About Me

Gladys Matar - celebrated, award-winning Arabic thinker and writer!How much of your work is realistic?
I believe it’s around 80%…sometimes I give myself the right to use metaphors , as in one of my short stories where I choose a bird flying in an Arabic sky, telling his own story about corruption and militarism.

Are your works based on someone you know or events in your life?
Yes, many of them are! You might say my “radar” is on 24 hours a day! And I am very well trained by now to spot the sad and happy scenes in this life. One of my short stories was about an 11 year-old belonging to divorced “woman” who I met in Aleppo city in Syria: The child’s mother was a young woman working as a cleaning lady, in a retirement shelter where I used to go sometimes to help the old women as a volunteer. I saw the child with her mother, and she was totally in fear, scared and introverted, in what I perceived as a shocking way. Her mother relayed her sorry tale in detail. I was 24 years-old and this was my first real contact with this confused world.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Yes, words! I am constantly running out of words! You may say that I battle words aggressively. My inner world is always larger than the language at my disposal, so I have to come up with my own expressions sometimes.

Where do you hope to take your writing in the future?
I have been concerned with creating a new narrative technique but still have not managed it and this prevents me from completing my novel, “St. Paul.” So far I am unable to find a suitable approach to this character and the events in his life.

Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Not really, I attend conferences many times a year, and my almost-annual travel to Los Angeles is something I can’t miss, for it provides me with the precise tools I need to proceed with my research.

What is the hardest part of writing?
When I am ready to “deliver” or “give birth” to a thought or idea, while I am physically unable to do so.

What advice would you give to writers just starting out?
Read, read, read and read, then you will decide for yourself if this is the right path for you to take.

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?
Simply I stop writing! I know immediately that is not the “right time” and I focus on reading only, until I feel that the concepts I want to write about are ready to be revealed.

Who is your favorite author and why?
It is always “Gabriel García Márque” the Colombian writer and Amin Maaloof, the French- Lebanese novelist.

How did you deal with rejection letters, negative comments, etc.?
Before, I used to feel misunderstood. I was not mature enough to understand negative comments or criticisms. Now I feel that I am grateful because I succeeded in avoiding myself being compromised. There is no way on earth to be appreciated by all. If you are, that means you are not telling your truth, but what everyone wants to hear. Actually, I can’t please the whole world.

What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing?
Talent and tolerating life’s mistakes, as I feel writers should be in love with this world in order to be able to write about it.

How do you develop your plots and characters? Do you use any set formula?
No, every book has a different formula that I follow. I use my intuition, like when I cook, I don’t use any means to measure the salt, pepper, etc. I use my own senses, my bare hands, sense of smell and taste.

What were your feelings when your first novel was published and when you first saw the cover jacket of the finished product?
I cried. I wanted my dad to be there with me.

What tools do you feel are must-haves for writers?
Real passion for writing and truth.

What do you feel is the most important viewpoint for an aspiring writer to have?
Arrogance prevents a writer from learning. Try and be simple, a good listener and a good reader. Be satisfied with yourself as a person and, most importantly, love the world you live in. Love allows us to be human beings and writers should symbolize that.

What dreams have been realized as a result of your writing?
Being a dedicated writer known across the Arab world; today I can just start from this point. I have built up my world around writing and I still have a long journey ahead.

If you could leave your readers with one legacy, what would you want it to be?
That I changed something like enlightening the society or enhancing the standard of living for The Arab woman.

How long does it take you to write a book?
It depends, sometimes a year, others a few months (or in the case of “St. Paul” twelve years).

What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
When I am in the middle of writing a book there is no schedule: I have my computer on 24 hours a day, and I am on and off during the day and sometimes at night. I go like this until I am done with it. I feel kind a need to stay within the book’s “womb” until I am done with it.

What would you say is your interesting writing uniqueness?
I think it is my sense of humor and ironic style.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Go out with a friend and talk about art, fashion and books, or to retire to some quiet place and do nothing or do everything.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in writing your books?
That I can be, or am, dishonest at will and honest; ugly and beautiful; interested and indifferent; believer and blasphemer; and more. That I can be many things: a young woman, a mature woman, or many in one: teenager, saint, queen, servant, lover, insane, etc., etc. I did not know that I can be any woman I desire before beginning my career as a writer.

Which is your favorite, of the books you have written? Why?
Velvet Revolution! Perhaps because I loved every single word in it, or because I stated my opinion about national solidarity in Syria.

Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
Yes I do and they tend to comment on whatever photo of me they see. I am not kidding! They also say that I am different because I don’t write about sex much like other writers. In my book “Delaying the Sunset” I wrote about sex but from a historical viewpoint. I don’t see why we have to turn our contemporary novels into “pornographic” ones! I can’t allow modern media to corrupt my thinking.

What do you think makes a good story?
Paramount is excellent communication. Any work of art, in order to be good, should be able to communicate effectively with the receiver.

Do you think people are reading less than they have before? Why or why not?
Yes they are, at least in the Arab world. The internet is placing in danger this great pastime, reading!

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in any of your books?
Yes, in “Off Beat” I would like to place more revisions on two or more chapters in the book. I may do that in the future and get this book republished in a new edition.

If you were to change careers, what are the possibilities?
A movie director! (And keep that under your hat!)

Of all your media interviews, which stand out the most, and why?
I guess this one…the questions are so precise, creative and new. I have never answered them before.