Recent reviews – Where the Sun Rises…

Amazon Customer

5.0 out of 5 stars

This book has it all!

October 15, 2019

A wonderful story that pulls at your heart strings while reminding you how strong and determined women can be. The author puts you right in the middle of their dilemas, their joys and sorrows while beautifully weaving in the culture of the land. I very much enjoyed this book!

Mrs. Alison Quigley

5.0 out of 5 stars

A timely story about Kobane

October 15, 2019Format:

With Turkish forces invading northern Syria, the release of Strong’s new novel Where The Sun Rises offers a timely and necessary insight into the conflicts of this region.

The focus in Strong’s novel is the village of Kobane, a Syrian town within walking distance of the southern Turkish border. In contemporary times – late 2019 – forces backed by Turkey are amassing to drive out the Kurds, but back in 2014-15, when the novel is set, the Kurds are pushing back against Daesh, an Islamic terrorist group. Although the conflicts are not identical, there are correspondences in what it means to be Kurdish against oppressive forces driven by religious imperatives.

We enter the story when Daesh are advancing towards Kobane. Karin, who is a medical student, is estranged from her fiancé, and is in the final stages of completing her medical degree. In a story that runs parallel to this, we are introduced to Roza, married mother of one, and teacher of English at a local school. It is soon evident the woman who are the focus of these alternating chapters have been strong allies in childhood. A decade later they still remain friends, despite their diverging paths.

When Karin’s brother, Mani, announces he’s off to join the war against Daesh, she laments that he lacks the imposing physique of a soldier.

“His shoulders seemed smaller and bonier than before, vulnerable somehow. She wanted him to be large and bulky, and felt a terrible dread of wanting to protect him but knowing she couldn’t.” Mani leaves for the war and when he doesn’t make it through, Karin decides to stand in place and fight in his honour. There is a female militia group she already knows about, and now she treks off to enlist. On her journey there she reflects on the irony of her decision: her life won’t be dedicated to saving lives – as it would have been in her medical career – but instead will be dedicated to taking lives away. We forgive Karin’s decision because it is clear she has so few choices. The border into Turkey is closed, the war puts a stop to her degree, and her family’s lives are endangered. Good people defend their territory even if it costs them their lives.

Roza wrestles with a similarly difficult decision. She has seen her husband go off to war and the school where she teaches is emptied of students. When she learns her husband has been killed, she struggles to be an effective parent for little Yez. Overcome with grief, she believes the best course of action is to take arms against her pain, and fight to obliterate the loss of her husband. Leaving Yez with relatives, she, too, joins the female militia. Roza and Karin meet at the military training camp and are grateful each has the other for this next harrowing chapter of their lives.

The experience of war brings Roza and Karin closer together, but ultimately the friendship implodes in a defining incident which is both harrowing and emotionally powerful.

Despite the central focus being war, there are keen moments of levity. In the midst of crossfire, we duck into a local bakery – still operating throughout the conflict. Tension is ratcheted down when characters cut loose with singing, dancing and the tembur. There is even an intervention from a gaggle of ducks.

“ “Chh, chh, chh,” Roza said to the ducks, getting them to move along, and guiding them into the nearest yard, relieved they didn’t have any young with them.”

It stands as a testament to Strong’s writing that while she has no direct experience of war, readers still feel immersed in an authentic experience. Take Strong’s description of Roza’s first experience killing Daesh:

“It was strange to see a connection between her fingers, some wood, metal, and powder, and taking a man’s life. Instantly she felt sick, an emptiness she had never experienced seemed to open up inside like a cavernous ravine, as she watched his deep thick blood oozing into the dirt.”

Key scenes are rendered in simple but powerful prose.

“Your daddy became a martyr today,” she told him. “He gave his life for us.” She could barely say the words; they seemed hollow. They embraced the dirt of the street. …It was as if they were the only people in the world.”

If you are curious about how women are inculcated into army life, if you are engaged with feminist empowerment stories, or if you enjoy learning about new cultures through a touchstone like war, I strongly recommend this novel. The story also serves as a sobering reminder of how fortunate most of us are not to be embroiled in conflicts so persistent and harrowing.

Highly recommended.

Syrian Kurdish women my novel is about…

YPG à Kobané7
 Some of the women from YPJ Brigade, at the battle of Kobane, February 2015
4 February 2015, 23:08:21
Source: VOA [Public domain]

Hey guys,

In light of recent events in Syria, I must mention that it is an attrocity that the area where I based this novel is now being attacked by Turkey. Below, is my blog about where my novel came from. But I must say I am extremely concerned and incensed that the Kurdish people in this area who fought Daesh are now being abandoned and have to try to survive another attack. The battle my novel is about was the battle for Kobane which is on the border with Turkey.

