageable Soul: A Conversation with a Touch of Class, a guide to growing and healing ourselves so that we can live the quality of life we were always meant to live. From life’s hard lessons, Crawford offers the reader encouragement and truth, a path for using life’s challenges to overcome and even thrive.
Don’t give up, he reminds us. Every one of us has great potential and purpose. We just need to have faith in ourselves and courage.
Posted in Book Reviews
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Forgotten Letters is a beautifully told story of family, love, faith, and war that focuses on Robert Campbell, an American and his love interest, Makiko Asakawa, who is of Japanese descent. The two meet as children when Robert’s family stay with Makiko’s family in Yokohama during the 1920s to 1930s. It’s during this time that a relationship is formed between the two. Robert’s family eventually moves back to the United States while he is still in school, but Robert and Makiko vow to see each other again and maintain their bond by writing letters to each other. It is not until the 1940s, with the attack on Pearl Harbor and the outbreak of World War II that the two are reunited. The novel delicately pieces together the story of these two individuals living through death and devastation as they fight to get back to each other.
Kirk Raeber does an excellent job of handling the intricate details of the novel. There are a lot of historical components to this piece, and the author weaves his fictional story into American and Japanese history among other components of the novel flawlessly. Firstly, Robert’s father is a preacher; therefore, a lot of his lessons for a young Robert are based on scripture and particular Bible verses. Robert often returns to these Bible verses during trying moments in his life. It’s clear that the author had some knowledge of the Bible and took great care in picking out the right verse during difficult moments in Robert’s life. Secondly, the author seems to be aware of American and Japanese culture during the time period that the novel spans. Also, even though this is a fictional story, there are historical elements weaved into it, such as the attack on Pearl Harbor and the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Raeber does not skip over these aspects of history, but rather he weaves them into Robert and Makiko’s story, illustrating not only how these unfortunate events impacted these two fictional characters, but it can also be reasoned that his telling of their story resonates the mood and despair of those that actually lived through the experience. It’s clear that Raeber took care while writing these events to make sure that he handled them with accuracy.
A small note of criticism lies within the secondary characters of the novel, Robert and Makiko’s son and daughter. The whole story begins when the adult children are going through their deceased parents’ belongings and stumble upon the letters that the two lovers exchanged long ago. This then leads into Robert and Makiko’s storyline, and the reader isn’t returned to the characters of the adult children until the end of the novel. While Robert and Makiko’s story is obviously the focus of the novel, it would have been nice to be returned to the adult children periodically throughout the novel. The placing of these two characters at the very beginning and very end of the novel creates a disconnect with them, and it leaves one questioning their purpose overall. It’s very possible that Robert and Makiko’s story can be told without the mention and inclusion of their children as characters.
Overall, Raeber’s Forgotten Letters is a beautifully told story of love’s triumph over distance, death, and war. This novel is highly recommended to those that might have an interest in World War II, 1940s Japanese culture, or anyone who just enjoys a good love story.
Pages: 406 | ASIN: B01HQFFXYY
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Returning Souls begins when 67 year old Evie is on the edge of death and her soul is sent through multiple lives. What was the inspiration for a such a dramatic setup to your novel?
I wanted bring the reader into the realm of ‘pre-incarnation’ from the start of the book. I felt it was important to begin with the emotional impact of Evie’s event in her kitchen. This beginning was also a way to move straight into her personality and way of thinking in order to introduce her and immediately engaging the reader.
When writing this book, did you conduct research into reincarnation or an after life?
In preparation for writing about near death experience I read many books about the phenomenon, as well books about children who seem to have memories of a previous life from a very early age. These experiences are more prevalent in countries where reincarnation is an accepted idea, such as India or other eastern countries, or even South American countries. In these countries, people are more receptive to listening to children talking about being another person, having another mother and father, or about memories of other places and people. They are more apt to believe and actually research things children say about places and people, rather than thinking it’s just their imagination. I began study with a shaman about a year before starting to write Returning Souls. I did not study after life, but have always believed that anything is possible.
Did you want Evie and Astara’s characters to compliment one another or did you want them to be completely different?
I wanted Astara to be a very different person. As it turned out, I believe Astara is Evie’s alter-ego, someone she might like to have been growing up, someone who had more confidence in who she is and what is right for her. In this way I feel they compliment each other, while also contrasting in so many ways.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I am currently working on a sequel to Returning Souls; I’m not sure of the title yet, still working on some ideas. The sequel takes place entirely in the prehistoric era, and expands on the lineage of the characters introduced in Returning Souls. I hope to have it available by end of 2018.
