Married to Mohammad:Marguerite van Geldermalsen’s Writing Life interview

In the southern desert of Jordan, the ancient Nabateans carved their city, Petra, out of the red-rose rock. Later the caves were home to tribes of Bedouin. And to a young backpacker from New Zealand who fell in love with a Bedouin man. Marguerite van Geldermalsen met Mohammad in the late-Seventies and for the initial seven years of their marriage they lived inside the rock and had two of their three children. The Jordanian government later moved the tribes to a new village nearby, where Marguerite still lives (She has a souvenir shop inside Petra). Though Mohammad died almost a decade ago, Marguerite’s book “Married to a Bedouin” is a touching testament to the character of the man who changed her life and the profound love found by two people from such different backgrounds. It’s Marguerite’s first book and it’s written with a clarity of thinking and of style that’s striking. She has given us the most insightful description of Bedouin life you’ll read and also a unique love story sparkling with the attraction between Marguerite and Mohammad. For my series of interviews with authors, I’m delighted to chat with a writer who came to publish by such an unusual path.

How long did it take you to get published? 

Considering the number of people who had told me I should write a book (memoir) I was surprised that I had any trouble at all. But now I know that I was rejected by the first two publishers just so that I could get published by the wonderful Lennie Goodings at Virago Press (no less)! Would you recommend any books on writing? I took a class with Patti Miller in Sydney and we used her ‘Writing Your Life’ (Allen & Unwin). I learned to write with it and I recommend it to people who haven’t done any writing before. 

What’s a typical writing day?

 I started with 3 pages of hand writing ‘morning pages’ from Julia Cameron’s ‘The Artist’s Way’ and I felt so inspired that I didn’t dare stop till my book was published. (Actually I still write them most days) I wrote the book on the computer though, and worked as a nurse and looked after my 3 children so it was whenever I felt the impulse and could. 

Plug your book. How would you describe what it’s about? And of course why’s it so great? Married to a Bedouin is set in Petra, Jordan where I have lived since 1978. When I first came and married ‘the Bedouin’ Mohammad’s tribe still inhabited the caves and set up their tents around the valley and by the time we were resettled to a nearby village in 1985 I was part of the tribe. I started writing the book in 1997, when I realized just how much the life had changed and how special my stories were, to capture that recent history of the site and to show the world that people are pretty much the same everywhere. 

Read the rest of this post on my blog The Man of Twists and Turns.

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