About the Battle for Kobane

Within the first month of when Daesh surrounded the town the world watched on, but no one helped the Kurds – thousands of people left. I remember watching it on the news. There were approximately a thousand civilians who stayed, and they only had rudimentary weapons in which to fight Daesh who had tanks and heavy military gear. This is why there were Kurdish protests all around the world for someone to step in. In the end Barrack Obama did act and the US air strikes did help the Kurds after one month of fighting on their own. They held Daesh off by giving their lives in street to street battles. There were a large amount of women soldiers who enlisted for this battle. This is what compelled and inspired me to write this novel.

This is the real detail of this book, based on real facts of the courageous fight made by a combination of Kurdish forces, including many women. These people were not soldiers to begin with.

I hope you enjoy my character’s stories, Karin and Roza who feel compelled to join the battle to defend their families and their land.

This battle was the first successful battle against Daesh and led to its demise in Syria. My book Where the Sun Rises is available on Amazon, in e-book or print format.

“Where the Sun Rises is an ambitious, compassionate and powerful novel. Sensory memories accessed through scents and tastes are used brilliantly to evoke the physical strain, tenderness and revulsion of war for female soldiers in the fight against ISIS. Their story deserves a far wider readership and Strong’s achievement lies in her ability to take us into their dangerous world.”…
Dr Toby Davidson, Senior Lecturer, Macquarie University, Sydney.

“Powerful and credible. An eye-opener to a story we rarely hear.”

Dr Lynne Spender, UTS Lecturer, Sydney. 

Early Reviews of Where the Sun Rises…

Where the Sun Rises is an ambitious, compassionate and powerful novel. Sensory memories accessed through scents and tastes are used brilliantly to evoke the physical strain, tenderness and revulsion of war for female soldiers in the fight against ISIS. Their story deserves a far wider readership and Strong’s achievement lies in her ability to take us into their dangerous world.’ 

Dr Toby Davidson, Lecturer, Macquarie University, Sydney.

“Strong has taken care to accurately present the reality of the lives of Kurdish women and the dramatic choices they make as fighters defending their land. The story is remarkable for the authenticity of the detailed portrayal of the geography, the intimate lives of the women fighters and the ferocity of the killing in which they are involved…Strong makes good use of the senses to convey the sounds and smells of battle and death and contrasts it with the delights of singing and dancing, the smell of freshly baked bread and the taste of goat’s cheese. The extraordinary amount of research undertaken pays dividends. Recollections of peaceful days and olive groves are neatly woven into the narrative, as are the reassuring pots of tea.

Powerful and credible, Where the Sun Rises is an eye-opener to a story we rarely hear.’

Dr Lynne Spender, Lecturer, UTS, Sydney.

My novel will be released in a few days time. I am excited to finally be introducing my new novel baby to the world. 🙂

It will be available widely in print as well, on Amazon and all other online outlets. Stay tuned. 🙂 You can pre-order today or wait for two days until it is released. 🙂

Have a fab day! Suz 🙂

My novel “Where the Sun Rises”…New York, New York… :)

Hey guys,

I have already mentioned about how I am going to the New York Pitch Conference, but I wanted to talk a little bit about my novel Where the Sun Rises. In 2015 I became fascinated by the women soldiers fighting in Syria against ISIS. After watching a lot of documentaries on these amazing women, I began to think, imagine if we could see things through their eyes. What if we could feel their decisions and why they felt they had no choice but to take up arms. What if one of the women was a mother? How did they show so much courage? What was this idea of courage anyway? It was obviously not just a male trait. There was a lot of coverage of female soldiers in non fiction, but nothing in fiction and told from their point of view. I began to research and completed thousands of hours of watching documentaries and reading articles or information about Syria, culture, Kurdish language, being in combat, weaponry, history, geography, and modern life.

I decided I needed to travel to the region so I could feel the air around me, see the colours of the middle east, experience the desert, taste the food, and see directly into Syria. In 2016, I traveled to Israel to be on the border, the Golan Heights, so I could look into Syria and I did. It was devastated. It was flattened, the landscape was barren and the buildings decimated and desolate. My trip to Israel was profound and enlightening and it filled in many sensory details that you can’t do through research. Using this experience and my extensive other research I continued to write. I was writing my novel for my masters under the supervision of Dr. Rebecca Giggs at Macquarie University. This was a refining and rewarding experience. Following completion of this and receiving a good mark, I continued to write and develop the narrative.

