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Drunk on Ink Q & A with Tara Coyt and ‘Real Talk About LGBTQIAP’

Drunk on Ink is a blast interview series by Soniah Kamal author of  the novel Unmarriageable, a parallel retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and set in contemporary Pakistan

Tara Coyt is an award-winning marketing and advertising professional, author, speaker, photographer, and painter. Her book Real Talk About LGBTQIAP won a New Generation Indie Book award and was nominated for the Georgia Author of the Year Award. Tara has also developed books for two NBA All-Stars, a Death Row Records photographer, and several entrepreneurs. She is also the founder of Coyt Communications and Get it Write, a coaching program for aspiring authors. Following her mother and grandmother’s examples, Tara has been active in community and  non-profit organizations since childhood. Board include appointments include the Atlanta-Rio Sister Cities Foundation, Atlanta Technical College Foundation, and Atlanta Writers Club. Tara has been a member of the Black Journalists Association, and National Association of Minorities in Communications, and is a graduate of the United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta VIP. She is an ally for LGBTQ equality, a GLAAD Media Institute alumnus, and has participated in Georgia Equality’s speaker training program. Tara Coyt and her twin brother were born in Cleveland, OH. She earned a BS, Natural Sciences from Xavier University (OH) and an MBA, Marketing from The Ohio State University. Tara resides in Atlanta, GA.

.About Real Talk About LGBTQIAP: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, and Pansexual 

The award-winning book, Real Talk About LGBTQIAP: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, and Pansexual explores over 200 questions about sexuality, gender identity, and biological sex. This conversational book also delves into discussions about freedom, equality, self-actualization, and the Bible, as well as current issues like bathroom laws, conversion therapy, healthcare, and religious freedom. Tara Coyt presents an extensive yet approachable discussion that includes a diverse group of LGBTQIAP voices from across the United States. Participants include LGBTQ Institute Executive Director Ryan Roemerman, Fulton County (Georgia) Commission Co-Chair Joan Garner, community activist Reverend Duncan Teague, transgender activist Vandy Beth Glenn, parents, students, doctors, educators, elected officials, and more. Coyt also adeptly examines information from advocacy groups, biblical scholars, medical professionals, researchers, and others. Real Talk About LGBTQIAP has been called an “everything you want to know” book for anyone who wants to know more about how humans experience and express sexuality, gender identity, and biological sex.

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

TARA COYT: I’ve been a voracious reader since childhood, and when I ran out of library books and my parents’ books I resorted to the Encyclopedia Britannica. The first book that rooted itself in my soul and never left was Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. It is one of the most painfully beautiful books ever written. Around the same time I read The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told to Alex Haley, which convinced me that I could not stop speaking, writing, and acting on behalf of equality.

To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

Wine unwinds. Coffee invigorates. Water stabilizes.

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

Reading the newspaper should be mandatory. My brother and I grew up sitting at the kitchen counter reading the newspaper with my parents. I began with the comics, then added Arts & Entertainment, the front page, sports, and finally business. Newspapers entertain, inform, and expand our horizons. They can also spark conversations.

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

None come to mind.

Favorite quote from your book 

There are so many memorable quotes in Real Talk, from every person I interviewed and few from myself. I also added quotes from Zen proverbs, greeting cards from my mother, activists, and celebrities like Lena Waithe and David Letterman. I’ll share the closing quote, which describes what I believe is my calling. It’s from The Goddess Tara, According to the Legends of Tibet: “Therefore, may I, in a female body, work for the welfare of all beings, until such time as all humanity has found its fullness.”

Favorite book to film? And why?

Malcolm X. There we encounter Denzel Washington and Spike Lee at their best. The film was beautiful, emotional, dramatic, and inspirational.

Favorite Indie Book Store/s?

Charis Books in Atlanta.

(read the Drunk On Ink Interview  with Charis Books Here)

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

That there’d be some days I wouldn’t want to do this thing I love. Those days appear just before I’m about to reach a breakthrough, and knowing that pushes me forward.

