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Drunk on Ink Q & A with Vanessa Hua and ‘A River of Stars’

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. 

read Issue 12. Fall 2018. 

Vanessa Hua is a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle and the author of a short story collection, Deceit and Other Possibilities, and a debut novel,  A River of Stars. For two decades, she has been writing, in journalism and fiction, about Asia and the Asian diaspora. She has received a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, the San Francisco Foundation’s James D. Phelan Award, and a Steinbeck Fellowship in Creative Writing, as well as honors from the Society of Professional Journalists and the Asian American Journalists Association. Her work has appeared in publications including The New York Times, The Atlantic, and The Washington Post. She lives in the Bay Area with her family.

About A River of Stars

In a powerful debut novel about motherhood, immigration, and identity, a pregnant Chinese woman makes her way to California and stakes a claim to the American dream. Holed up with other moms-to-be in a secret maternity home in Los Angeles, Scarlett Chen is far from her native China, where she worked in a factory job and fell in love with the owner, Boss Yeung. Now she’s carrying his baby. Already married with three daughters, he’s overjoyed because the doctors confirmed he will finally have the son he has always wanted. To ensure that his son has every advantage, he has shipped Scarlett off to give birth on American soil. U.S. citizenship will open doors for their little prince. As Scarlett awaits the baby’s arrival, she chokes down bitter medicinal stews and spars with her imperious housemates. The only one who fits in even less is Daisy, a spirited teenager and fellow unwed mother who is being kept apart from her American boyfriend. Then a new sonogram of Scarlett’s baby reveals the unexpected. Panicked, she escapes by hijacking a van–only to discover that she has a stowaway: Daisy, who intends to track down the father of her child. They flee to San Francisco’s bustling Chinatown, where Scarlett will join countless immigrants desperately trying to seize their piece of the American dream. What Scarlett doesn’t know is that her baby’s father is not far behind her.

 

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

VANESSA HUA: Little Women

 To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

Wine

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

I love Yiyun Li’s “Immortality,” about a Mao impersonator, which appeared in the Paris Review in 2003 and later won the magazine’s Plimpton Prize. Her use of the first person plural narrator, as well as the compression of the vast sweep of time, are spell-binding. But I also love the story behind the story: when she began submitting her fiction, she kept getting rejections from literary magazines and then she decided she might as well send it to the most competitive ones. The publication launched her career! It shows the importance of persistence, of believing in yourself and your work, and also that rejection is often subjective. What one editor finds appealing, another may not and it may even vary depending on the day and what else is happening.

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

Madame Bovary. I much enjoyed it, later. I still need to read Middlemarchwhich seems to be the favorite of many writers I admire.

A favorite quote from your book

Such a burden, inheritance. When family gathered on holidays, the claims on their children invariably began. Your nose, shaped like your mother’s. Your long earlobes, like your grandfather’s. Traits, features, and habits from legions of ancestors, shuffled in each new generation. The body died, but blood lived on.

Your favorite book to film?

To be honest, since having children, I haven’t had as much time to see movies. When I was a kid, though, I loved the PBS adaptation of Anne of Green Gables. I recorded it on VHS and watched it over and over again. The movie, All the President’s Men, which I watched as a teenager, inspired me to become a journalist—cliché as that sounds.

 Favorite Indie Book Store/s?

So many! Living in the Bay Area, we’re very fortunate. Booksmith, Green Apple Books, Orinda Books, Mrs. Dalloways, Book Passage, Laurel Books, Books Inc, and more. I’m grateful to the many ways that bookstores encourage and support emerging and established writers, and serve as a vital community gathering place.

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

Writing is a solitary act, but when it’s also important to foster literary community. Commiserate and celebrate together. Attend and organize readings at your favorite local independent bookstore, subscribe to literary magazines, form writing groups, and volunteer at literary festivals. You will find friends with whom you can commiserate and celebrate, and they’ll show up in force for your events, just as you have shown up for theirs.

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

Having gone through the writing, publishing and marketing of my short story collection, I’m somewhat familiar with the process. But you’re always starting with an idea and blank page, always learning how to write your way through your manuscript, and the experience of bringing forth your book in the world also varies, depending on the news, the economy, and other factors outside of your control.

Dog, Cat, Or?

Cat

 Favorite book cover?

Recent book covers I loved include R.O. Kwon’The Incendiaries, Crystal Hana Kim’s If You Leave Me, Ingrid Rojas Contreras‘ Fruit of the Drunken Tree, Lydia Kiesling’s The Golden State, Lucy Tan’s What We Were Promised, and Nicole Chung’s All You Can Ever Know.

 Favorite song?

I have different songs for different moods, for different times of my life.  I can’t choose! When I’m writing, I listen to ambient electronic music: Tycho, Ulrich Schnauss, Bonobo, Boards of Canada, Air. Lyrics can be distracting, but sometimes I get into a nostalgic mood and listen to favorites from college, They Might Be Giants, Indigo Girlsor Erasure.

Recommend a Small Press and Literary Journal?

ZYZZYVA magazine always has entertaining and thought-provoking prose, poetry and art by emerging and established writers, and the editors do so much to foster literary community.

Literary Festival Anecdote? 

I chatted with a certain character actor in the Green Room of a festival, who is the partner of a famed writer. We introduced ourselves, even though I already knew who he was and had to restrain myself from uttering his catchphrase. Gazing over the room, he said, “Look at all these big brains in here.” At that same festival, I spotted a photogenic literary superstar in the hotel lobby; I even quickened my pace to catch up with him and confirm the sighting. Later, when I exclaimed I’d seen him, my friends shushed me and pointed out that he was sitting across the room—perhaps within earshot.

Ideal Vacation? 

Before having children, my parents loved to go backpacking, trekking in different countries or in the Sierras, riding all night buses and staying in hostels. Now that we have young children, we end up car camping, taking day hikes, or staying at family friend hotels with pools by the beach, where I can catch up on reading.

Favorite work of art?

I love Alexander Calder’s playful mobiles, Henry Moore’s sensual sculptures, and Magritte’s witty paintings

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

I can’t recall seeing any adaption except for Clueless – that’s an adaptation of Emma, isn’t it? Paul Rudd is adorable, and it was a star-making turn for Alicia Silverstone and  Brittany Murphy.

Last impulse book buy and why?

Niubi: The Real Chinese You Were Never Taught in School I love learning new swear words and their origins, which are so revealing of culture and character. For novel research, but a fun read, too.

Soniah Kamal’s novel Unmarriageable: Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice in Pakistan is forthcoming from Penguin Random House. PRE ORDER . Her debut novel An Isolated Incident was a finalist for the Townsend Prize for Fiction, the KLF French Fiction Prize, and an Amazon Rising Star pick. Soniah’s TEDx talk, Redreaming Your Dream, is about regrets, second chances and redemption. Her story Jelly Beans was selected for The Best Asian Stories Series 2017 and her award winning and Pushcart Prize nominated work has appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times, The Guardian, BuzzFeed, Literary Hub, Catapult and The Normal School.

More Drunk on Ink Interviews:

Chaitli Sen, The 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 Bathena, A Girl Like That, YA novel

Chaitali Sen and ‘The Pathless Sky’

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. 

Chaitali Sen is the author of the novel, The Pathless Sky (Europa Editions, 2015).  Her short stories, reviews, and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Ecotone, New England Review, New Ohio Review, Colorado Review, LitHub, Los Angeles Review of Books, Brooklyn Magazine, and Catapult. She lives with her family in Austin, Texas.

About The Pathless Sky

In The Pathless Sky, Chaitali Sen conjures a world in which a nation’s political turmoil, its secret history, and growing social unrest turn life into a fragile and capricious thing and love into a necessary refuge to be defended at all cost. A world, that is, not unlike the one we live in. John and Mariam are unforgettable characters, troubled lovers who struggle to find a space for the finest human emotions in a place that is determined to abolish them.

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

CHAITALI SEN: Carolyn Keene, everything Nancy Drew.

To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

Wine, definitely. I don’t know why water is even on this list.

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

Another Country, James Baldwin

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

I struggled through a lot of classics in my teens that were way over my comprehension level, so I think I get a pass on this one.

A favorite quote from your book 

“Can you two goat****ers tell me why these posts are abandoned?”

