Author Interview Gazelle in the Shadows

How long have you been writing?

My novel “Gazelle in the Shadows” is my first serious writing but I have always loved writing.  I first started writing a diary when I was in elementary school.  I recently read one of my earliest diaries which made me laugh because of a funny spelling mistake. I wrote “use your woolly” instead of “usually.” I thought that was cute.

  • What is your favorite genre to write?

I love to write thrillers especially espionage.

  • Which genre have you never tried before, but would you like to try out?

I would like to try out a true crime story.  I enjoy watching and reading detective stories.  “Gazelle in the Shadows” has clues throughout the plot which the reader can use to guess the ending.

  • Please tell us about your book.

Gazelle in the Shadows is a tense, fast-paced political espionage thriller, based in the Syria of the nineties. Elizabeth is a hopeful, adventurous and romantic Arabic student who sets out for Damascus for her year abroad. During her time there, Elizabeth improves more than just her Arabic as she falls headlong in love, not only with her beau, but also with the Syrian culture. But while the passion is mounting, the unsuspecting Elizabeth – and we, the reader – are drawn into a world of politics, intrigue and terrorism.

  • Which character was your favorite, and why? Which character was your least favorite, and why?

The protagonist, Elizabeth Booth, was definitely my favorite as she is me.  The story is mostly based on my life so I found it easy to write about myself. The least favourite was my father as I had a troubled relationship with him and although it is obvious in the novel that Elizabeth has a difficult relationship with her father, I didn’t go into great detail as it conjured up some strong emotions for me.

  • What was the hardest part about writing your book?

I relied on my memory for names of buildings, places and locations in Syria.  When in doubt, I turned to Google to verify facts but it often took a long time to find them on the internet from that time period.  The internet was flooded with pictures and news from the decade long conflict.

  • What is your writing routine? Are there things you absolutely need to start writing?

I am a night writer as I enjoy the quietness of the house late at night when my children and husband are asleep. Before I start, I have to feel warm and comfortable with my fluffy socks and cozy PJs on. (I crank up the AC in the summer)

  • How long did it take you to write your book from start to finish?

I took approximately three years to write it but I did go through some slow months during that time.

  • Can you tell us about your editing process?

My first step was to enroll in a creative writing class that not only helped me to be committed, at least on a weekly basis, to writing but also it helped me to plan the beginning of a story arc.  I was lucky to meet and become friends with one of the teachers who did freelance editing.  When I was ready to produce chapters, he became my go-to-editor and super fan.  He has been with me throughout the three years and I’m very grateful for his support and help.

  • Is this book part of a series? If so, how many installments do you have planned?

I have only one sequel in my head although I have not begun to write it yet.

  • Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

I would advise aspiring authors to commit to a class like I did as it made me accountable in the early days to writing the story.

  • Why should everyone read your book?

My hope is that people will want to read about the Syria which I came to know before the conflict began. To read about the beauty and history of its lands and the hospitality and traditions of its people which have been irrevocably changed.

  • If you could meet three authors, dead or alive, which authors would you choose?

I would love to meet Gertrude Bell, and talk to her about her travels in the early twentieth century to the Middle East.

Also, Fadwa Tuqan who was a renowned female Palestinain poet. I did my thesis on her work in my final year at Durham University.

Lastly, I would love to talk to J.K. Rowling about how she got started and her path to success.

  • What inspired you to write your book?

I was inspired to write because I am stay-at-home mom and I wanted my children to know what I had done in my former career as a diplomat traveling all over the world before settling in America.

  • Are you working on something at the moment? If so, can you tell us more about it?

At the moment, I am consumed with marketing my book but when that is over, I will start to plan the sequel to “Gazelle in the Shadows.” The sequel will be based in Dubai where Elizabeth will be working undercover for MI6. The sequel will be based in Dubai where Elizabeth will be working undercover for MI6 and faces some familiar adversaries.

About the Book

Gazelle in the Shadows is a new political thriller by Michelle Peach. The novel takes place in Syria and is largely based on the authors real life experiences.

“For many years, I have wanted to write this book. The story is largely based on my life,” says Michelle Peach, author of Gazelle in the Shadows. “Although a majority of the novel is entirely true, there are parts that are fictionalized.”

Synopsis –

In the mid 90s, Elizabeth Booth, a young British college student studying Arabic at Durham University, travels to Damascus to immerse herself in the Syrian language. Taken aback by the generosity and kindness of the people there, she easy slips into a life in the ancient city. She has friends, her studies, and even a handsome boyfriend. But things aren’t always as they seem. Soon, in a world where mistrust and disloyalty are commonplace, Elizabeth finds herself navigating a web of lies, betrayals, and a murder involving MI6, deadly terrorist factions, and the shadowy Syrian secret police.


From the Prologue –

When I traveled to Syria as a Durham student in 1992, I knew very little about the country. From the onset, I was overwhelmed by their welcome. But the longer I stayed in Damascus and especially when I started working for Dr. Andrew Rathmell, as his Arabic translator and assistant researcher, the more I understood of Syria’s tumultuous and violent history. At the time, Hafez al-Assad, the President of Syria since 1971, was at the height of his autocratic power and the country was in a state of relative calm since the end of the Gulf War in 1991. His vast security apparatus was evident on every street corner whether army, police or civilian informants. My travel guide dedicated an entire page to the various types of mukhabarat, secret police, present in the country but also reassuringly wrote that Syria was a “safe” country for travelers. Not so obvious was the fear, paranoia and suppression which his people lived under…

Praise for Michelle Peach’s Gazelle in the Shadows:

“Compellingly realistic and packed with both psychological and physical action, Gazelle in the Shadows adds an extra layer of cultural understanding to its espionage thriller theme.” -D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review

 “Peach integrates myriad plot developments into her exciting and ambitious work … The central conceit is both original and compelling.” -BookLife Prize

“Michelle Peach brings Syrian culture and cityscapes to life with her descriptions and characters… the author is able to accurately capture a specific moment in Middle Eastern history that still has ramifications on modern-day Syrians. For those looking for a glimpse into new cultures with a taste of a spy thriller, Gazelle in the Shadows will both warm your heart and send shivers down your spine.” -Red City Review

“Gazelle in the Shadows is both a coming of age story and a reflection of life in the looking glass world of Hafez al-Asad’s Syria. While told through an intensely personal lens, Michelle’s story provides a sideways look at a Syria that is now gone but also hints at some of the underlying factors that contributed to the country’s ongoing agonies. The book is an unusual combination of bittersweet student memories, geopolitical machinations, and “factionalised” adventures; well worth a read.”– Dr Andrew Rathmell, Author of Secret War in the Middle East: The Covert Struggle For Syria 1949 -1961

About the Author

Michelle Peach graduated from Durham University in 1995 with a B.A. in Arabic with Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies. During 1992, she spent her second year of college studying abroad at the Arabic Teaching Institute for Foreigners in Damascus. Since then, Michelle’s love for Syria has never been far from her thoughts. When the unrest began in 2011, her determination to start writing Gazelle in the Shadows intensified. “I was distraught and appalled by the suffering of the people and by the destruction of its historical sites in Aleppo, Palmyra, Bosra, Homs, Damascus and elsewhere. I know that many will not have the opportunity to see the sights of Syria due to the ongoing conflict, but I hope that through my story readers can enjoy the cities, landscapes and culture of Syria.” Gazelle in the Shadows is set to be released in September 2018, published by IngramSpark.

Michelle lives in Atlanta, GA. She is a stay-at-home mom, married with three children. Readers can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads. To learn more, go to

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