Bookpleasures.com welcomes as our guest, Lucette Walters author of Light of the Desert. Lucette was born in Alexandria, Egypt and grew up in Paris later relocating with her family to Chicago and eventually Los Angeles, where she pursued a career in film. She recently complete the screenplay adaptation of Light of the Desert and is working on her second novel.
Norm: Good day Lucette and thanks for participating in our interview.
I noticed you were born in Egypt. When did you move to Paris and why did you and your family make the move? As a follow up, how long did you live in Paris and could you tell us more about your education in Paris?
Lucette: I was born in Alexandria - it was actually different from Cairo. We lived in Paris in the early sixties.
In Alexandria, life was wonderful. later the political situation got worse and we were basically in great danger during the Gamal Abdel Nasser rule and my father (who worked in textiles) decided to move to Paris - we had no choice actually.
We fled on a small fishing boat called the "Lydia," which I describe when Noora leaves Alexandria for Marseille.
My father had family in Paris. Life was very hard for me in Paris. We were not used to the cold. I missed palm trees, and the clear Mediterranean turquoise seashores of the beautiful Alexandria.
I loved to swim for hours and catch fish with my bare hands - the water was so clear and warm. Paris was cold and damp. I describe it when Noora's fiancé Michel finds himself mourning over Noora…
Norm: How did you get involved with the subject or theme of Light of the Desert?
Lucette: I wanted the public to be aware of the dangers of "honor killing." I has read about it in 1993 and I feared it was going to get worse. Most Westerners were totally unaware of its meaning and the truth that one day thousands if not millions of Muslims would move to Europe and the U.S. And one day they would practice this backward ancient culture.
I felt the world was going to go backwards. Sure enough and sadly, it has happened and is happening now.
Norm: What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?
Lucette: I wanted again for the world to be aware of this practice. Fathers or brothers killing their female relatives or daughter or sister if they did not obey the ancient ways.
Norm: Are the characters in your book based on people you know or have encountered or are they strictly fictional?
Lucette: The characters in Light of the Desert are mostly from people I have known. Including Ian Cohen, the Hollywood mogul.
Norm: Did you know the end of the book at the beginning?
Lucette: Yes, I sure did. Noora gave me the beginning, middle and the end. She told me it had to end in "full circle."
In other words: When Noora's father tried to kill her (or drown her) in the pool, and she would survive, unbeknownst to him, it had to end there at the pool (7 years later) but she had to try and save him and he instead would die in her arms.
Very dramatic the way it came to me. I woke up one night shaking because the details that came from my character were so real and I had to write it exactly and she told me. (I know -- sounds crazy - but if you're a writer, you'll find your characters would tell the writer what to write. The powerful feelings had to be written with a great deal of truth and honesty).
Norm: How did you go about creating the character of Noora Fendil and what was your main focus when you created her?
Lucette: Basically I did not create the character of Noora, she came to me.
I was driving along a winding road in the Hollywood Hills in L.A. and we had a sudden hail storm. Which was very rare for L.A.
It was quite intense and actually scary. Suddenly she came to me wearing black with piercing blue eyes. I thought I had lost my mind. I had to focus on my driving. She said: Write my story.
Norm: As I mention in my review of your book, I had to chuckle from time-to-time with your sprinkling of French and Arabic expressions. My second language is French and my wife, like yourself, was born in Egypt and often uses the same terms. What made you want to include these words and expressions?
Lucette: That's how the characters spoke. They were world travelers, well educated, even though they were from the Middle East, they adapted some French and English (British) sayings.
I used the type of dialogue that these types of people used, simply, that's how they spoke.
Again, I needed to be sure and project exactly the truth and depth of the characters who were actually very real to me… The Bedouin woman, Um Faheema for instance, lived in my head and guided me as to how I would introduce her and how I needed to describe her. My favorite part of writing Light of the Desert especially was when Noora was at the Bedouin village.
Norm: What is happening with the screenplay adaptation of the novel and if someone has not already been chosen to play the part of Noora, who would you like to see in the role?
Lucette: The script adaptation has been written. I worked hard to adapt the story - I had worked in the film business and had written a few scripts. But I realized I had to cut out too many parts.
A regular script is 120 pages at the most. I had 152 pages and couldn't cut it down.
We are now working on an eight hour mini series instead, still in the early development stages. (I wouldn't want to advertise this yet as it's too early and I'm superstitious)…
Norm: Are you working on any books/projects that you would like to share with us? (We would love to hear all about them!)
Lucette: I am working on another book which I'd started a few years ago: "Addie's Child." Too long to get into it right now. I'm also working on another novel that takes place in 1963.
Norm: Where can our readers find out more about you and Light of the Desert?
Lucette: I am, if you will, beyond belief private person. I didn't realize writing LOTD would make me lose my privacy. Therefore, I would prefer if at all possible, that the readers would please enjoy the book and its characters. Light of the Desert is not about me.
It's about Noora and what she endured. And that there are good and evil people out there and how a young woman such as Noora managed to rise above such obstacles. I also wrote the type of story I would want to read and watch as a David Lean type movie. ;)
You can purchase the book on Amazon.com.
Norm: As this interview comes to an end is there anything else you would like to say to our readers concerning your novel?
Lucette: To please enjoy LIGHT OF THE DESERT, enjoy the story and the adventure itself which I hope will transport them not only into another character and her world, and from the Middle East to Europe and U.S.A. and those she encounters, but also (if you will) to teach them about what is going on - and indeed honor killing. But I don't want to focus too much on the subject of honor killing itself but what can happen when there is jealousy, sibling jealousy and the ultimate act of forgiveness. Lastly, one must forgive in order to live again…
Norm: Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors.