Cindy Davies is the author of The Afghan Wife, published by Odyssey Books in 2017 and its sequel The Revolutionary’s Cousin, released on September 12th 2019.
Welcome, Cindy, it’s lovely to have you. Can you tell us something about yourself that you think anyone who reads your book/s really ought to know?
Cindy: I’ve had a lifelong interest in the countries of the Middle East, particularly Turkey and Iran. I lived in Turkey several years ago and have returned regularly ever since. While there I learned to speak Turkish. The idea for my first novel came from talking to the migrants and refugees who came from Iran after the Islamic Revolution in 1979. I also think that a novel about Iran’s recent history is relevant at the moment.
I taught English language for most of my life and the main character in the novel is an amalgamation of the many students I met. It took me five years to research and write The Afghan Wife. I’ve been in demand this year to give talks about Iran because it is such a topical subject.
However, as a writer I cut my teeth on writing travel articles and had several published in airline magazines for Singapore Airlines, Air New Zealand and one was translated into Arabic for Emirates. I also wrote short articles for the Sydney Morning Herald, Good Weekend magazine. So by the time I came to write the novel, I’d had plenty of practise as a wordsmith.
That sounds rather exotic and completely fabulous. You lived in Turkey and speak Turkish: that’s amazing.
What is your favourite scene from your own writing? Why?
Am I allowed to have two? (haha of course!)
The first is when Karim and Zahra meet for the first time before the Iranian Revolution. She’s a teenager from a small town in Afghanistan and he’s a sophisticated Iranian in his twenties. This is pre-revolutionary Iran and the Shah is still on the throne. Zahra makes some terrible social gaffes—thinking that a house in Martha’s Vineyard in the USA is actually in a vineyard. When he says ‘your tiny hand is frozen’ she doesn’t get the reference. Her social innocence endears her to him immediately.
The other scene is when Karim is trying to get back to his house after taking part in a raid on the American embassy. It’s midnight and pitch black. Four young hooligans, armed with sub-machine guns, are in a jeep which comes tearing down the deserted lane Karim is running along. He’s terrified that if they spot him they’ll open fire.
Ooh, very exciting! I’ve noticed that your characters seem very real. How do you make them believable?
I know everything about them—I write a biography of them in point form even down to what their favourite colour is. The author has to know how a character will think and feel in any given situation. Very occasionally, though, a character will surprise me.
One of my reviewers obviously found Karim so real that she wrote that if she ever met him any time, any place, he would be her man. I didn’t have the heart to say that he really only existed in the novel and even then he wasn’t perfect.
Can you think of any books and/or writers who inspired you on your path to be an author? Can you tell us about that?
Leo Tolstoy the 19th century author was a master at writing love scenes. Think of the scene between Anna and Count Veronsky at a deserted railway station: she’s already attracted to him, but she’s married. She steps off a train at a deserted station, the steam from the train clears… and he’s standing there!
Although by modern standards seem wordy, the nineteenth century novelists like the Brontë sisters understood the human condition. People want to read good stories.
I love Kate Atkinson, Ian McEwan, Sebastian Faulks, Margaret Atwood, Joan London (WA writer). Australians Liane Moriarty and Jane Harper are excellent story-tellers.
I read a lot, always with a critical eye as I ask myself how the author is keeping me interested.
Take yourself back ten years – what would you like to tell yourself?
Don’t procrastinate—get started on that book!
Great advice. What’s next for you in the world of writing?
I have at least four synopses already written but no novel planned out as yet. I have a ‘snippets’ folder for ideas. I’m currently collecting malapropisms. Recently someone said to me ‘I believe you collect small vinegrets about people.’ She meant vignettes of course—I added that to the file, I’ve got a character in my who makes these kinds of mistakes all the time.
That’s an interesting project! (Mrs Malaprop returns *I’d better be careful*)
And finally: Who would you be if you were a fictional character – one of yours, or someone else’s?
I identify with Zahra, my character in The Afghan Wife. She had no choice but to escape from Afghanistan with her husband, cousin and young son. As a migrant to Australia myself, I arrived with three young children and had to make a new life here. Zahra’s situation was worse because she had a violent husband and a manipulative cousin. Zahra was strong for the sake of her child and eventually she made the best of what life had thrown at her.
A great choice. What’s been your best achievement since the publication of your novel?
I was placed third in the Kathryn Hayes competition,’When Sparks Fly’ operated by the New York chapter of Romance Writers of America. I was thrilled, especially as my novel is not strictly a romance but is in the Women’s Fiction category. I’ve also been the keynote speaker at one of the biggest book groups in Sydney, as well as at the NSW Society of Women Writers.
Congratulations! Here’s wishing for more success, and more books arising from your ideas. Thanks for speaking with me today, Cindy.
Facebook: Cindy Davies Author at https://www.facebook.com/cindydavies.author.18