Multi-talented woman: articles, novel and TV shows
'Nothing justifies waking up in the morning hating what you wake up to; who you wake up with; or where you get up to go.'
1. At what point did you know you wanted to become a writer?
I have always known that I am more comfortable communicating in written words as opposed to verbal or non verbal communication but the first time I knew that writing for me is more than just self-expression was in March 2005 when my first article was published in Egypt's Insight. Seeing my pain and anger in print made my wounds heal – I never stopped writing since then.
2. I hear you were a bit of a rebel when you were younger. What aspects of Egyptian traditions did you find hard to accept about the equality of sex?
I still am a rebel:) I am not pro gender equality because it is not possible; men and women were created differently, they function differently, and they can never be equal in that sense. I advocate equality in rights; women are no longer killed at birth but they might as well be considered dead. A little girl is "owned" by her father, brother, uncles, or any male in the family regardless of how competent he is, and she only aspires to become the cherished property of another man she calls husband. Most girls are circumcised physically or mentally or both, they are denied the right to date, choose, make mistakes, learn from their mistakes, grow, and explore their real potential. I realize how close I was to being one of "those" girls!
3. You question the world, yourself, traditions a great deal. Were you brought up by strong minded and influential parents?
No I was brought up in a conservative middle class family that preached the virtue of being a "good girl", the beauty of hypocrisy in the name of decorum, and the 10 commandments of submission, denial, and double standards.
I never understood it, could never accept "the rules", and was miraculously saved when my father immigrated to the US in 1993. I stumbled, fell, got hurt, and died a million times until I finally came to terms with how "odd" I am in 2005.
4. What made you decide to suddenly speak up? Can you take us through the steps from being a shy girl to a confident speaker?
It hurt too much; being different tore me to pieces. I used to consciously stop any line of thoughts because I did not know where the thoughts came from. I was not sure if I was insane or possessed. I kept bottling in those "weird thoughts" and "forbidden questions" until I could no longer take it. That was when Jenny was born. I was too weak, too scared, and too intimidated to allow Marwa to be.
Jenny gave me the voice that I lacked, the confidence that I craved, and the sanity that I almost lost trying to fit in a sick society. In January 2007 Marwa embraced Jenny and we became one. Suddenly I no longer cared who thought what of my ideas. I am who I am and I am true to myself. I do not lie, cheat, fake, or pretend to be someone that I am not. I realized that I do not need to fit in and that I enjoy the company of my cats more than being around people who made me sick with their games and manipulation. Surprisingly enough, when I accepted who I am people accepted me and I began attracting people who think like me.
Confidence comes from knowing that you are a whole person and that no one has the power to hurt you unless you allow them to.
5. What is your favourite book?
I do not have a favorite book but I still have a soft spot for hopeless romantic novels
6. Which writers have influenced your writing?
I owe my sensory descriptions to Daniel Steele, my flow to Sydney Sheldon, and my inspiration to all my ex boyfriends.
7. When did you have your first success as a writer?
When I started blogging and posting my articles on facebook – this was when I realized how much power I had.
8. What topics do you enjoy writing about the most? How do you want to change Egypt through your writing?
I love writing about my personal experiences and my day to day interaction with the society. I guess I get a kick out of shocking people:)
I do not want to change Egypt. I cannot change Egypt. I just want people to question every single word they have been told, every single thought, every belief, every taboo, every word they say, and every feeling they experience. It is funny how most of the things we say do not really reflect how we truly think and how most of our feelings are a mere expression of how people expect us to react!
9. Where do you get your inspiration from?
My up close and personal interaction with men and my observance of women are my inspiration.
10. What inspired you to write The Poison Tree? How does it reflect society? What is the message behind it? How long did it take to write?
The Poison Tree is a collection of all my articles since March 2005 until December 2007. It started with me whining about the horrible men I dated and ended with the realization that I was accountable for everything that happens to me. I am not anyone's victim; I am a person who made wrong decisions and learnt from them. As I take the reader through this journey of self awareness, I shed light on the poisoned tree we live in; its decaying roots, corrupted trunk, flaky leaves, and deadly fruits.
11. Did you base any of the characters on anyone you know?
All the characters are real; parents, boyfriends, male friends, or female friends.
12. How do you start to write a story? Don't you find it daunting when faced with a blank page?
I am a very angry person; instead of trying to change that I used it to my advantage. I owe all my success to anger; I turned it from a negative emotion to a positive drive. I am hyper allergic to hypocrisy and an avid believer in freedom of expression – put those two together and you will realize that running out of words is not even an option:)
13. What parallels or real-life lessons do you hope readers will take away from reading your work?
There are two of me; the weak defeated scared little girl that I once was and the outspoken fearless woman that I have become. Many readers indentify with who I was but they do not want to go through that painful labyrinth of self awareness to grown into who they could become. I wish that would change.
14. If you had to be one of your own characters your book, which would it be and why?
I AM the book … the whole book:)
15. You also write articles. In fact, your first article was published in March 2005 in Egypt's Insight. What is the story behind the invention of Jennifer Anderson? Do feel a lot of women like you feel the need to mask their identity if they want to speak up?
In September 2004 I was seeing this guy and the relationship went belly up in October. He left me for a Jennifer. I tried to let go of what could have been us but I failed. In January 2005 I began pitching my first article to magazines and, out of mere spite, I decided to become the confident well-grounded woman he left me for.
Jenny needed a last name. Andy Anderson was the name of the writer in the movie How to Lose a Guy in 10 days. I borrowed her last name:)
I do not know about other women having to mask their identity; what I know for sure was that Jenny did not mask my identity for I had no identity to start with.
16. Tell us one favourite aspect of the following on how you make an impact on modern society through your: articles, novels, blogs and TV appearances?
My written words have a deeper and a more lasting effect on people than my TV or radio appearances. They consume my words at their own pace when they are reading for me. TV and radio just make me human; they get to know me though my eyes, my posture, and my voice and the contrast between how I look and how I talk works in my favor.
17. What made you suddenly choose to do appearances on TV shows?
It is the natural development of my career path. I need to speak up and any place with a microphone is the right place for someone with a voice.
18. How do you feel about having the responsibility of speaking on behalf of women who are suppressed and don't have a voice?
I do not speak on behalf of anyone; I speak about myself, where I have been, who I have become, and the options out there for everyone who seriously wants to change her life. There is nothing I could do to someone who has no faith in herself. I speak TO those women not on their behalf.
19. Do you go around talking to people about the troubles they experience in society?
No! Because a society is made up of individuals and those individuals could complain all they want of the society but nothing is going to change unless they become the change they want to see.
20. What is your biggest regret this year?
I have not been as productive as I wanted to be; I allowed myself to get busy with petty distractions that derailed me from my route.
21. What was your biggest achievement in 2009?
Writing in Arabic; I grew up with a psychological barrier towards the Arabic language and this year I made a breakthrough. I am confident enough now that my coming book will be in Arabic.
22. Tell us about your ambitions for the coming year?
A book in Arabic, an audio version of The Poison tree, a new TV show, turning my website into a profitable business unit, and revolutionizing the publishing scene in Egypt.
23. What is your favourite memory of 2009?
When Mariam, my one and half year old niece, took a strand of my curly hair between her fingers, smelled it, smiled, and began caressing the rest of the curls. I never felt more beautiful.