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Posts by Soniah Kamal

Drunk on Ink Q & A with S. Kirk Walsh and ‘The Elephant of Belfast’, 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

Kirk Walsh is a writer living in Austin, Texas. Her work has been widely published in the New York Times Book Review, Longreads, StoryQuarterly, Electric Literature, among others. Over the years, she has been a resident at Ucross, Yaddo, Ragdale, and Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Walsh is the founder of Austin Bat Cave, a writing and tutoring center that provides free writing workshops for young writers throughout Austin. The Elephant of Belfast is her debut novel; it will be published by Counterpoint Press on April 6th, 2021, and by Hodder/Hachette in the Commonwealth, the UK, and Ireland in April and September 2021. She is at work on a second novel about Detroit during the Forties and Fifties.

About The Elephant of Belfast

Belfast, Northern Ireland, October 1940. Twenty-year-old zookeeper Hettie Quin arrives at the city docks in time to meet her soon-to-be charge: an orphaned three-year-old Indian elephant named Violet. As Violet adjusts to her new solitary life in captivity and Hettie mourns the recent loss of her sister and the abandonment of her father, new storm clouds gather. A world war rages, threatening a city already at odds with the escalating tensions between the British Loyalists and those fighting for a free and unified Ireland. On April 15th, 1941, Belfast is attacked for five hours, with 674 bombs falling, and almost a thousand civilians being killed. During the bombings and its aftermath, Hettie does all that she can to save her elephant, and survive the destruction and escalating sectarian unrest of the city. Even though Hettie is still only twenty years old by the novel’s end, she’s aged at least a decade, her life and perspective transforming in tragic and unexpected ways. Taken altogether, The Elephant of Belfast reflects a complicated portrait of loss, grief, love, and resilience.

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

S. KIRK WALSH: I was late to reading because of learning disabilities. I started reading in earnest during my teens one summer; it was the horror series, starting with Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews that got me going. Much later, I read the skillful short stories by Steven Millhauser, and one might argue that his memorable story “The Room in the Attic” falls somewhere on the same thematic continuum as Flowers in the Attic. (I’ve read this Millhauser story multiple times because it’s a memorable romance where the two teen characters never touch and barely see each other in the attic’s darkness.)

To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

Cortado.

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

The Autobiography of Red  by Anne Carson. This slim volume demonstrates how the power of storytelling and prose can defy category and move the soul deeply.

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

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath and The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison.

 Favorite quote from your book 

Page 179

(when the bombs are falling near the zoo): “The animals’ calls gained more definition. The growls of lions and leopards. The roars of the black bears. The cackles of the hyenas. The shrieks of the monkeys and baboons. The brays of the sea lions. It was as if a call and response were taking placing between the animals, and the shadows and darkness transformed into its own sort of mythic cathedral with all its devout congregants praying in their distinctive tongues at the scared altar of their greater animal god with hopes of reaching a higher state, a higher consciousness, so they could endure this suffering of higher proportions. They were singing, singing to something.”

Favorite book to film? And why?

Ice Storm, watch. The film and the novel by Rick Moody both live up to each other.

Favorite Indie Book Store/s?

Bookpeople and Malvern Books in Austin, Texas; Literati in Ann Arbor, Michigan; Three Lives Bookstore and Corner Bookstore in New York City.

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

Most of the time, your family won’t read your work, so don’t worry too much about how they might react. On the more practical side of things: Open a retirement account early (whether you have a job or not).

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

Yes, a little. It’s nice to have readers, individuals who are waiting for the next publication and asking how your work is coming along. This will be my first novel published, so it will be a new experience. That said, each project is different and I feel like I’m always learning something new about myself and the writing process.

Dog, Cat, Or?

Cat!

Ideal vacation?

I like to write in the mornings and hike in the afternoon. (Thankfully, my husband likes to do the same!)

Favorite book cover?

I love The Night Guest by Fiona MacFarlane. Trinity by Louisa Hall. More recently, Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi. And in April 2021, Elizabeth McCracken has a new story collection, The Souvenir Museum, coming out with a balloon dog on its cover. It’s quite amazing (and I can’t wait to read).

Favorite song?

“Romulus” by Sufjan Stevens. It reminds of the airport in Detroit (my hometown) and the brokenness of my mom (she passed away this year and suffered with mental illness for many years).

Favorite painting/ work of art?

The works featured in the Cy Twombly Gallery at The Menil Collection in Houston, Texas. The building was designed by Renzo Piano, with an overhead design that diffuses natural light through a sailcloth ceiling and change the quality, light, and color of the paintings. For me, visiting this minimalist space—and taking in Twombly’s epic works—verges on a spiritual experience.

Cy Twombly Gallery, The Menil Collection

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

Over the years, I’ve moderated at the Texas Book Festival many times. This coming year will be the first time that I will be an author. In 2019 (the last time the festival happened in person), I met three individuals in quick succession at a cocktail party: Pamela Paul (the editor of the New York Times Book Review), Samantha Power (who was wearing a beautiful emerald green velvet blazer), and Thomas Mallon. I got a chance to chat with Thomas Mallon and it was very inspiring to hear more about his thoughts on being both a book reviewer and a novelist. A lot of people don’t think the two can coexist, but he believes that the two disciplines are essential to one another—one must read professionally to write professionally. This has been my approach, too: I took a class in graduate school taught by E.L. Doctorow called “The Craft of Fiction,” where Doctorow taught me how to become a close, critical reader, and this inspired me to become a book reviewer so I could continue this conversation with literature after I finished graduate school. It was validating to hear this from a critic/writer who I admire so much.

Do you have a favorite film, or two, or three?

The Celebration by the Danish director Thomas Vinterberg (he was apart of the Dogma 95 movement and following its strict rules of filmmaking). The story converges on a patriarch’s sixtieth birthday celebration and animates the hidden traumas and fissures of this extended family with a rare kind of emotional intelligence and deftness. Watching the film is like an emotional sock in a stomach. I also love The Best Years of Lives (1946) directed by William Wyler about three World War II vets returning to civilian life in their hometown after experiencing much action and trauma on the frontlines. First-time actor Harold Russell won the Academy Award for his performance (he returns home with no arms and uses mechanical prostheses; Russell lost both his hands while teaching detonation work and a defective fuse going off while he was handling it).

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

Pride and Prejudice. I love the character of Elizabeth Bennet. Favorite adaptation: Sense and Sensibility watch (1995 directed by Ang Lee).

Recommend a Small Press and/or Literary Journal?

American Short Fiction, an excellent literary journal out of Austin, Texas, which publishes emerging and established fiction writers.

Last impulse book buy and why?

Sleepovers: Stories, a debut collection by Ashleigh Bryant Phillips and published by Hub City Press. One of my students recommended it.

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:

Savannah Johnston, Rites, short story collection

Sonora Jha, How To Raise a Feminist Son, non-fiction essays

Ilana Masad, All My Mother’s Lovers, a novel

Eman Quotah, Bride of the Sea, a novel

Awais Khan, No Honor, a novel

Natalie Jenner, The Jane Austen Society, a novel

M. J. Irving, Nova’s Quest for the Enchanted Chalice, YA novel

Saumya Dave, Well Behaved Indian Women, a novel

Aruni Kashyap, There is No Good Time for Bad New, poetry collection

Gayatri Sethi, Unbelonging, a memoir

Jenny Bhatt, Each of Us Killers, short story collection

Nancy Johnson, The Kindest Lie, a novel

Yousra Imran, Hijab and Red Lipstick, a novel

Sejal Shah, This Is One Way To Dance, memoir

Madi Sinha: The White Coat Diaries, a novel

Chika Unigwe, Better Late Than Never, short story collection

Anju Gattani: Duty and Desire, a novel

Christopher Swann: Never Turn Back, a novel

Zetta Elliott: A Place Inside of Me, middle grade fiction

Veena Rao: Purple Lotus, a novel

Tara Coyt: Real Talk About LGBTQIAP, non fiction

Maureen Joyce Connelly: Little Lovely Things, a novel

Molly Greeley: The Heiress, historical fiction novel

Donna Miscolta: Living Color, short stories

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 Savannah Johnston and ‘Rites’, short stories

Drunk on Ink is an 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.

Savannah Johnston is an enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. Her work has appeared in Gulf Coast, HTMLgiant, and Gravel, among others. She lives in New York City.

About Rites:

In this collection of short stories that focuses on the modern-day experiences of Indigenous people living in Oklahoma, Johnston documents the quiet sorrow of everyday life as her characters traverse the normalized, heartbreaking rites of passage such as burying your grandfather, mother, or husband, becoming a sex worker, or reconnecting with your family after prison; the effects are subtle, yet loud, and always enduring. Whether Johnston’s characters are coming of age and/or grappling with complex family dynamics, Johnston delivers the economy of loss and resilience that marks this post-colonial collection with biting, captivating prose that demands to be read from start to finish.

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

SAVANNAH JOHNSTON: I had a very strong love for The Wizard of Oz and Alice In Wonderland as a child. I suppose that says a lot about me and how reading was a literal escape for me to a different world. I was not blonde, white, or small (I was always super tall for my age until I maxed out when I was in sixth grade at 5’10) but I really identified with the feeling of being out of place and the idea of going to a new world and discovering my own power really spoke to me.

To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

Water! Chai if we are feeling like we need a hug. For some reason chai brings me comfort, I can’t explain it.

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

I really do love The Way To Rainy Mountain. It was one of the first adult-oriented NDN stories I read and it really has a special place in my heart. And knowing that N. Scott Momaday was from where I was, that meant a lot.

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

I think I would have appreciated Great Expectations more in middle school, when I abandoned it, than when I powered through in college. It has all the drama I wanted as a middle schooler, and as a college student I just found myself cackling like, “This woman is just hanging out in her crumbling manor waltzing around in a WEDDING DRESS training a literal child as some kind of long con revenge? YES PLEASE but also, what the hell, Charles?”

 Favorite book to film? And why?

I’m going to go with Winter’s Bone. (book) Why? It managed to capture the spirit of the book and didn’t compromise for happy endings or any glossing over of the book’s core themes. The trauma is there and it is raw and on the screen.

Favorite Indie Book Store/s?

I love Books of Wonder despite not being a child or a YA author! Their shop is just delightful and the collectible books they have are to die for. I could never afford one but I just like looking at them.

