Last week, I was nominated for a Liebster Award by fellow writer Hiba Tahir, who is a constant source of inspiration to me. As a high school student with all the baggage and time constraints that comes with that place in life, I’m always amazed that Hiba finds time to read, write, and blog with aplomb and class. Hiba, I can’t wait to read your debut novel – I’m sure it’s going to be a stunner. Thank you so much for nominating me for this award. Please check out her blog and follow her on Twitter.
As an award nominee, I’ll be answering ten questions Hiba’s written for her nominees, and I have to pass the nomination on to three other bloggers. (The award requires, in theory, that each of these bloggers have under 200 blog followers. However, since Hiba didn’t really abide by that rule in my case, I’m going to ignore it for my own nominations as well.) So without further ado, here are my nominees for the Liebster Award, all of whom are deserving bloggers and writers with or without any award.
First, I nominate Daevone Molyneux, also a high school student, with a powerful voice and an even more powerful work ethic. I’m always impressed by his talent and determination, and I love reading his blog entries and tweets about life as a writer and a reader.
Second, I nominate Joanne Blaike, whose journey as a writer is being excellently documented on a blog which gets plenty of attention but deserves far more. Joanne is both a great writer and a great friend, and I’m a better person for having found her (or perhaps she found me?) and being a part of her circle.
Third, and finally, I nominate Emily Toynton, a talent to watch. Emily’s quirky passions caught my eye not long ago, and I’ve since fallen in love with her style, intellect, and creativity.
I can’t wait to read what these lovely folks have to say in response to the questions I’ve written for them!
Now, onto answering the questions Hiba has posed for me.
1. When did you start writing, and why?
I’ve been writing as long as I can remember. As a child I wrote stories about cats and mice after the style of Brian Jacques’ Redwall series. I fancied them original but they were, in fact, definitive knock-offs. When I turned eighteen, a friend gave me a composition notebook that had been personally decorated and turned into a journal. I’d tried to keep journals before and failed; this time, for some reason, the habit stuck. I’ve been writing there ever since, and writing my personal narrative has focused my writing and deepened my urge to tell other stories.
2. What’s your favorite line you’ve written?
I think one of my favorites from my published works is one from my ongoing blog serial, Porous. It’s the first passage of the opening sequence:
Petrol. Chemical. The sweet scent of gasoline that burns the back of your throat. Slick on my skin like a silken dress. Shimmering multicolors dancing across my body in the afternoon sun. It is the smell of power. But also of fear.
3. Do you ever base your characters on real-life people?
Of course! They’re all based on real-life people. At least in some way. Every character is an amalgamation of someone I’ve known – a wisp of an old friend here, a trait or habit from a former colleague there, strands and snippets of family, acquaintances, or people sitting across from me at the coffee shop. One of my favorite qu0tes about writing is from the movie A Knight’s Tale, and the character Geoffrey Chaucer speaks it: “I will eviscerate you in fiction. Every pimple, every character flaw. I was naked for a day. You shall be naked for eternity.” What a line!
4. Writer’s block. We all experience it. How do you cope?
I run, I read, I hit walls with my fists, I cook, I drink, I do everything and anything except write. I come back to the blank page with a fresh mind and a better attitude and usually I’ve knocked that block over. And when that doesn’t work, I’ll get outside the box. One time, I had a difficult time writing a scene with Vale, our protagonist in The Sowing. In order to get into his head, I wrote a mock interview between him and a television talking head. I had the interviewer ask him the same questions I wanted to ask, and somehow his answers came out much more naturally than they did when I was writing the scene that would eventually end up in the book.
5. Do you have any special writing rituals?
Nope. I can write anytime, anywhere, rituals or no. Put a computer in front of me – or a pen and blank paper – and I’m good to go.
6. Which writers, dead or alive, inspire you most?
David Foster Wallace. I’ve been fascinated by him since I learned about him and his untimely death from suicide. When I read Infinite Jest this past year I was blown away. DFW’s struggle against depression and pain coupled with his endless search for truth and expression in his writing makes him a very human, and yet incredibly superhuman, figure for me.
