Michelle Medhat, author of “Connected: The Call and The Shift” was kind enough to consent to an interview for “Between the Beats”. Michelle is as complex as her books; brilliant and articulate she shares her thoughts freely. To say she is an interesting woman would be trite. Her motivation for writing her books is not what you might expect. It is with great pleasure I introduce Michelle Medhat, one of my favorite Indie Authors.
What is the title of your latest book?
Connected: The Call and Connected: The Shift. Both books came out within months of each other, and I now I have Connected: The Call & The Shift (Author’s Cut) out as well, which is omnibus of the two books with a slightly different edit (hence the Author’s Cut!). These books are fast-moving, hard-hitting spy thrillers, peppered with thought-provoking sci-fi all wrapped up in a never-ending love story. They are shocking (certainly not for the faint hearted), and have more twists and turns than the average country lane, but if a reader likes a good, heart-pounding thriller, they won’t be disappointed.
What inspired you to write this book?
The book, Connected: The Call and The Shift just came at me soon after the second Gulf War. I’d been watching, waiting and hoping for a peaceful outcome after so much war, suffering and devastation, although I knew that different agendas had taken over, and my hoped outcome wasn’t to be. This train of thought got me thinking about the nature of good and evil, the workings of the world we live in and what happened if someone was so powerful the finely tuned balance in which the universe exists was upended. Would this have repercussions? And would we, as a world have any way out?
The spy story evolved quickly, as intelligence is something very close to me. In my past, I have known these types of people. I understand how they operate, the way governments’ play, the differing agendas at stake, the brinkmanship and the angst of people just wanting to get a job done without having to maneuver through political minefields. This aspect is exemplified in both books.
The story is quite unique in that it blends comfortably a graphic, political spy thriller with a provocative sci-fi story that could very well be true. What moves it onto a different plane is the tremendous love that connects Sam and Ellie Noor – despite what happens to them (and a lot happens to them!) they never lose that connection. They never lose sight of love nor hope for their future together.
Do you identify with any of your characters and in what way?
If there was one character I’d identify with it would be Ellie Noor. She’s a businesswoman, like me; she’s pragmatic, strong-willed and focused on what needs to be done. She say’s what she thinks, (swears far too much, unfortunately like me!) and doesn’t suffer fools. But she also has a deep-seated faith in what is good and right. She’s a firm believer in hope. It was a love-at-first-sight moment when she met Sam (just like the circumstances in which I met my husband), and throughout the book you have the sense that their love is almost supernatural.
Would you like to share a little about your next project?
I am working on Connected: The Light, it is last in the Trilogy of the Connected Series. It will be more shocking than the other two books before it. The elements it will touch on are much darker and it will go to places a little unnerving for readers. Core themes include the battle for energy security, creating a movement to bring the world under one umbrella of peace and flipping the balance of good and evil. It’s a big piece, and in parts, quite introspective and philosophical, as Ellie will take the main voice in first person. It will still however be, in true Connected form, a heart-racing ride of pure exhilaration, and no, I’m not sorry that some readers will be shocked to the core by what happens within those pages.
Have you been inspired by any other writers?
I was inspired as a child by the Bronte sisters, Enid Blyton, Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, Charles Dickens and Alfred Hitchcock. I also loved to read Shakespeare and Chaucer, and deconstruct what they were really saying in their old English words. When I reached my teens I was into sci-fi devouring Arthur C Clarke, Douglas Adams, John Wyndham and Issac Asimov. Around the same time I also started to read espionage novels by the greats in this genre: Frederick Forsyth, John Le Carre, Ian Fleming, Robert Ludlum and Tom Clancy. All these writers have in some way inspired me, and helped me become the writer I am now.
What is your process for writing? Do you dedicate a certain amount of hours daily? Do you go from beginning to end or just write in a non-linear fashion?
