Literary FictionBIRDS OF THE NILE is currently available in ebook format during the month of July for £0.99p or $1.69.
Date Published: September 27, 2013
British ex-diplomat MICHAEL BLAKE has been blinded and is confined to his flat in Cairo. Every few days a visitor comes to read to him. It’s a year since he took early retirement and booked a long–awaited birding trip on the Nile.
Half way through the voyage he meets LEE YONG and finds himself falling for her. But she’s falling for REDA, their tour guide. He isn’t all he seems either and when the Egyptian revolution kicks off, BLAKE finds himself embroiled in a tangled web of love and intrigue. When REDA is captured and thrown into jail, BLAKE will be forced to decide – to help LEE YONG and join the revolution or stand aside and risk losing everything.
Set against the background of the events of January 2011, BIRDS OF THE NILE is a powerful story of loss and self discovery as three disparate characters, each with their own agenda, seek to come to terms with change. Part political thriller, part love story, BIRDS OF THE NILE reminds us of the complex nature of global cultural interaction and how, as individuals, we try to deal with it.
Interview with N.E. David
Welcome to Vonnie’s Reading Corner, Nick!
1. In one sentence, tell us what Birds of the Nile is about.
Ostensibly, it’s about Revolution, Romance and Intrigue set in Egypt in January 2011 – but really it’s about Michael Blake.
2. What inspired you to write this book?
A trip down the Nile with my wife in January 2009. It was a big wedding anniversary and we celebrated in style. As an enthusiastic bird-watcher I took my binoculars and my telescope and as an author I took my notebook and pen. I saw some fabulous birds and met some interesting people. When I came back home I put two and two together but it wasn’t until the revolution kicked off a couple of years later that it all really fell into place.
3. What kind of character is Michael Blake?
Well, as the whole point of the book is an exploration of his character, I wouldn’t want to give too much away here. Suffice it to say that he’s quintessentially English ie. quiet and reserved and he tends to keep his distance. As a diplomat at the British Embassy in Cairo that suits him, but when he takes a trip down the Nile he finds himself becoming involved and he’s forced into making life-changing decisions. That’s when we really find out what kind of a man he is.
4. What kind of research did you do for this book? And, how did this research help you create the world in your book?
My wife and I spent almost three weeks in Egypt altogether, long enough for me to get a feel for the country. And as the story is set in the time and the places I visited, I drew heavily on those experiences. To understand the background to the revolution and its causes, I read THE YACOUBIAN BUILDING by Alaa Al Aswany. Prior to the uprising, we tended to think of Egypt as a well-run and stable country but this book shows us another side of things. For an authentic day by day, blow by blow account of the revolution itself, I read TWEETS FROM TAHRIR. Not only is this an accurate depiction of what took place on the ground, but it’s also a moving testimony to the courage and determination of those who participated in it.
5. Are there any political messages or moral messages in Birds of the Nile?
In short, no. I don’t set out to give my readers political or moral lessons, I set out to entertain. What I want to achieve is to give an accurate portrayal of the character of Michael Blake and I seek to do this by putting him at the centre of an engaging plot. As he reacts to the events which develop around him we can gain an insight into what he’s about. If I can’t entertain my reader, they won’t want to read about him and I will have failed.
6. Share a random part from your book.
Blake and Lee Yong have gone to the local police station to pay a bribe and recover Reda who’s been arrested for starting a riot. Here’s what happens.
Behind the counter a clerk sat at a desk, shuffling paper. He was evidently Nubian - dark-skinned, short and of slight build - and had found his way into the uniform of a sergeant that was far too big for him. He looked like a child who’d discovered his father’s wardrobe was unlocked and had tried on his clothes, his hands barely extending beyond the ends of his sleeves. Round his neck, his buttoned collar hung as if suspended on a stick. He slowly got up and came to the counter, but rather than make any effort to speak, he enquired by jerking his head sullenly in their direction.
Blake doubted he’d understand English and so spoke in Arabic.
“We’ve come about Reda Eldasouky.”
The clerk didn’t flinch. The name obviously meant nothing to him.
“Have you filled in a form?”
