Two years ago, I had an idea for a novel. It would have its roots in Egypt, but would quickly move to a community of exiles living in New York, centering on one character in particular, JAMILA, a girl from a small Nile village who became Jasmine, a celebrity model. What fun to research clothes and fashion agencies, and an entire world I knew so little about.
I gave Jamila a brother, Ali, left behind in the Nile village while his beloved sister disappeared into a life he could not even imagine. I plunged energetically into Ali's bitterness, stirred it about, and started to research how terrorism might take hold in the malleable minds of the young. I wrote and wrote, researching behaviors and evolving plots and wonderful scenarios that would link my growing list of characters to each other and to the larger worlds they navigated. Entire plot lines came and went, The novel covered decades, sprawling into dark corners of possibility. I loved it. I loved writing it. I loved every word.
Then my personal life received a blow from which I knew I could never recover. I lost my eldest son. Writing a novel became a ridiculous frivolity totally at odds with the pain and drama of my real life. The novel had a title by then, FOOTPRINTS ON THE HEART. I set it aside and tried to regain some personal equilibrium. It lay fallow for many many months. Two months ago I found the courage to pick up the manuscript and read it again. Suddenly, links to plots that had long ago bitten the dust, or characters whose motivations had swerved and changed direction stood out from the story I was reading. They didn't belong at all. How had I not noticed this before? Intrigued, I began to move sequences and characters into a different file in the computer. I could not bear to actually delete any of my beloved work.( Anyone else been there?) I swallowed the multiplying losses and moved on, streamlining the flow of the book.
After all those months it began to fall into an intensely readable progression. The characters refused to be pushed into moments that did not fit their lives. Their voices became stronger, more distinct. FOOTPRINTS ON THE HEART became a novel as I worked, no longer a pile of connected incidents. The voices of Jasmine, Ali and Sol created a new music. I knew the sound was a rich and blended harmony. I had excavated my novel from the morass of its past. Stay tuned. Publication is close.