Shereen Malherbe is a true storyteller whose Palestinian background has greatly influenced her writing. She takes inspiration from quizzical people asking hard-hitting questions or seeking knowledge and turns those questions into a fictitious story that sheds light on the truth or the answers. Here is how:
R.Describe your profession as an author. Also, what other roles do you embrace in life?
S. Many of us juggle roles whilst establishing ourselves in other fields. I am a mother of four children and as you can imagine, that takes up a lot of my personal time. In order to continue writing and carve time out for interviews, edits and marketing, I establish a routine where I work both before the children wake up and in the spare hours when they are busy. This way, I can continue to build my career as a writer.
R.You have authored “The Girl Who Slept Under the Moon,” “Jasmine Falling” and “The Tower.” Each one is of a different niche. I would love to learn how each one was birthed and what kind of void you see in the market for these particular stories to fill?
S. Each story has been driven by both my own personal experiences and what is happening in the world around me. For “Jasmine Falling,” it was to capture my Palestinian history and to share this with my children as the landscape around us changes.
“The Tower” stemmed from me wanting to create both an authentic representation of Muslim lives and to explore reactions and increase empathy in a contemporary society.
“The Girl Who Slept Under The Moon,” came about after a decade living throughout the Middle East and two of my youngest children may not have experienced the same as the older two, so I wanted to create this seamless transition between cultures that children could take anywhere.
There are still plenty of experiences between cultures and society where the gap hasn’t been bridged and because I have lived both in the East and West, I use this perspective to try and make that gap smaller. I believe if we can understand each other and our experiences more, then it makes for a more harmonious society.
R.Tell us al little bit about your upbringing and how it relates to who you are today.
S. I am British, Palestinian, born and raised in the UK and I travelled to Palestine in my twenties. I began discovering Islam and Palestine in tandem and fell in love with the culture of the Middle East, so my husband and I chose it as a base to raise our children. We now live back in the UK and that’s the start of another exciting journey for us all.
R.What do’s and don’ts do you recommend for aspiring Muslimah authors?
S. Look at your own experiences and uniqueness in your own perspective and use this to your own advantage. Write the types of books you would be happy to read. Read widely and often. Research publishers by reading the books they already offer. Protect your writing time and make sure you set aside time to work on your project.Consider your medium. Is a novel best for your story or would it be better suited as a short story or poem? Be patient when it comes to sending your work out and make sure it is ready. Sometimes ,we can be so excited about a project (this used to be me too!) that we send it out before it is ready. It looks unprofessional and unfortunately publishers are so busy with stacks of work, receiving a manuscript that needs a lot of work will put them off acquiring it, no matter how good the premise is.
There is a danger that you can try and predict what the market wants, but I am of the opinion that passion and uniqueness are what will make you stand out from the crowd so be bold in your approach. Also, be aware of the stereotypes that exist and the representation of the culture you are portraying. When I was part of a panel for aspiring writers, I had the pleasure of meeting Kerry Young, author of “Pao.” She gave some good advice saying, “If you are going to write about a culture, do it in a way that doesn’t embarrass anyone.” I think this is great advice to take forward.
R. How can we follow your journey and purchase your books?
S. You can follow me on instagram @shereenmalherbe or by subscribing to my website, www.shereenmalherbe.comAll of my books are available worldwide.You can find links on my website or buy them at Beacon Books.