I original met Mariam on twitter and have been chatting with each other ever since. I hope you’ll enjoy her interview here on No Wasted Ink.
My name is Mariam Kobras, I’m married with two sons, and I live in Hamburg, Germany. I’m nobody special, just another housewife and football mom who one day decided to write down the stories that kept her awake at night. I’ve done many things in my life: after university (American Lit.) I was a corporate wife for many years, managed an American Football team, taught theater and musicals and dabbled in politics and the PTA.
The one thing I never managed to do properly was bake a cake.
When and why did you begin writing?
Not so long ago, actually. I wanted to be a journalist when I was a teenager and wrote some stories back then. But my serious writing began in 2009. That’s when I wrote my first book, The Distant Shore, within a few months. I can’t really say why I started writing. The story had been on my mind for a very long time, and one morning I woke up and decided it was time to write it down. There was this one scene that kept coming back to me, when Jon and Naomi meet again after so many years. I used to lie awake and play that out in my mind, the words they’d say, what they’d feel, how Naomi would react to seeing him. And then, one winter morning just before Christmas 2008, I decided to write. My husband went out and bought me my first laptop, and that was it.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
My publisher has a very neat way of saying this: “When you write, you’re a writer. When you get published, you’re an author.” I like that distinction.
So – I considered myself a writer pretty soon after I began writing, but I had no idea if I’d ever be an author.
Can you share a little about your current book with us?
Song of the Storm is the third book in the Stone Trilogy. After all they’ve been through in Book One and Book Two, Jon and Naomi at last find the peace to settle down in their Brooklyn house. While they follow their dream and stage a musical they’ve written together, Sal, Jon’s manager, falls in love with a young woman of Pakistani descent.
Just when it seems that everything is going well for them, they have to face the tragedy of September 11th, 2001. Each one of them goes through that day, but they do it in very different ways.
What inspired you to write this book?
A twitter discussion about 9/11, on the day of the tenth anniversary. I was talking with friends about how we went through that day, and how it has affected us. As you know, I’m German, and I was at home with our youngest son when we got the news that a plane had crashed into World Trade Center. When I said in that twitter discussion how terrible and horrific that day had been for all of us, I was attacked by one person who said that as a non-American I had no right to feelings about 9/11.
I think I do. I think everyone has. That day, many people died, and many suffered. A few years earlier, my husband and I had been in the World Trade Center, visiting the offices of the company he was working for at that time. They were on the 79th floor. We had coffee with his colleagues. I took photos of Manhattan from up there.
So that’s what I tried to write about: how others perceived that day, and how that act of terror changed the world for everyone, not only Americans.
Do you have a specific writing style?
I don’t know! I guess so, doesn’t every author?
Oh wait – here’s something that might be specific. For some reason I haven’t been able to figure out I prefer to see the world through my male protagonists’ eyes. I find it hard to write from a woman’s perspective. Is that specific?
And I write in 3rd person, past tense: the classic narration.
How did you come up with the title of this book?
Well – Jon is a musician. A composer, a songwriter. He’d probably write songs about 9/11 and what he experienced there. And I think he’d call that album “Songs of the Storm”. After all, it was a storm. A storm that went all around the world.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
No, I don’t think so. It’s a romance novel, after all is said and done. If there’s a message in my books, it’s that love always wins, and that the most important things in life are forgiveness and tolerance. I’m a pretty basic and straightforward person. I make my characters struggle for those things, all the time
Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Not on someone I know. My characters are totally made up. My publisher said that my Jon Stone reminds her of Bruce Springsteen. I can live with that, even though I didn’t have him in mind when I invented Jon Stone. As to events: the tales some people in Song of the Storm tell about how they lived through 9/11 are real. I have friends in New York City, and I asked them to tell me how that day went for them. Their stories are retold nearly verbatim here. It’s my tribute to them, and to the trauma they had to go through. I hope nothing like this every happens again, nowhere in the world.
What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?
John Galsworthy, Sigrid Undset, Naguib Mahfus, Thomas Wolfe. I like their scope, their flowing sentences, their grasp of human nature. That’s what I want to write about. It’s endlessly fascinating.
If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?
None. I firmly believe that you can’t teach writing. You can teach the techniques, like grammar, spelling, a couple of other, basic things, but I really believe that every writer must make their own way, find their own, unique style and voice. I know there are many, many sites with “advice for writers” and I know a lot of writers who read them. But how would you teach writing? Every writers has their own way of looking at the world, and expressing what they see.
If there’s anyone who I’d consider my mentor it’s Mary Chris Bradley of Buddhapuss Ink. She’s my publisher, my friend, and she taught me all I need to know about being an author. In fact, she’s still teaching me.
Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?
My books are all designed by my publisher, Buddhapuss Ink.
The art on them are original paintings by Eric G. Thompson. He very graciously permitted us to use them. I came across the painting that’s on The Distant Shore on Facebook one day, and it immediately struck a chord. His paintings are magical, wonderful. I hope I can talk Buddhapuss Ink to stick with him for my future books.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Only one: write. Don’t talk about writing, don’t tweet or blog or post on Facebook about it, just put your butt in your chair and write your heart out. Don’t bother about what others tell you, don’t think about what others would want to read, don’t worry about trends. Just write the story that’s in you. Write the book you want to read.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Oh, yes! Thank you! I want to hug them all and tell them how much I love that they love my books! I love that they keep pestering me for release dates of the new book, that when I’m sick they send me a gazillion get well messages, and add, “When can you write again?”
Thank you, darlings!
Cover Artist: Eric G. Thompson