Two people, from two very different cultures and with two identical suitcases, are bound for Paris – with completely different intentions.
One is a young Muslim woman taking the first steps of independence that will crush her traditional beliefs; the other a city gent with one last assignment before retiring to pastures new. But as surprising events unfold, their lives intertwine.
When a sinister twist brings them together, they will dictate each other’s destinies… and only one of them can survive.
I’m happy to be back with another Character Interview. My guest steps from the pages of A.J. Griffiths-Jones’ novel, Black Sparrow.
SJJ: Welcome! So happy to have you hear. Can you please tell our readers your full name and where you live?
UR: My full name is Uzma Rafiq & I live in North London, UK.
SJJ: Uzma, what a lovely name.
Let’s get to know you better. Please tell us how you’d describe your personality?
UR: I would say that I am creative & out-going with strong family values.
SJJ: You must have come from a close-knit family.
What were you like as a child?
UR: As a child I was quite mischievous, playing tricks on my younger brother & using my pretty face & broad smile to get my own way. I was good at school & loved art class the most. I also enjoyed sports, especially swimming.
SJJ: Sounds like you could wrap people around your finger. I too loved art class, that and biology, a strange mix, I think.
What do you do for a living? Is it your dream job?
UR: I have just left college and plan to pursue my dream job of becoming an artist.
SJJ: That sounds nice. I wish you luck, it’s not always easy to follow your passion.
Do you have any big obstacles that might stand in your way from achieving your goals?
UR: The biggest obstacle for me is my culture. My family believe that a young Pakistani woman, such as myself, should have no ambitions outside of the family home, instead only focussing on getting married and starting a family. It’s been very difficult for me to try to break with tradition.
SJJ: I’m sure it must be tough wanting to follow your dreams and please your family as well. I believe you’ve got to live your life to be truly happy, not someone else’s. But maybe sometimes that’s easier said than done.
Tell us something about you that not everyone knows.
UR: I actually have very few close friends that I trust. That might sound surprising, coming from a tightly-knit community, but I have had to be very careful who I tell about my private life & my dreams, just in case anything got back to my parents.
SJJ: Are there any defining moments in your life that made you who you are today?
UR: Last summer I attended art school in Montmatre, Paris & that changed my whole perspective on life. I realised that I had to break free from my father’s rules & become my own person, following my dream.
SJJ: What a great opportunity and I’m sure it did change your life.
Do you have any regrets?
UR: I regret that I have been unable to confide in my mother. We were so close, but had she found out about my intention to become an artist, she would surely have stopped me. I miss my mother very much and know that she will be frantic with worry.
SJJ: I’m sorry your decision changed the relationship with your mother. I hope someday the two of you will be close again.
Is there anyone you look up to, consider to be a mentor, either in the past or right now?
UR: The tutor that I met at art school is my mentor. He is so ambitious and talented, not to mention good-looking, and I would love to be able to sell my artwork as he does. His paintings are incredible, full of colour and vibrance.
SJJ: When you think of all you’ve accomplished, what is your proudest moment?
UR: My proudest moment is standing up for myself and travelling to Paris to follow my dream. I’m not going to let anything stop me.
SJJ: I think that is something to be proud of.
If you could appear in another book, which would it be? How could you contribute to that story?
UR: I would love to appear in ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’. It was set at a time when there was a real divide between blacks and whites and, as an Asian woman, I would have liked to help people to understand that we might be different on the outside, but inside we all have the same huge heart and love for our families.
SJJ: OK, Uzma, what’s your idea of the perfect day?
UR: My idea of the perfect day would be browsing the street artists work in Paris, a picnic by the River Seine and then getting dressed up for dinner with my lover.
SJJ: That sounds like a great day for sure.
What would you say are your strengths and weaknesses?
UR: I think I’m strong willed, in that I can stand up for myself and go after something that I really want. However, my weakness is being afraid of being alone. I’m a person who relishes company and feel insecure by myself.
SJJ: I would say you are strong willed too and brave.
What do you like to do for fun?
UR: For fun I like to go shopping with my best friend, trying on clothes and looking for bargains. I also love fun fairs, especially the really scary rides.
SJJ: And after a busy day, what do you do to relax?
UR: To relax I like to read, especially classics, but I also love to help my mother cook traditional Pakistani food.
SJJ: What is your most embarrassing moment?
UR: My most embarrassing moment was arriving in Paris and realising that I’d picked up the wrong suitcase at the airport. My whole life is inside my own case and I don’t know where it is.
SJJ: Embarrassing and frustrating. I hope you get it back.
What are your plans for the future?
UR: I plan to hook up with my boyfriend, but with my computer and address book being in my lost luggage, I need to find him. My phone is dead and the charger is also in my suitcase, goodness knows where. Once I have my belongings, I’ll be moving in with Sylvain & beginning my new life in Paris.
SJJ: Yikes, you really did have some important things inside your suitcase. I hope you track him down.
If a movie was made about your life, who would you want to play you?
UR: If a movie was made about my life, I would want Salma Hayak to play me, she’s so elegant and beautiful.
SJJ: A perfect match, I think.
Uzma, are you happy with the way you told your story?
UR: I’m fairly happy with the way in which I told my story, although I wish that I had been more sympathetic to those I left behind.
SJJ: Well like they say, hindsight is 20/20.
If you could change one thing that happened in your story, would you? Can you elaborate or would it give too much away?
UR: I wish I could change the ending of the story. I can’t tell you what happens but it was devastating for me.
SJJ: I’m sorry it was so devastating but it does sound intriguing.
Thank you Uzma, for joining me on Beyond the Story Character Interviews.
AUTHOR BIO – A.J. GRIFFITHS-JONES
A.J. Griffiths-Jones is a crime researcher & historian from Shropshire, U.K.
She began her writing career in 2015, with the publication of ‘Jack the Ripper’ suspect book ‘Prisoner 4374’ & has since gone on to write a series of cosy mysteries, a standalone crime thriller, a short story book and a crime fiction series set in France.
Before becoming a full-time author, A.J. lived in China for a decade, where she was Language Training Manager for an international bank. She lives with her husband, David, and they currently split their time between England and their second home in Turkey.
A.J. has consulted for various authors and historical publications, including ‘Scotland Yard’s History of Crime in 100 Objects.’ She plans a non-fiction ‘Jack the Ripper’ book next year.
Facebook: A.J. Griffiths-Jones Author Page