Today I’m pleased to welcome fantasy author Intisar Khanani to the blog. I hope you enjoy getting to meet Intisar and don’t forget to check out her books!
1. What inspired you to start writing?
I’m one of those people who was always writing something. I stapled my first books together when I was three or four, and never stopped. Even if I wasn’t actively writing, I was still telling myself stories as I went through my days. I didn’t really get serious about writing until my final year in university when I decided to write a novel in addition to my “overload” class schedule, 20 hour a week job, and multiple clubs and groups. (I’m still not sure what I was thinking.) I chose my favorite Grimms’ fairy tale, The Goose Girl, as my basic plot line to make it easier on myself, and wrote a chapter a week. By the end of the year, I had a complete draft of what would eventually become my debut novel, Thorn. I’ve kept writing since then and have a wonderful backlog of stories awaiting revision. It isn’t so much what inspires me to write, as that I would be miserable if I weren’t writing. I love living in these worlds, watching stories unfold. Taking that away from myself would make me a pretty miserable person. Believe me, I’ve taken time away from writing, and I speak from experience when I say that!
2. How did you know you wanted to write YA fantasy?
I’ve always been drawn to speculative fiction, and fantasy in particular, in part because of the awesomeness of being able to sink into another world, and in part because of how deeply you can explore serious issues within the framework of that other world before dropping back into the comfort of your life. I read and wrote YA as a young adult, and I never really left it. While I do read books for adults, I find myself coming back again and again to the fire and hope of stories written for young adults. Books for adults are grim, depressing things half the time, with endings that could just convince you to give up all hope of happy endings. Even if YA books don’t always offer you a happy ending, they usually end with a sense of beauty or hope—this possibility that the world can still be changed, that life, even if it ends, is well worth living. I don’t think I’ll ever outgrow YA.
3. What do you love most about writing fantasy?
How do I choose? I love having the freedom that writing fantasy entails—the possibility of magic, the new worlds that follow their own rules, the questions you can raise and play with that readers will embrace in a fantasy book that might leave them uncomfortable when recast in their own world. Oh, and dragons. I really like dragons. I’m not sure why I don’t have more in my books…
4. What is the best advice you would give to writers who are just starting to write?
Pick a project and finish it—finish the first draft, and then the second, and on until you’re completely finished. Because until you take a project all the way through, you haven’t taught yourself key aspects of your craft. And once you’ve done it, it’s no longer half as intimidating as it used to be.
5. Do you have any weird writing habits?
Not really. Once my kids go down for bed, I head to my room, check e-mail and social media, and then settle down to write. I do often manage to write online with friends—we check in on Facebook, log off for a writing session, and then check back in at the end of it. This helps keep me accountable and makes writing much less of a solitary endeavor. But when we don’t have a writing session planned, I really don’t have any rituals or habits other than to sit down and start typing.
6. What are your favorite book series?
I more of a standalone kinda gal. I know, I know. I’m writing a series, how in the world can I not love them? (In my defense, this series started out as one humongous book that easily broke into novellas, and has morphed from there.) I tend to make it through the first two books in a series and almost always fall off from there. It’s rare that I’ll get through a full trilogy, and almost unheard of for me to complete a longer series. I just really love standalones, and I find that longer stories either expect me to remember too much (I may or may not be suffering from relatively permanent mommy brain) or I feel that they lose their way / focus after a certain number of books. Or I just stop being interested (and that’s a really hard one to explain further). I actually do much better reading everything by an author who happens to write standalones than I do reading a series by an equally excellent author. Weird, I know.
That said, I read and loved the full Harry Potter series, wish there were more books in McKinley’s Damar books, and was deeply impressed by the Medair duology by Andrea K. Höst.
7. On your site, I found this quote: “‘Absolutely. Justice served with a side of pineapple.’ That’s what I’m here for.” Can you let us in on the inside scoop?
That’s actually a quote from Sunbolt, when my heroine, Hitomi, has crashed a meeting of an underground resistance movement she’s a part of—she calls out the leader on not inviting her, and this little snippet is from part of their back-and-forth on why she’s there and what they both want. I also find it a wonderful little quote for offering a glimpse of both Hitomi’s sense of humor and the motivations that drive her through the story.
8. What stories can we look forward to from you next?
I’ll be working on the next book in The Sunbolt Chronicles, as well as a companion trilogy to my debut novel Thorn. The trilogy (which may just turn into one massive book because, yeah, I like standalones) follows the adventures of Rae, introduced in my free short story, The Bone Knife.
About the Author:
Intisar Khanani grew up a nomad and world traveler. She has lived in five different states as well as in Jeddah on the coast of the Red Sea. Until recently, Intisar wrote grants and developed projects to address community health with the Cincinnati Health Department, which was as close as she could get to saving the world. Now she focuses her time on her two passions: raising her family and writing fantasy. Intisar’s current projects include a companion trilogy to Thorn, featuring the heroine introduced in her free short story The Bone Knife, and The Sunbolt Chronicles.
About Memories of Ash:
In the year since she cast her sunbolt, Hitomi has recovered only a handful of memories. But the truths of the past have a tendency to come calling, and an isolated mountain fastness can offer only so much shelter. When the High Council of Mages summons Brigit Stormwind to stand trial for treason, Hitomi knows her mentor won’t return—not with Arch Mage Blackflame behind the charges.
Armed only with her magic and her wits, Hitomi vows to free her mentor from unjust imprisonment. She must traverse spell-cursed lands and barren deserts, facing powerful ancient enchantments and navigating bitter enmities, as she races to reach the High Council. There, she reunites with old friends, planning a rescue equal parts magic and trickery.
If she succeeds, Hitomi will be hunted the rest of her life. If she fails, she’ll face the ultimate punishment: enslavement to the High Council, her magic slowly drained until she dies.