After this, in 2017 I consulted the Kurdish community in Brisbane and was able to get feedback about the Kurdish language. These contacts all stated they were extremely happy and honoured that I was writing about the Kurdish women in this struggle. I contacted the YPJ Women’s soldiers on Facebook and received messages back that they were very honoured and pleased I was standing in solidarity with them. Then I was given a few other contacts on Twitter I will be following up within the soldiers and also more groups in Australia.

My novel Where the Sun Rises, is about two Kurdish women who are forced to choose between their families and fighting ISIS. When ISIS closes in on their hometown of Kobani and kills their brother and husband, Karin a medical student and Roza, an English Teacher and mother, choose to take up arms. Once joining the battle, death is a spectre that hangs over them every day. After they discover their best friend’s sister Ashti has been taken into sex slavery, Karin and Roza find themselves in even greater jeopardy in conducting rescue missions. A western journalist, Sarah and her camera technician Marcel cover the dangerous battle throughout. When many die around them and friends begin to pay the ultimate sacrifice, their resolve becomes shaken and Karin and Roza learn what courage, loyalty, self-sacrifice and love for their homeland may really cost them.

(This is a shortened blurb, a longer one will come in the future. Today, I registered the copyright to my novel in the USA. Yay!).

After I had written the novel, I looked up pitch conferences in New York and found this excellent one, the New York Pitch Conference. I told my writer friend, Alison Quigley about this and we are now attending together which will be amazing! Then I received some funding from the Sunshine Coast Council and Arts Queensland to pitch my novel to the conference. I am very excited and grateful for this!

I am passionate about this novel and telling the stories of these brave, strong, women who took up arms to defend themselves in Kobani. This particular battle was completely successful and was fought by 85% women. It is an amazing story of the friendship of these women more than anything. Their courage, loyalty and friendship.

This is a brief summary of my novel, as I have not talked too much about the plot yet. Now, as I am going to the New Pitch Conference I thought I would be more specific.

Who knows what will happen with the Pitch Conference, hopefully it will lead to positive publishing connections, but either way this novel will be published in the future.

Thanks for reading! It means a lot. 🙂

masada
Masada, Israel

 

 

 

 

Courage – the theme for my new novel!

Courage is my main theme for the novel I am writing about the brave Kurdish women who fought Daesh in Kobani and won. The courage I see in them –inspired me to be courageous to travel to the middle east on my own, for research and travel in 2016.

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I am galloping towards the end of this novel and am constantly spurred on by the story of these women and my central characters. I have had to do extensive research to capture the reality of war for these women. I have spent hundreds of hours of research over more than two years of writing this novel. I have a few more chapters to write and I am itching to be able to do this around work and being a mother.

I follow Hemingway’s advice however, he recommends to always leave water in the well for the next day of writing. I seek to do this. I seek to stop writing while I am still inspired and, in the zone, so that I can continue this passion the following day.

After I have finished these chapters I know there will be more rewriting as every author has to do, but I am excited to get to this complete manuscript. There may be more scenes to be added, but I will know the story arc, character development and texturing is done for what I want to do at this point.

I am excited. Then starts the process of rewriting and then sending out to agents and publishers. Writers, authors need to remember this is a long process. I am prepared for it but I am excited to be finishing the manuscript.

Every writer must be prepared for more rewriting than they realise, every good author does this. At university I was shown pictures of all the corrections made to The Great Gatsby, which encouraged me a lot. This book, is a triumph, a perfect novel in my mind. So, let’s remember that all the great writers had to rewrite, so that is part of the process. However, soon I will know that the manuscript will be done to what I want to create. Then we will see. Then I can send it out.

Anyway, back to the theme of courage, my novel looks at the idea that only men are courageous and in this narrative it is clear that women are courageous. In some cases, more courageous than men. But it is not a competition, just to say that women are courageous all over the world and have to deal with many serious threats to their lives and wellbeing. This novel is inspired by these real-life women who have fought and given their lives and shown amazing courage beyond comprehension! They also remind me to be courageous in my novel writing as well, attempting to write about something I have not experienced, within a culture I have not grown up with. Courageous or silly, I don’t know. (Haha)

But be courageous in your writing! It’s worth it.

I will let you know when I finish the manuscript. Thank you for reading. 🙂

Kind regards,

Suzanne

My novella…

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Ancient town of Jaffa, near Tel Aviv.