Evie D’Arico is just like any other 67-year-old retiree until a sudden stroke puts her life in jeopardy, and catapults her soul through multiple lifetimes. After drifting through a space where time has no meaning, Evie awakens to find herself in the body and mind of someone else. She realizes she is experiencing her soul’s past life on Earth as Astara, a young girl who lived during the Mesolithic Era of human prehistory.
Evie soon melds into Astara, who has just experienced the Girl’s Coming of Age rite, a ritual of the Golden Fish tribe. On her quest, Astara saw herself as a Three Face – a powerful combination of male, female and animal elements – making her a potential spirit leader. But the Holy One of the Golden Fish tribe does not want to acknowledge another seer within his realm, especially a defiant young female Three Face. Astara is given a choice either to live as an unremarkable woman of the tribe, or to leave her home and family on an unprecedented journey into unknown territory, and establish her own following as a Three Face.
Through living a few crucial days as Astara, Evie comes away with new self-knowledge and an appreciation for the courage of the young girl she was in a past life.
She still has unanswered questions about the meaning of her current lifetime. Her soul relives Evie’s life, recalling the impact of her sister Liliana, and reliving her upbringing during the 1950s and 1960s. She meets trusted Guardians along the way who help her recognize the end results of her own actions. As the disjointed revelations of her soul’s journey come together the puzzle of her life takes on new meaning, and she is faced with the possibilities of her own future.
Evie realizes she must decide who she really wants to be. Only she can choose the next stage of her soul’s epic journey through lifetimes.
What will she choose? Who will she be?
Posted in Interviews
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When the Cossacks invade their village, young Avrum and his brother Hershel manage to hide and survive the attacks which kill more than 80 members of their small Polish community. Trying to gather their wits about them and come to terms with the deaths of both parents, the two boys decide to make their way to the synagogue in Lvov. The road to Lvov is paved with one horror after another, and a harrowing experience at the home of a decrepit old woman leads to the brothers’ ultimate separation. Avrum, the tragic main character in Arnold Holtzman’s To The End of Days, spends the better part of his young life making his way to America to build a life for himself and, hoping beyond hope, to reunite with Hershel.
Holtzman has the striking ability to appeal to all of the reader’s senses through his writing. The scene in which Avrum and Hershel are fighting for their lives at the cottage of the old woman is particularly gripping. I was utterly repulsed by the vivid descriptions of the vile woman and the filth in which she lived. As horrific as the circumstances were, I was unable to tear myself away from this disturbing string of events. The same can be said for each stage in Avrum’s life. As he moves across the country and eventually on to North America, each new circumstance brings rich details, vivid images of despair, and poignant scenes of his struggle as an immigrant.
The various settings described throughout Avrum’s journey are exceptionally well-written. At every turn, I felt myself immersed in the sights and sounds of early 1900’s America and the Jewish culture. Holtzman leaves nothing to the imagination which, in turn, leaves the reader more time to focus on the plot surrounding Avrum and the subplot focusing on Fanny.
Avrum captured my heart from the moment he and Hershel faced the fate of their mother. His heart-wrenching grief and his determination to find his brother dominate his life for years, and are the driving force behind everything he does from finding work and wrestling when offered the opportunity to pursuing every lead no matter how futile it may seem. Avrum’s strength is unmatched.
Bella is not a character I enjoyed–but I wasn’t supposed to feel warm toward her. Holtzman has done a phenomenal job creating a selfish, arrogant, and needy female match for unlucky Avrum. Though she doesn’t make her true intentions known until much later in her relationship with Avrum, I admit I was suspicious of her from the beginning. She is one of those characters who is far too concerned with making herself understood and appreciated. The author has succeeded phenomenally in creating a character worthy and deserving of the reader’s loathing.
Intermingled with the characteristics of historical fiction is a pleasing amount of mystery. Avrum encounters numerous clues to Hershel’s fate throughout the years, but the author skillfully weaves a web of subplots while redirecting the reader’s attention. Even to the final pages, I was yet unsure of poor Hershel’s fate. Kudos to Holtzman–this is how I prefer my fiction.
