Fiction and reality

A problem a lot of writers have is the way in which fiction and reality can interact. You can be working on something, and find that the real world has not only caught up with you, but gone beyond anything you, as a writer, had felt able to consider.

The book I am currently working on has events set in the Middle East. A problem with writing books set in such volatile areas is that changes occur so rapidly, your book can be out of date before it’s written.

But the situation of westerers living in the Middle East is fascinating, as is the view that two sharply divided cultural groups have of each other. Many Saudi women, for example, want change in their lives, but become very angry at the downtrodden stereotype that their western counterparts have of them. Saudi women work, some of them hold down high level jobs. They are politically savvy and know what they want – and it isn’t us telling them what to do.

Western women – in the Saudi stereotype – are given to drink, promiscuous behaviour, drugs and revealing clothes. We lose our virginity at the age of twelve, are just as downtrodden as Saudi women – no more, no less. And we are thrown onto our own devices as we have no one who will take care of us.

The book I’m working on is called Strangers. (The title may change – publishers have their own ideas) but this is what it’s about. As the world get smaller, we’re all strangers in places that have, paradoxically, come closer.

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