On The Table Read, the “Best Entertainment Celebrity Magazine in the UK“, Ashe and Magdalena Stevens describes the events that took place to inspire them to write their new book, Lost In Beirut.
Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed husband and wife co-authors, Ashe and Magdalena Stevens, about the experiences that inspired their hit novel, Lost In Beirut, and the creative work that went into writing it.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
Ashe and Magdalena: We are husband and wife and the authors of Lost in Beirut- a gripping page turner and true story of Ashe’s transformative journey through war in Lebanon.
It begins in Los Angeles in the glitz and glamour of Hollywood scene and careens through the Middle East as war breaks out in Lebanon in 2006. Ashe, travels to Beirut with his best friend to organize a 50 Cent concert but gets stuck in the country tipped into war overnight. As they try to escape the ravages of war Ashe goes through a spiritual journey.
There is a thrilling love story interwoven into the pages of this memoir as well.
Ashe: I can tell you who I am today but I won’t be the same person tomorrow. I’m constantly evolving. I am a creative soul who’s well-traveled. I had an opportunity to visit many parts of the world to admire other cultures all the while being sympathetic to their needs while appreciating the bountiful gifts of being an American citizen. My strong spiritual sense comes from that and my family’s incredible faith in God. My biggest accomplishment is being a father to my 7 year old daughter with autism who inspires me every day.
Magdalena: I love what Ashe said about evolving. I very much feel the same way. I have worn many hats in my life. From fashion and runway model in NYC and Paris to a doctor, a mother and now an author. I come from a very artistic and spiritual family as well and immigrated to US when I was 18 from a small town in the Bieszczady Mountains in Poland. I also am quite introverted and don’t enjoy talking about myself, so this is where I will stop ( laugh).
When did you first WANT to write a book?
Ashe: I knew immediately, when I got off the plane from Jordan landing in Paris, after escaping the war in 2006. Seeing the faces of the disconnected people completely unfazed by the tragedy of war a few hours away, was surreal. I wanted to scream for them to wake up but instead it took me over a decade processing what I wanted to share and how.
Magdalena: When I met Ashe in 2007 and heard about his turmoil in Lebanon I immediately told him he needed to put it on paper. I often watched him tell the story to friends we met and their absolute shock that this actually happened to him. It took Ashe a lot of time to be ready but I did push him a little bit and eventually in 2019 we sat down and decided to start writing.
When did you take a step to start writing?
Ashe: After a memorable birthday dinner where a group of friends were enthralled by the snippets of the story, my wife sat me down, whipped out her Iphone and we literally wrote out an outline for the book on the notes app. It was towards the end of 2019.
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
Magdalena: It took us two years to finish.
What made you want to write Lost In Beirut?
Ashe: Uniquely, due to my work in the nightlife and entertainment industry I have met hundreds of thousands of people. There seems to be a great disconnection from reality of those suffering around the world. I wanted to pop the insulated comfort bubbles that so many people in the West live in. I felt that I will always remain that man who wants to scream if I didn’t pour their story on paper.
Magdalena: I think after such a traumatizing experience, escaping the ravages of war, Ashe definitely dealt with PTSD. In a way working on this book was a form of therapy so for me this was one of the reasons I wanted to help him write it. Also I believe that the message in Lost in Beirut is so timely in today’s world and that this voice that war could not silence is there for a reason and needs to be heard.
What were your biggest challenges with writing Lost In Beirut?
Ashe: We had numerous challenges. A couple chapters in, the COVID pandemic broke out and with my wife working as a doctor on the frontlines the fear for her safety extinguished any creative thought because we were focused on surviving.
Also Lost in Beirut is a beautiful love story. Writing it with Magdalena proved to be challenging and complicated because it is a love story with another woman before I met my wife. It was a hard to exude this amount of vulnerability, especially that I buried that love deep in my heart and never spoke about it in such detail.
Magdalena: I actually enjoyed writing the love story. I found myself connected to the character and as Ashe said I put a feminine sprinkle into the story. I think for me the biggest challenge was trying to juggle time when it was so scarce since I had to work so much. The hysteria and unknown of the pandemic was almost suffocating but for me writing was an escape from that grim reality. There were certain chapters that were so heavy they took emotional toll on Ashe and we would write three sentences and had to stop and revisit few days later but we tried to write every second we had as much as it was possible.
What was your research process for Lost In Beirut?
Ashe: Since I lived through it there was not much research that needed to be done. We simply outlined the story and kept writing.
How did you plan the structure of Lost In Beirut?
Ashe: We planned the structure of the book to be a cohesive journey for the reader only sticking to the highlights and leaving out the uneventful days.
Magdalena: It definitely reads like a movie and goes 100 mph. (laugh)
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did Lost In Beirut need?
Magdalena: After we were done there was a big dilemma: do we go after traditional publishing, get literary agent or do we do this on our own? We have done so much research trying to figure out what was best. Ultimately, one of our friends who is a NYT bestselling author recommended to self publish since we really wanted to keep all the rights and have the full scope of creative freedom. And so I put myself through Google University School of Publishing. (laugh)
In all honesty it was an incredible journey. We had phenomenal editors, Britt Collins who is a NYT bestselling author and who traveled to Beirut and spent a lot of time in the Middle East as a journalist. Then Heather Sangster who has been an exclusive editor for Margaret Atwood’s last seventeen novels also agreed to help us with editing Lost in Beirut. We were truly blessed with everyone on our team. And not to forget to mention Xavier Comas of Coverkitchen who designed a truly mesmerizing cover for us and who also lived in Beirut at some point.
Ashe: We often joke that this book has a life of its own and chose our wonderful team itself.
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a book?
Magdalena: Just start writing. Don’t worry about the writing quality itself. Get the story on paper first and then improve as you go. Invest in good editors, this is so important even if you go the traditional publishing route.
Ashe: Writing a book is a marathon. Don’t loose sight of the true reason that propelled you to write a book in the first place. Let it burn inside you until you see the flames on the paper.
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
Ashe: I spent a number of years taking care of my daughter, Lucrezia who was diagnosed with autism just a few months before her 2nd birthday.
The journey through thousands of hours of therapy, different behavioral therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapist, feeding therapists has painted a unique experience for me as a father. I never in a million years thought I would be capable of raising a special needs child but here I am and I believe Lucrezia’s story can encourage other families with neurodiverse children.
Magdalena: Like Ashe mentioned we started the process of writing the story of our daughter who is a poster child for early intervention. We started with a non-verbal child who had multitude of repetitive behaviors, no eye contact and severe sensory issues and now at age 7 she is in regular 2nd grade, has multiple friends and is a social butterfly. We believe that our approach of love and acceptance along with therapies has been a reason behind her success. We also want to spread awareness and acceptance for people on the spectrum.
And, finally, are you proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
Ashe and Magdalena: 100%. It was a cathartic process.
Pop all your book, website and social media links here so the readers can find you:
lostinbeirut.com our email email@example.com
IG/facebook/TikTok: @lostinbeirutbook , twitter: @Lost_in_Beirut
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