Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Author Interview: Adi Alsaid

I had the joy the reading the novel Somewhere Over the Sun by Adi Alsaid. I've followed him on Twitter for a while now and really enjoy the snippets of his life that he shares with his followers. I think it's time for all of you to get to know him too.

Girls Just Reading: I have to admit I have a literary crush on Alan.  He is very easy to love, was he easy to write?

Adi Alsaid:  He was, actually. I’m gonna go ahead and feel flattered and maybe blush a little because Alan’s voice, I feel, is very close to being my own. Me at my most imaginative, maybe. A big reason for writing most of the book in Alan’s point of view was that it made it easy for me to slip into my natural writing voice without worrying that I wasn’t keeping things consistent. If I’m being more honest, though, that’s a bit of a stretch. I don’t think I had that much foresight. Alan was always me, not because it was the wise, writer thing to do, but because the book is too much a part of me to leave myself out of it.

GJR:  How badly do you wish for Alan’s gift?  What would be the first thing you would write?

AA:  Ugh. So bad.  At this very moment, I would write that all liquids had the ability to spontaneously whirlpool inside their containers without splashing. It wouldn’t be bringing a more literary happiness to the lives of my loved ones, but it would look quite cool.

GJR:  How old were you when you started writing?  When you realized you wanted to be a writer?

AA:  In sixth grade, we got a homework assignment to write sentences for the week’s vocabulary words. I don’t remember what any of the words were, or the sentences that I came up with. I just vaguely remember how great it felt to write a sentence, have fun with it, and then read it again and love the way it sounded, the picture it painted. I think I wrote my first short story around sixth or seventh grade and slowly increased my output. By the time high school came around, I knew I was a writer, but I didn’t know I was going to be a writer. I wrote short stories which I never finished and cashed in with a few opinion articles for the school newspaper during college, but didn’t think I was at a point in my life where I could write a novel. When I graduated from college and didn’t get a job I was counting on getting (companies, it seems, aren’t thrilled about hiring people which can only legally work in the country for a year), I spent three days worrying my ass off, then finally taking the leap to submerge myself in my writing.

GJR:  You have an amazing gift of giving life to inanimate objects.  Is it harder to write personality into people or things (like trees and mattresses)?

AA:  Why, thank you! I love personification. I think if you can see what’s hopelessly human in something that is hopelessly not, the absolute humanity in everyone becomes apparent. If a no-smoking sign at a pub can feel longing and loneliness, how can you justify not seeing that humans all around you do as well—even the most incomprehensible of strangers, or the friends whose inner worlds we forget. I think giving objects human characteristics makes it harder to deny that we see those traits in ourselves. You can ignore a fictional character’s greed because, even if he’s imagined, he’s just one person, and that trait is specific to him, just like you ignore real people’s deeds and misdeeds, even if they seem slightly familiar, by saying to yourself that you are not that person. But when a tree feels jealousy, or an electrical socket can feel absolute joy when connecting with something which is its exact opposite, it makes it easier to see in ourselves all that which makes us human.

GJR:  What motivates you to write?  How do you overcome writer’s block?

AA:  I’m going to repeat something I’ve posted on my site before. I don’t quite know the answer to the question of why I write, other than the vague understanding that it’s the same reason why I cook. Because once I found out I could, found out that I had the ability to learn and the ability to create something literary delicious or literally delicious, why would I not?

There’s an urge somewhere inside of me, not quite an instinct because it’s not the same as the urge to eat, that makes it seem like the only reasonable thing to do to grab a pen or a chef’s knife and make life a little more flavorful. Writing does to life what cooking does to eating. It enhances life. It brings out the flavor of everything, makes you notice the texture of a thought, of a room. Sometimes it just adds a crunch or some bright red, but doesn’t life just look simply stunning draped in bright red and feeling all crunchy?

I’m still a baby in the kitchen. An amateur, barely able to master complex sentences. I learned to write from reading, and I suppose I must have learned to cook from eating. From picking out a sentence and savoring it with the same appreciation as a perfectly made pasta sauce.

