Last week, I had the pleasure of interviewing Khaled Talib about his new book, Incognito, which is coming out today!! I really enjoyed hearing more about what the book is going to be about, and getting a little insight into who Khaled is as a person. Hopefully you find it interesting too!!
Me: Hi Khaled! Thank you so much for joining me today on the blog!! I’m so excited to have a chance to talk to you and hear more about both your writing and you in general. Can you tell us a little bit about what your new book, Incognito, is about?
Khaled: Incognito is a thriller about three mysterious specialists who are officially dead. They include a former SAS soldier, an ex-French female military officer and an American fugitive.
These people have been additionally trained by The League of Invisible Knights, a covert division of Anonymous that aims to bring about the triumph of good over evil. Their mission: find the Pope who is missing.
The bulk of the story takes place in Switzerland and Italy with smaller scenes in neighboring countries.
Me: That sounds really exciting!! How did you get your inspiration for the story?
Khaled: I’ve been reading some of the Pope’s statements about Islam. I started doing some research into Catholicism. Interestingly, I discovered that the Vatican considers Muslims and Jews as members of the “brotherly faith.”
This sense of affinity is a far cry from the days of the Crusades. The reason is because the Vatican made changes to its doctrines between the late 1950s and early 1960s during the Vatican II. During this time, the Catholic religous leaders met and discussed revisions to their religion.
This discovery encourage me further to write a novel with a focus on Islamophobia. But while I was inspired by the Pope’s statements, I wasn’t sure how and where to start until a chance encounter with a strange woman one night in Geneva.
I saw her through the window of my hotel room. Tall and wearing black, she stood under a street lamp. She just stood there staring into the blankness. Later, I left my room to go downstairs. I saw the same woman at the empty foyer. She gave me a cold, hard stare. I ran back up the stairs and locked myself in the room.
You need a password to open the hotel’s door entrance. How did she get it? She reminded me so much of Mrs. Baylock, the character from The Omen. I realized there and then I had a story. I even gave her a nickname.
During another visit, I trekked a Swiss mountain. A woman started talking to me. She was friendly in the beginning, but she got worked up all of a sudden and pointed to the direction of Italy. She told me the Vatican was responsible for many of Europe’s problems. I began to read more about the Vatican, from news clippings to blog articles. And that was how Incognito was born.
Me: Wow, that’s crazy. It’s almost like your real life experiences could just be made into a book!! You talked a lot about islamophobia and the Vatican in your description. Do you feel Incognito will be controversial, or did you aim for a more neutral standpoint?
Khaled: I won’t divulge this aspect of the story as it forms part of the mystery. But I do hint that the media has failed to act responsibly in managing the news.
Me: Ooooh that sounds exciting!!! One of my biggest problems when I try to write fiction is that I copy people who I know in real life. Do you find that you take inspiration from close friends and family in your piece? Would any of them recognise themselves?
Khaled: You know something? I’ve never taken inspiration from anyone close to me. I tend to observe people in passing. I think it’s because when you meet someone for the first time, you’ll start to build an impression. But if you’ve known someone for a while, you’re not really observing them. There is no mystery. Nothing to surprise you.
Me: That’s a good way to look at it, and I love all of your talk of mystery. So, what does a typical “day in the life” look like?
Khaled: I spent about fourteen hours a day writing and rewriting my manuscript. That doesn’t leave me much time for a social life. But I do go out sometimes, otherwise you’ll go crazy being a recluse. I don’t have a choice. This is the life of a writer. You have to be ruthless with your time. I do jog every alternate day because sitting down all the time is not healthy.
I also spent a lot of time on social media promoting my books. I don’t consider it part of work as I enjoy spending time talking to fellow writers and readers. Anyway, the weather in Singapore is humid and the whole island is crowded. It’s a chore to go out. You have to get in line everywhere you go whether it’s the post office or a cafe. I actually avoid going to the post office on certain days because I know there’ll be a crazy queue. Who needs that? I’d rather sit down and do some writing.
I worked on two manuscripts since last year. Just today, I received an offer to publish my romantic thriller, Gun Kiss, by Imajin Books, a publishing house in Canada owned by bestselling author, Cheryl Tardif.
The story is about an A-list Hollywood movie star who gets kidnapped by an obsessed drug lord.
Me: That’s awesome!! 14 hours a day writing is insane, I don’t know how you have that motivation. You live in Singapore? That’s definitely a very different experience than in the United States. What’s one country in the world you would want to visit, if you could?
Khaled: Only one? So many places I haven’t visited, but the one place would be Greece. I’m a big fan of Greek food, and I honestly don’t care who created baklavas, whether it was the Greeks or Turks. I’m neutral to the debate. Baklavas are a popular dessert in the Middle East too.