 

 

Hello,

I haven’t talked about my novel much on this blog. I am still writing it, though I have handed it into university, in July. I received an excellent response from the markers which I was surprised and pleased about. 🙂

I wanted to simply write about the process of writing this particular novella which was completely different to anything I had ever written, or to advice we receive on writing. From July last year to this year, I devoted myself to writing this novella. I left a job that required a lot of hours and travel and I worked part time on the side. I simply breathed this novel in and out for a whole year and I did not care much about anything else, except my children of course. 🙂

Firstly, we are always told to write what we know. What happens if you stumble upon a phenomenal story that will not leave you alone…and one that no one had fictionalised yet. I did. So I had to throw this rule out the window like a grenade and allow it to explode outside…(haha using war metaphors because my novella is about war.)

“Write about what you know.” Well, I think it could also be said, write about what sets you on fire inside. I am not saying I wasn’t nervous about writing a novel about war, written from the point of view of Kurdish women, when I did not have their experience, did not know the culture, and did not know what it was like to grow up in this region.

But still, this story burned within me as if they wanted me to write it. As I researched more and more into the real-life stories of women fighting in Syria against ISIS, my two main characters arose before me and spoke to me, as well as many others.

I was writing a war novella (I had not written about war before), from the point of view of women that I had not experienced their lives. There is the debate about whether we are allowed to write about marginalised people. Shouldn’t they write their own stories? The answer is yes. But I still am compelled to tell their story until they can tell it themselves. Writers always write things that challenge them and a lot of writers will write about events, characters or cultures they have not experienced. It is part of exploration isn’t it? 🙂

At first, I thought I would not be able to enter into their point of view. I told my supervisor, I must be crazy to do this. I don’t even write action–I write interior fiction about life…haha I was attempting something completely, in some ways, ridiculous. However, when you are compelled to write something, do not let others tell you that you can’t.

We should not underestimate the power of this inspiration, because maybe it is you who needs to tell this particular story. As Elizabeth Gilbert and many famous writers talk about, we need to go with inspiration when it gallops towards us, otherwise it may move on and we have lost it.

I felt an urgency to tell this story and I still do. Because these women were fighting until one year ago and their story needs to be told, now. Currently, I am itching to write a few more chapters and then send it out to agents and/or publishers. I am awaiting results from something I have entered.

With this novella, I had to research hours and hours and hours, on a daily basis. Watching documentaries, researching religion, history, geography of the middle east, Kurdish language, culture, food, music and immersing myself into the viewpoint of women who were raised there.

This is why I had to do little else, because it took these hours for me to be able to see things even remotely from their point of view. I am not sure if you have ever felt this, but I felt I was doing the thing I was born to do. There is nothing more precious than this in life. I have always wanted to be an author, since I was a very young child.

Part of this research involved me travelling to the middle east, well Israel specifically. I had long wanted to go to Israel for spiritual reasons separate to this novella. However, throughout my trip I was aware of absorbing the air, the food, the music, and feeling the atmosphere of being there in this tinder-like environment. Some parts of Israel feel like the wild, wild west. It is a phenomenal place, there is not a place like it. With its ancient history, culture and religious significance it is a profound place, and even this word does not convey it.

Travelling to the border with Syria I photographed into the devastation and talked to the UN soldiers about it. Syria looked flattened, devastated and forlorn. It was surreal to be in the location where I had been watching footage of war, for months and months. The week after I left ISIS crossed this very border and sought to attack Israel, they were shot dead – four men dressed in black with machine guns. ISIS had not attacked Israel the whole 3 years of this war and yet a week after I left they came across. (Maybe Daesh, ISIS feels they are losing, so they are desperate) I feel I was protected while I was there.

Being in the middle east did help me to immerse myself into aspects of their lives, though Israel is different to Syria. I also read the Kite Runner set in Afghanistan which helped me to understand somewhat the experience of growing up in these regions.

Anyway, this is probably enough to say now. 🙂 I wanted to say, that I worried about entering the worlds of my characters and their point of views, but I feel like I did in the end. My markers were happy with my writing so I felt very excited about that because we write alone and have no idea of how it will be received.

My advice to writers or others pursuing any passion–do what inspires you even if others say you shouldn’t do that, because we need more adventurous people like this. If you attempt something challenging–you have already won, even if you do not succeed. You were bold and brave! Which is what my novella is about, the phenomenal courage of these women in war!

Thanks for reading! 😀