For today’s Sunday Dinner, I invited Anne Perreault to talk about If I Dream.
Anne Perreault was born and raised in Germany. By the time she was 14 years old, her family moved to Dubai, UAE. While living in this exotic place, she traveled extensively to various countries around the world. After graduating from an American boarding school in Austria, she attended college in England, where she met her husband. She received her degree in biology and psychology from New England College, and settled down in Connecticut.
Anne became a horseback riding instructor as well as a certified therapeutic riding instructor. She and a group of friends started a therapeutic riding center in Bristol, CT. During that time, Anne also received a Master’s in secondary education and began to homeschool her three children. While raising their three children, she began to write an inspirational story primarily for her daughter. 12 years later, God commissioned her to write down her skating stories. That started a writing ministry she has enjoyed ever since.
Anne, her husband, and two of their grown children now reside in Southern Vermont, where they are building their home. Besides writing, Anne enjoys reading, spending time with her husband, grown children, and granddogger. Her oldest son and his wife recently welcomed their first child, making Anne and her husband now grandparents. She enjoys visiting and seeing her grandlove a few times a year.
Sunday Dinner is a traditional (noon) meal served after church on Sundays. Whole families, including extended family, would gather over a large meal to celebrate a day of rest. Multiple cultures enjoy this Sunday Dinner tradition. In my experience, I know it from both my Midwestern farm family as well as my Italian-American family. Now, I’d like to bring Sunday Dinner virtually to you. So, pull up a chair as we invite various guests to join us each week!
Without further ado, please tell us something interesting readers would enjoy learning about you.
I know this is odd but I love living off the grid. We’ve been building our house for 11 years and have been doing the whole off-the-grid thing. I find it relaxing (not in the winter) and love the simplicity of it (not in the winter). I do want to have a better way of getting water and a little more power so we can run our well pump and maybe have an oven inside again. Right now, our grill is our oven and we use a propane camp stove inside to cook. But honestly, it really teaches me to appreciate what I have.
This is a special book. It’s called If I Dream, book 1 in Arabian Nights, and is a contemporary novel, set in the Middle East.
Her destiny is determined by her family.
Her dreams are overshadowed by her duty.
Six years ago, Fatima al-Fatah was married off to a man old enough to be her father. At first, she had hoped to find love and belonging in her husband’s established household. The reality has turned out to be much more grim. Jealous and bitter, her husband’s other three wives despise her and constantly berate her. Fatima begins to believe in her worthlessness, as she has been unable to deliver the one thing her husband desperately desires. Things quickly go from bad to worse in the span of a night, leaving her struggling to survive.
When Dr. Zahir Sayeed failed to protect Fatima six years ago, he ran away in shame, never intending to return. He has only come back to his birthplace out of an obligation to his family. Little do they know, he carries a secret that could send him to prison, or worse. When an accident brings Fatima back into his life, he finds himself drawn to her spirit and courage–an attraction that can only bring trouble. As he helps Fatima discover her true worth, he soon realizes that she is on the verge of uncovering a dangerous secret herself . . .
Why did you choose to write a story set around the Arabian Nights?
Good question. I loved living in the Middle East as a teen and young adult. I miss the excitement and the exotic surroundings. I came across a news article or a video, not sure which one, and what I saw was so disturbing and wrong. The way I deal with something that bothers me and I know I can’t change it, I write about it. I wanted to set the story in the Middle East because it was exotic and exciting, bringing my readers into a culture that is very… dedicated and sometimes misunderstood.
Have you lived in or visited the Middle East, specifically where your series is set? What research was required to set a book there?
Yes. I was blessed that my father was a sea captain and I traveled with him and my mother from an early age on. He worked for the oil industry, and when that dried up in the North Sea, he started to work in the Arabian (Persian) Gulf. He did that for at least 10 years before we were able to come and visit him in Dubai during the summer. He wasn’t on board at the time but had a job as the port captain, sort of a logistic/operational manager, during the summers. My sister and I were in awe when we first saw our first camel and stepped outside into the heat and humidity of the summer. Two years later, when I was 14, we moved there permanently. I thought I had died and gone to heaven on that first morning. I remember it so clearly. It really was paradise.