I have to visit Mykonos and Santorini and some of the exotic islands. Everyone raves about these places, and I haven’t had the pleasure of visiting them. I have to. I must.
As I understand, there’s also a plan to rebuild the Colossus of Rhodes. I hope it’s ready by the time I visit, but I can’t wait. Might visit earlier.
Me: That’s really really cool. It sounds like you’re very into history as well?
Khaled: Yes, I’m a big fan of history. I was pretty excited to have visited Turkey. I booked a tour to Troy and spent a day there with two other tourists. There were broken Roman relics scattered all over the place, and we even saw remnants of the Trojan palace.
The place was breezy and cloudy, and there was something haunting about the whole experience. I thought how ironical that after so much hype on Troy from the movies, all that’s left of the place were a bunch of rocks and like more than thirty cats roaming the place.
You know, I used to live in Egypt where I worked as a writer for a magazine. I must’ve seen the pyramids like a gazillion times. After a while you get jaded seeing it. But now I missed it. I mean, you come to the place and stand before their grandness. For a moment, it might mean nothing to you because it’s right there in your time and space. But you have to realize these monuments were built thousands of years ago. They were created at a different time, by a people who no longer exist. Their history is so powerful that even holy scriptures talk about it.
I supposed if I could go back in time, I’d like to check out some countries and talk to some famous people. Like Bill and Ted. Maybe even bring them back!
Me: Jaded from seeing the pyramids!?!?! That’s such a unique life experience that I will probably never relate to. *sobs internally* You said there were tons of cats and that got me thinking– are you a cat person or a dog person?
Khaled: I’m a cat person, but I’m not anti dog. Do you know that I have saved the lives of several cats? For some strange reason I always find lost cats. They come rushing up to me, and I know immediately they are lost. In every case, I managed to find their owners. I have also arranged for cats to migrate to new forever homes, and I checked on them. Let’s just say they’re having a great, bum life, which is good.
Me: That’s so sweet, it’s amazing to have the opportunity to rescue an animal. Do you own any cats of your own?
Khaled: I used to, but not anymore. It’s a sad story. But there’s a cat in my thriller, and it’s based on one of my cats, a black and white. I used his real name in the novel.
Me: Awww that’s such an amazing tribute to your cat!!! Okay, last question: what advice would you want to give other aspiring writers?
Khaled: Don’t give up. Don’t be stubborn. Listen to your editors. It’s always good to be cool and keep an open mind. Expect to slog. And after all that, you’re going to get rejected, and it’s going to make you feel low and worthless. There will be people who will doubt your abilities. You have to trust your inner voice. Are you a writer or not? You know who you really are.
Me: That’s great advice!! Thank you so much for doing the interview, I loved talking with you 🙂
Khaled: Thank you, Joce. Drop by anytime.
Pope Gregoire XVII was last seen waving to the crowd at Saint Peter’s square from the famous Apostolic Palace window. Despite several layers of tight security, neither the Gendarmerie nor The Entity (the Vatican’s secret service) or the Swiss Guards claim to know anything about his sudden mysterious disappearance.
As the world mourns for the pope, a frantic search begins in Italy and beyond its borders amid speculation that the Holy See may know more than they are telling.
Ayden Tanner, a former British SAS commando officer — who is officially dead — is dispatched with two other crew members to find the Supreme Pontiff by The League of Invisible Knights, a covert division of Anonymous that aims to bring about the triumph of good over evil.
A secret arrangement is made for Ayden to meet Rafael Rabolini, the Papacy’s press secretary, in Geneva, who might be able to tell him more. But trouble unexpectedly starts from the moment Ayden arrives in the city that winter day…
The story unfolds to reveal an insidious plot by Willem Van Der Haas, a ruthless Dutch senator who has aligned himself with a world power bent on its own global ambitions.
In a gasping chase that races from the snowy mountains of Switzerland to the secret passages under Saint Peter’s Basilica to the hilly terrains of Istanbul to the harsh desert air of Egypt, Ayden and his crew are forced to match wits with lethal assassins as they struggle on a desperate quest to prevent a terrifying tomorrow.
A tumult of intrigue, action, suspense from the author of Smokescreen.
Khaled Talib is a former magazine journalist and public relations practitioner. His articles have been published and syndicated to newspapers worldwide, and his short stories have appeared in literary journals and magazines. He is also the author of the thriller Smokescreen, and Incognito. Khaled is a member of the International Thriller Writers and Crime Writers Association.
Author’s Official Website: www.khaledltalibthriller.com
I hope you all enjoyed the interview!! I love supporting authors, and it’s especially special that I get to post this on his publishing day. Please support and check Khaled out on Twitter, his website, or just plain buy the book.
Where would you want to travel in the world? Are you a cat person or a dog person? Did you enjoy the interview? Have you read Smokescreen? Would you read Incognito? Are you bored of all of these questions? Let’s Talk!