Twins turn interest in human behaviour into a novel

Mariam and Fatima Masood's book I Know Who You Are delves into personality traits and how to spot them.

Fatima Masood, left, and her twin sister Mariam, seen in the room they share, have yet to receive sales figures for their book.
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DUBAI // Being twins helps, they say. Mariam and Fatima Masood share a room in their family's apartment in Karama, dress in matching clothes, use matching black laptops with identical red criss-cross coverings, and work in the same school. They say they can no longer tell who wrote what in their book, I Know Who You Are, which was published last March and is available locally.

"Our minds think so alike," says Fatima, or Mariam - in their matching white and blue salwars and black hijabs, it is difficult to tell the two apart although they say their family can identify Mariam, the elder by 11 minutes, by her slightly rounder face. The sisters turned 26 in December. I Know Who You Are, which is written in English, follows a young boy, Sultan, as he discovers through a mystical inheritance from his grandfather the knowledge of different personality types and how to spot them.

Mariam and Fatima, whose family comes from Pakistan, began working on the book in 2007. They said they knew they wanted to take on a major project and both were fascinated by their observations of peoples' personalities. From this, they developed the concept of character skins - behaviours common to particular personalities. Each of the five skins is identified by a physical trait: hammerhead, sticklip, scuff, flip side and headspin.

Hammerheads are considered stubborn leader types who prefer solitude. The sticklips, depicted with a frozen, smiling face, will get along with their peers and keep quiet, regardless of their true feelings. The scuffs, with overlong fingernails, are incapable of doing much good, even when they try. Flipsides are relaxed people who always look to the past, while headspins speak for the sake of it.

"A lot of people comment on the story more than the concept," says Mariam. "A lot of people found that to be the most interesting." Fatima and Maryam are awaiting sales reports to see how well their book has been received. However, they know that about 300 copies have been ordered for Jashanmal stores, and another 100 by Magrudy's. "It's been nice. People have added the book to libraries, as well we've received nice e-mails from people," says Fatima.

They say their understanding of the characters was honed by their interactions with their friends, family and colleagues. And being twins who live nearly identical lives gave them additional perspective. "Being twins helped us. We share incidents and decisions," says Fatima. "Then we can talk about them." The concept of character skins has helped them navigate work outside their shared lives, the sisters say.

"It's given us support to understand the people we meet for the first time," says Fatima, who speaks a little more than Mariam, although the two will interrupt each other to add a point or thought to the conversation. Mariam says: "Once you know a person's character skin, you expect a certain behaviour out of him." The twins are now working on a second book. This, they say, will introduce new character skins, such as darling devil and clay - a personality type that cannot be defined by a character skin.

Fatima and Mariam will be doing a book signing at the Magrudy's store in Dubai Festival City from 6.30pm to 8pm tomorrow. The book also retails on Amazon's UK site for about Dh50.