Skip to content

Posts by Soniah Kamal

Drunk On Ink Q & A with Nancy Johnson and ‘The Kindest Lie’, 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

A native of Chicago’s south side, Nancy Johnson writes at the intersection of race and class. Her debut novel, The Kindest Lie (February 2021 William Morrow/HarperCollins) has been featured in Entertainment Weekly and has been named a most anticipated book of the year by Marie Claire, ELLE, The Chicago Tribune, The New York Post, Good Housekeeping, Parade, Popsugar, Refinery29, and more. The book received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and BookPage, and was selected as Indie Next and LibraryReads picks. It’s also a selection for the Book of the Month Club. Nancy has also written personal essays for Real Simple and O, the Oprah Magazine. A graduate of Northwestern University and The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Nancy lives in downtown Chicago and manages brand communications for a large nonprofit. The Kindest Lie is her first novel.

 

About The Kindest Lie

The Kindest Lie is the story of an unlikely connection between Ruth Tuttle, an Ivy League-educated Black engineer searching for the son she left behind, and Midnight, a poor, young white boy adrift in a dying Indiana factory town at the dawn of the Obama era. The novel explores family, sacrifice, and the pursuit of the American Dream.

It’s 2008, and the rise of Barack Obama ushers in a new kind of hope. In Chicago, Ruth Tuttle, an Ivy-League educated black engineer, is married to a kind and successful man. He’s eager to start a family, but Ruth is uncertain. She has never gotten over the baby she gave birth to—and abandoned—when she was a teenager. She had promised her family she’d never look back, but Ruth knows that to move forward, she must make peace with the past.

Returning home, Ruth discovers the Indiana factory town of her youth is plagued by unemployment, racism, and despair. While her family is happy to see her, they remind her of the painful sacrifices they made to give her a shot at a better future—like the comfortable middle-class life she now enjoys.

Determined, Ruth begins digging into the past. As she uncovers burning secrets her family desperately wants to hide, she unexpectedly befriends Midnight, a young white boy who is also adrift and looking for connection. When a traumatic incident strains the town’s already searing racial tensions, Ruth and Midnight find themselves on a collision course that could upend both of their lives.

The Kindest Lie examines the heartbreaking divide between black and white communities and plumbs the emotional depths of the struggles faced by ordinary Americans in the wake of the financial crisis. Capturing the profound racial injustices and class inequalities roiling society, Nancy Johnson’s debut novel offers an unflinching view of motherhood in contemporary America and the never-ending quest to achieve the American Dream.

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

NANCY JOHNSON: Every girl in fourth grade was reading The Triple Hoax by Carolyn Keene. Soon, I devoured it, too, and eventually started at the beginning of the Nancy Drew mystery series with The Secret of the Old Clock. Soon, I had more than 60 of those yellow-spined books. Maybe it was because Nancy was my namesake or perhaps it was my strong desire to be a detective when I grew up. As much as I loved following Nancy in her blue convertible as she careened down the sleepy streets of River Heights solving cases, it didn’t occur to me until I was an adult that there no Black characters in those books. It’s now that I lament not seeing myself reflected on the page during those early, formative years. Now those books are collecting dust in my mother’s garage. She threatens to donate or dump the books, but I can’t part with them.

To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

None of the above. My go-to drink to unwind and feel cozy is hot chocolate from Starbucks: 5 pumps of mocha, no whipped cream.

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

Everyone should read The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin, which began as a letter from Baldwin to his nephew on the 100-year anniversary of the so-called emancipation of Black folks. That book is a prophetic warning to America about what will happen if it doesn’t do the work to achieve racial justice. I’ll never forget that last line: “God gave Noah the rainbow sign. No more water, the fire next time.”

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

Yes, Beloved by Toni Morrison. I read it early in my college career at Northwestern University in Professor Leon Forrest’s class. The text seemed incredibly dense and I struggled with the intricacy of the language. When I read it, I was “just calling words” as my late father would say. At that time, I lacked the intellectual maturity to appreciate Morrison’s work. Today, she’s my favorite author and my inspiration as a writer.

Favorite quote from your book 

Eli (Ruth’s brother) describing his wife’s reaction when he lost his job at the auto plant.

“She took it real good in the beginning, rubbing my face, whispering sweet words in my ear. You know how y’all women do. Talking ‘bout how she loves me more than biscuits and gravy and I would always be her husband no matter what. That’s what she said until the bill collectors started calling. Then I started smelling some other brotha’s sweat on her.”

Favorite book to film? And why?

Alice Walker’s The Color Purple is a masterpiece in literature. Watch trailer here. The story of Celie and Mister and Shug Avery came to life through Steven Spielberg’s interpretation on the big screen. That was one of the few times I thought a movie gave nuance and dimension to the book.

Favorite Indie Book Store/s?

I love Semicolon, the only Black woman-owned bookstore in Chicago!

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

I wish I’d known that a well-told, compelling story would ultimately find its way to its readers.

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

Well, The Kindest Lie is my first book, so check in with me sophomore year!

Dog, Cat, Or?

No pets for me. I had a terrifying encounter with a stray dog when I was three-years-old and unfortunately, that experience stuck with me. So, I admire other people’s pets from afar. *laughing*

Ideal vacation?

Anywhere I can admire the quiet beauty and majesty of God’s handiwork

Favorite book cover?

Oh, too many over the years to name a favorite, but right now I’m digging the covers of The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris and The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner.

Favorite song?

Too many to pick one. A few of my faves:

As” by Stevie Wonder

Bad Boy” by Luther Vandross

One More Chance” by The Notorious B.I.G. (Featuring Faith Evans and Mary J. Blige)

That’s the Way Love Goes” by Janet Jackson

Favorite painting/ work of art?

My dear author friend, Julie Carrick Dalton, had a young, African-American artist named Dylan Gabriel hand paint a rendering of my book cover. He’s so talented and I love the piece.

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

I haven’t been to any literary festivals since publishing my book. However, I have been hearing from readers. One told me that the character of Mama, who is Black, reminded her of her own Belgian and Jewish grandmother who also made hot water cornbread and kept a can of bacon drippings on the back of the stove. It was a great reminder of the universality of story.

Last impulse book buy and why?

After hearing the poet Amanda Gorman’s brilliant, anointed performance at the Inauguration, I was craving more of her work. I pre-ordered the audio version of “The Hill We Climb.” The world needs her voice and her wisdom right now. I sure do.

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

More Drunk on Ink Interviews:

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 Yousra Imran and ‘Hijab and Red Lipstick’, 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

Yousra Imran is a British Egyptian writer and author of YA novel Hijab and Red Lipstick (Hashtag Press). She works full time in marketing and events in the higher education sector, and lives in West Yorkshire. When she isn’t writing and reading, she enjoys long walks, listening to vintage Arabic music and watching movies.

About Hijab and Red Lipstick 

Being a teenager isn’t easy. All Sara wants to do is experiment with make-up and hang out with friends. It doesn’t help when you have a super-strict Egyptian dad who tells you that everything is “haram” a.k.a. forbidden. But when her family move to the Arabian Gulf, it feels like every door is being closed on Sara’s future. Can Sara find her voice again? Will she ever be free?

