We are pleased to introduce the newest author to ForbiddenFiction, C.L. Mustafic! She is making her debut with uswith her newest novel Backdoor Politics, released November 7th. She has graciously agreed to answer some our questions regarding the book, we hope you enjoy!
What part of the story for Backdoor Politics came to you first? Did you know how complicated it would be going into it?
I’m not exactly sure what sparked the idea. I knew I wanted to write something about the dark side of politics, but then I didn’t want to write about politicians so it put me in a tough spot. I tried to look at it from a different angle and that’s when the idea of someone related, possibly a child, to a high ranking politician being taken and held to make the politician do something he was opposed to doing. But then, what if the child was older and the relationship between father and son was strained? It would be questionable if the father would do what was needed to get the son back. And that’s the trail that lead me to Backdoor Politics.
Thankfully, Kamal stepped up and I found my protagonist in him. When he started talking to me, I thought I was going to end up writing his back story and, oh boy, did he have a story to tell but it was dark and ended badly for him. I knew that wasn’t the story I wanted to tell. Maybe one day I’ll be strong enough to write it, but not yet. Out of his backstory emerged a central figure – Orhan. Orhan is probably a much more complex character than Kamal, but since he was more in the background, and we only see him colored through the lense of Kamal, and somewhat, Zijad, he comes off one dimensional. But he really is the perfect foil to Kamal. Even though Zijad is the other main character, he really just got caught in the middle of the two older men’s feud.
As far as knowing that it would get complicated, ha! No, no I did not just how twisty this story was going to get. I’m not a planner. I don’t outline my stories and generally I only have a vague idea of how it’s supposed to end when I start writing. It’s both a blessing and a curse because it gives me plenty of leeway when telling the story but it also leaves so many paths open. This story surprised me a few times. The big “ah ha” moments weren’t planned, they just happened. As a writer there’s no bigger high than when a story comes together organically like that. When the pieces drop into place and I see the whole picture, it’s the greatest feeling ever.
Why did you decide to set the story in Bosnia and what is your relationship to the country?
There really was no question on where to set this story. I’m married to a Bosnian man and we moved here about seven years ago, so Bosnia is home for me. Bosnia is still behind in some areas which makes certain things easier. The things Kamal does, or has access to, would be much harder to explain in a more advanced country. They’d still be possible but I would have had to really get technical about how he did it and I’m not that interested in digging for details of how a hitman would operate in such a strict environment. Bosnia provided me with a unique opportunity in that it has all the comforts of a first world country set in a place that’s still stuck in the past.
What kind of preparation did you have to do to write Kamal?
Kamal came to me pretty well formed. He had a personality and a backstory that shaped him. The flashback scenes which were probably the one thing I wanted to get as accurate as I could were actually easy to write. I live with people who experienced the war in that area. All of Kamal’s experiences are an amalgamation of the stories I’ve heard told over the years. I didn’t want to use any one specific event because the stories are personal so instead choose to weave them together into something that could have taken place given the backdrop of the war.
The most extensive research I did was into torture and the effects it has on the person receiving it. While Julien had a plan and knew what he was doing, Kamal didn’t specialize in psychological torture and had no idea what sort of damage he was doing to Zijad. I’ve come to the conclusion that torture is best left to those who know what they’re doing.
Was there anything in particular you were afraid you’d get wrong?
Oh just pretty much everything. It’s one thing to research something and another to make it work in a story. Probably the hardest thing was keeping Kamal from becoming so horrible that he’d be someone readers couldn’t connect with on any level. He was a difficult character to write because I couldn’t really access his emotions and his motivations were muddy because of that. I tried to walk a fine line between total psychopath and deeply disturbed, though I think Kamal sometimes comes down on the wrong side of that line.
There are some very graphic scenes in this novel, did you know how far you’d take it ahead of time?
I did. I set out with the intent to show all the ugliness even though I didn’t know just how bad it would get. Usually in the stories I write, I hide the dark parts but with this one I gave myself free reign to get everything out into the light. The things Kamal did to Zijad, not only sexually, needed to be shown so the reader could get a real sense of just how dehumanized Zijad had become during his time with Kamal. When you’re not allowed to have control over even your basic bodily functions, it changes the person you are. I did feel like there were times I might have crossed the line but in the end, I think I stayed true to what I set out to do.
Were you concerned how readers might respond to the epilogue?
I was, but after getting feedback from beta readers without it, I felt like I needed to make sure it was clear that Zijad was okay. After writing the epilogue, I realize that it doesn’t exactly leave the reader with a sense of peace over how it turned out because most people would view Zijad’s life as something undesirable for themselves. But I think Zijad is happy, or at least as happy as he can be. I do worry that at some point when Zijad grows out of his boyishness, or ages out of that time when Kamal remembers the Orhan he loved, Kamal might kill him. Sounds like a plot bunny! Yikes.
What compels you to and attracts you towards darker fiction?
What I like about dark fiction is that it lets me do things that conventional fiction or romance doesn’t. I like not having the constraint of a happy ending, because not all stories end that way. It also lets me dig into some of the darker parts of humanity which is as interesting as it is scary.
Will there be more stories from you at ForbiddenFiction? If so, when please tell us a little about your plans.
I’m currently working on a series of novellas that I’m calling the Bully Series. The Bully Nextdoor, is the first book where we meet Cam, who’s just graduated from high school, and is spending his summer before college with his family after coming home from boarding school abroad. He has to contend with Brent, the bully next door, who’s the cousin of his neighbor. Brent’s house sitting while the family is away but he spends most of his time harassing Cam for sexual favors even though he’s told Cam he’s straight. So far I have plans for four or five books that will span a number of years as Cam and Brent go through college, find a jobs, and finally (maybe) find each other.
There may also be a very strange Christmas short story in the works.
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