As I finish up the last minute To Do List(s) marking the launch of my latest novel, Mistress of Mogador, I am struck by how much I'm going to miss these characters I've lived with for two years. It's a stand-alone novel, but I'm not prepared to promise we won't see them again. Because we may!
The character of Nora Mandrake, captain of The Lady Amalie and a small fleet of sailing ships that make up the modest Mandrake Marine Ltd., came to me because I loved Pirate tales, and although this book isn't exactly that, it's as close as I will ever come. And after all the pirate and seafaring novels I've read, I knew I wanted to make the captain of this ship a woman. A special woman--one who loves special women.
I had no idea when I began that I was going to learn so much about Morocco, but I'm so glad I did. One of the other protagonists is an Amazighen (Berber) woman named Najwa. The story of the Imazighen people is a triumph of having survived a thousand indignities from thousands of conquerors over thousands of years.
It is also the story of how the Jewish Peoples who left Spain settled in Morocco, and many in Mogador, and became important to the development of trade--imports and exports. The elite Jews of Mogador lived in the lush and lavish Kasbah; the artisans, rabbis, merchants and ordinary people lived in the mellah, a crowded, dirty and walled in ghetto-like area that was supposed to be protected by the Sultan. Too often, it was not.
This is the story of the Arabization and Islamification of a country by Arab conquerors and populace from the 7th century onward. While bringing much in the way of progress, education, architecture, religion and culture to a predominantly Berber nomad or farming population, the rule of the Sultans was not without its iron fist of suppression, as well.
And finally, this is the story of Colonization, too, by European colonialists who hedged their bets by playing all tribal sides against the middle in Morocco. They brought European goods, fashions, values and education to Morocco. As with most colonialists, the cultural changes were drafted onto the Moroccan society whether they wanted it or not.
Into this milieu three women converge on a country, a world and one another at a time when the winds of change were in the world's air. The 19th century was ending, the 20th promised to change everything--including our three women.