 Your favorite book to film?

Mary Poppins

Favorite Indie Book Stores?

Malvern Books in Austin, Texas. (check out this piece in LitHub)

Revolution Books in Harlem. (check out this piece in LitHub) 

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

You have to proofread your own work.

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

Maybe it helps to have some track record in publishing and marketing, but NO on the writing. Every new piece is hard.

Dog, Cat, Or?

parakeet

A favorite book cover?

Another Country, first Vintage International Edition, 1993

A favorite song?

This is tough one. I have so many. I’ll say “Ain’t No Love,” by David Gray.

Literary Festival Anecdote? 
I did my first panel as a novelist at the 2015 Texas Book Festival. I had a terrible case of Imposter Syndrome, which I blurted out to the panel’s moderator Natalia Sylvester. I don’t remember her exact words, (something I heard as “stop that, you deserve to be here”) but whatever she said gave me the courage to go on that panel and act like I knew what I was talking about.
Ideal Vacation? 
My ideal vacation is sitting on a beach with the sound of the waves lapping the shore and no one talking to me, while I read or take naps.
Favorite work of art?

I worked for a short time at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York when they were having the Over the Line exhibit, a huge retrospective of Jacob Lawrence’s paintings. I could wander the galleries during my lunch hour even when the museum was closed. I used to stare at the painting, Home Chores.

What is your favorite Austen novel and film adaptation?
I go back and forth between Pride and Prejudice and Emma as my favorite Austen novel. My favorite film adaptation is the Pride and Prejudice mini-series with Colin Firth, which I was unaware of until I read Bridget Jones’s Diary.

Last impulse book buy and why?

Lisa Ko, The Leavers. The red cover caught my attention, but I’m glad I bought it because it was wonderful.

Soniah Kamal’s novel Unmarriageable: Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice in Pakistan is forthcoming from Penguin Random House. PRE ORDER . Her debut novel An Isolated Incident was a finalist for the Townsend Prize for Fiction, the KLF French Fiction Prize, and an Amazon Rising Star pick. Soniah’s TEDx talk, Redreaming Your Dream, is about regrets, second chances and redemption. Her story Jelly Beans was selected for The Best Asian Stories Series 2017 and her award winning and Pushcart Prize nominated work has appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times, The Guardian, BuzzFeed, Literary Hub, Catapult and The Normal School.

More Drunk on Ink Interviews:

Anita Felicelli, Love Songs for a Lost Continent, short stories

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 Bathena, A Girl Like That, YA novel

Drunk on Ink Q & A with Anita Felicelli “Love Songs for a Lost Continent”

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. 

Anita Felicelli is the author of the short story collection “Love Songs for a Lost Continent” (Stillhouse Press) and other books. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in the New York Times, Salon, SF Chronicle, Los Angeles Review of Books, The Rumpus, Joyland, Kweli Journal, Eckleburg Review, The Normal School, and elsewhere. She was born in South India and raised in the Bay Area, where she lives with her family.

About “Love Songs for a Lost Continent“:

Imbued with magic, Felicelli’s stories center on first- and second-generation Tamil Americans–immigrants, daughters, and lovers exploring what it means to lose and to love, to continually reinvent oneself while honoring the personal histories and lost continents that shape us all.

 

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

ANITA FELICELLI: The first books I fell in love with were the Betsy-Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace and The Wizard of Oz series by L. Frank Baum. The former because I had two best friends in elementary school and saw myself in Betsy who was an aspiring writer and who needed a private place to write stories and poems and plays. The latter because it was so fantastic, so full of strangeness and wizardry and humbug and powerful women.

To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

Wine.

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

James Baldwin’s long short story Sonny’s Blues should be read by everyone. The ache in the relationship between the narrator and his brother is so potent. I think about that story so often. Other mandatory short stories for me are Denis Johnson’s Car Crash While Hitchhiking, Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s The Very Old Man With Enormous Wings, Robert Coover’s Going for a Beer, and Rebecca Lee’s Slatland.

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

Oh, I’m still embarrassed I didn’t make it through War and Peace as a teenager. My self-concept was based so wholly on reading, I might as well have been a walking compendium of paper and ink rather than flesh and blood, and I loved Anna Karenina, yet when it came to that giant beast of a book, I just threw up my hands thinking there were too many boring bits (yet somehow I loved even the whale bits in Moby Dick).

Favorite quote from your book 

“Watching flames destroy the land that I love, it is Howl, my familiar, my double, my twin, who starts to sing for the first time. The sound escaping his body is magnificent and otherworldly, telling of ghosts and cities and sirens — an unyielding green scream.”

Favorite book to film? And why?

I loved Stephen Daldry’s adaptation of Michael Cunningham’s The Hours. It didn’t strangle itself trying to hold on to the text, but in translating the story into a visual medium, it also didn’t butcher what made the novel so lovely, the way some adaptations do.

Favorite Indie Book Store/s?

Honestly, whichever one I’m in. I adore my local indie bookstores, from which I’ve been buying books for decades: Book’s Inc., Bell’s Books, and Kepler’s, but I have a particular soft spot for City Lights Bookstore. I’m partial to City Lights’ narrow little staircase, its door that announces itself as a door, the mural out in the North Beach alley that runs alongside its outer wall, and most of all, its substantive subversive and radical literature section.

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

I wish I’d understood how much rejection would be involved in the writing life, which I decided to enter when I was five-years-old. I remember finally getting a handwritten rejection letter from Seventeen Magazine when I was 18. It praised my short story and said it was a near miss, but also noted that the ending was “a little hard.” As an intense perfectionist, I thought about that note for years, trying to figure out what it meant and how I could use this feedback to “fix” my stories. In fact, decades later, I have not excised my hardness, but I so wish I had been the kind of person who’d briefly considered how cool it was that I got a note at all and moved on!

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

 No.

Dog, Cat, Or?

Dog! But specifically corgis, which some people think are cat-like.

Ideal vacation?

I’m desperate to visit Antarctica before it melts and disappears.

Favorite book cover?

For a period I wanted to be an art director or design book covers as my day job, and my favorites were the covers of Vladimir Nabokov novels from the 80s or 90s, designed by Susan Mitchell. She was the art director at Vintage International and I basically would buy or borrow books solely on the strength of her covers – judging books by their covers was how I discovered Diane Ackerman and Julian Barnes and many others in my tweens and adolescence before I ever read book reviews.

Favorite song?

The Pixies’ cover of Head On… I’m also terribly vulnerable to Iris Dement’s Our Town and Social Distortion’s Story of My Life, both of which recently made me pull over in my car and sob on the side of the road.

Favorite painting/ work of art?

Too many! I used to be a visual artist. At present, Olafur Eliasson’s One Way Color Tunnel and Louise Bourgeois’s Spiders.

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

I don’t get out much.

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

Emma is my favorite, but the older I get the more I realize Persuasion will eventually overtake it. I love the Greer Garson-Lawrence Olivier “Pride & Prejudice,” the first Austen film I ever watched – what a fluffy, lovely, if defanged, viewing experience.

Recommend a Small Press and/or Literary Journal?

Anyone running a literary journal or small press is a hero, but I especially recommend two literary journals that are close to my heart and are helmed by fearless, outstanding women editors – Kweli Literary Journal and Eckleburg Review. Kweli is a beautiful online journal that consistently publishes some of the most illuminating writing by people of color in America. Eckleburg is a literary journal that’s so sharp, weird, and intelligent, you could cut yourself on its gleaming brilliance.

Last impulse book buy and why?

Lauren Groff’s Florida – I’ve read all her books – I geek out over her gorgeous sentences.

Soniah Kamal’s novel Unmarriageable: Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice in Pakistan is forthcoming from Penguin Random House. PRE ORDER . Her debut novel An Isolated Incident was a finalist for the Townsend Prize for Fiction, the KLF French Fiction Prize, and an Amazon Rising Star pick. Soniah’s TEDx talk, Redreaming Your Dream, is about regrets, second chances and redemption. Her story Jelly Beans was selected for The Best Asian Stories Series 2017 and her award winning and Pushcart Prize nominated work has appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times, The Guardian, BuzzFeed, Literary Hub, Catapult and The Normal School.