A TON of research was required to write this book and this series. I had to research the correct way to wear the burqa, what is the difference between a burqa and an abaya and a hijab. There were a lot of spiritual themes I had to delve deep into, which was very important to get as realistic as possible. I deliberately didn’t set the story in Dubai, although the first draft was set there. This story is a little gritty, and I didn’t want people to associate anyone from Dubai with the things that happen in this book. So, I made up the town/country of Jiddiyah. I’ve done this before. It was a pleasure.
The book is set nowadays, after Covid.
Did you use any of the original Arabian Night story as inspiration?
I did not. This series has nothing to really do with the original Arabian Nights. It’s… well, a lot of the action happens at night. Because it’s very hot in the Middle East, people come out in droves at night. I love Aladdin (the cartoon) and I love the idea of the wife telling her husband a story at night. But it has nothing to do with the original Arabian Nights. Oh, there is a minor character whose name is Sherezade, who was the story-teller of the Arabian Nights.
What does a day in the life of one of your characters look like?
For Fatima, my FMC, it’s not altogether pleasant. She wakes up and sometimes helps with the meal preparations. Most of the time, she is asked to watch the children of the other wives. She works with the maids to do the washing and cleaning. She’s basically a glorified maid. In the evenings, her husband may require her to appear at his arm – when he wants to show off to his peers. Her one pleasure is reading late at night and meeting her best, childhood friend, Amira, while she’s supposed to be securing the large order of groceries from the local market.
Zahir, the MMC, is a doctor. He spends his day looking after his patients and wiping snotty noses. He received his education in the US and has had to return to take over his father’s practice. He meets with his best friend and roomie from college nearly every day for a workout or some sparring in the gym. They go for coffee together and confide in each other like brothers. He loves his family but returning home has put him into something of a straightjacket. The job at the practice has him feeling unfulfilled compared to the high-stress work of an ER doctor in one of the toughest areas in the US. He also realizes that his sister, Amira, has grown up and has become a handful since his absence of six years. And he carries around a burden he can’t share with anyone.
Amira is another FMC. She is still in school but can’t wait to get out. She is rearing to get her driver’s license – 18 is the minimum age for that – and to start university in the fall. She doesn’t want to leave her country or her family. She loves meeting with Fatima and has been sneaking her books and study materials for years because her best friend never got to finish her education past the age of 12 when she became a wife. She is also developing a crush on the school hotshot, much to her brother’s irritation.
Were resources easy or difficult to find on these topics? Do you have a favorite resource?
I love YouTube for research. I guess I’m a visual person. I had to research a lot of spiritual stuff, which was a lot of fun and terrifying because I really don’t want to get this stuff wrong. It’s very important and complicated. So writing it with tact is difficult. The food needed a lot of research. When I lived there as a teen, I wasn’t into trying new and exotic recipes – other than Chinese food.
Also, I want to get the culture correct. But I feel I’ve got that down. Living in a country for on and off 12 years will really help with that.
What is one piece of your research that you couldn’t include in the book, but wish readers could know?
Oh… I had researched that one of the delicacies during Eid al Adah, one of the holidays, is roasted camel. I didn’t include it in this story.
Do you have another book in the works? What can you tell us about that book?
Yes. Book 2 is at the editor’s now. I hope to have it out before the end of the year, but that is going to be tight. I’ll be working on rewriting book 3, which is the final book in the series. This whole series has already been written once, so now I just have to fix it… all of it. I wrote it 5 years ago. I’ve grown as an author since then, and it needs to be completely redone. This is what I do.
Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
I want them to understand that this book could have been set anywhere. I wanted to include the exotic setting of the Middle East because of selfish reasons. I wanted to return to the place I was so happy and wanted to bring my readers along.
The afternoon is slipping away, so we have to draw the stories to an end. Anne, thank you for joining us today!
If readers would like to purchase a copy?
If readers would like to learn about you or your other books, how might they find you online?
All my online information can be found here: https://linktr.ee/anneperreault
Over Sunday Dinner next week author Marisa Masterson will be joining us. See you then!