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

YOUSRA SAMIR: The first author I fell in love with was Jacqueline Wilson, which would come as no surprise as she was every girls’ favorite author during the 1990’s. I used to enjoy seeking out her earlier titles from the 1980’s, which unfortunately are no longer printed. My favorite book of hers from the 1980’s is Waiting for the Sky Fall, firstly, because there is a mixed race girl on the front cover, and secondly it was the first time I had ever read a young adult novel that spoke about doing your O-Levels (GCSEs), relationships, sex and pregnancy so openly.

To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

Karak chai for sure!

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

I’d like everyone to read It’s Not About the Burqa edited by Mariam Khan. It’s an anthology of essays written by British Muslim women and they are just such a diverse group of women, from different walks of life, different sexual orientations and all doing such different things with their lives. It’s a must-read because not only is this the first time that I’ve seen Muslim women write so openly about sex, queerness, sexual orientation, relationships and issues within society that are traditionally considered “taboo” by Asian and Arab cultures, it’s an anthology that shows readers that Muslim women aren’t a monolith – each one of us is different, and we have such vibrant stories to tell.

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

I think it was probably Charles Dickens in general – growing up I felt like I should read at least one Dickens book from start to finish, and tried Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities and just never got through them!

Favorite quote from your book 

From Mona El Tahawy, Hymens and Headscarves (2015):

“The most subversive thing a woman can do is talk about her life as if it really matters.”

Favorite book to film? And why?

I love both The Color Purple watch trailer and Beloved watch trailer and strangely, Oprah Winfrey acted in and produced both of them! I think it was the first time I watched movies that had such strong, black, female leads. I think the other reason I love them is that the stories involve women finding their voice and standing up for themselves.

Favorite Indie Book Store/s?

The Book Case in Hebden Bridge and Bert’s Books (online).

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

I read some really good advice recently which said “don’t call yourself an aspiring writer. If you write, you are a writer” and I wish I’d owned that sooner.

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

Hijab and Red Lipstick is my debut novel so I will have to let you know when book number 2 gets eventually published! But in terms of getting this debut published, I won’t lie – it was hard! Literary agencies kept saying on their websites that they were looking for authors from ethnic and under-represented minorities and I’d make a submission and rejections always came back with “your writing is very good” or “there’s nothing wrong with your writing” “but we don’t see a market for your book.” I disagree – there is definitely a market for books with Muslim characters.

Dog, Cat, Or?

Cats

Ideal vacation?

Exploring a historic city – I have wanted to go to Cordoba and Istanbul for ages!

Favorite book cover?

I absolutely adore the book cover of The Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girls by Mona El Tahawy.

Favorite song?

Lady (Hear Me Tonight) by Mojo

Favorite painting/ work of art?

Probably Osman Hamdi Bey’s 1880 painting Girl Reciting Qur’an.

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

Haven’t been to a literary festival since my book got published

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

I love so many films. I love 80’s fantasy movies. The Dark Crystal watch trailer, Labyrinth watch trailer, Beetlejuice watch trailer, Legend watch trailer, Willow watch trailer and Edward Scissorhands watch trailer!

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

Not an Austen fan – I know, shocking! I prefer the Bronte sisters and George Eliot. The women in Bronte and Eliots’ novels are far stronger and have more complex personalities.

(SK NOTE HERE- we can debate the stronger and more complex- 🙂

Recommend a Small Press and/or Literary Journal?

I can recommend lots of small publishers – Hashtag Press, Bluemoose Books, Red Dog Press and Knights Of.Media

Last impulse book buy and why?

Diary of a Muslim Nobody by Reaz Rahman – I came across it through my publishers, and when I knew Rahman had self-published, I wanted to support a fellow Muslim author

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:

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 Sejal Shah and ‘This Is One Way To Dance’, a 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.

Sejal Shah is the daughter of Gujarati parents who immigrated to the US from India and Kenya. She the recipient of a 2018 New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in fiction. Her essays and stories have appeared in Brevity, Conjunctions, the Kenyon Review, Literary Hub, the Rumpus, and Under Her Skin: How Girls Experience Race in America. A longtime teacher of creative writing, Sejal lives in Rochester, New York. This Is One Way to Dance is her debut essay collection. She has also recently completed a collection of short stories and is at work on a memoir about mental health.

About This is One Way to Dance

In the linked essays that make up her debut collection, This Is One Way to Dance, Sejal Shah explores culture, language, family, and place. Throughout the collection, Shah reflects on what it means to make oneself visible and legible through writing in a country that struggles with race and maps her identity as an American, South Asian American, writer of color, and feminist. This Is One Way to Dance draws on Shah’s ongoing interests in ethnicity and place: the geographic and cultural distances between people, both real and imagined. Her memoir in essays emerges as Shah wrestles with her experiences growing up and living in western New York, an area of stark racial and economic segregation, as the daughter of Gujarati immigrants from India and Kenya. These essays also trace her movement over twenty years from student to teacher and meditate on her travels and life in New England, New York City, and the Midwest, as she considers what it means to be of a place or from a place, to be foreign or familiar. Shah invites us to consider writing as a somatic practice, a composition of digressions, repetitions—movement as transformation, incantation. Her essays—some narrative, others lyrical and poetic—explore how we are all marked by culture, gender, and race; by the limits of our bodies, by our losses and regrets, by who and what we love, by our ambivalences, and by trauma and silence. Language fractures in its attempt to be spoken. Shah asks and attempts to answer the question: How do you move in such a way that loss does not limit you? This Is One Way to Dance introduces a vital new voice to the conversation about race and belonging in America.

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

I read this book, Tiger on the Mountain, in fourth grade. Our teacher, Miss Hauge, gave me the classroom copy, because I read it so often. I have it on my desk now. It wasn’t the first book I fell in love with, but I was fascinated with it, because the book takes place in India. It was published by Scholastic. From the back cover: “Raman lives in the hills of South India. So he knows well the legend of the one-eyed tiger on the mountain…” When I met my Tamilian spouse, I remembered I knew the Tamil word for younger brother (thambi), because of the book.

To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

Herbal tea (Bengal Spice is my fall and winter favorite) or wine.

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

For everyone: Audre Lorde’s “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action

For writers and artists: Marge Piercy’s poem, “For the Young Who Want to

For all Americans: Claudia Rankine’s Citizen

For writers, especially women:  love Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem “The Art of Disappearing

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

Moby Dick. I was supposed to read it for a class (Literature of the Sea) when I spent a semester at Mystic Seaport through Williams College.

A favorite quote from your book

Can I give my favorite contenders for epigraphs instead? I ended up not going with an epigraph, but I loved all of these possibilities and they will tell you something about how I see This Is One Way to Dance:

From bell hooks’ Talking Back:

“In black communities (and diverse ethnic communities), women have not been silent…our struggle has not been to emerge from silence into speech but to change the nature and direction of our speech, to make a speech that compels listeners, one that is heard.”

From Sheila Heti’s How Should a Person Be?

“We don’t know the effects we have on each other, but we have them.”

From Claudia Rankine’s Citizen:

“You take in things you don’t want all the time. The second you hear or see some ordinary moment, all its intended targets, all the meanings behind the retreating seconds, as far as you are able to see, come into focus. Hold up, did you just hear, did you just say, did you just see, did you just do that?”