More Drunk on Ink Interviews:

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 Bathena, A Girl Like That, YA novel

 

Drunk on Ink Q & A with Sonya Huber and “Drunk Women Takes Your Keys’

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. 

Sonya Huber is the author of five books, including Opa NobodyCover Me: A Health Insurance Memoir, and the new essay collection Pain Woman Takes Your Keys and Other Essays from a Nervous System. She teaches at Fairfield University, where she directs the low-residency MFA program. She is a displaced Midwesterner, mom, Buddhist, loud-laughter, and says “dude” and “awesome” much more than she should.

 

About Pain Woman Takes Your Keys and the Other Essays from a Nervous System

Rate your pain on a scale of one to ten. What about on a scale of spicy to citrus? Is it more like a lava lamp or a mosaic? Pain, though a universal element of human experience, is dimly understood and sometimes barely managed. Pain Woman Takes Your Keys, and Other Essays from a Nervous System is a collection of literary and experimental essays about living with chronic pain. Sonya Huber moves away from a linear narrative to step through the doorway into pain itself, into that strange, unbounded reality. Although the essays are personal in nature, this collection is not a record of the author’s specific condition but an exploration that transcends pain’s airless and constraining world and focuses on its edges from wild and widely ranging angles. Huber addresses the nature and experience of invisible disability, including the challenges of gender bias in our health care system, the search for effective treatment options, and the difficulty of articulating chronic pain. She makes pain a lens of inquiry and lyricism, finds its humor and complexity, describes its irascible character, and explores its temperature, taste, and even its beauty.

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

SONYA HUBER: Oh my gosh…. My first true love of an author was George Orwell. It was when I read 1984 in high school that I fully understood exactly how deep an author could get into my head and heart. What Orwell does with language continues to thrill and inspire me.

To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

Coffee

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

Right now I think Orwell’s “The Politics of the English Language” should be wallpapered everywhere.

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

I really really wish I would have read Portrait of a Lady by Henry James because I needed that kind of warning about dysfunctional relationships and how a woman could be almost consumed by a controlling man.

A favorite quote from your book 

“The pain-woman speaks in a pared-down voice; she is a dreamy laser. You can’t tell her a single thing. She has room for only one emergency. She has to creep slowly and hold onto the back of chairs as she moves, but she has a strange superpower. She cares more about the vulnerable soft flesh of everyone more than my normal busy pre-pain self.

She aches in slow motion for everyone’s crumbling life.”

 

Your favorite book to film

I can’t think of one!

Favorite Indie Book Store/s?

Women and Children First in Chicago. Also the Strand in New York.

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

I wish I’d known that I was as good a writer as anyone else. I gave up on writing after I graduated college because I thought I was lacking something essential. I later learned that the only thing writing requires is persistence, plus a brash ability to bother strangers.

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

I think each book offers its own problems and challenges, and at a certain point (or many points) in the middle of each book, those problems appear to be practically impossible to solve. But what I think gets easier is the routine of working through a book; the general feeling of being lost inside a book comes to feel more familiar and even becomes comfortable as a place to live rather than as a crisis. I think each round of book marketing is as challenging as the first time, but I know not to just appear at a bookstore and hope people will show up.

Dog, Cat, Or?  

Both!

Favorite book cover?

The cover of Lynda Barry’s What It Is, a beautiful hand-drawn and hand-painted sea of monkeys and fire and sea creatures and other images.

Favorite song?

“No Depression” by Uncle Tupelo

Ideal Vacation? 

My ideal vacation would be to go to a literary city (maybe London) and just have time all by myself to write and to wander around museums, do research, etc. BUT I would also love to go to India someday, or Greece! So many places I haven’t been.

Favorite work of art?

This is a terribly difficult question. I will have to say that when it comes right down to it, I always go back to the box assemblages made by Joseph Cornell.

What is your favorite Austen novel and film adaptation?

I have to say my favorite film adaptation is Sense and Sensibility because: Emma Thompson. As far as the novels themselves, I loved Mansfield Park for its social critique.

Favorite Small Press and Literary Journal?

University of Nebraska Press! And I love Brevity: A Journal of Concise Nonfiction.

Last impulse book buy and why?

I took a trip to Mass Museum of Contemporary Art and bought a thick book entitled Explode Every Day: An Inquiry into the Phenomena of Wonder. It’s a miraculous hodgepodge of images, interviews, and ideas that all circle around the concept of wonder, which I love.

Soniah Kamal’s novel Unmarriageable: Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice in Pakistan is forthcoming from Penguin Random House. PRE ORDER . Her debut novel An Isolated Incident was a finalist for the Townsend Prize for Fiction, the KLF French Fiction Prize, and an Amazon Rising Star pick. Soniah’s TEDx talk, Redreaming Your Dream, is about regrets, second chances and redemption. Her story Jelly Beans was selected for The Best Asian Stories Series 2017 and her award winning and Pushcart Prize nominated work has appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times, The Guardian, BuzzFeed, Literary Hub, Catapult and The Normal School.

More Drunk on Ink Interviews:

Sonya Huber, Pain Woman Take Your Keys, memoir

Kathy Wilson Florence, Three 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 Bathena, A Girl Like That, YA novel

Drunk on Ink Q & A with Kathy Wilson Florence and ‘Three of Cups’

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. 

Kathy Wilson Florence is the author of three books:  Her newest, Three of Cups is the story of three women and how fate connects them and a long-kept secret threatens them, Jaybird’s Song, a southern novel set in 1960s Atlanta, and You’ve Got a Wedgie Cha Cha Cha, a light-hearted look at life in short little doses — favorite columns from “Over the Picket Fence.” In her spare time she works as an Atlanta Realtor, a graphic designer, commercial copywriter and former columnist.

About Three of Cups

When classmates were groaning at the sight of “term paper” on a syllabus, Kathy Wilson Florence was secretly cheering. Where multiple choice and fill-in-the-blank tests alluded, she knew she could kill it with the term paper and bring up the grade. In high school, a freshman English teacher took note and bestowed the Creative Writing Award to her at Honor’s Day — perhaps her first and only academic award — but a tone-setting validation, to be sure. In the business arena, she can be found penning corporate copy, magazine and newspaper features and pitch-perfect sales copy for the real estate world she shares with husband Tom. In the creative world, she cut her chops on the “Johnny Journal,” a tongue-in-cheek, oddly humorous newsletter distributed via the bathrooms in Midtown Atlanta’s Colony Square —long before Midtown was hipster cool— and a 16-year stint as a weekly columnist for Dunwoody, Georgia’s Crier Newspapers.

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

KATHY WILSON FLORENCE:  Pat Conroy’s The Prince of Tides

To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

Wine

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

I think anything by Pat Conroy can turn a non-reader into a reader. I’m passionate about fiction, but whether it’s self-help or poetry or non-fiction and memoir, I’d love to see more passion for reading, especially in lieu of technology.

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

Pride and Prejudice

Favorite quote from your book 

“Whatever I’ve done here, it’s completely out of character and I’m horrified with embarrassment. I can only imagine what you think of me and my bra strewn across your floor, but Mandy, I could really use a friend.”

Favorite quote from Winnie the Pooh:

“You can’t stay in your corner of the forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.”

Favorite book to film? 

The Shining (trailer) by Stephen King. Both scared the crap out of me.

Favorite Indie Book Store/s?

All, especially those in beach towns!

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

I waited way too late to start writing fiction. I never realized how much fun it is to make stuff up!

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

In my limited experience, it definitely gets faster. My first novel took 10 years; my second too 10 months.

Ideal vacation?

A foodie town full of culture and rich history, sunny weather and another foodie to enjoy it with.

Favorite book cover?

Not sure, but I very much dislike books that get a new cover once it’s been make into a movie. I generally don’t care for photography on a book cover unless it’s artsy and not individual specific, and I always want the original cover design vs. the movie scene.

Favorite song?

I’m a country music fan, but my current favorite song is “Sunday Morning” by Maroon Five, and old Chicago songs always make me feel good.

Favorite painting/art?

