Mollie Mathews s a prolific novelist who has written over 60 books, in a variety of genres and is a staple of the bestseller lists. In the interview below, she discusses everything from motherhood, to where she finds her ideas, and what sparked her decision to include a giraffe in the opening scene of her upcoming release, Claimed by The Sheikh.
You mentioned that some ideas begin as a “spark” and then become “magical.” From where do you draw inspiration? Does it start with a character or a conflict?
My ideas start with a character or an event, either a theme that intrigues me or sometimes a news event that captures me. Claimed by The Sheikh, was inspired by the tragedy that took the lives of former New Zealand All Black Legend Jerry Collins and his Canadian partner Alana Madill in France. The crash happened at 3:10am along the highway near Béziers on the way to the city of Montpellier. They died instantly, and their baby daughter was taken to Montpellier hospital in a critical condition.
I cried such tears thinking of that baby being left an orphan. It really worried me that she would be left in the world with no parents to love and care for her. So I wondered—what if her parents weren’t really dead. What if the two people that died were the baby’s adoptive parents, and what if her biological parents were very much alive.
And then, as writers are want to do, I thought what if the biological father was an extraordinarily wealthy sheikh who was unaware that he had fathered a child.
Why a Sheikh?
In a previous incarnation as a transformational leadership coach, I was on assignment in one of the most dangerous prisons in New Zealand.
I very much admired the men and women who worked in these very oppressive environments to keep our world safe. I especially admired those that were committed to helping prisoners change their lives. One of the female prison oﬃcers at Rimutaka Prison, in New Zealand, knew that I was a romance novelist and asked me if I would write a book with a sheikh as the hero.
I was fascinated by your rigorous writing schedule that you detailed in your non-fiction book, (written as Cassandra Gaisford), which has obviously paid off in spades. If you could give any advice to young writers about starting and maintaining a consistent writing practice, what would it be?
Set an intention to write every day—and do it!! I haven’t taken a day off from writing for years because I love it so much—it feels like a vacation because it is my vocation. Even when it feels hard or difficult, I show up anyway. I don’t want to miss a day of my ‘holiday’!!). And work as hard as you can—and then strive to work harder. Discipline is critical—it’s easy to talk yourself out of writing. There’s always someone or something ready to distract you. Persevere. Don’t just wait for inspiration to strike you, or money to flow magically into your bank account. Show up, sit down and write no matter what, even if nothing comes at first, or if it comes slowly. There is NO substitute for getting stuck in and doing the work needed (in anything, not just writing).
Your newest novel, Claimed by The Sheikh, introduces the reader to Melanie, a pioneering architect who battles to stay true to her vision in a male-dominated profession. Without giving too much away, she begins the story believing she can’t have it all—motherhood, a relationship, and a successful career. Was this how you experienced your early working life and how your children have experienced theirs. Was the inspiration for this book drawn from your own observations as a mother?
My observations in Claimed by The Sheikh come from my experience as a single working mother, and from what I’ve seen around me among other professional women.
This book and Melanie’s story, in particular, was inspired by the sassy brilliance of Dame Zaha Hadid. (DBE RA) She was an Iraqi-British architect and the first woman to receive the Pritzker Architecture Prize, in 2004.
Tragically her life, her love, and her brilliance were cut short when she was in the prime of career, aged 65.
Her beautiful, innovative, pioneering architecture always inspired me, as it has countless other people. Hers was not an easy journey. She once said, “If architecture doesn’t kill you you’re no good.”
She was beyond good—and architecture did kill her. She never married and she never had children. And she was always battling the architectural paternity for validation and acceptance. Despite her career success, her life struck me as very lonely and sad.
We want the best for our kids, and we can inspired this by also wanting the best for our lives. As mothers, we model and teach our values. It’s a challenge to ‘have it all’ but with focus and determination and the ability not to take on too much I do believe we can achieve the greatest love of all—love of self, our children, our partners, and our careers. Of course, it takes the right man. I once read, ‘marry the man who wants you to be a writer.’ I give thanks every day, that after many bad relationships, I have found my soul mate.
It takes strength and courage and a willingness to let go, to find the right path (and person) in life.
I loved how Melanie has such an amazing career and how she is so different from other architects. If you hadn’t become a writer, is this something you wanted to do when you grew up?
Claimed by the Sheikh touches on a number of subjects I love and care about with the twists and turns in the plot. I always love celebrating the strength of the human spirit, and what people do when faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges in their lives, and how unexpected events can turn disaster or tragedy into something good.
I love the fact that Melanie follows an unusual path as a pioneering architect. I love how hard she works at it. I always enjoy exploring how each of us uses and expresses our particular talents. And I felt a bond with her because I too studied architecture—but I didn’t have the courage and determination that Melanie had to finish.
Watching Melanie struggle with discrimination, knock-backs, and success, and the price you pay for them, was familiar to me too. Each person lives success diﬀerently and her adventures along the way help her become the person she is destined to be. Whatever your path in life, you have a gift. Something nobody else can do as beautifully and skillfully as you.
How you express it, how you live it, and how you share it with others is unique to you. You have your own special way of dealing with life and the talents you’ve been given, whether you hide those gifts or share them openly.
I hope people enjoy reading about this talented young architect and following her story as it unfolds. Victory and success come in many forms and guises, her path is an exciting, fascinating, and rewarding one, and I’m sure readers will love journeying with her, and her gorgeous Sheikh too!
The reader quickly learns that Melanie has been keeping secrets. Your novels often overlap genres, between mystery, magical realism, and transformational journeys. What do you love most about writing in each genre?
I write about what it truly is to be human, which is what fascinates me most, the people and events that create suffering and those that bring us great joy, the challenges we face that are beyond our control (like a lover leaving, betrayal, and even death). I love what hard situations bring out in people, how we grow from them, however devastating and painful. I love writing about people and relationships that bind us, what brings us closer to each other and the conflicts that tear our hearts apart. The rest is all a backdrop for those relationships, a stage on which life plays out. Inspiration is everywhere!
What sparked your decision to include a giraffe in the opening scene?
I love, love, love giraffes. I have a giant toy giraffe beside my writing desk. Gerard is my muse! I was horrified to read about the abuse these beautiful creatures suffer at the hands of trophy hunters, and I wanted to do something about it. So I created Tariq, a virle, alpha male with the extraordinary power, and wealth, and huge heart needed to dedicate himself to saving endangered giraffes from extinction.
Last question: please describe Claimed by The Sheikh in three words.
fiery, passionate and sensual
And 3 more words: A Great Read. And 3 more words: Please read it!!
Claimed by The Sheikh is available for pre-order now!