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Today’s interview is with Patricia Panahi, the author of Veil of Walls.
Hi, Patricia. Welcome to Read A Lot.
Q: Had you always planned on becoming a published author?
A: I enjoyed writing stories when I was a teenager, got my BA in English, then went one semester for my MA in Creative Writing, but got cold feet, changed to Applied Linguistics, and had a lifelong career in teaching and directing ESL programs.
Writing went on the back burner.
Q: What inspired you to write Veil of Walls?
A: I lived in Iran from the age of 9 to 26 and my father was Iranian, so I have intimate knowledge of the people and culture. Observing the misconceptions about Iran, plus getting the itch to write again motivated me to write this novel which took ten years and drafts beyond count.
Q: What made you choose this genre?
A: I enjoy reading literary fiction, historical novels, and stories from other places and cultures, so writing a story taking place in Iran was a good fit.
Q: What is the book about?
Veil of Walls is the story of Anahita Sadeghi, a typical, happy-go-lucky American ten-year-old not too keen on travelling to the other side of the world to meet her father’s family.
But her month-long vacation turns into a nightmare when her Persian relatives refuse to let her return to the States, and she is forced to deal with the dizzying maze of social customs, resist her grandmother’s efforts to mould her into the proper Persian girl, dodge her aunt’s schemes of marriage, and fight to make her own life choices until she can find a way to return home.
Longing for her friends and her freedom, only the enigma of her missing aunt, Scheherazade, gives Ana a glimmer of hope of one day escaping Iran for good.
Will Ana’s family marry her off and forever bind her to this country, or will she break free of Iran’s walls and find her way back to America?
Q: Did you find it easiest to write with a schedule or with no time restrictions?
A: I was teaching at the University of Hawaii at the time and wrote on weekends and whenever I could. No schedule.
Q: Can you choose a favourite character?
A: Anahita is my favourite character since most of the book is about her struggles, insights, and breakthroughs.
Q: Was there ever a point while you were writing your book when you wanted to give up?
A: Not really. I loved creating the story and cast of characters. I did get frustrated with the many agent rejections, but used their comments to improve the manuscript.
I did the same with the publisher rejections my agent received. They were very helpful in polishing the final draft that got published by Black Rose Writing.
Q: What is the worst part of the writing process for you?
A: Getting rejections and endless revisions.
Q: How much of your stories do you plan, or do you find it easier to make them up as you go along?
A: I did not plan Veil of Walls in any detail, the characters just came to life on the page. But I am outlining my next book, The Colour of Hope, to reduce the endless revisions.
Q: Do you have a favourite piece of writing advice?
A: Polish and revise your work to every inch of its life before sending it to anyone, or even self publishing. Getting professional assistance from other writers and an editor helps quite a bit.
Q: Where can people learn more about your books?
Q: What have you learned since you started writing?
A: I’ve learned to write a story that moves faster, sticking to only scenes/information that moves the story forward and trimming the rest. I’ve also learned to make my characters layered and complex in addition to using taste, smell, sound, and textures to bring the words alive.
Q: What’s next for you?
A: The Colour of Hope, the story of four very different people whose lives intersect during the chaos of the 2009 Iranian election protests.