Hello to all of you on this beautiful day!
I know my interviews have been scarce, but the interviews I’ve posted have been wonderful. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed them. Today I have a very talented author, Elen Ghulam. She is an extraordinary lady and her interview is just a sample of her awesome writing skills. So I insist you enjoy!!!
1) How did you become an author?
I was in deep thought attempting to solve a computer programming problem. When suddenly, out of nowhere, an electrical energy flowed into my body. I found myself writing a story instead of code. I dismissed it as an odd occurrence, but the stories kept on coming. It took me years to finally acknowledge that I am an author.
2) Have you always known you wanted to pursue a writing career?
My goal in life was to become the CEO of a software company and develop the next killer app. I was always an avid reader, but never interested in writing. In high-school I hated assignments than involved essay writing. The writing came as a bewildering surprise ruining all my grand plans.
3) Where do you find inspiration for new stories?
The inspiration finds me. Loads of ideas pop into my mind all the time. Sometimes an idea pops in my mind and is still there the next day and the day after and the day after, refusing to go away. That is when I know that I have to write it down. The best way to achieve writer’s block is to actively chase after inspiration. Or to sit down and tell myself: “And now I will think up something brilliant”. Everything I write in those cases is garbage.
4) What part of writing do you find most exhilarating?
Yesterday, I reread the first chapter of my next novel which I had written 5 months ago. For a minute there was a moment of: “Wow! This is so gripping, I can’t wait to find out what happens next.” It feels immensely rewarding when I feel satisfied with my own writing. It doesn’t happen frequently, and so I learned to savor these moments.
5) Please entice the readers with some details on what they will find in your novel, Graffiti Hack.
Graffiti Hack contains stories within stories. The idea is inspired by the Arabian Nights. Whenever one of the characters feels stuck—unable to express themselves, they tell a story instead. However these stories get misinterpreted causing all sorts of calamities and unexpected results.
6) How did you create your characters?
I am an immigrant and I know lots of immigrants like myself. I frequently hear immigrants and children of immigrants exclaim with positivity: “I take the best out of both cultures and combine it together.” Something about that statement strikes me as false. For my fictional character, I created a fictional country of origin. I decided to take the worse traits out of the three cultures that have influenced my life the most (Arab, European, North American) and mash them all together into a single unique country like no other in the world. I threw in a few charming characteristics, just to keep it real. I made Nelly (the heroine of Graffiti Hack) the true embodiment of this strange country and placed her fierce, unbearable, most annoying self, smack in the middle of modern day Washington D.C.
7) What do you hope readers gain from this novel?
I hope people will laugh out loud as they read Graffiti Hack. After they finished reading it, I hope they will reflect about the role stories play in our lives. How we can tell ourselves stories that imprison us and keep us stuck in one place. How we can tell ourselves stories which liberate us and help us reach new horizons. How the most important story is always the one that remains untold.
8) Has your knowledge of different cultures—from living in different continents—influenced your writing?
I certainly hope so. Between the seductive west and the poetic east, there is plenty of room to get corrupted.
9) Are you currently working on any projects?
I am working on a novel that, for now, is called Car on a Bus. It explores the tension between ideas of communal living as practiced third world countries and individualism as practiced in the west. Each has its beautiful and ugly side. Then there is this immerging social media which is a new and mysterious entity.
10) What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?
When I finished writing the first draft of Graffiti Hack, I gave the three first chapters to many of my friends and acquaintances to get feedback. The absolutely worse advice I received was from other writers. It was the sort of advice that made them seem important but paralyzed me from working on my project. The second worse advice I got was from avid readers. One person exclaimed in disappointment: “Your novel is nothing like the Kite Runner!” Because I am Iraqi, she was expecting me to write the Iraqi version of the Kite Runner. There were other comparisons to other famous novels that were useless to me. The best advice I received was from my flamenco dance teacher—Kasandra La China (http://www.mozaicoflamenco.com/). She answered me back with a set of emails. Each email contained her gut reaction to the text she was reading. The parts that she connected with, the parts that confused her, the parts she disliked, the questions that popped into her mind while she was reading. Her feedback showed me exactly what was wrong with my novel and helped me rewrite significant portions of it. So my advice to writers is: Don’t ask advice from writers, don’t ask advice from avid readers, ask your flamenco dance teacher and if you don’t have a flamenco dance teacher yet then start looking for one with the urgency of somebody who is on fire.
11) Aside from writing, what are your passions in life?
Flamenco dancing, painting with acrylics. I also enjoy making funny thought provoking videos. You can check out my YouTube channel here: (http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=ihath).
12) Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I have learned my lesson the hard way. The best plan in life is no plan at all. Wake up every morning and go where the flow takes you. 5 years from now will take care of itself.
13) Is there anything else you would like to add for our readers?
Graffiti Hack is available in paperback and kindle. Links here
I am also a passionate blogger at www.ihath.com
I hope you enjoyed today’s featured guest. Personally, I think Elen is a delight! And I’m sure you’ll be headed to buy her book now. Am I right???
Until next time…………………………………love & blessings.