Tuesday, December 13, 2016

A Conversation with Malia Zaidi, author of 'A Darker Shore'



Malia Zaidi is the author of A POISONOUS JOURNEY. She attended the University of Pittsburgh, and studied at English at Oxford University. Having grown up in Germany, she currently lives in Washington DC, though through her love of reading, she resides, vicariously in countries throughout the world. A POISONOUS JOURNEY is her first book in the Lady Evelyn mysteries series. The sequel, A DARKER SHORE, is her latest novel.

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About the Book:

1926: A year has passed since the events of "A Poisonous Journey" and Lady Evelyn has made a home for herself in Greece, living with her cousin, Briony, her husband, Jeffrey and Daniel Harper. Disturbing this island idyll is a letter, which arrives from France with troubling information about the Daniel’s long-believed-dead brother, Henry. A new journey awaits! With the shadows of the Great War reaching out, Lady Evelyn and Daniel voyage to Amiens in Northern France with the aim of discovering the truth behind the ominous letter. Upon their arrival, they are met not with clarity but rather with crime. Murder, to be precise. Is it linked to their presence in France, or even worse, to Henry himself?  Evelyn and Daniel must confront their history as they try to make sense of the present before the killer can strike again, and the secrets of the past are lost forever.

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Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life!  Now that your book has been published, we’d love to find out more about the process.  Can we begin by having you take us at the beginning?  Where did you come up with the idea to write your book?

The idea of the Lady Evelyn Mysteries really started with the character. I had an idea of this amateur sleuth in my mind, but wanted to give her depth and a story that would make her someone people could root for and identify with. The idea of setting the first novel in Greece came after a trip I took to the country in 2010. It left a great impression, and I felt it would serve almost as a character in
itself. My new book, the second in this series, “A Darker Shore”, takes Lady Evelyn away from Greece to Northern France. The books are set in the 1920s, which was a time still touched by the ghosts of the First World War. Northern France played a tremendous and tragic role during this time, and I knew there was a story to explore there.

Q: How hard was it to write a book like this and do you have any tips that you could pass on which would make the journey easier for other writers?

With a mystery, there are always challenges in planning. I didn’t want people to guess easily at the resolution, and yet I needed it to be logical once the whole truth was revealed. To do this, I tend to make a rough outline for the plot and the direction the story should go, however the characters often take on a life of their own and changes need to be made. Added to that, parts of the research for this book could be a little emotionally draining. Reading about the First World War, the lives of soldiers and those left behind was absolutely invaluable, and yet so sad it was hard to shake them, which is really as it should be. History must be remembered, and for me, historical fiction has always been a useful teacher in this regard. I hope, with “A Poisonous Journey” and “A Darker Shore” I can offer my own small contribution to this cause.

Q: Who is your publisher and how did you find them or did you self-publish?

 I self-published with Bookbaby. It was a process in which I feel I learned quite a lot about publishing and what goes into turning a Word Doc on my computer into a book I can hold in my hands. I’ve found it to be a challenging, but ultimately rewarding process.

Q: Is there anything that surprised you about getting your first book published?

The fact that people wanted to read it! In all seriousness, I think as a writer, I underestimated how much work would go into the book, even when it was already published. The marketing aspects are more complex than I initially assumed, but I’ve been very pleasantly surprised by the wonderful community of readers I found on Goodreads, where I was active long before I was an author.

Q: What other books (if any) are you working on and when will they be published?

I am working on the next Lady Evelyn Mystery, which should be published in late autumn next year.

Q: What’s one fact about your book that would surprise people?

I think it is that Lady Evelyn, the protagonist, is more introspective than people may have guessed. She has a past and is trying to reconcile that with her present, which for her, as for many of us, can be difficult.

Q: Finally, what message (if any) are you trying to get across with your book?

The mysteries in “A Darker Shore” like those in “A Poisonous Journey” are not black and white. I suppose if there were a message to focus on in these books it would be to look deeper, not to underestimate the motives behind what people do and to try to understand the world around you. These are the challenges Lady Evelyn often contends with and considers, and though she is like me, and has not arrived at any definitive answers, she keeps looking and exploring in the hope to be a more compassionate, interested person.

Q: Thank you again for this interview!  Do you have any final words?

Thank you, and I hope everyone enjoys “A Darker Shore”!