Today I welcome Hicham el Harrak to my blog. His first book, The Land Of Cannabis, was published last year. You can purchase The Land of Cannabis on Amazon.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
Hicham el Harrak is a Moroccan writer. He was born In Tangier and was graduated in English Literature In 1993. Now, he is living with his wife and two sons in Barcelona. He discovered his passion for reading and writing when he was very young. Since then his thirst for literature was never quenched. He published his first novel The Land Of Cannabis in 2015.
Where were you born and where do you call home?
I was born in Tangier, Morocco.
What or who inspired you to start writing?
I am fan of the word since I started to read fairy tales as a child. I discovered my passion of writing when I wrote my first short story 30 years ago. This short story was never published, but it was the start.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I considered myself a writer when I started writing full novels ten years ago. I moved to live in Spain in 2001 ans since then I started to think seriously in embarking on a new career as a writer. I wrote The Muslim Lover which is not yet published.
How much of yourself, your personality or your experiences, is in your books?
The Land Of Cannabis is a work fiction, However, it talks about real places and to some extent real events. It talks about history also. In the war of the Rif, I narrated real events which happened. My origins are from Sumatha in the Rif Mountains. I used to go there on vacation during summer.
Have you started your next project? If so, can you share a little bit about your next book?
Now I am writing a new work of fiction named the manuscript. It’s a religious mystery which talks about an Imam who wrote a manuscript about a controversial subject which will provoke the wrath of The Sunnis against the Shiites.
What is the best and worst writing advice you ever received?
The best advice I have received regarding writing was that I must go on writing and never give up, and the worst one was that my chances to get success in US as a writer are very low.
What is the best thing about being a writer? The worst?
The best thing about being a writer is that you can live in different worlds continuously and be a friend of your characters. Your imagination is free and vast to the point that you can see what others can’t see.
How do you conceive your plot ideas?
I conceive my plot ideas by contemplating the lives of others, by making a comparison between people and see the differences between them. A plot can emerge suddenly, rough and incomplete, and by deep thinking and modification it is converted into a full one.
Do you outline your books or just start writing?
I need to outline it so as I cannot go away from the line, however; sometime the plot strings spin off my hand I end writing totally something in which I have never thought at the beginning.
Please tell us about your current release.
Set in the northwest of Morocco, a setting familiar to the American reader in the works of Paul Bowles, THE LAND OF CANNABIS not only reveals the secrets of the illegal trade, but also the historical and religious background of the area. It takes advantage of such a delicate theme, to depict a sensational portrait of the emotional and social changes that occur in the Jebala region.
Mohammed, a university graduate, is a victim of nepotism who will be obliged to go to Sumatha, his father’s homeland, to grow cannabis in order to earn a living. In this very strange context, the protagonist will suddenly find himself in direct confrontation with Ben Aisha, the most powerful cannabis tycoon in the area. The experience will drive
him through a new world where hatred and greed are dominant. Mohammed will face a series of problems and difficulties which will make him grow conscious of the graveness of his acts. When his life and the life of his family are in danger, he decides to actuate rapidly so as to free his father from his abductors.
Complete at 75.000 words, THE LAND OF CANNABIS is the first novel which is told from inside the Jebala Society, by a narrator who belongs to this society and who knows the reality and the secrets of this culture. Each summer, I used to spend my vacations in my grandfather’s home, in Sumatha, where cannabis was the bread of the mountaineers. This novel will appeal mainly to occidental readers who will be able to discover the secrets of a land unknown to them, its history and customs directly from a native narrator.
What inspired you to write this book?
This book was inspired by what I lived and saw. As I said before, I belong to this country, because it the land of my fathers. I considered that not only Cannabis but also the culture, the people and the history are important things, and that they are worth to be known by other people in other parts of the world.
How did you come up with the title?
The title at first was Cannabis, Then I changed it to The Land of Cannabis, because the first title was a little misleading because the reader may think that it’s a book about how to sow cannabis and so on, and with the title The Land Of Cannabis I established a link between the land and the plant and the man. It’s about a country, its people, history and present.
Can you tell us a little about the black moment in your book?
The black moment of my book is when the protagonist will be informed that his father has been abducted.
What was the most difficult thing/scene to write in this story?
The most difficult thing to write in The Land Of Cannabis was the end, because I didn’t know how top end the book, until I got with it. It was really hard.
Did the story turn out the way you planned from the beginning? If not, what change happened that you didn’t expect?
It didn’t end as I planned, because the father protagonist was to die, but I decided that he shouldn’t die to give the book a happy ending and make the protagonist think about his acts and quit the illegal business.
What book are you reading right now?
Right now I am reading Whiteout by Ken Follett.
If you could meet two authors, who would you pick and why?
I would like to meet Orhan Pamuk and Ken Follett because for me they are very brilliant writers. The first one because he is a winner of the Noble Prize and also because I like his prose. About Ken Follett I want to ask him how he could reach a wide audience all over the world. I like his style because it’s clear and simple.
When he finished his studies, and graduated in Spanish Literature, Mohammed dreamt of a job and a promising future. Unfortunately, his dreams were broken quickly, as he was unable to find a job, because nepotism was rife everywhere. His decision to go to Sumatha, his father’s homeland, to grow cannabis, was strongly opposed by his mother; notwithstanding, he insisted on taking this risky step because the future was unknown, and little can be done to secure one. In his dull and routinely life of a cultivator of cannabis, he will come across a distinguished dealer of cannabis who will introduce him into a new world, and opened to him the doors of the illegal trade. But, will he succeed in the first test? Will he live in peace as he did before converting into a real cannabis tycoon? A conflict with Ben Aisha, his rival in the area, was bitter and violent. Will he be able to confront Ben Aisha?
You can purchase The Land of Cannabis on Amazon.