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

I was a bit of an obsessive perfectionist for a long time (I like to think I’ve relaxed), and I wish I’d known how important it is to believe in and trust yourself. SOMEONE out there needs your voice, and part of the process is refining that voice and making the effort to get that voice out there.

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

This is my first book, so I’m not sure yet! I gave my mom the one contributor copy I got when I published my first story, and her dog ate it when she moved houses, so that is lost to the sands of time. I want to think it will get easier but I have an anxiety disorder, so that seems unlikely.

Dog, Cat, Or?

Dog and cat! My partner and I adopted our beloved Bruce one year after we lost our 14-year-old dog Charles. Bruce was only a bit over a year old when the pandemic hit, so he became really codependent on one or both of us being home all the time. My partner is a school teacher and my job takes me out of the house, so we essentially got our dog a kitten. Enter Diana! She and he bonded immediately and they are the best of friends. They tear up our apartment daily.

Ideal vacation?

My ideal vacation is anywhere with a river. I don’t trust lakes and the last time I was in the ocean a manatee zoomed by and my immediate thought was, “What is she running from?” I would like to see my murderer, thank you very much.

Favorite book cover?

I love the cover of the edition of Alice my middle school library had. It was probably printed in the 60s or 70s and had the original artwork of her glowering at the table with the Mad Hatter. I haven’t ever found a similar edition.

Favorite song?

This minute? Olivia Rodrigo’s “Good 4 U.” In general? My Chemical Romance, literally anything from their first album. Like pick a track, they are all iconic! When I was a kid, my sister and I used to drive around dumpster diving and listening to MCR and Panic (my car, my emo).

Favorite painting/ work of art?

“Melancholia” by Dürer. Hashtag same, Albrecht.

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

I’m not sure I have fans, per se. My grandma did tell me my book was dreary the day before she died. I said thank you.

Do you have a favorite film, or two, or three?

I love TV and movies. Anyone who really knows me will tell you my second best friend is TV. I can watch The Wizard of Oz, Empire Records, and any Mel Brooks film and you’ve got me happy for 90 minutes. Use your time accordingly.

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

This is embarrassing, because I don’t have a favorite film adaptation. Pride and Prejudice is my very obvious choice for favorite novel, but my visceral dislike of Gwyneth Paltrow ruined Emma for me. As a counter offer I submit Julie Taymor’s Titus.

Recommend a Small Press and/or Literary Journal?

Submit to Puerto del Sol! I worked on the magazine as a grad student and I can’t say enough about how great the team is!

Last impulse book buy and why?

The Maple Murders: A Riverdale Mystery. Because Riverdale.

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. 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:

Savannah Johnston, Rites, short story collection

Sonora Jha, How To Raise a Feminist Son, non-fiction essays

Ilana Masad, All My Mother’s Lovers, a novel

Eman Quotah, Bride of the Sea, a novel

Awais Khan, No Honor, a novel

Natalie Jenner, The Jane Austen Society, a novel

M. J. Irving, Nova’s Quest for the Enchanted Chalice, YA novel

Saumya Dave, Well Behaved Indian Women, a novel

Aruni Kashyap, There is No Good Time for Bad New, poetry collection

Gayatri Sethi, Unbelonging, a memoir

Jenny Bhatt, Each of Us Killers, short story collection

Nancy Johnson, The Kindest Lie, a novel

Yousra Imran, Hijab and Red Lipstick, a novel

Sejal Shah, This Is One Way To Dance, memoir

Madi Sinha: The White Coat Diaries, a novel

Chika Unigwe, Better Late Than Never, short story collection

Anju Gattani: Duty and Desire, a novel

Christopher Swann: Never Turn Back, a novel

Zetta Elliott: A Place Inside of Me, middle grade fiction

Veena Rao: Purple Lotus, a novel

Tara Coyt: Real Talk About LGBTQIAP, non fiction

Maureen Joyce Connelly: Little Lovely Things, a novel

Molly Greeley: The Heiress, historical fiction novel

Donna Miscolta: Living Color, short stories

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 Sonora Jha “How To Raise a Feminist Son‘’, essays/memoir

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

SONORA JHA, PhD, is an essayist, novelist, researcher, and professor of journalism at Seattle University. She is the author of the novel Foreign, and her op-eds and essays have appeared in the New York Times, the Seattle Times, The Establishment, DAME, and in several anthologies. She grew up in Mumbai and has been chief of metropolitan bureau for the Times of India and contributing editor for East magazine in Singapore. She teaches fiction and essay writing for Hugo House, Hedgebrook Writers’ Retreat, and Seattle Public Library. She is an alumna and board member of Hedgebrook Writers’ Retreat, and has served on the jury for awards for Artist Trust, Hedgebrook, and Hugo House.

Her latest book is How to Raise a Feminist Son: Motherhood, Masculinity, and the Making of My Family (Sasquatch Books USA and Penguin Random House India, 2021).

About How to Raise a Feminist Son

A love story that will resonate with feminists who hope to change the world, one kind boy at a time

From teaching consent to counteracting problematic messages from the media, well-meaning family, and the culture at large, we have big work to do when it comes to our boys. This empowering book offers much-needed insight and actionable advice. It’s also a beautifully written and deeply personal story of struggling, failing, and eventually succeeding at raising a feminist son.
Informed by the author’s work as a professor of journalism specializing in social justice movements and social media, as well as by conversations with psychologists, experts, and other parents and boys, this book follows one mother’s journey to raise a feminist son as a single immigrant woman of color in America. Through stories from her own life and wide-ranging research, Sonora Jha shows us all how to be better feminists and better teachers of the next generation of men in this electrifying tour de force.
Includes chapter takeaways, and an annotated bibliography of reading and watching recommendations for adults and children.

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

SONORA JHA: Like most South Asian children educated in urban, English-medium schools, I fell in love with Enid Blyton. The Magic Faraway Tree series held me in awe – truly, I was a little bit scared and yet compelled by the stories of encounters with wondrous people and experiences if you wandered away from home.

To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

Chai forever. I grind fresh ginger every morning for my chai. The pounding in the mortar and pestle calms me and wakes me up at the same time. And my 4 p.m. chai is bliss.

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

The poetry of Urdu poet Sahir Ludhianvi. Because it’s about romance and revolution, two things no one should ever lose out on for a single day of their lives.

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

So many. So many.

Favorite quote from your book

“The first film I watched with my son was when he was one year old: Babe, about a pig. The last movie I watched with him just before he left for college was Stardust Memories, starring Woody Allen, so also about a pig.”

Favorite book to film? And why?

The Namesake. I love how filmmaker Mira Nair focused on Ashima, the woman, as the central character even though Jhumpa Lahiri’s protagonist was Gogol, the boy/man. I loved the book and the film.

Favorite Indie Book Store/s?

Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle. I just feel so at home there. Even my dog is welcomed there. Oh, and Karen and Rick there love books so much, I can listen to them for hours talking about this book or that.

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

That there’s no perfect moment or ambience or mood or muse to draw good writing. You will have to steal an hour here or there until you realize that life itself is the writing life.

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

I think so. You get to know the rhythm a little better and also to expect the anxiety. I remind myself now to enjoy the process and let go of expectations.

Dog, Cat, Or?

Dogs forever.

Ideal vacation?

The beaches of Goa or Kerala. The Arabian Sea.

Favorite book cover?

Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things.

Favorite song?

Who subah kabhi toh aayegi by Sahir Ludhianvi.

Favorite painting/ work of art?

Honore Daumier’s The Third-Class Carriage.

https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/436095

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

On my Indian book tour for my novel Foreign, a woman in the audience asked me a strange question in Amritsar’s One Up bookstore. She asked me about a sentence in the book in which the protagonist says something like, “If pulling the rug from under one’s feet was so easy, better not to stand on rugs at all.” She asked me if this was something I had experienced in my life and I laughed it off and said no, it was all fiction, la la la. She asked if I’d write a memoir and I laughed that off, too. She said she would wait for that. So, yes, epiphany – she was urging me to write it and I realized I would.

Do you have a favorite film, or two, or three?

Mirch Masala (a #MeToo film before any other). Moonlight. Babe.

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

Sense and Sensibility, because it’s about women’s love and sisters and feminist leanings. The film adaptation by Ang Lee, in which Kate Winslet plays plays the younger sister, Marriane, is my favorite, because Winslet is riveting.

Recommend a Small Press and/or Literary Journal?

Sasquatch Books, even though it’s one of the leading independent presses in the country and owned by Penguin Random House, has retained the loving attention to authors and was such a pleasure for me to work with.

Last impulse book buy and why?

Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments, because I was craving words about the natural world and astonishment after the claustrophobia and monotony of a year in the pandemic.

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. 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:

Savannah Johnston, Rites, short story collection

Ilana Masad, All My Mother’s Lovers, a novel

Eman Quotah, Bride of the Sea, a novel

Awais Khan, No Honor, a novel

Natalie Jenner, The Jane Austen Society, a novel

M. J. Irving, Nova’s Quest for the Enchanted Chalice, YA novel

Saumya Dave, Well Behaved Indian Women, a novel

Aruni Kashyap, There is No Good Time for Bad New, poetry collection

Gayatri Sethi, Unbelonging, a memoir

Jenny Bhatt, Each of Us Killers, short story collection

Nancy Johnson, The Kindest Lie, a novel

Yousra Imran, Hijab and Red Lipstick, a novel

Sejal Shah, This Is One Way To Dance, memoir

Madi Sinha: The White Coat Diaries, a novel

Chika Unigwe, Better Late Than Never, short story collection

Anju Gattani: Duty and Desire, a novel

Christopher Swann: Never Turn Back, a novel

Zetta Elliott: A Place Inside of Me, middle grade fiction

Veena Rao: Purple Lotus, a novel

Tara Coyt: Real Talk About LGBTQIAP, non fiction

Maureen Joyce Connelly: Little Lovely Things, a novel

Molly Greeley: The Heiress, historical fiction novel

Donna Miscolta: Living Color, short stories

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 Ilana Masad and ‘All My Mother’s Lovers’, 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

Ilana Masad is a queer Israeli-American writer of fiction, nonfiction, and criticism. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, New York Times, LA Times, Washington Post, NPR, StoryQuartlerly, Tin House’s Open Bar, 7×7, Catapult, Buzzfeed, and many more. She is the founder and host of The Other Stories, an interview podcast featuring fiction writers. A graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, she has received her Masters in English from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where she is currently a doctoral student. She is the author of the novel All My Mother’s Lovers.