My favorite Master is Renoir. Favorite famous painting is Girl Reading

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

I was about 90 percent finished with my first novel, “Jaybird’s Song” when I attended my first literary conference. I was anxious for the novel-writing segment and the very first advice the speaker gave was to never write your first novel in first person. His reason: It’’s too hard for your reader to relate to your protagonist. His second advice: Write chronologically when you are beginning. Complicating with time changes doesn’t serve new authors well. I was crushed as I had written in first person and my story’s chapters alternate between time periods of when  protagonist is a teenager and when she’s about to turn 50. I had a one-on-one meeting with him later in the day and sheepishly attended and admitted that I’d already blown his first two suggestions. After reading my short sample pages that were permitted at the meeting, he asked if he could read another 30 or so pages and meet again. We met again the next day and he told me to keep going and ignore his suggestions. “You have a great handle on this craft,” he said.

Last impulse book buy and why?

A romance novel by my friend KG Fletcher because I love to support other fledgling authors.

Soniah Kamal’s novel Unmarriageable: Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice in Pakistan is forthcoming from Penguin Random House. PRE ORDER . Her debut novel An Isolated Incident was a finalist for the Townsend Prize for Fiction, the KLF French Fiction Prize, and an Amazon Rising Star pick. Soniah’s TEDx talk, Redreaming Your Dream, is about regrets, second chances and redemption. Her story Jelly Beans was selected for The Best Asian Stories Series 2017 and her award winning and Pushcart Prize nominated work has appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times, The Guardian, BuzzFeed, Literary Hub, Catapult and The Normal School.More Drunk on Ink Interviews:

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 Bathena, A Girl Like That, YA novel

 

Drunk on Ink Q & A with Sara Luce Look and Indie Bookstore Charis Books and More

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. 

Charis Books and More in Little Five Points. The location will be moving to the Agnes Scott College Campus in early 2019.

Charis Books and More  was established in Georgia since 1974. We Need Diverse Books named co-owner Sara Luce Look the 2017 Bookseller of the Year. Charis is the South’s oldest independent feminist bookstore and specializes in diverse and unique children’s books, feminist and cultural studies books and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer fiction and non-fiction.

Charis Staff (Sara far right)

Founder Linday Bryant’s fascinating and inspirational history of Charis Books. 

I knew from the beginning that the dream of a bookstore was a vision and that developing that vision was my calling, my purpose.  When we looked for a name for our bookstore, I found the word Charis in a Greek lexicon at Columbia Seminary where I’d gone to volunteer in their bookstore to learn something about retail bookselling that summer.  “Charis” means grace or gift or thanks and Barbara and I knew immediately that it was the right name for our bookstore.

Soniah Kamal: First author/book you read/fell in love with?

Sara Luce Look: I checked out biographies of Johnny Appleseed and Marian Anderson from my local library repeatedly as a child. I  I re-read The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath as a teenager. And fell in love with Dorothy Allison’s writing as an adult.

 To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

All of the above.

Origin story of your book store and you in it?

Charis Books & More was founded in 1974 and grew into a feminist bookstore by the early 1980’s. I was a women’s studies intern from Emory in 1991. I started full-time in 1994 and became a co-owner in 1998. I grew into myself at Charis. In 1996 we started the non-profit, The Charis Circle. Charis Circle is the non-profit programming arm of Charis Books and More, the South’s oldest independent feminist bookstore. Charis Circle exists to foster sustainable feminist communities, work for social justice, and encourage the expression of diverse and marginalized voices.

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

I don’t believe in one-size-fits-all mandatory reading.  I always want to know what someone already likes and go from there…and I always recommend reading the introduction to Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology by Barbara Smith as a great place to start when you want to know more about “intersectionality “.

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

It is hard to read whatever you want when you are always thinking about if you can sell it in your store…

Any classic you wished you’d pushed through in your teens?
Jane Eyre.  I read the Cliff Notes.  ?

A favorite quote ?

“whatever happens, this is.”

From the Floating Poem, Unnumbered, Twenty-One Love Poems by Adrienne Rich

Favorite book to film?

The Perks of Being a Wallflower 

How can an author read at your store?

https://www.charisbooksandmore.com/faq-how-get-us-sell-your-book-etc

Dog, Cat, Or? 

Jasmine the miniature dachshund comes to work daily.

Favorite book cover?

The hardback edition of The Children’s Book by A.S.Byatt

Recommend a literary journal?

Sinister Wisdom

Last impulse book buy and why?

I’m surrounded by books to buy, so I’m not very impulsive…but it would probably be a cookbook.

Soniah Kamal’s novel Unmarriageable: Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice in Pakistan is forthcoming from Penguin Random House. PRE ORDER . Her debut novel An Isolated Incident was a finalist for the Townsend Prize for Fiction, the KLF French Fiction Prize, and an Amazon Rising Star pick. Soniah’s TEDx talk, Redreaming Your Dream, is about regrets, second chances and redemption. Her story Jelly Beans was selected for The Best Asian Stories Series 2017 and her award winning and Pushcart Prize nominated work has appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times, The Guardian, BuzzFeed, Literary Hub, Catapult and The Normal School.More Drunk on Ink Interviews:

Sara Luce Look, Charis Books and More, independent book store

S J Sindu, Marriage of a Thousand Lies, a novel

Rosalie Morales Kearns, Kingdom of Men, a novel

Saadia Faruqi, Meet Yasmin, children’s literature

Rene Denfeld: The Child Finder, a novel

Jamie Brenner, The Husband Hour, a novel

Sara Marchant, The 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 Bathena, A Girl Like That, YA novel

 

Drunk on Ink with S J Sindu and ‘Marriage of a Thousand Lies’

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. 

SJ Sindu was born in Sri Lanka and raised in Massachusetts. Sindu is the author of the novel Marriage of a Thousand Lies, which is a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award and the Publishing Triangle Award, and which was selected by the American Library Association as a Stonewall Honor Book. Sindu is also the author of the hybrid fiction and nonfiction chapbook I Once Met You But You Were Dead, which won the Split Lip Press Turnbuckle Chapbook Contest. A 2013 Lambda Literary Fellow, Sindu holds a PhD in Creative Writing from Florida State University, and currently teaches at Ringling College of Art & Design.

About Marriage of a Thousand Lies

Lucky and her husband, Krishna, are gay. They present an illusion of marital bliss to their conservative Sri Lankan–American families, while each dates on the side. It’s not ideal, but for Lucky, it seems to be working. She goes out dancing, she drinks a bit, she makes ends meet by doing digital art on commission. But when Lucky’s grandmother has a nasty fall, Lucky returns to her childhood home and unexpectedly reconnects with her former best friend and first lover, Nisha, who is preparing for her own arranged wedding with a man she’s never met.As the connection between the two women is rekindled, Lucky tries to save Nisha from entering a marriage based on a lie. But does Nisha really want to be saved? And after a decade’s worth of lying, can Lucky break free of her own circumstances and build a new life? Is she willing to walk away from all that she values about her parents and community to live in a new truth? As Lucky—an outsider no matter what choices she makes—is pushed to the breaking point, Marriage of a Thousand Lies offers a vivid exploration of a life lived at a complex intersection of race, sexuality, and nationality. The result is a profoundly American debut novel shot through with humor and loss, a story of love, family, and the truths that define us all. A necessary and exciting addition to both the Sri Lankan-American and LGBTQ canons, SJ Sindu’s debut novel Marriage of a Thousand Lies offers a moving and sharply rendered exploration of friendship, family, love, and loss.

First author/book you read/fell in love with?

I grew up reading, and have had a lot of obsessive loves for certain books, but I’ll say that these two were special. Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, and Tanuja Desai Hidier’s Born Confused. Each of these reflected experiences I’d had and had never thought I could write about.

To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

Beer! Though I love tea as well.

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

That’s so tough! I would say, right now, with the world the way that it is, Octavia Butler’s Kindred should be required reading. For Americans, it’s important to know about our horrific past with slavery in respect to the present. For non-Americans, it’s still important to know the awful things the U.S. has done on its own soil, and where the current race tensions come from.

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

Moby Dick.

A favorite quote from your book J

“Most people think the closet is a small room. They think you can touch the walls, touch the door, turn the handle, and walk free. But when you’re inside it, the closet is vast. No walls, no door, just empty darkness stretching the length of the world.”

Your favorite book film?

I could name a lot of hoity-toity titles, but honestly the only films I end up watching over and over that are based on books are the Harry Potter movies.

Favorite Indie Book Store/s?

