* * * The Merchant's Pearl Saga Book 1 * * *
The opinionated, only daughter of a missionary, is enslaved and gifted to an Ottoman prince who has an inner vow to win her affection. Sarai was led to believe that the whole world could exchange their beliefs for hers. But when her parents are murdered, she quickly learns that the world never stops for just one person
It’s probably common sense as a writer to write what you know. I mean, it makes for a better explanation when you tell others you’re writing a fat novel about it. I tried that once, maybe a decade ago. I told no one, of course, but got about 3 chapters in and immediately became aware that my high school years weren’t very riveting. My writing wasn’t very riveting either, more like…literary stumbling. I promptly hid my work in a basement storage bin. (I’ll be pretty embarrassed if we ever clean that dungeon and my husband finds it.)
But still, there has always been this need (perhaps stirring is a better word) where I walk out of a perfect movie like Becoming Jane, Pride & Prejudice, or even The Hunger Games and I am literally burning with envy. I want another heroine to believe in, to keep me glued to my seat or turning pages at a stoplight. Sure, it’s great if she’s beautiful, but what I really want is someone who struggles with the same confusion, same angst and identity issues, same pinned up aggression for society telling them things around them are acceptable—or not acceptable—that their heart tells them good and plenty otherwise.
I love, love, love Jane Eyre. It just doesn’t get better. But the truth is, the story stopped there. I can’t get any more of that beautiful, taunting, sweet, Victorian, bitter pill. But as I was standing in the shower one morning it occurred to me, there are things—deep things—that still utterly confuse me. They have my entire life. They’ve been in my childhood, carved their way into my marriage, sent me to my knees at times, wondering if I must change myself and my mind in order to make it, to be sensible. And why…why is it so impossible for me—not everyone else apparently—but for ME to do that?
So that morning I wasted a whole lot of hot water thinking about it. Thinking about why love must seemingly always share a road with lust. Why a daddy’s little girl can open Christmas presents in his lap, see the tears of joy at her mother unwrapping a too-costly diamond ring, yet hours later see him slip into a quiet corner of a closet, showing off his prized pile of Hustler magazines to her favorite uncle. Why the church can’t seem to protect men’s minds from choosing to stay a little behind at the office to see things they know they shouldn’t see. Why the news is filled with shocking reports of men and women, once very good men and women, caught taking girls and boys barely at their puberty, as if the experience is some kind of pinnacle of sexual experiences.
I cannot fathom the countless women and children trapped behind closed doors forced to be bend to others’ wills, again and again and again. It’s heartbreaking. It is, without a doubt, my worst nightmare.
If you knew me, really knew me, you would know that I am actually quite fond of sex. I am not fearful nor disenchanted by it by any means. I am not a prude. I wish I could say that I waited until marriage and saved myself for my husband, but in all actuality, I gave myself away to a couple of guys in high school. Then I torturously survived eighteen months of dating my husband in college, holding out by a single thread until marriage. (By the way, they were the BEST months EVER.)
But there is an ample amount of jealousy and insecurity that runs through my blood. Enough that little things like a man comically pointing out Hooter’s as a date night dining option can instantly put a fat chip on my shoulder. Seeing a sitcom portray that perfect, loving girlfriend who rents porn for her man is a surefire way to set my thumb to channel surfing. But the hardest part is when my stomach sinks when I’m sitting in church and yet another pastor teaches the story of Esther. Seriously, did they teach them in seminary to portray her like a Disney princess story?
Esther was not a pageant queen. She was a slave, taken from her home, trained as a royal concubine for King Xerxes. She was a teenager as she learned all of her lessons within the palace and painfully took her turn with Xerxes, then waited for him to sleep with a different girl every night for almost three years before he finally chose her as the best of them. Then he made her queen and the Bible says he continued to take on more concubines. We know this because she went as much as six months at a time without seeing him for her turn again.
Esther, aside from Jesus’s mother, Mary, is probably one of the most famous females of the Bible. She was eventually able to save tens, if not hundreds of thousands of her people because she had won Xerxes favor. It’s where the phrase “born for such a time as this” appears in the Bible. Ultimately, Esther was born to be a king’s sex slave. So…it’s pretty darn safe to say that this confuses and vexes me too. (Sorry God.)
Long story short, this is why I wrote The Merchant’s Pearl. It’s why the story flowed out of me like an unstoppable fountain. I drew not from what I knew, but what I could not understand. I can’t understand my world, and I definitely couldn’t understand Esther’s.
I made it my character’s conflict. I knew the exact injustices and insecurities I would wrap around Leila, and I placed her in a time and place in history where it was impossible for her to run or even so much as veer from it. Then…I made her experience the confusion of love in the midst of it.
That last part was cruel, I know, and completely unplanned. It sort of happened like a whisper in my ear. I was driving, not showering, but I instantly knew it made for quite a story.
I can’t say that I finished this story and felt completely whole again and all of my fears have fallen away. But somehow, writing it, even researching it, has healed me. I found a purpose to my feelings. Having Leila confront the things, head on, that I wrestle with, has helped me find not only security in myself, but also compassion for others.
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About the Author
This is the first novel from Amie O’Brien, but she would tell you her characters are constantly nagging her for their future instalments. Madly in love with her husband and children, she hopes to spend more time petting horses, reading books, and pursuing her addiction with world travel. Find ut more at www.themerchantspearl.com and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter @merchantspearl.