Today, I signed my contract with Guernica Editions to publish my novel, Quill of the Dove, under Guernica's MiroLand imprint. It was a wonderful feeling. Quill of the Dove has been a labour of love, an ambitious novel, which has enabled me to combine my experiences in the Middle East with my passion for writing. Guernica is definitely the right choice for me. For some time, I have admired its work and dedication to publishing Canadian writers. What I like best about Guernica is its zeal for pushing the boundaries and showing a real openness to the world. Guernica, which is now celebrating its 40th anniversary, has published more than 600 authors, a feat matched by few in the Canadian publishing industry.
The next steps in my writer's journey will be the “hard edit” with Guernica's editor, the very talented Michael Mirolla. By late fall, the book will be sent to the printers and the official launch will be in early spring 2019. Reviewers, stay tuned for advanced reader copies.
Novels are rarely written in isolation. In my case, I was lucky to have benefited from the comments of more than 25 fellow writers who volunteered their time to read wholly or partially one or more of the novel's three drafts. I hope that I have done justice to the suggestions and insights that they generously shared with me.
So what is the novel all about?
Quill of the Dove is a blend of literary fiction and a political thriller. Framed by contemporary events in the Middle East, the novel covers two distinct time periods: 2007 mainly in Europe, the Palestinian Territories and Israel and Lebanon from 1975 to 1982.
The opening chapter takes place in Nicosia, the divided capital of Cyprus. French journalist Marc Taragon is at the apex of his career, and Nicosia is his home base for covering the Middle East. A tenacious idealist, Taragon has spent the last thirty years attempting to bring to readers the truths about the wars and political intrigues of the region. He is unsparing in his criticism of extremists and has earned many enemies. Taragon agrees to be interviewed by a young Canadian journalist, Marie Boivin, not knowing that Marie has a hidden agenda: to discover through Taragon the truth about her childhood.
Before Marie finds the answers she seeks, she is enmeshed in Taragon's plan to broker peace negotiations between Jonathan Bronstein, a left-wing Israeli politician, and Abdullah Akkawi, a dissident Palestinian leader. In the isolated Greek village of Arkassa on the island of Karpathos, Taragon succeeds in persuading Akkawi and Bronstein to agree to an ambitious peace plan. The action then moves quickly through Europe and the Middle East as Taragon and his associates try to stay one step ahead of deadly opponents of their initiative.
In the 1975 timeline, Taragon begins as a young student studying Arabic to prepare a career as a Middle East correspondent. He strikes up a relationship with Hoda, a young Palestinian teacher from Sabra refugee camp and soon finds himself embroiled in the turmoil of the Lebanese Civil War. The subsequent flashback chapters re-tell through Taragon's perspective many of the most important battles of the war and the horrors they inflicted on civilians.
And for the rest, well, I invite you to check out the bookshelves of your favourite bookstore next spring :)
Ian Thomas Shaw