Thank you so much for joining us today! Please introduce yourself! Tell us who you are and what you do! Are you the main character in the story or a supporting role? What do you do for a living? How old are you?
Thank you, Ember. It was lovely of you to invite me here today. It means so much to me that you would take interest in my story, The Merchant’s Pearl.
To give a little insight on me, my name is Leila. I’m nearly nineteen years old and tragically trapped within the confines of Dolmabahce Palace, Istanbul. In fact, I’ve been enslaved to this palace since I was eleven years old. Here, I am a concubine (sex slave) within the Imperial harem of Sultan Abdulaziz. Well, I don’t really belong to the Sultan ‘Aziz anymore. Many months ago I was selected to serve one of his sons, Prince Emre. Although I did so begrudgingly, I should go ahead and tell you now, it was with Emre that my long-held story of tragedy took its turn. You see, not every son is like his father. Sometimes…one finds their freedom through unexpected doors of love.
Can you tell us about one of your most distinguishable features?
Oh, my name should make it easy enough for me to answer this. You see, my Christian name was Sarai, but it’s customary for every girl to receive a new name at the palace. The head eunuch took one look at me and named me Leila, meaning “Dark Beauty” because of my long, dark brown hair and chocolate colored eyes. I was a little browned by the sun back then. Now, within the palace, my skin is strikingly fair. But overall, the Sultan has surrounded himself with lovely girls with blond tresses. These seem to be his favorite spoils of war.
Do you have any birthmarks or tattoos?
No birthmarks. They’re actually not allowed. And although nearly every girl here has been laced with henna tattoos, I have yet to receive one. It’s not that I find them unattractive. My friend, Dariya, has some that are most exquisite. But for me, I honestly just try to cause as little attention as possible.
Would you ever want to go hang out with your author? If so, what would you do together?
Yes! I believe we would venture somewhere on horseback. Perhaps take a small picnic and some excellent books into an open field.
If you could have a super power what would it be, and why?
To walk invisible. I would desire to place a cloak of invisibility upon myself, Emre, and those that I love and leave this suffocating palace once and for all.
What is your biggest pet peeve when dealing with others?
I feel like people should mean what they say and their actions should always, always follow suit. Here, on the other hand, people are nearly always guided by fear or greed. True friendships are possible, but incredibly rare. It’s sad, but most of the time you end up looking over your shoulder.
What would I love the most about you?
Probably that I am a magnet for trouble. Or perhaps that I love deeply when I get to know you. I’m feisty but I’m not senseless (although sometimes my heart gets the best of me). I champion love. How about that?
What would I hate the most about you?
Seems a little unfair to ask me (only teasing). Aster, on the other hand, would be chomping at the bit for such a question, especially if the interview could be conducted in front of Emre.
Alright…I suppose I am snarky. I suppose I have a hard time embracing the authority of those around me. I, myself, am greedy. I want to be the sole possessor of Emre’s affections. And sometimes my mouth (or occasional actions) may cause undue hardships for those around me.
Do you think the author portrayed you accurately?
I believe so. She, too, feels very deeply.
What is your greatest fear?
I’m not sure which of my fears is the greatest. I am terrified that Emre and I shall never get to leave this palace or perhaps we will be torn from one another, even parted through death. He could be struck by the sword or strangled for his father’s transgressions and I could be disposed of in a weighted sack within the sea.
But at the same time, my heart is seized by the fear of us somehow staying here, together, by some miracle of peace, only to lose him, his gaze, his affections, to some new girl his family will send to enchant him.
If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, what would you do today?
I would tell him that I love him. I would tell him that of all the utter pain my heart has felt in my youth I would experience it all again, just to feel what I feel when I am with him. He is everything to me. I was wrong. If I could go back in time I would have loved him even as a child.
If they turned the book into a movie, who would be cast to play you?
Oh, Amie has answered this one from the very beginning. It seems a very feisty actress named Mia Kunis has been in her head since the very beginning. Although she is not as young as me, Amie always refers to her as “My Leila.” There is no arguing with her.