A reporter turned novelist will talk about her career and her fiction Monday night in Des Moines. Masha (MOSH’-uh) Hamilton says she was working as a journalist in Moscow, covering the collapse of Communism, when she realized she wanted to do a different kind of writing. "I began to dream fictional stories," Hamilton says, and that’s when she left journalism as a fulltime job. She’s returned from time to time, doing some reporting from Afghanistan and just last year gathering background for a novel while doing some reporting from northeastern Kenya, near the border with Somalia, telling about victims of drought and famine. Hamilton’s a veteran of the reporting business and was working in the Middle East when Iowa native and journalist Terry Andersen was kidnapped in Lebanon in 1985.
Her second novel, "Staircase of a Thousand Steps," goes into what drives journalists to want to report on dangerous situations. "The adrenaline rush." Hamilton says, "the feeling that you’re part of something larger than yourself — that you’re stepping onto a stage, but you’re not exactly completely an observer, you’re a little bit of a participant too." She says there are many factors that go into it including a commitment to the story and to the news itself. She says there were plenty of times she herself felt afraid, while reporting on trouble spots overseas.
"There are times when I’ve been afraid," Hamilton says. "I certainly put a wall around my heart, so that I wouldn’t feel fear, or even get too upset when I witnessed situations of violence." She says doing anything else would have taken her "out of the story" and made her less of a competent reporter. She says writing about much of that in her last book was a kind of healing process. Hamilton’s worked the war zones of the Middle East into her fiction, and her new book, "The Camel Bookmobile," is based on true events in northern Africa. She’ll talk about it tonight at Des Moines’ new downtown Central Library.