A different kind of chick lit…

gloria cover Jun 2017

Today on In the Booklight, Khadija Rouf shares some of the background and inspiration behind her novella, Gloria Exbat.

Gloria is a kid’s story about girls in human and avian form. It’s a multi-perspective story, told from the viewpoint of an ex-battery hen, Gloria, who is rescued and comes into the lives of two bereaved sisters, Frankie and Bobbi.

Though the book spans some serious issues like bereavement and animal welfare, I deliberately wanted to touch on those issues lightly, whilst being respectful of their complexity. I wanted the characters to shine through, especially as it is ultimately a story about hope and resilience.

I wrote it when my daughter made a very thought through decision to become vegan. I was worried about her decision as she was a young teen. We were both vegetarian, so I did have some insights into how she felt, but I was uncertain about her taking a decision to stop eating any animal products.

I didn’t want to turn food into a battle, so I had to quickly understand her perspective. I searched for books which might help us to talk about the issues and also to understand her strength of feeling. I soon realised that I couldn’t find anything for children and young people.

We did talk about the treatment of battery farmed animals, and I also have friends who kept rescue hens. Gloria soon clucked her way into my imagination and Frankie and Bobbi materialised soon after…so I had to start writing!

There were dilemmas in writing the story – it’s a multi-perspective story, and I wanted the three main characters to open up their inner worlds to the reader. This posed some challenges in trying to orient the reader to who was narrating at a particular point. I eventually solved this by inserting small, symbolic graphics at the start of each new voice. It was also a challenge to try to write from the perspective of a hen! I talked to friends who keep chickens and researched how battery chickens are kept. I also made a choice to keep the language spare, in order to hint at things and not overwhelm the reader.

I wrote the story some years ago, and after revisions and ‘cooking time’, I felt the story was ready to send off. Busy with work and family life, it was hard to sustain the stamina of sending off work that often never had any type of reply at all.

Eventually, this year, I decided to be brave and self-publish Gloria on Amazon. It’s great to know it’s out there being read. I’m delighted with the feedback I have had so far, both from children and adults. I found it difficult to judge what age readership I was aiming at, but have settled on 10 – teens. I didn’t have a particular ‘market’ in mind, and it isn’t a story that I think easily ‘fits’ into a particular genre.

I just had a story in my head, which I felt strongly that I needed to write. It’s been a wonderful surprise that adults have responded so well to the story too – and it’s opened up some interesting conversations between parents and children. It’s been lovely to hear that the story has been thought provoking and readers have empathised with the different characters. I couldn’t hope for more!

gloria cover Jun 2017

So if you fancy a read that’s maybe a little quirky, then please come and find Gloria Exbat here:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Gloria-Exbat-Khadija-Rouf-ebook/dp/B06Y588LFK

I hope you enjoy!

Khadija Rouf

Khadija RoufKhadija Rouf works in the NHS and is a writer. In 2013, she completed an MA in Poetry with Manchester Metropolitan University, and is published in Orbis, Six Seasons Review, Sarasvati and other journals. In 2016, her short story was commended in the longlist for the Manchester Fiction Prize. In 2017, her poem, Care, was commended in the Hippocrates Poetry Prize.
 

Thank you, Khadija, for these wonderful insights into the inspiration and writing process behind Gloria Exbat.

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Anyone interested in being interviewed for In the Booklight about a new poetry project or book can email Sarah on lifeislikeacherrytreeATyahooDOTcom. Thank you.