About All My Mother’s Lovers

All My Mother’s Lovers has always eluded twenty-seven-year-old Maggie Krause—despite being brought up by married parents, models of domestic bliss—until, that is, Lucia came into her life. But when Maggie’s mom, Iris, dies in a car crash, Maggie returns home only to discover a withdrawn dad, an angry brother, and, along with Iris’s will, five sealed envelopes, each addressed to a mysterious man she’s never heard of. In an effort to run from her own grief and discover the truth about Iris—who made no secret of her discomfort with her daughter’s sexuality—Maggie embarks on a road trip, determined to hand-deliver the letters and find out what these men meant to her mother. Maggie quickly discovers Iris’s second, hidden life, which shatters everything Maggie thought she knew about her parents’ perfect relationship. What is she supposed to tell her father and brother? And how can she deal with her own relationship when her whole world is in freefall? Told over the course of a funeral and shiva, and written with enormous wit and warmth, All My Mother’s Lovers is a unique meditation on the universality and particularity of family ties and grief, and a tender and biting portrait of sex, gender, and identity, challenging us to question the nature of fulfilling relationships.

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

ILANA MASAD: The first book I actually read by myself was Harry Potter, but for obvious reasons, it feels really weird to talk about that now. It hurts when authors turn on you, doesn’t it? A unique kind of heartbreak.

So, another early read of mine and a book I fell deeply in love with was Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh. I’m not entirely sure why at the time except that I loved that Harriet was a writer (though I had no inkling of wanting to be a writer at the time) and a tomboy, and I loved that she was sort of unreasonable and had Big Feelings, and I loved her little attic room and her relationship with Ole Golly, and I loved how gritty the book was despite being about a sheltered child living in a brownstone her family owned. (Imagine owning a whole NYC brownstone?! I simply cannot.) She was faced with realities outside her comfort zone in the book – Ole Golly introduces her to her mother who is ailing and lives in a tiny and messy house, Sport has a single dad who is a writer and a starving artist, Janey’s trying to be a scientist when her parents want her to get dancing lessons… Fitzhugh makes Harriet contend with all sorts of realities outside her own, makes her curious about them in a voyeuristic way at first but then allows Harriet and readers alike to build empathy and understanding around these people who—at first—Harriet feels so separate from. Over the course of the book we see those people she spies on change, their lives becoming more and more real to us. And Harriet herself is emotionally insecure and scared and lonely in all sorts of ways once her only real parental figure leaves. I mean we get a non-stigmatizing view of therapy in the 1950s! It’s bonkers ahead of its time.

Obviously, I’d never have articulated all of this as a kid—back then I just liked the smell of the really old book I had, that had once been my aunt’s, and I loved Harriet and her friends and the things she did and the man with all the cats. (I desperately wanted a cat for much of my childhood.)

To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

To unwind—water or wine. To wake up? Coffee.

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

I don’t know that I believe in any kind of universal mandatory reading. Mostly, I just want people to have access to books so they can find the ones that they love, and that we didn’t pooh-pooh the other methods of storytelling that we all indulge in. Stories are so important, and while for me books are the most amazing vehicle for them, I also don’t feel like I can or should ever force anyone to feel the way I do about books.

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

I didn’t read many classics until my late teens. Maybe The Iliad and The Odyssey because I still haven’t read them and it would have been nice to have already read them.

Favorite quote from your book 

This is such a hard question! Hmm. I think it still might be the first line, because it’s been with me the longest:

“Maggie is in the midst of a second lazy orgasm when her brother, Ariel, calls to tell her their mother has died.”

Favorite book to film? And why?

Matilda. When I first saw it, I had no idea it was even based on a book. I just loved this kid who was a huge reader getting powers. When I eventually read the book, I just really didn’t like it that much. It may be sacrilege to say, but Roald Dahl’s books never really did much to me. They felt uncomfortable and itchy to be inside of.

Favorite Indie Book Store/s?

A favorite: McNally Jackson in New York City. I went to some of my first ~literary events~ there when I first moved to NYC after college, and I love it.

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

I don’t know that there’s anything I wish I’d known, actually. I think if I knew more about it beforehand rather than figuring out what it was going to be like along the way, I wouldn’t have done it. Or I still would have but would have been angry at myself forever for making a conscious choice to put myself through what I have.

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

In terms of publishing and marketing, I have no idea since I’ve only published one book. In terms of publishing other things, and in terms of writer—absolutely not. I wish it got easier. I’m sure there are people for whom it does, but for me, every time I sit down to write fiction I kind of feel like I have no idea what I’m doing and I can’t possibly get this done.

Dog, Cat, Or?

I love and have respect for all sorts of animals, but in terms of my own pets, I have three cats and I love them to ridiculous degrees. They are: Margaret Catwood aka Meg.Jane Pawsten, aka Jane, who loves Meg more than she loves most things. And, the most recent addition, Abigail, aka Abbi, who had a name and a home before joining us and was already three and a half when we got her and so we didn’t change her name.

Ideal vacation?

Somewhere warm where it gets cool at night, where I don’t have to do anything except take walks and read.

Favorite book cover?

There are so many that are so beautiful! A recent one that I love and that I just wish could hang on my wall because I find it so soothing somehow is the original (UK) cover of Rowan Hisayo Buchanan’s Starling Days.

Favorite song?

I don’t think I have one!

Favorite painting/ work of art?

Similarly, I don’t think I have one, unfortunately. There’s one painting I saw in a museum that has never left my mind, of a brown girl wearing a blue dress with a white shift underneath and brown hair (I think it was down to just after her shoulders or so) and—if my memory is correct, and it might not be—the name “Marie” in an awkward sort of all-caps painted near the bottom, and I remember that not being the artist’s name, but I’ve also no idea who the artist is. The reason that painting stuck with me was because there was a book I loved that took place in New Orleans where the main character was this spoiled white girl whose father—in the ways that fathers do in such books—had become destitute or was taken prisoner of war or something like that, and she was sent to stay with an aunt she’d never met. The aunt was gone when she arrived in New Orleans because the aunt’s own mother was sick and she’d gone to Baton Rouge to take care of her. Anyway, the girl was meant to work in the bakery her aunt owned. The girl’s uncle, who had died some years before, had taken in an orphan named Marie many years before and raised her like his own and she worked in the shop and was hoping to one day own it herself. Marie was bilingual and a really good baker and she loved the shop. She also kind of whipped the spoiled white girl into shape. She was always the character I liked more in the book, and her story was always more interesting to me, and I had always wished I could work in the bakery with her and smell all the amazing loaves she lovingly sold and known the people in the neighborhood whose stories were somehow always known to Marie. When I saw that painting, wherever and whenever it was, I was just shocked. It was like Marie from the book had come to life. Down to the clothing, which was described very similarly in the book. She looked like the Marie I’d had in my head. It was the strangest experience. I’ve always wondered, since then, whether there was any chance that whoever wrote the book might have seen that painting (it was an American Girl book, which didn’t have an author on the cover, and it was probably awful and I’ve never gone back to re-read it as an adult because the memory would be ruined by my far more critical adult eyes and everything I know about the whole weird franchise). Probably not, but hey, who knows! It just felt magical, seeing a character who’d lived in my head and looked a very particular way spring to life in this painting.

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

Not really – my book came out after the pandemic started so I’ve never been to a lit festival of any kind in person with it! Maybe the only epiphany I’ve had would be about how odd it is being on this side of things, because most often I’m a reader just like readers who go to author events.

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

So, to my shame (because I love Austen), I’ve yet to read Persuasion so I don’t have the full picture. But my favorite Austen is still Pride and Prejudice, because I think it’s so funny and so acerbic. My favorite adaptation is most definitely Clueless

Recommend a Small Press and/or Literary Journal?

I love Unnamed Press and 7.13 Books and 5 Accomplices and the Feminist Press. As for lit journals, there really are so many to choose from that I’m not sure I can. The Account, The Offing, and 7×7 are all wonderful, but there are truly so many good ones!

Last impulse book buy and why?

What a great question. I haven’t had a lot of chances to impulse buy recently (since I tend to do that a lot more often in stores than online), but a couple impulse buys recently include a poetry book I didn’t know a friend of mine had published, Mammal Room by Kristen Evans  and a book by Michel Faber that Carmen Maria Machado recommended on Twitter (actually, I accidentally bought the wrong one, the second in the series, because that’s what I’m like with impulse buys online—not sufficiently attentive!)

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. 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:

Savannah Johnston, Rites, short story collection

Ilana Masad, All My Mother’s Lovers, a novel

Eman Quotah, Bride of the Sea, a novel

Awais Khan, No Honor, a novel

Natalie Jenner, The Jane Austen Society, a novel

M. J. Irving, Nova’s Quest for the Enchanted Chalice, YA novel

Saumya Dave, Well Behaved Indian Women, a novel

Aruni Kashyap, There is No Good Time for Bad New, poetry collection

Gayatri Sethi, Unbelonging, a memoir

Jenny Bhatt, Each of Us Killers, short story collection

Nancy Johnson, The Kindest Lie, a novel

Yousra Imran, Hijab and Red Lipstick, a novel

Sejal Shah, This Is One Way To Dance, memoir

Madi Sinha: The White Coat Diaries, a novel

Chika Unigwe, Better Late Than Never, short story collection

Anju Gattani: Duty and Desire, a novel

Christopher Swann: Never Turn Back, a novel

Zetta Elliott: A Place Inside of Me, middle grade fiction

Veena Rao: Purple Lotus, a novel

Tara Coyt: Real Talk About LGBTQIAP, non fiction

Maureen Joyce Connelly: Little Lovely Things, a novel

Molly Greeley: The Heiress, historical fiction novel

Donna Miscolta: Living Color, short stories

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 Eman Quotah and ‘Bride of the Sea’, 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

Eman Quotah is the author of the novel Bride of the Sea. She grew up in Jidda, Saudi Arabia, and Cleveland Heights, Ohio. Her writing has appeared in The Washington Post, USA Today, The Toast, The Establishment, Book Riot, Literary Hub, Electric Literature and other publications. She lives with her family near Washington, D.C.

