I am happy to report that Inpress Books have published an interview about ‘The Disobedient Wife’ on their website. The questions focused on my academic and working influences: how social anthropology/ research shapes my writing of fiction. Please click on the link below to read it:
I nearly called the book ‘A Tale of Tajik Flowers’ and named several drafts with this title. Yes, ‘The Disobedient Wife’ is a much better title and I am glad I changed it. But why flowers?
When I lived in Tajikistan I was delighted to notice that many women’s names are also the names of flowers. My landlord was an elderly civil engineer, as fond of Soviet era machinery as he was of roses. He insisted that Tajikistan was where the rose – Sad Bagh originated. In my garden, I was lucky enough to enjoy the garden he had lovingly planted. Cultivated to bloom from May to November, we had climbers and ornamental, sweet scented roses. I dried their petals and put them in bowls. On weekends, and when it was warm enough out, I reclined on a tea platform (Tapshan), shaded by hundreds of delicate pink and red climbing roses. We had purple lilac trees, daffodils and tulips as well as fruit and nut trees and vines that gave us fruit almost all year round (quince, plum, cherries (3 types), apples, pear, grapes, walnuts, pomegranate, fig, mulberries, strawberries). We even had one tree that gave us half sour cherries and half sweet. The variegated irises were a sight to behold each May, deep burgundy, indigo and yellow, growing on half shaded bank above the ditches that ran around the lawn. There was a cracked greenhouse without a roof where I grew Italian and purple basil that grew to two metres, yellow tomatoes and rows of lettuce and rocket.
We had guards who asked me for use of land in return for digging and watering, of course I readily agreed. One of them, a burly, friendly man, accompanied me three days in a row to help me lift rocks from the riverbed into the boot of my car. They were pink, green, purple and white, smoothed down by the rushing water, like huge marbles. I used them to line borders and made a rocky mosaic around huge clumps of day lilies and michelmas daisies. My predecessor had planted long lines of daffodils and laid new lawns with dutch grass seed for her pony. I brought tulips to Dushanbe in a suitcase when I saw a magnificent display in one of the guesthouses popular with World Bank consultants one spring.
The city of Dushanbe is not a place where one finds great natural beauty, aside from the tall sycamore trees that line old Soviet avenues. The buildings are mostly Soviet-era, decrepit and ugly. The pavements are grey and cracked, lined with ditches that run with grey mud and dancing refuse. The winters are grey and the winds bite, the only flash of colour; the orange fruit of the persimmon tree. The harshness of the winter months is why Tajiks welcome spring with such joy. They celebrate with the ancient Zoroastrian festival Nav Ruz. Green shoots of wheat are made into a soup, cherry trees blossom and glittering, mono-browed brides go out with their dark-suited boys with slicked back hair. Live bands play in the park.
As I learned the Tajik language, I found it sweet that so many girls are named after the most beautiful aspect of Central Asian nature, the flowers.
Are you feeling disobedient today? Then do NOT come to any of my events this autumn.
I have three booked for this autumn:
London and Dorset County in the United Kingdom:
10 Nov, 2015 7pm: A Book Launch and Readings at the Made in Greenwich Gallery, hosted by Cinnamon Press, 324 Creek Road, Greenwich. I will read from my novel and another author Kay Syrad will launch her new novel, ‘Send’. Free with refreshments http://www.madeingreenwich.co.uk/gallery
11th Nov, 2015 7pm: A Book Launch at Gullivers Bookshop at 47 High Street, Wimborne, Dorset BH21 1HS. Free book signing with wine and nibbles http://www.gulliversbookshop.co.uk
13th Nov, 2015 4pm: A Presentation, Interview and Signing at Beatons Tearoom and Bookshop, 2 Market Place, Blandford Forum, Dorset DT11 7EB (£6.99 per ticket with £2 off copy of book in aid of The Corn Exchange Challenge) http://www.beatonstearooms.co.uk/events1.php
20 Nov, 2015, 7pm: Open Door Bookshop, 23 Via della Lungatevere, Trastevere, Rome https://www.facebook.com/events/476711712500206/ Book signing. Free wine
4th Dec, 2015 7-9pm: Ango-American Bookstore, Via Della Vite, Piazza Spagna, Rome: https://www.facebook.com/events/147776065576449/ book signing. free
10th Dec, 2015 10:30am (by invitation only): A reading at the Residence of the Ambassador to Chile, Rome (email me annikastanley at hotmail dot com). Book signing. Free refreshments
So today I had an experience not unlike giving birth. My book was born. I have done it three times, and this came close. Ripping open brown paper-wrapped boxes to find clean, fresh books inside with my words, MY words inside them. I picked a book up. If it were a baby, it would have cried, shocked to be in the open air. I held it close to my body, I cradled it in my hands, feeling the smooth, soft cover with my fingertips. I made this, I thought. Happiness warmed me in yellow light. I could hardly believe it was real, only it was, I held a tangible, solid block of printed paper in my hands. It was heavy and smelled of the library, a dry, saw-dusty smell I adore. If only I could bottle the smell of a new book and wear it behind my ears or add it to my fabric conditioner, I thought.