Fans of historical fiction will appreciate the insanely detailed descriptions of the havoc wreaked by the Cossacks and the accuracy regarding the Jewish culture. Avrum and Hershel represent everything that was wrong with this period in world history and everything that can go incredibly right when a man remains unfailingly loyal to his family.
Pages: 410 | ASIN: 1977981844
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All Roads Home by Lisa Diaz Meyer is a fictional short story collection. Covering several genres, the book is divided into six parts titled The Outposts, The Enduring, The Oddities, The Particulars, The Fragments and The Play Versions. With each section and story being utterly unique, this book really is a mixed bag of offerings. Nowhere is this more obvious than, besides the four sections of short stories all varying greatly in their genre, the collection also consists of a part of poetry and The Play Versions which really are that: five of the stories in the collection written in play format!
The first section of the collection deals with a world that is hard hitting. In the story titled The Safe Room, this links back to the previous short story in its representation of women, cancer, and childbearing. With such stark descriptive passages of the cloning and curing process detailed, this section hits upon the more awkward of subjects that aren’t always spoke about comfortably.
Dealing with religion verse science, this section may be quite an eye-opener, considering its placing at the very start of the collection, but its subject matter does indeed turn the tables making you question just who, if anybody, has such a right at this stage.
The Enduring section starts off with a story which is most certainly that – enduring for its characters. What begins as a heartfelt story of a mother’s struggles quickly turns itself on its head when the story ends. However, nothing physical has changed, her situation remains dire, but she has found peace in her heart and mind and can now approach her situation from a more positive perspective. This story emphasizes Lisa’s ability to change tact and emotion in just a few short pages and sums up the book in its entirety.
All of Lisa’s characters, though only with the reader briefly, are very easy at catching our attention and therefore it’s easy to recognize their plight and see the story from their point of view. That Lisa can create such emotions in her readers through characters that appear fleetingly is a wonderful achievement.
For me, The Enduring was a favorite section. Packed full of emotions, there is one story where the action begins, plays out and ends in a matter of just two short pages! If you’re not too sure whether this selection of stories is for you, I urge you to read The Christmas Break first. Immediately this highlights Lisa’s fluidity in prose as well as her ability to create a fascinating collection of characters, and all within a few short sentences.
With superb powers of observation, a beautiful and haunting writing style on many of the pages, alongside an ability to push topic boundaries (Hitler and Jesus at a dinner party, need I say more!) this is truly a collection you must read for yourself.
If Lisa is this good at creating such an enthralling collection of short stories, I can only imagine what she would be like with a full-length fictional novel!
Pages: 280 | ASIN: B00WVWFL86
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Pandeism: An Anthology is a collection of work from different authors that seeks to provide intellectual backing to the idea of pandeism. Why was this an important book for you to put together?
Pandeism is a pretty old idea, but is one which has very long been little known — discussed almost exclusively in scholarly and academic settings, and usually in a sort of abstract and theoretical way. Perhaps that will always be its primary locus of discussion, but as scientific knowledge comes to match up better and better with a pandeistic Universe, it would be a wonderful thing for people to be made aware that this possibility is out there. And as the Anthology writings show, it has proved itself worthy of consideration from many angles.
There is surely some long-term gain to be realized, as well, from a world wherein people generally understand that all things are part of our Creator, and all life ought to be accorded the respect due to even a fragment of our Creator. And even as Pandeists bear no club with which to threaten ‘disbelievers’ with eternal torment or the like, imagine how you might react if you felt there was a possibility — a reasonably high probability even — that if ours were a created Universe at all, then it would be the sort of Universe in which your own actions towards others (and, more largely writ, everybody else’s actions towards everybody else) directly dictated the experiences which would be had by your Creator; and not only by your Creator but quite possibly by every entity ever existing — including yourself, to some immeasurable extent, all of these being your Creator, which has momentarily (for perhaps just a few hundred billion years) become fragmented apart. If there is any possibility that we are creating experiences to be shared with by our Creator, ought we not by this knowledge to be motivated to create positive experiences, for ourselves, and for one another?
And though all of these are, in my view, respectable reasons for my advocacy and regular formulation of new arguments, the simple truth is that I love the idea for its elegance, for its simplicity, for the strength of its explanatory power wrapped in extrapolations from a few simple assumptions of logical necessity. And so I want to pull it down from the academic tower and present it in ways suitable for a larger slice of the world to get to grasp it.
