My name is Jamila Mikhail, I’m 21 years old and I’m a Canadian writer. I was born in British Columbia but lived here and there, even moving seven times in five years at one point! Finally, now that I’m an adult I came to settle in Ottawa, the capital and also the city of my dreams. We aren’t quite halfway through 2018 yet and I’ve already accomplished most of the dreams I’ve had for the last ten years! I share this dream with my cat Squeaker who has been my number one buddy for the last three years. She doesn’t meow, she literally squeaks the sissiest noise I’ve ever heard come out of a cat, and I’ve had cats my whole life.
I’m currently a student in law and human rights, which is my other passion aside from writing. The two merge more often than not though, because somewhere in my stories there will always be a character or situation that deals with real life contemporary social issues. Aside from this I’m a lover of snail mail letters, a postcard collector, a real foodie and a maker of toy soldiers. I’ve made myself a little army with old and recycled parts and they keep me in line in my writing!
At what age did you realize your fascination with books? When did you start writing?
I’ve loved books for as long as I can remember. Growing up I didn’t have cable TV or anything like that (I didn’t get my own until I was 19 years old actually) so books, and also the newspaper, were my connection to the rest of the world. Nowadays I love books both to escape reality for a little while, and to educate myself about pertinent and important topics in my society and the world at large. You can learn anything from a book, that I believe.
I’ve also loved writing for just as long. I first began steadily writing in 2004 (I was seven years old) and actually still have all the old notebooks with my scribbles and two-page stories in them. It wasn’t long before writing became my way to cope with life, but most importantly it was the only socially acceptable way to express myself and my grand ideas. I tend to be bold and writing enabled me to make that side of myself shine.
I began writing on a serious basis in 2011 on the advice of my therapist who was treating me for PTSD at the time, and my first completed manuscript “The Distant Factory” was born. It’s actually available for free on my website along with several other books. I didn’t publish anything until this year though, because it is no small task and I had to get my $#!& together before venturing out into that. It turned out to be one of the best things I’ve ever done.
Who are your favorite authors to read? What is your favorite genre to read. Who Inspires you in your writings?
This is probably the hardest question for me to answer because I literally drive all over the road here (and often drive all over the real road in my car too). I particularly love reading non-fiction about the Second World War and the Korean War since my own grandfather served in both of them and that’s also what inspired me to get into the human rights field. My favorites are definitely the autobiographies of the people who lived through the darkest days in humanity, these otherwise ordinary men and women are not only my favorite authors but also my heroes.
I also love reading true crime and psychological books that seek to explain why people turn into war criminals or serial killers and other things like that. I am fascinated by people and love being able to observe both the humanity in them and the horror in them.
My grandmother has inspired many of my writings through the years and was always pushing me to write some more. Sadly she passed away on March 11th of this year and writing is what has probably kept me alive since she’s been gone. Otherwise, my own life and the things I witness and hear about happening around me are generally what inspire me to write. That’s also what makes my stories easy to relate to.
Tell us a little about your latest book?
My latest book is called “Don’t Let Me Go” and it is young adult fiction, geared towards readers from age 13 to adults. It actually began as a short story writing prompt in 2014 and turned into a novel-length manuscript by 2015 (the original short story can be found on my website) but it didn’t go much further than that. It remained dormant on my computer until National Novel Writing Month last year. I knew that I wanted to revive it, but also rewrite it because it was pretty awful in the beginning. I won’t lie, I totally flunked out during NaNoWriMo after rewriting only about 10 000 words. The manuscript remained dormant again for several months until my grandmother’s passing.
After that it only took me about a week and a half to complete the final draft of 78 000 words. It wasn’t hard for me to sit in front of my computer and type thousands upon thousands of words during the worst time in my life because it made me feel better and gave me purpose. Getting the whole thing ‘publication pretty’ so to speak took another two months but I’m very satisfied with how everything turned out. I think my grandma would be very proud of me even though she wouldn’t be able to read the book either way because she only spoke French.
“Don’t Let Me Go” mixes contemporary issues and situations (in this case, a teenage girl named Joanie who is reeling from her parents’ bitter divorce and struggles with school) with a little bit of fantasy, history and science. Joanie decides to pass the time by making military action figures and much to her surprise, one of them comes to life! Adler is a soldier straight out of the Second World War (but Joanie is the only person who can see him) and helps Joanie navigate rough waters that include depression, domestic violence and bullying but what she doesn’t know is that Adler also hides a secret…