An Interview with Khaled Talib, author of Smokescreen


Khaled Talib is the author of Smokescreen, a suspense thriller published by Typhoon Media about a journalist being set up as an assassin as part of an evil political plot. Purchase your copy at either Amazon or Smashwords.

See below for the official book description:

At an ancient café in Cairo, two veteran spies plot a covert mission to resolve — once and for all — the Israeli – Palestinian conflict. The pledge: Israel will make a major concession as part of the peace treaty. In Singapore, Jethro Westrope, a magazine journalist, stumbles onto the scene of a murder: the beautiful Niki Kishwani directs him, in her last breath, to a digital recorder, evidence that puts Jethro’s life in serious danger. And, much worse, he is framed for Niki’s murder. Jethro sets out to find Niki’s killer and is drawn into a web of deception and intrigue involving officials from the Singaporean, Israeli, and American governments, each with a complex, competing, and potentially deadly agenda. Against this pulse-pounding backdrop, Jethro races to find answers and save himself —yet nothing is as it seems. He finds himself at the centre of a political plot so diabolical and sweeping in its world implications that he is stunned to discover tomorrow’s news headlines today. He is being set up not only as a murderer but as an assassin, and something much larger than his own fate is in his hands.

Khaled has been published in newspapers and magazines. Here is his official bio:

Khaled Talib is a former journalist with local and international exposure. He has worked full time for magazines including Singapore Tatler and Egypt Today. His articles have been published and syndicated to newspapers worldwide, and his short stories have appeared in literary journals and magazines. He is also the author of The Little Book of Muses, a collection of personal muses for writers and aspiring authors. He resides in Singapore.

He was kind enough to answer some questions about his background and writing.

S.R.: How and when did you decide to become a writer?

K.T.: I have always had a knack for storytelling since I was a kid. In my mind, I was always travelling into different dimensions through an imaginary portal. Somehow, I preferred to write the story rather than tell, as if some mysterious force guided me to pen my tales. I also found myself participating in storytelling competitions and book quizzes. One day, when I was about thirteen, I rummaged through a box of old books that belonged to my mother. I found a novel written by a sixteen-year-old French girl with her photo placed on the back cover. I was amazed that someone so young could write a novel. I always had this impression that novels were written by really old people. The young author most certainly inspired me. However, I was not sure what to do or where to begin. Although my subconscious secretly wanted to write a novel, I paid no attention to my little voice calling out to me. I guess I did not have the confidence to say it out loud that I wanted to be a writer. I went through a pull and tug situation for years until I reached a union of consciousness. I found myself eventually working in the media industry. You would think that I would be satisfied to be in this field. But the little voice kept stalking me, nudging me to write a novel instead.

S.R.: How has your background in journalism influenced your writing as a novelist?

K.T.: Writing an article and producing a manuscript is chalk and cheese. But the experience has been good as I have learned how to dig out facts and source for information. At the same time, the journey into journalism has allowed me to collect different experiences, which I have used as material for my debut novel.

S.R.: What inspired you to write Smokescreen?

K.T.: The novel discusses Singapore’s relationship with Israel as the little island in Southeast Asia is paranoid about its Muslim neighbors. In that sense, it takes a detour from the conventional stories about the Middle East. The island had sought military advice from Israel decades ago to build its army. Interestingly, Singapore had initially contacted Egypt to train its army although analysts have speculated this invitation to be nothing more but a pretext, knowing Egypt would have to decline in order not to offend Malaysia, a fellow Muslim country. During the course of my career in journalism, I moved to Cairo for several years and I thought it would be interesting somehow if I could connect the dots and write a fictitious tale involving the relationship between these two countries in relation to Israel. After all, Singapore was almost dragged into a confrontation with the Arab world in the seventies after a group of Palestinian commandos from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, who teamed up with the Japanese Red Army, tried to blow up an oil refinery on a small island belonging to Singapore.

S.R.: What message do you want readers to take away from your book?

K.T.: My novel contains multiple themes, which includes the United States position on the question of Palestine. In fact, you could say this novel depicts the US government, the leaders of the Arab world and Israel in a Mexican standoff. So how does one survive in a situation where a gun is pointed at everyone? Also, readers will discover the theme of blindness. The study of inattention blindness — like the phenomenon of the invisible gorilla— is used in the novel. You see what I want you to see. This idea is pretty similar to how public relations practitioners manage a story. They use terms such as “key messages” or “position” a story to ensure that a story is angled this way or that way. For example, on surface, the bulk of the story may appear to be in Singapore, but the novel has a bigger message that involves the entire world. This becomes evident when one of the characters, a United States ambassador, tells the protagonist that “the world is divided between the two sons of Abraham.”

Readers will discover that the novel reveals how easy it is to manipulate the media. And sometimes the media allows itself to be manipulated… because it works in their favor. Take for example of the Salman Rushdie incident. The world media gave the impression that the entire Muslim world was out to get him after Iran’s Khomeini issued a death edict against the author. In truth, the Sunni world stood against the fatwa. The Al Azhar University in Egypt, the highest authority of Sunni Islam, had issued a press statement citing that Islam did not condone such a death edict. But the world media chose to shun the message. The first rule of journalism is responsibility, but as you can see, some voices are suppressed for whatever their reasons, sometimes they are politically motivated and sometimes it has to do with sales and ratings.

Smokescreen is truly a delightful deception. You might think that you are staring at an apple, but you don’t realize that it’s a strawberry. The message here is clear: You think you know how things are, but do you really?  Many people read the papers or watch the news and they absorb the information lock, stock and barrel. Sometimes they don’t believe the information but if the news panders to their prejudices, they will force themselves to believe it. And sometimes things get lost in translation. For example, the media covered the story about how Ahmadinejad denied the existence of gays in Iran. Is that what he really said or was his voice lost in translation? In the Middle East, you will discover that many people often say what they don’t mean, and they could be speaking in metaphors or with a dash of pun. You really have to decipher what they are saying… not everything should be taken literally. Sometimes it’s straight forward, sometimes it’s not.

Smokescreen also contains shibboleths, allegories, dissimulation, and even the art of geneivat da’at, a Hebrew word to describe the theft of one’s mind. This is actually a form of deception that takes many layers but all deemed sinful. A Digital Journal book reviewer said she felt like my novel had a “hidden story within a story.” Who knows? Maybe the spies are also sharing secret information with you.

S.R.: What is your writing process like?

K.T.: My writing process is unregimented. In fact, I am all over the place.  My notes are on scraps of paper, sometimes I would write things on my hand before transferring them on paper. And then I’ll lose the piece of paper and find myself rummaging through the waste paper basket to see if I had accidentally thrown it away. I am really trying my best to be more organized. Wish me luck!

S.R.: What are you working on next?

K.T.: I am working on another thriller set in Europe. I don’t have a working title for it yet, but I have already written a few chapters already. I took the idea from a scary experience that I encountered in a certain country. It gave me goose pimples and I said to myself, “This could be a great opening scene.”

Buy your copy of Smokescreen at either Amazon or Smashwords.


One Reply to “An Interview with Khaled Talib, author of Smokescreen”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s