About Bride of the Sea

During a snowy Cleveland February, newlyweds Muneer and Saeedah are starting their lives in America and expecting their first child. But Muneer harbors a secret: the word divorce has begun whispering itself in his ear. Soon, their marriage will end, and Muneer will return to Saudi Arabia, while Saeedah remains in Cleveland with their daughter, Hanadi. The more time she shares with her daughter, the more Saeedah wants to keep her close, and before long, her fear of losing Hanadi leads Saeedah to think that she and her daughter have no choice but to hide. Saeedah disappears with the little girl to build a new, secret life, while Muneer is left desperately searching for his daughter in a different country for years. The repercussions of this abduction ripple outward, not only changing the lives of Hanadi and her parents, but also their interwoven family and friends—those who must choose sides and hide their own deeply guarded secrets. And when Hanadi comes of age, she finds herself at the center of this conflict, torn between the world she grew up in and a family across the ocean. How can she exist between parents, between countries? This question lies at the heart of Eman Quotah’s spellbinding debut about colliding cultures, immigration, religion, and family; an intimate portrait of loss and healing, and, ultimately, a testament to the ways we find ourselves inside love, distance, and heartbreak.

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

EMAN QUOTAH: I don’t know the first for sure, but I was a big fan of Scott O’Dell’s historical fiction for a while, and of Madeleine L’Engle’s books, both the Wrinkle In Time series and the Austin family series. I loved Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain series, Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea books, and the Belgariad books. And Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals and the books that followed, about his quirky English family living in Corfu and his early love of nature.

Then, eventually my favorite author of childhood became Robin McKinley. I remember seeing The Blue Sword in the library in Cleveland Heights one summer and loving the cover of a veiled character on a horse with a flaming blue sword. I had to read it! The protagonist, Harry, becomes a sword-wielding, magical hero. Even better, she’s mixed-race, like me, something I don’t remember finding in other book characters in those days. It’s exciting that these days, my kids have so many more books about characters that aren’t white — and by authors from many backgrounds — to choose from.

To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

To unwind, chai. To wind up, coffee. No wine. I’m a teetotaler.

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

Toni Morrison’s Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination. Many people don’t think reading literature and understanding it and analyzing it has any bearing on the real world. But read Toni Morrison’s literary criticism, and you will understand a lot more about race in America.

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

Oh, gosh. I pushed through a lot of classics in grad school, including Clarissa and Wings of the Dove, so I don’t have many regrets about the books I haven’t read. Maybe I wish I could get myself to read The Satanic Verses and others by Rushdie. But not really.

Favorite quote from your book 

“If anyone aims the sentence ‘You are divorced’ at Saeedah three times, she is not there to hear it.”

Favorite book to film? And why?

Lord of the Rings. Because there is no epic film or film series that can match it, and I feel no need to read the books with the movies in the world.

Favorite Indie Book Store/s?

The Island Bookstore in Corolla, North Carolina.

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

People won’t just hand you money to write and most writers need day jobs.

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

Nope, but I do think seeing a list of outlets I’ve published in and holding my published novel makes me feel like I’m really a writer.

Dog, Cat, Or?

Cat(s). Molly and Freddy

Ideal vacation?

A beach or a city.

Favorite book cover?

Shirley Hazzard’s The Great Fire.

Favorite song?

Crowded House’s whole first album.

Favorite painting/ work of art?

I’m a big fan of Arabic and Islamic calligraphy. There are a lot of great artists working in this medium today, and one of them is Shaker Kashgari.

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

I have only read at one literature festival, pre-book and pre-pandemic. But I’m loving hearing from people who find solace in my book. One woman wrote on Twitter, “Bride of the Sea grapples w. belonging, assimilation, erasure, and Islamophobia. Still, @EQuotah’s words are like hot tea in a snowstorm. The ultimate comfort.” I mean, this is why I write.

Do you have a favorite film, or two, or three?

I used to go to a lot of movies, but since my kids were born, I don’t as much. So I feel like there’s a decade of films I’ve missed out on. But, I’ll say The Philadelphia Story and the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

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

I think Pride and Prejudice for the novels — it’s the only one I’ve reread recently. For film adaptations, I like the cheeky modern ones, like Clueless and Bridget Jones’s Diary. How are those two movies more than 20 years old?

Recommend a Small Press and/or Literary Journal?

Does Tin House count as a small press? I love being on their list. And I’ve enjoyed books from Graywolf Press, Red Hen Press, Catapult and Unnamed Press recently.

Last impulse book buy and why?

Morgan Parker’s poetry collection Magical Negro had been on my “want to read” radar for a while, and when it won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry I decided to grab it. So maybe that was a slow-burning impulse!

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. 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:

Savannah Johnston, Rites, short story collection

Ilana Masad, All My Mother’s Lovers, a novel

Eman Quotah, Bride of the Sea, a novel

Awais Khan, No Honor, a novel

Natalie Jenner, The Jane Austen Society, a novel

M. J. Irving, Nova’s Quest for the Enchanted Chalice, YA novel

Saumya Dave, Well Behaved Indian Women, a novel

Aruni Kashyap, There is No Good Time for Bad New, poetry collection

Gayatri Sethi, Unbelonging, a memoir

Jenny Bhatt, Each of Us Killers, short story collection

Nancy Johnson, The Kindest Lie, a novel

Yousra Imran, Hijab and Red Lipstick, a novel

Sejal Shah, This Is One Way To Dance, memoir

Madi Sinha: The White Coat Diaries, a novel

Chika Unigwe, Better Late Than Never, short story collection

Anju Gattani: Duty and Desire, a novel

Christopher Swann: Never Turn Back, a novel

Zetta Elliott: A Place Inside of Me, middle grade fiction

Veena Rao: Purple Lotus, a novel

Tara Coyt: Real Talk About LGBTQIAP, non fiction

Maureen Joyce Connelly: Little Lovely Things, a novel

Molly Greeley: The Heiress, historical fiction novel

Donna Miscolta: Living Color, short stories

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 Awais Khan ‘No Honor’, 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

Awais Khan is a graduate of the University of Western Ontario and Durham University. He has studied Creative Writing at the prestigious Faber Academy in London. He is the author of thr critically acclaimed In the Company of Strangers (published by Simon & Schuster, Isis Audio and Book Guild) and No Honour (published by Orenda Books, August 2021). He has given lectures on creative writing at Durham University, American University in Dubai, Canadian University in Dubai etc. His work has appeared in The Aleph Review, The Hindu, Missing Slate etc and he has appeared on several media stations including BBC World Service, Dubai Eye, Voice of America, Cambridge Radio, Samaa TV, PTV Home, City 42, SpiceFM etc. He is represented by Annette Crossland at A for Authors Agency Ltd London.

About No Honour

In sixteen-year-old Abida’s small Pakistani village, there are age-old rules to live by, and her family’s honour to protect. And, yet, her spirit is defiant and she yearns to make a home with the man she loves. When the unthinkable happens, Abida faces the same fate as other young girls who have chosen unacceptable alliances – certain, public death. Fired by a fierce determination to resist everything she knows to be wrong about the society into which she was born, and aided by her devoted father, Jamil, who puts his own life on the line to help her, she escapes to Lahore and then disappears. Jamil goes to Lahore in search of Abida – a city where the prejudices that dominate their village take on a new and horrifying form – and father and daughter are caught in a world from which they may never escape. Moving from the depths of rural Pakistan, riddled with poverty and religious fervour, to the dangerous streets of over-populated Lahore, No Honour is a story of family, of the indomitable spirit of love in its many forms … a story of courage and resilience, when all seems lost, and the inextinguishable fire that lights one young woman’s battle for change.

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

AWAIS KHAN: The first book I fell in love with was The Railway Children. I think I read one of those abridged Ladybird classics, but there was something about the strength and resilience of those kids that made me read that book again and again. The first author I fell in love with would have to be Enid Blyton. I devoured her books. There are so many, but the Secret Seven series was a particular favorite of mine.

 To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

Strangely, caffeine doesn’t really wake me up. That’s why I can drink all the coffee I want and still be able to sleep. In an ideal world, I’d like to unwind with an XL cup of Tim Hortons French Vanilla coffee, but since that’s not available in Pakistan, I settle for a White Chocolate Mocha from Gloria Jeans.

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

There are so many, but if I were to choose, I’d say ‘A Gentleman in Moscow’ by Amor Towles. It’s fiction, but the protagonist’s force of will to live, to enjoy life even in the worst kind of circumstances imaginable, makes it something everyone should read. It is a book to be savored and cherished.

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

Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged and the works of Dostoyevsky. I do love Austen and Dickens, but I feel that Russian classics also deserve our attention. I wish someone had told me about books like ‘The Idiot’ and ‘Anna Karenina’ back when I was a teen. Yes, they are a bit depressing, but so is life sometimes.

Favorite quote from your book

This is a tough one, but if I had to choose one, it would be

‘That’s the beauty of life. You always have a choice.’

It’s from In the Company of Strangers.

Favorite book to film? And why?

Lord of the Rings (watch trailer). (Book). I think I simply don’t have the words for it. One only has to watch the film series to appreciate the sheer scale of work that has gone into it. Everything from the location to the actors is perfect. I’ve read the series only once, but I’ve watched it for over a dozen times.

Favorite Indie Book Store/s?

I absolutely love my local bookshop, Readings. I don’t know how they do it, but somehow they have all the books I want to read. They import some of the best books from the UK and US and make them available for reasonable prices. They also stock my book, In the Company of Strangers, and have promised to stock No Honour too.

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

That it’s a lonely job, and that 90% of the time, you have to deal with rejection. After a while, it begins to crush your soul.

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

I don’t think writing ever becomes easy. Not for me, at least. I really envy the writers that can produce three books a year. For me, it is a mammoth task. Marketing does become easier as with each book you consolidate on your existing following, but I don’t think publishing gets any easier unless you’re James Patterson or J.K. Rowling. My agent had to struggle for No Honour just as hard as she struggled for ITCOS.

 Dog, Cat, Or?

I’m not into pets, but if I were to ever keep a pet, I think I’d go with both a cat and dog. They have such different personalities. I love the indifference from a cat and the sheer unfiltered love from a dog.

Ideal vacation?

London! That’s all. I have so many friends there that if it were up to me, I’d be visiting that city ten times a year. I love London!

Favorite book cover?

