A new online friend, Teagan Kearney, has nominated me for a work-in-progress blog challenge. As with most of these lovely activities, the process includes revealing something about my work-in-progress (duh), linking back to the referrer, nominating four bloggers/writers onwards to keep the chain going, and, specific to this challenge, sharing the first lines of the first three chapters of my next book.
Teagan is the author of One Summer in Montmartre, a romantic suspense with a gorgeous van Gogh-esque cover. She’s got a great blog (Writing My Novel – No Working Title Yet) that I encourage all readers to check out, especially the science-fiction short story that’s up right now. When she sent me a message to let me know that I was nominated, I rather ungraciously moaned and groaned at the dismal state of my WIP. Ishould have been thanking her for her generous nomination (“And here are my four nominees, all brilliant bloggers and writers”). Before I move on, therefore, I have to send her a big, heartfelt thank you and an apology for my lame reaction.
It’s almost fitting that I reacted so boorishly, though, because my work-in-progress explores two characters who aren’t, at first glance, loveable or even very civilised. This isn’t the perfect romance between two idealised characters. They’re each, in their own ways, initially unlikeable, but my hope is that readers will grow to love them if they care to read on. And they’re from two different economic classes—not much of a concern in the Western world, but a deeply divisive issue in Pakistan.
If you’re at all aware of what’s going on in Pakistan now (I’ve written a little bit about it in an earlier post), you’ll know that thousands of people have been protesting for electoral and parliamentary reforms in front of Parliament House in Islamabad. For the last month, followers of Tahir-ul-Qadri and Imran Khan have been sitting in the blazing sun and torrential rains, asking for the Prime Minister’s resignation. They live there; they’ve set up camp; they cook, they clean, they wash their clothes and hang them up around the Parliament House grounds. They’ve blocked off the main entrance to parliament.
The Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, called for an extended joint session of the house and senate to debate the ongoing protests. It’s the first time in 14 months that Nawaz has attended Parliament, and the first time in 7 months that he’s addressed the senate. Among the various speeches made by the ‘elected representatives of the people’ were references to the sea of people on the streets of Islamabad as ‘terrorists’, ‘cockroaches’, ‘insects’, ‘traitors’ and more. It galls them not that these people have genuine, valid reasons for their protests. What bothers the parliamentarians? That they have to use a back door to enter the House.
Classism isn’t just a word here, it’s the diseased root of our democracy (such as it is), the fabric of the feudal society we live in and a huge inspiration for my next book. That, and the fact that my mother, who was from an upper-middle-class, extremely progressive family, married into a very poor, very conservative family (not from choice. Like most women of her generation, and some from mine, her marriage was arranged between elders and she met her new husband after the marriage ceremony). Her battles with her in-laws were epic, and I’ve woven them into the novel.
The story starts off in an unlikely meeting place, the Thar Desert.
“Now?” One of the porters yelled to the driver behind the wheel of the jeep.
It was almost eleven when they finally had a fire going. There weren’t any tents, much to Naveen’s dismay, but Samir had passed out blankets and sandwiches, which had gone a long way towards mollifying her.
Raheel coughed viciously at the dust that swirled around his front lawn. He wiped his mouth with a handkerchief and saw the faint trace of blood on the white cotton.
These are my nominees to carry the challenge onwards:
Khalid Muhammad, author, Agency Rules
D. M. Cain, author, The Phoenix Project
Devika Fernando, author, Playing With Fire
Marialena Carr, author and blogger at Wordless.