I have just sent in the final manuscript of the most difficult thing I have ever written. During the nine years I spent working on this book, I experienced my first case of writer’s block, a scam from a vanity press, and three quagmirish slowdowns during the editorial process. I kicked off these hardships with research that included digesting a thousand page encyclopedia on Arabic literature.
Why did this book require four times the work and angst as the first two novels in my series, 1001, The Reincarnation Chronicles? Because of personal pressures? My house became an empty nest, my music for dance career heated up, and a new principal at my job threatened the mission of The Fame School: all these might have been inspirations to focus more on the book. The dense forest of research? Yes, I was fascinated by ideas like: early Islam outlawed fiction because the factions vying for power had to speak the truth about their relation to Mohammed, so falsehoods and fictions of any sort were dangerous. No, all this information may have slowed me down, but made the work fun not arduous.
The answer to my befuddled query about all the care and concern I poured into The Qaraq and the Subversive Manuscript lies in Magic Realism. My book begs to belong to unconventional genres like Visionary Fiction or Karma Lit, so it cuddles up nicely to Magic Realism. The 1001 series has an inherent Magic Realism structure, where a group of neighbors in a realistic present discover they have been together 1001 lifetimes and examine their karmic history in magical past life stories. The group of souls, or qaraq, also has magical experiences receiving their memories in the present, and there are past life tales with a measure of realism. As the series evolves, the interplay between realistic present and magical past becomes more intricate. Thinking about this complexity helps explain my thousand years of solicitude with Book Three in the series.
The present day narrative of The Qaraq and the Subversive Manuscript starts the morning of 9/11 and delves into the qaraq’s post-traumatic stress that year. The realistic context is steeped in psychological symptoms and political pressures and sensitivity. The main past life story sequence outlines the qaraq’s magical involvement in the evolution of Islamic literature, the reworking of the Scheherazade tale, and the creation of a special, multi-cultural edition of The Thousand and One Nights.
In other words, the qaraq is thrown into the past world of Islamic culture as the current world is thrown into a conflict between West and Mideast. As the War on Terrorism is declared, the characters recover from their trauma and gain an appreciation of Arabic culture and history. As they remember that their edition of the Nights included all cultures and beliefs, but became subversive when the repressive Catholic powers in Spain gained power, they can see the US moving toward a more biased, fractured, and exclusive society.
It’s a lot. To construct a psychologically true depiction of ten people variously experiencing post 9/11 stress was unnerving. To interweave how they responded to reliving a Golden Age of Islamic multiculturalism gone sour was challenging. Either narrative might have taken twice as much work as the other books in the series. Together they took four times the effort.
I regret rien, as they say in the cabaret. I just read that before Trump was elected pre-screenings of the delightful rom-com The Big Sick received pleasing reactions. But after Trump started taking down the US government, the reactions to the Pakistani love interest now rated cheering and passionate applause. And more laughing. I can relate. The 1001 series began as a love affair with the history of The Thousand and One Nights, and The Qaraq and the Subversive Manuscript was to be a celebration of my immersion in that magical literary work. I never thought it would bump elbows with the political reality of anti-immigration, xenophobic bully-pulpitism, and a proliferation of subversive protest.
So perhaps my slog through the writing process for the book had a higher purpose of delaying its release to 10/01/17, coinciding with this strange new political universe we inhabit. For now the noble struggle between the magical and realistic elements in The Qaraq and the Subversive Manuscript can reflect the Magic Realism of our current society.
Or maybe it’s Surrealism….
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This post is part of the Magic Realism Blog Hop. Nearly 20 blogs are taking part in the hop. Over three days (28th – 30th July 2016) these blogs will be posting about magic realism. Please take the time to click on the links below to visit them and remember that links to the new posts will be added over the three days, so do come back to read more.