The clerk pushed a pen and a grubby sheet of paper across the counter towards him.
“We don’t need to fill in a form,” said Blake. “We’re British.”
In remote parts of the world it was always worth a try. Had he still been employed by the Embassy, he’d have considered invoking diplomatic immunity.
The clerk shrugged, totally unimpressed.
“Everyone fills in a form.”
Blake pushed the pen and paper to one side and tried a different tack.
“We’re here to see Mr Rasheed.”
This time there was a flicker of interest.
“The Chief? You’ll be lucky - there’s a queue …”
Behind them, a row of plastic chairs was set against the wall. A young black, barefoot and in combats and a sweat-stained top lay slumped in the far corner, asleep. Half way along, beneath an iron-grilled window, an unshaven Egyptian dressed in shorts, singlet and open-toed sandals sat forward, elbows on knees, his leg jiggling uncontrollably. They were an unprepossessing pair. If this was the queue and the clerk expected backsheesh to jump it, he was out of luck - they were paying enough already.
“We’re expected,” said Blake.
The clerk shrugged again. So?
“Passport?” he asked.
Blake fished in an inside pocket and placed it on the counter. The clerk flicked carelessly through it to the back page, glanced at the photograph, glanced at Blake, then snapped it shut.
“Wait here,” he commanded and taking the passport with him, meandered slowly off down the corridor, whistling loudly.
High above their heads, the ceiling fan groaned at its thankless task while beneath the row of plastic chairs, a cockroach scurried towards its hole.
With her hand still covering her face, Lee Yong shuddered.
“Can’t we just collect him and go?”
“Unfortunately not,” said Blake. “There’s a protocol to go through. We’ll just have to grin and bear it.”
In Egypt, jail was not a hotel you chose to stay in.
7. Please describe your experience in writing and publishing your first novel.
That could take a while, how long have you got? I conceived the original plot in 2009, wrote 45000 words in the summer of 2010, then put it in my pending drawer to rest. When the revolution kicked off in 2011 I rewrote the plot, added another 55000 words and took twelve more months in what seemed like endless redrafting until you couldn’t see the join. At the same time I was frantically searching for an agent. Fortunately I was lucky to find someone interested enough to approach publishers on my behalf but halfway through the process he suddenly decided to leave the industry and left me in the lurch. I continued on my own and finally persuaded the Roundfire imprint of John Hunt Publishing to take it. It finally hit the bookstands in September 2013, four and a half years after it all began.
I’m still unagented by the way, so if there’s anybody out there …
8. Do you have any other works you would like to share with us?
I have three short novellas in print which I wrote as ‘practice’ for my longer works (visit my website at www.nedavid.com for details). I’ve since completed a second novel called WHILE DAD WAS DYING which is a character study of Frank, a reformed alcoholic. I’m just sending that out to agents now and hope to have that published sometime in 2015. Beyond that, I’ve a string of plots and stuff in my head that I want to get down on paper.
9. Looking through your website, can you please give us more information on Book Talk?
Yes. Book Talk is a feature on BBC local radio in York. I’ve teamed up with presenter Elly Fiorentini and once a month we get together for half an hour on air and chat about things bookish. I make sure I’ve read a couple of novels which I review and we then highlight things of local interest eg. a local author’s book-launch or a Lit Fest in our area. I use the Book Talk page on my website to post the book reviews in full and to summarise what we’ve discussed. It’s great fun and it keeps me ‘in the swim’.
10. If you were written about in the newspaper, on the front page, what would the headline say?
Well, I hope it would be something nice, but that’s not usually what makes the headlines. I’ve always thought that BIRDS OF THE NILE would make a great film, so ‘Local Author Wins Hollywood Contract’ would be good. I live in hope.
Thank you for stopping by!
About the Author:
Nick maintains he has no personal or political message to convey but that his objective is merely to entertain the reader and he hopes this is reflected in his writing. Besides being a regular contributor to Literary Festivals and open mics in the North East Region, Nick is also a founder member of York Authors and co-presenter of Book Talk on BBC Radio York.
His debut novel, Birds of the Nile, is published by Roundfire.