Interview in Winnipeg's Uptown Weekly
A hard book to write
After years of drafts, Dimitri Nasrallah’s second novel, Niko, is ready to grip readers
By: Quentin Mills-Fenn
Dimitri Nasrallah spent years working on his second novel Niko
(Esplanade Books) and has evidence to prove it. It’s a story of refugees
and immigrants, a boy and his father who flee the Lebanese civil war
when Niko’s mother is killed by a car bomb.
"It was a hard book to write," Nasrallah says. "I did 14 drafts. They’re all in a tomato crate at home."
Born in Lebanon, followed by time in Greece, Kuwait, and Dubai,
Nasrallah ended up in Montreal where he works as a music and cultural
critic. (He edits the electronic music section for Exclaim!.)
"Niko was the character that was hardest to get," Nasrallah says.
"Mainly because I was avoiding similarities to myself, or at least on
"There isn’t a lot in common with me and Niko, except I’ve moved around a
lot," he adds. "But in the details. The details stayed with me, and I
hope they resonate with the reader."
During their journey, father and son are separated. Niko arrives in
Montreal, living with distant relatives, while his father has a more
Nasrallah says he found inspiration from an unusual source, American
crime writer James M. Cain, author of taut suspense novels such as The
Postman Always Rings Twice.
"I saw that pace and I was really curious how he got that momentum,"
Nasrallah says. "I realized that he never steps away from a character’s
motivation. The reader is always attached. There’s really complex stuff
there. You feel like you’re reading something visceral.
"If you have a story that begins with a boy losing his mother in a horrific way, you don’t need to spell out how he feels."