Interview with longlisted author Saleh al-Hamad
When did you begin writing Eye of the Kite and where did the inspiration for it come from?
I began writing it four years ago, in 2019. At that time, I was thinking about a jaded lawyer who defends people sentenced to death. After I had written several chapters, the lawyer met the character of Wa’il, who became a discovery for me during the writing. I then realised that his story was more important and deleted the previous chapters. I began to replan the structure of the novel, with Wa’il as the centre. So, I think that the inspiration for Eye of the Kite was the process of writing itself, which can very often change radically in its narrative arcs and details.
Did the novel take long to write and where were you when you finished it?
The novel took nearly four years to write, going through various drafts. I worked with several editors who left their mark on its development. Most of it was written in the city of Jeddah, where I live, and I wrote the remaining chapters in Irvine, California.
Do you have writing rituals?
Yes. Usually, I write in the early morning when I am more focused, but in the evening I return to what I wrote, to revise it and prepare notes for the next day, and so on. To be honest, I don’t like to begin writing without having a clear plan in mind. Some people may find it incredible that I don’t even like to write the first sentence without knowing what the last scene will be and most of the key events of the novel. But sometimes it happens – if one is lucky – that the characters behave contrary to the will of the writer, rebelling against him, with the result being a mix of spontaneous discovery and planning.
When the novel reaches its final drafts, I read it out loud to gauge how the text flows, and when I feel that it is as good as I hope and aspire for it to be, I send it to the editor who works with me to develop and polish the text, since I believe that the quality of literary work depends on collaboration between the writer, editor, designer and publisher.
What is your next literary project after this novel?
I am currently writing a novel entitled How We Watered the Stars, about a civil war in a country with a despotic government. At the same time, I am drawing the outlines of a more ambitious work, a historical trilogy about a fictional Gulf town, Rusafa. I hinted at this in a scene in Eye of the Kite, when the narrator mentions the “Leper King” in passing. His story will be the centre of the trilogy which I am approaching with passion, caution and a great sense of responsibility.