THE NEXT BIG THING WRITERS’ BLOG CHAIN The Next Big Thing is a blog series, winding its way through the internet. I’m delighted to participate by answering a few questions about my book. Big Thanks to Pam Belluck for inviting me to join in. You can find out more about Pam’s terrific new book, Island Practice, at and at

 The Ten Interview Questions for The Next Big Thing:

1. What is the title of your book (or story)? WANTED WOMEN

 2. Where did the idea come from for the book?   I had written quite a bit about women and the rise of Islamism as a newspaper reporter in the 1980s and 1990s. When the 9/11 attacks took place, I decided I wanted to write a book about how jihadism was affecting women.  I happened to be on my way to Pakistan to write an article about Aafia Siddiqui, then the only woman wanted for her involvement with al-Qaeda, when Theo van Gogh was murdered in Amsterdam in November, catapulting his friend  and film collaborator Ayaan Hirsi Ali to worldwide fame.  As I read about Hirsi Ali’s criticism of Islam, it occurred to me that she was the polar opposite of Aafia Siddiqui.  The more I learned about the parallels between the two of them, the more intrigued I became with the idea of writing a book that would tell both of their stories, and, through them, tell the story of the West’s war on terror and how it related to women.

 3. What genre does your book fall under?

WANTED WOMEN is narrative nonfiction.

 4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? 

  I can imagine Halle Berry playing Ayaan Hirsi Ali, but I’m a bit stumped for who to play Aafia Siddiqui. It would have to be a South Asian actress of tremendous intelligence and charisma, who was also capable of playing someone on the edge of insanity.

 5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? 

My book tells the stories of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali-Dutch woman who rose to fame by her criticism of Islam, and Aafia Siddiqui, an American-educated Pakistani woman who became famous for her association with al-Qaeda, and, through them, the story of the way the war on terror  was partly fought over the issue of freedom for women.

 6. Is your book self-published or represented by an agency? WANTED WOMEN is published by HarperCollins in the U.S. and Nieuw Amsterdam in the Netherlands. It is represented by Toby Eady at Toby Eady Associates and Jennifer Joel at ICM.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? The reporting and writing of WANTED WOMEN took about six years, as I waited for the case against Aafia Siddiqui for firing at U.S. personnel in Afghanistan to wind its way through the court system.  The first draft probably took a year to write. 

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?   What I hoped to achieve as I was writing the book was something like Lawrence Wright’s THE LOOMING TOWER,  but telling the story of women in the war on terror.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book? A woman I met in Afghanistan in 1992 was my inspiration for this book. She was about my age – then in her 30′s. While I was single at the time and travelling the world for my newspaper, she was already a grandmother and had spent almost all of her life confined to a small compound in the fundamentalist stronghold of Asadabad. The Islamist fighters who introduced me to her said that they were fighting partly to keep women like her under their control.  They were also extremely anti-Western. After the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center took place in 2011, I made up my mind to try to explore what the role of women had to do with the battle between Islamism and the West.  

10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?  I think you can read WANTED WOMEN  just for the story of these two fascinating, strong women who were both profoundly influenced by Islamism,but ended up on opposite sides of the war on terror.

 Here is the writer I am pleased to tag for next week’s The Next Big Thing:



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