This week I’m introducing author Negeen Papehn. Her debut novel Forbidden By Faith is coming out in spring of 2018 with City Owl Press.
Tell us a little about you and what you’re working on.
A little bit about myself, hmmmm…I am a mom and a wife. I have two boys, they are 8 and 10 and usually keep me on my toes. They are in the “arguing phase” of their relationship right now, so it’s lovely. I am a dentist by day. I know, not a glamorous job, nor is it even close to writing, but I dig it. I get to interact with a lot of people, and I am definitely a social butterfly so it works for me.
I started writing about 4 years ago. I didn’t do it thinking I would ever actually finish a book or that anyone would read it. Growing up, I sang and wrote music and poetry. But then adult life took over and I lost that creativity. A few years ago, I started getting desperate for an outlet; it felt like I was suffocating without it. A friend suggested I write a book after I told her an elaborate recollection of a situation that had transpired.
Two weeks later, I thought, what the hell, and sat in front of my laptop. The rest is history.
You As A Reader
When did you first fall in love with books?
I fell in love with books at a really young age. I’ve been reading for as long as I can remember. My dad loves to read so he instilled that into all of us. I love the ability to escape into someone else’s life, or into a fantasy world, when I read. It’s calming and thoroughly therapeutic for me.
What’s your favorite book from your childhood?
ARE YOU THERE GOD, IT’S ME MARGARET by: Judy Blume
I can’t even remember how many times I read that book when I was young. I identified with it, because although both my parents were Muslim, I too wasn’t raised practicing a secular religion. My parents taught us about God and being good, more spiritual than anything else. And I was in a predominantly Christian community at the time. So I had a hard time figuring out what I believed and where I fit in. We were more spiritual in our learnings and I prayed much like Margaret did, like I was having a conversation. Add in all the pre-teen drama/situations and it was the best book ever, LOL.
Of the books you’ve read, which one changed you the most?
KITE RUNNER by: Khaled Hosseini
I can’t really explain how this book changed me, but I just know that it did. It was the first of a series of books I read taking place in the middle east. It opened my eyes to the horror that so many in this world face, and reminded me of how privileged I actually am to have been born and raised in the States. My life could have gone so very differently had my parents not left Iran to study in America so many years ago. This book’s tragic beauty and heartbreaking devastation has stayed with me from the moment I read it.
What’s the last book you read and your current favorite?
The last book I read was THE HATE U GIVE by: Angie Thomas
My favorite book, that’s hard. I love ME BEFORE YOU by: JoJo Moyes. It is the one book that made me want to be a writer. I aspire to make my readers walk away with that much emotion over my characters and my stories. I thought about her MC for weeks after I turned the last page. Even now, when the movie comes on, I’m still hit with the same deep sadness in my chest, despite knowing how it will all go.
I also love NIGHTINGALE and NIGHTROAD by: Kristen Hannah. ROOFTOPS OF TEHRAN by: Mahbod Seraji, THE KITCHEN HOUSE by: Kathleen Grissom. All phenomenal books. Truthfully, this list could go on forever. So many amazing writers and books. But I’ll stop J
If you could meet any author, alive or dead, who would it be?
Hmmm…that’s a hard one. I think I’d like to meet Claire Messud. Truth be told, I haven’t read her books (yet) but I had this amazing conversation with one of my CPs (critique partners) about her. I looked her up and read some articles she was interviewed in; all the slack she gets for her “unlikable” female characters. Something she said when asked if she would be friends with her lead in THE WOMAN UPSTAIRS, struck a chord with me.
“If you’re reading to find friends, you’re in deep trouble. We read to find life, in all its possibilities. The relevant question isn’t, is this a potential friend for me, but is this character alive.”
I love this.
My second book, the one I am currently working on, has a heavy storyline and characters that are causing an uproar among my CPs and Betas. Everyone loves one person or hates the other. I’d love to pick her brain on how she deals with the “unlikable characters” and deciphers what feedback to use and what to leave behind when it’s so inconsistent. How does she stay steadfast in her story? If someone “hates” one of my characters, I have a hard time not feeling like that is a reflection on my abilities as a writer.
You As A Writer
When did you first know you were a writer?
