Friday, May 02, 2014

Indie Author Interview: Michelle Medhat


Indie Author Interview with Michelle Medhat - Author of the Spy Thriller Novels Connected: The Call and Connected: The Shift (released on May 02, 2014).

Michelle Medhat has had an exciting career that spans over 25 years in technology, science, education and marketing. Currently, Michelle is Director of Operations and Strategic Development at NEF: The Innovation Institute, an educational charity and professional institute that she co-founded with her husband Professor Sa’ad Medhat. Through her life Michelle has always written, and has carried a deep love for reading and writing. In between being a serial entrepreneur starting up and running several companies, and more recently a charity and professional institution, Michelle has stayed committed to her first true love.

Interview with Michelle Medhat

Author Michelle Medhat
Author Michelle Medhat
Alan Kealey (Indie Author News): What is your (writing) background?
Michelle Medhat: I have written extensively for publications, journals and newspapers in my field of innovation and SciTech education. I have had short story anthologies published and have written plays and poems in the past. Connected: The Call was my first book to be published, and this has been followed by Connected: The Shift.

Who are your favorite writers, your favorite books, and who or what are your writing influences?
Michael Connelly, Dean Koontz, Agatha Christie, Ian Fleming, Robert Ludlum, Neil Gaiman. I like authors who deliver high-octane action, but who can weave characters with emotionally charged histories, and clearly have something to hide. I also like authors who mix genres and who write in a vivid but shocking way. It makes me sit up and get interested. I am not a big fan of excessive prose. I like the plotline to be action packed but at the same time deep and believable. These types of books for me are much more memorable.

When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer?
When I was 4 years old, my parents took me on holiday to Broadstairs, in the UK. We visited Bleak House, the home of Charles Dickens, and I sat in his chair and proclaimed I would be a writer one day.

Tell us about your writing process. Do you have a writing routine?

I have a very-pressured full time job, so my writing is certainly not by routine. During a working day, I have very little time to write creatively. I tend to write in the evenings or over weekends. I will also scribble down ideas wherever I am - on train, plane or in the car (obviously not whilst driving!) - and see where I can take these ideas when have more time to reflect. There are places that inspire me greatly. East Devon in the UK is a very beautiful, peaceful place, and every time I visit, I'm compelled to either write or paint (another passion of mine). A few years back, I had more time to write, and I scribed a number of short stories (most of which will soon be available on my site www.forever-connected.com). However, in recent years my emphasis has been on completing my two books- Connected: The Call and Connected: The Shift.

What do you find easiest about writing? What the hardest?
I find writing creatively easy. I only have to have an idea or a notion about something and the words start to flow. The hardest thing about writing is finding the time. Often, if I do spend some time writing during the day, I end up feeling guilty about not focusing my energy on something immediately productive and most importantly, connected to my work. It is quite a dichotomous life I lead, and it can be quite heart-wrenching as my love of my work (I run an educational charity and a professional institution to drive innovation) and my love of writing compete for my time, and one inevitably loses out. Writing is in my heart, and sometimes, whatever the cost, I have to be true to my first love.

"Another joy of writing is watching characters, plots and scenes unfurl." 

What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I love people enjoying what I have written. Getting excited by it, and most of all wanting more. Creating something that moves people is a wonderful thing, and is a gift that I will treasure all my life.
Another joy of writing is watching characters, plots and scenes unfurl. I have a very vivid imagination, and all of what I write is playing inside my head first of all. With the Connected books, the story ran like a movie in my mind enabling me to visually capture scenes and make the reader feel they are right in the middle of the action. I think that’s the reason why so many readers say ‘it’s like a movie – or it should be a movie’ as that’s how it’s been written.

Michelle, please tell us a little about your Spy Thriller Connected: The Shift, and how it fits with part one, Connected: The Call
After the events of Connected: The Call, many questions remain unanswered. What isn’t Ellie telling? What will be Sam’s retribution? And what is Salim going to do next? Connected: The Shift picks up almost immediately from where The Call left off, plunging Ellie and Sam into a world where nothing is what it seems. Lives will be betrayed, revenge will be delivered and actions will be taken to excess. In the desire for power, only one will remain ‘white of heart’.
The roller-coaster ride that is their new reality doesn’t hold back, barreling ahead at a breakneck speed that Sam and Ellie can’t control as they are catapulted into increasingly dangerous and incomprehensible situations. Now all they have to do is survive the next seventy-two hours. Their only hope is to use all their abilities to overcome the accursed forces that threaten their lives and the world around them. But will their abilities be enough when they face the darkest force of all…?