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

Some aspects become easier because, as with most things, there’s a learning curve. Then once I feel I’ve mastered something I discover another area that needs improvement.

Dog, Cat, Or?

Dog. My first dog was Bunny, a black Scottish Terrier my parents bought when my twin brother and I were 6 months old. Dogs require a lot of attention, and the reward is that they offer tons of attention in return.

Ideal vacation?

Visiting at least 2 cities or countries I’ve never been, with the love of my life. No crowds, warm weather, cultural activities, historic sites, delicious food, and a rental house or condo are preferred.

Favorite book cover?

Aside from Real Talk nothing comes to mind. It’s interesting that I don’t pay a lot of attention to covers, even though I’m also a visual artist.

Favorite song?

There is too much music in the world to ever select one song as my favorite. How do you do that when there’s Fela Kuti’s “No Water No Enemy,”Move Your Body” by Marshall Jefferson, “Valeu” by Tania Maria, “Europa” by Gato Barbieri, and artists like Tony Bennett, Karen Carpenter, Charles Mingus, Franky Beverly & Maze, Angela Bofill, Arturo Sandoval, Aretha Franklin, Michael Franks, James Brown, Janis Joplin, Bob Marley, Sarah Vaughan, The Roots, Grace Jones, Sly & The family Stone, Fiona Apple, Bruce Springsteen, Diana Krall, YoYo Ma

Favorite painting/ work of art?

I like works by Romare Bearden, Elizabeth Catlett, Paul Cezanne, Diego Rivera, and Joe Barry Carroll, and have recently added myself to that list.

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

I always arrive early to set up the room and collect myself. Upon arriving at the Decatur Book Festival the room didn’t have what was requested so and I began working with the room monitor and others to get what was needed. I was so focused on getting the stage set that I never looked behind me until about 20 minutes later when my partner stopped me and said, “Turn around.” The room was full. The faces that stared at me ranged from children to seniors, and people of different races, sexualities, gender identities. You never know who’s going to show up to an event or if anyone will show up. Seeing a standing-room-only crowd brought me to tears.

What is your favorite Austen novel, and film adaptation? Why?

Pride and Prejudice

Recommend a Small Press and/or Literary Journal?

I’m proud to be a part of Joe Barry Carroll Publishing, which focuses on presenting uplifting and impact full stories of our shared human experience.

Last impulse book buy and why?

“Caste” by Isabel Wilkerson. I love reading about history and her first book, “The Warmth of other Sons” was presented in such an engaging way that prompted me to buy Caste without even reading an excerpt.

Soniah Kamal is an award winning novelist, essayist and public speaker.  Soniah’s novel Unmarriageable is a Financial Times Readers’ Best Book of 2019, a People’s Magazine Pick, a Library Reads Pick, an NPR Code Switch Summer Read Pick, a 2019 Book All Georgians Should Read, a 2020 Georgia Author of the Year for Literary Fiction nominee and more. Her novel An Isolated Incident was shortlisted for the Townsend Prize for Fiction and the KLF French Fiction Prize. Soniah’s TEDx talk is about second chances and she has delivered numerous keynotes addreses. ‘We are the Ink’, her address at a U.S. Citizenship Oath Ceremony, talks about immigrants and the real American Dreams, her keynote at the Jane Austen Festival is about universality across time and cultures and she’s given keynotes at Writers Conferences. Soniah’s work has appeared in critically acclaimed anthologies and publications including The New York Times, The Guardian, The Georgia Review, The Bitter Southerner, Catapult, The Normal School, Apartment Therapy and more.  www.soniahkamal.com
She’s on twitter and instagram @soniahkamal

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

Drunk on Ink Q & A with Maureen Joyce Connolly and ‘Little Lovely Things’, a novel

Drunk on Ink is a blast interview series by Soniah Kamal author of  the novel Unmarriageable, a parallel retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and set in contemporary Pakistan

Maureen Joyce Connolly is a former owner of a consulting firm that helped specialty drug companies to develop medications for ultra-rare diseases. She received her Bachelor’s degree in physiology from Michigan State University and my Master’s degree in Liberal Studies from Wesleyan University. Her background in science and love of the natural world often informs and inspires her writing. LITTLE LOVELY THINGS is her debut as a novelist.

