Meet Evonne Marzouk, today’s guest author:
Evonne Marzouk is an inspirational public speaker and author of The Prophetess. Her work has also been published in Newsweek, the Washington Post, the Jewish News Syndicate, The Wisdom Daily, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, RitualWell and many other publications. She recently co-authored a chapter on “The Heroine’s Journey” in the book Jewish Fantasy Worldwide (2023) and offers a free printable Heroine’s Journal on her website to empower all women to live their greatest dreams. IG/FB: @heroinewhisperer
- Why do you write?
I write to sort out the jumbled tangle of confusion and emotion inside: all the fear, pain, anger, hope and longing of life. For example, I wrote to help process the four days I was with my mother in hospice before she died, and to clarify what was happening for myself at the beginning of the pandemic. This type of journalling is important to my mental health in times of stress and overwhelm. Writing can also be a delightful escape into a magical world, like it was with writing my novel The Prophetess. Some people use art, music, or exercise; words are my primary mode of self-expression and release.
- As a result of publishing your book, what have you learned about yourself and/or the writing process?
In earlier stages of the development and publication of this book, I found myself hiding behind the book. I would encourage people to read the book. I would read from the book, talk about the book, or describe how I wrote it. But I was shy about talking about myself – what my life is like, my opinions and my feelings, the wisdom I’ve learned and what I believe in. I didn’t think anyone would want to hear those kinds of things from me. I just wanted them to read the book.
Turns out, that wasn’t limited just to the book. It was true in other areas of my life, too. I just wanted people to donate to an organization I might lead, or come to a conference I might be running, or support a certain cause. At some level, I preferred to hide behind the curtain.
More recently, I’ve been taking the brave step to share myself and my own truth. And I’m learning that people actually do want to hear what I have to say. It’s a gift and also a tremendous responsibility that has been gradually re-organizing my whole perception of life.
- At what moment did you decide you were a writer?
In first or second grade, I wrote a haiku that was published in a school newsletter. My father cut out the poem from the newsletter and put it on a frame in my desk. As a young child, I would look at that poem and think, that’s me. I’m a writer. So in that way, my father inspired me by encouraging me to believe in what I had done and what I could do.
Do you know the crazy thing? Last week, I was published in Newsweek and my father did the same thing. Since the website was a bit hard to read because of the advertisements, he took all the text and organized it in a pretty way. He sent it to me, so I would have it to keep. Thanks, Dad, for being proud of me.
- What does your writing space look like?… like do you have a crazy mess of a desk full of notes and post its? Or is it a quaint chair at a coffee shop?
My desk is a college-type Ikea thing with three shelves above the desk going up to the ceiling, and I recently re-organized these shelves so they reflect things that are important to me, like tokens from work trips and kissing beanie baby bears dressed up as a bride and groom (a gift from my parents before my wedding). The desk also has walls along the sides – it’s the kind of desk that could close up like a closet if it had doors. And all along the interior of the desk walls are pictures of people I love. Pictures of my parents, my family, my husband’s grandparents who passed. Even old friends who I haven’t seen in person in a long time are there. And there are lots of pictures of my mother, who died about ten years ago.
They aren’t in frames or anything – just taped on. Writing can be a solitary thing and it makes me happy just to have their smiling faces around me when I work.
- What feeds your process? Can you listen to music and write or not… can you write late at night or are you a morning person… when the spark happens, do you run for the pen or the screen or do you just hope it is still there tomorrow?
It’s much easier for me to write when I have some idea of what I want to say, so I spend a lot of time writing in my head, trying out phrases over and over again until they sound right. I also like to write on the subway. If I fear I might forget an idea I might quickly jot it down in a notebook. I almost always have a notebook with me.
When it finally comes time to sit at the computer and write it down (and I often put this off for as long as I can), music really helps. I prefer the “Cinematic Chillout” station on Spotify. It’s all the music you hear at the end of the movie, when you can’t bear to turn off the credits because the score is so beautiful. It’s filled with the emotion of a story, with no words to distract me.
- What’s the hardest part of writing or publishing?
I’ve found it’s much harder if I am trying to write for an audience (or worse yet, a publication or a publisher). If I have a specific audience in mind, I spend a lot of time imagining them hating and second-guessing what I have to say. (What, just me?) The writing flows better if I just write for myself in the first draft, and save worrying about the audience for editing a later draft.
7. Who is your favorite character from your book(s)?
In my novel The Prophetess, Rachel is the main character, and my favorite character is Yonatan, who comes to Baltimore to help her navigate her visions and grow into her gifts as a prophetess. As alluded to in the Prologue, Yonatan has had a very tragic loss, and must rise out of an intensity of pain and grief to accept the assignment to teach her.
Because the story is never told from Yonatan’s point of view, I’m not sure how much of his pain is evident to the reader, especially at first. I spent a lot of time interviewing Yonatan and trying different plot paths with him as I was drafting the book. He displays incredible strength in the face of legitimate anguish. This story is filled with heroines who experience meaningful growth and display great courage. But in my opinion, he’s the hero.
- What’s the underlying message of your writing?
Fundamentally, I’m committed to leaving people empowered. I believe everyone has their own truth and their own unique purpose in this life, and that part of our mission in this life is to express and fulfill it. I want to empower people to find that truth and purpose, and live it fully in their lives.
In The Prophetess, Rachel is originally confronted by her grandfather’s blessing to her: “May she grow into all her gifts.” The story is Rachel’s journey of growing into those gifts. She has very specific gifts – beyond what she could have imagined. But isn’t that true of all of us? We have gifts that are beyond what we can fully imagine, and because we’re alive, we are still growing into them.
After reading my novel, some readers asked how to apply the book’s lessons in their lives. So, to empower readers (and really, everyone), I also created a short, printable Heroine’s Journal based on the wisdom of The Prophetess, which can help you identify and set a path for your own journey. It’s free on my website, a gift to empower you in your path.
- There’s fair bit of interest, scientific and otherwise, in the links between creativity and insanity. How crazy must someone be to be a good author?
This question reminds me of this idea that studying Jewish mysticism is dangerous because it can lead a student to lose touch with the real world. When I’ve been writing for a while, I have to kind of shake myself back into reality, so it makes sense to me that you might “get lost” in another world. But I try hard to keep myself grounded through my other work – my job, my family, exercise, volunteer service. There are people and projects here that need me in this world, too.
- How long did it take you to write your book?
Twenty years. That’s a long time. I hope I can write the next one in at least a little less time.
Thanks so much for joining me today, Evonne!