I have a soft spot for the Harvard Bookstore in Cambridge, MA.

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

It’s not so much I didn’t know this but that I didn’t believe it when someone told me. I wish I’d believed that everything does not magically become clouds and rainbows after you sign your first book contract. There’s still so much plodding, important, hard work that follows. There are highs and lows, and the only difference now is that you’ve published a book—which, to be fair, is still an accomplishment to be celebrated.

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

Yes. Definitely. The longer your cred list, the easier it is to get people to take you seriously, whether they be publishers or readers. And as far as writing, it gets easier and easier for me to put my butt in the chair, but the actual writing? That’s always a carrot on a stick—you never reach your ideal, and that’s the point. That’s what makes it worth doing.

Dog, Cat, Or?

Cat.

 

Favorite book cover?

I love the little silver dots on Exit West by Mohsin Hamid. I don’t know why, but there’s something about the blues and the silver that I just love.

Favorite song?

I cycle through favorite songs on a weekly basis. This week, it’s “Mama Said” by The Shirelles.

Literary Festival Anecdote? 

I think this was at AWP Minneapolis a few years ago—I went to my first South Asian American writers’ meetup, and it was mind blowing. I’d been so cut off from this community for so long, and had no idea how much I actually needed it. I’m so, so happy I went and met some amazing people.

Ideal Vacation? 

Tropical beach house with a bunch of friends, and easy access to queer-friendly bars and dance clubs.

Favorite work of art?

I don’t have a particular piece of artwork, but I love Frida Kahlo and Salvador Dali.

What is your favorite Austen novel and film adaptation? 

Favorite novel is Emma. I used to love the Bollywood version of Pride and Prejudice–  Bride and Prejudice — the one with Aishwarya Rai. It’s not great art, in terms of acting or writing, but there’s something so subversive about brown people appropriating an English novel.

Favorite Small Press and Literary Journal?

I love The Cupboard Pamphlet, and I have a special love for The Normal School.

Last impulse book buy and why?

I was in Charis Books, a feminist independent bookstore in Atlanta, and picked up Trust No Aunty by Maria Qamar, because I love her artwork.

Soniah Kamal’s novel Unmarriageable: Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice in Pakistan is forthcoming from Penguin Random House. PRE ORDER . Her debut novel An Isolated Incident was a finalist for the Townsend Prize for Fiction, the KLF French Fiction Prize, and an Amazon Rising Star pick. Soniah’s TEDx talk, Redreaming Your Dream, is about regrets, second chances and redemption. Her story Jelly Beans was selected for The Best Asian Stories Series 2017 and her award winning and Pushcart Prize nominated work has appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times, The Guardian, BuzzFeed, Literary Hub, Catapult and The Normal School.

More Drunk on Ink Interviews:

Rosalie Morales Kearns, Kingdom of Men, a novel

Saadia Faruqi, Meet Yasmin, children’s literature

Rene Denfeld: The Child Finder, a novel

Sara Marchant, The 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 Bathena, A Girl Like That, YA novel

Drunk on Ink Q & A with Rosalie Morales Kearns and ‘Kingdom of Women’

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. 

Read Jaggery Issue 11 Spring 2018

Rosalie Morales Kearns, a writer of Puerto Rican and Pennsylvania Dutch descent, is the founder of the feminist publishing house Shade Mountain Press. She’s the author of the novel Kingdom of Women (Jaded Ibis Press, 2017) and the magic-realist story collection Virgins and Tricksters (Aqueous, 2012), described by Marge Piercy as “succinct, smart tales rooted in a female-centered spirituality.” Kearns is also the editor of the short story anthology The Female Complaint: Tales of Unruly Women (Shade Mountain Press, 2015), praised by Kirkus Reviews as a “vital contribution to contemporary literature.”

About KINGDOM OF WOMEN

In a slightly alternate near-future, women are forming vigilante groups to wreak vengeance on rapists, child abusers, and murderers of women. Averil Parnell, a female Catholic priest, faces a dilemma: per the Golden Rule she should advise forgiveness, but as the lone survivor of an infamous massacre of women seminarians, she understands their anger. Her life becomes more complicated when she embarks on an obsessive affair with a younger man and grapples with disturbing religious visions. She had wanted to be a scholar, before the trauma of the massacre. Later, all she wanted was a quiet life as a parish priest. But now she finds she has become a mystic, and a central figure in the social upheaval that’s gathering momentum all over the world.

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

ROSALIE MORALES KEARNS:  The first books I fell in love with were Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. I probably read them two dozen times as a child. As an adult I still read them, and still laugh.

 To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

Hot chocolate.

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

Beloved, by Toni Morrison.

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

Anything by Charlotte Bronte. When I was a teenager I assumed she was too stuffy to read.

A favorite quote from your book 

Years after the massacre, when well-meaning acquaintances asked her how she felt, how she survived, Averil wanted to tell them about those encounters during the plague years. She was still there, she wanted to tell them, still on that road.

Your favorite book to film?

Alias Grace, by Margaret Atwood.

Favorite Indie Book Stores?

Duende District in Washington, DC.

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

The writing doesn’t get easier, but I think it’s easier to find a publisher, and easier for the publisher to market your book, if you have a prior track record.

Dog, Cat, Or?

Cats, definitely. I have three of them.

Godiva

A favorite book cover?

Restless Empire: A Historical Atlas of Russia. Combines white birch trees, snow, and a setting sun.

A favorite song?

Suzanne Vega, “Pilgrimage”

Literary Festival Anecdote? 

For several years in the 1990s I used to go to a wonderful feminist writing retreat in central New York State. One year the featured guest was Ruth Stone. Each morning, she and I were usually the first ones up because she was desperate for coffee and I was an early riser and woke up ravenously hungry. We would sit in the lounge and look out at Seneca Lake. I was in my early 30s and she was about 80 at the time, very unpretentious and easy to talk to, but I was too awed by her brilliance to say much. I do remember that we both loved spiders and were horrified at the idea of anyone killing them.

Ideal vacation? 

Someplace in a forest with lots of walking trails, but with a decent restaurant so I don’t have to do any cooking.

Favorite work of art?

Carnival Evening, by Henri Rousseau. When I saw it for the first time at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, it was on the landing of a stairwell. It’s a large painting, and I kept backing up to get a better view and almost toppled over the railing.

What is your favorite Austen novel and film adaptation? 

I don’t really have a particular favorite Austen novel. I appreciate her genius, but her work doesn’t resonate with me the way Dickens and Charlotte Bronte do. Dickens in particular had such a sympathy for characters like Mr. Dick and Mr. Micawber, people the world considers unsuitable, unsuccessful, abnormal, etc.

I haven’t watched many film adaptations, so I don’t have a strong opinion. A few years ago I listened to several Austen novels as audiobooks, some of which I had read before and some I hadn’t. I love her omniscient narrators, their restraint and dry wit, how they gently but inexorably zoom in on a character’s foibles. I shudder to think how I would be portrayed in a Jane Austen novel. A Dickens narrator would be more forgiving, I think.

Last impulse book buy and why?

Architecture at the End of the Earth: Photographing the Russian North. The novel I’m drafting now is set partly in Russia. With all the historical research I’m doing sometimes I just want to look at pretty pictures.

Soniah Kamal’s novel Unmarriageable: Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice in Pakistan is forthcoming from Penguin Random House. PRE ORDER . Her debut novel An Isolated Incident was a finalist for the Townsend Prize for Fiction, the KLF French Fiction Prize, and an Amazon Rising Star pick. Soniah’s TEDx talk, Redreaming Your Dream, is about regrets, second chances and redemption. Her story Jelly Beans was selected for The Best Asian Stories Series 2017 and her award winning and Pushcart Prize nominated work has appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times, The Guardian, BuzzFeed, Literary Hub, Catapult and The Normal School.

More Drunk on Ink Interviews:

Saadia Faruqi, Meet Yasmin, children’s literature

Rene Denfeld: The Child Finder, a novel

Sara Marchant, The 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 Bathena, A Girl Like That, YA novel

Drunk on Ink Q & A with Saadia Faruqi and ‘Meet Yasmin’

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. 

