Welcome to the five hundred and forty-ninth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with memoirist Rosemary Sabet. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Rosemary. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Rosemary: I am based in Cairo, Egypt, where I have been living for 37 years as I am married to an Egyptian. I began to write a blog during the Egyptian revolution, and upon retiring in June 2011, decided that it should become a book. I combined it with anecdotal memoirs.
Morgen: It sounds wonderful. What have you had published to-date?
Rosemary: This is my first book, which is self-published.
Morgen: What lead to you going your own way?
Rosemary: I felt that this was the best route to take in order to get it in print while the Egyptian revolution was still topical.
Morgen: Ah yes, another upside to self-publishing is the quick turnaround. Is your book available as an eBook? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Rosemary: Yes, my book is available as an eBook. No, I don’t read eBooks, I love the smell and feel of books.
Morgen: Most authors I’ve spoken to have said the same, I read both, and it’s great having the choice. Did you choose the title / cover of your book? How important do you think they are?
Morgen: A handy person to know. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Rosemary: I want to write a novel, which would take place in various countries, but particularly Egypt.
Morgen: They say to write about what you know and I’d have said living somewhere as exotic (or certainly exotic to someone living in currently-damp middle England) it would be a perfect location. Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
Rosemary: I did not suffer from writer’s block with ‘From Trafalgar to Tahrir’ but suspect that I will when writing my novel.
Morgen: Let’s hope not. Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Rosemary: I did a fair amount of editing but, indeed, as the book went on my writing became more fully-formed.
Morgen: Ah yes, it’s all about practice. 🙂 Do you have to do much research?
Rosemary: Yes, I did quite a bit for my present book.
Morgen: Do you have an agent?
Rosemary: I do not have an agent but may well look for one for the novel.
Morgen: I’m sure they do help. If a good agent can get you a better deal than without when then that’s got to be worth their commission, plus they’re often a great sounding board. How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Rosemary: I did my own marketing in Egypt but I have employed someone to do it for me in England.
Morgen: What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Rosemary: I thoroughly enjoyed writing the book and surprised myself by actually engaging in the project and finishing it.
Morgen: The fact that you enjoyed it says it all. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Rosemary: Just sit down and do it.
Morgen: That works for me. 🙂 If you could invite three people from any era to dinner, who would you choose and what would you cook (or hide the takeaway containers)?
Rosemary: Robert De Niro, Audrey Hepburn, Jodi Picoult. I would cook fettuccine with cream and mushroom sauce, topped with grated parmesan as a starter; my main dish would be lemon veal escalopes with cooked mixed vegetables served cold with a lemon and olive oil dressing, and lemon sorbet for dessert.
Morgen: That sounds delicious, and a great choice of guests. You mentioned earlier that you write fiction. Are there any differences or similarities between writing non-fiction and fiction?
Rosemary: I am about to start writing fiction and I think that the main difference and challenge will be creating the characters and plot as opposed to writing about existing situations and characters.
Morgen: But potentially such fun when you go off in various directions (unless that’s just me). What point of view do you find most to your liking?
Rosemary: Having written my memoirs and a record of the revolution in the first person, I feel that the novel has to be in the third person.
Morgen: It does tend to be easier, and the most popular. Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?
Rosemary: I am in the process of updating my blog.
Morgen: Blog’s are very popular (thankfully :)). What do you do when you’re not writing?
Rosemary: I go to the gym and then swim five mornings a week, I read (a lot), I play the guitar.
Morgen: I read far too little (note to self: read more). Are you on any forums or networking sites?
Morgen: They’re great, aren’t they. LinkedIn’s great too, especially if you have a specific query or something you want to share. What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Rosemary: I am not sure and I believe that it is difficult to judge. There are many works being self-published, like mine, because publishers have become conglomerates and are often more interested in books that they are sure will sell millions or whose film rights they can sell.
Morgen: They probably do, although they do take on smaller authors, it’s just that they have the multi-sellers to fund those ‘risks’. Where can we find out about you and your writing?
Rosemary: On my website – www.rosemary-sabet.com.
Morgen: Is there anything you’d like to ask me?
Rosemary: I would really like to know how to market a book or publish it in the normal way. I have had some excellent reviews on amazon.co.uk and am, probably like thousands of authors, hoping that someone will ‘discover’ me!
Morgen: 🙂 I’m still working on that. You mentioned a blog and although they can be time-consuming (mine is full-time and then some – I post six items a day on two blogs!) they are great for getting your name out there. Twitter and Facebook are great as long as you talk about other topics 90% of the time and your books 10% of the time – touting is the quickest way to get de-followed / de-friended. As Harper Collins’ Scott Pack said to me a few months ago, “you’re doing all the right things, you just have to keep doing what you’re doing.” Thank you, Rosemary.
