Djaffar Chetouane – Donkey Heart Monkey Mind

What is your most recent book? Tell us a bit about it.

Donkey Heart Monkey Mind

The young Berber narrator of Donkey Heart Monkey Mind has to learn the kind of perseverance and ingenuity it takes to survive in 1980’s Algeria, where his people are second-class citizens in a third world country. His tale opens when police brutally beat him for participating in a protest march. Knowing that he must leave his own country or suffer this kind of treatment forever, he begins wandering Europe and northern Africa, desperately seeking some alternative. He tries his hand as a street vendor and a pickpocket, is mistaken for a drug smuggler and an Egyptian spy, and he poses as Jewish to sneak into Israel and as a devout Muslim to escape notice in an Egyptian prison. He is eventually swept up in the wave of arrests following the “Black October” Algerian political riots of 1988. Drugged and shipped to a remote military prison, for months he is burned, brutalized, and held in solitary confinement. But in the end, his tale poignantly illustrates how even in the most desperate circumstances sometimes hope is found, help is offered, and inspiration strikes.

Tell us something about yourself.

I’m a Berber from Algeria. I’ve been living in the US for the last 22 years. Donkey Heart Monkey Mind is my debut novel.

What inspired you to write this book?

My most inspiration came from friends who encouraged me to write a book because of the way I tell a stories.

How did you choose the title?

I chose this title because my father used to call me “Best Friend of the Donkey,” as an insult. The Monkey part came from my brain agility.

What obstacles did you encounter in getting this book published? How did you overcome them?

The number one obstacle I had was money. With the help of friends and with my never give up attitude I was able to overcome it.

How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?

I never knew I would become a writer, in fact I hated writing. With the encouragement of friends and under their advice, I started writing one story at a time and I started loving it.

Do you have any writing rituals?

I’m an early riser. I write every morning starting at 5:30 AM with my coffee at Peet’s

How do you come up with the names for your characters?

Donkey Heart Monkey Mind is a historical fiction and I used real names, including mine.

Did you learn anything from writing and publishing this book? What?

Yes I did. The number one thing I learned is the challenges that come with publishing a book as a first time writer. Whenever there’s a challenge, I do not stop till I accomplish my goal. And the most important part I learned is that I’m a better writer than I thought.

What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors? Why?

Historical, fiction and non-fiction as well as novels. A few of my favorites are” Khaled Hosseini, Yann Martel. Maya Angelou and Paulo Coehlo.

Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?

Yes, I am, and it is a collection of short stories.

What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?

Never give up and never take rejections personal and always accept either negative feedback or positive. And keep writing.

Who is the perfect reader for your book?

My number one audience are women.

Where can readers learn more about you and your book?

On my web site they can read the first chapter to find out if it’s their genre.