Our first interview in this Love Stories category is with the Author of the masterpiece Normal Calm; Hend Hegazi. Assalamu aleikum Hend, thank you for being with Hayati Magazine today.
Hend : Thank you for inviting me…I feel truly honored that you thought of me.
What inspired you to write your first book?
I have enjoyed writing since the third grade, and ever since that time, I’ve dreamt of writing a novel. But to be honest, I thought it would be too hard, too time consuming. But I loved to write…so I wrote short stories. Then one day I thought to myself, “You’ve always wanted to write a novel…why not just expand on this story and turn it into a novel.” So with lots of time and dedication, that’s what I did.
The idea for my novel ‘Normal Calm’ stemmed from a common belief I noticed in the Arab community around me, that somehow a raped woman was at least partly to blame for this crime which had been committed against her. I felt the need to stand up and say how very wrong that thinking was, and I thought that putting it in the shape of a story was an effective way of doing just that. Since writing the book, I’ve learned that victim blaming is truly an international crisis. I hope that writers and activists will be able to remove these unjust stigmas that societies all over the world have painted on rape survivors.
Do you have a specific writing style?
Not really. I do prefer to use third person omniscient point of view, so that the reader gets a look into the thoughts of all of the characters, but I don’t necessarily stick to that with all of my stories. In general, I believe that simple language can be used to portray all kinds of complex emotions and experiences.
How did you come up with the title? I am asking because that is what drew me to read it. I already knew the ordeal with the main character Amina but the title was the hook for me. I wanted to know what it meant.
Oh, how relieved I am to hear you say that! I was so worried that the title would be a turn off for readers. The title was one of the trickiest parts of this work for me. I started the story with the title, “Amina’s Story,” but that was just too boring…it didn’t speak to me at all. As I wrote the novel, and as the scenes which mention the phrase ‘normal calm’ played out, I took a chance on it, hoping it wouldn’t be too awkward and that the mystery behind it would draw in readers.
Is the book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
The rape itself is not based on my life nor on anyone I know, Alhamdulillah. But as the story is about an Arab American woman, much of her daily experiences mirror my life and the lives of most Arab American women. Her work, her family life, her interactions with her friends – both Muslim and non – are fair reflections of the average Arab American woman.
What are your current projects?
I’ve just finished writing my second novel. This one is a bit more mainstream: it tells the story of four neighboring families (one of which is Muslim) and how each blessing is somehow a hardship for one of the other families. The idea was to dispel that adage, ‘the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence’ and to make the point that we must always be grateful for all that we have, because there is always someone who has less. I still don’t have any information regarding publication, but in sha’ Allah, He will do what’s best.
Soon, I plan to start writing a sort of memoir, to hopefully pass on all the life lessons I’ve gained so far as well as to give the readers a few laughs (maybe tears, too…we’ll see).
Do you have any advice for other Muslim writers?
Don’t give up. To write is a wonderful blessing, allowing us to express emotions and giving us a sense of relief. For those of you who have no desire to be published, connecting with writers’ groups on various social media will still help you to improve. Often they provide peer critiques, info on workshops and writing contests which can all help you to become better writers.
And for those who have a dream of being published, do not feel discouraged if you do not find a publisher easily; it will likely take some time. The only way to make the dream come true, is to keep working towards it.
Can you share with us your social media links so that interested readers can find out more about you?
I often share my two cents about writing or motherhood or life on my blog, www.hendhegazi.wordpress.com. And the Facebook page for ‘Normal Calm,’ where you can learn about giveaways, book signings and fun stuff like that, is www.facebook.com/NormalCalm.
The Team at Hayati Magazine wishes you all the best in all your current and future endeavors. Again, thank you being with us.
Hend : Jazakum Allahu khairan.