About Little Lovely Things

Highlighting the potential catastrophe in the small decisions of everyday life, LITTLE LOVELY THINGS, asks the question–how does one reshape themselves after tragedy strikes? It’s 1993, the first Saturday in September—impossibly hot—and Claire Rawlings is driving her two girls to the daycare at the hospital where, as a resident, she is scheduled for rounds. Ignoring the troublesome signs of a sudden allergic reaction, Claire exits to safety, only to pass out cold. When she wakes, her daughters are gone. With lyrical prose and page-turning momentum, the story unfolds through the viewpoint of four characters: Claire, the devastated yet strong-willed mother; Moira, the transient who finds herself thrust into instant motherhood; soulful Jay, whose grisly discovery brings him to the center of the tragedy; and Andrea, the scrappy and wildly talented tomboy. Traversing the landscape of loss, LITTLE LOVELY THINGS ties together the threads of lives shattered, hope lost, and—finally—joy restored.

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

MAUREEN JOYCE CONNOLLY: This question is unfair! There are far too many books I read as a child that would fit this bill in spades. BUT, if I had to pick a seminal work it would for sure be Jack London’s Call of the Wild and/or White Fang. I still think he is an absolute treasure of a writer and his ability to create atmosphere and a sense of longing is unmatched. London’s writing had me forging lifelong relationships with characters that were not human and that, folks, is an amazing thing.

To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

Does vodka count? With olives or maybe a twist of lemon and extra cold. After that it’s wine and homemade lemonade (often with a splash of vodka – happy to send the recipe to anyone who is interested!)

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

I truly think that all forms of literature should be mandatory reading at some point in our lives. Each one brings something different to bear. A novel is a well-developed long piece of fiction that requires a deeper attention span as opposed to short story which must be rich thematically due to its relative brevity. Poetry is the reigning monarch because it is a distilled spirit (sort of like vodka), drawing literature down to its very essence. Essay, mired in viewpoint – I would also include personal essay here – is important for critical thinking. So, all of the different formats, done well, challenge and develop different parts of our brain.

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

Jane Eyre. I don’t like gothic. At all. Sorry. But I’m absolutely certain I’ve missed out on something important.

Favorite quote from your book 

In order to heal we must learn different ways of doing things. In my book, I have a therapist instructing my main character to

“Learn to adapt, to walk sideways. Like a spider on the wall.”

I get a lot of feedback on that one!

Favorite book to film? And why?

The English Patient.  Watch Trailer Here. Because I think that it is a rare instance of the film not only capturing but actually enhancing the terrific novel by Michael Ondaatje.

Favorite Indie Book Store/s?

The iconic Strand bookstore in New York City – they hosted the launch of my debut novel! My personal locals – Newtown Book Shop in Newtown PA & Doylestown Bookstore in Doylestown PA. I also have to give a warm shout out to Bethany Beach Books in Delaware for their incredible support, Saturn Booksellers in Gaylord Michigan for being amazing and Cottage Books in Glen Arbor Michigan for being so damn cute. I could go on.

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

Ooohh. I wish I had known how lonely it can be. I have always been on teams in my career where I could bounce ideas off of others and feed on group energy. While I understand how much I need my space, it can be difficult to work in isolation so much. Ideally, I’d have another author working several rooms away. We would meet up for coffee and vodka-based cocktails and discuss our work-in-progress several times per week. That would be a dream.

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

I have only published one! However, I am much further along on book number two than I ever imagined so I am going to say yes at this point with the caveat that my answer is subject to change.

Dog, Cat, Or?

I’m a bit pet obsessed. I currently have Pumpkin, an aging orange tabby cat, Huckleberry, a rambunctious Jack Russel terrier and our new puppy, Rhubarb aka Ruby, a delightful and very curious Norwich terrier. I had to include a medley of separate pictures because it’s impossible to get them together for one.

