Every issue, IN presents INside Authors, a look at authors from around the world who have significantly caught our attention and deserve a little space and recognition. The following two authors are this month's choices, based on the heat arising from their corners. Our hope is to provide a glimpse, a snapshot, an overview of some of the finest writers of our time making waves both tidal and ripple.
George Elias Afara, Novelist and Nonfiction Author
Background INfo: I was born George Elias Afara in Beirut, Lebanon, 1971, a few years before the war. I woke up to troubled surroundings – the classic environment where penholders are bred.
My school years, like those of all other Lebanese students my age, often were disrupted for months at a time during the 1980s. I was an English language student, often lauded by my teachers for my skills in English and Arabic composition and translation. Although English was a passion of mine which grew without professional sponsorship, writing only surfaced when I was 15, instigated mostly by teenage emotions and wartime adventures. I did, however, get signs of a potential future career. There was little opportunity for travel or living abroad. Our life in Lebanon was often unstable, due to the war. It ended in 1990, offering not many prospects for a high-school dropout except to seriously begin a book. From the beginning, this book was meant to see light in the West because of the poor possibilities offered in troubled Lebanon and the poor reading markets of the Arab world. And so, after taking a job in the steel-tackling business for six precious years, serious work in fiction writing began in 1997, and the writer in me found its breeding ground and hatched.
INfluences: I can honestly say that I owe my writing style to means rather than to men. I was not much influenced during my school years. It was through my own interest in the language and my consequent use of music, motion pictures, my humble readings, and my own numerous writing efforts that my present skill was founded.
Since I don't read novels but rather nonfiction books, which I keep as references, I certainly haven't been influenced by other writers. Thankfully, my family finally took my writing seriously when I signed up with my publisher, Patrika Vaughn of A Cappela Publishing.
Advice: Know your thing – meaning set your goal for a clear target, like, "I begin here now; I have to be there then." Vary your works. For instance, I now have three or four books in process, on different subjects , and whenever I find myself pausing at one, I move on to the other. My mental wheels keep spinning.
Life often hits back at you. It's a boxing match; you either beat it, or it beats you. And like boxing, writing requires stamina – a lot of it – not to mention incentive: Why write, and for what achievement? For me, it's just something that was born to be expressed to share with others; something honourable to do that I will be remembered for. Persevere and excel, and what you achieve is a long-term evaluation I wouldn't worry about.
And PS: Be ready to be a better salesperson than a writer.
Internet: A writing career is just like any other business across the globe; it is necessary to make use of modern technology in the hyperactive world of today, so why row the boat when you can have an engine? Technology is the fastest growing realm of our time, and you either ride it and soar, or simply watch it go by. It simply is: You're on, you're in; you're not, you're out.
Check out www.terror-at-the-terminals.com and see what it's all about.
Future: Writing is one thing I cannot keep from doing; it's my passion. I currently have several books, fiction and nonfiction, on my plate. Meanwhile I have a second novel to publish while I tackle the marketing for my first novel. God willing, there should be a good accumulated bibliography under my name within the next ten to fifteen years, assuming I live to accomplish this.
Terror at the Terminals, Advocate House – a division of A Cappela Publishing Inc.
Kate Rigby, Fiction and Nonfiction Author
Background INfo: I live in the alternative town of Totnes in Devon, England. I've been writing since I was small and seriously since I was about twenty (a long time ago!). I had my first novel published when I was twenty-eight, though it was actually the second one I wrote. It was called Fall Of The Flamingo Circus, written in diary form about a young rebellious punk girl. The first novel I actually wrote was called Where A Shadow Played and eventually won a Southern Arts bursary but to this day has never been published. It was to be another thirteen years before I got my second novel published courtesy of a small off-the-wall indie press called Skrev.
I was born in Crosby, north Liverpool. I've also lived in Cirencester, Bournemouth and now Devon. Most of these places have featured in my novels. Cirencester provides the setting for Thalidomide Kid, Liverpool the setting for Sucka!, and Bournemouth the inspiration for Seaview Terrace and Break Point as well as some of the Fall Of The Flamingo Circus.
INfluences: Authors that have inspired me tend to be of the literary ilk including Graham Swift, Ali Smith, Nell Dunn, Paul Magrs, Helen Dunmore, and Mark Haddon to name a few. My mother inspired me to start writing novels as she was writing her first one when I was a teenager. So I was able to pick her brains about the whole process. Although she's never been published, she has recently rewritten her autobiography, which makes fascinating reading as she grew up with some of her Jewish relatives in East London during WWII.
My father, now sadly deceased, was always very encouraging about our creative endeavours, and my sister Ann who I share a house with has been a rock, supporting me through the troughs and often deeper troughs of the writing world! In fact, Ann, an artist, designed the cover for Thalidomide Kid and my brother also contributed his expertise on the graphic design side; so it was a joint project.
Advice: My advice to new writers would be that writing has to be something you need to do, i.e. it chooses you rather than the other way round. I would also say perseverance is key as well as the old adage about 10% inspiration, 90% perspiration. As it's tough in today's market, I'd say if you're in it for the money you're likely to be disappointed. Those five figure advances are the exception and not the rule, though somebody's got to strike lucky!
Internet: I don't have my own website but I think the Internet has created more opportunities for writers as well as for the buying and selling of books.
The Future: At present I am in the process of writing another novel, although my personal circumstances are causing a few setbacks at the moment. However, I still have plenty of unpublished material desperately seeking publishers! I have also had several short stories published and/or shortlisted, which I'd like to see published in a collection one day; and I've recently diversified into nonfiction, though that's a one-off for the moment.
Fall of The Flamingo Circus, Allison & Busby 1990; also published by Villard US hardback 1990
Seaview Terrace, Skrev Press 2003
Sucka!, Skrev Press 2004
Break Point, Skrev Press 2006
Thalidomide Kid, BeWrite 2007
Penelope Jensen considers herself a citizen of the world, aligning herself at this moment with the purposes of IN, where you'll find her writing articles and interviewing authors, among other things. You can reach Penny at: PenJen@inorbit.com.