And

“The route is often associative.”

Your favorite book to film?

 Anne of Green Gables (watch trailer PBS/CBC series from the 80s)

Favorite Indie Book Store/s?

 Brookline Booksmith, which hosted my virtual launch through its Transnational Literary Series. I lived walking distance from Brookline Booksmith in my 20s after college. I loved going there! In my hometown, Ampersand Books at Writers & Books, the community-based literary center in Rochester, New York.

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

 You have to say no to at least 75-80% of asks in order to say yes to your most important writing work. (When I began answering this question, I had written 50-75% of asks, but now, a month later, I see it’s even more!)

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

I don’t know as this was my first book, published in a pandemic! My virtual launch took place on the day of the social media blackout, protests for Black Lives Matters, and mourning the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor. Over 200 people attended the launch, but it was a challenging and painful moment, a needed reckoning for the country. Nothing about it felt easy. From what I understand, publishing has changed tremendously in the last five, ten, and fifteen years, so while I imagine some things may be easier with a next book, many things will be different. My essays were written across twenty years and then revised and woven into a memoir, an essay collection with a narrative arc. Though I was frustrated at not having published a book earlier, I had participated in various local, academic, and literary communities for years, and those relationships and communities helped me get the word out about the book during a stressful time. In my experience, there’s always a certain level of challenge in writing, because each piece or project requires learning something new. That keeps it interesting and keeps me engaged, but also usually means it’s not easy.

Dog, Cat, Or?

Cat. But actually, I don’t have any pets. Only plants! Orchids.

Favorite book cover?

What comes to mind immediately is The Great Gatsby. I loved that it suggested a mood and era. I also wrote my junior English thesis on The Great Gatsby and I remember really thinking about the cover art and imagery. I don’t know if I’d say favorite, but iconic and mysterious. Favorite is a lot of pressure. I always liked the clean design of Rick Moody’s story collection, Demonology. I’m also a fan of the cover of Jenny Bhatt’s debut story collection, Each of Us Killers, just out last month.

Favorite song?

Favorite feels too exclusionary! Some songs I’ve loved for a long time: “Running Up that Hill” (Kate Bush), Ani DiFranco’s “Brief Bus Stop,” and John Coltrane’s “Alabama.”

Favorite Small Press and Literary Journal?

 Graywolf Press (do they count as small?); Tinderbox Editions in Minnesota, which published my friend Carley Moore’s stunning essay collection, 16 Pills, and Albion Press, a micro press that just published Rick Barot’s chapbook, During the Pandemic.

 Literary journal: I’m always thinking about both twenty years ago and now. I loved DoubleTake magazine (RIP, that’s from twenty years ago) and Guernica (now).

Last impulse book buy and why?

 Knucklehead and You Can Keep That to Yourself: A Comprehensive List of What Not to Say to Black People, for Well-Intentioned People of Pallor. I had a long-ranging and fascinating conversation with Adam Smyer, the author of both books, last night. He’s moderating a panel of debut authors I’m part of for Litquake this weekend. Our conversation about our paths in life and to our first books made me want to read his books.

Favorite Austen?

Pride & Prejudice to teach and Sense and Sensibility to watch (see trailer) Oh, but I also love the BBC Pride & Prejudice (watch trailer) And Bridget Jones take on it (watch trailer).

 Favorite Vacation Place:

The Adirondack Mountains in my home state of New York.

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:

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 Madi Sinha and ‘The White Coat Diaries’, 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

Madi Sinha is a writer and practicing physician who loves the nervous system, bookshops, tea with milk and snarky conversation (but not necessarily in that order). She lives in New Jersey with her husband and two children. The White Coat Diaries is her first novel.

About The White Coat Diaries

Having spent the last twenty-something years with her nose in a textbook, brilliant and driven Norah Kapadia has just landed the medical residency of her dreams. But after a disastrous first day, she’s ready to quit. Disgruntled patients, sleep deprivation, and her duty to be the “perfect Indian daughter” have her questioning her future as a doctor. Enter chief resident Ethan Cantor. He’s everything Norah aspires to be: respected by the attending physicians, calm during emergencies, and charismatic with his patients. And as he morphs from Norah’s mentor to something more, it seems her luck is finally changing. But when a fatal medical mistake is made, pulling Norah into a cover-up, she must decide how far she’s willing to go to protect the secret. What if “doing no harm” means putting herself at risk?

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

MADI SINHA: I was a huge Nancy Drew fan as a kid.

To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

Tea with milk.

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

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi (RIP) because it will remind you of what really matters in this life.

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

Anna Karenina.

Favorite quote from your book 

“In fact, the entire academic establishment of the time seemed convinced that a female was too dainty and fragile a creature for the gritty practice of medicine. I like to think that I salute all the women who came before me by standing here, right now, with my gloved finger inserted up this elderly man’s rectum.”

Favorite book to film? And why?

A Room With a View by E. M. Forster watch trailer here. Both the novel and the film are pure joy.

 Favorite Indie Book Store/s?

Inkwood Books in Haddonfield, NJ

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

Honestly, how much I’d enjoy it. I’m used to thinking of myself as a science person, not an artist, and I wasn’t sure I was well suited to a life with more art and by extension, more vulnerability, to it. As it turns out, I love it.

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

This is my first novel, so I’m not sure, but I do hope it gets easier. Ask me again in 2022.

 Dog, Cat, Or?

I’d love any pet, but we’re at capacity right now. I can’t even handle the added responsibility of a houseplant.

 Ideal vacation?

Somewhere warm, on a beach, with minimal company, a library, a breakfast buffet, and abundant childcare.

 Favorite book cover?

The Royal Abduls by Ramiza Shamoun Koya (RIP)

 Favorite song?

This Life by Vampire Weekend

 Favorite painting/ work of art?

The Gross Clinic by Thomas Eakins. It used to hang in one of the campus buildings of the hospital where I did my residency before it was sold to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I love it so much, it makes an appearance in The White Coat Diaries.

The Gross Clinic

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

I’ve never been to a lit festival, but someone I work with told me she stayed up all night reading my book, and it was the best compliment of my life.

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

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is my all-time favorite. watch trailer here. I can’t watch it and not feel moved, even though I’ve seen it a dozen times.

(It is based on the short story by James Thurber). 

 

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

Sense and Sensibility (watch trailer here) is my favorite Austen novel and film adaptation. I’m a huge Emma Thompson fan.

 Recommend a Small Press and/or Literary Journal?

Does Catapult count as small press? Their books are amazing.

 Last impulse book buy and why?

The Night Theater by Vikram Paralkar. I heard the author was also a doctor from Philadelphia and I had to buy it. I was not disappointed; it’s a beautiful 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:

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 Chika Unigwe and ‘Better Late Than Never’, short story 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

Chika Unigwe was born and raised in Enugu, Nigeria. She has written novels and Better Never than Late is her first collection of short stories.

About Better Late Than Never

Better Late Than Never is a collection about /around Nigerian immigrants in Belgium. Most the stories center around Prosperous and Agu, trying to make a new life in a country where they must learn new ways of being. It’s about friendship, community, love and loss. And everything in between.