Saadia Faruqi is a Pakistani American author, essayist and interfaith activist. “Brick Walls: Tales of Hope & Courage from Pakistan” is her debut adult fiction book, and her children’s early reader series “Yasmin” is published by Capstone. She trains various audiences including faith groups and law enforcement on topics pertaining to Islam, and has been featured in Oprah Magazine in 2017 as a woman making a difference in her community. She is editor-in-chief of Blue Minaret, a magazine for Muslim art, poetry and prose. She resides in Houston, TX with her husband and children.

About Meet Yasmin.

Yasmin Ahmad is a spirited second-grader who’s always on the lookout for those “aha” moments to help her solve life’s little problems. Taking inspiration from her surroundings and her big imagination, she boldly faces any situation?assuming her imagination doesn’t get too big, of course! A creative thinker and curious explorer, Yasmin and her multi-generational Pakistani American family will delight and inspire readers. [easy reader, for ages 5 and up].

 

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

SAADIA FARUQI: I always loved reading Shakespeare in high school, ranging from Romeo and Juliet to satisfy my romanticism, to Juliet Caesar and Merchant of Venice to feed my political and cultural curiosity. From American authors, I completely fell in love with Gone with the Wind in my teens, and must have read it several times. Of course as a Pakistani I had virtually no knowledge about the civil war and race relations, so it was just a good story to me.

Who is the illustrator for Meet Yasmin?

Hatem Aly.

To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

I’m ashamed to say I’m not a tea drinker despite spending half my life in Pakistan! My go-to poison is Diet Coke, which I consider the panacea of all ills, including healing migraines.

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

There are so many books which one should read, it’s a never ending list for me. For essays and opinion pieces, or for book recommendations, I always send people right to the Electric Literature website. I’ve found such gems over there, electric words that speak to the heart and the mind.

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

I was a good girl! I read all the classics. Possibly Dr. Zhivago is the one I couldn’t finish, and also anything by Hemmingway put me to sleep. So maybe those are ones I’d read again now. But on the other hand, now I’d much rather be reading newer books by women of color, immigrant stories and the like, rather than what is termed as classic.

A favorite quote from Meet Yasmin. 

Meet Yasmin is an early reader for children, so there aren’t any deep, philosophical sentences I could quote.

Your favorite book to film?

The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis. It’s the story of an Afghani girl who dresses up like a boy to earn for her family during the Taliban rule in Afghanistan. The book was a bestseller but the animated film, produced by Angelina Jolie, was equally fantastic.

Favorite Indie Book Store/s?

Blue Willow Books in Houston. They have the best events, especially for children’s authors, and they are really a part of their community.

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

How much self-doubt I would have, and how seldom true inspiration would strike.

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

Yes it does. You learn by making mistakes and improve yourself in every aspect of the craft. A writers’ first book is not as good as the second one, and so on. You also learn about marketing and publicity, and things that worried you on book 1 don’t even make an impact on your mind on book 2 or 3. It’s definitely something that gets better as time goes on.

Dog, Cat, Or?

Love cats, but refuse to actually keep one as a pet. I don’t want to add to the number of living things that depend on me!

Favorite book cover?

The Meet Yasmin! Cover is simply adorable. Once the book is published I may lose some of my wonder and begin to admire other books too.

Favorite song?

Anything by Asha Boshle or Kuman Sanu. And Junoon. I’m old school like that.

Ideal Vacation?

Road tripping in the Norwegian mountains. We did this last summer and the scenes were just breathtaking! The sun doesn’t fully set in those parts in the summer months, so we literally would drive until midnight and not realize what time it was. I recommend it to everyone.

Favorite work of art?

Van Gogh’s Starry Night. I realize it’s extremely popular, but I like it because of sentimental value. When my husband and I first got married, it was the first print we ever bought to hang in out tiny apartment. We’ve moved four states over the last twenty years but that painting still hangs in every bedroom we’ve ever slept in. It keeps me grounded in reality, and gives me a boost of confidence like nothing else.

Favorite Jane Austen novel and film adaptation?

I am not a huge fan of Jane Austen, but my favorite novel of hers is probably Emma. I just love the headstrong and misguided main character so much! In terms of adaptations, I’ll have to go with Bride and Prejudice, a Bollywood retelling with Aishwarya Rai as the heroine. If one is watching Austen, one might as well make it lively and colorful, with all the music and comedic drama of a Bollywood film.

Favorite Small Press and Literary Journal?

I have to plug my own literary journal Blue Minaret, which publishes poetry, art and fiction by Muslim creatives. Other than my own I love Catapult not just for its literary offerings like essays but also the books it publishes.

Last impulse book buy and why?

Too many to count. Serpent’s Secret by Sayantani Dasgupta was the very latest one because Bengali mythical creatures and princesses.

Soniah Kamal’s novel Unmarriageable: Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice in Pakistan is forthcoming from Penguin Random House. PRE ORDER . Her debut novel An Isolated Incident was a finalist for the Townsend Prize for Fiction, the KLF French Fiction Prize, and an Amazon Rising Star pick. Soniah’s TEDx talk, Redreaming Your Dream, is about regrets, second chances and redemption. Her story Jelly Beans was selected for The Best Asian Stories Series 2017 and her award winning and Pushcart Prize nominated work has appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times, The Guardian, BuzzFeed, Literary Hub, Catapult and The Normal School.

More Drunk on Ink Interviews:

Rene Denfeld: The Child Finder, a novel

Jamie Brenner: The Husband Hour, a novel

Sara Marchant: The 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, memoir

Rachel MayAn American Quilt: Unfolding a Story of Family and Slavery, non fiction

Rebecca Entel, Fingerprints of Previous Owners, novel

Jamie Sumner, Unbound: Finding from Unrealistic Expectations of Motherhood, non-fiction

Falguni Kothari, My Last Love Story, novel

Tanaz Bathena, A Girl Like That, YA novel

Drunk on Ink Q & A with Rene Denfield and ‘The Child Finder’

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. 

Rene Denfeld with her novel The Child Finder. Gilly MacMillan with her novel Odd Child Out. Melanie McGrath with Give Me the Child.

Rene Denfeld is the bestselling author of The Child Finder and The Enchanted. Her poetic novels have won numerous prestigious awards, including the French Prix, the ALA Medal for Excellence, a Carnegie listing and an IMPAC listing. Rene’s writing is influenced by her day job as a licensed investigator. For over a decade she has worked exonerating innocents and helping sex trafficking victims. She has been the Chief Investigator at a public defenders office. In addition to her justice work Rene has been a foster adoptive parent for over 20 years. She lives in Portland, Oregon, with her four children from foster care, along with a Great Pyrenees rescue and three cats.

About The Child Finder

Three years ago, Madison Culver disappeared when her family was choosing a Christmas tree in Oregon’s Skookum National Forest. She would be eight-years-old now—if she has survived. Desperate to find their beloved daughter, certain someone took her, the Culvers turn to Naomi, a private investigator with an uncanny talent for locating the lost and missing. Known to the police and a select group of parents as “the Child Finder,” Naomi is their last hope. Naomi’s methodical search takes her deep into the icy, mysterious forest in the Pacific Northwest, and into her own fragmented past. She understands children like Madison because once upon a time, she was a lost girl, too.As Naomi relentlessly pursues and slowly uncovers the truth behind Madison’s disappearance, shards of a dark dream pierce the defenses that have protected her, reminding her of a terrible loss she feels but cannot remember. If she finds Madison, will Naomi ultimately unlock the secrets of her own life? Told in the alternating voices of Naomi and a deeply imaginative child, The Child Finder is a breathtaking, exquisitely rendered literary page-turner about redemption, the line between reality and memories and dreams, and the human capacity to survive.

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

RENE DENFIELD: That might have been The Cow Tail Switch and other fables. My earliest memories include running to the public library every day after kindergarten. I would build walls of books and lose myself in them, and not leave until closing. I came from a background of severe poverty and abuse—the man I considered my father is a registered predatory sex offender—so books were my sanctuary. As a young child I especially loved fairy tales and fables. Think about it. Where else can someone be imprisoned in dungeons, roasted in ovens and trapped by evil and still find a way to survive? Fairy tales are messages of hope for those trapped in trauma.

chai, coffee, water, wine?

Coffee, seltzer water, and until recently, wine. I started an alcohol free challenge and have to admit I feel a thousand times healthier without any drinking at all. As I’ve gotten older my body just doesn’t like it.

