Please join Britbear’s Book Reviews in welcoming author Princila Murrell, author of Girl of the Book in today’s author spotlight.
In Girl of the Book, Twelve year old Courtney Parker is devastated to have to leave her friends and South Africa behind when her father accepts a lucrative contract and the family relocate to Saudi Arabia.
Jeddah feels like a different planet to Johannesburg. In spite of her initial reluctance to venture out of the comfort and security of their new home, she quickly forms friendships with Nizar Bukhari and Lana Alahmadi. However, not everyone is happy with the situation.
Courtney must learn to adapt to an alien, seemingly unforgiving culture and stand up to the bullies that are making her school life hell.
Nizar and Lana must both try to overcome their family prejudices in order for their friendship with Courtney to survive. Will they succeed? Will they be able to set aside their differences? Can they bridge the cultural divide?
“Girl of the Book” is a compelling, contemporary story that will get older children thinking. More than that, it is a story of friendship and forgiveness that will tug at your heart.
Princila, is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
The main message that I want older kids to grasp is that we shouldn’t judge people because of their cultural or religious beliefs. I think it is fun to make friends with people of different backgrounds and learn about their culture and/or beliefs. Besides, we are all humans and empathic by nature. We can learn how to accept those who are different from us or who do not share our beliefs and still live peacefully with each other.
That’s great advice. How did you become involved with the subject or theme of Girl of the Book?
As someone who has faced, and is still facing, several prejudices in Saudi Arabia, I couldn’t help writing a story about racial and religious discrimination. Although we, expatriates, usually avoid talking openly about the forms of discrimination that we experience, these issues exist and persist. Unfortunately, our kids are exposed to such issues and risk growing up with the belief that it is OK to not love your neighbour because of racial, cultural, or religious differences.
Writing about your own experiences must be difficult. What was the hardest thing about writing Girl of the Book?
The hardest thing about writing Girl of the Book was to write from the point of view of children with different cultural/religious beliefs. Besides, Muslim-Christian relationships have always been a difficult subject to discuss, and I tried to maintain a certain balance in the book without being preachy or condescending towards any religion.
What are some of the references that you used while researching and writing Girl of the Book?
I do not remember specifically reading any books to write Girl of the Book. I did, however, get a lot of help by speaking with several young Saudis to understand how they perceived their non-Muslim peers and how their families would react if their befriended a non-Muslim. My knowledge of certain teachings of Islam and the local language also helped.
When writing, what’s more important to you, characters or plot, and why?
I think character and plot are equally important because they are closely related to each other. A well written story should have well developed characters and a good plot to capture the reader’s interest.
Speaking of readers, what authors do you like to read? What book or books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?
I like to read Roald Dahl, Beverly Cleary, and Jeff Kinney. I’m not sure if any of these authors’ books had a strong influence on my writing. However, while I was rewriting Girl of the Book, I had hard time writing about the other protagonists’ feelings from the main character’s point of view. I struggled with this for close to one month until I read Wonder by RJ Palacio and said to myself, “Gee! Why hadn’t I thought that I could write this story from multiple points of view?” I thought it was very risky because as an aspiring writer, it would be challenging to tell Courtney’s story from multiple points of view.
You’ve kind of already alluded to this, but what other books are similar to your own? What makes them alike?
I have searched for other middle grade novels set in Saudi Arabia, and until now, I haven’t found anything similar to mine. I can’t, however, say that I have performed an extensive search. Maybe there are books out there that are similar to mine, but I just haven’t come across them yet.
Because there isn’t a lot out there on the topic, what is the biggest thing that people THINK they know about your subject and/or genre, that isn’t so?
I guess the main misconception that people have about books that discuss Muslim-Christian relationships is that the author will preach about a particular religion and/or try to convert his/her readers by demonising followers of the other religion.
For those interested in exploring the subject or theme of your book, where should they start?
Those who are interested in exploring the subject of my book don’t need to look far. They should look around and ask themselves the following questions: Who is my neighbour? Are they people of a different race? Are they people with a different cultural or religious background? Do I think they are any different from me because they do not share my beliefs or have a different skin colour?
What a great message to impart to the next generation!
What can we expect from you next? What project(s) are you working on at the present?
I’m currently working on the sequel to Girl of the Book and a dystopian novel.
Thank you, Princila, for participating in this interview.
Here’s how you can find out more about Princila and her work:
| Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Amazon Author Page | Goodreads | Smashwords | Wattpad |
Princila Murrell lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia with her husband and two kids. Besides being a nerdy dreamer, doodler, busy mum, and housewife, she is also an avid netizen and reader of children’s books. She loves to cook, shop and, most of all, play with her kids.
Girl of the Book (released on December 1, 2014) is Princila’s debut novel.
Buy Girl of the Book on Amazon.