Ideal vacation?

Glen Arbor Michigan with all of my family. It is on Lake Michigan and is the most beautiful place in the world to me.

Favorite book cover?

Oooohhh…interesting question. I actually am loving Deborah Goodrich Royce’s new cover for her new book, Ruby Falls, but is has not been released yet. Therefore, I will state that I love Tishani Doshi’s Small Days and Nights.

Favorite song?

Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On – okay, anything Motown.

Favorite painting/ work of art?

Monet’s The Studio Boat. It’s at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia and the greenish-white of the door practically glows in real life. The artist at work in a floating studio is both a study in serenity and a nod to the ephemeral quality of the creative life.

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

At the Doylestown book festival September 2019, I started to cry the moment I met author Kate Moore. It was embarrassing. She wrote this incredibly lovely book called Radium Girls about women who worked freely with radium before they understood the health consequences. The story of how their lives were ruined – which ultimately led to the beginning of OSHA – is heartbreaking and Moore conveys it with great tenderness for these women. I love it and was overcome when I saw her in real life.

A trailer for the film Radium Girls

What is your favorite Austen novel, and film adaptation? Why?

I love Pride and Prejudice – doesn’t everyone? However, my favorite film adaptation is Sense and Sensibility with Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet. I think it can be easy to make Jane Austen’s work a bit too ‘precious’ on the screen, but this one just struck the right balance.

Recommend a Small Press and/or Literary Journal?

Lit Journal – I have so many! But I will choose Juxtaprose since I think they do it just right.

For small presses it has to be Coffee House Press and Milkweed because of their continued support of new talent and diverse range of voices.

Last impulse book buy and why?

Oh – I cannot resist non-fiction books about the natural word and have to say anything by Sy Montgomery or Helen MacDonald is a winner for me. I just grabbed Vesper Flights by MacDonald and cannot wait to read it since her H is for Hawk was one of my top ten favorite books of all time. Waiting with bated breath for the next book by Elisabeth Tova Bailey who wrote The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating – a must read!

Soniah Kamal is an award winning novelist, essayist and public speaker.  Soniah’s novel Unmarriageable is a Financial Times Readers’ Best Book of 2019, a People’s Magazine Pick, a Library Reads Pick, an NPR Code Switch Summer Read Pick, a 2019 Book All Georgians Should Read, a 2020 Georgia Author of the Year for Literary Fiction nominee and more. Her novel An Isolated Incident was shortlisted for the Townsend Prize for Fiction and the KLF French Fiction Prize. Soniah’s TEDx talk is about second chances and she has delivered numerous keynotes addresses. ‘We are the Ink’, her address at a U.S. Citizenship Oath Ceremony, talks about immigrants and the real American Dreams, her keynote at the Jane Austen Festival is about universality across time and cultures and she’s given keynotes at Writers Conferences. Soniah’s work has appeared in critically acclaimed anthologies and publications including The New York Times, The Guardian, The Georgia Review, The Bitter Southerner, Catapult, The Normal School, Apartment Therapy and more.  www.soniahkamal.com
She’s on twitter and instagram @soniahkamal

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

 

Drunk on Ink Q & A with Molly Greeley and “The Heiress: The Revelations of Anne de Burgh’ a novel

Drunk on Ink is a blast interview series by Soniah Kamal author of  the novel Unmarriageable, a parallel retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and set in contemporary Pakistan

Molly Greeley is the author of The Heiress and The Clergyman’s Wife, both based on characters in Jane Austen’s fiction (Anne de Burgh and Charlotte Lucas).  Molly Greeley was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where her addiction to books was spurred by her parents’ floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. A graduate of Michigan State University, she began as an Education major, but switched to English and Creative Writing after deciding that gainful employment was not as important to her as being able to spend several years reading books and writing stories and calling it work. Her stories and essays have been published in Cicada, Carve, and Literary Mama. twitter    instagram

