Doreen M. Cumberford – Three Questions & a Cover

Three Questions and a Cover — a short interview with one of my favorite authors, along with one of the author’s covers

A few months ago, Doreen kindly provided a guest post (How Living in Saudi Arabia Helped Me Navigate Covid-19– With Splashes of Joy!) for this blog. I’m so happy to have her back now to play Three Questions & a Cover. She’s also sponsoring a giveaway (details after the interview).

Life in the Camel Lane: Embrace the Adventure is what Doreen Cumberford, a Scottish author, calls her learnoire! It is a combination of her story and the stories of other expats learned while living in Saudi Arabia for 15 years as expat employees or spouses. The book takes the reader through the four stages of culture shock: arrival, honeymoon, frustration and adjustment stages to final acceptance followed by the return journey back to their home country – mostly the USA. From Saudi weddings, to falconry, to the inability of women to drive at that time, the book seeks to familiarize us with the Saudi culture, lifestyle, and deep traditions of hospitality, generosity and tolerance from an insider’s perspective. There are also chapters on the experiences of 9/11 in the terrorists’ home country and the “Terror Years” of internal terror tactics from inside Saudi Arabia designed to drive the expats out of the country and destroy the Saudi government. Full of examples, stories and compelling honesty the author describes their most challenging journey and many of the lessons learned in the process together. Designed to provide useful insights and inspiration to anyone considering living abroad, Life in the Camel Lane shines the light on the subject of building a new identity and home while abroad, and the difficulties of the journey home.

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  1. What is NOT in the book that readers might find interesting?

There is a grand omission in Life in the Camel Lane: Embrace the Adventure.

It is an omission by design rather than negligence.   The country of Saudi Arabia is a “dry” country where alcohol is not permitted.  There are no wine bars, cocktail bars, pubs, saloons, taverns nor taprooms. 

The reader might be wondering “well how can this be”?  Well in the Islamic faith, alcohol is not encouraged and officially banning it simplifies everything.  However, the Kingdom did authorize the original American oil companies the right to make alcohol on their residence compounds, and that authorization was extended when Saudi Arabia purchased the oil rights and became Saudi Aramco.

So, I lived there for 15 years and experienced no shortage of alcohol. My husband learned to make a decent champagne and a type of bourbon, which to this day we miss.  I concocted my fair share of Kalua, Amaretto, Cointreau and Baileys during my time there.

The key to the latter drinks was to secure a good source of raw alcohol.  Many people had distillation equipment and there are dozens of stories and urban myths regarding stills that exploded, blew up or burned houses down.  While we personally did not manufacture alcohol, others did.  I recently came across some of the recipes for the liquors I made.  Many of them started with raw alcohol and a candy bar like a Mars bar.  

Out of respect for the community which we were a part of, I didn’t want the book to turn into a gossipy tell-all and although these practices are very common, I didn’t want to turn it into an expose.  The country of Saudi Arabia, their religion and culture deserve our respect and I felt this would be inappropriate to mention.  However, if anyone ever wants to interview me on the subject, I am happy to share some stories.

For now, let’s just say that “adventures in alcohol” could have been a very meaty chapter!

2. What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

I probably have all sorts of writing quirks I am unaware of.   One condition I am aware of is that I need to be comfortable, which I think almost all authors would say.  I have a particular type of pen that I like to write speed writing or other creative exercises with. I do revert to the keyboard on my computer for blogs and things that require a different thinking process.

But I specifically love to write outdoors in a temperate climate especially when there are birds and/or butterflies around.   Signs of nature soothe me and keep my thoughts moving forward in a generally positive direction.

Right this moment, I am sitting on the rooftop patio of a home in San Miguel de Allende in Mexico.   I can see hillsides covered with villages, and if I stand up and move, I can see the La Parrochia de San Miguel Arcangel, the largest neo-gothic church built in the seventeenth century in Mexico.   Looking in another direction I can see a street of colorful homes all painted green, orange, ochre and cream, and in another a very calm golf course.

All of these views together with the plants are great company and I find I work best

in this sort of environment.   Perhaps this is not quirky but more just the necessity of being quiet, while surrounded by nature.   

3. What is the best advice you received about writing / publishing? And the worst?

Even as I sit here, I have a deadline, tomorrow, by which I am supposed to have another chapter of my next book written.  However, I also have other more pressing deadlines, so life is a constant juggle.

The best advice I ever received was don’t quit.  The worst advice I ever received was – well there was probably a lot of bad advice, and I don’t choose to recall any!

Listening to other people’s stories, dramas and tales of woe just never works.   Listen to you own heart, heed your heart’s calling, follow your internal guidance and go for it. Do it at your pace.   Sometimes there will be failure or frustration, if you just keep going and push through the discomfort, you will always be rewarded by finding yourself at a completely different level of competency.

Best advice……just.don’t.quit!!!

Doreen M Cumberford

Doreen Cumberford is a Scottish expat author who has been global traveler for more than four decades.

Honest, compassionate, full of wisdom and inspiration, Life in the Camel Lane comprises stories mostly from women and men who lived in Saudi Arabia from 1950s onward. This memoir contains expert advice sage wisdom and stories that all globally mobile families can use to navigate their international journey.

The principles in this book will also encourage anyone who is embracing a more adventurous life, or considering taking the leap to move overseas.

Connect with the Author:  website  ~ twitter  ~ facebook pinterest  ~ instagram  ~ goodreads

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