Friday, 18 February 2011

Featured on Friday: Miriam Halahmy

A huge thank you to the fabulous Sara for the beautiful button.

I have the pleasure of welcoming Miriam Halahmy to So Many Books, So Little TIme today in anticipation of her YA debut, Hidden, which will be released next month by Meadowside Books.

Miriam is a London born author and poet who also runs writing workshops. She is married with three children.

"My debut Y.A. novel, HIDDEN, (Meadowside Fiction) will be published on March 31st 2011. I am an author and poet. My stories and poems for adults and young people have been included in anthologies, read on radio and performed on stage. I have been married into an Iraqi family for many years and they have provided some of the inspiration for my novel. I live in North London but Hayling Island where my novel is set was our family home for many years.
HIDDEN tackles the complex issues of immigration and human-rights laws, through the eyes of teenage Alix. It is a coming-of-age novel dealing with courage, prejudice, judgement and the difficulty of sorting right from wrong.

Fourteen year old Alix lives at the bottom of Hayling Island, near the beach. It is a quiet backwater, far removed from the international politics of war, terrorism and refugees. Alix has never given a thought to asylum seekers, she has enough problems of her own; Dad has a new life that doesn’t include her, Grandpas is dead and Mum is helpless and needy.

Then one day on the beach Alix pulls a drowning man out of the incoming tide; a refugee escaping certain death in Iraq. Alone, helpless and desperate not to be deported, Mohammed’s destiny lies in Alix’s hands. However, hiding an injured refugee is fraught with difficulties. Faced with the biggest moral dilemma of her life, what will Alix do and who can she trust?

My parents lived on Hayling for many years and my husband and I have always loved going down to visit the Island. As a writer I have often thought that Hayling would be a great place to set a novel. The Island has many beautiful and mysterious corners. One day I was walking on the beach and wondered, What if a couple of teenagers saw a man, a refugee, thrown out of a boat into the sea? What would they do? That was it; the story was born.

But as I was writing HIDDEN, more ideas occurred to me and I wrote two more novels centred on Hayling. A minor character in the previous book becomes the major character in the next, so each novel is stand alone. The next two titles, ILLEGAL and STUFFED, will be published by Meadowside in 2012.

Writing HIDDEN has given me the opportunity to explore the experiences of asylum seekers through fiction. I have worked with asylum seekers in different settings and all of the people I have met have been through a truly horrible time. But the media tends to show a very negative image of refugees and asylum seekers. My hope is that through getting to know my characters young people might be prepared to find out more about the plight of asylum seekers who arrive in the UK and make up their own minds.

I very much enjoyed all the extra research I did for this book, on immigration and human rights laws, individual testimonies and contemporary Iraq. My husband and his family told me a lot about ordinary everyday life in Iraq which I felt was so important to show in my book. Most people only think of Iraq as a place where bombs go off but there is so much more to find out about this wonderful and historic country. Stories about the date palms could fill a book alone.

I also enjoyed visiting Hayling Island to extend my knowledge of the area and I have met so many interesting people, including two people who showed me two ‘little ships’ which left Hayling to rescue British soldiers from the beaches of Dunkirk in May 1940. I refer to this in the novel.

When I cross the bridge from the mainland to the Island I feel myself completely relax and the blue sea spreads out all around me. Read HIDDEN and then go and visit the Island and see the places where the book is set. You’ll have a great time!"

Thank you so much, Miriam! You can visit Miriam at her website here.


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