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

Don’t make me answer that! I just love so many books, and what saves one life may not save another. But some of the critical books for me have been The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston and The White Dawn by James Houston. Also Margaret Atwood’s work.

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

When I was young I was very lucky to have a writing mentor who insisted I read all the classics. Then we’d have these amazing long talks about the books. There were a few I just couldn’t finish. Like Finnegan’s Wake by James Joyce.  Sorry about that. Those conversations often turned into how and why some books become classics and some don’t, and all the influences of time and luck on writers. We had a lot of talks about sexism in literature and in reviewers. That mentor was Katherine Dunn. She “discovered” me when I was recently off the streets and was leaving poems I had typed up on a thrift store typewriter at bus stops around Portland. She found me and we became lifelong friends. I miss her so much.

Favorite quote from your book ?

“I don’t believe in resiliency. I believe in imagination.” That’s Naomi, from The Child Finder.

Favorite book to film? And why?

Hmmm. I don’t watch many movies or television. I just can’t relate to the barrier of the screen. Isn’t that funny? I love live theater, though. The smaller the theater the better. I like it when my knees touch the actors! One of my favorites is the re-telling of the Chinese fable, The White Snake, by Mary Zimmerman. It’s absolutely glorious.

Favorite Indie Book Store/s?

Here in Portland we are blessed with so many fabulous indies. I can’t possibly pick one!

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

I always wanted to be a writer, growing up. But I thought people from my background couldn’t be writers. We desperately need more voices from marginalized and dispossessed backgrounds. Today I encourage aspiring writers to continue. You don’t need fancy degrees. I got my MFA free at the public library, where I studied at the feet of the masters.

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

No. I am sorry to say. I/We have to remember there is the writing, the art, and then there is publishing, which is a business. The two often don’t see eye to eye.

Dog, Cat, Or?

Dogs!! I love dogs and especially love our Great Pyrenees name Snow. But my kids also love cats so we have those too. We have a tiny three legged killer cat called Keila, and she rules the house. She is the boss of us all. Then we have a white fluffy cat named Cora, and my new teenage daughter brought a cute kitten with her named Shadow.

Ideal vacation?

A cottage on the Oregon coast. Love it.

Favorite book cover?

Any book I love.

Favorite song?

Lovely Day by Bill Withers. That’s our family song.

Favorite painting/art?

I admire the hell out of Henk Pander. He’s an amazing painter, just brilliant.

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

I did a charity event recently for a housing program for the homeless. A man approached me, and said he was a long-lost cousin. He had saved—all these years—a glass dish and some plants from my beloved grandparent’s home for me. I had no idea he even existed. After the event he and his wife came to visit, and now I have roses from my dear grandmother’s garden planted in my garden. It’s so beautiful, how books and stories can bring the lost to each other.

Recommend a Small Press and/or Literary Journal?

Love Forest Avenue Press and Hawthorne Books!

Favorite Jane Austen novel and film adaptation?

I’m a big fan of Persuasion, for the beauty of the writing. I’m afraid I’ve never seen any of the film adaptions. I’m not a big movie goer and would much rather read the book!

Last impulse book buy and why?

I was in an airport and picked up a bestselling book. I won’t say the title or author because I didn’t like it, and I know we are all tender people. I don’t believe in criticizing other writers. It’s far better to lift up those we admire. In that vein, I highly recommend some upcoming books: The Lost Night by Andrea Bartz, The Dream Peddler by Martine Fournier Watson, and A Double Life by Flynn Berry.

Soniah Kamal’s novel Unmarriageable: Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice in Pakistan is forthcoming from Penguin Random House. PRE ORDER . Her debut novel An Isolated Incident was a finalist for the Townsend Prize for Fiction, the KLF French Fiction Prize, and an Amazon Rising Star pick. Soniah’s TEDx talk, Redreaming Your Dream, is about regrets, second chances and redemption. Her story Jelly Beans was selected for The Best Asian Stories Series 2017 and her award winning and Pushcart Prize nominated work has appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times, The Guardian, BuzzFeed, Literary Hub, Catapult and The Normal School.

More Drunk on Ink Interviews:

Rene Denfeld: The Child Finder, a novel

Jamie Brenner: The Husband Hour, a novel

Sara Marchant: The 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, memoir

Rachel MayAn American Quilt: Unfolding a Story of Family and Slavery, non fiction

Rebecca Entel, Fingerprints of Previous Owners, novel

Jamie Sumner, Unbound: Finding from Unrealistic Expectations of Motherhood, non-fiction

Falguni Kothari, My Last Love Story, novel

Tanaz Bathena, A Girl Like That, YA novel

 

Drunk on Ink Q & A with Jamie Brenner and ‘The Husband Hour’

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. 

 

Jamie Brenner was born and raised in suburban Philadelphia but has called New York City her home for the past twenty years. She graduated from George Washington University with a degree in literature and spent her career in publishing before becoming an author herself. Her books include The Gin Lovers, The Wedding Sisters and her next novel, The Husband Hour, will publish in April 2018. She lives in Manhattan with her husband and two daughters.

About The Husband Hour
When a young widow’s reclusive life in a charming beach town is interrupted by a surprise visitor, she is forced to reckon with dark secrets about her family, her late husband, and the past she tried to leave behind. Lauren Adelman and her high school sweetheart, Rory Kincaid, are a golden couple. They marry just out of college as Rory, a star hockey player, earns a spot in the NHL. Their future could not look brighter when Rory shocks everyone-Lauren most of all-by enlisting in the U.S. Army. When Rory dies in combat, Lauren is left devastated, alone, and under unbearable public scrutiny. Seeking peace and solitude, Lauren retreats to her family’s old beach house on the Jersey Shore. But this summer she’s forced to share the house with her overbearing mother and competitive sister. Worse, a stranger making a documentary about Rory tracks her down and persuades her to give him just an hour of her time. One hour with filmmaker Matt Brio turns into a summer of revelations, surprises, and upheaval. As the days grow shorter and her grief changes shape, Lauren begins to understand the past-and to welcome the future.

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

JAMIE BRENNER: The first author I fell in love — like so many girls of my generation — was Judy Blume. There was an honesty to her characters and subject matter I’d never experienced before. It was the first time I felt books did not simply convey a story but that they were a conduit to the “real” world.

To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

I love coffee. If I could exist on just coffee, I would. (And believe me, I’ve tried.)

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

Henry James’  The Beast in the Jungle. Aside from his beautiful writing, there is a larger truth in there about life – like all the best literature. The story offers a warning, and I read it young enough that it stayed with me not only as piece of writing but as a cautionary tale about life choices.

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

No, I don’t regret any mandatory reading I didn’t finish. I think some – not all, some —  of the Dead White Men who dominated the curriculum of the eighties were overrated.

Favorite quote from your book:

“He was just a man. He was your husband, but that’s all a husband is. Just a man. Flawed. Infinitely fallible. The only way marriage works is to forgive and move on.”

 Favorite book to film? And why?

I can’t believe I’ve giving two shout-outs to Henry James in the same Q&A, but I have to say one of my favorite book-to-film adaptations is The Golden Bowl with Uma Thurman and Kate Beckinsale. It just reminded me what a great soap opera that novel really was. In that same vein, I would also say The Age of Innocence starring Winona Ryder, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Daniel Day Lewis. What a cast.

 Favorite Indie Book Store/s?

Asking me to pick one favorite Indie book store is like asking me to name a favorite child! Can’t do it. I’ve had such amazing experiences travelling around the past two summers visiting bookstores from Delaware to New Jersey to Cape Cod. But I will say I’m especially happy to see a new independent bookstore in my Pennsylvania hometown, Narberth Bookshop. It’s owned by a woman named Ellen Trachtenberg who went to my high school, Lower Merion.  I grew up visiting a small bookstore every weekend with my father. There were a few in town and they are all long gone. I’m hoping Ellen’s store is the start of an indie revival in the area.

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

I wish I’d known that the process of writing a novel never gets easier. With every book it’s like I’m doing it for the first time.

Dog, Cat, Or?

I love cats – love. I think they are the most beautiful, intelligent creatures. Just the sight of one in a window or on the street makes my day. Unfortunately, my husband is allergic so now I have to live vicariously through cat Instagram accounts.

