This was written by Amal Awad and originally published in The Sydney Morning Herald.
As I spot one veiled cliche after another in the bookshop, I realise that when it comes to Muslims in print, if kidnapped children and enslavement were the flavour of the ’80s and ’90s, honour killings are the leitmotif of the Noughties.
Every Muslim-related book must have a beginning, an honour killing, and an end. And if there’s one thing Dan Brown’s success demonstrates, it’s that mediocrity sells.
Fortunately, the Muslim oppression shtick allows for a fairly elastic interpretation of the “bio”. And, as a Muslim, I feel equipped to offer an insider’s view to aspiring writers who wish to go from honour killing to making a killing.
Despite being exposed for fabricating her story Forbidden Love, Norma Khouri recently starred in her own documentary. The lesson is you cannot let facts tyrannise when penning your tale of woe – and you, too, should strive for infamy.
Infuse your story with a generous amount of evil. Make your Muslim male protagonists all nasty and powerful and swarthy. Your heroine, however, should be unemployed and devoid of personality and possibly even mute. This will inject a wonderful amount of pathos.
This isn’t Chomsky, so don’t make things difficult for your demographic and avoid burdening your readers with “the other side of the story”.
Research. Travel to your location to find the best villains. When you think about the money you’ll make from book sales and appearances, it’s a small investment. And these stories make good telemovies – you’ll be at the Emmys before you can spit.
The cover can make or break your success. Nothing says you are serious and authentic like a veiled woman – preferably with only her frightened, beautiful, kohl-lined eyes peering out, beseeching you to help her by forking out $32.95 for the book.
Keep titles simple and don’t fear formulaic. Start with a word such as “hidden”, “caged”, or “veiled” and follow with “love”, “lust”, or “passion”. For example, Hidden Lust, Caged Love, Veiled Passion. They guarantee you will attract the attention of the average daytime soapie viewer.
Finally, use Arabic-looking scripts. It looks exotic and screams danger, intrigue and honour killings, as well as displaying a healthy respect for Arab culture.