These days, publishers are coming up with such amazing covers, but if I had to choose, I’d say the covers of The Miniaturist (Jessie Burton) and The Illustrated Child (Polly Crosby) are absolutely stunning!

Favorite song?

Anything featuring Juhi Chawla. She is my all time favorite actress! I can listen to her songs on a loop. As far as western songs are concerned, it’s a mixed bag. I don’t listen enough, but I like most of the popular songs.

Favorite painting/ work of art?

My cousin, Ujala Khan, is an artist and creates the most beautiful art. She recently gifted me a piece from her collection, and it is just exquisite. Apart from that, I do like Victorian art.

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

I haven’t been to a lot of literary festivals, but I remember I was at a university for an event (before Covid) and while I was walking back to my car, someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned and saw that there were almost a dozen young people smiling at me with pens and paper at the ready. They all wanted me autograph. I was shocked! I remember asking them if they had the correct person. They also wanted to take selfies, and I happily posed with them.

Do you have a favorite film, or two, or three?

There are too many to count, but I absolutely love Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, 2012 and The Help.

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

I think Persuasion is my favorite Jane Austen novel. I found it to be very different from Austen’s other novels, more grounded and assured. I really liked BBC’s adaptation of Emma, the one with Ian McKellen. I found it to be such a breath of fresh air. I also liked Bride and Prejudice for its peppy songs.

 Recommend a Small Press and/or Literary Journal?

There are so many small independent publishers out there that are doing an absolutely fabulous job publishing good books. Orenda Books is publishing my next novel, No Honour, and I really like the passion and verve with which Karen Sullivan brings out her books in the world. In addition to that, I also like Red Dog Press, Hera Books and Legend Times, all of which are doing a great job.

Last impulse book buy and why?

My entire life is a series of impulse buys. You do not want to let me loose in a bookshop. You should see the smiles with which the staff at my local bookshops greet me. The last time I was there, I bought Atlas Shrugged and Thorn Birds even though I had perfectly pristine editions of both books sitting at home.

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:
Natalie Jenner: The Jane Austen Society, a novel
M.J Irving: Nova’s Quest for The Enchanted Chalice, a novel
Saumya Dave: Well Behaved Indian Women, a novel
Aruni Kashyap: There Is No Good Time For Bad News, poetry
Gayatri Sethi: Unbelonging, a memoir

Jenny Bhatt, Each of Us Killers, short story collection

Nancy Johnson, The Kindest Lie, a novel

Yousra Imran, Hijab and Red Lipstick, a novel

Sejal Shah, This Is One Way To Dance, memoir

Madi Sinha: The White Coat Diaries, a novel

Chika Unigwe, Better Late Than Never, short story collection

Anju Gattani: Duty and Desire, a novel

Christopher Swann: Never Turn Back, a novel

Zetta Elliott: A Place Inside of Me, middle grade fiction

Veena Rao: Purple Lotus, a novel

Tara Coyt: Real Talk About LGBTQIAP, non fiction

Maureen Joyce Connelly: Little Lovely Things, a novel

Molly Greeley: The Heiress, historical fiction novel

Donna Miscolta: Living Color, short stories

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 Natalie Jenner and ‘The Jane Austen Society’, 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

Natalie Jenner is the international bestselling author of THE JANE AUSTEN SOCIETY, a fictional
telling of the start of the society in the 1940s in the village of Chawton, where Austen lived. Born in
England and raised in Canada, Natalie is a former lawyer who was also the founder of Archetype
Books, an independent bookstore in Oakville, Ontario, where she lives with her family and two
rescue dogs. THE JANE AUSTEN SOCIETY is her debut novel and is being published in sixteen
different languages around the world.

About The Jane Austen Society

THE JANE AUSTEN SOCIETY by Natalie Jenner is a fictional tale of the start of the society in the
1940s in the village of Chawton, England, where Austen lived and wrote or revised her six famous
novels. There are eight main characters in the novel, all of whom are obsessed with Austen and
conspire to create the society and turn the Austen cottage into a museum in her honor: a WWII war
widow, a village doctor, a farmer and local handyman, a town solicitor, a house-girl on the Knight
family estate, the anticipated heiress of that estate, an employee of Sothebys, and a Hollywood
actress. Multiple social, romantic, and cultural collisions ensue. Jenner brings all of these disparate
characters vividly to life, and you’ll root for all of them to find their own happiness.

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

NATALIE JENNER: The Canadian author L. M. Montgomery and her Anne of Green Gables series. I loved how spirited,
chatty and imaginative Anne was (in part because, as a child, I too was all those things and a handful
more). I loved the hate-to-romance arc with her schoolroom nemesis Gilbert Blythe. And I loved the
thawing over time of both of her adopted parents, the brother-and-sister Cuthbert team, who
thoroughly captured the older, rural and stoic spirit of their generation. Anne took a really bad situation
in life and found ways to make it magical, and that is such a powerful message for children as we grow
up and realize that the world can be a very difficult and complicated place.

 To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

Wine. But my morning latte is my greatest joy.

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

I love Good Bones by Maggie Smith. It always gives me not only a feeling of being less alone with my
concerns, but also of hope, in equal measure. This, to my mind, is the best type of art.

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

Until my 40s, I think I compulsively finished almost every book I ever started to read, including the
classics (I am much more ruthless now in middle age with my reading time!). But classics I missed along
the way, and wish I hadn’t, include War and Peace and Moby Dick, both of which I hope to read this
winter.

 Favorite quote from your book 

I have to paraphrase this one:

“Sometimes hope is all we have. But hope can also sometimes be just
enough.”

 Favorite book to film? And why?

Ang Lee’s Sense and Sensibility-watch. I love that it’s an Austen adaptation, and that although Emma Thompson
only incorporated a few dozen lines of dialogue from the book into her Academy Award-winning
screenplay, she still managed to capture the essence of the story and the characters. But more than
that, I just love it as a film that stands on its own. The humour, the pathos, the angst written all over
Alan Rickman’s face, the dogs scuttering everywhere, the gorgeous locations, the sumptuous picnics, the
evocative music: this movie has it all.

 Favorite Indie Book Store/s?

As a former indie bookshop owner myself, I have too many to name! But if pushed, I aspire for any
bookshop to be as good as the following: Toppings Bookshop in Bath; Village Books in Dulwich, London;
Hatchards in London; Shakespeare and Company in Paris; Blue Heron Books, A Different Drummer and
Ben McNally Books in Ontario; and The Bookstore in Lenox, Massachusetts;

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

That so much of it happens when it happens, and how little of it is in your control except for the writing
itself, and so just to keep writing, learning and enjoying along the way.

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

I think different things become harder than before and others get easier. The more often that you write
and complete a long-form story, the more you develop an intuitive radar for what makes a story work,
and so in that way the act of writing does become easier. Publishing, including the marketing of books, is
in a state of disruption like so many other industries, and I think I strangely benefitted from entering the
profession in middle age and at this particular time: I have little to compare any of the current
uncertainty and disruptions to, and even fewer expectations, which helps me stay focused on the craft.

Dog, Cat, Or?
DOGS.

Henry James the Beagle and Molly the Akita

Ideal vacation?

A villa in the heart of Chianti, Tuscany: the most beautiful place in the world.

 Favorite book cover?

My own. Hands down. It’s a totally emotional response that there’s no getting around. But I also really
love the cover of the 1936 first edition of Summer Will Show by Sylvia Townsend Warner. It’s a
wraparound design by M. T. Ritchie who did other covers for The Hogarth Press run by Virginia and
Leonard Woolf. Ritchie’s illustration shows two women peering out a window in two different
directions, and both the perspective and the edgy, almost cubist, lines elevate the entire object for me
as a book.

Favorite song?

I love music and film as much as books, so this is tough—but one song that I have loved all my life, and
have no idea why, is My Funny Valentine by Rodgers and Hart. I walked down the aisle to the second
movement of the Harpsichord Concerto in F Minor by Bach, perhaps my favourite classical composer. I
also really love I Can’t Tell You Why by the Eagles. Huge Eagles fan here. And Rock the Casbah by the
Clash, Wonderwall by Oasis, and Roxanne by the Police. I am dating myself here!

Favorite painting/ work of art?

I love the large-scale Water Lilies panels by Monet that are on display at the Musee de l’Orangerie in
Paris. I love how expansive they are, making you feel like you could step right into them and be on your
way, and how there are no edges or perimeters at all: just this wondrous sense of beauty and infinite
time and space. Monet gifted these large-scale paintings to the nation of France the day after the
armistice of November 11, 1918, as a symbol for peace, and the fact that they continue to exist and
move people like me one hundred years later speaks to the power of that as much as anything.

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

Unfortunately, my debut novel released in May during the initial height of the pandemic, leading to the
cancellation of all my in-person events. Yet I doubt anything can top the emails from complete strangers
telling me how much my book helped them through a difficult time in life. Nothing, I swear, will ever be
more rewarding than that.

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

In addition to Ang Lee’s Sense and Sensibility, I also adore the 1995 Persuasion. Although much grittier
and realistic in tone, it too captures so much of the essence of the book: Anne’s inner struggle to be true
to her needs, the abomination that is her immediate family, the respect and joy that her friendships
yield, and the lure of the sea and second chances. When Captain Wentworth takes her small hand in his
large gloved one and leads her down the empty Bath street in the wake of the travelling carnival, I am a
puddle every time.

Recommend a Small Press and/or Literary Journal?

There is an amazing bookshop in London, England, called The Second Shelf which puts out a semi-annual
magazine featuring some of the collectable editions by women authors that it carries. The beautiful
photos are accompanied by text written by amazing modern authors like Lauren Groff and Daisy
Johnson. It’s gorgeously made and designed, and I am a little obsessed with it.

 Last impulse book buy and why?

A first-edition signed copy of August Is a Wicked Month by Edna O’Brien, purchased from The Second
Shelf for my daughter’s nineteenth birthday. Late teens is the perfect age to be introduced to O’Brien,
and one of the great joys and privileges of my life is sharing my love of stories, and books as valuable
objects, with my daughter in this way.