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

CHIKA UNIGWE: First novel I remember reading cover to cover is Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I got it as a 9th birthday present

To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

Coffee is a necessity (as is water). Wine

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

In today’s America, Ta-Nehisi Coates’ ‘A case for Reparation .’ It’s a long essay that details in sharp prose how and to what extent African Americans have been kept out of financial mobility.

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

No. I read what interested me, what I had to for school. Reading for fun shouldn’t be torture. Life’s too short and there are many many many books to choose from

Favorite quote from your book 

He thought he understood now what was meant by being swept off one’s feet. She was an undertow pulling at him.  (Agu falling hopelessly and helplessly for Prosperous)

Favorite book to film? And why?

Shawshank Redemption. The film impresses with how much it expands the novella without appearing to do so. Also Tim Robbins has a lazy handsomeness to him

Favorite Indie Book Store/s?

My neighborhood bookstore in Turnhout, Belgium

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

Nothing has taken me by surprise so far

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

Not in my experience, no

Dog, Cat, Or?

Ideal vacation?

I am a city girl , I love shopping , I love sunshine. With my family

Favorite song?

This changes daily. At the moment, it’s Jerusalema  (the mix with Burna Boy)

Favorite painting/ work of art?

I love Victor Ehikamenor’s works

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

In Port of Spain for BOCAS, Earl Lovelace threw a lovely party at his home. His son Djayed and I danced with Fred d’Aguiar

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

Everything by Almodovar

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

Pride and Prejudice. Bride and Prejudice (watch trailer).  So much glitz and glamour and Bollywood dancing.   it’s somewhat Nigerianesque

Recommend a Small Press and/or Literary Journal?

Kweli. Brilliant mag.

Last impulse book buy and why?

Intimations by Zadie Smith because I love reading her essays, and a mention of it popped up while I was surfing

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:

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 Anju Gattani and ‘Duty and Desire’, 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

Fiction author, freelance journalist, fiction writing instructor, blogger and former newspaper reporter, Anju Gattani was born in India but grew up in Hong Kong. She has also lived and been published in Singapore, India, Australia, New Jersey and Connecticut in cover stories, fiction, feature, news, interviews, travel, perspective pieces and more. She finally dug her roots in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, with her husband, 2 dashing boys and a rebel lion-head rabbit. ‘Duty and Desire’ the debut in her Winds of Fire series, was a June 2, 2020 release. Anju hopes her books will Bridge Cultures and Break Barriers. Website: www.anjugattani.com Facebook: Anju Gattani Author Twitter: @Anju_Gattani Instagram: Anju_Gattani27

About Duty and Desire

To uphold family honor and tradition, Sheetal Prasad is forced to forsake the man she loves and marry playboy millionaire Rakesh Dhanraj. As her world splinters into a web of lies, deceit and betrayal, Sheetal must find a way to ally with the stranger she married in order to protect their infant son from his family’s tyranny.

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

ANJU GATTANI: My first book crush was ‘The Owl Who Was Afraid Of The Dark’ by Jill Tomlinson. I must have been around 7 or 8 at the time and was petrified of the dark. However, the title piqued my curiosity because owls are night animals and I figured it might be a fun read! I finished the book and lo and behold! I was no longer afraid of the dark! I couldn’t believe the power of story and its ability to fade away my fears. My second crush shortly after was ‘Charlie and The Chocolate Factory’ by Roald Dahl. I was heartbroken for Charlie Bucket. I desperately wanted Charlie to win the golden ticket. I also remember wanting to eat buckets of chocolate and drown myself in chocolate during the read and it hit me again—the power of words to arouse our senses. The author was able to whisk me off to a land of chocolate delight and make me feel emotions for a character that didn’t exist! As a teenager, master storytellers, Sidney Sheldon and Virginia Andrews opened my eyes to the power of creating living, breathing characters, taking readers across continents and travelling the mind to deep, dark places where secrets, mental disorders and hidden children (Flowers In The Attic series) lurk.

To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

I’m a coffee drinker but to unwind lemon tea is my passion—not because I live in Georgia where iced tea is a southern thing. Lemon tea is a Hong Kong thing, and the drink always hits my unwind and rewind buttons.

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

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini has the power to change perceptions, an understanding and interpretation of the world as we see it and the ability to spark hundreds of conversations. The international runaway bestseller is a story of redemption and follows Amir from a tender elementary school age to adulthood but is a reminder that we are human, prone to making mistakes and have the ability to atone for our past… it’s never too late. The Kite Runner left me with a deep impression that these sort of books should be mandatory reading at higher levels in schools because of the gripping story, numerous symbols and metaphors that change with the story and characters everyone can relate to.

Favorite quote from your book J

From Duty and Desire:

A vortex of heat spiraled up Sheetal’s gut. She screamed as flames danced on her hand, leaping to the hathphools, mehndi, and gold bangles.

This couldn’t be happening. But it was real. She was burning. She was on fire. She was fire.

 

Favorite book to film? And why?

The Kite Runner (watch trailer)– the film makers stuck to the Afghani language and core of story and it’s one of the best book to movie adaptations I’ve seen.  Charlie and The Chocolate Factory watch trailer)– the 1971 Gene Wilder release ‘Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory’ – I was still dreaming of chocolate!!

Favorite Indie Book Store/s?

Johns Creek Books and Gifts, GA.

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

The perseverance and determination required to solve problems in story, revisions, rewrites and more. Then there’s the business side of finding the right agent, publisher, marketing… it’s like living a whole other life parallel to your own real life. And when you’re writing fiction, you sometimes wonder which life is fiction and which one real?? My greatest prize is finding my tribe!

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

The more you know, the more you grow and the more to figure out. I’ve been developing the Winds of Fire series for 20 years now so applying changes to 1 book has often meant a chain reaction in the series. I’d love to say it gets easier, but the truth is the writing part does to some extent because you learn some along the way. As you deal with more complex stories and points of views, the writing does get harder but you continually want the next book to be better than the one before.

Marketing, however, is a whole other ballgame. Anyone want to play?

Dog, Cat, Or?

So we have a pet lionhead bunny, Maurice aka MoMo, and he thinks he’s a dog or one of us or something like that. I’m a dog person at heart and love all furry creatures great and small (hamsters and guinea pigs included). I love watching animal documentaries and David Attenborough is my all-time favorite!!

Ideal vacation?

Cancun! Or Safaris or places full of adventure!

Favorite Book Cover?

The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi. I’m from Jaipur and that book cover just blew me away!

Favorite song?

‘Faded‘ and ‘Time’ by Alan Walker (a Norwegian EDM artist whose music and songs will just blow your mind)

Hear Me Now’ by Alok

‘All Or Nothing’ by Lost Frequencies

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

Gully Boy

Bajirao Mastani

Padmaavat

Bahuballi (Pt 1 & 2)

The Crown (TV series)

Downton Abbey (TV series)

Last impulse book buy and why?

‘All The Lovely Pieces’ by J. M. Winchester – friend’s recommendation and I can’t put down the book!! It’s a gripping psychological thriller and I can’t turn the pages fast enough!

