T.D. El-Amin's debut novel takes place in Italy and St. Louis but was birthed in Montgomery, Alabama. Specifically the federal prison camp in Montgomery where El-Amin served nearly eighteen months in 2010 and 2011 for soliciting and taking a bribe as a Missouri state representative.
"For me, writing was a way to express myself and my desires," El-Amin tells Daily RFT. "In prison you have to create a world for yourself, and that world has to sustain you. The characters in my book did that. They kept me company."
The novel, Lost and Turned Out, follows a mixed-race woman named Mia Farone as she is uprooted from Tuscany and transplanted to America. The 42-year-old El-Amin says he drew on his travels in the Navy while composing the book in his cell.
"All the places -- the restaurants, the hotels -- are real," he says. "There is a degree of authenticity."
Still, El-Amin acknowledges that the writing wasn't always easy given the restraints of prison.
"I didn't have a computer or even a typewriter," says El-Amin. "I had to write it long-hand. Sometimes the lights would go off, and I'd be in my bunk and have an idea. I'd write it in pencil on the wall. It wouldn't be that legible in the morning, but I could make it out."
Continue on for more about other books El-Amin has in the works and his thoughts on his corruption charge.
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