About The Heiress

As a fussy baby, Anne de Bourgh’s doctor prescribed laudanum to quiet her, and now the young woman must take the opium-heavy tincture every day. After her father dies unexpectedly, leaving her his vast fortune, Anne has a moment of clarity: what if her life of fragility and illness isn’t truly real? What if she could free herself from the medicine that clouds her sharp mind and leaves her body weak and lethargic? Might there be a better life without the medicine she has been told she cannot live without? In a frenzy of desperation, Anne discards her laudanum and flees to the London home of her cousin, Colonel John Fitzwilliam, who helps her through her painful recovery. Yet once she returns to health, new challenges await. Shy and utterly inexperienced, the wealthy heiress must forge a new identity for herself, learning to navigate a “season” in society and the complexities of love and passion. The once wan, passive Anne gives way to a braver woman with a keen edge—leading to a powerful reckoning with the domineering mother determined to control Anne’s fortune . . . and her life.
An extraordinary tale of one woman’s liberation, The Heiress reveals both the darkness and light in Austen’s world, with wit, sensuality, and a deeply compassionate understanding of the human heart.

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

MOLLY GREELEY: There are so many early books that I absolutely loved, but I think the first one that deeply impacted me, in that it made me look at the world in a totally new way, was Lois Lowry’s The Giver.

 To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

Wine at the end of a tough day; otherwise coffee.

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

I have a hard time saying anything should be mandatory for anyone, because different works speak to different people. But poem #25 from Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s Pictures of the gone world is one of those pieces that just stunned me when I first read it.

Any classic you wished youd pushed through in your teens?

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf.

 Favorite quote from your book ?

“… I saw the princess so very clearly—unnaturally still and silent on her narrow bed until the moment the enchantment broke. As I watched from behind my lids, the princess blinked, sloughed off the covering of cobwebs, and rose, looking astonished, from her bed.”

Favorite book to film? And why?

Probably Girl with a Pearl Earring (trailer)  based on the novel by Tracey Chevalier   (inspired by the eponymous painting). I love how the whole movie looks like a Vermeer painting, and for the most part it stayed true to the book, just bringing it to gorgeous life.

 Favorite Indie Book Store/s?

Nicola’s Books in Ann Arbor will always be number one in my heart for all the hours I spent there as a kid (back when it was Little Professor), curled up reading in the big painted throne. Where I live now, though, we have two wonderful indies downtown: Brilliant Books, which is cozy, with awesome staff recommendations and a cute play area in the back for kids; and Horizon Books, which has a great selection and is a big space with yummy coffee that serves as a sort of community hub.

The one think you wish youd known about the writing life?

That it was truly possible.

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

 In my experience… yes and no. I think for me personally, marketing myself is always going to involve going way outside my comfort zone; but I think I’m getting, if not more comfortable with it, at least more accustomed to the discomfort of it! Writing I think is as hard as ever, except for the fact that since I’ve now completed two novels, I understand better that just because this day (or this week… or this month!) involved more deleting than writing, it’s all part of the process, and doesn’t mean that a finished book isn’t waiting on the other side.

Dog, Cat, Or?

Cat(s), always and forever.

Ideal vacation?

Returning to Scotland with my husband, this time with our kids, too. My husband and I met on a college study-abroad trip to the UK, and Scotland has been, for both of us, the place we’ve felt most at home. We’ve been meaning to go back for years and years, but life kept getting in the way (this year we were going to go in August, but… Covid…).

Favorite book cover?

Aside from The Heiress’s cover, which I am still amazed by, I think I’d have to say the cover to the edition of The Secret Garden that my dad gave me when I was seven or so (the 1987 “Illustrated Junior Library” edition from the Putnam Group, if anyone’s curious!). It’s just a melancholy, gorgeous picture of Mary, the protagonist, in the garden, and so evocative of the general feeling of the book.

Favorite song?

Kathy’s Song, by Paul Simon

Favorite painting/ work of art?

It’s hard to narrow it down to just one, but if I have to… probably Henri Matisse’sThe French Window at Nice.” There’s something calming about it (and I maybe-sorta-kinda see my fantasy-self in the woman sitting in front of the window, reading and enjoying the view).

