Sherry Jones upbeat about book

LAST UPDATED AT 11:47 ON Mon 29 Sep 2008

Sherry Jones (pictured), whose book The Jewel of Medina was the reason for the fire-bombing of her London publishers, Gibson Square Books, remains bullish about her novel reaching the bookshops even though publisher Martin Rynja has gone into hiding. Speaking at the weekend, she said of her fictional account of the prophet Mohammed’s child bride, Aisha: "The planting of that bomb was not about my book. It's not about the content of my book. It's not about the ideas in my book. It must be about the rumours and innuendos... [This is] obviously a response to the misinformation."

She added that she had heard nothing to indicate that Gibson Square — or Beaufort Books, her new American publisher — would not continue as planned to bring the novel to the public. Jones, 46, an American journalist (this is her debut book), sounds like a tough cookie. Perhaps this is down to her upbringing. She was an Air Force brat who lived on a series of bases. She spent 20 years in Montana, which she considers home, graduating from the University of Montana's creative writing program. She moved to Spokane, Washington state, about a year ago.

She had begun reading about women in the Middle East, while at the same time pondering her college honor's thesis and decided that the Prophet's wife Aisha's story would make a good book.

Jones, who has never been to the Middle East, ended up taking two years of Arabic language classes. She gathered every book she could find to make her novel historically accurate about seventh-century Arabia. She lists more than two dozen books in the bibliography. She recently said that she dreamed of going to Auntie's Bookstore in Spokane, a favourite of hers, and seeing The Jewel of Medina listed in the store's books newsletter. She says: "For me, this book felt almost like giving birth and losing the baby."

The good news is she gets to keep the $100,000 advance from Random House, who dropped the book after being informed it would be offensive to Muslims. Her next book looks unlikely to provoke a similar storm. She's kicking around the idea of writing about Lady Godiva, the Anglo-Saxon noblewoman who rode naked through the streets of Coventry to protest against the high taxes imposed by her husband on his tenants. · 

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