Today British writer, Jo Chumas and I talk about the inspirations for her historical fiction novel about two points in world history.
GC: Tell me about your novel and how you began writing it!
JC: My novel is a political thriller set in Cairo, Egypt during the Nationalist riots of 1919 and during WW2.
The novel is a fast-paced story centred around two narratives, being the diary of a young harem girl written in 1919, and the story of her daughter 20 years later as she tries to find out who murdered her husband.
I wrote it after developing a deep fascination with early 20th century Egyptian politics. The lives of ordinary people of that time fascinated me and I spent two years researching every aspect of life in Egypt from the mid 19th century through to the mid 20th century. The focus of the story was my strong harem girl character Hezba and how the consequences of her revolutionary activity steered the destiny of her daughter.
GC: When did you hear about Amazon Publishing and Amazon's Breakthrough Novel Award contest? Were you set on entering right away?
JC: I heard about the ABNA 2013 contest and decided to enter but as I have never won a prize and had been rejected many times as an author, I didn't hold out much hope.
I became aware of ABNA because I had just self-published my novel The Hidden to Kindle Direct Publishing.
GC: What was the waiting process like? Do you consider that you were calm, cool and collected, or were you biting off your nails like the rest of us mere mortals?
JC: Every stage of the ABNA process was good and bad. Good, in that with each phase I was thrilled when I saw I had made it through, but bad in that the higher up the league table I went the worse the feelings of possible rejection were. I kept telling myself I would be grateful to have made it to any stage. I was protecting myself but secretly I found the whole process thrilling.
GC: When did you hear you were a finalist? What was that moment like?
JC: The night I was called I was walking down a hill with my husband and I answered the phone very cheerfully, not knowing who the person with the strange number I did not recognise could be.
I had resigned myself to not going past the semi-finalist stage, so when I heard it was ABNA on the phone I thought it was a hoax or joke. I was in shock. I couldn't believe it.
It was a thrilling moment, and I will remember it for the rest of my life. I wanted to scream with happiness and because we were on a hill and there weren't many people around I did scream with happiness! We reached town and found a bar and ordered champagne.
GC: Have you had the chance to read your fellow winner's
work? What do you think of their novels?
JC: I have read the excerpts and I feel very humbled to be in the presence of such talent. I am going to pre-order all the other finalists' novels as soon as I get home.
GC: Would you care to share your favorite quote from your winning title?
JC: I haven't got any favourite line. I love my characters and they all say some great things. I find them endearing and engaging. They are all characters we can relate to.
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