It was a history lesson for the Pattaya City Expats Club (PCEC) at their meeting on Sunday, October 28, as author and publisher John Elray spoke about writing his historical novel Khalifah telling the story of how the son of Muhammad’s archenemy took control of the Muslim empire in the 7th century. He was introduced by Master of Ceremonies Richard Silverberg.
John is a native of Canada and an avid world traveler. He earned his Master’s degree while residing in New England, and has had 25 years of technical writing experience. Since publishing his book, he has discussed his craft at conferences, book signings, and during radio interviews. In his spare time John enjoys playing tennis and guitar. John currently splits his time between Canada, Hawaii and the countries of East Asia.
Author and publisher John Elray speaks to PCEC members & guests about his historical novel ‘Khalifah’, telling the story of how the son of Muhammad’s archenemy took control of the Muslim empire in the 7th Century.
The novel is about a forced Muslim convert who defies all odds to become the supreme ruler of an empire that stretches from Egypt to Persia. The book describes the Muslims’ rise to power. The primary character Mu’awiya was a real person of that time. He was the son of the most vehement foe of the Prophet Muhammed, and amid the treachery, war, and political intrigue that follow the Prophet’s death, Mu’awiya embarks on a 30-year odyssey to redeem his family’s name and realize his ambition to be a leader in the new order. John gave some insight into the inner workings of a movement whose conquests rivaled those of the Romans and whose influence on modern-day life spans the globe.
John said the spark for his interest in learning more about Islam and the area was Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990. He started researching the fascinating history of the area which motivated him to write this historical epic new to the West.
He began his presentation by giving an overview of Islam which is the second largest religion after Christianity. He noted that Islam has five pillars; they are faith (the Shahada), prayer (5 times each day), almsgiving, fasting (during Ramadhan), and the Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca). It was founded in the early 7th Century by Muhammad and is based on the religion of Abraham and the Old Testament. The Qu’ran is based on revelations to Muhammad. There are two primary sects, Sunni with around 940 million followers and Shia with about 120 million.
John has published his books on Amazon.com, including his earlier book ‘Pattaya Beach’. Here he listens to one of the many questions arising from his research & presentation for new book ‘Khalifah’.
Prior to 610 AD, John noted the society was mostly pagan and polytheistic. Early Muslims were persecuted and forced to flee Mecca in 622 AD. They returned when they conquered Mecca in 629 AD. Muhammad died in 632 AD. After Muhammad’s death, the first Kahlif, Abu Bakr took over the movement and he sent armies across Arabia to reign in the Bedouin Tribes.
John then gave an overview of the Caliphate and the rise of their empire which spanned the years 632 AD to 661 AD. He then briefly explained the split between the Sunni and Shia sects, the impact of the crusades (1095 – 1270 AD), the Mongol invasion (1220 – 1259 AD), and the rise of the Ottoman Empire which lasted till World War I. At its height, the Caliphate Empire stretched from the mid-east through North Africa and into Spain and Portugal.
John then spoke about the factual versus the fictional portions of his book. He said that he did a lot of research and tried to keep his story as close to actual history as possible. His major and semi-major characters actually existed and the personalities he attributed to them while fictional have some historical basis. His minor characters and, of course, his dialogue among the characters are fictional.
Member Jerry Dean describes one of the difficulties of being an American in Thailand – the lack of suitable pumpkins for Halloween.
John then gave some tips on writing historical fiction which can take several approaches and noted the extent of your research will depend on which path you take. He also said that writing is re-writing and you should not be afraid of cutting text. Once you have the manuscript, you will have an editor or editors and will find that they can give you a fresh viewpoint.
John has spent a significant amount of time in Thailand, traveling extensively, and has firsthand knowledge of the country at large, its people, their culture, and the events which he portrays in his latest novel Pattaya Beach. John also mentioned that he was giving a special promotional offer to the PCEC. For each Kindle eBook of Pattaya Beach purchased from Amazon.com on November 26, John will give 20% of the net to the PCEC.
After John answered many questions, MC Richard Silverberg provided an update on upcoming events and called on Jerry Dean to conduct the Open Forum where questions are asked and answered about expat living in Thailand; Pattaya in particular.
You can learn more about the PCEC and its many activities by visiting their website at www.pattayacityexpatsclub.com.
Jerry overcame this in fine Thai style with his ‘Sapparot – O – Lantern’.