- by Haneen Nofal
in Latest News
AMMAN — When Natasha Twal-Tynes, a former reporter for The Jordan Times, left the country 13 years ago to live in the United States, she never put aside her “dream” of writing a novel.
In June of next year, Twal-Tynes’s first novel, “They Called Me Wyatt”, will be launched in the US and elsewhere, marking her new venture in the publishing world.
“My novel is based on my life in the United States and Jordan, and is about being a woman in the Middle East,” Twal-Tynes told The Jordan Times in a recent interview.
She added: “It mixes the supernatural with the natural and all the characters are fictional.”
Twal-Tynes, who worked for The Jordan Times for one year, said the inspiration behind the book came to her from a dream she had when she was 38 years old.
“I dreamt that I was killed and was reborn as a three-year-old boy, so I wrote a short story about my dream in 2015. I am part of a group of writers and I presented it to them as a short story and they encouraged me to turn it into a novel,” Twal-Tynes said.
The main character in Twal-Tynes’ book is a woman named Siwar Salaiha, who is a Jordanian student that was murdered on her birthday in College Park, Maryland. Her consciousness survived, finding refuge in the body of a Seattle baby boy.
Stuck in this three-year-old body with a speech impediment, Siwar tries but fails to communicate with Wyatt’s parents, and instead focuses on solving the mystery behind her murder.
Eventually, her consciousness goes into a dormant state after Wyatt undergoes a major medical procedure.
Fast-forward 22 years, Wyatt is a young man with an affinity for the Middle East and a fear of heights.
While working on his graduate degree in Middle Eastern studies, Wyatt learns about Siwar’s death and grows obsessed with trying to solve her murder, which the police ruled a suicide.
His investigation leads him back to Amman, Jordan where after talking to her friends and family members and through his special connection with the deceased; he discovers a clue that unravels the mystery of her death.
“I see my book as tackling many issues, including being an Arab American as well as tackling critical and controversial issues in the US, such as the treatment of Arab Americans, issues of immigration and materialism,” she said.
It took Twal-Tynes, who has a full-time job, three children and a supporting husband who also used to work at The Jordan Times, almost four years to write the novel.
“My husband Jeff is very supportive and gave me an important gift — the gift of time, by taking care of the kids and housework. I also shared some chapters with him to get his feedback,” Twal-Tynes said.
The author’s passion stemmed from when her father, Jalil Twal, used to bring her books to read on the weekends.
“Every weekend, I would wait for my father to bring me books in English and Arabic from a flea market in Zarqa to read. My father basically created my love of reading,” she said.
Her mother, Nuhad Matalka, also encouraged her to read, and boasted to people that when Natasha travelled she would have a “bag filled with books instead of make-up and clothes”.
“Writing this novel was a challenge, but it really taught me to be disciplined and to dedicate time to work on it, especially before my kids woke up,” Twal-Tynes said.
She added that “if anyone wants to write a book they might as well start as soon as possible because I knew there was always a story in me to tell... it was always this nagging feeling”.
“I decided that I needed to stop dreaming and to start writing, because it is not about waiting for the right moment or the inspiration or the news,” Twal-Tynes said.