Malia Zaidi is the author of A POISONOUS JOURNEY. She attended the University of Pittsburgh, and studied at English at Oxford University. Having grown up in Germany, she currently lives in Washington DC, though through her love of reading, she resides, vicariously in countries throughout the world. A POISONOUS JOURNEY is her first book in the Lady Evelyn mysteries series. The sequel, A DARKER SHORE, is her latest novel.
1926: A year has passed since the events of "A Poisonous Journey" and Lady Evelyn has made a home for herself in Greece, living with her cousin, Briony, her husband, Jeffrey and Daniel Harper. Disturbing this island idyll is a letter, which arrives from France with troubling information about the Daniel’s long-believed-dead brother, Henry. A new journey awaits! With the shadows of the Great War reaching out, Lady Evelyn and Daniel voyage to Amiens in Northern France with the aim of discovering the truth behind the ominous letter. Upon their arrival, they are met not with clarity but rather with crime. Murder, to be precise. Is it linked to their presence in France, or even worse, to Henry himself? Evelyn and Daniel must confront their history as they try to make sense of the present before the killer can strike again, and the secrets of the past are lost forever.
Thank you for this interview! I’d like to know more about you as a person first. What do you do when you’re not writing?
Thanks for including me on I’m Shelf-ish! When I’m not writing or otherwise working, I am probably reading. It’s one of my favorite things to do and, I believe, absolutely critical for anyone who wants to be a better writer. I also like to spend time with friends and family, travel, paint and watch British mini-series.
When did you start writing?
To be honest, it is difficult to remember when exactly. I wrote my first manuscript when I was 18. It was a YA story, and I can tell you, it will never see the light of day! I started working on the first Lady Evelyn mystery in 2012. I had wanted to write a more focused, researched novel for a long time, and I made it my New Year’s resolution to write every day until the first draft was completed, and shockingly, I did.
As a published author, what would you say was the most pivotal point of your writing life?
Actually holding a physical copy of the book in my hands after working towards that moment for so long was very emotional for me, and almost surreal. It was the culmination of countless hours of writing, rereading and rewriting, editing, the queries, and back and forth between me and the publisher, so it was really a great relief to have the final result in my bookshelf.
If you could go anywhere in the world to start writing your next book, where would that be and why?
It’s got to be a small house in Oxford, preferably the Jericho neighborhood. I studied and lived there for a little while, and it remains one of my favorite places in the world. The history that city tells is certainly enough to inspire countless stories.
If you had 4 hours of extra time today, what would you do?
If I were diligent, I would have to allot at least a portion of that time to writing. If the day was sunny like it is as I sit at my window writing today, and the trees were glowing red and yellow and orange, I think I would have to go outside, take a walk and hear the leaves crunch beneath my feet. In fact, I’m tempted to sneak off and do that now, four extra hours or not!
Where would you like to set a story that you haven’t done yet?
Definitely in India. My father is from India, and many of the stories he used to tell my sisters and me when we were children had to do with the jungle, hyenas and monkeys, very much the Jungle Book come to life. I think a story set in the time of the British Raj would be fascinating. In my writing, I love to explore history and research the time and place in which my book takes place to get myself into the mindset of another locale and a different atmosphere. Traveling is a passion of mine, but I can’t do it all the time, so armchair travel and book-related research are often the next best thing.
Back to your present book, A Darker Shore, how did you publish it?
I published with Bookbaby, which allowed me to have a significant amount of control of the book, its appearance and distribution, which I like.
In writing your book, did you travel anywhere for research?
I knew the place I was writing about, so I did not travel specifically for the purpose of writing the book. However, I do think it is useful to have visited the country you are writing about, just to have a greater understanding of the world your characters reside in. That being said, nowadays with the internet, it often feels the world is at our fingertips, and much of what I did not know about the setting of A Darker Shore, Amiens, France could be discovered there and through a variety of helpful literature. My books are historical mysteries, and so, even having visited their setting, I cannot know exactly how it would have been in the 1920s without additional research.
Why was writing A Darker Shore so important to you?
It is the second book in the Lady Evelyn Mysteries series, and continuing the story of my beloved protagonist was always in my plans, as it continues to be.
Where do you get your best ideas and why do you think that is?
I tend to get my best ideas whenever I don’t have a pen or paper handy, or am drifting off to sleep and have to scrabble around to make a barely legible note. In terms of inspiration, I think I find it when I travel, and see new places, or from reading and even meeting new people. I won’t say any of my characters are based on a real person, but there are nuggets borrowed here and there that I have picked up and molded into the people I write about
Any final words?
Thanks you for this interview!