Featured Character: Aisha

by Myrrhine Philemon

Aisha is a board member at Tango Cattivo as well as a writer at Ile de Torture & 666 West End Avenue. She develops intriguing characters and storylines and her contributions to all her novels are exceptional.

Q: What brought you to Pan Historia?

A: I have been involved with the folks at Pan Historia as my friends for a fairly long time. I knew it was a great place for writers to come and be able to develop their voice creatively. It also was a great place to get to collaborate with other writers, and learn from them and with them.

Q: You're involved with the Tango Cattivo and Ile de Torture novels. What is it about those particular stories that draws you in?

A: I was actually invited to Tango Cattivo by Vincent Hanna, who is a member of the board. He and I had written collaboratively since the old Vines days. It was there that I met Nikos Christodoulakis and we started on a story that we hashed out. Part of that was based on a National Public Radio (NPR) story on honor killing of women in the Middle East. We sort of took the story and ran with it.

I was approached by Captain Jack Sparrow and he had heard of what I was doing with my Middle Eastern stories and also a bit of interest in a story of Captain Henry Avery and his raid on the ship of the daughter of the Grand Mughal. With the success of Pirates of the Caribbean, Captain Jack Sparrow and I thought it would be rather fun to put Jack in Captain Avery's place in a way, and the audience has responded well. Jack and I wanted to go a bit further with the story in helping Captain Sparrow discover his roots. When I saw the movie, it stuck in my head that I had a very good idea of what Jack's parentage is. The idea that he is half-Moorish made absolute sense to me, especially with his colouring and his use of khol and his 'worldliness'. Yes, he would have this just from being a pirate, but there is more to it than that. You see it in the character that was created So, I personally think I am on to something, and he and I are on the right track! Anyway, Captain Jack and I both have gotten a few comments saying they were not expecting what we were doing to work as well as it did, but we are very pleased with it. We both know what we are doing is a lot of 'what if' and maybe it isn't exactly historical, but we are in the business of telling stories, too.

The thing that I love about Ile de Torture is the close knit family atmosphere of the novel and how folks will weave storylines in and out of each other. Everyone in some way touches everyone else's storyline, whether directly or indirectly, and that to me is what a successful novel is all about. Dawg and Morgan, all the all of the people in the novel have worked extremely hard to make the novel a lot of fun. I believe that they succeed in that, and we really do root for and help each other. That I think is really what made it most appealing for me.

Q: This issue of the Pan Historian is all about things that are fresh and new. In nominating you, Capt Dawg Brown mentioned that you bring a fresh approach to all your characters. What do you think makes for a good, original & fresh character?

A: Did he really say that? *laughing* Wow, that is a surprise and wonderfully sweet! Thank you!

I think really, in all of this, the main thing I wanted to do was tell a story. One of the things I have been doing the last year is reading a lot of Middle Eastern literature and folklore. Some of that I have wanted to weave into the story, and I think that telling those stories is important, and I hope that I have helped to frame it in an interesting and entertaining. But then once she starts telling her story, I really let HER do the talking and its like taking dictation. Another thing I love to do is play with plot and I am not afraid of it. We can always change direction or back out and go another way if something doesn't work. One of the things that makes a character fresh, in my opinion, are those things that we each have in common, and add just a little something that makes that fictional person live and breathe. she's a female hero in an atmosphere predominated by men. She's not afraid to get bumps and bruises, get dirty and let her imperfections and insecurities show. She's not perfect. She has the same foibles and fears that real life people have and that makes her a very three dimensional character. Sometimes you have to take your characters out to coffee, have a chat with them while you are driving. Find out what makes them tick. They will tell you.

Q: Tell us about something you're particularly proud of - online or off.

A: I am proud that my writing both online and off has really improved over the past year. One thing I am very proud of is that I am converting some of the stories that I have written into screenplays. I've already semi-pitched a couple of them to people in the film industry and they seem to think that what I have to say is a story worth telling, so that makes me proud and very hopeful. I could not have done that without the people who believed in the fact that I could, and without the encouragement I received. A lot of that came from others, but most of it came from me, and just 'showing up at the page' every single day to write.

Q: Is there a book, story, poem, piece of music, art or theatre that particularly inspires you? If so, why?

A: I am enamored with the works of Sir Richard Burton. He was an Arabist, and was so immersed in Arab Literature. A lot of people don't realize that the Arabian Nights Tales, or The Tales of a Thousand Nights and a Night is actually ten volumes plus seven additional supplemental volumes. The work is just immense! I have spent the last nine months pouring over what he has translated of the classic of Arabic literature. The Arabian Nights tales, isn't just a bunch of fairy tales, they are in fact bawdy, adventurous and timeless. Every time I read another bit of this master work, it inspires me to take a piece, polish it, put it in a different setting and re-tell it. Because I mean these stories are about all of us.

Also, I listen to a lot of world music, I am constantly listening to different things while I work, especially a variety of things from a variety of cultures and artists. I think that it helps me see things from a lot of different perspectives.

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