I still don’t think of myself as a writer! LOL. I have major imposter syndrome. I doubt it will ever go away, even when I’m holding my book.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote? If so, what was it about?
The first story I ever wrote was when I was about thirteen. I remember thinking that I wanted to be a writer then, so I grabbed a notebook and was on a mission. I can’t remember now how far into the story I actually got, but I do know it was about a girl who meets a boy and he breaks her heart. Apparently I had an affinity for emotional love stories then too!
What has been the most difficult part of your writing journey? The best part?
I think the toughest part of the actual process is the beginning brainstorming phase. Coming up with a storyline that’s interesting, different, and deeper than just the surface. Because I feel like such an imposter, I’m always worried I’ll run out of “good ideas” and then this dream will all be over. I almost paralyze myself with it. I don’t get writer’s block too much once I get started, my block comes in the beginning when I’m trying to get it going.
The best part has got to be the relationships I’m making. This writing community is AMAZING! I work in a very competitive field where everyone points out the other’s flaws in hopes to grab one more patient. Or patients that look at us with scrutinizing eyes trying to figure out whether we are “taking them for a ride,” or who blame us for everything that goes wrong, despite our explanations beforehand. Sometimes it’s really tough, and very discouraging. But this writing community is filled with encouragement and camaraderie. There’s no competition, like you would think, just overall happiness at each other’s accomplishments. Everyone pats each other on the back and holds each other’s hands. It’s truly refreshing. I am in awe and absolutely love it!
Of all the writing advice you’ve received, what helped you the most?
“No matter what happens, you’ve already won.” My boss just said that to me the other day. He’s one of my biggest fans. I was having a panic attack over covers and marketing and the idea that this whole thing will flop because I make the wrong choice on color or don’t know how to get the word out there correctly, etc. I was freaking out about failing. He said, “The reason why you were able to go through this entire process so quickly is because you were fierce. You didn’t start this thinking you’d become some big famous author. You told me you did this because you wanted to and you loved it. And because of that you had nothing to lose; you were fearless. Don’t you see, you’ve already won? This has become so much more than you ever imagined. Remember that. Hold onto that. You can’t fail.”
I repeat it like a mantra when I’m having the many panic attacks I have over this whole thing, LOL.
Tell us about your current project and any others you’re working on.
My debut novel, FORBIDDEN BY FAITH will be out February of 2018 with City Owl Press! Here’s a little blurb…
Sara is Muslim. Maziar is Jewish. When she meets him one unexpected night, her world is turned upside down. It seems like fate when he tells her he’s also Iranian. Just as her mind begins to soar with the possibilities, he shatters her hopes when he tells her he’s Jewish. Despite the centuries of unrest behind them, Sara and Maziar embark on a forbidden love affair, attempting to navigate through the cultural and religious prejudices that beat them down and attempt to tear them apart. Deep within the trenches of her battle, Sara finds herself more empowered and careless than ever before. As she tries to find herself, she realizes that choosing who to be could mean losing the people she loves.
My current project WHAT WILL BE is an Adult Upmarket fiction with heavy romantic elements. I am currently in the editing phases and am hoping to have it ready to query in a few months!
Fun Stuff About You
Besides writing and reading, what are some of your other interests?
I love spending time with my family, hanging out with friends, wine tasting, going on vacations. I am pretty easy and low key. I am a social butterfly for sure, but prefer it in casual, intimate settings.
If you could become an instant expert at any one thing, what would it be and why?
I’d be an expert on doing hair and make-up. It’s the one girlie thing I never mastered and I totally suck at it.
You’ve just won an all expenses paid trip to anywhere in the world. Where would you go?
Can I travel all across Europe? That’s what I’d want to do. I’d love to go to Greece, Italy, France, Germany, everywhere.
How can people connect with you?
Anything else you’d like to tell us?
For anyone who’s thinking about taking that leap, trying something you’ve always wanted but never have, or finding something you are truly passionate about, JUMP! You have nothing to lose. Take it from me, magic happens when you least expect it!
Thanks for sharing a little bit about you! I’m really looking forward to reading about Sara and Maziar!
If you’re interested in her debut novel, be sure to check back in spring 2018. In the meantime, you can browse City Owl Press’s other titles at cityowlpress.com