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it all comes back to you: author interview || writing process/muslim-rep/character arcs!

Book Cover

Author: Farah Naz Rishi

Series: Stand Alone

Genre: YA Contemporary

Rating: 3 stars

Hello Farah! Welcome to The Fictional Journal! Congratulations on publishing your book. To start of the interview, here’s my first question.

1. Can you tell me about a scene that you wrote but never added to the story and why?

I followed a pretty strict outline from IACBTY, so there weren’t many additional scenes I wrote that ended up getting cut. BUT there was one with Kiran and Deen grabbing coffee a few days before the wedding and having the first conversation about what they want for the future. They realize they (still) have a lot in common, and for a moment, they both forget that they’re on opposing sides. It’s the first time we really see their walls completely come down with each other, and the conversation feels similar to the ones they’ve had on Cambria. It was a nice scene to write 😊  

I’m also pretty sure the original working title was “WE’RE JUST NOT MEANT TO BE” and let’s just say I’m really happy we changed it. 

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2.  Do you feel that books featuring Muslims are being created and marketed in a positive way? Are there trends you like or hope will change? What do you think the impact of Muslim-centered literature has on readers?

When I was growing up, I don’t think I ever saw a single YA book with a Muslim main character. So yes, things have changed substantially, and I think things will keep changing. The most important thing to me right now is that we see a diverse array of Muslims in books. We’re not a monolith. Muslims practice their faith differently, and that’s okay. It’s our reality, and books should reflect that. If there’s only one kind of Muslim being depicted.

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3. I really enjoyed reading those little chapters with the chatroom for the Guild in the game Cambria.  You have a background in video games journaling and voice acting. Did that in a way contribute to the creation of this book? or how it by any means inspired you to create something?

Oh, definitely! Besides books, the biggest way I take in stories is through video games, so it made sense to me to try and find a way to fit that in—especially since IACBTY is loosely based on You’ve Got Mail, which has an online chat component. My voice acting background didn’t contribute to the chatroom scenes, but it does tie in with my love of character voice. When I edit, I always read my book out loud as if it was a script, which helps me take a different approach to writing voice and characterization. 

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4. Deen’s character arc was one of the most admirable things that I have ever read. There were so many layers of identity. It was really interesting how within just one family – identity was central to acceptance while it was challenged and demeaned in the case of his brother. Do you resonate with any of these experiences?

Oh wow, thank you! That’s so kind. And yes, there are aspects of Deen that definitely resonated with me. Deen’s identity is such a mess—he’s someone who, as a result of trauma and abuse, is forced to wear several masks throughout his life, to the point where he doesn’t know how to be himself anymore. Cambria, the video game he plays, is the only place where he can let go. Unsurprisingly, this unhealthy way of living starts to wear him down. Deen has kept his head down in front of his parents, and done whatever they’ve told him, but finds himself trapped in a self-loathing spiral that causes him to seek harmful outlets. Faisal, on the other hand, tried his best to keep up with his family’s expectations, but eventually broke down under the pressure in a way he’s only barely recovering from. Deen and Faisal are, I think, perfect examples of what happens when we force kids into boxes of our own making. It’s not healthy to expect kids to shape their life for their parents, be guilted into it as a method of control. 

I’ve seen the mental health effects first-hand in the desi community. This kind of toxic (and self-toxic) behavior is learned, and kids like Deen and Faisal are desperately trying to break the cycle.

 Of course, things are slowly changing—parents are educating themselves, kids have access to more resources to find help—so that makes me hopeful. 

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5. What was the hardest part of writing the book? How many drafts did it take you to finally let go of it and is there any advice that you would like to share with aspiring authors?

I love detailed outlines, and before I start any project, I have to write at least two thorough outlines of the book so I can have a roadmap. Without that guide, I completely lose focus and get lost in the thick of it, and risk giving up altogether. For this project, luckily, the book hardly changed from my outline, which made things a breeze (or at least, as much a breeze as writing can ever be). 

Every draft has its unique problems. In this case, I think I only had to write 2-3 drafts. The big problem I faced with this story was understanding exactly what kind of story I wanted to tell. We’ve been calling IACBTY a romcom, and I think it loosely is one. But there’s also huge drama and coming-of-age elements. It’s a strange, layered story, and I didn’t have any books I could use as structural comps. It took me a while to stop worrying about it and just write the way I wanted. 

And that comes to my advice: write whatever the hell you want. It doesn’t matter how weird an idea you think it is. Someone out there is going to want that story. Just take your time and make it the best story you can write. 

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6. One of my favorite parts of the book was when Kiran’s father explained to her that love is not just ghazals, wine, and fire. It is a decision. What was your favorite part of the book – to write and to read?

The epilogue. I mean, I love epilogues anyway—especially ones that show you the characters years later. I cried when I finished writing it. I felt like we were finally getting a glimpse of Kiran and Deen as mature adults who have finally learned from all their mistakes…and are ready to love again. 😊

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~ Thank you so much! It was great having you here! Congratulations once more and good luck! ~

Thank YOU so much for having me!! ❤

Farah Naz Rishi is a Pakistani-American Muslim writer and voice actor, but in another life, she’s worked stints as a lawyer, a video game journalist, and an editorial assistant. She received her B.A. in English from Bryn Mawr College, her J.D. from Lewis & Clark Law School, and her love of weaving stories from the Odyssey Writing Workshop. When she’s not writing, she’s probably hanging out with video game characters. You can find her at home in Philadelphia, or on Twitter at @farahnazrishi.

Know more: Goodreads

Publisher: Harper Collins

Get the book: Amazon

Find the Author: Website | Twitter | Insta

*thank you so much to TBR and Beyond for selecting me as a tour host. thank you to the author, the publisher, and NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book. all opinions are my own.*

check out my review for this book here!

25 thoughts on “it all comes back to you: author interview || writing process/muslim-rep/character arcs!

  1. Right?! And then when you read it (or re-read it) you start to see new parts and layers that you might have missed before!

    Like

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