What’s the book about?
It’s set in a Qatari household. Abdulla’s family want him to remarry after the death of his first wife, but marriage is the last thing on his mind. Hind, his cousin, is no less excited about being a consolation prize but marriage promises the degree of freedom she longs for. Neither of them know how they can please their families and themselves – and what follows is the result of that inward struggle.
How did the idea come about for the book?
Well, I’d been talking to lots of young people in Qatar about their life aspirations and love kept coming up in conversation - for Arabs, South Asians, Europeans - everyone. And it all felt very familiar to the questions I had when I was that age.
You’ve been here for a while: how did you come to live in Qatar?
I came to Qatar in 2005 to help establish Georgetown’s new campus. I have a PhD in Postcolonial Literature so the move was very natural for me because my scholarly area was women and Islam. But I had never lived in an Islamic country, which I felt was disingenuous.
You write knowledgeably about Qatari society. Do you have many Qatari friends?
Having been here seven years, yes, I’ve been fortunate enough to make friends and also to get to teach many Qatari students as well as work with aspiring Qatari writers.
How have Qataris you know reacted to the book?
The biggest compliment I got was from a Qatari reviewer. She said ‘even though the author is not Qatari, the smallest details were written as one.’ Those I know who have read it have said similar things, that they were relieved an expat could be respectful (some were even surprised).
Were you worried about how it would be received?
I considered not using my real name and also setting the story in a fictional Gulf country. But in the end, I decided this was a story I wanted to tell, and I would handle the reactions (which have all been good thus far).
Which character is your favourite - and which did you enjoy writing most?
For some reason Abdulla, the male protagonist compelled me from the beginning. I think it’s because there’s so much discussion about Qatari men - but few really know what goes on inside their heads.
You’re a busy working mum. How do you balance your time?
A schedule that’s set hourly and I never procrastinate! Honestly, I’m not a person who works well under pressure so stress does not help me work better. I like to take my time. I wish I could say I scribble brilliant chapters on the back of napkins, but in fact it’s a lot of focused work over a long period of time. You have to keep working until you hit 10,000 hours. Or as they say for writers, a million words, to really get your style down.
Love Comes Later is available to download from Amazon.com.