Dublin: Inspired by Oman’s natural beauty and the friendliness of the people, Irish author Denyse Woods decided to make the Sultanate the setting of her latest book.
Titled “Of Sea and Sand”, the book deals with Gabriel Sherlock, an Irishman, who fleeing his family and friends in a cloud of shame, lands in Oman in 1989, and finds a second home in Muscat, where he falls in love with a mysterious woman nobody else seems to have heard of.
“By setting stories in the Middle East, I try, in my own very small way, to allow readers to look beyond news headlines and see the wealth of the people and places right across the Arab world,” said Woods, in an exclusive interview with Times of Oman. “This is a standalone novel in four parts, three of which are set in Oman—the first part in 1982, and the last two in 2008.”
“The first part is largely set in Muscat, but also features the Bimmah Sinkhole, Yiti Beach and the Ghubrah Bowl, amongst other places,” she added.
“In the later sections, the narrative follows a fairly common tourist route – Bibi Mariam, Sur, the Wahiba Sands, Nizwa etc. And lots of swimming, of course, in glorious wadis! As I write this at the end of an Irish winter, I’d very much like to be in one of those warm, gushing wadis right now. One day, I hope to return to Oman to visit Musandam.”
It was Woods’ mother who inspired her to become an author, and she wrote her first book at the age of just 10.
“Oman matched all my high expectations—stunning landscapes, from sea to sand, and wonderful people. In the end, it is always the people who make a country, and I hugely enjoyed the company of my Omani friends and contacts, all of whom were so generous with their time and expertise,” she explained.
“On all my research trips in Oman, Yemen, Egypt and Morocco, I have had the support and help of many people, who have made my journeys not only possible, but successful. I am indebted to all of them, as I am to the many Omanis who helped me bring this novel to the page.”
“Writing a book is a long, hard slog, and you never know when you start out whether the novel will ever be good enough to reach a reader. Keeping faith in your own work can be challenging,” added Woods. “There are, though, so many pluses. I particularly enjoy the collaborative side of writing, after the long solitary hours.”
Having chosen to follow her passion as a writer for many years, Woods has plenty of advice to give to those who wish to take up writing in the future.
“Above all, writers – and especially novelists – need to have lots of patience,” she advised. “It takes a long, long time to write a novel, which one must go over again, and again, and again, before it is ready to be sent off, and it can take a long time also to find its home with a publisher. Nothing happens fast in this business, but with patience and conviction, aspiring writers, if they care about their language and their stories, will get there.”
“You need patience and perseverance,” said Woods. “And I appreciate every day the privilege of being able to do what I love most; so, gratitude is another very important part of what a writer must have.”