So far, The Call has been seen as an unusual fast-paced, spy thriller. Comparisons have been drawn with Cussler, Fleming and even Jilly Cooper. In a way, The Call has ‘set the stage’ for what will follow. The biggest issue readers have had with The Call is its lack of an ending. Some readers didn’t realize that The Call was part one of a two-parter, and some were disappointed by the slightly sudden ending in The Call.

Connected: The Call (Michelle Medhat)
Click to Read an Excerpt

The Call is very much a ‘Sam Noor’ book. It gives a fast-paced ‘under the bullet’ insight into his life as an MI6 counter-terrorism field operative, the high tech missions he goes on, and it shows quite frankly Sam’s an all-round badass agent! The Call takes the readers into Sam’s mind, and shows the lengths he will go to in order to get to the truth. Due to the dangerous nature of his job, and the constant pressure of getting results, Sam uses any means to get the job done. He is arrogant, and shows a casual flippancy and disregard for the rules. Undeniably, Sam Noor is a maverick, but a brilliant one at that. He has not only the brawn but an exceptional brain, with a focus on nanotechnology and advanced sciences. Sam is also a highly trained killing machine, and a loving husband who adores his wife Ellie, despite the fact he has kept his job secret from her. His ability to be a consummate liar, compartmentalize his feelings so he can’t be read but has the ability to read anyone instinctively, makes Sam Noor a very powerful and somewhat frightening individual.

Ellie Noor, although seemingly a normal woman, who has been thrown into a Sam’s terrifying world, remains to be a conundrum. It is clear from the first few pages of The Call, that Ellie is ‘different’. Hearing disembodied voices and experiencing strange illusions does not make for normal woman. Of course such manifestations could be put down to her mental state which in parts is questionable, but by the end of the book, Ellie is referenced as someone who ‘came back to life 2 hours after being dead’, which dispels the theory of ‘it’s all in her mind’. It is indeed, MI6 Chief Sir Justin Maide that appears to fear her more than ‘anything else he had ever faced’, and this fear is the reason for his insane actions towards her.

Connected: The Shift (Michelle Medhat)
Click to Read an Excerpt

The Shift is very much an ‘Ellie Noor’ book. Her interrogation by MI6 is seen through Sam’s eyes, but the reader quickly realizes that Ellie is an extraordinary woman. The confused and tired woman at the end of The Call comes into her own, proving that she's certainly the one who can match Sam in abilities in so many ways. Amongst all the thrilling action and shocking adventure that is The Shift, a further message comes over and that is ‘everything is connected’ and nothing just ‘happens’. We all have free will, but it is a controlled free will, and there are forces beyond our understanding that are overseeing and intervening where necessary.

The story line of The Shift is very deep and skirts around the meaning of life, and what it means to be good or evil. In fact, it addresses the nature of good and evil, and explains the need for the two.

What inspired you to write the book series Connected?
At the time (April 2003), the second Gulf war had just finished, and there was a sense of both hope and dread for the future. Something about this moment affected me deeply, and although I’m still not exactly sure why, but I felt I had a story inside me that needed to be told. The scenes on television of the Saddam’s statue coming down became the catalyst, and I wrote the plot line of Connected and characters long hand in six weeks flat. I think I could feel so much hope but also so much fear, and that gave a constant imbalance. It made me think about life, good and evil, how we are influenced or guided, whether we really have free-will and what happens if we go too far? Is there a price to pay…
In The Call, one act (Ellie’s scream) creates a chain reaction of events that fundamentally change lives. Weaving this complexity of actions and reactions illustrates the power of connectedness: how one act can have big and far-reaching ramifications on others.

The message of connectedness is one that has serious implications on how people live their lives and how they perceive reality around them. In the busy, fast-moving world we inhabit, we naturally focus on our own lives rather than others around us. Living in a big city like London (no different to any other big city across the globe), acts of selflessness and kindness are few and far between. The message of Connected shows that we must remember to show those acts of kindness when we can, and to ensure we are aware of the interactions around us, and not to go through life blindly, just letting life happen.

Those who have read the Connected books state that there is a mood that seems to capture the deep feelings of people today. It touches on a number of themes that affect our modern lives: the mistrust of establishment, the fact that the government and its agencies can do almost anything with impunity, and civilians have little redress; the fears of terrorism (in any form) and a general feeling that we’ve all gone too far. The book counters these dark themes with a solid hope that things will somehow improve and the balance shift that has occurred can be reversed.

The Connected series, The Call and The Shift handle some very strong themes, and presents situations that are virtually intractable for the protagonists (Sam and Ellie), although despite this, there is a continuous underlying belief in hope, love and goodness.

