Author Interview: Dana Haffar on "Leah"

Ana: Today we have Dana introducing their book, Leah. I haven't read this book myself, but Dana was kind enough to agree to guest blog about their book to any readers who might be interested in the subject. Dana, how would you describe your book to your prospective readers? In broad terms, what is your book about?

Dana: Thank you, Ana, for the opportunity to talk about "Leah". The novel is about visual artist Mar who arrives on the remote island of Puerto Franco with her daughter in the hope of working on her craft away from her demanding husband. A recent surgery on her eye has spurred her into addressing her own needs and taking the time to heal old wounds. Instead, she finds herself in a community haunted by the mysterious drowning of eleven-year-old Leah thirty years ago.

Through visitations from Leah's spirit, Mar has no choice but to set aside her desire for solitude to act on the girl's cry for help. In doing so, she falls in love with Sebastian, Leah's only surviving brother. The novel can best be described as contemporary women's fiction with a mystical thread, a blend of romance and suspense.

Ana: What themes does your book explore and what do you hope the reader will take away from the experience? Is there a particular feeling or experience that you hope to evoke in the reader? Essentially, do you hope your book will mean to a reader?

Dana I would say "The heart knows what the eyes cannot see." Sometimes, in order to achieve clarity of vision, we have to rise above our fears and trust our instincts. Each of the main characters in the novel deals in his or her own way with a fear of some kind, be it loss, commitment, betrayal, rejection or abandonment. Mar's dread of losing partial vision and her determination to protect herself and her loved ones from harm cloud her judgement with devastating effect on her relationships with others. One of the motifs of the novel is metaphorical vs. physical blindness.

At the very root of those fears is love. The novel explores the extraordinary and cardinal bond between mother and child, as it does other aspects of love: compassion, jealousy, possessiveness and so on.

My hope is that the reader will be transported into the worlds of the characters. I personally love the feeling of being cocooned when reading a novel that captivates me, and, as a writer, I would wish that my novels have the same effect on my readers.

Ana: What prompted you to write this book and did you have a specific inspiration in mind? Were you influenced by a certain author or work that inspired you to add your voice to this genre? Besides the boatloads of money and rockstar fame, what motivated you to write this book? 

Dana: The idea for the novel came to me in the form of a mental picture I couldn't put out of my mind. It was of a little boy in a suit standing by a grave. He became Sebastian in the novel. From the feelings that the vision of this little boy stirred in me came a series of whys and what ifs. So as not to lose his story, I constructed the novel from a dual point of view, his and Mar's.

The setting of Puerto Franco -- fictitious by the way -- is an amalgam of parochial places I've known which were distinguished by the mindset and dynamics of a small community. It had to be somewhere remote and caught in a time warp to evoke an atmosphere of mystery and eeriness.

As for inspiration, I think it has probably been building up subconsciously over the years. That would take me back, (let's say quite a few decades) to the time I read the classics. Of the many, many contemporary writers, I will mention Isabel Allende, Aminatta Forna, Carlos Ruiz Zafá½¹n, Anita Shreve, Siri Hustvedt, Kate Morton . .. an endless list of talented authors.

Ana: If you could compare your book to any other existing works, which ones would it be and why? If the one thing you could say to a prospective reader was, "If you like X, you'll love my book!", which work would be invoked so that a reader could judge whether or not your book is their cup of tea?

Dana: Noelle Harrison's "Beatrice" or Anita Shreve's "Seaglass". That's the view of some who have read "Leah".

Ana: Is this your first or only published work, or have you published other books? If you have published other books, how do they compare to this one? Do you have any more books planned, either as a follow-up to this one, or as a completely different book or genre?

Dana: "Leah" is my second novel. My first, "Beirut in Shades of Grey", was published in 2007. Though both are women's fiction, they are very different. "Beirut in Shades of Grey" is a love story set against the backdrop of the civil war in Lebanon. Rasha, a victim of the Lebanese civil war, and Luke Elliott, a British photojournalist, begin a clandestine romance while on vacation in Paris. However, the tranquillity of their previous encounters quickly dissipates when Luke's unannounced arrival on Rasha's doorstep in Beirut incites a wrangle over cultural differences and polarized attitudes towards war.

I am actually working on another novel in the same genre. I also have an idea for another book. I work on countless drafts so I don't have a publication date as of yet.

Ana: Where can readers obtain a copy of your book for them to enjoy? How can they contact you with any thoughts or questions? And do you have a means by which they can "sign up" to be notified when your next book comes available?

Dana: "Leah" is available on Amazon, Smashwords, Sony, Kobo, B&N for $1.99.

I'd love to hear from the readers. I don't have a website for now but I'm on Facebook, Goodreads, LinkedIn, Google+ and AuthorsDen where I will be posting any new releases.

Ana: Thank you. I understand you have the first chapter of your book available as an excerpt for interested readers? Is there anything else you wish to add for our readers?

Dana: Excerpts can be read on all sites. Here are the Amazon and Smashwords links.

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