Scarlett Sometimes

One of the weirdest things about being a writer is how real your characters become. As in, Scarlett is way more real to me than, say, my third grade teacher. Other than the fact that Mrs. B. had graying black hair, loved Oil of Olay, and applied it at least three times a day, there isn’t much I can tell you about her now.

But Scarlett’s another story.

I know that Scarlett has a ton of Billie Holiday songs on her phone, even though there’s nothing about that in the book. I know that when she was teething as a baby, her ummi let her gum frozen bagels to cut the pain. She doesn’t usually wear perfume, but for special occasions she has one that smells like orange blossoms and cinnamon. She once over-tweezed her eyebrows so bad her sister, Reem, had to help her pencil them in until they grew back. She wears boy briefs. She likes the way black polish looks on short fingernails when it’s all chipped up. I know these things because they’re true.

And even though my parents aren’t from Egypt or Sudan like Scarlett’s, and I’ve never woken early for Fajr prayers or hunted down a murderer, I understand what Scarlett feels. She is very, very different from me, but writing her into existence has changed me. It has made my world bigger.

I like that.

Ultimately, I want other people to like Scarlett, too; I want them to spend time with my girl. Because no matter how different readers might be from an imaginary detective, understanding her might just make their own world a little, tiny bit bigger.

And that’s always a good thing in my book.