"This book appeals to [readers] of all ages who enjoy intelligent action, political intrigue, conspiracies, and techno-wizadry." 

Who do you see as your target audience and where can we buy the book?
Currently, Connected: The Call has been released. This book appeals to men and women of all ages who enjoy intelligent action, political intrigue, conspiracies, and techno-wizadry. It appears to attract people who like series like 24, Person of Interest, The Mentalist, Castle and like characters such as James Bond, Jason Bourne, Jack Ryan, Jack Reacher etc. It definitely intrigues people and with the surreal 'something else going on' makes the book standout amongst your typical spy thriller.
The Shift is in the same audience profile as The Call. Predominantly, The Shift is still a super-charged spy thriller, with a little sci-fi and a big love story thrown in. The sci-fi element isn't jarring from the spy thriller as it shadows the political macchinations of Earth's political arenas (the UN, Senate, the British Cabinet office etc).
The typical target audience will be readers who enjoy cross-genre novels, and like original stories. In a sense people who are looking for action with something a little bit different from the norm, and like a thrilling ride!
The Books are available on Lulu and Amazon. (See Links to the Book below!)

What makes this book special?
Taken as a total book running part one The Call and part two The Shift together, Connected is a highly original book that stands out from anything else that is on the market today. The extraordinary mix of a fast-paced spy thriller with a blend of intelligent, poignant sci-fi that reflects the world we live in, with a heart-rending love story that nests complex plotlines, and makes for a highly unusual and exceptionally unique read, never before written in a novel before.

"[...] thousands of readers across the world having bought and read it." 

How would you describe the success of your first book in the series so far…
Connected: The Call has been incredibly well received, with thousands of readers across the world having bought and read it. The reviews have been really great, and there is real momentum building towards the launch of part two, Connected: The Shift. Many readers are calling for Connected: The Call to be made into a film. That’s even before they’ve read The Shift!

How long did it take it to write the book?
It has taken a while, just over 10 years between starting up businesses, working abroad, creating a charity and a professional institution, not to mention all the pressures of family life. Throughout everything that I have done in my very busy life, Connected: The Call and Connected: The Shift have been with me, and I have written in early mornings, late evenings and over weekends, never losing sight of my end goal, to get them finished and in the hands of readers who will love them.
Can you give some advice for other Authors regarding the writing process?
It is important to always remember the voice you are using and the POV of the specific character you are writing about. I always find plotting the characters and plotlines in a mindmap very helpful, as it helps to structure your mind, and it identifies connections or opportunities to explore a character or a scene in greater depth. Having structure to writing is important, especially if you are writing something complex with lots of different timelines, destinations, inter-weaved plot lines and characters and flashbacks

When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I wish I could write full-time, but at the moment I have a day job, which is very fulfilling. I’m Director of Operations and Strategic Development at NEF: The Innovation Institute, an educational charity and professional institute that I co-founded with my husband Professor Sa’ad Medhat in 2004. The Institute has donated millions of pounds to the science, engineering and technology education sector, and has helped to improve the lives of over 500,000 people. It is very rewarding to know that what we do in NEF is changing lives and improving peoples’ chances to progress and achieve more.

How can readers connect with you?
Twitter: @theconnected1
www.facebook.com/michellemedhat
Web: www.forever-connected.com

Thank you very much for the Interview, Michelle.



About the Book Connected: The Shift

Connected: The Shift (Michelle Medhat)
Click to Read an Excerpt
After the events of Connected: The Call, many questions remain unanswered. What isn’t Ellie telling? What will be Sam’s retribution? And what is Salim going to do next? Connected: The Shift picks up almost immediately from where The Call left off, plunging Ellie and Sam into a world where nothing is what it seems. Lives will be betrayed, revenge will be delivered and actions will be taken to excess. In the desire for power, only one will remain ‘white of heart’.

The roller-coaster ride that is Sam and Ellie's new reality doesn’t hold back, barrelling ahead at a breakneck speed that they can’t control as they are catapulted into increasingly dangerous and incomprehensible situations.

Now all they have to do is survive the next seventy-two hours. Their only hope is to use all their abilities to overcome the accursed forces that threaten their lives and the world around them.

But will their abilities be enough when they face the darkest force of all…?



Links to the Book

Link to the Hardcover Connected: The Shift on Lulu

Link to the Paperback Connected: The Shift on Lulu

Link to the eBook Connected: The Shift with Excerpt on Amazon - UK

Link to the eBook Connected: The Shift with Excerpt on Amazon - US