Malia Zaidi is the author of A POISONOUS JOURNEY. She attended the University of Pittsburgh, and studied at English at Oxford University. Having grown up in Germany, she currently lives in Washington DC, though through her love of reading, she resides, vicariously in countries throughout the world. A POISONOUS JOURNEY is her first book in the Lady Evelyn mysteries series. The sequel, A DARKER SHORE, is her latest novel.
About the Book:
1926: A year has passed since the events of "A Poisonous Journey" and Lady Evelyn has made a home for herself in Greece, living with her cousin, Briony, her husband, Jeffrey and Daniel Harper.Evelyn and Daniel must confront their history as they try to make sense of the present before the killer can strike again, and the secrets of the past are lost forever.
Thanks for this interview, Malia. Can we begin by having you tell us about yourself from a writer’s standpoint?
Thank you! I am the author of the first two books of the Lady Evelyn Mysteries: “A Poisonous Journey” and “A Darker Shore”, historical mysteries set in the 1920s.
When not writing, what do you like to do for relaxation and/or fun?
I love to read when I’m not writing, which makes me sound like the least sociable person, doesn’t it? I also love to spend time with friends and family, traveling and painting. My travels have definitely influenced my writing, so I can try to call it researchJ
Congratulations on your new book! Can you give us the very first page of your book so that we can get a glimpse inside?
Near Pozières, France 1917
We came here to die.
My heart beats the rhythm of the shell blast. Boom. Boom. Boom. Ready to burst, ready to break. Boom. Boom. Boom.
An explosion of earth, light, and fire twenty feet beyond our trench.
"Close one that?" McCragh bellows into my ear.
I only manage a nod. Too many sounds echoing through my body, the steady pulsing of my heart, the tinny ringing in my ears. But silence can be just as bad I have learned. Silence can be death. My discovery weighs heavy on my mind. What will I do? Do I have a choice?
"What are the orders?" asks a young man, whose name I cannot remember, standing at my other side, leaning heavily against the dirt wall of our trench, his feet squelching thickly in the mud underfoot.
"Awaiting orders," says McCragh with a sneer. "Won't do us much good, waiting 'ere much longer, better get out, better to be moving."
The nameless young man shies away from us, from the bitter words of the burly Scot
Before I can respond, another man, the Runner, comes catapulting into the ditch. I help him right himself. His face is smeared with dirt and dust, but this mask cannot conceal his tender age. I shudder. We will all die here today.
"Orders are to stay. Enemy—" he gasps for air, "enemy is showing signs of retreat."
"Retreat?" McCragh frowns. "Bleedin' cowards!"
"Are you certain?" I ask, feeling the quiver in my voice.
"Yessir, orders from above. Told us to wait it out."
"Right, well done, son," I say, though the boy could be my brother. "Go on, then. Best make the rounds." I try to sound calm, reassuring, to keep my voice steady, while I know I fail and only hope my fear is disguised by the screams and blasts from above.
"Yessir." He takes a breath and sets off at a brisk trot, as fast as the bodies crowded into this tight space will allow.
"Another day to live in hell, then. Lovely." Lewis, a Cornish fellow with a missing left ear comments wryly as he materializes at our side.
Would you say it’s been a rocky road for you in regards to getting your book written and published or pretty much smooth sailing? Can you tell us about your journey?
It’s definitely had its challenges. The writing part is the one I enjoy the most, and which I feel goes the most smoothly. There is a great satisfaction in typing those last words of the first draft. Then starts the rather tedious process of editing and rewriting, maybe you can tell it’s not my favorite, but very important nonetheless. Like many other authors, I think the greatest challenge tends to come once you are ready to think about publishing, writing queries, taking to a publisher, and endless email exchanges with them trying to get the cover and formatting just the way I imagined it. When I first started writing, I thought the hardest part and the one that would be the most time-consuming was the writing, but after two books, I’ve found everything that follows much more overwhelming, especially for my first book. The marketing and trying to sell the book to readers comes very unnaturally to me, someone who prefers to sit quietly and read or write. That being said, I have been so positively surprised by the encouragement of bloggers and readers, which makes it so worthwhile and for which I am very grateful!
If you had to summarize your book in one sentence, what would that be?
Lady Evelyn Carlisle gets caught up in a murder investigation, which forces her to confront the past, to understand the present and prevent another death.
What makes your book stand out from the rest?
I hope that it is the characters. I try my best to make them real, not caricatures of 20s guys and dolls. Evelyn is a person like all of us with a past, who is trying to makes sense of it and her place in the world. There is adventure, a dash of romance and humor, friendship and a dose of philosophy, which I think could appeal to many readers who are looking for a slightly deeper kind of escapism in their crime caper. The settings, too, are exotic and rich in history, which I like to think adds a quality of armchair travel to the books.
If your book was put in the holiday section of the store, what holiday would that be and why?
That’s a good question with the holidays coming up! I think it might be Easter, because both books are set in spring, and I think the concept of rebirth and hopefulness would appeal to Lady Evelyn.
Would you consider turning your book into a series or has that already been done?
They are a series, and I had always planned for that. Hopefully Evelyn will have many more adventures!
What’s next for you?
I am just finishing up my Nanowrimo book, not a part of the series, rather a contemporary psychological thriller. It’s different for me, but I thought I’d try to challenge myself with a new genre. We’ll see where it goes. When that’s done, I will return to Evelyn.