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:

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 Christopher Swann and ‘Never Turn Back’, 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

Christopher Swann is the author of the novels Never Turn Back and Shadow of the Lions. A graduate of Woodberry Forest School in Virginia, Chris earned his Ph.D. in creative writing from Georgia State University. In 2018, Chris was a Townsend Prize finalist, a finalist for a Georgia Author of the Year award, and long listed for the Southern Book Prize for his debut novel, Shadow of the Lions. He lives with his wife and two sons in Atlanta, where he is the English department chair at Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School. Never Turn Back drops on October 6, 2020, and a third novel is due out in 2021.

About Never Turn Back

Ethan Faulkner is a precocious child with a brilliant but troublesome sister, a war vet for a father, and a weary mother trying to manage their family. One night a young woman rings their doorbell, desperate to hide from two men who are pursuing her. When one of the two barges in after her, the ensuing struggle leaves both of Ethan’s parents dead.Years later, Ethan has a successful teaching career and a budding relationship with a coworker. But he hasn’t quite followed through on his promise to his dying father—to take care of his sister. Susannah is not an easy person to keep tabs on, is a handful even when the tabs are kept, and quite frankly, Ethan wants her to suffer for preventing him from getting to his dad before he died all those years ago. It was a long time ago and Ethan tries to put all of it behind him. But that’s easier said than done. When news of a brutal murder breaks with evidence pointing to Ethan as the prime suspect, all the painful memories of his past come rushing to meet him. Lyrically conveyed with emotion and nuance, Never Turn Back is a powerful story about family, vengeance, and how some actions echo through the years with irreparable consequences.

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

CHRISTOPHER SWANN: I was maybe eleven and at home sitting in a chair by a window, reading The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. It was raining outside. I remember looking up from the book and glancing out the window and thinking, I could do this all day. That is my earliest memory of consciously recognizing how much books meant to me. And I loved Bilbo because he wasn’t a heroic warrior but a somewhat-normal hobbit on a fantastical adventure.

To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

Coffee in the early afternoon, red wine at night.

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

“Good for the Soul” is a short story by Tim Gautreaux that says so much about character and faith and does so without announcing that it’s doing it. It’s just a really well-written story that’s funny and tragic and redemptive all at once. As for poetry, anything by the British Romantics. Maybe “Kubla Khan” by Coleridge or “Ode to the West Wind” by Shelley. The raw emotion and the feelings about the act of creation still seem vital two centuries later.

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

I was going to say Moby-Dick, which I read for summer reading, but I actually did read it (although I skimmed the scientific/expository chapters). I got that it was an Important Book, but I didn’t appreciate it at 17. Ten years later I picked it back up and was astounded. I had to be exposed to it earlier so I could approach it later on when I was fully ready to read it. I do wish I’d discovered Jane Austen earlier. Going to an all-boys’ boarding school and having been assigned Tess of the D’Urbervilles, I had a dim view of most 19th-century novels. I was much more interested in Shakespeare and The Catcher in the Rye than in Austen’s “girls’ stories.” Which, of course, are not “girls’ stories” but sophisticated and entertaining novels about men and women. It wasn’t until my wife took me to see Sense and Sensibility by Ang Lee (trailer) that I realized what I had missed.

Favorite quote from your book 

For Never Turn Back, I really enjoyed writing the dialogue, especially the exchanges between Ethan, the narrator, and his younger sister Susannah. Here’s a passage near the beginning, when after a two-year absence Susannah has just appeared on Ethan’s doorstep:

         “So,” I say, deciding to tiptoe into this particular minefield, “you seen Uncle Gavin lately?”

Susannah snorts. “Fat chance. Thinks I owe him money.”

“You did take his car.”

Her eyes open and she sits up. “I borrowed it, for Christ’s sake! I just needed a ride to Athens to see Dirt Plow. How did I know I’d get pulled over?”

“The police thought it was stolen.”

Borrowed.” She emphasizes this by poking me in the shoulder.

“Ow.”

“Toughen up, buttercup,” she says. “What about you? You seen him?”

“No. Dirt Plow? Who was that, your boyfriend at the time?”

“They were a band, dumb ass.”

“I’m the dumb ass? The band’s name was Dirt Plow.”

“They were good, asshole. That was their last show before they broke up. They were reinventing grunge. Very earthy.”

“I’ll bet,” I say. “Did they play on farm equipment? Use a tractor as a drum?”

“Tommy Mojo was their guitar player. He was a freak.”

“No doubt.”

“You wouldn’t know a good band if it farted in your bathtub.”

“That doesn’t even make sense.

Susannah glances at her phone. “Shit, it’s almost seven-thirty.”

I groan.

“Come on, Ethan.” She grabs my TV remote. “It’s time for Jeopardy!

 

Favorite book to film? And why?

Ang Lee’s Sense and Sensibility (watch trailer here) It’s perfect. Perfect cast, perfect pacing, perfect cinema. I like it better than the novel, actually. And I still cry when Marianne is on the verge of dying and when Edward comes to talk with Elinor near the very end.

Favorite Indie Book Store/s?

There are so many. Malaprop’s in Asheville has a special place in my heart because I used to live in Asheville and there was nothing downtown, and now Malaprop’s is part of an enormous Renaissance there. Parnassus Books in Nashville is another favorite because no one made fun of me when I walked in on my first book tour with a beat-up copy of Bel Canto like some sort of Ann Patchett fanboy. Ann Patchett wasn’t in the store that day, but one of the booksellers, Niki, took my copy to Ann Patchett’s house that evening and got her to sign it. She wrote a lovely note essentially welcoming me to the club. And that book now sits on my desk in a place of honor.

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

Keep going, and don’t spend so much time taking breaks from your writing or trying to make a broken story work.

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

No. The writing doesn’t, although the challenges are different. I now know some tricks and tools that can save me time, but trying to get a mental vision of a story down in cold hard words on a page is as challenging and frustrating and enjoyable as ever. As for publishing and marketing, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to work with two great publishers, and while I’m over my wide-eyed, golly-gee phase of book tours and such, I still remain very happy that anyone wants to read my books and then talk about them with me. I don’t ever want to lose that.

Dog, Cat, Or?

Dog. Every day. Try to say no to this face.

Ideal vacation?

Somewhere with a beach where I can read to my heart’s content, and lovely restaurants so I don’t have to cook.

Favorite book cover?

Mine. Duh. LOL.  I actually love the hardcovers of Shadow of the Lions and Never Turn Back. Susan Rebecca White’s hardcover We Are All Good People Here is great.

Favorite song?

I love all kinds of music, from Bruce Springsteen to Taylor Swift to AC/DC, but Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” is at the top.

Favorite painting/ work of art?

God, I’m going to leave something out. Let’s just say the entire city of Florence.

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

Patti Callahan Henry is a friend, and just after I sold my first book to Algonquin, my wife Kathy and I went to the Decatur Book Festival, where Patti had an event. We stood in line after the event to see Patti and ask her to sign a copy of her book. When we got to the front of the line, Patti looked up from her table and saw me, and she jumped up, hugged me, kissed me on both cheeks, and announced to everyone that I was a writer who had just sold his first book. I started crying, and then Kathy was crying, and Patti was teary-eyed, and dozens of women standing in line were staring at me and wondering who is this man and why is Patti Callahan Henry kissing him?

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

Sense and Sensibility because of the 1995 Ang Lee film (trailer)

Recommend a Small Press and/or Literary Journal?