I then invited Rosemary to include an extract of her writing…
As I sit on a beach on the Sinai coast in the shade of my bamboo hut, with the water gently lapping onto the sand some ten metres away from me, it is easy to forget that I am in Egypt and that the country has been in turmoil for some time now. As I lift my pen and raise my eyes from my notebook, I can see the mountains of Saudi Arabia in front of me and, farther to my left, those same mountains become Jordan. If I walk north, to the end of the beach, I can just see part of Israel. Everything appears superbly tranquil. The water is as still as a lake, its pale, turquoise hue interrupted in places by the darker blue shadows that indicate the presence of coral and, in the near distance, an even darker stretch where the end of the coral reef drops into the deep blue. Behind me, the mountains shimmer in the heat of the afternoon.
A group of olive-skinned Egyptians chatter and laugh with their usual bonhomie whilst a Swiss family babble in their particular brand of German. I can hear the soft sonority of tongues from the South of France and my favourite language, Italian, being mangled by a small bevy from Calabria. Children splash and laugh in the sea, twittering in a variety of languages.
The Egyptians’ olive skins are turning nut brown while some of the Europeans are beginning to turn a painful shade of pink. Some resemble a patchwork quilt with blobs of white interspersed with pink where the factor-50 sun block missed its mark.
As I take a break in this paradisiacal eco-lodge, called Basata, meaning ‘simplicity’, I have a yen to write, and for the first time in decades, I am doing so with pen and paper. Upon my return to ‘civilisation’, I will transfer my scribbles to my computer. I believe the word ‘civilisation’ is something of a misnomer. I cannot think of a more civilised place than that in which I find myself, yet I sleep in a bamboo hut with no electricity, communal toilets and showers, and the evening meal is served and eaten in the main hut where one sits on cushions at low tables, each of which accommodate twelve people.
The seating arrangements are random, and one meets people from all over the world, many of whom, like me, speak two or more languages. Amiable conversation ranges from art to literature to religion and politics amongst multi-cultural groups, and one cannot help but wish that the rest of the world were listening in and learning. However, the prevailing topic at present is the Arab Awakening—more particularly the Egyptian Revolution of 2011 and the country’s fragile future.
As I sit in front of my hut I begin to reflect upon my life and wonder at the twists and turns of fate. Did destiny determine that one day I would become Egyptian and that I would be heavily embroiled in my adoptive country’s politics, or did I unconsciously give fate a helping hand?
and a synopsis of her book… the following is the back cover text –
In this intriguing memoir, British born Rosemary Sabet moves back and forth between her past as a child growing up in post war London and her present involvement in the Egyptian revolution. The events in Tahrir Square, Cairo, trigger her memory as she questions what quirks of fate brought her to participate in such an unprecedented, momentous uprising.
As we follow the twists and turns and churning uncertainty of Egypt’s revolution from its outset on January 25th 2011 until the ambivalent celebration one year later the author, fuelled by passion, recounts her personal involvement in the uprising, in which she experienced periods of great fear and disappointment intermingled with moments of courage and triumph.
In a series of anecdotes, the reader is taken on a nostalgic journey of the author’s carefree childhood, to her unconventional experiences abroad as a young girl in the fifties. With raw and honest insight, Sabet remembers London’s swinging sixties and reveals some of her wickedly funny amorous escapades. We follow her to Rome during the era of the dolce vita where she eventually meets and marries her Egyptian husband. They move to Southern Yemen where she begins to encounter the cultural challenges so imbued in the Middle East, and from where she is propelled to nearly four decades of Egypt’s turbulent history.
Rosemary Sabet was born in London in 1943 and spent most of her childhood training as a ballerina but, unfortunately grew too tall. After completing her schooling, she worked in advertising and then for a woman’s magazine. In 1967, she moved to Rome where she worked for the FAO of the United Nations. She met and married her Egyptian husband there and they moved to Southern Yemen for 18 months. In 1974, her husband decided that, having been away from Egypt 12 years previously, after his father’s family business was sequestered by Abdel Nasser, he would like to return to Egypt and set up a record company, which he successfully did. In 1978, and with two children, Rosemary decided to follow her great love for ballet and retrained as a dancer and dance teacher. This led to the offer of a job with the British International School, Cairo where she eventually also taught Drama. In 2001 Rosemary gained an MA in Drama and Theatre and ended her career in 2011 as Head of Visual and Performing Arts. She is now a freelance writer and blogger, has travelled extensively and speaks five languages.
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