Can’t you taste good writing? Doesn’t a good sentence bounce around your mouth and linger like the first bite of your new favorite meal? And aren’t books as satisfying as a night out at a restaurant? Don’t they fill you up equally the same?

Many times, I’ve deserted sleep to write. A story, a character, a complaint, a wish will appear out of the darkness, and beg me to make it real. “I’ll disappear if you don’t write me down,” it beckons, and, not partial to the cold-blooded murder of an idea, even in the name of sleep, I climb out of bed and turn my computer back on, waiting for the pitter-patter of my keyboard to break the night’s silence.

It’s a midnight snack. Just a part of me which understands that life doesn’t necessarily need literary beauty or splendid flavors, but if we’ve got the choice, why deny it?

GJR:  In Somewhere Over the Sun, I enjoyed reading the points of view of the different characters.  Where these characters modeled after people you know or do they live solely in your, and now our, imaginations?

AA:  They are all, to at least some extent, based on people I know. Most of them are combinations of people who will undoubtedly recognize themselves and others who will read and perhaps never know that they were an inspiration, even if it was just a tiny part of them mixed in with other people. Not one character is entirely made up of real people though. Even those that are based off just one or two people are held together by fictional details. 

GJR:  Are you currently working on another novel? If so, what is the premise?

AA:  I am! I’m a little more than halfway done with my second novel. Unfortunately for anyone interested, I’m not sharing the premise for the novel quite yet. I did that with Somewhere Over the Sun and am doing it again for two reasons. The first is that it lets me avoid undue influence. I want my idea to remain my idea and not be slightly altered by the way people react when I tell them. Anything about my idea that needs to be fixed will be done during revisions with editors. The second reason is that it’s fun to torture my friends and family with secrecy. I love their curiosity and so who can blame my vaguely attention-whorish decision to keep them guessing until the book’s first draft is done?

GJR:  Who are your favorite authors?

AA:  Most of my favorite authors aren’t my favorites because I’ve read their entire collected works. Many of my favorites I’ve only read one book or story. I guess that’s neither here nor there, but I wanted to make the distinction, for some reason. Vonnegut, Paul Auster, Jonathan Safran Foer. I read tons of Stephen King when I was younger. Definitely Bill Waterson. Cris de Oliveira, who has yet to write a book (as far as I know), but when she does, watch out.

GJR:  What are you currently reading?

AA:  I just finished Mario Vargas Llosa’s “Letters to a Young Novelist” and am now working on Franzen’s “The Corrections.”

GJR:  Something different:  You do a lot of your writing in coffee shops.  Which is your favorite coffee shop?  How much coffee do you drink?
AA:  I tend to mix it up a bit. This week, I’ve been drawn by a local bookstore/coffeeshop called El Pendulo (The Pendulum), which has a great assortment of seating areas. There’s the patio, which is best for people-watching, eavesdropping, fresh air and second-hand smoke. Then there’s a wonderfully secluded table upstairs next to a window and the books on sexuality, an outlet to plug my computer into, and a calm environment in which I can (attempt to) ignore everything but my writing. They have a tortilla soup which completely justifies the existence of all soup. Though the tiny pitchers they bring out the cream in are terrible and always drip puddles of white everywhere, the coffee is delicious and cheap, and the refills are free so I definitely drink too much of it. Never less than two cups, and if I’m there long enough to have my fourth, I usually switch to beer.

GJR:  As one of your Twitter followers I know how important music is to your writing process.  What's on your writing playlist right now?

AA:  I love this question. Or maybe more accurately, I have a crush on this question, since she gets me excited and happy and causes me to babble. On heavy rotation recently: “Biting Your Tail” by Iron & Wine, since the lyrics make the world a better place. “Weekend” by Smith Westerns, “Don’t Carry it All” by The Decemberists. I’m still freshly exploring an album called “Kaputt” by Destroyer, which is great to write to since it’s very spare and pretty and has some great lines. “Chugjug” by Family of the Year and “Little Talks” by Of Monsters and Men are another two songs I’ve been playing a lot.

Thanks Adi for taking the time to answering our questions. You can following him on Twitter: @AdiAlsaid and his blog:



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