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Drunk on Ink Q & A with Shabnam Samuel and ‘A Fractured Life’

Drunk on Ink is a blast interview series conducted by Soniah Kamal, Jaggery Blog Editor and author of the forthcoming novel Unmarriageable: Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice in Pakistan. 

Shabnam Samuel is a writer, coach, social media trainer, and the founder of the Panchgani Writers’ Retreat, an international writing retreat based out of Panchgani, India. The retreat incorporates mindful living along with creativity and wellness following Ayurveda principles, with yoga, meditation and writing workshops. As a writer, Shabnam has been writing ever since she can remember. Her essays have been published online in Brain Child Magazine and Your Tango.  Shabnam also hosts a local TV show called Dew Drops and Words that broadcasts to 2.4 million viewers on the MHz network in the Washington, DC area. You can find her on YouTube under the name ‘Dew Drops and Words’. Shabnam is also a business coach and she mentors with the Empowered Women International in Alexandria, Virginia, an organization that helps train low-income, immigrant, and refugee women on how to be a successful entrepreneurs.

About A Fractured Life.

Abandoned by her parents as a three-year-old, and ultimately leaving her home country India for a new life in America as a young mother of a three-year-old son, this is not only an immigrant’s story, but a poignant and powerful memoir that is at first, one of sadness and continuing adversity, but ultimately one of strength, purpose, and the universal triumph of hope. It is a story of dislocation, disruption, and despair, and brings focus to the silencing of girlhood and womanhood and how with time, love, and support we can work our way out of that silence.Raised by an orphan of the Russian Revolution and an Indian Sepoy who, during WWI was stationed in Iraq (Mesopotamia), her story arc begins in a small town called Cuttack in the East of India and takes her to the capital of the most powerful nation in the world, Washington DC. It is a humanizing story of mixed races, religion, and continents. Shabnam Samuel was twenty seven when she moved to the US, carrying with her a troubled marriage, an almost estranged husband, and a three-year-old son. Hoping to create a fresh start from everything that was holding her down, it took Shabnam twenty-five years of trials and tribulations to finally find her voice, her strength, and her place in this world.

SONIAH KAMAL: First author/book you read/fell in love with? 

SHABNAM SAMUEL: The first author I fell in love with was Enid Blyton. The families that she created with the Famous Five, were families that I longed to belong to. They had everything, that I did not have.

To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

Chai, Chai , all the way!

A novel, short story, poem, essay, anything you believe should be mandatory reading?

Okay, don’t laugh, Archie and Jughead comics!!  In your youth to show you that life should be one where you can laugh and as an adult to tell you not to take life too seriously.

Any classic you wished you’d pushed through in your teens?

Moby Dick. I gave up mid way.

Favorite quote  

I do not understand the mystery of grace-only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us”-

Anne Lamott. I am not sure which of her books this is from. I want to say Bird by Bird, but I could be wrong.

Favorite book to film? 

The Godfather. Everything was so brilliantly portrayed. The voice, the intonations, the accent, just about everything.

Favorite Indie Book Store/s?

Curious Iguana in Frederick, MD

The one think you wish you’d known about the writing life?

That once you write a book (non-fiction) you are supposed to keep writing essays that revolve around your theme.

Does writing/publishing/marketing get any easier with each story/novel published?

I am not so sure. This is my first book.

Dog, Cat, Or?  


Ideal vacation?

Sea, sun and my ideal partner.

Favorite book cover?

Can I say mine?

Favorite song?

As of now a Bollywood song called Hawayein from the movie  Jab Harry Met Sejal.

Favorite painting/ work of art?  

My son’s drawing  of a lion and a poem he wrote to go with it when he was 9.

Any Lit Festival anecdote you want a share? A great meeting with a fan? An epiphany?

I was at the Bangalore Literature Festival in October and the women and girls who came up to tell me, how my book inspired them to write their own stories.

What is your favorite Austen novel, and film adaptation?

Sense and Sensibility. I loved the costumes, the drama, the humor the bonnets!!

Recommend a Small Press and/or Literary Journal?

Green Writers Press out of Vermont.

Last impulse book buy and why?

You know, I actually never buy books impulsively. I buy a lot of them but each one is carefully considered. I read mostly memoirs, but will buy all friends books that I am connected to.

Soniah Kamal is an award winning essayist and fiction writer. Her novel Unmarriageable: Pride & Prejudice in Pakistan, a parallel retelling of Pride and Prejudice and set in contemporary Pakistan, has received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Library Journal.  NPR calls it ‘thought provoking and deliciously readable’ and People Magazine says “This inventive retelling of Pride and Prejudice charms.” Unmarriageable is an Amazon Best Books pick, a People Magazine’s Pick, a New York Post Best Book pick, a Library Reads pick and more. Soniah’s debut novel An Isolated Incident was a finalist for the Townsend Award for Fiction, the KLF French Fiction Prize, and is an Amazon Rising Star pick. Soniah’s short story ‘Jelly Beans’ was selected for the Best South Asian Short Stories Anthology 2017. Her TEDx talk is about regrets and redemption. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, Buzzfeed, Catapult, The Normal School, Literary Hub, and has been widely anthologized. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from Georgia State University where she was a Paul Bowles Fellow in Fiction. She currently teaches creative writing at Rhineheart University and reviews books for the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Soniah will be giving a keynote address at the Jane Austen Summer Program Conference (2019) and she is a Jane Austen Literacy Ambassador. She was born in Pakistan, grew up in England and Saudi Arabia, and currently resides in Georgia.

More Drunk on Ink Interviews:

Mike Chen: Here and Now and Then, a novel

Ruth Franklin: Shirley Jackson A Rather Haunted Life, biography

Colleen Oakley: Before I Go, a novel

Emily Midorikawa: A Secret Sisterhood: The literary friendships of Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, George Eliot, and Virginia Woolf, biography

Shabnam Samuel: A Fractured Life, memoir

Elise Hooper: The Other Alcott, a novel

Anne Boyd Rioux: Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters, non fiction

Devoney Looser: The Making of Jane Austen, non fiction

Kristen Miller ZohnThe Currency of Taste- Gibbons Georgian Silver, coffee table book

Vanessa HuaA River of Stars, novel

Chaitli SenThe Pathless Sky, novel

Sonya HuberPain Woman Take Your Keys, memoir

Kathy Wilson FlorenceThree of Cups, a novel

Sara Luce LookCharis Books and More, independent book store

S J SinduMarriage of a Thousand Lies, a novel

Rosalie Morales KearnsKingdom of Men, a novel

Saadia FaruqiMeet Yasmin, children’s literature

Rene DenfeldThe Child Finder, a novel

Jamie BrennerThe Husband Hour, a novel

Sara MarchantThe Driveway has Two Sides, memoir

Kirsten Imani KasaiThe House of Erzulie, a novel

Thrity UmrigarThe Secrets Between Us, novel

John Kessel, Pride and Prometheus, novel

Lisa Romeo, Starting with Goodbye: A Daughter’s Memoir of Love After Loss

Rachel May, An American Quilt: Unfolding a Story of Family and Slavery

Rebecca Entel, Fingerprints of Previous Owners, novel

Jamie Sumner, Unbound: Finding from Unrealistic Expectations of Motherhood

Falguni Kothari, My Last Love Story, novel

Tanaz BathenaA Girl Like That, YA novel



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