Dubai author Karen Osman explores triggers in her latest thriller The Perfect Lie
The Perfect Lie is about an ordinary woman who goes on to do extraordinary things
HOW MANY TIMES have you or your friends uttered the phrase, 'I should write a book'? And how many have actually sat down and put pen to paper? We're willing to bet the total is equivalent to the number of phone calls you pick up on a Friday morning: practically none.
Dubai's Karen Osman has not only taken up the mantle, she has surpassed many authors by releasing her third novel in three years, The Perfect Lie, after the success of debut The Good Mother, which won the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature Award in 2016, and follow-up The Home.
We caught up with the writer, who is also a communications agency managing director and mother of two, to find out what The Perfect Lie has to offer literary thrill-chasers.
From where did you get the inspiration for the book and how long did it take from inception to finished novel?
When I was brainstorming ideas for The Perfect Lie, I was intrigued by the triggers that prompted ordinary people to do something extreme. What circumstances lead a relatively happy, normal human being to commit murder? To kill? To seek revenge? To lie? The main character in The Perfect Lie is solicitor Claire Carmichael. The most important thing to Claire is her good reputation. Even when she was in school, Claire had it all. She was clever, likeable, and after passing the initiation tests, she was welcomed into the society of popular girls - The Queen Bees. So when a scandal threatened to ruin Claire's reputation, the Queen Bees closed rank to protect her, no matter who else got hurt. Claire may have moved on from her school days, but for one person who she hurt irreparably, those memories are as fresh as blood and all it takes to reap their revenge, is a lie.
How did you find the writing process and what tips do you have for any budding novelists in the UAE?
I would say I've learnt a lot from the writing my first two books. That extra experience really helped and probably made the writing of The Perfect Lie the easiest out of the three. Saying that, there were still challenges. Working to a deadline can be a blessing and a curse and there's always a slight pressure which can take the edge off creativity if you let it. In terms of tips, I would say write every day and focus on developing your authorial voice and style. Reading widely across a variety of genres is also incredibly beneficial for writers, both new and experienced, as it really allows you to look at different styles and structures and develop a wide range of vocabulary.
Aside from winning the prize for literature, how have you found living and working in Dubai has helped your literary career?
The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, which runs the Montegrappa Writing Prize, has been an incredible platform from which to launch my career, and it's through this that I met my agent. I would say that Dubai has been very influential. It's a progressive, ambitious city which is always changing and growing so it's been a fantastic base from which to work. In addition, there's a huge focus on the written word led by the rulers of Dubai, so it's great to be a part of that.
Do you ever write with the thought your story may be picked up to be adapted for TV or film?
Wouldn't that be wonderful?! I think that psychological thrillers do lend themselves to TV/film adaptions very well. However, when I write, I write very much for the reader and not the viewer. If the opportunity ever came up to be involved in the adaptation I would love to work on it.
What note or message regarding your books have you received, which has most resonated?
There was one particular review where the reviewer said she was so engrossed in the book she'd missed her train. That really was such a compliment! My aim when writing is to draw the reader in and captivate them with the story so that become immersed in a different world. If I do that, then I'm very happy.
How does it feel when you see your books on shelves across the world?
There's absolutely nothing like it - it simply is the best feeling in the world.
How have your family and friends reacted to your books' successes?
They have been very supportive, and I really couldn't have written three books in three years without them. Whether it's brainstorming plot ideas or baby-sitting my sons while I get an hour's work done, they are very much part of the success so they're thrilled for me, and very proud.
Is it too early to ask what you're working on next?
I'm working on my fourth novel at the moment which I hope to publish next year. It's another psychological thriller and while I can't share too much at the moment, I'm quite excited about it! In addition, this year I also launched my own online show all about books in partnership with Borders Middle East called Karen's Bookshelf. It's a weekly show which I host and I share my book recommendations, the latest book news, book giveaways, author interviews and also a monthly book club pick.