Interview with N.J. Mahayni

Who are Your Favorite Authors?
Tony Hillerman, Dorthy Gilman, Georgette Heyer, Mary Stewart, and Shakespeare.
What do you read for pleasure?
The above contemporary authors all wrote series novels. Of these, two are mainly mystery writers. I have read and re-read all of these. The most pleasurable are Heyer and Gilman--Heyer for dialogue, and Gilman for the action.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in a small agricultural valley west of Roseburg, Oregon. My childhood was pre-television. My mother read to us in the evenings. When I was 13, she began to pass that responsibility to me. I grew into adulthood loving books and reading avidly. I began writing my own stories by the time I was 12, often reading them to my siblings. I have been writing ever since, but did not publish until last fall. I currently have three books in the works: an autobiography on the ten years I lived in Syria; a romance based on the experiences my oldest daughters and I had working at the state fair in 1964; and a reference book of three Shakespearean comedies adapted for middle school and high school presentation with simple custom designs and sets illustrating the text.
What's the story behind your latest book?
'Ask the Cat' began with my son recounting a wacky dream about his cat talking to him (or talking back to him?). Some ten years later, while living in Damascus, Syria, I began writing a story featuring a cat that talked and was a major part of a magical mystery. This was in 1982. Two years ago, my son asked me to publish this story because of all the negative news about Syria. He felt it was important for people to know about the pleasant side of living in the Middle East--and primarily about living in Damascus. All my children who experienced living there feel that the story is heavily influenced by the wonderful old house we lived in. But the cat and the mystery he is trying to unravel give the story its life.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
It is a delight when the story writes itself, as 'Ask the Cat' did. Writing 'Ask the Cat,' I did a chapter each day. I never knew until I wrote it what would happen next. However, writing is generally plain hard work. But I love the background research, and digging for colorful word combinations. Dialogue gives me the greatest pleasure. What characters say to each other defines them, and this interaction becomes the story.
What are you working on next?
I have just finished writing an autobiography about the ten years we lived in Syria. The road trip across country and across Europe begins in this book. I have tried to capture the personalities and the interactions within the family over the ten years we lived there. I am now working on a simple romance based on an experience by oldest daughters and I had while working at the state fair in 1964. The insights into the lives of the carnival people and their strong loyalties, and the great time my daughters had living at the fair was my inspiration for writing this book.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I am a retired art teacher. I paint, sculpt, sing in my church choir, and try to keep up with a very large yard. Writing is thrown in whenever I have the urge--which is often.
What is your writing process?
The beginning of any writing is falling in love with a bit of actual occurrences that can become a story. Following that initial realization, I build selected action into it in my head until I feel I have enough to hold a reader's attention. When needed, I research a background first, gathering details about some part of the action or some interest a character may have. Historic details and facts must always be double checked as well. Once I have enough story to build on, I begin to write. Once the story is filled out, has an interesting climax, and a strong ending, I begin rewriting to develop better ways to say things and a smoother flow to each section or chapter. After I am sure of the basic book's strength, I give it to a couple of readers to see how they react. If they bog down after a few chapters, I reconsider my work.
Published 2016-10-08.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Ask the Cat
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 75,720. Language: English. Published: September 2, 2016 by Evening Creek Press. Categories: Fiction » Young adult or teen » Fantasy
When 11-year-old Nick is sent to live with his aunt in Damascus, Syria, he finds himself in a strange country with relatives he barely knows and no friends. He is consoled by the large, white cat Ajax, who talks and needs Nick's help to solve a centuries-old mystery. Trying to keep a powerful magic out of the wrong hands takes them on a surprising, time-traveling journey through the Middle East.