Today, Paul’s Fantasy Writings is privileged to have an interview with author Rima Jbara, the award winning Arab writer. Rima has published over 15 novels, the most recent of which is Let Me Have My Say, which came out earlier this year.
Not Long Ago, I got in touch with Rima via Instagram and she kindly agreed to an interview.
Where do you live and has this place influenced your writings?
I live in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, but I am always influenced by people, not places. I feel human emotions with all its complexities are worth the pause and the contemplation, before I pen them on paper. In my mind, I live in various places on the planet.
I have read that you were the youngest author in the Middle East to write a book in a second language in the early-1990s. How did you get your name out there? How did you become known?
In 1992, my first book, Powerful Love, was published in English. Before the trend of self-published or indie authors was popular, I led the way as an independent self-published author.
This blogger: Well done to you for showing initiative! That takes courage. And to think that you essentially did something that did not become normal for at least a decade and a half!
You have written over 15 novels in a variety of genres, including suspense, erotica, fantasy and stories of characters with mental health issues. You are incredibly talented. Which genre do you enjoy writing in the most?
I choose topics that intrigue me and never what sells in today’s market. The topics I select are considered a taboo and not commonly written or talked about in the Middle East, such as mental health types, erotica, and rebellious women stories. All my novels rotate around contemporary women.
The genre I love the most is a creation of my own pattern of writing, which I do by mixing prose and free verse poetry in miniature texts. I have done this in all my novels since my book Hope was released in 2000. Therefore, my novels cannot be compared to another novel in terms of writing style.
You wrote a bestseller when you were 15 and, in 2011, you won the Writer of the Year award for L’Official Magazine in the Arab Women Awards. After winning so many awards, particularly at young ages, is it hard to motivate yourself to keep writing more books to the same, high-quality standard?
Awards are just recognition. They don’t necessary define who or what I am. If they come my way, I acknowledge them. If they don’t come away, I will continue to reinvent myself with every character I develop, intertwined with my personality in certain aspects.
I have stopped some of my novels from reprints because I did not believe they were up to my standards anymore.
This blogger: That is very honourable of you. Plenty of people would just churn out more novels to make money in your situation. I commend you absolutely for resolutely sticking to your principles.
If you had to choose one book of all the ones you have written to recommend to someone, which book would you choose? And why?
That is a difficult question. It’s like asking a mother which child is her favorite! I love all my novels and their characters because they are different faces of me.
This blogger: (*Smiles wryly*.) I had a feeling you’d say that lol. I don’t know why, I just did.
Your novel, Hope, is a story about someone who suffers from depression. You received a lot of critical praise for it, including from the US Review of Books. How much did the praise mean to you?
Each of my novels discusses a different type of mental health issue; some less extreme than others. Hope is my first international novel that pioneered the combination I created, free verse poetry and prose.
Initially, it received negative reviews. With time, though, the reviews became more favorable. For me, my reward is when I see a reader talking about a book of mine with a twinkle their eyes. I came across classical reviewers who did not approve of my new style of writing, as well as racist reviewers who bluntly pointed out my nationality and my ability to write in their language. Very few reviewers are professional.
This blogger: First, I am sorry that you came across bigoted reviewers. It just shows their utter stupidity, and it makes them appear completely unprofessional, as you say.
Second, it is amazing that your books have had such an effect on people. That is more important than anything reviewers say. Please God, your words will continue to have great impact upon readers.
Staying on with Hope, what message would you like people to go away with, after reading the book?
In Hope, there is no message. It is just a portrayal of how depression can lead a life to its end regardless how talented and artistic a person can be.
If you could give your younger self some advice about writing, what would it be?
Honestly, don’t be a writer. Use that energy away from anything to do with creativity or artistry. Be pragmatic and work hard.
This blogger: Wow! That is quite a statement from an award-winning author. I can’t say I saw that one coming; especially, as your writings have touched so many people in a positive way.
In two of my blog pieces, I discuss how to write a great main character. What makes a great main character in your opinion?
When I wrote my first novel, I was thirteen years old. I just wrote my main character without any thought of how to make her great. She was raw and what I wanted her to be. When I wrote my last novel, Let Me Have My Say (which was released in August), again I just wrote my main character in the most simple, transparent form. I never studied novel writing; nor have I ever read anything related to writing, as I wanted to keep my talent without any modifications. I wanted to keep my characters and novels as a mirror to my obscure world.
In my opinion, there is no formula for creating a great main character. Either the reader does or does not connect with the character. If there were a formula, then many writers would follow the footsteps of timeless authors like Emily Dickinson, Virginia Woolf or Sylvia Plath to guarantee the success of each work.
This blogger: That is a very fair point. So long as your main character connects with the reader, it does not matter what he/she is like.
Which of character in any of your novels is the least like you? And why?
From my internationally published novels, all the characters are different faces of me. From the regional books published in the Middle East, all the main characters are the least close to my personality. At that time, I was experimenting and wanted to write about characters that are different from mine.
What is the hardest part about writing for you?
The hardest part about writing for me is the editing process and the various versions of manuscripts I end up with.
This blogger: I think all writers can empathise with you on that one. (*Winks*.)
What do you like to do when you are not writing?
Read, spend time with my four-legged furry baby, photography, watch old movies and documentaries. Plus, I like to listen to old music.
End of Interview
That brings our interview with author Rima Jbara to a close. I would like to thank her for her time, and to say that it has been lovely talking with her. I wish her all the best for her future writings, her animal, her photography, and her other hobbies.
You can purchase Rima’s books on Amazon, including Hope and Let Me Have My Say. Anyone who wishes to learn more about how mental health issues affect characters would do well to read Rima’s novels, for sure. Otherwise, check out Rima’s website and keep up to date with her by following her on Instagram.
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