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Friday, December 16, 2016

Authors To Watch: Malia Zaidi, author of A DARKER SHORE





Malia Zaidi is the author of A POISONOUS JOURNEY. She attended the University of Pittsburgh, and studied at English at Oxford University. Having grown up in Germany, she currently lives in Washington DC, though through her love of reading, she resides, vicariously in countries throughout the world. A POISONOUS JOURNEY is her first book in the Lady Evelyn mysteries series. The sequel, A DARKER SHORE, is her latest novel.

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Title: A Darker Shore
Author: Malia Zaidi
Publisher: Bookbaby
Pages: 400
Genre: Historical Mystery

1926: A year has passed since the events of "A Poisonous Journey" and Lady Evelyn has made a home for herself in Greece, living with her cousin, Briony, her husband, Jeffrey and Daniel Harper. Disturbing this island idyll is a letter, which arrives from France with troubling information about the Daniel’s long-believed-dead brother, Henry. A new journey awaits! With the shadows of the Great War reaching out, Lady Evelyn and Daniel voyage to Amiens in Northern France with the aim of discovering the truth behind the ominous letter. Upon their arrival, they are met not with clarity but rather with crime. Murder, to be precise. Is it linked to their presence in France, or even worse, to Henry himself?  Evelyn and Daniel must confront their history as they try to make sense of the present before the killer can strike again, and the secrets of the past are lost forever.

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Welcome, Malia! When did you begin writing?

It is difficult to remember exactly when I started writing more seriously. When I was 18, I wrote my first full manuscript. It was a YA story, and I promise you, it will never see the light of day! I began to work on the first Lady Evelyn mystery in 2012. I had wanted to write a more focused, researched novel for a long time, and I made it my New Year’s resolution to write every day until the first draft was completed, and shockingly, I did.

Describe your writing process. Do you plot or write by the seat of your pants? When and where do you write?

I do create a plot outline, though elements of that are bound to shift in the process of my writing, or veer entirely into a different direction. Apart from that, I really focus on the characters of the novel, before I start writing. Some are recurring, and feel familiar to me, but I create little bios for almost all my characters. It makes me feel I know them, and how they would behave, which really helps in how I write them. Sometimes they take on a life of their own and I either like them a lot more than I thought I would, or find them less interesting than I initially planned. I love it when that happens, when, to me, these characters feel so real, they influence how I think the story needs to flow, even if it breaks with my initial plans.

Can you tell us about your most recent release?

“A Darker Shore” is the second book in the Lady Evelyn Mysteries series. It takes Lady Evelyn on a new adventure from her beloved island of Crete to Northern France, where, to her horror, murder awaits. The book brings back some characters from “A Poisonous Journey”, while the story centers around the way in which certain events of the past and the First World War collide with the present (that being 1926). I hope that fans of “A Poisonous Journey” will enjoy the continuation of Evelyn’s story! 

How did you get the idea for the book?

The shadows of the First World War touch the first book in this series, A Poisonous Journey, and I wanted to bring these historical elements back with greater focus in the sequel. Past intertwining with present is a theme integral to my books, and I hope that comes across. In the first book, readers are introduced to Daniel and part of his story, and I wanted to take that further in A Darker Shore. I also knew I wanted to change the setting, in part, because I love to travel and have injected Lady Evelyn with that same enthusiasm, and in part because the new setting in Northern France played a significant role in the First World War.

Of all your characters, which one is your favorite? Why?

Don’t make be choose! But if I had to, it would probably be Evelyn herself. I write the books in the first person, which allows readers and myself insight into her thoughts, fears, joys, and makes me feel I know her so well.

What was the most challenging aspect of writing your book?

For me, the most difficult parts come after the first draft is written. The rewriting, editing, then the process of publication are often challenging aspects of creating a book. In the end it is worth it, though, and I just hope that readers will enjoy the books and get a few hours of happiness, entertainment or just distraction from them.

Which authors have inspired your writing?

Oh, the list is too long! Some of my favorite authors who definitely inspired my reading probably also significantly inspired my writing. At the very least their wisdom and talent inspire me to press on and try to improve and learn. They are Jane Austen for her wit, JK Rowling for her creativity, Elly Griffiths for her realistic characters, Charles Finch for his eloquence and Neil Gaiman for his imagination.

What projects are you currently working on?

I am currently participating in Nanowrimo, working of a contemporary psychological thriller. It is very different from the A Poisonous Journey and A Darker Shore, but sometimes it is fun to challenge yourselves in these ways. Then I plan to continue working on the next book in the Lady Evelyn Mysteries.

What advice would you offer to new or aspiring authors?

I will echo the advice I have taken myself, and which I truly believe is essential: read, read read and write every day.

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