Aisha Saeed's debut, Written in the Stars is one of the most powerful and compelling reads I've read this year, so I'm thrilled to welcome her to The Hiding Spot today!
There were many passages within Written in the Stars that I found difficult to read because I felt so intensely for Naila. Was there a certain element of the novel that you particularly struggled to write or face?
Writing about Naila’s struggles was not easy. There were some chapters that I wrote and then would need to take a break for a few days because it was emotionally draining to detail what Naila went through. I think it was particularly hard for me because while Naila is a fictional character, the situation she is trapped in is all too real for many women around the world. Despite the difficulties of telling the story I knew it was an important story to tell and that, as a writer, I could not shy away from Naila’s difficult realities because these were realities not only for my fictional character but for real women whose story deserved a voice.
Are parts of Written in the Stars based on your real life experiences?
Some parts of my novel are based loosely on my own experiences growing up. My parents, like Naila’s parents, are Pakistani immigrants and like Naila, I spoke Urdu, had a closetful of traditional Pakistani salwar kamiz clothing, and went to a lot dinner parties. I also was not allowed to have a boyfriend. While our experiences veer in very fundamental ways (such as what ultimately happens to Naila at the hands of her parents), much of what you see early on in the book draws loosely from my own adolescence.
Tell me a little bit about your writing process: Do you outline? Start at the beginning? The middle? The end?
Normally I like to have a general synopsis of what will happen in my novel even if I don’t stick to it fully. Having a roadmap on the writing journey is comforting to me but with Written in the Stars I did not have a roadmap at all. The story was calling me from such a personal place that I couldn’t wait and so I immediately began sketching out the character and writing the story. I was nervous when I began, because I did not know how the story would end, but chapter by chapter, Naila’s voice showed me the way.
What jobs did you have on your way to becoming a published author? Is there a certain work experience that has shaped your writing or provided inspiration?
I have had careers as both a second grade teacher and an attorney. I think both experiences helped me because they both require discipline and patience. Writing can seem fun from the outside but when you’re in the throes of a novel it can be difficult, stressful, and sometimes boring. There is always the urge to do something else be it check my e-mails, read a book, or mop my kitchen, but you have to stick through the tough moments to get to the beautiful moment of being able to say “The End.” I think my jobs required a lot of patience and discipline and I brought that with me to my writing. I held myself to deadlines and was patient when ideas were slow in coming. I believe that helped me a great deal in finishing the story.
If you had to pick a favorite word, what would it be and why?
Hope. In Written in the Stars, despite all that happens, a flicker of hope always remains. Hope is one of the most beautiful qualities of the human condition.
My blog is dedicated to my personal hiding spot, books. Who, what, or where can be credited as your personal escape from reality?
I love hiding out in a good book too! Harry Potter is one I turn to when I really just want to lose myself completely!
What can readers look forward to next?
I’m working on a few different projects, all of them YA. They are still works in progress but I’m looking forward to where they will lead!
About the Author
Aisha Saeed is an author, mama, lawyer, teacher, and maker and drinker of chai. She is also the Vice President of Strategy for We Need Diverse Books™. Aisha has been blogging for over a decade and her writing has also appeared in many places including BlogHer and The Orlando Sentinel. She is also a contributing author to the anthology Love Inshallah,
While Aisha loves writing about a variety of topics, her main passion lies in channeling her inner teen. Her debut YA novel WRITTEN IN THE STARS was released March 2015 Penguin/Nancy Paulsen Books. She is represented by Taylor Martindale at Full Circle Literary Agency.
When Aisha isn’t writing or chasing her two little boys, you can find her reading, baking, doodling henna patterns, or daydreaming about eight consecutive hours of sleep.
You can connect with Aisha at her website, or follow along on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, or Tumblr.