Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I don't remember the first story I ever read. But I remember the story that made me want to be a writer. "Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret" by Judy Blume changed my viewpoint about books completely. That book gave voice to my own insecurities, challenges and frustrations as a twelve-year-old girl. I knew then that I wanted to write something that would resonate with others and make them feel not alone. That is what Judy Blume did for me.
What are your three favorite books, and why?
Rachels Holiday by Marian Keyes. Anything written by Marian Keyes is hilarious. But this one in particular deals with so many issues like addiction, family, redemption, love. And it does it in a way that doesn't feel heavy-handed and preachy. Marian Keys has a very honest, funny voice.
Wedding Night by Sophie Kinsella. She has a wonderful charming,fast paced voice as well. Her books to me are like cotton candy, delicious, light, airy and super enjoyable. I read all 446 pages in one sitting. Because it was that good.
The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar. I am of South Asian descent. So I love reading books by other authors who also juggle two cultures. Thrity in particular balances the two worlds so perfectly and her gift of story telling is so skilled. You can smell, touch and taste the world she creates in her books.
When did you first start writing?
I started writing when I was eight-years old. My first article about swim class showed up in our school newspaper. I remember feeling incredible pride in seeing my name in print and wanting to see my name in print again.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I was born in Dhaka, Bangladesh. But we quickly moved to Saudi Arabia after that (literally two months after I was born). I spent the first five years of my life in Saudi Arabia. My family then moved to Toronto Canada. I lived there until I was 13, we then moved to Chicago Illinois and we've been here ever since.
I don't remember much about Saudi Arabia except for the Broast Chicken and amazing garlic sauce. But I remember that women were treated like delicate objects. I think that shaped me in the fact that I recognized that being a woman made one special and all women should be treated well.
I loved living in Toronto. Everyone should have their childhood in Toronto, Canada. I had the best friends. It's such a great city. The transportation system is incredible. I had a very international group of friends. Our biggest connection to one another was humor and good books. My friends introduced me to the Babysitter Club series. R.L. Stine, Christopher Pike. We would rebel through our books. My childhood was wonderful.
Coming to the United States, I realized it was more race conscious than Canada. I was really influenced by African American female writers. Their writings really resonated with me. Particularly Octavia Butler and Pearl Cleage. It was hard for me to find good Asian American books. Luckily that is no longer the case and thanks to the internet we can search for books all over the world.
What's the story behind your latest book?
Arranged Marriages are something I grew up with. My family, friends, cousins all faced this decision in their mid-twenties. And we've all taken various paths. But we would spend time talking about it, laughing about it, being apprehensive about it. I remember thinking, "Gosh wouldn't it be nice to run away from it all. To not have to face disappointing anyone or upsetting anyone." Hence the inspiration for this book and also the inspiration for the first scene where the main character literally runs away on the day of her wedding.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I went the traditional route and pitched it to 3 publishers. One was interested but wanted some drastic changes. After wrestling with the changes they wanted and realizing my book wouldn't fit into their cookie-cutter formula, I decided to not move forward.
I chose then to self-publish. I felt that the original plot line I came up with needed to be heard. I also love the control of being an Indie author. I chose the cover design, I designed my own website, I uploaded the books onto the various formats. I'm very proud to be an Indie author.
Describe your desk
My "desk" is my dining table with my laptop attached to a huge monitor. A pile of books sits on one of the dining room chairs. My smart phone is in front of my keyboard. Scattered pens and a note book lay all over the place.
I actually bought a writers desk, but it wasn't big enough to accommodate all of the stuff I needed to write. My very pretty writers desk, holds a picture frame, a candle and a gorgeous journal that has never been written in.
How do you approach cover design?
I am so lucky. I have two beautiful nieces that love to draw. When I told them the general concept of my book. They designed the cover. They sketched it out and then I worked with a wonderful graphic designer on typography, color choices etc. I love bold, rich colors, I love a playful style. I also look at magazine ads, pinterest and other book covers for inspiration.
What are you working on next?
My next book is tentatively titled "The Cat Bunglar." I combined all of my favorite things: art, museums, gorgeous clothing, romance with friction. It is about a young woman who inadvertently gets tangled with an art thief. She fumbles and bumbles her way through it. It is (of course) a romantic comedy.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Coffee, breakfast, my bladder.
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