The French Window at Nice. late 1919 by Henri Matisse

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

I haven’t had the pleasure of going to any literary festivals yet (being a total introvert, though I would love to attend one someday, I also don’t totally mind that I haven’t been yet!). But I have gotten some absolutely wonderful messages from readers who read The Clergyman’s Wife and completely made my day. I think readers (myself included) often underestimate how much it means to a writer to hear that their words have been read and enjoyed.

What is your favorite Austen novel, and film adaptation? Why?

My favorite novel is Persuasion; I love the tone of it, which feels different, to me, than many of Austen’s other novels; and the fact that the happy ending still feels absolutely perfect. My favorite film adaptation is Ang Lee’s Sense and Sensibility (trailer); I just love everything about that movie, from the performances to the soundtrack to the beautiful scenery. It’s my happy place.

Recommend a Small Press and/or Literary Journal?

A few years ago, after my first child was born but before I became pregnant with my second, I suffered a miscarriage (the fourth of five), and wrote an essay about it, which was published in the online journal Literary Mama. For mothers who have literary aspirations or who just need to see their lives reflected in what they read, I can’t recommend the site strongly enough. It’s full of wit and humor and tears and frustration and love, and the stories and essays run the gamut of the mothering experience.

Last impulse book buy and why?

This is Sadie, by Sara O’Leary, for my kid who had just learned to read. Honestly, we didn’t have a ton of money to spend on anything except necessities at the time, but she had worked so hard to learn, and I just loved the illustrations and sweet prose and wanted to reward her hard work. I’d gone into one of our local bookstores just to browse (shoutout to Brilliant Books, again!), and came out with Sadie’s story.

Soniah Kamal is an award winning novelist, essayist and public speaker.  Soniah’s novel Unmarriageable is a Financial Times Readers’ Best Book of 2019, a People’s Magazine Pick, a Library Reads Pick, an NPR Code Switch Summer Read Pick, a 2019 Book All Georgians Should Read, a 2020 Georgia Author of the Year for Literary Fiction nominee and more. Her novel An Isolated Incident was shortlisted for the Townsend Prize for Fiction and the KLF French Fiction Prize. Soniah’s TEDx talk is about second chances and she has delivered numerous keynotes addresses. ‘We are the Ink’, her address at a U.S. Citizenship Oath Ceremony, talks about immigrants and the real American Dreams, her keynote at the Jane Austen Festival is about universality across time and cultures and she’s given keynotes at Writers Conferences. Soniah’s work has appeared in critically acclaimed anthologies and publications including The New York Times, The Guardian, The Georgia Review, The Bitter Southerner, Catapult, The Normal School, Apartment Therapy and more.  www.soniahkamal.com
She’s on twitter and instagram @soniahkamal

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

 

Drunk on Ink Q & A with Donna Miscolta and “Living Color: Angie Rubio Stories” short story colllection

Drunk on Ink is a blast interview series by Soniah Kamal author of  the novel Unmarriageable, a parallel retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and set in contemporary Pakistan

Donna Miscolta’s third book of fiction Living Color: Angie Rubio Stories is due out from Jaded Ibis Press in September 2020. Her story collection Hola and Goodbye, winner of the Doris Bakwin Award for Writing by a Woman and published by Carolina Wren Press (2016), won an Independent Publishers award for Best Regional Fiction and an International Latino Book Award for Best Latino Focused Fiction. She’s also the author of the novel When the de la Cruz Family Danced (Signal 8 Press, 2011). Her book reviews, stories and essays have appeared in various print and online journals. She grew up in National City, CA but has lived most of her adult life in Seattle. Find her at donnamiscolta.comTwitter    Instagram

About Living Color: Angie Rubio Stories  

Set in California in the 1960s and ’70s, the linked stories in Living Color take Angie Rubio year by thorny year from kindergarten through high school, offering a humorous, biting, but always compassionate portrait of the artist as a shy, awkward Mexican-American girl. Against the backdrop of the Cold War and civil rights eras, Living Color delivers the milestones of American girlhood—slumber parties, training bras, proms—through the eyes of “brown, skinny, and

bespectacled” Angie, who learns early that pageant winners, cheerleaders, and the Juliets in school plays are always white, and that big vocabularies are useless in navigating cliques and clubs. Living Color: Angie Rubio Stories traces Angie’s formation as a writer, from the diffident, earnest child who jots down new words in a notebook to the emboldened high school student publishing unpopular opinions in her new “loud-enough-to-be-heard” voice.

