Nita Prose is a writer and longtime book editor. The Maid, her debut novel, was a No. 1 New York Times bestseller, a Good Morning America Book Club Pick and an international bestseller. The Maid has been published in over 40 countries in more than 35 languages. Nita lives in Toronto, Canada.
Is this your first time in Sharjah?
Yes! It is, and I’m so pleased to be at the fair this year!
Can you tell us a little about the inspiration behind your debut novel The Maid, a murder mystery set in the luxurious Grand Regency Hotel, published earlier this year.
My debut novel, The Maid, was inspired by a chance encounter with a maid at a hotel while I was on a business trip a few years ago. I was staying at a London hotel. One day, after a meeting outside the hotel, I returned to my room and startled the maid who was folding the jogging pants I’d left in a tangled mess on the bed (embarrassing!). The second I entered the room, the maid jumped backward into a shadowy corner. It occurred to me in that moment what an intimate and invisible job it is to be a room maid. Simply by cleaning my room every day, this maid knew so much about me. But what did I know about her? On the plane home a few days later, my protagonist Molly’s voice came to me. I grabbed a pen and a napkin, and wrote the prologue in a single burst. I didn’t know it at the time, but I’d just begun my debut novel.
You are not just a bestselling author but also Editorial Director at Simon & Schuster in Canada. What was it like switching roles in this fashion, and has it changed how you approach your day job?
I’ve only ever been good at one thing: telling stories and helping others tell stories, so both editing and writing feel like natural callings for me. They rarely seem like separate pursuits but two parts of the same endeavour. That being said, turning to “the other side” by becoming a novelist has really shown me how vulnerable it feels. Writing can be disorienting and lonely, like entering an alien wilderness. Of course, the authors I edit have often spoken about this feeling, so it’s not like I wasn’t aware— but there is a big difference between knowing something intellectually and experiencing it yourself! I think being a writer, contending with that alien wilderness, has made me a more sensitive editor.
As a publisher yourself, how involved did you get in the book’s production?
The great thing about having publishing experience is that when it comes to descriptive copy and book covers, I’m able to understand what publishers need to help make my book a success. I had a strong sense of a look and feel for The Maid, one that borrowed from Art Deco imagery and married that with depictions we most often associate with classic murder mysteries. I shared my thoughts with my editors and publishing teams, who added their ideas, too, and the great designers in various territories were able to come up with different looks that beautifully evoked the spirit and tone of the novel.
What is next for The Maid, and do you have plans to write another book?
Universal Pictures have optioned rights for the film, with Academy Award nominee Florence Pugh set to star as Molly, so we may see a new iteration of The Maid on cinema screens in the future. As for my next book, many readers have asked if I’ll write a sequel to The Maid. Here’s the thing: my job as a writer is to leave readers wanting more when they end a book. But I’ll only offer more of Molly if I can actually live up to the first book… so that’s my current challenge. Whatever I write next, I’ll try to make it worthy of my readers’ eyes and ears. Wish me luck!
What are you hoping to gain from your visit to the Sharjah Book Fair?
I’m really looking forward to meeting new readers and writers. Books connect people. They can draw readers from diverse backgrounds together, and that possibility of connection is something that this book fair offers.