I loved Story magazine, which first ran from 1931 to 1967. It was revived in 1989 as a quarterly magazine, and I discovered it in the 1990s. That’s where I first read Amy Bloom, Andrea Barrett, Dan Chaon, Elizabeth Gilbert, Carol Shields, and so many others. It’s where I first read Tim Gautreaux’s “Good for the Soul.” I actually met Tim Gautreaux at Georgia State in 2000, where he gave a reading while I was finishing up my PhD. Just before his reading, I had learned Story was folding. I mentioned it to Tim Gautreaux, and he was shocked—that was the first he’d heard of it! But I just learned today that after a brief run from 2014-2016, Story was relaunched again in 2019 and is now a triannual publication.

Last impulse book buy and why?

I went to Bouchercon in Dallas last fall. (Remember going to in-person author events? Sigh.) Anyway, I was there as a fan, I wasn’t on any panels, and I was wandering around the hotel convention rooms and found the booksellers. Most of the time I think about what books I want to buy and pick and choose carefully, but as a registered attendee I had tickets I could use to buy trade paperbacks and ARCs, and I was like a kid in a chocolate store. Among other books, I picked up Andy Davidson’s The Boatman’s Daughter because it sounded kind of cool, and I was utterly blown away. You could describe it as Southern Gothic horror by way of Neil Gaiman, but The Boatman’s Daughter is its own amazing thing.

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:

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 Zetta Elliott and ‘A Place Inside of Me’, middle grade lit

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

Born in Canada, Zetta Elliott moved to the US in 1994 to pursue her PhD in American Studies at NYU. Her poetry has been published in several anthologies, including We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices and New Daughters of Africa; her first young adult poetry collection, Say Her Name, was published by Little, Brown in 2020. Elliott is an advocate for greater diversity and equity in children’s literature; her essays on race and publishing have appeared in The Huffington Post, School Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly. She is the author of over thirty books for young readers, including the award-winning picture book Bird and the critically acclaimed middle grade novel Dragons in a Bag. Her plays have been staged in Cleveland, New York, and Chicago. She lives in Evanston, IL. Learn more at zettaelliott.com.

About A Place Inside of Me

In this powerful, affirming poem by award-winning author Zetta Elliott, a Black child explores his shifting emotions throughout the year.
Summertime is filled with joy—skateboarding and playing basketball—until his community is deeply wounded by a police shooting. As fall turns to winter and then spring, fear grows into anger, then pride and peace. In her stunning debut, illustrator Noa Denmon articulates the depth and nuances of a child’s experiences following a police shooting—through grief and protests, healing and community—with washes of color as vibrant as his words. Here is a groundbreaking narrative that can help all readers—children and adults alike—talk about the feelings hiding deep inside each of us.

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

ZETTA ELLIOTT: I feel like I’ve had multiple lives as a reader. When I was a child, I had a crush on Frances Hodgson Burnett; as a teen it was Dickens. Then I was introduced to Jamaica Kincaid in a politics and literature class at college and I also read Toni Morrison for the first time that semester. Those two books (Lucy and Beloved) changed the course of my life. They helped me begin the process of decolonizing my imagination by de-centering Whiteness. I left Canada, moved to NYC, and started graduate school in a program at NYU where I had—for the first time—majority Black professors and Black peers. I began studying Black literature and was able to situate my own writing within a much longer, larger storytelling tradition.

To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

After a really hard day, a milkshake! Otherwise, tea.

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

Everyone should read June Jordan’s “The Difficult Miracle of Black Poetry in America: Something like a sonnet for Phillis Wheatley.” I give a lot of talks and have written too many essays on the racial disparities in US publishing; this essay gets to the root of the problem and explains why it’s still so hard for Black women to get published in this country.

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

Ha—as a teen I always finished what I started. As an adult…not so much. I was a teaching assistant for a course in Early American Literature at NYC in 2000 and managed to teach—without ever finishing—Moby Dick. Ugh.

Favorite quote from your book

“I know how long and hard we have struggled / & against all odds my people have emerged / strong /triumphant & beautiful.”

Favorite book to film? And why?

I flounder whenever I see the word “favorite” in a question! Menopause brain makes it hard to pull up titles from the past fifty years, but a film that stayed with me was the 2015 adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd with Carey Mulligan and Matthias Schoenaerts (watch trailer here). The casting and performances were excellent and it didn’t follow the standard coupling convention.

Favorite Indie Book Store/s?

I only lived in Philly for a year, but Uncle Bobbie’s was a great place to meet friends and attend events. Harriett’s Bookshop opened just as I was leaving but I really admire the activism of owner Jeannine A. Cook.

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

That it’s not a meritocracy. It takes a lot more than talent to get ahead, so you need to have your own definition of success and be very clear about why you write and for whom.

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

No! Because it’s not a meritocracy. So even when you win awards or have a commercially successful novel, as a Black woman you’re still operating within a system that was never designed to serve you or your community. You can follow the rules and still not get ahead or earn as much as other writers (see #publishingpaidme). And if you try to operate outside of that system by self-publishing, you’ll be penalized—bookstores won’t carry those titles, review outlets ignore indie books or else charge high fees for a review, libraries won’t acquire titles that haven’t been reviewed…either way, it’s a hustle. I’m fighting right now to get a fair deal from my publisher. AND I’m self-publishing my third book of the year. And I’ve got close to twenty unpublished manuscripts sitting on my hard drive. The writing does get easier because once you’ve written three, or thirteen, or thirty books, you trust yourself to finish.

Dog, Cat, Or?

I grew up with cats so I’m definitely a cat person. I was attacked by a dog as a kid, so I was afraid of them for a long time. Then, to write my first novel, I moved in with my sister and she had a black lab crossed with a pitt bull. Raf terrified the neighbors but he was actually a really sweet dog and he loved having me around all day. I’m still a cat person but I understand the appeal of dogs.

 Ideal vacation?

Somewhere unpretentious where I don’t have to dress up or worry about how I look. Where I have the option of being around people or being by myself. I’m not a tropical girl so no extreme heat or humidity. I love to walk so a walkable city or a place with paths through forests or fields.

Favorite book cover?

NK Jemisin is one of my favorite authors and Subterranean Press commissioned a special edition of How Long ’Til Black Future Month illustrated by Paul Lewin.

 Favorite song?

I listen to a lot of different kinds of music. I found out about Cécile McLorin Salvant this summer and love her voice. I haven’t heard every one of her songs but her rendition of the folk ballad “Omie Wise” is remarkable.

Favorite painting/ work of art?

There’s too much art I haven’t yet seen for me to name a favorite, but when I saw the work of Dutch photographer Jenny Boot, I had to have it. I have a print by Mickalene Thomas and I love her work, but I bought Ruler by Jenny Boot two years ago and it was worth every penny!

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

I did a panel with other Black women writers at NCTE last year and at the end, we had a book swap. Everyone attending and presenting brought a book to trade with someone else, and a Chicago teacher, Kimiko Pettis, came up and gave me Eve Ewing’s new book of poetry 1919. It’s got this gorgeous blue cover and my mouth just fell open when she offered it to me. It’s a book I wouldn’t have given away!

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

I like Emma but best adaptation goes to Persuasion with Ciarán Hinds and Amanda Root (trailer) All the actors were mature adults who looked their age and Amanda Root perfectly played an unmarried woman “past her prime” who’s used to being overlooked.

