Why I wrote the book

Growing up, I had two dreams: to one day live in a foreign country and to be a writer. A Greek island would be nice, churning out novels in a white cottage overlooking a cobalt sea.

My urge to put words to the page came early, probably from my mother's stories and from reading books when I was supposed to be asleep. Tented by my great grandmother's velvet and satin crazy quilt, I read with a flashlight: The Bobbsey Twins, The Black Stallion, Nancy Drew.

Dad was a Methodist minister, and he brought the family west from Minnesota when I was a month old. We moved every few years, towns in Arizona and Southern California, Venice Beach in time for the beatniks. Sundays I sat in the front pew with my sister and brothers and learned the power of words from my father's gentle voice. No Bible thumping for his gospel.

Still, I chaffed at the identity; small town preacher's daughter and bookish, a recipe for nerd if there ever was one. Maybe if I went somewhere far away and exotic I could shed the "good girl" thing, build a new self.

After all, my aunt and uncle had been linguistic missionaries to the Sudan in the 1940s. Hippos strolled up from the Nile to loll on their front yard. When my uncle baptized someone in the river, the men would make a circle with their spears to ward off crocodiles. My oldest cousin was born in Khartoum!

At sixteen I started a novel which has long since been lost, but I kept writing, between getting married, a degree in English and my first teaching job. My dream of faraway places was confined to taking students on educational tours, Greece, Italy, Europe, and by my late-twenties I'd traveled enough to know that viewing a country through a tour bus window is no way to absorb a culture and its people.

When the marriage dissolved, I interviewed for overseas teaching and was offered Cairo American College, five miles up the Nile from the hub of civilization for all of Africa and the Middle East, ancient monuments, souks and six thousand years of culture. I knew I would find a book there.

I just didn't know it would also be a love story.