I wish I had a process for writing. I’d love that luxury to be honest. I just write in a notebook, whenever and wherever I can, and then when I have a moment I type what I’ve handwritten. Before I start any writing, I’ll mind map the entire plot, adding in key characters across major scenes, and then map the relationships and inter-dependencies. It’s really weird as when I start I literally see the whole of the book laid out in my mind. It runs continuously like a movie in my head when I’m working on the scenes, and it’s always very explicit. That’s why I write as if it’s a movie and reviewers consider the work to be rather visceral and graphic.
What is your favorite book and why?
Strange that I have read so many books, and one of my favorites is a short story! It is by John Wyndham and is found in his short story collection Seeds of Time. The story is called Pawley’s Peepholes. It is a strange little story that I read when I was in my mid-teens and I was so amazed by it, and I still remember it to this day. I think because I could have experienced real time-travel once, the story evokes in me that sense of true wonder. The premise of the story is that people from the future decide to use the past (our present) as a playground attraction for them to have fun and do with whatever they like. It addresses all kinds of issues technological, theological as well as societal. What would you do if you were in the shower and a group people from the future just barged through your bathroom! It is a real case of ‘what if…’ as Wyndham put it. The solution to the future visitants was ingeniously simple, and one which was streets ahead of the technological contraptions built to rid them of the visitors. The solution was simply to reverse engineer, and turn the future visitants into a modern day attraction and make them the spectacle instead. They soon hightailed it back to their own century after that! The story showed me, whatever techno-wizardry we develop, our future is built on the understanding and empathy of each other, and a need to try to see the world through another’s eyes, rather than impose the view seen through our own. It is vital that we appreciate the motivations of others, and comprehend that the story played out before our eyes may not be in full wide screen. There is always more. We’ve been given intelligence, and it is up to us to perceive and interpret the parts we don’t see.
If you could make one of your books into a movie, which one would you choose and who would portray the main characters?
Both books are screaming to be made into films. Many reviewers have made the same comment: “this needs to be a film”, “could be a blockbuster” etc. As The Call is part one and The Shift is part two, you couldn’t make one without the other. Sam Noor is handsome and fiercely intelligent; but he’s also quite dark and incredibly strong. Actor Jim Caviezel (currently playing the role of another shadowy guy John Reese in Person of Interest) would be a perfect match to nail Sam’s intense attitude and ability to do whatever it takes to get the results needed. Ellie Noor is a real knockout beauty, brave and smart and I can think of no one better than Charlize Theron to take the role. She is ideal, with her stunning eyes and beautiful blond locks she would be as captivating on the screen, as she is between the pages of the books.
What is the most difficult part in writing a book?
The most difficult part in writing a book is avoiding continuity errors, and by that I mean not changing the name of a minor character half-way through (it happens), or having the character do something that actually doesn’t make sense at all. Developing a good logic flow and a mind map is essential in plotting scenes, chapters and characterization. My books are quite sizable and holding all the different cross- genre elements together, making the logic and time flow work and ensuring that story is carried through is the most demanding part of writing the book.
Do you read your reviews and how do they affect you?
Yes I do read my reviews, but I don’t get too affected by them unless they are deliberately attacking for no reason. Someone gave me one star, claimed they didn’t even read the book, and said they’d given me a one star as they thought all the other reviews including editorial ones were fake!!! It’s insane. But you can’t let these things get to you. When you write something, you have to have conviction in it, and stand by it. Being a writer, you also have to be hard-skinned. You write something and then put it out for the world to see and judge it. Not surprising that we’re often classed as masochists. It’s a liberating but self-deprecating act. I do enjoy seeing good reviews, when readers have been so moved to write a review, it means so much. It gives you that little frisson, when know your book has been read by someone somewhere, and for a little while it formed a part of their life. A literary transplant if you will. It’s immensely gratifying when you see a reader has enjoyed your toil, and validates your existence as a writer.
Do you have any special steps or superstitions you follow when writing?
I always keep a small piece of rosemary on my keyboard; it is a very lucky herb.
What makes a good book?