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:
Gayatri Sethi: Unbelonging, a memoir

Jenny Bhatt, Each of Us Killers, short story collection

Nancy Johnson, The Kindest Lie, a novel

Yousra Imran, Hijab and Red Lipstick, a novel

Sejal Shah, This Is One Way To Dance, memoir

Madi Sinha: The White Coat Diaries, a novel

Chika Unigwe, Better Late Than Never, short story collection

Anju Gattani: Duty and Desire, a novel

Christopher Swann: Never Turn Back, a novel

Zetta Elliott: A Place Inside of Me, middle grade fiction

Veena Rao: Purple Lotus, a novel

Tara Coyt: Real Talk About LGBTQIAP, non fiction

Maureen Joyce Connelly: Little Lovely Things, a novel

Molly Greeley: The Heiress, historical fiction novel

Donna Miscolta: Living Color, short stories

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 M. J. Irving and ‘Nova’s Quest for the Enchanted Chalice’, 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

M.J. Irving has always followed the advice that if you believe in something, it can come true. M.J. has spent life following this philosophy which has brought her to this point; where she can share the magical worlds in her head with you. M.J. is a Canadian of Jamaican, English and Irish descent currently living in London, England with her significant other. She has a BA in English Literature from the University of British Columbia and has led a career in research, marketing, sales and strategy management at one of the world’s leading media companies in the events industry. She has travelled to over 50 countries and many of her experiences have helped in shaping her writing. When M.J. is not writing, she enjoys countryside walks, playing board games and eating chocolate. She has a fascination with the unknowns of the world and the universe and her mind is quite often in the clouds.

About Nova’s Quest for the Enchanted Chalice

When a comet lights up the night’s sky, an ordinary boy from a small town in Dacaan begins to see that everything in his world is not as it seems. A secret that he didn’t know about himself becomes exposed and he finds himself running from the clutches of his enemies as he embarks on an adventure with his best friend to a mysterious land of magic called Happenstance. It is not long before he realizes that he has a bigger place in the world than he could have ever imagined. It is up to him to fulfil his new quest and challenge everything that he thought was good around him. But, the path is not so easy to travel and there are challenges, lies and betrayal in its wake.Nova’s Quest for the Enchanted Chalice, is a story of a world after magic has been banished and evil resides. A powerful regime that rules Dacaan uses social media, a virus and other invisible shackles to keep its citizens in their districts as ignorant hostages. But, as Happenstance begins to vanish and magic is lost forever, it is up to its inhabitants to fight back and they know that Nova is their only hope to save their world of magic and Dacaan.

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

M.J. IRVING: I’ve always had a bit of an obsession with Margaret Atwood, her writing is so readable and she tackles the big issues but with the simplest and most poetic language. More recently, I would say that a few of my new book loves outside of Margaret Atwood include Scythe by Neal Shusterman and the Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I love both dystopian fiction and fantasy novels. My all time number one book that I can’t speak more highly of however is Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore.

To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

Ok, don’t scream in frustration when you hear this but I like decaf coffee. I used to drink coffee, coffee and it made me feel sick in the afternoons and now I am obsessed with decaf. I also love both milky tea and herbal teas but nothing beats a large glass of wine at the end of a busy work week.

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

The Handmaids Tale / Testaments by Margaret Atwood. I think it is so important to read dystopian fiction and understand just how fragile our political systems can be in the face of fractious leaders. The more that we can understand the possible, the better we can all be at pushing forward the right sorts of ideals and asserting ourselves at the right moments in our lives.

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

I love the classics and have read almost all of them. I read Rebecca just a few years ago and really wish I had of read this earlier in my life as it was just brilliant.

Favorite quote from your book 

I’m going to cheat because I have more than one!!!

“I’ve been writing your story as you’ve grown Nova. We are just getting to your quest, and I believe it should be a fantastic one.”

Or…

“Happenstance is fading, magic is fading. Lady Luck’s prophecy is coming true, and she saw you, Nova.”

Or…

“You destroyed our homes here on Earth, you killed our people and then you made us a myth. You made us something imaginary and unreal to the people of Dacaan. You made us in to your monsters when, look at you, you are the monster. Now you are stealing our magic.”

Favorite book to film? And why?

Wonder (watch trailer) It is such a beautiful story in any case but watching it is just an absolute dream. I don’t usually like books to movie but this one is incredible!

Favorite Indie Book Store/s?

I am honestly loving all of the indie authors on bookstagram and that is my newest bookstore. I encourage you all to follow unknown authors, there are some incredible things happening off the high street ?

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

I’m going to cheat again haha. So, the first thing is that it isn’t as hard as it looks if you just believe in yourself and try. I was always afraid that I couldn’t do it because it is only for the special few but its like riding a bike, if you practice hard enough and then take the training wheels off you will eventually succeed and once you’ve learned the skillset, you can ride a bike for the rest of your life. The second thing is that it can be really testing at times and there are so many parts to not just writing the novel but setting it up so that you can get published and engage the right communities so its important to lean on others from the writing community and just take your time.

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

I honestly really hope so. I feel that once you’ve got things set up the first time or you learn what you need to do then it should all fall in to place for the future books. I’ll get back to you on that in June when I release book two – Nova’s Quest for the Spellbound Elixir!

Dog, Cat, Or?

Both, the more animals the better. I would own a zoo if I could! I particularly love orangutans and sloths at the moment and support wildlife charities so that I have lots of pets since I currently live in a flat/apartment so have no room for a pet.

Ideal vacation?

Iceland, I went last year and I am still not over its beauty and how magical it is. But, also Bora Bora or somewhere hot and beautiful with lots of beaches, coconuts and palm trees.

Favorite book cover?

Nova’s Quest for the Enchanted Chalice – obviously haha! It is the most gorgeous book cover that I have ever seen. I tried to make sure that it would fit with other covers in its genre but stand out and I really feel it does. It is something of a mix between the cover for Priory of an Orange Tree, Nevernight and a Harry Potter cover which is what I was looking for and my designer and illustrator are all to thank for it!

Favorite song?

I’m a 90s girl so anything No Doubt or Ace of Base are absolutely amazing in my eyes. I also really love Jewel and some country music classics.

Last impulse book buy and why?

I bought Good Omens based on a book recommendation from a bookstagrammer/author and can’t wait to get stuck in. I was looking for a good read that would make me laugh as I loved Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy so I’m looking forward to reading this recommendation.

 

 

Drunk On Ink Q and A with Saumya Dave and ‘Well-Behaved Indian Women’, 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

Saumya Dave is a writer, psychiatrist, and mental health advocate. Her debut novel, Well-Behaved Indian Women, was released in July 2020 and her sophomore novel What a Happy Family comes out in 2021. Her essays, articles, and poetry have been featured in The New York TimesABC NewsRefinery 29, and more. She is a practicing therapist, co-founder of the mental health nonprofit thisisforHER, and an Adjunct Professor at Mount Sinai. She lives in New York City with her husband and son.

About Well Behaved Indian Women

Simran Mehta has always felt harshly judged by her mother, Nandini, especially when it comes to her little “writing hobby.” But when a charismatic and highly respected journalist careens into Simran’s life, she begins to question not only her future as a psychologist, but her engagement to her high school sweetheart.

Nandini Mehta has strived to create an easy life for her children in America. From dealing with her husband’s demanding family to the casual racism of her patients, everything Nandini has endured has been for her children’s sake. It isn’t until an old colleague makes her a life-changing offer that Nandini realizes she’s spent so much time focusing on being the Perfect Indian Woman, she’s let herself slip away.

Mimi Kadakia failed her daughter, Nandini, in ways she’ll never be able to fix­—or forget. But with her granddaughter, she has the chance to be supportive and offer help when it’s needed. As life begins to pull Nandini and Simran apart, Mimi is determined to be the bridge that keeps them connected, even as she carries her own secret burden.

 

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

SAUMYA DAVE: Beverly Cleary’s books gave me the mix of comfort and entertainment I needed as a child. I related to the family dynamics, struggles at school, and the feeling of never fitting in she portrayed through her characters. Her work taught me early on that my favorite stories were the ones that helped me feel less alone in the world.

To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

I’m a new mom, which is another way of me saying I alternate between coffee and wine

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

The poem “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou has gotten me through some of the most difficult moments of my life. I’ve always believed that words have power and memorizing certain ones can provide strength, a type of emotional reserve, for challenging times.

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

Madame Bovary, which I’m reading now.

Favorite quote from your book

 “For years, we assumed ambition was a curse for us. Men could always wear it like a cape, while women were forced to tuck and hold it inside themselves.”

Favorite book to film? And why?

Gone Girl (watch trailer) It was the first psychological thriller I read in medical school and my husband and I went to the movie’s opening night. It’s one of the few stories where I’ve enjoyed the book to film equally.

 Favorite Indie Book Store/s?

Books Are Magic and The Strand in New York; Posman Books and Little Shop of Stories in Georgia.

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

To accept rejection as a constant, whether that’s in the form of editorial feedback or negative reviews. I used to be so scared of major edits or the idea of scathing reviews. But I’ve since learned that a story doesn’t fully belong to me once it’s out in the world and that’s a great thing.

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

I believe that making that transition from writing as a hobby to writing as a job can be tough; however, having a team of people to work with who are passionate about books and being part of a community of writers is invaluable for work that is otherwise so solitary.

Dog, Cat, Or?

Both.

 Ideal vacation?

Sitting on a beach with a stack of books, chips, and a giant bowl of salsa

 Favorite book cover?

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams. The hair! The colors! All of it!

 Favorite song?

Current answer: my son’s Little Baby Bum nursery rhymes

Favorite painting/ work of art?

Vincent van Gogh’s “Self- Portrait with Bandaged Ear”. I incorporate this painting in the Narrative Medicine class I teach to psychiatry residents and it always leads to a compelling discussion about mental illness, creativity, and solitude.

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

I’m hoping to attend a Lit Festival in the post COVID world!

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

Pride and Prejudice- watch trailer, hands down. I watched it every year in high school and it was my post final exams treat throughout college. My adolescent self will always have a crush on Colin Firth.

Recommend a Small Press and/or Literary Journal?

Akashic Books, based out of Brooklyn

Last impulse book buy and why?

Big Friendship because I want to read more nonfiction and the subject of friendship has always fascinated me. I read that the authors went to therapy for their friendship and that fact alone made me get the book.

