Born and raised in Beirut, Lebanon, I grew up in the family of readers and survivors. For the most part, our lives were governed by a seemingly endless war, one that we thought would be over within days and stretched to 25 years. The classics ( Dostoevsky, Somerset Maugham, Hemingway, Maria Remarque, Steinbeck to name a few) were my virtual escape from constant threat, no electricity and water, incarceration and downright terror. At the time the world, by and large, was at peace and the lack of 24-hour news coverage meant that the plight of the Lebanese was rarely at the forefront of international affairs.
Literature became my outlet and I managed to complete a BA at the American University of Beirut. Subsequently I went on to read English Literature at Oxford. The war in my home country was ongoing, yet I went back on holiday visits. My work as editor for various academic and economic institutions landed me at the Centre for Lebanese Studies where I co-edited 'Lebanon: A History of Conflict and Consensus.' I carried on with freelance work in French and English in South Africa where I settled with my husband and three children. Further travels saw us settling in Majorca where I took up writing.
There, the idea of Beirut in Shades of Grey was born. At the time, few works of fiction in English had been written on Beirut while historical accounts abounded. The questions I was constantly asked abroad and which I felt needed addressing were: 'What is it like to live in a state of war?' and 'How do people cope?'
Beirut in Shades of Grey is the story of a victim of the war, Rasha, and her impossible and forbidden love for Luke, a British photo-journalist, who sees conflict in dispassionate and professional terms. The novel was published last year. Publishers Weekly called it 'a vivid portrait of a country in turmoil' and Rambles said it was 'an insighful and sometimes terrifying glimpse into the life of one woman ; it humbled this reader while at the same time providing a gripping read. There is no doubt Mills is a gifted storyteller.'
I still have family in Beirut to whom I return regularly. Am I an exile? How can I be when I will always have a home to go back to.