Today’s interview is with two authors of the same book, Suha Al Khalifa and Richard Bellamy.
Please see it below.
1) What is your author name and in what state do you live (or country if not in the US)?
We are Suha Al Khalifa and Richard Bellamy.
Richard and I met in the summer of 2003 at the New York Film Academy in London. He was working as a teacher, while I was taking other classes. We developed a great friendship over our backgrounds and love of storytelling.
I was raised in Bahrain yet spent some time in Washington DC as my father was the ambassador. Pursuing a career in film and writing was frowned upon where I come from, but my efforts have managed to change the minds of many in my country. I have been able to establish myself as pioneer and somewhat of a rebel for never giving up on my dreams.
I grew up in the UK at first struggling with reading as I had dyslexia. However, a good English teacher had some faith in me, and I found my storytelling voice. From there I became obsessed with mythology and movies and started writing my own.
Our paths seem intertwined by our love of stories and despite the distance between the UK and Bahrain, we quickly fell in love. We spent 6 years apart, but never stopped working on our stories.
We just celebrated our 11year wedding anniversary. We now live in London with our three kids.
2) What is the title of your newest book and what is the genre?
Heir of Darkness. Gothic Fiction.
3) What is the book about?
For me, the heart of the story is tribal. Our tribes come from very different backgrounds. Humanity is represented through the noble classes who occupy the city, whereas the gypsies roam on the periphery of society. Ghost also linger, trapped in a purgatory, unable to move on. Then there are the immortal vampires who have remained in the shadows of the mountain, until now. These lost souls search desperately for love, family and acceptance and will go to the extreme lengths of good or evil to reach their ambition.
The story takes place in the end of the 18th century, on a mountain range, in Bohemia. Sophia, a medium receives warning of an approaching danger. From his mountain palace comes Luicano, son of the Vampiress Lord Vedel, intent on finding his queen at the Countess’ ball. Instead, he discovers the captivating Lilianna, a gypsy girl and a rival in the Countess’ son Alexander.
Luciano and his mother, Vedel, are known to the gypsy people. Every gypsy child is taught to fear the vampire threat. When Lilianna returns home to her mother, Nadja, she unleashes a nightmare at her people’s doorstep and sends Vedel’s plans into chaos.
This clash of fates with bring together the living, the dead and the undead into a tempestuous adventure of love, hate, jealousy, and murder. Who will stand to oppose the ambitions of the formidable Vedel?
4) Where did you come up with the idea?
In Bahrain I would hear the most wonderful spiritual stories that have been passed down for generations! Ghost stories are a norm there and I started to daydream what the ghost world would be like if it mixed with a vampire world.
I started to tell Richard these ideas over the phone and the characters just started to come alive. Once I was able to move and get married we really sat down and wrote it down originally as a screenplay.
Suha had the notion of ghosts and vampires being at odds – the victims returned to haunt their attackers. We found the story was best told through a medium who is a conduit between the worlds of the living, dead and undead. From there it just fell into place and we found it growing into an epic struggle of good and evil, love and betrayal, revenge and acceptance. We were able to weave in my passion for mythology and Suha’s expertise in psychology to, we hope, create characters who the characters invest in and empathise.
5) How long did it take you to write it?
In total I’d say a solid 10 years from when the ideas and stories started forming in our heads to writing the screenplay. Then came 7 rewrites before we decided to expand it into this full novel.
After all this time, it very much feels like Heir of Darkness is our fourth child and now it is ready to go out into the world.
6) Did you learn anything from the project?
Oh, where do I start. The first thing that comes to mind is time management. After getting married we started our family. Now with three kids, two who happen to have autism who need extra care and attention.
Then just finding balance of being able to write while the kids sleep and we get even less sleep. We dived into the struggle of getting our story out there. Knowing were more likely to have it told would be to expand it into a full novel.
Finding an agent took a long time So long in fact we were able to write a prequel/sequel that we hope will make it out if Heir of Darkness is a success. Signing with Stephanie Hansen of Metamorphosis Literary Agency was a huge blessing for us.
Input from others can be everything. From the simple feedback of a reader to the suggestions of our agent, Stephanie, the story can grow and move in directions you never expected. For us, a suggestion to switch the gender of some of our characters created a far stronger dynamic that both broke the stereotypes of the genre and allowed us to delve deeper into the theme of parental love.
7) Do you have an author website and/or blog? How about a book video?
We have a Facebook page for our work as writers – both literature and TV. We currently write screenplays for MBC Studios as well as for our own production company, DreamScreen Productions. So, any news of what we are doing will go up there. www.facebook.com/dreamscreenproductions
We put together a book video for Heir of Darkness – youtu.be/uuaiB8CGaEU This is a poem that features in the novel, a cautionary nursery rhyme of the gypsy people, warning of the threat of the vampire Vedel.
8) Do you have any success tips to pass on to fellow authors? How about any great editors/cover artists?
Being persistent and constantly working on your craft. Exposure is very important, so make sure to deal with the right people and platforms.
I agree, persist with the writing. Hone your craft – take classes, make mistakes, and learn from what is not working. To make that step to getting your book out there requires the dreaded networking. People need to see what you are capable of. If may not be the book you are trying to pitch that gets you the break when that right person recognises your talent. For us it was our agent Stephanie Hansen of Metamorphosis Literature and our boss at MBC Studios, Peter Smith who took a chance on us to fix an episode of a TV drama for him. We went on to write the whole season and much more since. So, persist.
9) What genres do you like to read? Are you open to reading new authors and reviewing their work?
Gothic, history, and psychological research as I am a psychotherapist.
I would love to read new authors’ work, this is very much what I do at MBC where I fix stories particularly with character development.
I find that I read history books as a basis for expanding my knowledge and for inspiration for my own work. Otherwise I enjoy fantasy, sci-fi, and historical fiction.
10) What is your favorite book of all time and why?
Steven King’s Salem’s Lot and Philip Pullman’s Dark Material trilogy. I cannot choose between the two.
The most influential book I have read is Joseph Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces. I am drawn to the power of mythology as a tool for shaping society, morality and finding one’s own place in the world. Stories can and should be part of our rite of passage. Campbell’s work solidified many of those ideas for me and allowed me to see the universality of both myth and storytelling. Stories prove we are all the same at our core.
The fiction that most resonates is Philip Pullman’s Dark Materials trilogy. It is a masterful use of these same mythological notions and draws you into a wonderfully realised world.
11) Fun Question: Do you have any pets? If so, what kind?
We have no pets but would love a dog for two of our children who are on the autistic spectrum children when one becomes available through our local Support Dogs charity.
12) Fun Question 2: Do you own an electronic reading device? If so, what kind and how do you like it?
I have a Kindle, but I have more recently taken to audiobooks.
I generally read and write on my Surface laptop but most books I read are audiobooks. I even listen to my own writing through text to speech as it allows me to hear the words and often find mistakes I did not see on the page.
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