Ideal vacation?

My ideal vacation involved a beach, good restaurants, a bookstore, and ideally something that sparks an idea for my next novel.

Favorite book cover?

My favorite book cover is for the novel The Piano Teacher by Janice Y.K. Lee (something about the colors and the pose of the woman– just extraordinary), followed by the cover for my next novel, Drawing Home. It hasn’t been released yet but it’s a beauty!

Favorite painting/art?  

I’m a fan of Mark Rothko. As for something a little more accessible, I recently discovered a Cape Cod artist named Anne Salas and her paintings are breathtaking.

Any Lit Festival anecdote you want a share?

I was at the Newburyport Literary Festival about eight years ago when I was working in publishing and before I became an author myself. I met one of my all-time favorite novelists, Anita Shreve. She was so lovely and humble. I’m grateful I had the chance to meet her and I still mourn the loss of her spectacular talent.

Recommend a Small Press and/or Literary Journal?

My daughter just introduced me to the small press YesYes Books. They are publishing some incredible new voices in fiction, poetry – daring and unconventional.

Favorite Jane Austen novel and film adaptation? 

My favorite Austen novel is Emma because of the heroine’s timeless rebel heart.

Fav orite Jane Austen adaptation is Sense and Sensibility (1985) — the cast was just a dream: Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, Hugh Grant, and Alan Rickman.  I love that Emma Thompson wrote the script.

 

Last impulse book buy and why?

I wouldn’t call it impulse buying but when I travel to bookstores to do events I also ask the bookstore owner to recommend something and I buy the book without question, without reading the synopsis. I’ve found many gems this way. For example, a small novel called Dinner with Edward by Isabel Vincent. Never would have picked it up if it weren’t for Rita Maggio of Booktowne in Manasquan, New Jersey.

Soniah Kamal’s novel Unmarriageable: Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice in Pakistan is forthcoming from Penguin Random House. PRE ORDER . Her debut novel An Isolated Incident was a finalist for the Townsend Prize for Fiction, the KLF French Fiction Prize, and an Amazon Rising Star pick. Soniah’s TEDx talk, Redreaming Your Dream, is about regrets, second chances and redemption. Her story Jelly Beans was selected for The Best Asian Stories Series 2017 and her award winning and Pushcart Prize nominated work has appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times, The Guardian, BuzzFeed, Literary Hub, Catapult and The Normal School.

More Drunk on Ink Interviews:

Sara Marchant: The 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, memoir

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

Rebecca Entel, Fingerprints of Previous Owners, novel

Jamie Sumner, Unbound: Finding from Unrealistic Expectations of Motherhood, non-fiction

Falguni Kothari, My Last Love Story, novel

Tanaz Bathena, A Girl Like That, YA novel

 

Drunk on Ink Q & A with Sara Marchant and ‘The Driveway Has Two Sides’

 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. 

Read Jaggery Issue 11 Spring 2018

Sara Marchant received her Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts from the University of California, Riverside/ Palm Desert. Her work has been published by Full Grown People, Brilliant Flash Fiction, The Coachella Review, East Jasmine Review, ROAR, and Desert Magazine. Her essay Proof of Blood was anthologized in All the Women in my Family Sing. Her novella ‘Let Me Go’ was anthologized by Running Wild Press.  Her novella, The Driveway Has Two Sides, was published by Fairlight Books in July 2018. Sara’s work has been performed in The New Short Fiction Series in Los Angeles, California. Her memoir, Proof of Blood, will be published by Otis Books in their 2018/2019 season. She is a founding editor of the literary magazine Writers Resist.

About The Driveway Has Two Sides, a novella

On an East Coast Island, full of tall pine moaning with sea gusts, Delilah moves into a cottage by the shore. The neighbors gossip as they watch her clean with her black hair tied back in a white rubber band. They don’t like it when she plants a garden out front—orange red Carpinus caroliniana and silvery blue hosta. Very unusual, they whisper. Across the driveway lives a man who never goes out. Delilah knows he’s watching her and she likes the look of him, but perhaps life is too complicated already…

Soniah Kamal: First author/book you read/fell in love with?

Sara Marchant: The first book I fell in love with was Baby Island by Carol Ryrie Brink. It’s about two little girls whose ship to Australia sinks and they are put in a lifeboat with four babies and set adrift without adults accidentally. They wind up on a deserted island and hijinks ensue. I think I loved it because I loved babies and playing house. This was my first chapter book and it forced me to become a stronger reader because my entire family refused to read it aloud to me more than once. I stole my copy from the school library I loved it so much. It lives on the bookshelf next to my bed to this day.

To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

To unwind I drink green tea with honey because it is bitter, sweet, and astringent…just like me. Although I recently discovered beer with pineapple juice and I fear my life is about to be ruined.

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

I believe James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time should be read by every human being on the planet. Absolute required reading.

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

My stepfather was forever asking me to read his favorite book, Horse and Buggy Doctor, and I never did and after he died I was too ashamed to read it and every time I see it on my mother’s bookshelves I hate myself.

A favorite quote from The Driveway Has Two Sides

Anton felt light-headed. He took a few steps toward the safety of his car. The unpaved garage smelled like gasoline, mildew, and loneliness. She was waiting for his answer.

Your favorite book to film?

My favorite book to film would have to be Game of Thrones because I never believed Martin’s female characters. Of course, the whole show should be about Arya, but hey.

Favorite Indie Book Store/s?

I’m very fond of The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles, but mostly I patronize the bookstores attached to libraries. Used books still have a lot of love to give.

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

The one thing I wished I’d known about the writing life is that the friends I would make in my MFA program would become some of the most important people in my life. They are worth the enormous debt I’ll have until I die.

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

No, writing doesn’t get any easier. But it is sort of like when Harry Potter is able to make that Patronus because he knows he can because he’s already done it in the future? This isn’t about validation, it’s about confidence in one’s abilities.

Dog, Cat, Or?

Our canine children are Little Joe and Nena. The goat, Tessie Hutchinson, is the bane of our existence, but we can’t bring ourselves to eat her. The horses are Job and Ezekiel, but I mostly avoid them. My husband had a cat when he married me, but we are now and forever after cat-less.

Ideal vacation?

My last favorite traveling experience was when I had to get home from Cuernavaca, Mexico because my stepfather was ill and I traveled by myself to Acapulco and then home to San Diego and being alone, in unfamiliar space, was exhilarating. But usually I just want to be left alone to read on vacation.

Favorite book cover?

My favorite book cover is The Driveway Has Two Sides. I mean, look at it! It’s perfect!

Favorite song?

Gun Street Girl by Tom Waits deserves a movie of its own.

Literary Festival Anecdote

My only Lit Festival anecdote isn’t very literary. I was trying to reach the bathroom and got entangled with the line for the John Green signing. There must have been hundreds of pre-teen John Green fans and when they thought I was trying to CUT IN LINE, they all wanted my blood. I started screaming, “Bathroom! Bathroom! I’m just looking for the bathroom!” and they let me live.

Recommend a Small Press and Literary Journal?

I have two favorite small presses: Fairlight Books and Running Wild Press. Soon, I shall have another: Otis Books. My favorite literary magazine is Writers Resist, for obvious reasons!

Last impulse book buy and why?

My last impulse buy of a book was a large print sci-fi novel written by Walter Mosley that I bought for my mother although she hates sci-fi and now she’s angry at me because she loved Walter Mosley and now she’s disappointed in him for writing sci-fi. Sigh.

Soniah Kamal’s novel Unmarriageable: Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice in Pakistan is forthcoming from Penguin Random House. PRE ORDER . Her debut novel An Isolated Incident was a finalist for the Townsend Prize for Fiction, the KLF French Fiction Prize, and an Amazon Rising Star pick. Soniah’s TEDx talk, Redreaming Your Dream, is about regrets, second chances and redemption. Her story Jelly Beans was selected for The Best Asian Stories Series 2017 and her award winning and Pushcart Prize nominated work has appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times, The Guardian, BuzzFeed, Literary Hub, Catapult and The Normal School.

More Drunk on Ink Interviews:

Kirsten Imani Kasai, The 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 Bathena, A Girl Like That, YA novel