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What inspired you to come up with Shadow Play and the Kain Songket Mysteries?
I studied Wayang Siam in Kelantan, doing the field work for my dissertation. I love Wayang Kulit: I found it fascinating from the first time I experienced it in Java, where I studied during my Junior year of college. When I saw my first Kelantan Wayang Siam performance, I was hooked.
Tell us more about Mak Cik Maryam. Why a female sleuth?
It's an acknowledgement of the women I met who dominated the Kota Bharu market. They were excellent business women, and very take charge. Mak Cik Maryam is a combination of several of them, and some of my neighbors in Kota Bharu.
Were any Mak Ciks the inspiration for Maryam? How about the other characters?
Several of my neighbors in Kg. Dusun (Jalan Bayam, Kota Bharu) worked in the market, and some sold cloth. I would visit them in the market, and I loved the fabrics. Mak Cik Maryam is a combination of several of these neighbors, and my mother's name is Miriam, so she's in there, too.

My friend and neighbor Ashikin Mohd Ali (after whom the character Ashikin is named) and I still talk all the time. We met when she was 12 and I was 24, so we've known each other for most of our lives now (I can't believe it). Her little brother, Yi, is the model for Maryam's youngest. I lived for a year with Ab. Malek Jusoh and Wan Hamidah Wan Nawang, and they are the inspiration for some of the nicest people in the book!
Is there another book in the works for the Kain Songket series?
I'll keep writing for as long as I can do it - and as long as people are interested in reading them!
Why did you choose Kelantan for your anthropology field work?
My professor at college, Doug Raybeck, was an anthropologist who studied in Kelantan, and he first taught me Malay. He inspired me to study in Kelantan, and I had heard so much about it in his classes, I just had to go!
How was life in Kelantan? Have you returned since?
I loved Kelantan, and people were so very warm and welcoming. I've returned to Kelantan many times: I love it there, and was very sure I wanted my two daughters to know it as well.
Did you learn Kelantanese before going to Kelantan?
I don't know if you can really learn Kelantanese outside of Kelantan! I spoke Malay before I arrived, but I learned Kelantanese in Kota Bharu. Now my Malay accent is totally Kelantanese.