 

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

DONNA MISCOLTA: I read Little Women multiple times while in elementary school. It was about sisterhood, dreams, ambitions, and rebellion. I sort of had those things, but not in the same way these fictional little women did. If I failed to be like them, I could always rely on the fact that they weren’t real and lived in a long-ago time. So for me, it was escapist literature. 

To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

Water. Also fruit smoothies. Mint or chamomile tea on dreary days. I’m derailed by caffeine and alcohol.

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

I love Lauret Savoy’s book Trace. It’s both her personal journey to uncover the story of her forbears, which included slaves, Native Americans, and white settlers, and a broader history of the land. A geologist, her exploration of the land upon which her ancestors lived, suffered, and died reminds us that everywhere we walk in America, no matter how it has changed through natural or manmade forces, it is land that belonged to someone else. Tied in with its geological and ecological history are human stories, painful, unjust, and vital to our understanding of ourselves as a country.

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

Anna Karenina. Maybe I was a little afraid of its voluminousness. Now I have an unread copy on my shelf, one I picked up at a book swap some years ago. It’s a 1944 edition with illustrations. It seems a bit fragile so now I’m a little afraid of breaking it if I were to read it.

Favorite quote from your book

She went off in search of illumination.

Favorite book to film? And why?

 The Remains of the Day is one that stands out to me. The performances by Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson were so exquisitely wrought. The melancholy and sense of loss evoked in the book were made big-screen-real.

Favorite Indie Book Store/s?

Elliott Bay Book Company has been a vital part of both my reading and writing life. I always feel at home there. I also have a fondness for Phinney Books, a lovely narrow, little store with an excellent reading series in pre-Covid times, a delightful newsletter, and T-shirts for sale labeled Made-Up and True.

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

I wish I’d known sooner that it was something I could have. The writing life just means that you include writing as part of your life. It took me a long time to acknowledge the deeply suppressed desire to be a writer and then to just do it.

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

Writing is always hard, but now I’m probably more confident that I can eventually get something good out of what often starts out flat and directionless.

Publishing doesn’t seem to get any easier. I feel lucky to have landed with the three small presses I did. I’ve tried at various time to get an agent but it’s like when I was ten and had to go door-to-door to try to sell Girl Scout cookies. It was demoralizing. There was no answer. No one home. Or it was, no thank you. Or I love your cookies, but… The but, always the mystifying but. Yes, rejection is part of the process, but …

The marketing mystery does get a little less mysterious each time. You learn something with each book. Still, I’m not great at it, so I’m always grateful for my press’s efforts to get my book noticed. And I’m grateful for opportunities like this one to share information about my work and the quirks and impulses behind it.

Dog, Cat, Or?

Cat. Sometimes plural.

Harriet the Cat

 

Ideal vacation?

Last year my husband and I visited several cities in Spain, including Málaga where we rented an apartment overlooking a small plaza in the Centro Histórico. Each morning from my sixth-floor window, I watched the restaurant staff set up tables and chairs in the plaza, smelled the coffee, and listened to the greetings. We left the apartment mid-morning to explore the city. After lunch, we rested, then walked to the beach. Each evening we listened to whichever musician happened to claim a spot in the plaza. It was at that time of the day that I wrote. Later after the music stopped, I watched the restaurants close and listened to the sound of tables being folded, chairs stacked, and awnings collapsed. I watched the lights dim and then I drew the curtains and wrote some more. At some point, I heard the footsteps of the last person leaving the plaza. I want more of this kind of vacation.

