Australian author, Rashed Malak, is launching his debut novel, The Beginning, in the fall. I got the chance to exclusively interview him last month and find out a little more about the sci-fi mystery survival novel!
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Hi, Rashed, let’s start you off with some ‘getting to know you’ questions... What was it that first inspired you to become a writer? How did you get started?
I was just starting out in High School when I bought my first ever novel: Robert Jordan's The Eye of the World. Once I had read it, I was hooked to the magic that could be brought to life by words. The way Jordan brought me into this enchanting new world full of strange creatures and unique personalities inspired me and opened my imagination. Since reading his book, I have been an avid reader, building my own library of books collected over many years and writing my own stories. I will always be thankful to him.
What book do you wish you had written?[Laughs] There are way too many that I wish I had written: Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, The Way of Kings, The Wheel of Time, The Walking Dead graphic novel series and many, MANY more. But if I had to choose one, I think I would have to go with the Game of Thrones series. The stories George R.R. Martin has written are truly amazing.
If you could meet any author, living or dead, who would it be and why?
I think I would have loved to meet Robert Jordan, his books sustained me through High School, University and made me the person I am today.
What’s your favourite book to film adaptation?
Most definitely J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
What books are you currently reading?
I am reading a few right now- Rome's Executioner Vespasian II by Robert Fabbri, Vengeance by Ian Irvine and The Unremembered by Peter Orullian.
Describe yourself in three books.
Three books that describe me... Well, I am a bit like Harry Potter as I sometimes have my head in the clouds. I can usually stare into the distance for hours. I can also see myself in Perrin Aybara, who is quiet and reserved. I guess the third would be Ned Stark because of his straight forward honesty and sense of honour.
Have you got any pre-writing rituals?
I have a good night’s rest, eat breakfast and then find a laptop with the latest version of Microsoft Word. Most importantly, though, I’m lying down on the floor when I work – it helps me think while I write.
Writers always have the best procrastination techniques. What are yours?[Laughs] I find many ways to avoid writing: sleeping, exercising, coming up with new ideas for games or stories, watching movies, reading and going on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
You’re Egyptian by birth but living in Australia – a huge cultural difference there – has this affected your writing in any way and, if so, how?
I honestly have no idea if my cultural background has had any impact upon my writing but, looking back at some of the stories I have written in the past, I guess I tend to focus my stories around family and the important role it plays in our lives.
Your publisher, Nuff Said mentioned that you tutor children in your spare time. What other odd jobs have you had before and during your writing career?
I worked at a few news agencies and in a café. I did some roof tiling and then worked as a courier. I also worked with children with disabilities before working in tuition centres.
If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing?
One of my greatest passions besides writing is gaming. If I hadn't pursued writing I think I would have been searching for a way to get into the gaming industry but even that's due to the story aspect of games. The best games I have ever played, like The Last of Us, have these incredible stories that makes you feel every moment; every heartache, every moment of joy, and every close call to death. The story entrenches you in their world and makes you a part of it. That's what I have always wanted to do with my stories: bring people into a whole new world and show them around.
Is there any piece of advice you were given or wish you had been given when you first started writing?
Notes! You need to keep notes of everything. This is probably the most important part of writing, keeping track of what you have written and taking down notes. If you're like me and forget things, you will need those notes to look back on, so you won't contradict yourself. I can't tell you how many times I have had look back through my notes, to refresh my memory of how a character looks or how he/she is supposed to act. Too many contradictions in a story can ruin it before it is published.
What advice would you give to other writers attempting to publish their first novel?
The best piece of advice I can give is to create a story that is both unique and relates to the period in which it's written e.g. 21st century. As difficult as it may sound, there are millions of stories out there that you are competing with, so you need to be sure you have a story unlike anything anyone has ever read. As to relating to the period, the right now, I think most people are sick of lies and so enjoy stories that are realistic. It's the main reason I think Game of Thrones was so successful, because it not only built a unique world, but it’s realistic.
A little fact for our readers: Game of Thrones is realistic because it’s inspired by Scottish history - the Wall was inspired by Hadrian’s Wall, the Starks and Lannisters inspired by the Yorks and Lancasters, Daenerys Targaryen was inspired by Henry Tudor… I could go on but let’s get back to Rashed’s interview:
Now onto novel specifics…
The Beginning is your debut novel. Can you please explain what your process was with writing it and how long you took to write it?
I initially began writing this story on a website. I would write roughly a thousand words, read it over six or seven times until I was sure there weren’t any mistakes and then I would show my younger brother. He loves to read and he would critique my work and give me advice on how to make it better. As to the second question, I’m not sure exactly how long I took to write it but I think it was around a year.
What about the publishing process? How did you deal with the rejections? And what was it like when you finally found Nuff Said?
I was actually quite lucky, I only ever had to deal with one rejection letter and that was from an earlier novel I wrote called War Cry. It was after reading over my earlier manuscript, that I realised I not only had made plenty of spelling errors but also the story, despite having an interesting history, was quite boring with most of the characters sounding the same. So, the second time I sent in my manuscript I made sure there were few mistakes and tried to make my story as unique as possible. The second publisher I sent my new story to was to Nuff Said Publishing, which I found online through a glowing testimonial. I was ecstatic when I got an email back telling me they were interested and might extend me a contract offer once my story was completed.
With a title being The Beginning can we assume this will be a series? If so, how many books will be in the series and have you already started the next?
Yes, hopefully this will turn into a series of novels that will run for a long while. I have already begun work on the second book, The Middle Part 1, and should have it completed by the end of this year.
Can you give an outline about what The Beginning is about? What can readers expect?
The Beginning is a story of survival, where orcs, goblins and other creatures from fictional tales have somehow appeared within our world and are hell-bent on destroying humanity for reasons we do not yet know. Humanity, overwhelmed by beasts the likes of which have never been seen in the world, are brought to the edge of extinction. The few survivors of the mass invasion are forced into hiding, many of whom have built settlements in the hopes that one day they will able to take back their world.
The plot follows the lives of various characters: Tommy (a man living close to the edge of insanity), Cora (a hard, logical woman prone to fits of anger), Togran Ka (an orc warlord who seeks to end the war), Ka-gan the son of Togran (a young orc who struggles with being an orc), two siblings that are complete opposites of each other, and Talmen (a young man torn from his family at a young age, who spends most of his life on his own, using the skills his father taught him to live off the land). We also see the story of Jay, a father's desperate search for his son.
Readers can expect to see a lot of action, dark twisted scenes, revelations and learning survival tips.
In the notes you sent me, you mentioned that orcs have unusual family dynamics – can you explain that?
The Orcs are born in cluster families of forty to sixty, who are then raised by experienced Battle Matrons. And under their tutelage they are taught how to survive on their own and how to wield the axe or sword; weapons favoured by Lord Sezrath. Those, who show promise as warriors are brought into one of the ten clans that make up the WarHorde. The rest however are sent to pits to prove their worth by battling against their own siblings till there is only one survivor.
I love the sound of that! And last question, what was your inspiration for the novel?
Most of my inspiration for this novel has come from Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead and The Way of Kings.
And now, THE COVER REVEAL!
It’s my pleasure to introduce the world to: The Beginning by R. Malak
Rashed Abdelmalak was born in Egypt 1987, moved to Australia in 1988. Received his education at Sydney University where he was awarded a Bachelor of Arts Degree. He has worked in many fields around the NSW region both as a tutor and a courier. A history enthusiast and an avidgamer, he has pursued a writing career and written many online articles.