Kay Hardy Campbell, a resident of Jefferson since 2015, seeks to connect the Middle East with Western readers through her new novel, “The Sons of Fez: A Moroccan Time Travel Adventure.”
Campbell’s fascination with the Middle East started during her adolescence in Massachusetts and Minnesota. An excursion to the movie theater with her older brothers to view the 1962 drama “Lawrence of Arabia” sparked a deep interest in Arabic culture and history.
“I walked out of that theater and felt like my whole life had changed,” Campbell said. “I thought maybe I’d become a professor of Arabic, but when it was time to think about whether that was the right path, there were no jobs.”
Instead, Campbell combined her love of Arabic studies with her passion for storytelling, and began to write. Campbell took what she referred to as a “go-with-the-flow” approach when it came to her writing process for her most recent novel, “The Sons of Fez.” The first draft of the novel only took half a year for Campbell to write.
Rather than focusing too much on elaborate plots and structure, Campbell started with a rough premise and allowed the plot and structure to change constantly as she wrote.
“I think that there’s a lot of magic that happens, and you have to be able to let it happen and just relax about it,” Campbell said.
The premise for “The Sons of Fez” came from Campbell’s time visiting Fez, Morocco in 2005. Her trip to the medina of Fez, which she described as the old core of the city, was the inspiration for the setting of the novel. The medina, which is now a world heritage site, was once the cultural hub of Fez during the Golden Age of the Middle East.
“You walk in, and you’re suddenly in the past,” Campbell said of her visit to the city’s medina. “You can talk to the shopkeepers in very high Arabic, which is kind of like Shakespearean English, and they’ll answer you.”
Morocco’s past plays an important role in “The Sons of Fez,” as the plot centers around a group of American students who stumble across a dangerous time portal in the middle of Fez’s medina. The time portal connects the present day to the late 14th century, which was the height of Fez’s Golden Age.
“It’s all about Moroccans and Americans, and then they meet these very interesting characters from the past,” Campbell said.
Campbell’s goal in all her writing, whether it’s a novel, cultural feature, or academic piece, is to connect the Middle East with American or Western readers. She hopes to lead a women’s tour to the Arabian Gulf at some point.
“If you go with a women’s group and you try to connect with the local women you can see a lot more than you would normally on a typical tour,” she said.
Campbell is also interested in Arabic music and dance. She teaches women’s folk dances, which is an aspect of the culture which she wants to write more about.
“It’s a hidden thing; rarely do you see it out, even in public,” Campbell said, referring to the folk dances of the Arabian Gulf.
Campbell speaks just as passionately about her community in Lincoln County as she does of Arabic culture. The author, who has “deep family roots in Maine,” moved to Jefferson in 2015, and while she is aware she can never call herself a true Mainer, she is honored to be a part of the Maine writing community.
“There are so many wonderful, imaginative, creative writers here. It’s been a delight,” Campbell said.
Campbell will be participating in a book talk for her recent novel, “The Sons of Fez,” at the Bremen Library at 4 p.m. on Thursday, June 15.
For more information about Campbell, go to kayhardycampbell.com. “The Sons of Fez: A Moroccan Time Travel Adventure” is now available for purchase.