You work with sixteen authors on this anthology. How did this book come together and what was it like working with so many bright writers?
As to how it all came about, I first began putting together the ideas for a book on the topic some thirteen years ago. I always knew that I wanted to write about Pandeism, and I researched intensely, and found other people who had written on the topic and in the area. I never intended to do an anthology, but as I worked on my own book, it seemed to just get more and more sprawling. I was trying to grasp in all of the ideas that I could possibly cover, and it was more than I could do. And then, at some point, I simply threw my hands up and decided that it was not something that I would ever be able to finish.
But, as I pored over the many writings which I had accumulated in the area overtime, and the connections I had made with people who write in this area, I was struck by the fact that I might well be able to assemble enough to make a book that captured many of the ideas that I wished to express, but which had already been put into words in other ways by other people. And once I had had that realization, the whole structure of the book, the give and take and opposing viewpoints and variety of possible approaches simply came together, almost instantaneously. I immediately knew, for example, that I wanted to have poems punctuated the sections, and to divide the book in the general sort of way in which it ended up, and I am tremendously gratified with the result.
One of the most remarkable experiences and joys of my life has been working with these authors. I ought to mention that two of the writers were deceased — one, nearly one hundred years before, and the other just a few years ago, a good friend who I had been in communication with and who had written his piece for me before his quite untimely death, years before I ever knew I was going to assemble an anthology. But as to all the rest, every one of them was note only a unique and powerfully thoughtful and excellent to communicate with, but remains a friend. Really, it is like we are a family of fellow travelers along the same route. There are several of them who I bounce ideas off of frequently.
The book is separated into three sections, the fundamentals of Pandeism, philosophical implications, and criticism from other views. Why was it important to include alternate analysis of pandeism?
Most works on a specific theological point of view are told from the proposition of that view being true. And indeed, even anthologies written within specific faiths tend often to be single-minded collections of endorsements of that faith. There is something about such an approach which instead rings untrue to me — if your belief system is so ironclad, why only present one side of it? And yet we know there are those who dispute the truth of every theological model, so why not present their arguments directly and let the reader choose who has made more sense? Why collect an anthology at all if all the views provided assume the same position?
If we only present arguments favoring Pandeism, or even present only one view of Pandeism, then we are doing the readers a disservice. It is not the sort of position which can be insisted to be true in a gnostic sense. It is one logical possibility out of a field of them, with certain points of logical appeal, but at the same time with an acknowledged impossibility of knowing the truth of it. And even if there are those who believe that it is untrue, it presents a paradigm which they must contend with. Neither Atheism nor any Theistic faith can escape the intellectual obligation to confront the possibility of this model, and when they do so, and commit to it in a serious way, some great and deep writing is bound to result from this.
What do you hope readers take away from Pandeism: An Anthology?
Well, firstly I really hope that readers take away the sense that Pandeism, as a theological model, is indeed a serious possibility. And secondly, I hope to just really make people think about all the possibilities that are out there, and the fact that there are indeed so many possibilities which are unknown. I want readers to feel a bit challenged and a bit enlightened and more than a bit informed. One thing, I think, about this book, with its breadth of authors and approaches from diverse and sometimes opposing viewpoints, is that it is impossible to read it through without learning something of interest, something which will stay with you for the rest of your life thereafter. I hope that readers take away a lot of feelings like that, and that every reader takes away at least something like that.
Pandeism: An Anthology presents the work of sixteen authors, new and old, examining the implications of the revolutionary evolutionary theological theory of Pandeism – the proposition that the Creator of our Universe created by becoming our Universe, and that this proposition can be demonstrated through the exercise of logic and reason. These authors present a wide range of views originating from their varied experiences, from professional theologians and religious educators to lay philosophers with PhDs in the hard sciences. Collectively, these authors have assembled the most extensive examination of Pandeism put to print in over a hundred years.
Posted in Interviews
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Masks follows Anna as she struggles to find herself and her love as she navigates the social, religious, and sexual taboos of the Arab world. Why was this an important book for you to write?
It had always been my dream to write novels, and I wanted to start my first book by being the voice of so many in the Lebanese and Arab society who pay the price of the social, religious and sexual taboos and never dare to speak up for themselves. If you had the chance to let the rest of the world read and find out about certain issues that people suffered from wouldn’t you write about them?
Masks is based on true life events. What were some things you felt had to remain true in the story and what were some things you took liberties with?
