Without further ado, welcom Bro Irving! Can please tell us a little bit about yourself?
I am the son of Holocaust survivors who came to
in 1948. I was actually born in newly built America of a DP Camp, a Displaced Persons Camp in American Army Hospital just after WWII. In fact, I use that as a scene in Master of the Jinn. I have also been a writer, editor and magazine publisher most of my working life, and dabble in poetry :) In 1992, I was initiated as a darvish of the Nimatullahi Sufi Order, and began writing Master of the Jinn six months later. Germany
What inspired you to write Master of the Jinn?
I was participating in majlis, our twice weekly meeting, saying my zekr in a meditation circle, and the idea came to me without my thinking about it. Of course, I had read about King Solomon and his ring, which according to legend controlled the men and Jinn, birds and animals. But it was at that moment that I thought a modern day story of searching for the original ring of power, would make a good novel, especially from a Sufi point of view.
Please explain the term, Sufi?
A Sufi is dervish, or darvish in Persian, who practices a mysticism that we believe is the heart of Islam, and involves spiritual poverty, that is, not being attached to anything, loving-kindness, honesty, generosity, charity,etc, in other words, all the legendary qualities of the Prophet (SAW). Rumi, Attar, Junayd, Hallaj and Bayazid were famous Sufis of the past, as were, ibn Arabi and Al-Ghazzali.
Can you give us a little description of your novel, Master of the Jinn?
From the book’s back cover: Master of the Jinn is a tale set on the Path of the Heart, a mystical adventure wherein a modern-day Sufi master sends seven companions on a quest for the greatest treasure of the ancient world - King Solomon's ring. It is the very same seal ring of a hundred legends, given to King Solomon by God to command the Jinn, those terrifying demons of living fire.
By sea and across deserts, they are led by a strange faqir guide of many names. Through the mightiest of storms and into a lost city, the travelers come at last to the gateway of the Subtle Realm, the land of the Jinn.
But the quest has a strange effect on everyone chosen to go: visions enter their dreams, remembrances and tears fill their hearts, and mysteries abound; unearthly storms and unending night, the Gates of Heaven open at last, and invincible demons of smokeless fire.
It is a tale woven of ancient legends found in the Old Testament, the Talmud, and the Koran, and although it is set in the present, the search for the truth of the ring leads them into a circle of ageless destiny, where the companions discover not only the fate of the Jinn, but also the Path of Love and the infinite Mercy of God.
What are the main themes one will find in Master of the Jinn?
The main theme is taken from the loving kindness of the Sufi path, and I try to show what life is like in a khaniqah, a Sufi house. Another theme is the adab, or good manners and courtesy we show to each other and our guests, and the states and stations of love that are inculcated into the heart as one progresses on the path. Of course, the quest, and the mystery of the Jinn are a great part of the overarching theme, but underlying it all is the infinite mercy of God. Readers find many themes in the book, and upon rereading it, I have been told, find even more :)
Was it difficult researching the topic of your novel?
Yes, there is really not much material on the Jinn, though I researched it for a long time, and tried to incorporate the legends I found in various sources. There was more information on the archeological aspect of the tale, as well as Tuareg tribal life in the
Sahara, The rest came from my fertile and overactive imagination :)
While you researched topics for Master of the Jinn, did you ever get into any type of situations, be it funny, embarrassing or even a misunderstanding?
Not while I researched topics, but since publishing Master of the Jinn, I do get inquiries every once in a while that might be considered a misunderstanding, like asking if I am the Master of the Jinn, or if I have King Solomon’s ring, or if I can contact the Jinn to help them with their love life. When I tell them the story came mostly from my imagination, they think I am just keeping the secret for myself. Also, some orthodox Muslims consider all fiction just another word for writing lies, so I have had some comments like that also.
What was your favorite chapter to write? Why?
I think my favorite chapters were the first and the last, which I wrote right after getting the idea for the book. I knew immediately how it would begin and end, I have no idea how, except to say that it came fully formed into my head, as if sent from above.
Can you share with us your road to writing and publishing Master of the Jinn?
Writing Master of the Jinn took 12 year in total. The first five years were devoted to writing the first draft, which is really misleading, since I wrote it on a word processor and rewrote each sentence about a hundred times. There were also long periods of time between chapters, when I had no idea what came next. Finally I had a first draft, then it took another few years of sending it out, having it rejected, re-editing it, sending it out again, etc, until technology caught up with my intention and I could publish it myself inexpensively.
Master of the Jinn has been translated into many languages; just how many languages has the novel been translated into so far?
Master of the Jinn has been translated into six languages so far, including Russian (Povelitel dzhinnov), Turkish (Cinlerin Efendisi), Indonesian (Sang Raja Jin, German (Meister der Jinn), Croatian (Gospodar demona) and Spanish (El Maestro de los Jinn).
It is also being translated into Malayalam, the language of the Kerala state of
, Urdu, Bengali, and Malay. India
Who has been the most influential in your life and writing?
The most influential in my life would be my father and mother, my children and grandchildren, and the Master of the Sufi Order I belong to. All good work is for them and because of them. I try to follow the admonition to keep the thought of everything you love in everything you do, which I think came from the elves in Lord of the Rings, but is also a mystical proverb. As for my writing, Tolkien, Frank Herbert, who wrote the Dune series, Idris Shah’s Tales of the Dervishes and other works, and countless works of fantasy and sci-fi. What I really like in writing is a truly unique style that works in the story being told. I wrote Master of the Jinn in a modernized “adab” style, which is the flowery poetic style of the original Arabian Nights and much ancient Muslim literature.
Are you currently working on anything now? Will there be a sequel to Master of the Jinn?
InshAllah, there will be sequel to Master of the Jinn, entitled Tale of the Jinn, but it is a very slow process. I might never be allowed to finish it. Like all things in a Sufi’s life, it is up to Allah.
What is something you wish you had known about the publishing industry before you became a published author?
I wish I had fully realized the relentless commercialism of modern publishing. Of course I was sending a manuscript to literary agents and book publishers about engaging and heroic Muslim character just after 9/11, so my timing could have been better lol. But the paradigm is changing with self-publishing so readily available, and Ebooks growing by leaps and bounds. It is a new day in publishing, or at least the first light of dawn of a new day :)
What advice would you give for those who wish to self-publish?
I would tell anyone who wants to self-publish to try the difficult path first, that is, send the manuscripts to literary agents that you have researched and know they handle your kind of book. It is much easier to find a good agent and let them do the legwork. And if you do self-publish, build a good website, and use social media and/or a blog to promote your work. It is a long journey, and you have to believe in your book to take it on.
Thanks so much for taking time out of your schedule and sharing your journey with us! I look forward to your next book! :D For more information about his book, check out his website and his blog called Darvish. And now everyone, on to the book giveaway. Fill out the form below for a chance to win a copy of Irving Karchmar's novel, Master of the Jinn!