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:

Aruni Kashyap, There Is No Good Time For Bad News, poetry collection

Gayatri Sethi, Unbelonging a memoir

Jenny Bhatt, Each of Us Killers, short story collection

Nancy Johnson, The Kindest Lie, a novel

Yousra Imran, Hijab and Red Lipstick, a novel

Sejal Shah, This Is One Way To Dance, memoir

Madi Sinha: The White Coat Diaries, a novel

Chika Unigwe, Better Late Than Never, short story collection

Anju Gattani: Duty and Desire, a novel

Christopher Swann: Never Turn Back, a novel

Zetta Elliott: A Place Inside of Me, middle grade fiction

Veena Rao: Purple Lotus, a novel

Tara Coyt: Real Talk About LGBTQIAP, non fiction

Maureen Joyce Connelly: Little Lovely Things, a novel

Molly Greeley: The Heiress, historical fiction novel

Donna Miscolta: Living Color, short stories

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 and A with Aruni Kashyap and ‘There Is No Good Time For Bad News’, poetry collection

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

Aruni Kashyap writes fiction, poetry, essays, tweets, Facebook posts, screeds, in Assamese and English. He is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing and English at the University of Georgia and lives in Athens, Georgia.

About There Is No Good Time For Bad News 

There Is No Good Time For Bad News is a collection of poems that depict, through oral histories, narratives of survivors, on what it means to live under the duress of an authoritarian state. Poems that attempt to show the possibilities of storytelling when it intersects with the discourse of human rights and justice. Poems that draw heavily from oral history, folktales to critique the modern state’s abuses of power.

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

ARUNI KASHYAP: Jun Beli, Tora Aru Onyanyo by Dipti Dutta Das: a feminist auto fictional work set in a small town called Golaghat in the state of Assam in India. It is a town I love and know very well. Also, it depicted a world before my state Assam burst into an insurgency against Indian rule, seeking independence. My childhood was all about gun battles and bomb blasts because I grew up during an armed insurgency. This novel portrayed my homeland before the insurgency, providing a clear picture of what it meant to live peacefully in the sixties and seventies. It is also the first novel I ever read in my life.

To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

Always, chai. With milk, cardamom, and a hint of ginger.

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

The Book of Night Women by Marlon James. First, it is a riveting work of fiction. It is so damn well written, and I wish I could write like that. Reading the book makes me wonder what the hell I am doing because I can never write at that superior level. But the book is also radical in terms of language. Can we write in an English that defies conventions? Can we write in an English that is derived from the spoken? It questions what kind of language the modern Anglophone publishing industry privileges repeatedly and I find that especially empowering and inspiring. It is also radical for many other reasons, and if I elaborate, it will become a 5000 words essay. So, I will stop. But everyone should read it!

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

I wish I had read The Old Man and the Sea more diligently. I read it in my teens but didn’t enjoy it. And I didn’t read it for many years but reading it in my twenties was a wonderful experience.

Favorite quote from your book 

Oh, dear!

“Definitions have always belonged to the definers.”

Favorite book to film? And why?

The Namesake. Mira Nair managed to transform the novel and make it much more invigorating. Amazing music. Incredible acting by Tabu and Irfan Khan. I have watched the movie many times, but I have read the novel only a couple of times. It is one of those rare instances when you like the movie more than the book.

Favorite Indie Book Store/s?

I love Avid Book Store in Athens, Georgia. They are close to where I live, have a great staff, and hosted one of my readings! How can I not love them?

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

Many things! I wish I had a mentor. I never had one to tell me, “Aruni, you should do this.” But above all, I wish I had known that success means what it means to me now in the post-2020 world. I think that I am successful as an author, and I feel very fortunate about that. I know I worked and but also lucked out. I do want the big book deal, and I do want to be a bestselling author, and of course, I want to speak to massive crowds in large auditoriums, but I used to think that is the only kind of success, but after 2020, I have realized that success is all about the ability to practice my art with the least hindrance. I am immensely grateful I can do that.

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

I think the writing gets easier as we write more: it is like Hindustani or Carnatic classical music; the more you write, the easier it becomes. But publishing and marketing are things that are not in our control. If I had an influential literary family, I would open my own press and publish myself. But I have chosen this, so I complain a lot to my friends and still submit and still get upset occasionally with rejections. I don’t get affected by negative reviews because I am an academic and know literary history well and have seen how artistically audacious books are reevaluated after a few years. I hope to continue writing such books.

Dog, Cat, Or?

I have had dogs and cats.

Boruani 🙂

Ideal vacation?

Anywhere with loved ones, but with a thriller and lots of good food.

Favorite book cover?

After it was adapted as a movie, the new paperback edition of Beloved was published I think – the woman with that black gown, the black hat. It is a stunning cover, but I think you can appreciate that cover more if you had already read the novel and have not watched the movie.

Favorite song?

“Bimurto Mur Nixati” by Bhupen Hazarika is a song about lovemaking, but it is so suggestive and euphemistic that it can be a song about anything else. I know it by heart.

Favorite painting/ work of art?

Las Meninas, by Diego Velázquez

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

Writing in Assamese regularly has given me a huge set of readers who have also become friends and part of my life. Some of them have been with me through thick and thin. Sometimes we write serialized novels in Assamese, and my first Assamese novel was serialized in a magazine called Satsori. Once, a reader fell in love with Rajeev, who is also the protagonist of the novel. He comes to Minnesota, studies English, falls in love, and often wonders about his home in Assam. He is critical of US foreign policy (as one should be!), racism (of course!), etc., and airs those views usually in between conversations. This reader fell in love with Rajeev and would share her responses with me often but often thought I am Rajeev: “When you do this in the novel in that episode, I thought.” I would correct her, “No, that’s not me, that’s the character.” But one day, she stopped calling and left a comment on my social media that she doesn’t like Rajeev anymore because he “sleeps around”. “This novel reveals what kind of a character-less person you are,” she said. I have laughed about it for all these years.

Do you have a favorite film, or two, or three?

My god, the list is so long, but I like Hazaroan Khahishein Aisi. I also love watching commercial Indian movies that don’t make much sense. My favorite movie is Mr. India: about a man who finds a device that makes him invisible when he wears it. He uses this newfound superpower to fight corruption in India.

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

I am not an Austen fan, but I enjoyed reading Pride and Prejudice and Emma. I read them because they were was in my English literature course. It was compulsory reading. I have not watched any of the adaptations.

Recommend a Small Press and/or Literary Journal?

A small press I admire is Hub City Press in South Carolina. I admire many small presses.

Last impulse book buy and why?

An hour ago! My house is full of books that are waiting to be read. When will I have the time to read them all!

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:

Gayatri Sethi, Unbelonging, a memoir

Jenny Bhatt, Each of Us Killers, short story collection

Nancy Johnson, The Kindest Lie, a novel

Yousra Imran, Hijab and Red Lipstick, a novel

Sejal Shah, This Is One Way To Dance, memoir

Madi Sinha: The White Coat Diaries, a novel

Chika Unigwe, Better Late Than Never, short story collection

Anju Gattani: Duty and Desire, a novel

Christopher Swann: Never Turn Back, a novel

Zetta Elliott: A Place Inside of Me, middle grade fiction

Veena Rao: Purple Lotus, a novel

Tara Coyt: Real Talk About LGBTQIAP, non fiction

Maureen Joyce Connelly: Little Lovely Things, a novel

Molly Greeley: The Heiress, historical fiction novel

Donna Miscolta: Living Color, short stories

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 Gayatri Sethi and ‘Unbelonging’, a memoir

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

Born in Tanzania and raised in Botswana, Gayatri Sethi is of South Asian Punjabi descent, multilingual, and polycultural. She reflects on these lifelong experiences of identity, immigration, and belonging in her debut book titled Unbelonging. When she is not homeschooling or recommending readings as Desi Book Aunty, she travels the globe with her students and family. She is also a co-founder of the Desi KidLit Community and Summit. 

About Unbelonging  

Unbelonging (Mango and Marigold Press) explores the migrant narratives of Desi coming of age in multiracial Africa and America. It is a compilation of verse-like reflections about identity, inter-cultural anti-Blackness, social justice, and the South Asian diaspora for young adult readers.  

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

GAYATRI SETHI: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. I read it as a teen undergoing a very colonial education in Botswana in the 1980’s. This book revealed aspects of Sub-Saharan history and life that I was desperate to understand.

To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

Sparking water with a hint of lime at the end of long days refreshes me. I begin the day with a bottomless cup of strong coffee with no sugar. As the day wears on, I stay with my mantra: hydration is happiness. I have a complicated relationship to chai, and although I adore tisane and herbal teas, I prefer to enjoy them in company.

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

Audre Lorde’s (1981) “The Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism” is vital reading for me. I revisit it especially on difficult days. I journal about segments of the insights often. It is the kind of bibliotherapy or medicine that I most need. I used to assign it on syllabi when I taught women’s studies courses. The light bulb moments in each rereading are priceless.

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

None. I read too many so-called classics both in secondary school O’levels/ A’levels and at a college that still prides itself on a “Great Books” core curriculum. Frankly, I wish I had not pushed through so much western philosophy and classics. They stole the joy of reading from me.

Favorite quote from your book 

Mantra for karma reckoning  

Internalized oppression is real.

Internalized oppression is really real.

Internalized oppression is really oppressive.

Favorite book to film? And why?

I strongly prefer books to film. I have yet to meet a film version that does justice to the book version.

Favorite Indie Book Store/s?

Firestorm Cooperative in Asheville is a feminist bookstore where one of my former students is a co-owner. They are deeply committed to abolition and justice, and have been very supportive of my book curating work as desi book aunty. Many of my recommendations are offered by them at a discount. 

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

I wish I had known with conviction how similar publishing is to academia. I suspected as much, but I am now learning how the publishing industrial complex is plagued by the kinds of enduring injustices that caused me to exit academia.

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

I am a debut author at age 49. I am not sure any part of this is easy or gets easier. Perhaps, by nurturing supportive and reciprocal connections with like minded writers, we might brave this writing life together? 

Dog, Cat, Or? 

I am allergic to most pets. We do not have a pet yet, much to the chagrin of beti who was on a daily plea to adopt a ferret when the lockdown began last spring. She is currently trying to convince me that puppy adoption is a good idea. I get puppy pictures texted to me almost daily as part of this campaign.

 Ideal vacation?

I dream of a month in Zanzibar, sipping coffee in a beach hammock.  I would relish extended sunset strolls along the Indian ocean, close to the lands of my birth and childhood. I have not returned to Tanzania since our family left when I was ten for Botswana. When travel is possible, I long for the means to make this dream trip.