Favorite book cover?

Well, besides the cover of my previous book Hola and Goodbye, which has a gorgeous papel picado design, I also really love the cover of my friend Anne Germanacos’s first book In the Time of the Girls. It’s stark and moody and suggests much depth of emotion.

Favorite song?

Oh, that changes with time and mood, but a perennial favorite is Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going on?” The voice, the vibe, the lyrics with that big question trying to make sense of the world – all of it making you both sad and hopeful. Lately, I’ve been charmed by Jose Conde’s “Bolitas de Arroz con Pollo.” It’s a song about food – rice and chicken – to a mambo beat. It’s delicious and fun.

Favorite painting/ work of art?

I’m not sure it’s my favorite, but Oswaldo Guayasamín’s painting Lárimas de sangre is one of the most affecting and grotesquely beautiful paintings I’ve seen. It hangs in the Casa Museo Guayasamín in Quito. It’s dedicated to Salvador Allende, Pablo Neruda and Victor Jara, all of whom were killed during the 1973 U.S.-backed, right-wing coup in Chile.

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

At an AWP conference several years ago, Robin Miura of Blair approached me after my panel ended to introduce herself. I had earlier learned that my story collection Hola and Goodbye was a finalist for the press’s The Bakwin Award for Writing by a Female-identifying writer, with Randall Kenan making the final selection. Meeting Robin, whom I immediately liked, made me hope more than ever that my book would win the prize and publication with Carolina Wren Press, which it did. I’m forever grateful.

What is your favorite Austen novel, and film adaptation? Why?

Pride and Prejudice is the one I’ve read multiple times. Favorite film adaptation is the BBC miniseries with Colin Firth.

Recommend a Small Press and/or Literary Journal?

In 2014 my story “Ana’s Dance” won the Lascaux Review’s Lascaux Prize in Short Fiction. Since then, I have received periodic emails from editor Stephen Parrish asking for publishing news to share in the Review’s newsletter. It’s such a generous gesture by Parrish to stay in touch with contributors and show an interest in their published work subsequent to their appearance in Lascaux Review.

Last impulse book buy and why?

Last year when travel was still a thing, it was my first year as a retiree and I managed to visit three Spanish-speaking countries. Each time, I felt compelled to visit bookstores. In Oaxaca, Mexico, I bought El cerebro de mi hermano, a memoir by Rafael Pérez Gay about his philosopher/ writer/ diplomat brother’s degenerative disease. In Madrid, I bought a novel by a madrileño; in Málaga, I bought a novel by a malagueña; and in Quito, I bought a novel by a quiteña. I bought these books because I love books and love to support bookstores wherever I happen to be, but also because one of my goals is to become fluent in Spanish before I die. I figured reading books in Spanish is one way to accomplish this. The only book I managed to finish was the memoir by Gay. I read it twice, in fact, dictionary at the ready. I hope to get back to the others one day and I hope to be able to read Spanish with more ease when I do.

 

Soniah Kamal is an award winning novelist, essayist and public speaker.  Soniah’s novel Unmarriageable is a Financial Times Readers’ Best Book of 2019, a People’s Magazine Pick, a Library Reads Pick, an NPR Code Switch Summer Read Pick, a 2019 Book All Georgians Should Read, a 2020 Georgia Author of the Year for Literary Fiction nominee and more. Her novel An Isolated Incident was shortlisted for the Townsend Prize for Fiction and the KLF French Fiction Prize. Soniah’s TEDx talk is about second chances and she has delivered numerous keynotes addreses. ‘We are the Ink’, her address at a U.S. Citizenship Oath Ceremony, talks about immigrants and the real American Dreams, her keynote at the Jane Austen Festival is about universality across time and cultures and she’s given keynotes at Writers Conferences. Soniah’s work has appeared in critically acclaimed anthologies and publications including The New York Times, The Guardian, The Georgia Review, The Bitter Southerner, Catapult, The Normal School, Apartment Therapy and more.  www.soniahkamal.com
She’s on twitter and instagram @soniahkamal

 

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