A good book has a very simple but potent mix of ingredients. The first is that it must transport you, so that you do not recognise what is around you. Total immersion in the moment, visually encapsulating and visceral stimulation. The second ingredient is the characterization of primary and secondary characters must be believable and well-balanced. The last element making the magic is that the book must have a solid, breath-taking plot line that captures you and doesn’t let go. Keeping you up bleary eyed till the early hours, and forcing you to give excuses for not making that meeting in the morning.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I think the first inkling of my writing ambitions came when, in lieu of any paper, I wrote on the walls and lampshade with crayons. I was, I might add three years of age, and passionate then about writing. A year later, at the tender of age of four, following the passing of my grandfather, I wrote a poem that still shocks and stirs people today.
When I sleep my beautiful sleep
I see and hear things in my dreams
Of voices I no longer hear
And faces I no longer see
In my sweet beautiful sleep
For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a pen in my hand and wanted to write. When I was only a small child, I think seven or eight, I sat in Charles Dickens’ chair in Bleak House in Broadstairs, Kent UK, and declared to all within earshot, that one day I would be as great a writer as Dickens. Oh well we live in hope!
Over the years, I have written short stories, poems, plays, pantomimes, and even music lyrics. For my work, I’ve written articles for papers, magazines, and periodicals.
If you could describe your writing style in one sentence what would you say?
Short, sharp and very fast moving – rather like being blasted from a canon!
What is the last book you read and why did you choose to read it?
I’m currently reading The Zebra Affaire by Mark Fine. I have to say that I know very little about South Africa of 1970s, as I was a child then and more interested in cartoons than current affairs. The story fascinates and abhors me. That we as humans could behave in this way is unimaginable. A history steeped in shame.
If you could choose any person living or dead to read and review one of your books who would you choose, which book would you choose, and why?
Alfred Hitchcock. As a school kid I adored him. I dreamed of meeting him. And in a way I did, but very briefly. Although my family thought I was dreaming. It was April 29, 1980. I was eleven, and heading back home from school. I stopped at a roadside corner, waiting for a massive black Rolls Royce to pass. It paused in front of me, the window rolled down, and Hitchcock smiled at me. I was so stunned, I said nothing, and by the time I could react, the monstrosity of a car slid past into the next road and zoomed off. I remember telling my Mom when I arrived home, but they didn’t believe me. Soon after we heard that Hitchcock had died that day at 9.17 am. So very weird!
I watched all his movies, read all his books, especially the ‘Three Investigators’ series, as well as all the horror stories and thrillers. He was the ultimate critic. And I can think of no one better to have reviewed my books.
In Ray Bradbury’s Farenheit 451 the characters memorize books to “save” them when all books are being burned. They are known as Book People. If you were a book which one would you be and why?
I would definitely be 2001 Space Odyssey. It is such an extraordinary book, giving a glimpse of what could be, a world of possibilities, but somehow, all connected with a smoothness that has had me reading that book so many times over. I just loved the philosophical, the spiritual and the technological messages weaved in. It certainly inspired my love of all things sci-fi, especially sci-fi that is genuinely thought-provoking.
“Sam Noor is mightily pissed off with his employers; the terrorist outfit Al Nadir (a group so diabolical they make ISIS look like the Teletubbies) have stolen the latest in quantum nuke technology and SOMETHING is up with Sam’s lovely wife Ellie – Tune in for more spills and thrills!” Charlie Flowers, Best Selling Author of Hard Kill and other Riz Sabir Mysteries
“Michelle Medhat takes on and pulls off a Herculean feat by seamlessly merging Espionage, Science Fiction and Thriller genres.” Garrard Hayes, best selling Author of Bourbon and Blood
“If you are looking for a well thought out story, from a writer that is showing great early promise, you could do a lot worse than get Connected to this supernatural, spy-thriller.” Paul Martin, Self Publisher’s Showcase
“I did enjoy it and for all of those who love syfy or want to get into syfy this is the book for you. Well written and easy to follow unlike some syfy books.” Heather Austin, Kindle Book Reviews
“Violence, short chapters and a large cast of characters works in this thriller. A well written page-turner, with characters that are developed and contradictory enough to carry all the action and jargon, without being swallowed completely, which is a big achievement.” Georgina Parfitt, Towerbabel