At the same time, Alexandre Dumas inspires me, for different reasons. His writing enshrines and idealizes a different time and set of mores, but he was a larger-than-life figure. He was a superhero who also occasionally picked up a pen – and wrote some of the most fantastic stories of all time.
Finally, Hugh Howey, a writer who broke barriers out of sheer determination. Many people consider Howey an overnight success; I think, instead, to his years writing manuscripts no one ever looked at, and how eventually, his passion won out and he achieved his dreams.
7. If you could spend a day inside one of your novels or stories, what would you do?
I’d spend an afternoon inside Dr. Rhinehouse’s lab in The Sowing, listening to him talk about weaponized flowers. Maybe, while I was there, I’d play a game of chess with Soren, who would absolutely whip my ass and laugh at me the whole way, but it would be totally worth it.
8. What is one thing you hope readers will take away from your novels and stories?
I try to illuminate, in all my writing, that there’s a good side and a dark side to everyone. Every character has strengths; everyone has flaws. Those who are dangerous or evil can still do great things; those who are good-hearted and pure of intention can still ruin lives. The most demented psychopath madman was an innocent child once. It’s the light and the dark in everyone that makes the world such a fascinating place.
9. What is your favorite book?
After all these years, it’s still Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. No other work I’ve read shows comedy and tragedy side by side so effectively, often within the same sentence. The duality of human experience – from laughter to tears and back again – has never been so perfectly captured.
10. Share the link to whichever of your blog posts is your favorite, and explain why it’s your favorite.
Can I share two? I’m still in love with the first chapter of Porous, which I think is one of the best examples of my writing to date. It was also one of the most fun posts I’ve ever written, as I took so much reader feedback from a prompt I’d shared the week before and turned it into what’s become an ongoing story. But I also have a work of flash fiction called I Wanted To Love You that still rings true to me, as an example of love lost, and how beautiful and painful it can be.
Okay! Now I have to write questions for my three nominees to answer. I’m going to reuse some of Hiba’s and create a few new ones.
1. What was the first story you ever wrote?
2. What keeps you writing on the long nights when you’d much rather be sleeping, watching a movie, or socializing with friends?
3. What drink of choice accompanies you on your writing adventures?
4. Do you have any special writing rituals?
5. Which writers, dead or alive, inspire you the most?
6. What is your favorite book? (Please, if possible, limit to three!)
7. What kind of music do you listen to, if any, while writing?
8. If you could spend a day inside one of your novels or stories, what would you do? (Great question, Hiba!)
9. What city would you most like to live in as a writer?
10. Please link to whichever of your blog posts is your favorite, and tell us why you picked that one.
Follow these lovely bloggers for their responses to these questions, and thank you for reading this post!
Great to get to know more about you Amira through your answers to the questions.
I remember one of my first Twitter conversations with you revolved around the “Eviscerate you in fiction” line from The Canterbury Tales! I’d never heard (remembered??) that particular line despite studying it for A level and it fitted what I was going through at the time and I’ve used the phrase a few times since!
I think it was then I discovered Porous through Monday Blogs and we are lucky to have such a great circle of mutual friends.
Thank you so much for your kind comments and I realise now the under 200 rule is for bog not Twitter (why thought that I don’t know) so I qualify because I don’t have 200 blog followers yet. 🙂
I’d best get thinking on those questions and bloggers to nominate!
Aye, we are lucky indeed to have that circle of friends 🙂 We’ve found some good ones, and you’re definitely in that category for me!
That line is one of my favorites, but I have to disappoint you: I don’t think it’s actually from the Canterbury Tales. It’s a line from the movie A Knight’s Tale, and the character Geoffrey Chaucer says it, but I don’t know for sure if it ever actually made it into the Canterbury Tales. I think it’s just a fictionalized thing that the screenwriters used. But that doesn’t make it less of a great line!
I can’t wait to read your responses to the questions. Your blog is one of my favorites to read, when I get a chance to sit down and do so. Best of luck and enjoy the awards process!
Ah well that may be why I don’t remember it! I just thought I didn’t because obviously it would have been written in ye olde English and I was never great at the translations!!
I couldn’t sgree with you more about Catch-22. Great book!!