Interview with longlisted author Abdullah Al-Eyaf


When did you begin writing Hole to Heaven and where did the inspiration for it come from?

My journey with the novel began in the final months of 2015 and early 2016. The inspiration was a question I had, arising from a concept revolving continually in my mind: the duality of life and death and the meeting points between them.

Did the novel take long to write and where were you when you finished it?

From the first idea until sending the book to the printers, the writing took nearly five years. There wasn’t a day or night when the novel and its characters did not visit me – uninvited. In those years, I stopped all other artistic and creative projects because of the novel. Although I wasn’t writing continuously, every day I would write notes and comments on the overall scheme of the book.

Since I believe in the importance of structure and form, I spent 13 whole months planning the work and its characters, events and plot, without writing the first line.  

And since this took so long, and due to the nature of my work which involves a lot of travel, the manuscript went with me to many cities, like Al-Ahsa, New York, Los Angeles, Paris, Kraków (Poland), Mexico City, Peking, Dubai and Oslo. But most of it was written in my beautiful home city of Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia. I also wrote much of it in the Indonesian cities of Bali and Jakarta, which I visited twice. On both occasions, I spent a month there just concentrating on writing the novel.


How have readers and critics received it?

I have been deluged by kind words and praise from readers and critics who have written about it. This has really touched me, since I spent several years working on it and it’s my first experience of writing a novel. I know I have written it in a way which satisfies me as a reader, but I was wondering whether others shared my taste! All I have read and heard so far has exceeded my expectations, and especially that the book has joined others in that distinguished world of the longlist of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction.

What is your next literary project after this novel?

I am currently working on a project which I hope will become more established so that I can talk openly about it.

I am also going to work on writing a script for a long film. After that, I will immediately return to the enchanting world of fiction, which captivated me as a reader when I was young, and still draws me irresistibly to it as a writer today.