In spite of the increasing numbers of published books and novels in the Cairo International Book Fair this year, dozens of readers expressed their discontent about the poor quality of some released literary works that raised waves of criticism and sarcasm. However, Sa’alqaqi Honak (I will meet you there) by prominent writer Rasha Samir was one of the outstanding novels that attracted a large audience because of its unique treatment of the current social circumstances from a romantic perspective.
In an interview with Daily News Egypt, Samir, whose novels reached the top of the bestselling literary works over the past four years, revealed some secrets about the preparations for her latest novel and her future projects to turn one of her novels into a TV series. She also criticised the current situation of the Egyptian literary scene in Egypt.
After the great success you achieved with your novel Gawary Al Eshq (Slaves of Love), what is the new perspective you try to present in your latest novel?
After the success of any of my novels, I always fear that any upcoming novel would not meet the expectations of my readers. After my novel Girls in Stories came Gawary Al Eshq and suddenly the idea hit me: why don’t I write something away from politics, religion, or basically any topic that causes a fuss.
I’ll Meet You There is a story about love, feelings, and how a single woman can live her whole life searching for love in the eyes of every man she meets. Then she meets the guy who gives her power to be free and overcome her fear by just being her mentor. How they meet and where? That is the core of the story.
It took me two years and a half to finish this novel and six more months to revise and choose the name and cover. The story takes place in Isfahan and Shiraz. I haven’t been to those places so writing about them from sheer imagination wasn’t an easy task. Going through every novel and article written about old Iran—the culture, how they dress, eat, and celebrate—was a big challenge that I hope to have succeeded in. I also knew two ladies from Shiraz who helped me by email through the details and I already dedicated a special thank you to them at the end of the book.
What are the main messages this novel tries to convey to your readers and how do you present issues of love, persistence, and oblivion in it?
The main message is the essence of love. How to find it, how it strengthens you from inside, how it makes you more powerful and tolerant, and how it makes you a human.
This time, the novel provides a message to both genders as it is a parallel story of a young lady (Nilover) and a young man (Yehia). It is a message to everyone to think deeply, meditate, search your soul for all those feelings that shape your life, and draw your steps. The whole idea is showing that people from around the world from all eras suffer the same problems and live through the same scenes separately.
I represent feelings along the pages with Yehia narrating one chapter and Nilover another and so on. Each chapter holds the name of one feeling (love, fear, envy, hatred, passion, pain, lust, regret, etc.). Also, there is a part about fate and how it twists things, taking us from one road to another.
In a country where people encounter a lot of economic and social pressures, what is the value of the romantic novels in your opinion?
I guess it is the cure, dream, and getaway. Love is the one thing that people never lose and if they do, then they lose the ability to live. Believing, loving ourselves, our country, and each other is the solution to getting over the crises and pain. Even if it seems a bit idealistic and very factious, it is the truth. At least I believe in what I write and I think my readers do too.
How did people receive the novel? And how many book signings will you hold?
I was so worried about how people will react as readers are always on the edge of their seats, telling me that the gap between my releases is unbearable and that they are anxiously waiting.
After Gawary Al Eshq, I was so nervous but then Sa’alqaqi Honak got released and boomed. My phone almost exploded from the large number of texts and phone calls of admiration and people telling me that they loved how the book was totally something new and almost a dream.
So I finally slept and got some rest after all the sleepless nights. I made my first book signing at the Cairo International Book Fair and I was really glad to meet all my fans and readers. I am having another one in the book fair, then I will present the novel in a big book signing at Diwan Bookstores in Zamalek and Heliopolis in February and March.
I believe that the success of any novel depends on both an author and a publishing house because it takes two to tango and a mutual effort to succeed. After four series of short stories that I published in the Egyptian Book Organization, I decided to write a novel and I was told they are the best in choosing the quality of what they publish. So I went with a friend who introduced me to them and they received my first novel with pleasure and gratitude.
How do you develop your writings from one novel to another?
I read a lot and since I also write a weekly page of literature criticism in Elfagr newspaper, being in the process of reading a novel weekly and criticising it improves my writing and my taste in choosing the better from the worse.
How do you evaluate the current situation of the Egyptian literary scene in Egypt and why?
Unfortunately, I believe it is terrible, although we can’t deny that there are a lot of youngsters who have a great taste in reading. Yet, there are a lot of useless titles that came out in the book fair this year. The problem is not the title; it is the content which is ridiculous and almost nonsense. Strong culture is the front picture of any society.
Reading is the golden key to development. I am not criticising the quantity but the quality; publishing houses should publish books worth publishing. In my opinion, the book fair needs to be re-evaluated by the government.
What are your upcoming projects and literary works?
I am currently working on republishing two of my old series of short stories as many readers are ordering them and all the copies are sold out. Also, I am working on the dramatic treatment of converting Gawary Al Eshq into a TV series produced by the MBC channel. I am celebrating the success of Sa’alqaqi Honak for now, then taking a rest.