Recommend a Small Press and/or Literary Journal?

I have two brilliant writer friends (Rosamond S. King and Gabrielle Civil) who worked for years to get book deals. They both found a home at small presses: Nightboat Books and Civil Coping Mechanisms.

.Last impulse book buy and why?

The Collected Poetry of Nikki Giovanni. I was lucky enough to get permission to include one of her early poems in my first book of poetry, Say Her Name, and it occurred to me that I hadn’t moved beyond “For Saundra” from ’68. I’m getting ready to publish my second collection of poetry, American Phoenix, and I’m making a concerted effort to read—and buy—more books of poetry.

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

More Drunk on Ink Interviews:

Mike Chen: Here and Now and Then, a novel

Ruth Franklin: Shirley Jackson A Rather Haunted Life, biography

Colleen Oakley: Before I Go, a novel

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

Shabnam Samuel: A Fractured Life, memoir

Elise Hooper: The Other Alcott, a novel

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

Devoney Looser: The Making of Jane Austen, non fiction

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

Vanessa HuaA River of Stars, novel

Chaitli SenThe Pathless Sky, novel

Sonya HuberPain Woman Take Your Keys, memoir

Kathy Wilson FlorenceThree of Cups, a novel

Sara Luce LookCharis Books and More, independent book store

S J SinduMarriage of a Thousand Lies, a novel

Rosalie Morales KearnsKingdom of Men, a novel

Saadia FaruqiMeet Yasmin, children’s literature

Rene DenfeldThe Child Finder, a novel

Jamie BrennerThe Husband Hour, a novel

Sara MarchantThe Driveway has Two Sides, memoir

Kirsten Imani KasaiThe House of Erzulie, a novel

Thrity UmrigarThe Secrets Between Us, novel

John Kessel, Pride and Prometheus, novel

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

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

Rebecca Entel, Fingerprints of Previous Owners, novel

Jamie Sumner, Unbound: Finding from Unrealistic Expectations of Motherhood

Falguni Kothari, My Last Love Story, novel

Tanaz BathenaA Girl Like That, YA novel

Drunk On Ink Q & A with Veena Rao and ‘Purple Lotus’, a novel

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

Veena Rao is the founder, publisher and editor-in-chief of NRI Pulse, an Atlanta based Indian-American newspaper. She has been recognized by the Limca Book of Records as the first Indian woman to edit and publish a newspaper outside India. Purple Lotus, her debut novel, is the winner of the She Writes Press and SparkPress Toward Equality in Publishing (STEP) contest, and is scheduled for a September 29, 2020 release.

About Purple Lotus 

Tara moves to the American South three years after her arranged marriage to tech executive Sanjay. Ignored and lonely, Tara finds herself regressing back to childhood memories that have scarred her for life. When she was eight, her parents moved to Dubai to make a new life for the family, taking her baby brother along with them—but leaving Tara behind in Mangalore with her aging grandparents and a schizophrenic uncle. Tara’s memories of abandonment and isolation mirror her present life of loneliness and escalating abuse at the hands of her husband. She accepts the help of kind-hearted American strangers to fight Sanjay, only to be pressured by her patriarchal family to make peace with her circumstances. Then, in a moment of truth, she discovers the importance of self-worth—a revelation that gives her the courage to break free, gently rebuild her life, and even risk being shunned by her community when she marries her childhood love, Cyrus Saldanha.
Life with Cyrus is beautiful, until old fears come knocking. Ultimately, Tara must face these fears to save her relationship with Cyrus—and to confront the victim-shaming society she was raised within. Intimate and deeply moving, Purple Lotus is the story of one woman’s ascension from the dark depths of desolation toward the light of freedom.

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

VEENA RAO: Agatha Christie kept me up all night in high school. I loved Poirot and had fun trying to beat him at his deduction game. I will always love Christie for her ingenious plots, and for adding to much joy to my growing up years.

To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

Chai in the morning, green chai in the afternoon and plenty of water to keep me hydrated through the rest of the day. (no ice for me, thank you).

 A novel, short story, poem, essay, anything you believe should be mandatory reading? Why?
Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns, a poignant, powerful story told through the voices of women caught between the ravages of war and an abusive marriage. There’s so much to learn from this book about the futility of war, and that countries are made up of men and women who deserve peace as much as we do; that women endure so much more in patriarchal cultures.

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

Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. I read large parts of it when I was 16. Hope to read it again some day soon. My Tara (the protagonist of Purple Lotus) has read it. I must, too!

Favorite quote from your book 

“The names they have for me are not the names I give myself.”

Favorite book to film? And why?

3 Idiots (watch trailer) based on Chetan Bhagat’s Five Point Someone— that rare instance where the movie was way better than the book.

 Favorite Indie Book Store/s?

Eagle Eye Books in Decatur. My son practically grew up there, and I, with him. ?

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

When I was twelve, I decided I would one day write a book and make it big. I had no idea what a long and challenging journey it would be! It took me ten years to write and find a publisher for Purple Lotus.

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

I sure hope it does! My next novel is waiting to burst out of my head.

Dog, Cat, Or?

Dog. Someday soon!

 Ideal vacation?

Any vacation would be ideal in the current times ?

 Favorite book cover?

The cover of Purple Lotus, designed by the super talented Brigid Pearson.

Favorite song?

It’s hard to pick one favorite when you’ve grown up with Hindi film songs. I can listen to the R.D. Burman/Kishore Kumar magic from the 70s all day. Also, Andy Williams’ version of Moon River is such a soulful, timeless classic. Oh, and Michael Jackson’s Thriller album. 

Favorite painting/ work of art?

A dear friend, who’s now a well-known Atlanta area artist, gifted me one of her original works during a particularly rough phase in my life. The cheerful painting, of a kitchen window with bright red and yellow valance, brought so much sunshine into my life when I needed it the most. It will forever remain my most favorite work of art.

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

I haven’t been to a lit festival as an author yet, thanks to covid.

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

Tom and Jerry cartoons, the 1994 animated The Lion King, Hitchcock’s Rebecca , Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Anand.

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

Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal transports Jane Austen’s timeless characters to a South Asian culture and a modern time. What’s not to love?

Recommend a Small Press and/or Literary Journal?

My awesome publisher, She Writes Press, is at the forefront of addressing the publishing industry’s whiteness problem. They have been incredibly supportive of my publishing goals.

Last impulse book buy and why?

I’m constantly buying books written by South Asian-American authors. I ordered Shabnam Samuel’s, A Fractured Life, recently after Amazon recommended it to me. I was interested because the memoir is partly set in Cuttack, where I spent the first six years of my life. I finished this deeply moving story of abandonment, sadness, courage and hope in a couple of sittings. If you like memoirs, I highly recommend this book.

