Some students decide to get involved with student affairs, others with athletics, some with clubs, and then there are a few others who decide to write books. This happens to be the choice that Aziz Mama and Matthew- Donald Sangster made when they co-authored The Stranger Inside: Stories from Beneath the Mirrored Glass, published in May 2011 under their own publication house, Mama Sangster Publications.
The Stranger Inside: Stories from Beneath the Mirrored Glass is composed of nine short stories ranging in themes. “The plot of each of the stories is based in realism but subtly takes a turn towards existential understanding. Essentially, the aim of many of the stories is to outline the concept that no philosophical idea can be taken solely at face value,” said Sangster. He said that each one of the stories unfolds and in its own way and then ends by its own means, as is the way in life. He continued, “Doing so highlights the similarities between the stories: The significance and importance of a second chance. Through forcing the characters to grasp the subjective nature of the perceptions of life, they are allowed to see their circumstances with more optimistic tones.”
Mama said that all the stories speak for themselves, saying that the meaning of each story will be the reader’s own. “We had our own ideas and concepts which we put into the stories, but given the way we wrote they are still very much open to interpretation,” Mama said.
With writing, inspiration comes from numerous sources, whether they be real-life experiences or a daydream morphing into something more. For Mama and Sangster, part of their inspiration came from a class. “Well, we each had our own creative influences but collectively our greatest inspiration was from Professor Stuart Dalton and his Existentialism class,” Sangster said. Besides the class, he said he draws creativity from other authors. “As for myself specifically, I drew much influence from Sartre, Kafka, Stephen King, and my personal muse — the musical styling of Tchaikovsky,” he said.
Mama echoed Sangster when he said the greatest source of inspiration came from Dalton. saying that he is possibly the most influential professor he has had while at Monmouth. Mama said that these stories stemmed from three projects for their Existentialism class which took on a life of their own. “Beyond the general and overarching influence of Dalton, some of the authors I most admire are Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Tolkien and Dan Simmons, to name a few,” Mama said. He continued, “Perhaps, in time, my own writing can achieve a semblance of the clarity and subtlety found in their writing.”
Besides the inspiration behind a work of literature, writing requires desire and dedication. “Though largely fueled by our personal ambitions to be published, the majority of the desire to write this goes back to Dalton as his positive critique of our works gave us the motivation to intently pursue this,” Sangster said.
“Matthew and I had always had a desire to see our writing in print, but if it were not for the support of Dalton, and Matthew prodding me to make my writing deadlines, we could never have seen such an ambitious project realized,” Mama said.
As with any collaboration, there is a certain amount of give-and-take. “Aziz and I were under different deadlines through the completion of this book. I was to focus on finishing my portions to aid in the publication process and he was to delay his own writing to allow time to edit my contributions,” Sangster said. He said that this worked very effectively because it allowed them to limit their need for a final editor, which they still used for precautionary reasons. Another aspect that was challenging was the issue that Mama was not even in the U.S. while writing was ongoing. “The fact that Aziz was in England for a majority of the process was especially taxing for me, as I was in charge of the entire publication process in addition to the formation of our publication company, Mama Sangster Publications, which was a feat in-and-of-itself,” Sangster said.
Mama said that the coordinating of the writing was the main difficulty. “Needless to say, Matthew spent a great deal of time on his own setting up the partnership and preparing for the printing of our book. It was rather amusing to consider the fact that the hardest part of the publication process was not the actual writing or the editing of the material but was, in fact, the administrative aspect of publication,” Mama said.
The 150 page collection of stories is available in top book carrying stores like Barnes and Noble and is available on Amazon. Their accomplishment is extra sweet considering they were able to create a publishing company and publish a book while still attending University. It shows the positive influence professors have on their students and how the written word is able to convey such different themes about life. Mama said, “Each story has a life of its own and grows along with whoever happens to be reading it.”