Though Masks is inspired by true life events yet it contains fiction, the part of the story that had to remain true is my own feelings and thoughts, this is a very hard question… well, I took liberty in writing about some facts but created characters that were the combination of more than one person in real life.
I understand that the story is based on your own life. Was there anything that was difficult for you to write about?
The story is partly based on my own life but I had to add fiction to the characters including Anna the protagonist in order to be able to write about so many things that I have heard, saw or lived, but then again it was not easy at the beginning. I had been thinking about starting this novel 8 years ago and I always hesitated because concentrating on my inner thoughts and to able to express fears and open closed doors was never easy. My husband, my family, and my friends supported me a lot. It is so strange that I really felt relieved when I put down my thoughts. As a journalist and a TV host, I always did my best to reach out to my readers and fans with messages that touched their hearts, I hope the characters in my book will be able to touch the heart of each and every reader and inspire them in many ways, I Hope…
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I already started writing my second book hoping it will be available within two years, it is somehow the continuation of Masks, though the first book has an end, the second book will talk about different adventures and taboos. Some characters from my first book will be in the second story but the readers will meet new characters with different problems and dissentious personalities.
I thank Thomas Anderson for this short yet interesting interview, the questions were few but very well chosen to satisfy the curiosity of any reader about the novel. I wish you a very prosperous career, I appreciate your time & work & hope to bring a change to my readers with the story of Masks.
Masks is a dark fictional tale, based on true-life events. It narrates the adventures of a young Armenian girl born in Lebanon in the seventies. She dreams of fame and power in Lebanon and the Arab world and shows resilience and motivation beyond her years. The novel delves into the world of the protagonist, Anna, who is surrounded by social, religious, and sexual taboos. She fiercely breaks the chains to enter the world she has strived to reach, in a seemingly conservative society barely emerging from a civil war. She builds her success on her remaining values, challenging her fate and sparing no way means to attain her goals.
As a disappointment to her parents, she walks the challenging paths alone, making her way toward fame and fortune despite lacking the support system to do so. Doors begin to open for her, and she enters the world of Arab celebrities. She is now a public figure in the Middle East, living an immoral married life in a materialistic world surrounded by influential business people and royal family members. She tries, in vain, to fill the void in her soul with sexual adventures and controversy by taking a wide variety of lovers. Her adventures invariably end in misery, doing nothing to awaken her from her numbness. Still, her vivid, out-of-control personality helps her move forward while simultaneously getting her in trouble. In the early stages of her life, she has suffered the unthinkable, being bullied and raped, with the civil war a constant backdrop throughout most of her childhood. The novel delves deep into Anna’s mind as she has flashbacks of the trauma she has suffered, offering the reader a hint of an explanation for her behavior.
In a society in which men dominate women, she is one of the few who realize that fashion, social status, plastic surgeries, and bright smiles are not the answer to happiness. She lives in a world where a girl is only worth as much as her virginity, where women do not dare to ask for a divorce, where the fear of retribution keeps them locked in a cage that is very rarely gilded.
As fame, money, and power slowly eat at her soul, the arrogant Anna falls in love with a total stranger—a young, single bachelor from Canada—after a night of secret passion. That is where the story begins to unravel as she returns home with a scandal in her back pocket, her eyes and ears and heart tuned to this man instead of her husband. Anna realizes that neither her marriage nor her achievements have ever made her happy, so she decides to throw it all away. The lies and deceit that fill the so-called glamorous life she has been leading are floating up to the surface, including her husband’s infidelity and the critical steps she has taken to reach the top.
Marriage, family, career—all destroyed to be united with the stranger. She starts a new battle, this time struggling to change her destiny for someone she barely knows, who lives oceans apart and offers her nothing except his heart.
She risks everything, turning her whole life upside down. Anna realizes that her happiness, inner peace, and love are found worlds away from her own, with someone she would never have expected to be her soul mate. Still, Anna’s sacrifices are not behind her, and the struggle has not yet ended, although she has found what she has needed all her life: redemption and unconditional love.
The stranger enigmatically hints at emotions in Anna that have been hidden for a long time behind the masks of her dark and shallow lifestyle.
The characters in the story are the voices of so many who do not dare to speak up in a world where social and religious standards openly chastise the very actions that behind closed doors have become the ultimate paradigmatic way of life.
Posted in Book Reviews
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