Read the Drunk on Ink Interview with Shabnam Samuel and A Fractured Life

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

More Drunk on Ink Interviews:

Mike Chen: Here and Now and Then, a novel

Ruth Franklin: Shirley Jackson A Rather Haunted Life, biography

Colleen Oakley: Before I Go, a novel

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

Shabnam Samuel: A Fractured Life, memoir

Elise Hooper: The Other Alcott, a novel

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

Devoney Looser: The Making of Jane Austen, non fiction

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

Vanessa HuaA River of Stars, novel

Chaitli SenThe Pathless Sky, novel

Sonya HuberPain Woman Take Your Keys, memoir

Kathy Wilson FlorenceThree of Cups, a novel

Sara Luce LookCharis Books and More, independent book store

S J SinduMarriage of a Thousand Lies, a novel

Rosalie Morales KearnsKingdom of Men, a novel

Saadia FaruqiMeet Yasmin, children’s literature

Rene DenfeldThe Child Finder, a novel

Jamie BrennerThe Husband Hour, a novel

Sara MarchantThe Driveway has Two Sides, memoir

Kirsten Imani KasaiThe House of Erzulie, a novel

Thrity UmrigarThe Secrets Between Us, novel

John Kessel, Pride and Prometheus, novel

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

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

Rebecca Entel, Fingerprints of Previous Owners, novel

Jamie Sumner, Unbound: Finding from Unrealistic Expectations of Motherhood

Falguni Kothari, My Last Love Story, novel

Tanaz BathenaA Girl Like That, YA novel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

Wine unwinds. Coffee invigorates. Water stabilizes.

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

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

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

None come to mind.

Favorite quote from your book 

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

Favorite book to film? And why?

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

Favorite Indie Book Store/s?

Charis Books in Atlanta.

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

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

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

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

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

Dog, Cat, Or?

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

Ideal vacation?

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

Favorite book cover?

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

Favorite song?

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

Favorite painting/ work of art?

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

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

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

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

Pride and Prejudice

Recommend a Small Press and/or Literary Journal?

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

Last impulse book buy and why?

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

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

More Drunk on Ink Interviews:

Mike Chen: Here and Now and Then, a novel

Ruth Franklin: Shirley Jackson A Rather Haunted Life, biography

Colleen Oakley: Before I Go, a novel

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

Shabnam Samuel: A Fractured Life, memoir

Elise Hooper: The Other Alcott, a novel

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

Devoney Looser: The Making of Jane Austen, non fiction

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

Vanessa HuaA River of Stars, novel

Chaitli SenThe Pathless Sky, novel

Sonya HuberPain Woman Take Your Keys, memoir

Kathy Wilson FlorenceThree of Cups, a novel

Sara Luce LookCharis Books and More, independent book store

S J SinduMarriage of a Thousand Lies, a novel

Rosalie Morales KearnsKingdom of Men, a novel

Saadia FaruqiMeet Yasmin, children’s literature

Rene DenfeldThe Child Finder, a novel

Jamie BrennerThe Husband Hour, a novel

Sara MarchantThe Driveway has Two Sides, memoir

Kirsten Imani KasaiThe House of Erzulie, a novel

Thrity UmrigarThe Secrets Between Us, novel

John Kessel, Pride and Prometheus, novel

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

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

Rebecca Entel, Fingerprints of Previous Owners, novel

Jamie Sumner, Unbound: Finding from Unrealistic Expectations of Motherhood

Falguni Kothari, My Last Love Story, novel

Tanaz BathenaA Girl Like That, YA novel

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

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

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

About Little Lovely Things

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

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

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

To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

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

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

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

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

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

Favorite quote from your book 

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

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

I get a lot of feedback on that one!

Favorite book to film? And why?

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

Favorite Indie Book Store/s?

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

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

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

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

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

Dog, Cat, Or?

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

Ideal vacation?

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

Favorite book cover?

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

Favorite song?

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

Favorite painting/ work of art?

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

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

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

A trailer for the film Radium Girls

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

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

Recommend a Small Press and/or Literary Journal?

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

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

Last impulse book buy and why?

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

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

More Drunk on Ink Interviews:

Mike Chen: Here and Now and Then, a novel

Ruth Franklin: Shirley Jackson A Rather Haunted Life, biography

Colleen Oakley: Before I Go, a novel

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

Shabnam Samuel: A Fractured Life, memoir

Elise Hooper: The Other Alcott, a novel

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

Devoney Looser: The Making of Jane Austen, non fiction

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

Vanessa HuaA River of Stars, novel

Chaitli SenThe Pathless Sky, novel

Sonya HuberPain Woman Take Your Keys, memoir

Kathy Wilson FlorenceThree of Cups, a novel

Sara Luce LookCharis Books and More, independent book store

S J SinduMarriage of a Thousand Lies, a novel

Rosalie Morales KearnsKingdom of Men, a novel

Saadia FaruqiMeet Yasmin, children’s literature

Rene DenfeldThe Child Finder, a novel

Jamie BrennerThe Husband Hour, a novel

Sara MarchantThe Driveway has Two Sides, memoir

Kirsten Imani KasaiThe House of Erzulie, a novel

Thrity UmrigarThe Secrets Between Us, novel

John Kessel, Pride and Prometheus, novel

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

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

Rebecca Entel, Fingerprints of Previous Owners, novel

Jamie Sumner, Unbound: Finding from Unrealistic Expectations of Motherhood

Falguni Kothari, My Last Love Story, novel

Tanaz BathenaA Girl Like That, YA novel

 

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

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

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

About The Heiress

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

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

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

 To unwind: chai, coffee, water, wine?

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

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

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

Any classic you wished youd pushed through in your teens?

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf.

 Favorite quote from your book ?

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

Favorite book to film? And why?

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

 Favorite Indie Book Store/s?

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

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

That it was truly possible.

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

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

Dog, Cat, Or?

Cat(s), always and forever.

Ideal vacation?

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

Favorite book cover?

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

Favorite song?

Kathy’s Song, by Paul Simon

Favorite painting/ work of art?

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

The French Window at Nice. late 1919 by Henri Matisse

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

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

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

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

Recommend a Small Press and/or Literary Journal?

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

Last impulse book buy and why?

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

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

More Drunk on Ink Interviews:

Mike Chen: Here and Now and Then, a novel

Ruth Franklin: Shirley Jackson A Rather Haunted Life, biography

Colleen Oakley: Before I Go, a novel

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

Shabnam Samuel: A Fractured Life, memoir

Elise Hooper: The Other Alcott, a novel

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

Devoney Looser: The Making of Jane Austen, non fiction

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

Vanessa HuaA River of Stars, novel

Chaitli SenThe Pathless Sky, novel

Sonya HuberPain Woman Take Your Keys, memoir

Kathy Wilson FlorenceThree of Cups, a novel

Sara Luce LookCharis Books and More, independent book store

S J SinduMarriage of a Thousand Lies, a novel

Rosalie Morales KearnsKingdom of Men, a novel

Saadia FaruqiMeet Yasmin, children’s literature

Rene DenfeldThe Child Finder, a novel

Jamie BrennerThe Husband Hour, a novel

Sara MarchantThe Driveway has Two Sides, memoir

Kirsten Imani KasaiThe House of Erzulie, a novel

Thrity UmrigarThe Secrets Between Us, novel

John Kessel, Pride and Prometheus, novel

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

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

Rebecca Entel, Fingerprints of Previous Owners, novel

Jamie Sumner, Unbound: Finding from Unrealistic Expectations of Motherhood

Falguni Kothari, My Last Love Story, novel

Tanaz BathenaA Girl Like That, YA novel