Now that I’ve read Sunbolt (again) and soaked up the info on Memories of Ash, it’s finally time to hear more about Intisar Khanani’s life as an author. My questions are totally unbiased. Really.
MS: What’s the best part about being a writer?
IK: Telling stories. That may sound like a bit of a cop out answer, but when you have stories screaming inside your head to be told, it’s absolutely amazing to be able to get them down and share them. Different parts of the process are more or less painful (editing is absolute torture for me, and it’s most of what I do!), but the awesomeness involved in telling a story the best way I know how and then sharing it with other trumps everything else.
MS: Is there any story you really want to write, but haven’t?
IK: Yep. I have this idea banging around in my head about a college-age student who gets plucked out of our reality into another where she’s the “Chosen One.” Only she’s not actually the chosen one—that was the first person this group abducted. She’s not even the second. She’s the third, and their last attempt, and they’re not at all impressed with what they get in her. Also, she’s really not interested in bearing out a prophecy to hold together an aging empire that’s colonized and exploited its farthest territories. You know, having a colonial heritage will make you sensitive to these things…
MS: C’mon… give us a quick summary of the worst story you’ve ever put to paper (or given up on):
IK: I take the fifth. Ha! Seriously, though, I think I may have scrubbed any such stories from my memory. I don’t really remembering anything too terrible. I guess there was that weird story in middle school about an oceanographer who discovered horrifying mutations in tropical fish living just off a remote island that also happened to have a secret nuclear testing facility… he got run over on his way to develop his roll of film. Hmm. I wonder what that says about my faith in government operations…
MS: If you could go back and change anything in one of your books, would you?
IK: Not yet. Give me a couple more years and another book or two to hone my skills, and I’ll probably change my answer. Actually, I re-read my debut, Thorn, a little while back and was surprised at how grim it was. I mean, it’s a dark story, a fairy tale in the old sense of the word, but for some reason in my head there were a bunch more bright spots in it. If I hadn’t already published it, I would go back and add a few more moments of sunshine to help the reader through…
MS: Is there one experience or place that has most inspired you in your writing?
IK: Not really. My inspiration tends to change by story, and be quite variable on where it comes from. One of my stories (unpublished as yet) was inspired by an envelope for spare change I found on an airplane while traveling internationally. I suppose you could say that writing diverse worlds is very important to me in part because I have traveled so much, but also because I never saw myself in the stories I read growing up. I want to give those stories I never had to new generations, and give them a chance to experience a world in which they can find themselves.
MS: If you weren’t an author, what would you be doing?
IK: Saving the world! Or at least, one tiny corner of it. In my day job, before I became a homeschooling mama and writer, I worked as a public health consultant with the Cincinnati Health Department. I focused my time on projects to improve maternal and infant health outcomes (at the time, Cincinnati had a truly terrible infant mortality rate) as well as community health issues like diabetes and obesity rates and access to healthy food. It was challenging work but awesome, and I hope to go back to it some day when my kids are a bit older.