NAT 191103 BOOKFAIR NOVEL-5-1572860068763
Paulina Simons, during the session on ' The Novel and The World' at Discussion Forum 3, Sharjah International Book Fair 2019, Sharjah. 3rd November 2019. Photo: Ahmed Ramzan/ Gulf News Image Credit:


Writing novels in not for the faint hearted and it takes a toll on your life, international bestselling American novelist Paullina Simons told the Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) on Sunday.

Her comments came during a SIBF session titled ‘The Novel and The World’, which included Iraqi author Inaam Kachachi and moderator Iman Bin Chaibah, an Emirati editor and blogger.

Writing novels is far from easy, Simons said, noting it takes great effort “to sustain a story 100s of pages long”. Writing about characters going through transformative world events, such as World War 2, is an “incredibly complicated endeavour. I feel like it’s not for the faint of heart. I certainly always wanted to be a writer, but it really takes a toll on your life in the way that journalism – when I was a journalist – did not do for me”.

Still, the struggle is worth it, Simons said.

Novel writing is a unique art form that probes deepest into the feelings of characters and “transcends space and time” to appeal to readers everywhere, anytime, according to Simons, a Russia-born immigrant to America.

Simons said: “A novel by its very nature has something in it that no other art medium has. The novel is the only thing that can actually talk about the soul of man or the soul of woman. There is no other medium that we have – not film, art, dancing, non-fiction, nor journalism – that can actually tell you what the person felt about what was happening to him or her.”

Simons, author of novels such as Tully, Red Leaves, Eleven Hours, The Bronze Horseman and Tatiana and Alexander, also dwelled “on the reason why we write”. In her case, the idea for a novel “is just something that is revealed to me and then I explore it a little bit”.

What Simons seeks in novels – whether writing or reading them – is “a deep personal connection with the characters that transcends time and space”. Illustrating her point, Simons said she remembers very little about French history and politics of the 1600s but “I’ll never forget ‘The Three Musketeers’ and their friendship and adventures”.