Left on the Shelf

Having made the decision to write a sequel to Road to Damascus (RtD from here on in) I needed to find some material to fill its pages. But in actual fact it wasn’t even the question of what goes into a sequel that rendered my fevered brain inactive, but rather the  questions of, do I really want to do all that work again? Does it really need to be the 449 pages:111.625 words long? And what’s a dual memoir anyway?

The short answer to these and the countless other delay tactics I created is of course, no. That said, a smart writer promoting a sequel would at least make some attempt to ensure a link to the previous book (for not to do so would render the aim of writing a sequel meaningless).  But having established the link a writer can do what they like with the structure and content. I hope.

Those that have read RtD will know that it is a memoir written in the first person from two points of view creating, what I coined, a ‘duel memoir’. However, I soon discovered that it wasn’t a term many publishers actually recognised. “So where do you see this book sitting on the shelf?” became a question I came to dread because I really didn’t have an answer other than the one I had.

“It will sit on the non-fiction, dual memoir shelf.” I would reply with a nervous smile. And they would respond pityingly, having heard it all before, “There is no such shelf Ms Shaban, a memoir can only be from one point of view.”  We would then debate this for around five minutes, which is generally the length of time it takes for a publisher to decide whether your a crackpot or just wildly deluded, after which the conversation ends without so much as an ink cartridge offered.

So it is fair to say RtD was doomed from the start from a traditional publishing point of view. However, as more and more writers are going down the self publishing route, made easy by the explosion of online support and publishing software, I decided it was easier to cut out the middle man and write what, and how, I liked.

RtD has two stories that had to be told. Each story having a distinctive voice which the reader needs to sympathise with, and hopefully care enough about, in order to read through to the end. Thus the temptation to fly in the face of tradition again and write a multifaceted memoir told through a myriad of voices is huge. However, this time, as reality hits, there really is only one perspective from which RtD’s sequel can be done, and that’s my own.

I haven’t been bombed out of my home. I haven’t been shot at, threatened, chased, or displaced. But I’ve experienced the Syrian war as if I’ve lived through it myself: Through those near to me that are still living through it despite having escaped Damascus a year ago. The stories are theirs, but the words will be mine.


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