Deborah Rodriguez talks about her book, The Zanzibar Wife.
1. Can you tell us more about your latest book, The Zanzibar Wife?
This book was one that truly took on a life of its own. I never really expected to have the first-hand experiences I had in Oman, or to meet the people I met. It was almost as if the magic of the place took over and gave me exactly what I needed to write this one.
2. Is the book in any way based on your own experiences or is it all fiction?
I would say it’s a little bit of both. The story is fiction, but for me to have a story come alive on the page, I need to at least try to live it. I had a story in my head and thought Oman might be a great place for it to take place. Of course the concept changed dramatically during the process. It was during my second visit to Oman that the story started to gain strength. So yes, it is fiction, but I will tell you first hand that everything that was described in the book I saw or experienced myself. Sometimes it was a bit scary.
3. Who would you want to play Rachel, Ariana, and Miza in a film adaptation of The Zanzibar Wife?
I think Natalie Portman as Rachel, Lupita Nyong’o from Seven Years a Slave as Miza and Archie Panjabi as Ariana.
4. What was the hardest part of the book to write?
I don’t think writing the book is the hard part, I think it can be finding the story and the characters that you want to be in the story that is hard. It’s all about location, story line, and the characters. They all have to mix well. Sometimes I will have a story line in my head, and think I have the perfect location for it to happen, and it just doesn’t work. Or sometimes even the other way around. I’ll find the perfect location, and the story doesn’t work. To find that balance is the hardest part. Don’t get me wrong, it’s time consuming, and can be draining to write a book. It’s like putting on a jacket and wearing it all day long, and even sleeping with it on. Everywhere you go, it goes with you. It’s like a second skin.
5. If you have to pick one favourite character from all your books, who would it be and why?
Hands down Halajan is my favourite character from The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul and Return to the Little Coffee Shop of Kabul. I think that I love Halajan because she just makes me laugh, and I hope that I will be just like her when I am old.
6. What is your creative process like?
Lots of thinking and trying to sort out stories in my head. When I think I may have stories, I try them out on my customers while I am doing hair. If I can’t tell the story well or if they are not engaged when I tell it, it has to go back to the drawing board. It’s a long process to find that perfect story. For me I have to talk it out. I am sure I make everyone crazy while I am in this process. I have special people I call when I go through the process of what I call spinning. It’s like my head is spinning and ideas are flying out, and that’s when the magic happens. I sometimes wish the spin would hurry up and happen already, but it comes in its own time. I wish it all worked on command.
7. Who are some of your own favourite authors at the moment?
Jamie Ford, Dinah Jefferies and Luis Alberto Urrea.
8. What is one thing about you your readers would be surprised to know?
I am a hypnotist.
9. When did you decide to write and what prompted you to start?
I have always loved telling stories but didn’t know if anyone would want to read them. It was with the first book, The Kabul Beauty School, that I knew I had stories to tell.
10. Can you tell us a bit about your plans for the future?
I am working on an idea that will feature a recurring character that gets involved in all sorts of situations all over the world. I don’t want to say too much about it yet, but I’m hoping her adventures will take readers to places and cultures they might not know about or understand.
Set both in Oman and on the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar, The Zanzibar Wife is the story of three different women, each at a turning point in her life …
Oman. The ancient land of frankincense, wind-swept deserts, craggy mountaintops and turquoise seas. A place where tales of evil spirits and eerie phenomena abound. Into this magical nation come three remarkable women, each facing a crossroad in her life.
Rachel, a troubled American war photographer, who is struggling to shed the trauma of her career for a simpler, gentler life. Now she has once again picked up her camera and is headed to Oman to cover a quite different story – for a glossy travel magazine. Ariana Khan, a bubbly British woman struggling to keep up with the glitz of Dubai and ready to give up on love. She has rashly volunteered as Rachel’s ‘fixer’, a job she’s never heard of in a country she knows nothing about. And Miza, a young woman living far from her beloved homeland of Zanzibar. As the second wife of Tariq, an Omani man, she remains a secret from his terrifying ‘other’ wife, Maryam. Until one day, when Tariq fails to come home …
As the three women journey together across this weird and wonderful land, they are forced to confront their darkest fears and their deepest wishes. Because here in Oman, things aren’t always what they appear to be . . .
Deborah Rodriguez is the author of the international bestsellers The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul and Return to the Little Coffee Shop of Kabul. She has also written two memoirs: The Kabul Beauty School, about her life in Afghanistan, and The House on Carnaval Street, on her experiences following her return to America. She is the founder of the nonprofit organization Oasis Rescue, which aims to teach women in post-conflict and disaster-stricken areas the art of hairdressing. She currently lives in Mazatlan, Mexico, where she owns Tippy Toes salon and spa.