Friday, September 14, 2012

Method Writer

Newspaper cutting from Muscat about an opera set in ancient Egypt
I'm writing a book on ancient Egypt, and while I am not allowed to say much more about it, I want to share that this project is different because it treads a fine line between fiction and non-fiction. It's difficult making a setting come alive when no one's really seen it, and I have found from experience that whenever I have to write about an era gone by, it helps to immerse myself in as much everyday detail about life back when. Seems like I write best when I can shut myself in a room and feel like I'm walking amongst the people I am making up and eating the food they are eating and feeling the fabric they are wearing. When I was a little girl and used to live mostly in my head, I had become a little obssessed with ancient Egypt and had wanted to live there. This was in the time long before the Internet or easy access to books, but I still remember a children's book about ancient Egypt that I had borrowed from the British Council library in Muscat, Oman. I can still see the book open before me to a page where the artist had drawn the picture of an Egyptian home. The artist had also drawn people walking about the mud house - through the door, on the stairs, in the kitchen. I felt like they were my friends, that if I went outside I would run into them. Of course I knew them. These little people made of ink, they had names and hobbies.

I later went and rebuilt the house using a shoebox and used my miniature animal toys to play in it. My favourite was the cat that was of the colour of the chicken curry my mother would make. The cat was always the heroine of all my games, and often another animal would be in love with her, but she would be too alone in her great thoughts and adventures to notice.

These days I feel like I'm living in ancient Egypt again. I've come across similar drawings of houses in all the research I've been doing about that time, and I think I've lived in all of them. Everytime I research this way and after my project has been finished, I carry with me a feeling of fondness for that time, that country, those people lost in the dust. I think of them often like I would of an old lover I once sparkled my eyes at because he smiled at me. It almost makes me cry sometimes.

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