Saturday, 5 July 2014

Meet my character - Meriam Kanduracai


Jacqueline Watts has suggested I write about one of the characters of my books as part of 'a blog tour.'  I don’t usually participate in these things, but Jacqui gave me a great deal of help with my first book, ‘Not a Man.’  It was needed - my prospective publisher objected to some inaccuracies in how I described an Oxford education. As an Oxford graduate herself,  Jacqui was able to give me the help I needed. I will always be grateful.


J. S. Watts (Jacqui) is the author of ‘A Darker Moon’ and of several short stories and a poetry sequence - Songs of Steelyard Sue. 

Her author page on Amazon can be found at

So – my character:

What is the name of a character in an upcoming book? Is this character fictional?

The book I will soon publish is the fourth and final book of the Shuki series. The first book of the series was Not a Man.   ('From child of the slums to Oxford graduate, this is the story of Shuki Bolkiah - modern-day eunuch.') 
In the second book, I speak of Shuki's years as a king's advisor, and in the third, he becomes very much respected as an author and consultant.

But this time, I am not speaking about Shuki, but his niece, daughter of his sister. Her name is Meriam Kanduracai, and she is sixteen years old when the novel begins.   She is, of course, fictional.

When and where is it set?

The novel is set in Australia. Shuki now lives on a property that I've set between Uralla and Armidale on the New England Tablelands of NSW. 

(Uralla is now called Bellerusse, and Armidale is now Leverson.) 

What should we know about her?
Meriam has grown up in a strongly Islamic family in Arabia. But she yearns for the freedoms of the west. She and her friend pore over western magazines, they want to wear pretty clothing, not the grey or black cover-all makrebi, and they want to shop in  a western style shopping centre. They want to see shows and go to western style restaurants. Meriam's friend has an older brother who indulges their desires. He takes them to places that their parents would never have allowed, and they wear clothing that would have shocked their parents.  

What is the main conflict?   What messes up her life?

But after one of these excursions, Meriam wakes up in a seedy hotel. She doesn't know what has happened and she feels awful. She is bullied into her robe with the addition of a face-cover, then taken by car to an area close to her home, where she is dropped off.  She doesn't know what happened to her, but she is sure it was something bad. Her friend has gone to live with the family of her fiancé, she is told, though she had not previously heard anything of a fiancé. It would be improper to ask to see her friend's brother. She does not confide in her parents.
There is no such thing as sex education for the good Muslim girls of Elbarada, and Meriam does not know she is pregnant. But she worries that she could be impure. A girl is never supposed to be alone with a man, and she thought she was alone with a man. She drops her attempts to live a more free life, and acquiesces when her father looks for a husband for her. She tries to be a better Muslim; she no longer neglects her prayers, and for the first time, she adheres strictly to the daytime fasting of Ramadan.

But word has spread, and even though Meriam doesn't know what happened to her, others can guess. Her prospective husband demands a purity test. 
When Shuki meets her, she can scarcely walk for the beating dealt out by her father. It is not the worst of it. There is no place for an impure girl in Elbarada, and certainly not one who is pregnant. No neighbour or relative would ask tactless questions if Meriam vanishes; they understand that it is sometimes very difficult for a man to do his duty for the honour of his family.

But Meriam is luckier than some. Shuki takes her back to Australia to live with himself, his four wives, and his love, young Zahu Daoud.
Meriam is filled with her shame. She tries very hard to do exactly as Allah would want. She becomes attached to her new family, but she worries for them. They are not good Muslims, and again and again, as she reads the Quran her father gave her, she takes in those threats of burning, everlasting hell. 

The baby comes. She'd thought it a sinful thing she must get rid of, but instead, she finds joy, a delightful girl child she can love.
Her pleasure in life lasts for more than two years, but then there is a loss. Could it be Allah's punishment for her? It was a good woman who died - but she was not a good Muslim. Was she now in dreadful torment? It tears Meriam apart to think that Sanyar could be in hell.

Meriam leaves the family who care for her, she leaves the tiny daughter she loves, and she seeks a different life, one where it was easier to live life as a good Muslim.

What is the personal goal of the character?
Meriam wants to do good in the world. Her uncle does good in the world, and she wants to do the same.

What is the title of the book?
The fourth and final book of the Shuki series is called 'The Frost and The Sunshine.'

When is it to be published?
The likely publication date of this book is the 17th October, 2014.


  An excerpt from one of the last chapters:
Shuki had nothing particular to say on his web-page, but Karen's images of the sunshine on the frost - it was like a message. That the ice would melt and the warmth would come. It was a message of hope. The world had been through some very bad times, but it appeared that the bad times were over. He'd never put pictures on his web-page before, and he made no commentary, just 'Photographs by Karen Carmichael.'

 I am supposed to tag several people to continue this 'blog tour.'

I am tagging, therefore, any of my author acquaintances who want to do it.  

Look for my books on any online booksellers such as:


Finishing with a 'sunshine' pic.
 This is Heathcote, Victoria,




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