The Dawn of Saudi
In Search for Freedom
Interview with Norm Goldman of Book Pleasures
Good day Homa and thanks for participating in our interview
Hi Norm, it’s my pleasure to be here.
How did you decide you were ready to write The Dawn of Saudi? As a follow up, as this is your second novel, did you approach
writing this one any differently from your first one, the Lemon Curd?
I was frustrated by the Bush Administration’s deliberate secrecy about the human rights abuse in of Saudi Arabia while he had no
problem criticizing other more moderate countries and labelling them as “Axis of Evil.” I was also upset at the silence of the media
about an extremely oppressive regime while they had no problem portraying other middle-eastern countries as barbarians.
I thought how could this be when Saudi Arabia has the worse human rights history in the world? And to be fair, it wasn’t just the
United States that was keeping quiet about Saudi Arabia but also England, Germany, France and many other western countries
who depend on their oil, business and cooperation to monitor the middle-east.
Regarding how I approached the story - With Lemon Curd I visualized the characters in my head. With The Dawn of Saudi, I
actually started copying and pasting pictures and looking at them for hours and hours to see if their image would be befitting of my
characters. Then I created a background for each such as what kind of habits this person would have, what would be their favorite
food, did they dress conservatively or trendy, what where their hobbies and things like that.
Also, The Dawn of Saudi was my first attempt at writing mystery and I wasn’t sure if I could do it since I have usually written stories
with somewhat of a romantic plot. But I managed to pull it off, thanks to my editor who would point out all the plot holes in the story.
I’m glad that I decided to write a mystery. It’s sort of like acting. If you’re always playing similar roles, you will be a mediocre actor.
For me, I always like to challenge my art and to not be afraid of trying new things. I mean, I write what I believe in and hope that
people will like it. I usually try to write about important issues such as ethics and morality which was the theme of Lemon Curd and
human rights which was the theme in The Dawn of Saudi.
Did you know the end of The Dawn of Saudi at the beginning? As a follows up, how did you develop the plot and characters? Did
you use any set formula?
I had no idea how the story was going to end and I was more concerned about telling the world about the injustice, repression,
racism, prejudice, human trafficking and applied arbitrary laws in the Kingdom than I was about the plot. I was trying to figure a way
to fit all the important points in without overwhelming my readers and sounding boring and dry and so in the process the plot sort
of created itself.
I have never used a formula in my work. I think formula books are tedious and readers can see right through them. Besides, my
messy and chaotic life doesn’t understand formulas. I have often tried to be structured, have a clean desk, write an outline, do a
synopsis and all the right things, but my brain just doesn’t work that way.
Here is an example of how I work: I was ¾ of the way in my writing when my cousin and her daughter wanted to get together. So,
we met at a restaurant and my cousin’s daughter, Sahar, asked if I could use her name for one of my characters. I told her I wasn’t
sure if her name was Arabic. I mean as far as I knew, Sahar was a Persian name. So, when I went home that night, I looked for her
name on Arabic Websites and noticed that Sahar was also a Saudi name.
But now came the problem of how to incorporate her name into my book, especially since I was almost finished with my story. I
mulled it over for a few days and decided to change the name of one of my main characters which was originally named Reyhana
to Sahar. Once I did that, the story and the characters took a whole 360 turn, the plot became more and more complex and the
characters decided how the story was going to unfold and end. Of course, I couldn’t pull any of it off without my editor, Heidi. She
is very tough on me and makes me rewrite and rewrite until I get it right.
In fiction as well as in non-fiction, writers very often take liberties with their material to tell a good story or make a point. But how
much is too much and how did you handle this in The Dawn of Saudi? In other words, how much of the book is realistic?
About 80% of the story which is about the Saudi culture, customs, laws, social issues, difficulties people face on a daily basis,
forced marriages, child abuse and lack of freedom is true as well as how large businesses and politicians work by breaking laws
and doing certain favors for each other. The other 20% is truth mixed with some imagination and drama to make the story
There have been many non-fiction books written about Saudi Arabia that are far more revealing and horrifying than my book. But
not everyone likes to read non-fiction and not everyone likes to know in graphic details how people are tortured and killed. So, I
wanted to write a book that would both inform and entertain and at the same time give readers that glimpse of hope for change. I
don’t like writing extremely dark books; there is enough of that in life. When we read, we want to escape. I mean that’s how I feel. I
don’t enjoy reading books where throughout the entire book there is nothing but despair, misery and hopelessness. Read more...
Pourasgari was Interviewed by Juanita Watson, the assistant editor of Reader Views: You may listen to her on Inside Scoop