Then I opened the first page. Legalese, a blurb of copyright and British library storage, my name and the name of my publisher. A list of acknowledgments, names in chronological order, a memory-keeper of the time I spent writing, rewriting, editing, writing again and editing again, each reader offering me constructive comments, or helping me with research. Four years interspersed with moving houses, painting pictures and bringing up children alone with the Man away.
My dedication: To the Women of Tajikistan and to another unsung heroine, my Mother. She cried for the longest time when she read it, she told me later. She has been ill, fighting cancer in her typical, stubborn, spirited way, rising from her bedchamber to play tennis not five weeks after her last major operation. She worked for many years with vulnerable children in care and gave them her protection to the best of her ability. They still call her as adults, checking in. They still love her, they still trust her. She really is a true, unsung heroine.
My children stood in a huddle around the boxes with wide eyes, staring at the pages in my hands with a look of wonder. My eldest, a plucky, lovable rogue (his teacher’s words) came forward to hug me violently, holding my waist with wiry arms. Then he tried to read the first chapter. He struggled, stammering his way through several sentences.
‘Perhaps I will wait until I am a bit older to read this Mum.’
‘Yes, I think so,’ I said, thinking of the raw content of my novel, a tale that charts a woman’s escape from an abusive man who would rape her in broad daylight if he could, just to settle old scores. A book that does not flinch from describing the backward trajectory into dogma and tradition that encapsulates ‘modern-day’ Tajikistan for a poor woman of low reputation. ‘It’s definitely a book for grown-ups,’ I said and I ruffled his hair. ‘Wait until you are eighteen, or perhaps sixteen. Probably better that way.’
A few weeks ago I was interviewed for the blog of fellow author Duncombe, writer of ‘Trailing’, a book about her travels in Africa with her MSF husband. The interview went online a while back but I want to repost it here on my blog.
You can find the interview here:
So, welcome to my Author Site.
I am a Disobedient Author. Why?
I will explain later, no time now.
My book THE DISOBEDIENT WIFE is coming out in 4 days, after almost 6 years in the making.
I started writing it when I lived in Dushanbe, the Capital city of a country called Tajikistan. Most people I speak to have never heard of the place and no wonder. It is a country almost totally cut off from the outside world. When I lived there, the BBC World Service was banned and journalists and writers were routinely harassed and imprisoned.
I started writing the novel because I found the stories I heard so fascinating. My usual mode of writing, the short story, did not seem to do justice to their tales of hardship and endurance and before I knew it, I had a novel on my hands. I chose to write mainly about women. The voiceless women born in Soviet times, now living in a State that is on the one hand a Police state; a Nanny State; a State in which the President can tell you how to dress and what to do with your teeth; and, on the other, a State where women’s rights enshrined under the Communist ethos of equality for all are routinely ignored. Academics have written widely on the phenomenon of retraditionalisation, specifically examining impacts on women. By this, they refer to the resurgence of religious and cultural tradition in society since the fall of the Soviet Union. My book is in essence about this same subject. It is also about another disobedient wife – a British diplomat’s trailing spouse. I leave it up to you to decide which of the intertwined narratives, the British expat or the local Tajik is the disobedient wife. Or perhaps it refers to them both. You will have to read it to find out.