Favorite book cover?

Aside from yours and mine? I met you for the first time through your book’s cover. I was so enthralled by it that I purchased your book right away, and read it cover to cover. This fascination came about before I met you online or in person. I adore shades of blue, peacocks and paisley. I am surprised that these vital elements of desi art are not on my book’s cover. Divya Seshadri, the artist, went with fiery elements and tones to match the contents of the book. 

Favorite song?

My current favorite songs are protest music connected with the kisaan protests. The Kisaan anthems are giving me so much hope and inspiration. I also play Enjoy Enjaami on repeat these days and relish the sheer beauty and power of the decolonial imagery in the video. I don’t speak Tamil, and yet, everything about this music sings to my soul.

 Favorite painting/ work of art? 

I am new to appreciating Punjabi art.  I grew up without access to museums and galleries, and when I gained this access in the U.S. and France, they were painful reminders of colonial theft of our lands. I have a few favorite artists I visit daily on instagram. I want to buy all the art prints created by Ravina Taroor for my imaginary ideal office/ library.  Baljinder Kaur, the illustrator of the picture book Fauja Singh Keeps Going has a keen eye for capturing childhood. Their art brings me so much joy and delight. The kinds of connection their art offers to Punjabi heritage for a diasporic person like me is priceless.

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

I adore our local book festival, Decatur Book Fest, and meeting you there in life before virtual festivals was truly a highlight. I hope we can meet up there again one of these days soon.

Do you have a favorite film, or two, or three?

I love Biography documentaries. The standout is James Baldwin’s – “I am Not your Negro.” I had read his words and thought they were fire.  They came to life in a very empowering way and the documentary completely captures my heart every time I revisit it.

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

I read Sense and Sensibility repeatedly in secondary school. For inexplicable reasons, it is my favorite Austen novel. In A levels, I read most of them to the point of being able to recall direct quotes for the final exam. I stopped reading European authors and so-called classics about a decade or so ago. I even avoided retellings until I discovered your book (mostly because the blue cover was completely breathtaking). The postcolonial retelling you do of Pride and Prejudice is truly brilliant. I recommend Unmarriageable as exemplary retelling. I am not just saying this because you are interviewing me.

(blush– thank you)

Recommend a Small Press and/or Literary Journal?

Mango and Marigold Press took a chance on my unconventional writing. I am unagented and went with a south asian owned press for deliberate reasons. Every member of my book team from illustrator to typeset artist to line editor, is a South Asian woman. This is possible because Mango and Marigold supported me in countless ways to realize my vision for this debut book. Until recently, they only published books for younger readers. Their vision for South Asian storytelling is distinctive.

Last impulse book buy and why?

My last impulse buy was to subscribe to the Haymarket Books monthly book box. I look forward to this delivery with much anticipation each month. The abolitionist work they publish is exactly the kind of content I am striving to learn these days. It is the best investment in book aunty life that I have yet to make.

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:

Jenny Bhatt, Each of Us Killers, short story collection

Nancy Johnson, The Kindest Lie, a novel

Yousra Imran, Hijab and Red Lipstick, a novel

Sejal Shah, This Is One Way To Dance, memoir

Madi Sinha: The White Coat Diaries, a novel

Chika Unigwe, Better Late Than Never, short story collection

Anju Gattani: Duty and Desire, a novel

Christopher Swann: Never Turn Back, a novel

Zetta Elliott: A Place Inside of Me, middle grade fiction

Veena Rao: Purple Lotus, a novel

Tara Coyt: Real Talk About LGBTQIAP, non fiction

Maureen Joyce Connelly: Little Lovely Things, a novel

Molly Greeley: The Heiress, historical fiction novel

Donna Miscolta: Living Color, short stories

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 Jenny Bhatt and ‘Each of Us Killers: Stories’

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.

Jenny Bhatt is the author of Each of Us Killers: Stories (Sep 2020) and the literary translation, Ratno Dholi: Dhumketu’s Greatest Short Stories (Oct 2020). Her writing has appeared or will soon be in The Washington Post, BBC Culture, The Atlantic, NPR, Longreads, Electric Literature, The Millions, The Rumpus, Poets & Writers, and more. Her short stories have been nominated or shortlisted for several awards. She is the host of the Desi Books podcast and resides in a suburb of Dallas, TX.

About Each of Us Killers

Each of Us Killers is a collection of stories woven at the intersection of labor and our emotional lives. Set in the American Midwest, England, and India (Mumbai, Ahmedabad, rural Gujarat) the stories in Each of Us Killers are about people trying to realize their dreams and aspirations through their professions. Whether they are chasing money, power, recognition, love, or simply trying to make a decent living, their hunger is as intense as any grand love affair. Straddling the fault lines of class, caste, gender, nationality, globalization, and more, they go against socio-cultural norms despite challenges and indignities until singular moments of quiet devastation turn the worlds of these characters—auto-wallah, housemaid, street vendor, journalist, architect, baker, engineer, saree shop employee, professor, yoga instructor, bartender, and more—upside down. [Advance praise from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, Literary Hub, Electric Literature, The Millions, Entropy Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Bustle, Dallas Morning News, Texas Public Radio, and more. Kirkus Reviews listed it as a must-read story collection for Fall 2020.]

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

JENNY BHATT: During early childhood in India, like many, I grew up with oral storytelling traditions. So, while it’s hard to attribute the Gujarati folktales and fairy tales to particular authors or books, they’re the ones I fell in love with, lying beside my mother as she narrated them to us siblings after lights out. Each retelling would be a little different, tweaked here and there by her to fit her mood or whatever message she wanted us to learn at that time. They were always more than just entertaining stories because they allowed this ongoing dialogue between parent and child about many everyday observations and life lessons. I’ve done some feminist retellings of some of those stories in my new collection, Each of Us Killers, as well.

To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

Oh, chai, for sure. Boiled with milk and spices, the Gujju way. It’s my go-to drink for everything — to unwind, refresh, energize, calm.

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

Tough to pick only one. Something I keep returning to when I need some grounding or even some uplifting beauty is Vincent van Gogh’s collected letters. He’s known as an artist but his letters are filled with an astonishing beauty of ideas and language. It was a short, troubled life that ended in a mysterious death. But these letters show us his clarity of thought, his aesthetic appreciation of all kinds of art, and his love for this maddening, crazy world.

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

I wish I’d pushed through War and Peace in my teens. I didn’t appreciate the beauty and philosophy of the war scenes and the bleakness and despair of the peace scenes. I had it all wrong. I reread it a few years ago when the BBC series came out and, my god, they’re all right. It’s a masterpiece. And there’s no other like it.

 Favorite quote from your book 

“What is destiny, Vidya asks silently. For women like her and Ma, it is simply a dagger thrown at you, which you must catch either by the blade or the handle. If you can figure out which end is which.” (from the story ‘Journey to a Stepwell’)

Favorite book to film? And why?

This is controversial but I loved The English Patient (watch trailer here). I think Anthony Minghella did justice to Ondaatje’s stunning novel while also making sure that his portrayal leveraged every advantage offered by the cinematic medium. I don’t see a movie as a retelling or even adaptation of a book but a re-interpretation in a different medium. And what I loved about Minghella’s re-interpretation is that it made me revisit Ondaatje’s novel with new perceptions and sensibilities.

Favorite Indie Book Store/s?

My local, The Wild Detectives, in Dallas is pretty cool. Hoping to get back to spending time on their patio once we get back to some kind of post-pandemic normal.

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

I came to publishing later in life so I’d learned enough about the pros and cons of the writing life from reading and following other writers on social media. The one thing we can never be truly prepared for is how awful and stressful a book launch really is. I knew it would be tough with a small press book of short stories. I understood it would be tougher still during a pandemic. But it feels like desperately trying to keep my balance while the ground is constantly shifting beneath me.

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

God, I hope so. I want to believe so. A part of me knows that’s never going to be the case, though. And I’ll always need to plan for the worst and hope for the best.

Dog, Cat, Or?

Dog, definitely.

Ideal vacation?

Remote island, nature hikes, books, music, simple food, my husband, our dog.

Favorite book cover?

So many. But I’m partial to my own. And I wrote an essay about what it means to me.

 Favorite song?

Ooh. Another tough one. Bollywood classics from Basu Chatterjee or Hrishikesh Mukherjee movies are my go-to for a certain mood. Mood as I’m typing these answers: ‘Zindagi Kaisi Hai Paheli’ from the 1971 movie, Anand; sung by Manna Dey, lyrics by Yogesh, and music by Salil Chowdhury.

Favorite painting/ work of art?

A Vincent van Gogh painting titled ‘The Siesta’. I wrote a whole Twitter thread about why.

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

I was attending a reading by Grace Paley at Chicago’s Printers Row Book Fair (back when it was still called that — around 2000-2001, if I recall correctly.) I sat across from her, just a few feet away. As everyone left, I remained seated because I’d loved her reading, her answers, and had not wanted it to end. I was writing but not really publishing my work then and, listening to her had given me this aching feeling that I was wasting my life away. She smiled at me as she gathered her things and said, “Are you a writer?” I said I’d only written short stories for a little online mag no one knew about. She nodded and said, “Then you’re a writer. It doesn’t matter who knows. What’s important is that you know.” It’s hard to put into words what that meant to me at the time, to hear that from a literary hero no less, and to recall that to myself each time I’ve doubted my writing and my life choices/sacrifices to finally be able to do it as a profession.

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

My favorite Austen novel is definitely Pride and Prejudice. And, of course, Soniah Kamal’s novel adaptation, Unmarriageable, has to rank high up there because it’s an Eastern contemporary version of a Western classic and it talks back to the Empire, as Soniah once told me. The Ehle-Firth TV series adaptation is my favorite because, well, Colin Firth.

Recommend a Small Press and/or Literary Journal?

I highly recommend my own small press, 7.13 Books, for debut fiction. It’s run by writers of color, which makes it even more special. For literary journals, I love the works published by Words Without Borders and Asymptote Journal.

Last impulse book buy and why?

Rita Felski’s Literature After Feminism, which came out in May this year. I’m a big Felski fan for her literary criticism theory works. And I’ve got almost all her books. I’d held off getting this one because of lack of time to read any texts outside my book review commitments and writing workshop commitments. But I just couldn’t wait any longer.

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

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Tanaz BathenaA Girl Like That, YA novel